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Dr. Bob Visits the LaBrea Tar Pits

How has the world been shaped by the events described in the Bible?

Application: The Earth has been subjected to multiple catastrophes described in the Bible that have shaped the world around us.

In this L.I.F.E. Lesson, Dr. Bob visits the LaBrea tarpits and describes the catastrophic events that have created it. From the global flood, the fountains of the deep, the destruction of forests, and the changing world after the flood, the events have left evidence in the geology of this area..

Supplemental Information

La Brea means "tar" in Spanish, so when we speak of the LaBrea Tar Pits, we're being a little repetitive. We're actually saying the Tar Tar Pits! The tar we see at LaBrea is more accurately called "asphalt" or "bitumen." It is a semi-solid form of petroleum.

The Tar Pits tell an amazing story of events dating back before the flood. While some scientists insist that animals fell into tar pits over thousands of years, the evidence paints a very different picture, especially when viewed through a Biblical Worldview. Multiple catastrophes are represented here. We'll begin with the tar.

History of the Pits

There are fossils from nearly 250 different kinds of animals found in the pits. They are completely encased in the tar, called bitumen. These include terrifying saber-toothed cats, huge mastodons, amazing wolves, as well as camels, birds, insects, and even some human bones.

Geologist William Blake first described the area in 1853. The first person that these were not modern animals, but extinct creatures, was geologist William Denton. He discovered these unique fossils while prospecting for oil. Eventually scientists from Berkeley learned of the fossils, and excavated many of the specimens displayed at the site.

Formation of Tar

Tar, or bitumen, is a petroleum product. Its chemistry can tell us a lot about its origin. Petroleum is a complex mixture of organic compounds. One chemical found in crude oil is called porphyrin. It is also found in plants and animal blood. This says a lot about the organic origins of oil.

Porphyrin molecules break apart rapidly in the presence of oxygen and heat. Since porphyrins are still present in crude oils today they must not have been exposed to oxygen or heat in the past. They must have been buried quickly, and have remained so until today.

Some interesting background on porphyrins: The amounts of porphyrins found in crude oils vary from traces to 0.04%. Experiments have produced a concentration of 0.5% porphyrin from plant material in just one day. It doesn’t take millions of years to produce the small amounts of porphyrins found in crude oils. Crude oil porphyrins can be made from plant chlorophyll in less than 12 hours. However, other experiments have shown that plant porphyrin breaks down in as little as three days when exposed to temperatures of only 410°F for only 12 hours.

Because organic material must be buried rapidly, and not be exposed to high heat for any length of time, we know that the trees, bark and other material that ultimately became oil and tar must have been the result of the global flood, and have been buried early in the global flood.

The Source of the Bones

Because the bones discovered at LaBrea are mixed, entangled, and often show signs of physical trauma, it is clear that they were deposited in a destructive, catastrophic event. These events were plentiful after the flood and the subsequent ice age. As the great sheets of ice melted, massive inland seas were formed that ultimately overtopped their boundaries and flooded large areas. These floods trapped large populations of animals and deposited their bones in tangled bone-beds that were then covered by additional sediments from these flood events.