African pygmies may have roots in Narmada valley, says new study

  • Joydeep Thakur, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
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  • Updated: Dec 25, 2012 02:39 IST

A part of a fossilized arm bone measuring just more than three inches in length has led a team of experts from the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) to the threshold of one of the most dramatic discoveries in the field of human evolution and migration across continents.

“The fossilized evidence suggests that African pygmies could have originated from a ‘short and stocky’ race of people who lived in the central Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh more than 80,000 years ago,” AR Sankhyan, a retired scientist of AnSI in Kolkata and the lead investigator of the project told HT.

The team of experts found the bones in 2010 and it has taken them two years to firm up their findings.

Working in the Narmada valley, a team of seven paleo-anthropologists from Kolkata and two other institutions in Pune and Himachal Pradesh discovered the fossilized bone of early human beings known as archaic Hominids.

“We found a humerus (arm bone) which belongs to a ‘short and stocky’ race of people. These could be the ancestors of the short-bodied people of south Asia, those found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and African pygmies,” Sankhyan said.

The fossils were found in Netankheri along the northern bank of River Narmada. 

“The finds also points out to another interesting side of human evolution. Two types of early humans with distinct physical features may have lived in the Narmada valley in central India thousands of years ago,” Sankhyan added.

While one category was that of “short and stocky” people who hunted small animals with relatively modern stone and bone tools, the other group had large-bodied people who hunted big mammals with archaic and big stone weapons.

“Probably the pygmy-like people exterminated the larger bodied people and then migrated to other pastures including Africa,” he added.


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