Thursday, November 27, 2008

Can it be a Sikkim Primitive…!

Petrified fossil found in Sikkim


{Few months back when fossil of Blue Green Algae was discovered on one of the rocks at Mamley, Namchi, I was one of the few who was very excited to take notice of the news. For me i had found a friend for my petrified plant fossil.}

Has anyone ever realized the potential of finding possible fossil materials in Sikkim….? The answer certainly would be a tricky one. It was during my college days at Tadong, I had asked one of my lecturers about the chances of finding fossils in Sikkim and the prompt reply was "It's a silly question". He added Sikkim is a young fold mountain and there is no possibility of finding any such materials both in plants and animals. He gave his fullest of assumption but that did not affect my fanatical thoughts over my query. My wildest imagination would give me a push about what had happened to the life forms beneath the so-called Tethys from which the mountains of Himalayas had evolved or what are those vigorously wildly grown tree fern doing in our Sikkim? Since my early school days I would let my imagination run riot regarding those tree ferns and have that believe that in deep past these valleys might had witnessed the presence of giant and fearful animals in the likes of dinosours and others. Now after getting graduate degree in Botany Honours, I cannot count myself whether I was silly on thinking those wild thoughts.

Call it a coincidence within couple of month of my interaction with my lecturer I came across a fossil like piece of jagged stone along the woods of Shantinagar in Singtam while gong on my normal job of maintaining our water supply. That piece of stone had an impression of a monocot plant with a clear marking of parallel venation and a rachis. (Well obviously a layman question arises how I know about these botanical terms….. all thanks to my Botany lecturers at Sikkim Government College that helped me identify with botanical terms I had carried at the course studies and on laboratory practices during my stay as a Botany Honours student.) The impression on the left side was slightly cut compared to its right side where it fell along the edge. At the first sight the fossil impression seems to be of a maize leaf as for my wild imagination. The other additional interesting features of the stone was the presence of a faintly red round mark on the bottom connecting with the base of the monocot fossil and another leaves like arrangement on the right side of it.

The next morning I went on to meet the very lecturer at College who was amazed on my discovery but nothing fruitful could happen as I had anticipated. I was advised to meet the officers at Botanical Survey of India at Zero Point. The same noon I dropped at BSI, I met an officer who to my surprise promptly replied he was not interested in fossil materials. Yet I took out my findings and showed him, he added there was no department for fossil study in Sikkim so he told me to see anyone at Geological Survey of India at Deorali. I made my way through the doors of GSI; an officer out there was kind enough to look at my materials and told me that GSI is only concerned about study in rocks and even showed me couple of samples of fossils of earlier under water organisms recovered in places of West Sikkim and South Sikkim. I could still recall the shell like imprints and off course that small star fish like mark on a grey piece of stone. He asked me to send my findings to Guwahati but also feared that the materials might not reach me back later on. Notable information I received from him then was about a person from North- East doing some sort of plant fossil study in Sikkim at that time.

The above mentioned incident had occurred during 2002 and over the last few years that fossil like materials is with me yet to make out its presence felt, who knows it can prove a milestone in occurrence with the ancient world of floras in Sikkim. Last year (2007) I had a chance in exchanging words with the members of the Indian museumology out at Gangtok in a three day seminar on archeology and museumology. With archeologist visiting from different states of India, I came across a lady who was concerned in my possessed stone and added it's a petrified fossil and congratulate me at my findings. That was more than enough for me to give a smile on my face. Finally over the years I have found a name to it…..a petrified fossil.

What is more interesting at my prized possession is the fact that the impression on the stone more often give me a sense of a leaf of a maize plant. I might be wrong at my opinion but my inner fantasy speaks of a different profundity. It really has grown up my eagerness to find more about this fossil like-impression that I have in my collection. I had surfed through the pages of internet about the findings of maize fossils and in one of its diverged segment my joy had comparison beyond its understanding.

I hear want to talk about an exceptional maize fossil found in the pockets of North Eastern Himalayan regions known as "Sikkim Primitive". The Sikkim Primitive better known as SP to the world of crop plant evolutionists and to the hills simply as "murali makai" had caught its interest worldwide where it had remarkable resemblance to pre-historic wild maize. To write more about this particular murali maize variety is beyond my limited knowledge, thus hereby I concentrate it more on its origin only. I would like to take a quote from J.R. Subba's Agriculture in the hills of Sikkim, where Subba writes "…but with the existence of murali maize in Sikkim, Bhutan and the North Eastern states which resemble the primitive hypothetical maize gave another thought to the origin of maize. At present, it is believed that Sikkim and other North-Eastern states to be the secondary centre of origin for maize."

Well I do not want to dream big, the matter that is more concern to me is the fact that my findings I have found looks similar to the maize leaf. I repeat looks similar, so it really brought interest in me.

It is although a controversial speculation and there had been many heated debates on the topics of similarities of SP with that of Palomero Toluqueno, an ancient indigenous maize race of Mexico. What's more fascination is the fact that it is believed that the maize plant was first brought to notice of Columbus at North America in 1492 and the presence of Sikkim Primitive could well altered the course in different subjects of world history. It would shed light to the much studied belief that the natives of North America had links with its Asian counterparts much more than we presumed and give a push to a believe that they reached the Indian sub-continent prior to the Portuguese.

It was one of the biggest ironies that Sikkim is regarded as the secondary origin of maize when this place is known as "the Valley of Rice" since ages. Isn't fascinating?