THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL Survey of India (ASI) has expedited the process of acquiring land at Masoul village for resuming the excavation of fossils. This follows a communiqué from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
The fossils found at Masoul village are said to be among the oldest found in the world so far.
According to a senior official of ASI, PMO became interested in the site after French President Francois Hollande’s visit to Chandigarh when some of the fossils were placed in the government museum to show these to the visiting president. The excavation was carried out by a joint team of Indian and French archaeologists.
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“We have been told to acquire the land and start excavation as soon as possible. The fossils were among the oldest in the world; these could be an attraction for many archaeologists across the world. The PMO has directed the department to send a report of progress made so far,” added the official.
When contacted, Deputy Superintendent (Archaeology) V S Rawat said that they had written a letter to the Mohali Deputy Commissioner and requested him to send the land records so that the process of acquiring the land could be started. But they were still waiting for a reply from the Mohali administration.
The land, Rawat said, where the excavation was done is private and they cannot carry out the work as landowners can challenge it. The department wants to acquire the land but they came to know that the district administration is finding it tough to gather the land records of the village as it is surrounded by two rivers and forests.
District Forest Officer Tejinder Singh Saini said that the archaeological department had approached them for seeking clearance for carrying out further activities. They would give the go-ahead once the department acquired land with the permission of the district administration.
Research was conducted in the village by India-based Society for Archaeological and Anthropological Research (SAAR) and France’s National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) and department of prehistory of the National Museum of Natural History. The research teams found fossils of fauna which were said to be dating back to 2.6 million years and claimed them to be the oldest fossils. The discovery comprised 1,500 fossil finds over a period of seven years. Before these fossils, the oldest fossils were found in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia which are said to be 2.58 million years old.