Ice Age Fossils from Joshua Tree National Park

Posted By Staff

Exciting new fossils from Joshua Tree National Park are in the spotlight at the San Bernardino County Museum on Sunday, April 15. Curator of Paleontology Eric Scott will present an illustrated lecture detailing recent discoveries of fossils from the park, including some surprising and significant new finds. The presentation is free with paid museum admission.

County Museum scientists have been conducting research in Joshua Tree National Park for over a decade. Within the park, sediments dating to the Pleistocene Epoch – the “Ice Ages” – continue to yield abundant but often fragmentary and wind-blasted remains of extinct mammoths, camels, bison, and horses, as well as lithics and tools left behind by early Americans. “Early studies in Joshua Tree were focused on whether or not early peoples lived in the area hunting Ice Age animals,” said Scott. “Our current emphasis is the animals themselves, particularly their geologic context. As a result, we’re finding fossils in some places you might not expect.”

Inland southern California has a rich Pleistocene fossil record. During the Ice Ages, year-round temperatures in our region were more moderate, and snow and ice capped our local mountains for most of the year. Streams and lakes in the valleys supported abundant animals and plants. “The phrase ‘Ice Ages’ conjures images of vast glaciers, wind-swept ice fields, and herds of woolly mammoths huddling against howling blizzards,” said Scott. “Such scenarios don’t really accurately portray our local region during glacial times.”

The new fossils from Joshua Tree add data to our understanding of the Pleistocene, noted Scott, as well as expanding the Park’s rich natural heritage. “My talk will discuss how paleontology might once have been the ‘poor stepchild’ of environmental sciences at Joshua Tree,” he said. “But now that we’re finally locking in on the real age of these fossils, we provide a stronger interpretive framework about all the other resources the park offers. It’s win-win for science and education.”

The San Bernardino County Museum is at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 am to 5pm. General admission is $8 (adult), $6 (military or senior), $5 (student), and $4 (child aged 5 to 12). Children under five and Museum Association members are admitted free. Parking is free. For more information, visit The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. If assistive listening devices or other auxiliary aids are needed in order to participate in museum exhibits or programs, requests should be made through Museum Visitor Services at least three business days prior to your visit. Visitor Services’ telephone number is 909-307-2669 ext. 229 or (TDD) 909-792-1462.