I live in Carlsbad, California, a coastal town about 35 miles north of San Diego. People who don’t live in Southern California generally subscribe to certain stereotypes about the people and the towns and cities, and some of those stereotypes exist for a reason. Yes, there are beaches, bikinis and surfing. But there has always been more than that.

One thing that California does right, in my opinion, is require that all large construction projects that involve moving large amounts of earth have a paleontologist on site. In July of this year, at a construction site only a couple of miles from my house, workers found fossils of animal bones from the last ice age. These fossils included bones of mammoths, horses, turtles and bison from 50,000-200,000 years ago.

 Photo: Brett Neilson

Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi?) mounted skeleton in the Utah Museum of Natural History. Photo Brett Neilson

Prehistory, the study of the past before written records, is the province of archaeologists, paleontologists and geologists rather than historians. Those disciplines involve science and as I’ve been reading about this new find, I’ve learned that this is an area of research that is progressing rapidly. Between new finds and new technologies, what we know about the planet itself and about human and animal migration is constantly advancing. Maybe someday they can even narrow the estimated age of the recently discovered fossils from the current 150,000 year range.

The beach at Carlsbad. Photo: Cathy Hanson

One of the beaches in Carlsbad. Photo: Cathy Hanson

While I always pictured these prehistorical animals wandering the plains in the middle of North America, I’m pleased to learn that some of them were hanging out at the beach.