Masol (Inde) : Man came from Africa... or maybe Chandigarh
Pre-historic archaeological finds from Masol, 18km from Chandigarh -which challenge the Out-of-Africa theory of man's origins -could be older than 26 lakh years.
The Indian-French excavation team has sent fresh samples of sediments, including sand and stones taken out from the land formations of Masol archaeological sites, to Paris for testing. Cosmogenic Radionuclide Dating, a technique that maps the impact of bombarding the material with cosmic rays to know its age, will establish the time of these fossils and tools.
Masol is claimed to be the oldest site where Hominin activities have been discovered and if the latest samples in Paris turn out to be older than 26 lakh years, then it could reopen a new chapter in the pre-history of the origins of man and strengthen the view that man's evolution took place outside Africa as well.
Mukesh Singh, director of the Society for Archaeological and Anthropological Research (SAAR), Chandigarh, which is in research partnership with National Museum of Natural History , Paris, said it would be "a very important development".
"It would mean that the fossils and the tools belong to the same age," Mukesh Singh said. The IndoFrench pre-historic research project that could challenge the `Out-of-Africa' theory of human evolution after having already made ground-breaking discoveries in Masol village, 18km from Chandigarh, is in dire need of funding.
The project, a collaboration between the National Museum of Natural History , Department of Pre-history , Paris, and the Society for Archaeological and Anthropological Research (SAAR), Chandigarh, has been searching for donors for some time now to continue with its excavation work and further research in Masol.
The SAAR members have already met former Punjab governor Kaptan Singh Solanki and present governor VP Singh Badnore seeking funds and also approached the ministry of culture in this regard.
Recently , SAAR also wrote to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) requesting release of Rs 40 lakh to carry on with its research work in Masol.
However, the SAAR request is still to be cleared. According to SAAR president Mukesh Singh, who has devoted most of his professional life searching for evidence of Hominin (early man) activities in Masol, paleontology field research and analysis is quite expensive. "Uninterrupted flow of funds has become crucial to our project as we are entering the next level in our ongoing research. We are trying our best so that further excavation and analysis of fossils should not suffer due to lack of money ," said Singh.
Last year, the joint IndoFrench team had created a sensation by publishing a paper in a French journal Comptes Rendus that had claimed that cut marks on fossilized bones found in Masol are a proof of Hominin activities that went back to 2.6 million years. The findings have come to be seen as a challenge to the widely-accepted and dominant `Out of Africa' theory of human evolution that holds that humans evolved in Africa and then dispersed to other continents.
The team has continued its research work in Masol hoping to dig up more evidence to support its findings and discover something new. "We feel motivated by our findings till now.Statistically speaking we should have found a Hominin fossil in Masol and this is what makes our research work even more important," said Singh.
Along with the ministry of culture, the SAAR has also approached private business houses, in the country and abroad, for financial help.
"We have got financial assistance from private donors as well but it's not enough to keep us going. We are trying for more private funding as well," said Singh.
The SAAR had also approached the Punjab government, which initially funded the project work but later stopped releasing the money altogether.Also, the analysis of fossils, another costly affair, dug up from Masol has been done in France till now with the assistance from National Museum of Natural History that has helped SAAR to sustain the project.According to Singh, it's time the project got its own budget.