Tierra La Brea, Trinidad

A tar pit, or more accurately known as an asphalt pit or asphalt lake, is a geological occurrence where subterranean bitumen leaks to the surface, creating a large area of natural asphalt.[1][2]

Known tar pits

La Brea Tar Pits, California

There are only a few known asphalt lakes worldwide:

There are other fossil-bearing asphalt deposits in Oklahoma, Texas, Peru, Trinidad, Iran, Russia and Poland.

For other rich deposits, fossilized where they occurred, see Lagerstätten. Tar pits are the resting places of many fossils.

Paleontological significance

Animals are sometimes unable to escape from the asphalt when they fall in, making these pits excellent locations to excavate bones of prehistoric animals. The La Brea Tar Pits Museum is built around the tar pit and houses the fossilized remains of mammals and birds found within.

In computer science

Brooks in his seminal work The Mythical Man-Month (1968) has a chapter entitled "The tar pit", alluding to the tendency of software projects, once in trouble, never to escape from that trouble, any attempt to do so making it worse.

See also


  1. [1], Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (GSTT), principle for an asphalt lake, accessdate=2010-08-28
  2. [2], The Suburban Emergency Management Project (SEMP), Asphalt Lakes, accessdate=2010-08-28


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