La Brea Woman

Replica of the skull of "La Brea Woman" on display, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

La Brea Woman is the name for the only human whose remains have ever been found in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. The remains, first discovered in the pits in 1914, were the partial skeleton of a woman[1] dated to approximately 10,000 calendar years (~9,000 radiocarbon years) BP,[2] who was 25 to 30 years old at death[3] and found associated with remains of a domestic dog, and so interpreted to have been ceremonially interred.[4]

The remains used to be on display in the George C. Page Museum, alongside a life-sized model thought to resemble the woman. The exhibit was removed around 2004. The curator, John M. Harris, was concerned that this display of historic remains might offend Native Americans or attract unwanted attention to its Native American origins, thereby triggering a demand for their return.[5][6][7][8]

In 2009, California forensic artist Melissa R. Cooper published a facial reconstruction based on measurements of the skull obtained while a volunteer at the museum, but the publication was not officially authorized.[9]

See also


  1. J.C. Merriam (1914) Preliminary report on the discovery of human remains in an asphalt deposit at Rancho La Brea, Science 40: 197-203
  2. F.R. O'Keefe, E.V. Fet, and J.M. Harris (2009) Compilation, calibration, and synthesis of faunal and floral radiocarbon dates, Rancho La Brea, California, Contributions in Science 518: 1-16
  3. G.E. Kennedy (1989) A note on the ontogenetic age of the Rancho La Brea hominid, Los Angeles, California, Bulletin, Southern California Academy of Sciences 88(3): 123-126
  4. R.L. Reynolds (1985) Domestic dog associated with human remains at Rancho La Brea, Bulletin, Southern California Academy of Sciences 84(2): 76-85
  5. Wilentz, Amy (20 August 2006). "L.A. Woman". Los Angeles Times.
  6. Arnie Cooper (May 27, 2010). "Sticky Situation at the Tar Pits". LA Weekly.
  7. Burbank, Jon (March 1, 1999). "Tar pits still slowly releasing victims". The Japan Times. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  8. Murphy, William S (April 4, 1987). "La Brea Tar Pits Facility Will Celebrate 10th Anniversary". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  9. David Ng (November 24, 2009). "The skeleton that the Page Museum doesn't want you to see". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
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