This category can only be viewed by members. To view this category, sign up by purchasing Annual subscription, Monthly subscription or Lifetime Access.

Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape in Azerbaijan

Khursheed Dinshaw (India) Gobustan in Azerbaijan is an interesting site depicting prehistoric rock art. The petroglyphs here vary in age from the Upper Palaeolithic Era to the Middle Ages (Fig. 1). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, more than 6,000 images can be seen here (Figs. 2 to 9). The petroglyphs are carved on three mountains called Beyukdash, Djingirdag and Kichikdash, respectively. Fig. 1. Petroglyphs varying from Upper Palaeolithic Era to the Middle Ages. Fig. 2. Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape. There is also a museum where artefacts that have been excavated are exhibited (Figs. 10 to 14). The museum also provides information about the climate change periodization of Gobustan. About 21,000 years ago, juniper trees grew here. There is also a strong possibility of tugay forests in which wild cherries and pomegranates grew. (Tugay is a form of forest or woodland associated with fluvial and floodplain areas in arid climates.) Wild cherries and pomegranates grow in the region even today. Fig. 3. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Azerbaijan. Fig. 4. More than 6,000 images can be seen here. Credit for the discovery of the petroglyphs goes to Prof I M Jafarzade. He found them in the 1930s on the Djingirdag Mountain. Fig. 5. Visitors learning about petroglyphs. Fig. 6. Prof I M Jafarzade discovered the images on these rocks. Most of the petroglyphs of Gobustan have been made by engraving an image contour on the rocks. On the Beyukdash Mountain, on rock No 67, there are a total of … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, Monthly subscription or Lifetime Access.

Kutch Fossil Park in India

Khursheed Dinshaw (India) Mohansinh Sodha (Fig. 1) is the founder of the Kutch Fossil Park located in Kutch, in the state of Gujarat in India. The park exhibits invertebrates, including ammonites, belemnites, nautilus (Fig. 2), brachiopods, gastropods (Fig. 3), corals (Fig. 4) and echinoderms. Marine fossils, including brachiopods and echinoderms, have been sourced from the rivers of the Kutch region. Fig. 1. Mohansinh Sodha, with one of his remarkable fossils. Fig. 2. A beautiful nautilus exhibit. Fig. 3. Gastropods at the Kutch Fossil Park. Fig. 4. Corals displayed at the park. Plant fossils, like Gondwana plant fossils, 136 to 293 million-year-old leaf fossils (Fig. 5) and petrified wood, can also be seen at the park. Vertebrates include sea cows, tortoises (Fig. 6) and crocodiles. Fig. 5. A 136 to 293 million year old leaf fossil. Fig. 6. Tortoise fossils collected from Kutch. Trace fossils are also exhibited (Fig. 7). Fig. 7. Trace fossils exhibit. Ammonites (Figs. 8 and 9) are known in Gujarati, the chief language of the state of Gujarat, as Gokulgai and, in Hindi language, as Saligram. They are considered a representation of Lord Vishnu. The first ammonoids appeared during the Devonian period. Fig. 8. Ammonites are known in Gujarati as Gokulgai. Ammonites are considered to be a representation of Lord Vishnu. Fig. 9. [THERE IS NO WAY THESE ARE AMMONITES – THEY ARE GASTROPODS???] It took 83-year-old Sodha more than 40 years to collect the fossils. He has travelled over eight hundred thousand kilometres across Kutch to … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, Monthly subscription or Lifetime Access.

How does our fossil garden grow?

Deborah Painter (USA) Plant fossils come in a wider variety than this author used to believe. This article will discuss some of the different ways that plant fossils are preserved. Casts The fossil in Figs. 1 and 2 is a cast of Stigmaria. It is comprised of greyish sandstone. Sandy sediments initially filled the empty space left by the decaying plant; in this case, a root decayed and was replaced by shale that did not preserve the cell structure. Stigmaria is a form genera name for the roots of Carboniferous lycopod trees. Form genera are genera defined for a part of an organism or plant rather than for the entire plant, in all its different parts (leaves, roots, trunk, spores and so on). The Stigmaria is a root and it may be the root of Sigillaria or Lepidodendron. Fig. 1. This is a cast of a root of one of the lycopod trees of the Lower Carboniferous, either Lepidodendron or Sigillaria. (Credits: Deborah Painter.) Fig. 2. The cast in Fig. 1 does not preserve cellular details because the cavity in the sediment left by the decaying root was filled by sediment that did not replace the original structure. (Credits: Deborah Painter.) The fossil dates from the Mississippian period (Upper Carboniferous) and is part of the Price Formation. The Price Formation is sandstone, conglomerate, quartzarenite, limestone, coal, and shale. The sandstone is feldspathic and slightly micaceous, with a few greyish red beds. The Price Formation is a westward, thinning clastic wedge … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, Monthly subscription or Lifetime Access.

