Tuesday , July 7 2020

Ramapithecus of Himalayan Foothills

Shiva Raj Shrestha “Malla”

The modern–intelligent man has been evolved from the great –great grandmother Lucy and her sisters the Australopithecus ۔ Afarensis, some 3.5 million years ago, living in Afar desert land of Ethiopia. This is what the anthropologists and a paleontologist has been telling us. It is widely believed that the hominid (or human likes) had spread throughout the world from Africa. But now, this ‘Out of Africa Theory’ has been challenged and the scientists are more and more inclined to believe that the evolution of man had occurred in several places in different time.

But, where did man first emerge is the prime question, every modem intelligent man is asking. This question alone is indicative of widespread interest in this subject. To try to analyze the available geological archaeological and paleontology facts found in different time, in different countries. The only, we can confidently estimate, as to who were the first hominids (human like creatures branched ۔ off from tail ۔less apes), who could be the ancestors of fully bipedal. The size of the brains of Australopithecus was of 500-600 sq. cm. already and capable of using natural stone weapons. Their jaw bones and teeth were more like those of the modern men.}

The scientists were trying hard to find the fossilized remains of such ‘Men like Apes’ or ‘Ape like Men’ commonly termed as ‘Missing Link’ in the first quarter of twentieth century. As stated earlier, such creatures were thought to have been evolved in tropical Africa and spread to Europe and Asia. But this ‘Out of Africa Theory’ crumbled ۔ down , when the remains of this creature called ‘Missing Link’ was discovered by G. E . Lewis. The fossilized remains of this ‘Missing Link’ found in 1935 in the Punjab ۔ Sivalik Hills (on the foothills of western Himalaya ) had created great excitement. But, this highly reputed American team of archeologists led by Prof. Lewis presumably had poor knowledge of Hindu Epic۔Ramayana and instead of calling this some 8 million year old creature Hunumana ۔pithecus called it Ramapithicus. After this, the famous British archeologist Louis S. B. Leakey found the fossilized human like broken jawbones of such creature in Kenya, in 1960. After the scientific tests, its’ age was estimated to 14 million year old and oldest found so far. (But there was some controversy about the exact dating) But more recently, the remains of such Ramapithecus was found in Turkey, which is accepted as the oldest (slightly older than 14 million years). Some such 8 million years old fossil was also found in Southeast China in 1958 (in Yunnan) near Northeast Indis and Myanmar but what about creature of the ‘Missing Link’ (in between Man and Ape) in Central Himalaya? This was the question, which had been baffling the scientists.

But luckily, in December 1980, the scientific team led by Dr. J. H. Hutchison, which also included Mr. Bishnu Dongol of Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, found the fossilized tooth of upper۔ left jawbone in a cliff by the bank of Tinau River in Butwal, near Lumbini. The paleomagnetic Analysis in USA revealed the date of this creature to be 11 million years before present (B. P.). This most valuable antiquity has been insured for millions of rupees and placed in Natural History Museum in Swayambhu Nath Hill for display, along with other samples of that time. This finding is accepted by scientific community to be very important because of the facts that 1. It represents the middle generation of Ramapithecus. 2. It is third oldest in the world and oldest found in Asia and also. 3. Its location falls in the centre of the straight line connecting Yunnan (China) and Turkey. (Butwal is also in this straight line connecting Punjab Himalaya).  It is generally accepted that the men۔ the survivors, who came to dominate the world later on and the apes along with monkeys (with tails) were the descendents of Driopithecus who used to roam in this world some 24 million years B. P. Small sized Ramapithecus, medium sized Shivapithecs, and giant sized Gigentopithicus are thought to have been evolved from Dripithecus. The fossilized remains of Driopithecus have been found in Western Himalayan foothills, in China, Egypt, Asia۔ Minor, Greece, Hungary, France and Germany. But no fossils of Ramapithecus have been found in Europe, Northern part of Asia, Australia and Americas.

World famous Chinese paleontologist Prof. JiaLanpo regards Ramapithecus as a genus ancestral to man, who did not known (stone) tool making had begun with Australopithecus Africanus (which is accepted as fully developed humanoid) and if they were the descendants of Ramapithecus, than there is yet another ‘Missing Link’ in the gap period of some 5 million years. (Early Man in China, Foreign Language press, Beijing, 1980) In 1994, Prof. Tim white claimed to have solved the problem of this (new) ‘Missing Link’ on the basis of his findings of fossilized remains of a hominid proved to be 4.4 million years old.  But Prof. Leakey does not fully agree. The debate is going on. Dr. Tim white also believes that such proto۔ Australopithecus used to roam in Africa during me period of 40 to 60 million years B. P.)

Prof. Jia Lanpo believes that Ramapithecus lived only in tropical and semi۔ tropical forests and savanna areas. They were only about 4 ft. in height, with a short face, faulted palate bone and their teeth and upper and lower jaw bones were similar to that of Australopithecus. As the dentition shows many characters like that of Homo۔ sapiens in its rudimentary form, this genus therefore, can be identified as the precursor of Homo۔ sapiens. Ramapithecus may be inferred as being able to walk in a transitional semi۔ erect gait. Among all known ape fossils, Ramapithecus fossil is the closest to that of man, possessing more human characteristics than any other genera. He had crossed the threshold into the stage of hommids’

Concludes this most renowned Chinese paleontologist Prof. Jia Lanpo. He also firmly believes that the Cradle of Man is this triangular area covering Yunnan ۔ Punjab (now also Butwal ) and Kenya. Around this triangle, many fossils of Australopithecus, Homo۔ habilis, Homo۔ erectus and Homo۔ sapiens have been found, (e.g. Lucy, Chinese Australopithecus in transition, Java۔ man, Peking Man, Neanderthal Man, etc.). Now, as Ramapithecus fossils have also been found in Nepal and Turkey, Prof. Jia Lanpo’s ‘Triangle’ can be modified into a quadrangle, with Himalaya in centre and as such, his theory that the ‘cradles of man’ must have been this area۔ holds good. Let us not forget that some 10 million years ago, Great Himalayan peaks like Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manalsu (which are even now rising higher and higher) were barely 100m tall and Chure۔ Hills of present day Butwal. Were no hills at all Ten million years ago, there were herds of Ramapithecus roaming in the great tropical forests and savannas in the area where the city of Butwal stands now.

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