This was a tough race, considering 16,000 fossils have been pried from the ground beneath L.A.'s metropolitan Page Museum since 2007. The first round of catalogued bones was just announced Wednesday, and they've all got one thing in common: They're really ridiculously cool-looking.
But after chatting with collections manager Aisling Farrell for a spell (cool job, cool name, no biggie), we've managed to identify our five favorites --
All from 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, around the end of the last Ice Age.
So here they are, from cool to coolest, complete with big beautiful museum photos and the occasional factoid with which to impress the pensive chick with thick rims in the corner cubicle who deep-down wishes she'd grown up to be
an archeologist a paleontologist:
5. Giant jaguar skull.
What's not cool about a giant jaguar skull? Get a load of those sexy Shere Kahn eye sockets. Farrell says the panthera atrox -- the largest cat in history -- is one of her favorites, mostly due to its obscurity. "Carnivores, the world over, in the fossil record, are generally rare," she says. "This is our first real, most complete panthera. There are only a handful of them across North America."
And if that's not enough to turn you on: "There's still controversy and debate regarding its origins and its lifestyle," says Farrell.
4. Colombian mammoth shoulder blade.
Miraculously, the massive mammuthus columbi found in the pits is almost complete, skeleton-wise. Farrell says this particular animal sheds light on the land he roamed, as well, because the sediments surrounding his bones are sandy clay with freshwater shells in it. (Sweet!) Still, though, the bones are bleeding asphalt -- meaning his afterlife was spent both in a stream channel and a tar pit. If that's not cool, we don't know what is.
And a moon-sized molar, just for luck:
3 1/2! Baby mammoth vertebrae.
No, this is not a cowpie. Nor a smashed coconut. 'Tis but a chink in the spine of a baby mammoth. Crazy, right!
3. Gopher tooth.
Gophers were essentially still just gophers back in the old days, except with a way gnarlier tooth. I mean shit. That thing is gnarlier than a gnar-whale. Why did we invent can openers, again? And pocketknives, for that matter.
2. Yesterday's camel skull.
Farrell explains that this camelops hesternus (heh, starting to feel like Hermione) was discovered in a "tabular deposit," which means the animal's bones were lined up in just the proper order: seven or eight vertebrae in a sequence, "ribs right where the ribs should be," and so on. Cool. And yes, the dude's name is seriously yesterday's camel. No beating that.
Unless you're a...
1. Sabertooth kitten jaw.
"Normally, you find a jumble of bones, and you can't pull apart one individual from another," says Farrell. But in recent months, La Brea diggers pulled out six sabertooth kittens from a single cubic meter of Earth. They're not entirely sure what that means yet, and "still don't really know the rate of growth of sabertooth cat canines," but it sounds pretty cool anyway.
A more elaborate (read: toothier) sabertooth kitten jaw specimen:
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Goddammit. Why was everything so much cooler in the Ice Age.