County Museum Unearthing Ice Age Fossils

As one might expect, the San Bernardino County Museum is charged with preserving the County’s history and culture.

But did you know that paleontologists from the County Museum are also uncovering Ice Age fossils entombed in a desert wash just outside of Las Vegas?

About 10 years ago, the Las Vegas Field office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) contacted the County Museum with an offer it could not refuse.

The BLM had secured a grant to fund research of the Tule Springs Wash, an expanse of the Mojave Desert that boasts the largest accumulation of Ice Age fossils in the Southwest, including some dating back more than 200,000 years, and the federal agency wanted the County Museum to play a key role in collecting and preserving those fossils as well as studying the area’s geological history.

Over the years, the County Museum has identified more than 500 previously unknown fossil sites in the area, and it has recovered thousands of Ice Age fossils including ancient mammoths, camels, horses, bison, and sloths.

County paleontologists recently confirmed the discovery of fossil remains from a saber–toothed cat. Since prey far outnumber predators in living communities, it is rare to find the remains of meat–eaters such as saber–toothed cats in the fossil record.

“I hate to say, ‘We hit the jackpot,’ this being Vegas—but we did!” joked Eric Scott, Curator of Paleontology for the San Bernardino County Museum and discoverer of the fossils.

Read more about the recent discovery in the Press Release section of the online edition of Rutherford Report.

Fossils found at the site are stabilized with plaster jackets or placed in protective containers to minimize degradation and then transported back to the County Museum. Museum staff members also create replicas of fossils for public display at the County Museum’s main location at 2024 Orange Tree Lane in Redlands.

About 400,000 to 500,000 Ice Age fossils are currently being preserved at the County Museum, which has the distinction of being a federal repository, Museum Director Robert McKernan said.

“Anything found on federal land comes here,” he said.

The project in the Tule Springs Wash isn’t the first time paleontologists from the County Museum have been called on to help unearth ancient relics or identify fossil–rich areas. Federal and state agencies as well as some private companies have contracted with the Museum to survey and research areas to determine whether the land may contain historically valuable fossil remains.

Of course, fossils aren’t the only things preserved at the County Museum, which has a collection of about three million items, including Native American pottery, bird eggs, bugs, minerals, and more.

In addition to its main site in Redlands, the County Museum oversees seven regional sites: Agua Mansa Cemetery in Colton, Casa de Rancho Cucamonga (John Rains House) in Rancho Cucamonga, Daggett Stone Hotel in Barstow, Asistencia Outpost of the Mission San Gabriel in Redlands, Yorba Slaughter Families Adobe in Chino, Yucaipa Adobe in Yucaipa, and the Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley.

You can learn more about the San Bernardino County Museum online at www.sbcounty.gov/museum.

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