A 25 million-year-old rock fossil of a palm tree will be one of the star attractions at a new fossil park coming up near this picturesque Himachal Pradesh town.
The mammoth fossil, five feet tall and one metre wide, was found standing on a rock at Jagjitnagar near Kasauli in Solan district two years ago by N.P.S. Randhawa, director of the Chandigarh-based Government Museum and Art Gallery.
“The tree fossil will be showcased along with other fossils found in the area at a geo-heritage park and museum to be developed by the government. It will attract not only the tourists but also conservationists and geologists,” Arun Sharma, director of tourism, told IANS.
According to geologists, it was for the first time in the history of the Himalayas that such a big palm wood rock fossil has been found.
“As shifting the wood rock fossil from Kasauli hills to some other place is not possible, we have decided to preserve it at that place itself from where it was discovered,” Mr. Sharma said.
Experts said about 25 million years ago, flash floods buried the palm tree trunk, leading to its petrification - a process of fossilisation in which dissolved minerals replace organic matter.
The geo-heritage museum, located in the Shivaliks, would also display models of extinct animals like the grand elephant Stegodon Ganesha Sivatherium, the hippopotamus with six incisors, and the giant land tortoise Colossochelys Atlas.
For setting up the park, the state tourism department is planning to join hands with the Natural History Museum in Chandigarh.
“The technical assistance to set up the park will be provided by the Chandigarh natural history museum. We have consulted its in-charge P.C. Sharma. Panjab University's geologist Arun D. Ahluwalia will also assist us,” Mr. Sharma said.
“The estimated expenditure on the fossil park is yet to be worked out, but it will be ready by May this year,” he added.
Mr. Ahluwalia said the setting up of the fossil park would help in spreading mass awareness about rocks, mineral fossils and ores of the hill state among the people, especially children and researchers.
“The Shivalik hills are rich in animal and plant fossils. The fossils found in the region date back to more than 20 million years,” he said.
The Kasauli park would be the second fossil park in Himachal Pradesh.
The Suketi Fossil Park near Nahan in Sirmaur district is the first such park in the state that displays six life-size fiberglass models of pre-historic animals whose fossils and skeletons were unearthed there itself.