Anantnag: Buoyed by the discovery of a fossil site at Aharbal, two teachers have unearthed seven more sites in various areas of south Kashmir.
In August Rouf Hamza and Manzoor Javaid, both lecturers by profession had unearthed diverse, gigantic flora and fauna remnants near Aharbal during fossil hunting.
The preliminary research had revealed that the fossil site could be as old as 488 to 354 million years.
Following that the Department of Archives, Archaeology, and Museums sent the samples to Baba Atomic Research Centre (BAARC) for radioactive dating.
The two teachers from Achabal and Dooru who are also associated with School Herbal Gardens as nodal officers did not stop here and continued to explore more such sites.
One such site was discovered by them at Dadrein in Damhal Hanjipora area of Kulgam district in September.
The site got exposed due to the newly-constructed link road to Dadrein village.
“The excavation exposed fossils like Fenestrate Bryozoan, Bivalves, Brachiopods, Rugose Corals, Tabulate Corals, Crinoids, Lepidodendron, Graptolites, and Ichnofossils,” the teachers said.
They said there was every possibility that the entire mountain was filled with such fossils and could prove a geological paradise for the researchers.
“As far the stratigraphy and type of fossils are concerned, this site is seemingly an extension of the Ahrabal fossil site. Such fossils are scattered in the entire mountain range of Pir Panchal on either side,” the teachers said.
Similar fossils were found in Zajimarg.
“It seems to be a rich repository of some rare fossils which could not be studied intensively due to low visibility on that day,” the teachers said.
In October, during the scouting for fossil samples, they came across a site at Haal Khah Tsuntihal junction in the Chittergul area of Shangus.
“The site is rich in plant fossils diversity and petrified wood. Several bark imprints were found in the area. The entire area is a Petrified Wood Forest which could be millions of years old,” the teachers said.
They said that the site was probably the first where petrified wood had been reported in such a huge quantity.
In August during a nature study camp conducted for the students of Government Higher Secondary School Dethu to Chatapal scenic spot of Shangus, several fossils were seen.
“We spotted Piddock Rock borings, a bone of some unknown animal, Stromatolites, fossilised waves on rocks, plant fossils, and rock nodules,” the teachers said.
In October another site rich in Ichnofossils of varied types, Brachiopods, Bivalves, Pisolites, Stromatolites, rock borings, and other unidentified fossils were discovered by the duo in Achabal forests.
“Several fossil specimens of Arthropods, Ichinofossils specimen, worm castings, bivalves, Paleodictyon, and trace fossils were seen in the Achabal Wildlife Sanctuary near Mughal Garden Achabal,” the teachers said.
They said that though there were plenty of trace fossils, real fossils were very rare because much of the area was not fully exposed yet.
In October the duo found a rich site of great geological importance with exquisite geological formations and remnants of volcanic activity in the Dethu area of Shangus.
“The site is replete with hundreds of fossil remains of diverse nature which got exposed due to weathering, quarrying activity, and subsequent erosion. It has fossils of various Palaeozoic organisms like Brachiopods, Stromatoporids, Stromatolites, Bivalves, Glossopteris, extensive Piddock rock borings, petrified wood, Ichnofossils of various types and stones with mud crack impressions,” the teachers said.
The duo said that the superficial observation of these sites reveals that hundreds of fossils were visible at these sites without any need for excavation.
“This is an indication that a huge cache of fossils could be hidden beneath. If the prospective and potential areas of these sites are excavated, it may divulge an astounding fossil world to the scientific community,” the teachers said.
They said preliminary examinations revealed that the fossil samples may date back to the Permian to Triassic periods.
“Some sites and samples may be even older, however, exact age could be established through serious research and Radio Isotope Dating,” the duo said.
This month the duo discovered one more site at the Nunkhul in Danew Kandi Marg area of Kulgam district.
“The exploratory work will continue with the same zeal not only for fossil study but in other fields of science and technology too,” said Manzoor Javed.
He said that they had conducted around 10 Nature Walk-Fossil Talk programmes for the students of various districts of north and south Kashmir.
Rouf Hamza said that the Department of Geology, the Department of Education, the Tourism Department, universities, and other concerned agencies should work collaboratively to bring Kashmir on the geo-tourism map of the world.
Meanwhile, a team from the Department of Archives, Archaeology, and Museums would visit all these sites to take samples.
“We will take the samples and then put them to the investigation,” said Deputy Director Archives, Mushtaq Ahmad Baig.
He said that the sites would also be marked and later protected.