Kulgam: Famous tourist destination, Aharbal in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, may emerge as the oldest and diverse fossil site in Kashmir.
The exact site which is barely 2 km from the famous Aharbal waterfall along the Kunghwatan route, has been discovered by Dr Rouf Hamza and Manzoor Javaid, hailing from Dooru and Achabal areas of Anantnag district.
Both are lecturers by profession in school education department and are associated with School Herbal Gardens as nodal officers.
The duo unearthed this site during fossil hunting.
Experts believe that the site which is rich in fossil biodiversity and replete with dense fossil samples at specific locations can be as old as 488 to 354 million years. However, the exact date can be ascertained only after radiocarbon dating.
“As per our preliminary research it can be the oldest fossil site,” said Dr Hamza, doctorate in Botany and coordinator School Herbal gardens for Kashmir division.
He said in terms of area, quantity, and diversity the fossil site is significant. “We have been following this site since 2018. The erosion of metamorphic rocks due to weathering has resulted in the fossils getting exposed,” he said.
He said upon preliminary investigation it was revealed that the fossils fall between the Ordovician and Devonian period. “The different organisms of that period include bryozoans (colonial animals); gastropods, trilobites, ancestors of C scorpions, and ancient relatives of snails etc,” Dr Hamza said.
He said the site needs to be evaluated for other fossil flora and fauna.
Manzoor Javaid, postgraduate in Environmental Sciences and Sociology, who is also State coordinator in School Herbal gardens, a department of school education initiative, suggested that the government should protect the site and establish a fossil museum.
“There should be a separate department of paleontology at college and university level,” he said.
Meanwhile, a team from the department of archives, archaeology and museum visited the site today and took the samples. “We took the samples for cleaning purposes and then put it them to the investigation,” said deputy director archives, Mushtaq Ahmad Baig.
He said the samples would be sent to Baba Atomic Research Centre (BAARC). “As of now, we can’t confirm the age of these fossils and about the prints. It needs to be ascertained through serious research and carbon dating. However, it is the biggest find in J&K in terms of occurrence, area, diversity, and age of the fossils,” he said.
He said an effortless observation reveals that thousands of fossils are visible at the site superficially without any excavation.
“It is an indication that a huge haul of fossils could be hidden beneath. If the potential areas of the site are excavated, it may reveal an astonishing fossil world to the scientific community,” Baig said.
Most of the fossil sites have either been discovered by foreigners or by professionals. This is, however, the only discovery in J&K made by the amateur fossil hunters.
Presently, Zewan area on Srinagar outskirts is considered as oldest fossil site in Kashmir.
An unveiling ceremony of the site was held today.
Among others present at the event were Mushtaq Ahjad Baig, Deputy Director Archives, Muneer ul Islam, Director General custodian, and ex-director Archives, DFO Kulgam, Syed Waseem; District coordinator of Herbal garden scheme Shopian, Parvez Sajad and Muhamad Yousuf, coordinator Herbal garden scheme. Muhamad Yousuf and amateur hunter Fayaz Ahmad.