Significance of Haritalyangar-Ghumarwin Siwaliks:


The Haritalyangar-Ghumarwin area of the Middle Siwaliks is on the world map since late 19th Century for rare fossil remains of our earliest ‘ape-men’ (hominoid) ancestors, named after Hindu gods and deities as Ramapithecus, Sivapithecus, Bramapithecus, and Sugrivapithecus by American and British palaeoanthropologists. In 1970s, a new name Krishnapithecus was added by changing the earlier name Pliopithecus given to a fossil ape ancestral to gibbons.
Another remarkable discovery was made in 1968 of a complete lower jaw of a giant hominoid named after district Bilaspur as Gigantopithecus bilaspurensis, which weighted about500 Kg like African Gorilla, but walked erect. It is viewed as collateral of human lineage, who survived with early humans in the caves of southern China; some scholars believe it still alive and spotted as legendary “Himalayan Snow man” or “Yeti”.
The bulk of the ‘ape-men’ fossils from Haritalyangar belong to Ramapithecus and Sivapithecus, initially distinguished into many species and taxa. For four decades Ramapithecus was regarded as the earliest hominid ancestor of the human lineage, and Sivapithecus that of the Orangutan, a Great Ape popular as the “brown man of the woods” confined to Borneo-Sumatra Islands of Indonesia; the latter is also famous land of Java Man (Homo erectus) and tiny Hobbits (Homo floresiensis).
Of late in early 1980s, many palaeoanthropologists contended that the ‘small-sized’ Ramapithecus was a species or even the female (Sankhyan, 1990) of the ‘large-sized’ (male) Sivapithecus, and lumped together retaining the latter name. In the changed scenario Sivapithecus was first regarded as the last common ancestor of African & Asian Great Ape and human lineages thought to have splitted around 15 million years ago. But, molecular biologists advocated that vis-à-vis the Orangutan, Chimpanzee
showed more genetic similarity with man, and suggested their late separation around 5 million years ago.
Several notable palaeoanthropologists trusted molecular evidence during 1980s and dismissed all non-African Sivapithecus (= Ramapithecus) from the ‘chimpanzee-human’ ancestry and relegated them to the Orangutan lineage. But, J.H. Schwartz and I argued that Sivapithecus (= Ramapithecus) was morphologically appropriate as common ancestor of Orangutan and humans, whereas exclusive ‘chimpanzee-human’ ancestor is yet to be discovered such that the human-chimpanzee greater DNA ties could be primitive, and that the Orangutan
acquires more differences due to ecological shift from the sub-Himalayas to the Islands (Grehan & Schwartz, 2009); Sankhyan, 1988 - 2010). Nevertheless, the debate is not yet over and awaits new evidences.
The ‘ape-men’
were wide spread in the 2500 km long sub-Himalayan belt since 12 million years ago and believed to have disappeared by 8 Mya. But, as per fossil evidence with me (Sankhyan, 1985) discovered near Bharari about 4 km east of Haritalyangar Sivapithecus survived at least until 5 million years ago; Gigantopithecus had also survived with humans in southern China. Nevertheless, due to increasing aridity and colder climates they became rarer in the Siwaliks and the subsequent story of human evolution opens up in the warmer sub-tropics of Africa leading to emergence of proto-human and several species of man, Homo habilis, Homo ergaster and Homo erectus. The last was highly adaptive and expanded out of Africa and colonized Asia around 1.8 million years ago and also ruled the Siwalik Hills as known by numerous stone artifacts though its fossils are still awaited from Siwaliks.
However, fossils of the borderline Homo erectus/Homo sapiens have been discovered in Central Narmada valley by Sonakia (1984) and me (Sankhyan, 1997, 2005, and 2010). I recently added two more human fossils (Sankhyan, 2012) and sorted out Narmada fossils
into two physical types. One was a 'large-bodied'
species like Homo heidelbergensis found in Europe, Africa and China, whereas the other was a hitherto unknown ‘short and stocky’ archaic man resembling Andaman Pygmy.

While more Pygmy people live in Africa, Africa lacks fossil evidence. Therefore, it is not unlikely that this lineage of little people originated in India and later migrated to Africa and Andaman Islands/South East Asia. Read More