Geology Museum of Ipoh, Malaysia

Khursheed Dinshaw (India) The Geology Museum of Ipoh in Malaysia is located inside the premises of the Department of Minerals and Geoscience Malaysia (Fig. 1). The museum is an interesting venue where you canlearn about both the geology and the geosciences of the country. The easy to navigate museum was established in the year 1957. It is divided into seven galleries, all of whichare located on the ground floor (Figs. 2, 3 and 4). And theynarrate the geology of Earth, emphasising the importance of geology to the human race. Fig 1: Entrance to the geology museum of Ipoh in Malaysia. Fig 2: The different galleries. There is an impressive collection of fossils, minerals and rocks. There is also a gallery showcasing samples of tin ore (Cassiterite), which have been collected from the various tin fields of the country. Fig 3: One of the seven galleries. Fig 4: All the galleries are located on the ground floor. I particularly liked the amber exhibit (Fig. 5), which is part of the largest piece of amber ever found in the world. Its age dates to Miocene to about 20 million years ago.The original piece was excavated from a coal mine in the Kapit Division of the state of Sarawak in Malaysia. Embedded in coal,it weighed 70kg and was divided into three sections, with each section being almost equal in size. While the amber piece in the Geology Museum of Ipoh continues to attract and educate visitors, the other two pieces can be viewed … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, Monthly subscription or Lifetime Access.

Yana’s rock formations in India

Khursheed Dinshaw (India) “Let’s organize a hike to Yana to see its impressive rock formations,” suggested Ramesh V, the wellness consultant at Gamyam Retreat, which is a luxury wellness resort located an hour’s drive from Yana. My interest piqued. The next day, I headed to Yana located in Uttara Kannada district in the state of Karnatake in India. The area is surrounded by the thick forests of the Western Ghats. Fig. 1. Mohini Shikhara is 300 feet (91.5m) in height. After parking the vehicle, my hike began through the forest along the demarcated trail for hikers. Hardly a few minutes had passed before I was rewarded by the spectacular view of a sharp-edged peak. It was made up of hard and compact siliceous limestone of Late Archean age, that is, around 2.65 billion years old. Known as Mohini Shikhara (Fig. 1), this imposing rock sentinel is 300 feet (91.5m) in height. Fig. 2. A rock formation of the Late Archean age. After admiring it for a while, I continued ahead and spotted other rock formations along the way (Figs. 2, 3 and 4). Fig. 3. A rock formation surrounded by the thick forests of the Western Ghats. By this time, the trail had turned into a series of steps with railings for support. I enjoyed the solitude of the forest, the cascading streams and the bird calls everywhere along the way. And there are close to 60 rock formations at Yana, which are scattered throughout the forest. From among those … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, Monthly subscription or Lifetime Access.

The mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan

Khursheed Dinshaw (India) The first time I saw a mud volcano at close range was in Rotorua in New Zealand. I was fascinated – the raw energy of the erupting mud massively appealed to me. Once back home, I read up on mud volcanoes and learnt that, out of the almost 700 present in the world, about 300 of which are located in Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. No wonder scientists call Azerbaijan ‘the region of mud volcanoes (Fig. 1). These mud volcanoes reach heights of 200 to 500m and temperatures of 1,000 to 1,2000C. They include active and extinct underwater, island-type and oil producing volcanoes. In Azerbaijan, one can find these natural wonders on the Absheron Peninsula, at Gobustan and the Shirvan plain. Fig. 1. A map of the mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan (© Mark Tingay and Google Earth). Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit the country and booked a tour to Gobustan to experience the famed mud volcanoes, which are locally known as ‘Pilpila’ (Fig. 2). One can drive up to the designated spot in any vehicle, but the last few kilometres necessary to reach the volcanoes is only possible by authorised cars driven by locals who know the landscape like the back of their hand. This is important, because the terrain is barren and there are no marked roads, routes or signposts to get to the mud volcanoes. Fig. 2. Mud volcanoes are called Pilpila in Ajerbaijan. My driver was born and brought up in a … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, Monthly subscription or Lifetime Access.

