BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Urdu Hindi Pashto Bengali Tamil Nepali Sinhala
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: South Asia  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Monday, 2 December, 2002, 16:15 GMT
Fossil hints at India's mythical river
People bathe at the confluence of Ganges, Jamuna and Saraswati rivers during Kumbh Mela
Many Hindus flock to the holy site of the Saraswati

Geologists in India say they have found an elephant fossil in the Thar desert of Rajasthan, supporting earlier theories that the vast desert was once a fertile area.


It proves again that there were once rivers like Saraswati and civilisations were flourishing on their banks

B S Paliwal, Geologist
They said the discovery also lent credence to popular belief that a mighty river, named in the ancient Hindu Vedic texts as Saraswati, flowed through the region thousands of years ago.

Senior geologist BS Paliwal said the elephant fossil was discovered in a village in Nagaur district, about 300 kilometres from the state capital of Jaipur, during gypsum mining.

Professor Paliwal, who is the head of the geology department at the Jai Narain Vyas university, termed the find as a "mammoth discovery for the scientific fraternity".

Hidden aspects

He said it might reveal many more secrets of the environmental conditions of that period.

Naked holy men or 'Sadhus' at the site of the Saraswati
Naked holy men or 'Sadhus' at the site of the Saraswati
Professor Paliwal said the fossil dated back thousands of years, from the middle Holocene epoch.

The remains were found embedded in a gypsum layer little more than two metres from the surface.

Professor Paliwal said it belonged to an elephant or its ancestor known as Stegolophodon.

The fossil is a 61-centimetre-long part of the femur bone, with well-preserved condyles, a number of rib fragments, a vertebral bone, probably a lumber with a small spine and a large body and a metatarsus suggesting a size big enough for more than two toes, he said.

Geography

Professor Paliwal said the size of the toes indicated that the elephant was about 3.5 metres in height.

Women praying at the site of the Saraswati during Kumbh Mela
The significance of the river, mentioned in Vedic texts, is immense
He said during the Pleistocene epoch, India touched Eurasia and there were indications that Asian elephants moved south due to the prevailing ice-age in the northern hemisphere.

"It proves again that there were once rivers like Saraswati and civilisations were flourishing at their banks," Professor Paliwal said.

He added it was possible that there were sudden climatic changes which altered the geography of the region, turning it into a vast desert.

Climatic changes

Abrupt climatic changes led to the blocking of river systems and the formation of saline lakes, he said.

Professor Paliwal said the centuries-long drought resulted in migration or large-scale deaths of animals.

He said the elephant fossil proves that there were other animals too in the region as it was not possible for a single animal species to have existed in such circumstances and climate.

Geologists had a few years ago found fossils of fish in Jaisalmer, a district further west from the site of the present find.

These fossils were dated to be nearly 180 million years old.

Geologists said the find was evidence that large water bodies once existed in the region.

See also:

29 Jun 02 | South Asia
12 Feb 01 | South Asia
02 May 02 | Country profiles
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes