Shivalik Fossil Park
Shivalik Fossil Park, also known as the Suketi Fossil Park , is a fossil park with a collection of prehistoric vertebrate fossils and skeletons recovered from the upper and middle Siwaliks geological formations of sandstones and clay at Suketi in the Sirmaur district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The park has a display of the fossil finds and also an open-air exhibition of six extinct mammals formed in life-size models made of fibreglass and resins, in a natural ambiance of the Sivalik Hills environment of the Plio-Pleistocene era (circa 2.5 million years) from where the fossils were unearthed. There is also a museum, within the precincts of the park, where the fossils are curated and exhibited. It is Asia's biggest fossil park. The exhibits in the park are used for generating scientific interest in the public and for facilitating special international studies by visiting research scholars from all over the world, apart from tourism development.
The park is named after the Suketi village where it is located, at the very site where the fossils were found, in the Markanda Valley, at the foot of the Himalayas. It is at a distance of 22 kilometres (14 mi) to the south west of Nahan, the district headquarters of Sirmaur district. Kala Amb, a small industrial town, is 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) away on the Kala Amb-Bikramabad road. The park, extensively forested, is spread out over an area of 1.5 square kilometres (0.58 sq mi) at Suketi. A tourism information desk is maintained at the park.
The idea to establish a museum was mooted to preserve the fossil site and the fossils from being indiscriminately extracted and vandalized. It was also intended to provide prehistoric period scientific information to scholars for research. The Geological Survey of India, in close association with the Government of Himachal Pradesh, took the initiative and established the park on 23 March 1974. The park is also maintained by the Geological Survey of India.
The fossils are identified by the Geological Survey of India as vertebrate fossils which resided in the area about 2.5 million years ago, during a period when the region was known for the geological formations of the Shivalik system of hills. It has also been concluded that the Shivalik Hills, which formed about twenty-five million years ago, give proof of the evolution of mankind. The mammalian fossils found in the Shiwaliks of this park are one of the world's richest antiquities.
The fibreglass models on display in an open area in the fossil park are of six extinct animals. These are: Huge land tortoise, gharial, four horned giraffe, sabre-toothed cat, large tusked elephant, and hippopotamus.
The Saketi Park has a unique feature, in a miniature form, of the prehistoric biological record of the Upper Siwalik rocks, similar to those which are found in the Patwar Plateau and adjacent hills, also in Mangla dam areas in the region.
The model of the sabre-tooth cat, almost similar to the present day species, is depicted with very long upper canine teeth, used to tear its prey to death, became extinct about a million years ago; at the same time many species of elephants also became extinct. In the hippopotamus model, made to a life-size similar to its present-day counterpart, animal has six incisors with a comparatively larger mouth but with a small brain hole, longer lower jaw and legs like the pig. This species, which existed in very large numbers about 2.5 million years ago, is now extinct. The model of the giant land tortoise, representing a species found in the Shivalik region, is the largest of all tortoises but its present-day counterpart is of much smaller size. Models of the giant-sized elephants are of those which roamed 7 to 1.5 million years ago here, had a smaller cranium (bone portion of the skull), unusually long pair of tusks and huge limbs; these species numbering 15 vanished about 1.5 million years ago. The model of a four-horned giraffe, an ancestor of the present day species, lived in the region 7 to 1.5 million years back; it has an unusually large skull but a comparatively short neck.
The exhibits in the museum have a plethora of skeletal remains of different groups of skulls and limbs of mammals, skulls of hippopotamuses, tortoises, gharials and crocodiles, tusks of 22 species of elephants, rocks and charts and paintings related to the several aspects of plants and animals life of the past and present. The stone items on display belong to the Early Palaeolithic Man. Also preserved in the museum are fossils of two genera of extinct primates, Sivapithecus and Ramapithecus. The museum also houses antiquities unearthed by Captain Cautley in the area, from which he dug out the remains of Asia’s oldest human ancestor.
Exhibits also include an Indian postage stamp with images of two elephants and tusks, issued in 1951 on the occasion of the centenary of the Geological Survey of India.
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