It doesn’t always have to be dinosaurs – a short review of rauisuchian archosaurs

Stephan Lautenschlager (Germany) and Dr Julia Brenda Desojo (Argentina) Fig. 1. Reconstruction of Batrachotomus kupferzellensis. (Museum of Natural History, Stuttgart, Germany.) Among the multitude of fossil animals, dinosaurs have always been the most popular and fascinating. Loved by six-year-olds, Hollywood directors, toy-designers and scientists alike, they not only dominated most of the Mesozoic Era, but still dominate our understanding of palaeontology. However, only a few people are aware that, before the dinosaurs started their 150-million-year-long global dominion, there was an equally successful and remarkable group of fossil reptiles – the ‘rauisuchians’ (Fig. 2). In this article, we will try to shed some light on these enigmatic and commonly unknown tetrapods, which were as adapt and predominant in their time – and, to be honest, as cool – as the dinosaurs. Fig. 2. Occurrence and evolution of the major archosaur groups. A history of rauisuchian research The first rauisuchian fossil was found in 1861 by the German naturalist Hermann von Meyer. It consisted of a single maxilla of Teratosaurus suevicus and was identified as an early dinosaur. The same happened to the next to be found, Poposaurus gracilis, after its discovery in Wyoming in 1915. This specimen was subsequently described as a theropod dinosaur, a primitive stegosaurid and also an ornithopod. Only when the German palaeontologist, Friedrich von Huene, collected numerous Triassic fossils from the Santa Maria Formation of Brazil in 1928, did things begin to change. His detailed studies of the material revealed that most of it did not belong … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, Monthly subscription or Lifetime Access.

Ghughua Fossil National Park, India

Khursheed Dinshaw (India) The Ghughua Fossil National Park is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India and contains plant fossils that are more than 65 million years old. It covers an area of approximately 27.34ha and consists of a museum and fossil trail. The fossils inside the museum are on display in neatly arranged glass showcases. The most popular exhibit is the Eucalyptus tree fossil, which is kept on a bed of sand (Fig. 1). It was found in Ghughua and what makes it a highly coveted fossil is the belief that it originated from Gondwana (see below). Fig. 1. A Eucalyptus tree kept in the museum. The fossil trail is a walkway where visitors can see the fossils in their natural setting. Since multiple fossils were discovered at one location, they are placed on circular platforms at that spot by the side of the walkway (Fig. 2). Fig. 2. Multiple fossils found at Ghughua. It is due to the untiring efforts of Dr Dharmendra Prasad, who was the Statistical Officer of the district, that the fossils and park gained their due prominence. Fifty two years ago, S R Ingle from Science College in Jabalpur and Dr M B Bande from the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow spent time studying and identifying the fossils and their contribution is significant. On 5 May 1983, Ghughua was declared a Fossil National Park and a sum of Rs 150 lacs was allocated for developing it. The fossils that can be … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, Monthly subscription or Lifetime Access.

Book review: Inscriptions of Nature: Geology and the Naturalization of Antiquity, by Pratik Chakrabarti

Maybe it’s a result of my social anthropology and geological background, but I found this difficult but fascinating book a great read. It’s about nineteenth century India. It is not about the modern geological science or social anthropology of the subcontinent, but rather, the geological imagination of India, as well as its landscapes and people, and its history.

Jade: Imperial green gem of the East (Part 2) – decorative and ornamental jade

Sonja McLachlan (UK) In the second part of this five-part series of articles, I will be exploring the beautiful examples of ornamental and decorative jade carvings that can be found in many places around the world. Ancient peoples collected and sculpted jade into unique symbolic items representing their own cultures … Read More