Side view of the Narmada human's skull.
ON December 5, 1982, the geologist Arun Sonakia discovered the only known fossil of a human ancestor from South Asia on the banks of the Narmada. The place was Hathnora village in Sehore district, nearly 35 kilometres east of Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh. The discovery changed the face of human origin studies in South Asia, Prof. D.K. Bhattacharya, former head of the Anthropology Department at the University of Delhi, said. “Sonakia’s find is absolute hard evidence of human evolution in this part of the continent,” he said.
The Narmada human, a fossil skull, belongs to the ancestor category of Homo erectus, who inhabited the earth from 1.8 million to 200,000 years ago and preceded Homo sapiens. Sonakia puts the age of the fossil at 500,000 to 600,000 years citing animals that he found along with the fossil, features of the fossil skull and palaeo-magnetic dating studies done at the Geological Survey of India (he was Director of its palaeontology division). He thinks the fossil individual may have been 25 to 30 years old. Some palaeoanthropologists think that the Narmada specimen may be a late evolved form of Homo erectus.
To celebrate the remarkable discovery, the Centre for Advancement of Public Understanding of Science & Technology, will focus in the coming year on the neglected areas of prehistoric archaeology and palaeoanthropology.
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