Salkhan Fossil Park: A Neglected Geological Heritage in India

Salkhan Fossil Park

What Are Fossils?

The term fossil is a Latin word that is derived from “fodere = to dig” and hence it is referred to any curious object that was dug out of the Earth. 

Fossils are defined as the remains of ancient plants and animals preserved embedded in rocks. However, many fossil specimens have been found in loose sand, in bogs, in tar pits and some have been found frozen in ice. Fossils are always found in sedimentary rocks (sandstone, limestone, etc.). The branch of sciences which deals with the study of fossils is known as Palaeontology.

What is the Significance of Fossils?

(i) Fossils are helpful in knowing about the Geographical history of Earth and the distribution of plants and animals. 

(ii) Fossils are helpful in the study of evolutionary changes. 

(iii) Fossils are helpful in knowing about the past climate of the Earth. 

(iv) Fossils are helpful in determining the age of the rocks; and 

(v) Fossils are helpful in the exploration of fossil fuels and mineral deposits.

What is Salkhan Fossil Park and where it is Located?

Salkhan Fossil Park is a place in Sonebhadra District of Eastern Uttar Pradesh having the oldest fossils of the world. This place is located 17 kilometers away from Robertsganj town (in Sonebhadra District) on the Varanasi-Renukut Highway (SH-5) at Salkhan village. It is regarded as one of the most important destinations to know the Earth’s geological and biological past. Salkhan Fossil Park presents evidence regarding the emergence and the initial stages of evolution of life on the Earth. Thus the fossil park has invaluable possession not only for India but for the entire world.

Salkhan Fossil Park of Sonebhadra District is a geological heritage that has brought international recognition to this extremely backward District of Uttar Pradesh. The age of fossils found here is approximately 1,500 million years old and dates back to the Mesoproterozoic period according to the geological time scale. The fossils appear as rings on the boulders scattered around the area.

The fossil park spread over an area of about 25 hectares inside the Kaimoor Wildlife range and comes under the jurisdiction of the State Forest Department. The circumference of the fossil park is 3.5 kilometers. Geologists were already aware of the fossils in this region, but local residents and administrative officers had no knowledge about them. The place got highlighted by an article published in Hindi daily Hindustan on 23 August 2001.

Taking cognizance of this newspaper article the then-District Magistrate of Sonebhadra District Shri Bhagwan Shankar, formally inaugurated this fossil park as “Sonebhadra Fossil Park” on 8 August 2002. At starting roads along with permanent resting huts were constructed in the park. From a safety viewpoint, iron fencing was done all along the boundaries of the park. On 5 December 2002, an international workshop was organized under the Coordination of Professor S. Kumar of Lucknow University (Uttar Pradesh).

This workshop witnessed the participation of 42 Geologists from both India and abroad. Prominent among the participants were the renowned Canadian Geologist Professor H. J. Hoffman and U.S. Geologists Professor Bruce Runnegar, Dr. J. R. Lyon and Dr. Linda Sohi. The Geologists established in this workshop that the ring-shaped structures on the boulders were nothing else but fossils. Professor H. J. Hofmann was much impressed by seeing the Salkhan Fossil Park. He stated that “fossils of Salkhan Fossil Park were the most beautiful and precious things of the world and nowhere in the entire world have there been such beautiful and clear fossils”.

Why Salkhan Fossil Park is Important?

The Salkhan Fossil Park is compared with Yellowstone Fossil Park of the United States. According to U.S. Geologists, the Salkhan Fossil Park is quite older than Yellowstone Fossil Park. Thus the Salkhan Fossil Park is completely mature while Yellowstone Fossil Park is in developing state. The Salkhan Fossil Park is three times larger than the Yellowstone Fossil Park of the United States.

What Types of Fossils are found in Salkhan Fossil Park?

Salkhan Fossil Park, India
The fossil types found in Salkhan Fossil Park are algal stromatolites. The stromatolites are sedimentary structures consisting of laminated carbonate or silicate rocks produced over geologic time by the trapping, binding or precipitating of sediment by groups of microorganisms primarily cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). Stromatolites are the oldest fossils found on the Earth. They are fossil evidence of prokaryotic life.

What are Cyanobacteria?

Cyanobacteria formerly known as blue-green algae are Gram-negative prokaryotic single-celled or filamentous photoautotrophic micro-organisms. The cells of cyanobacteria are surrounded by a mucilaginous sheath that provides protection against desiccation. The soil surface often becomes slippery in the rainy season because of the luxuriant growth of cyanobacteria, and the slippery nature is due to the mucilaginous sheath surrounding the cyanobacterial cells. Filamentous cyanobacteria are often characterized by the formation of heterocysts and akinetes. Heterocystsare the sites of nitrogen fixation while akinetes are known for asexual reproduction. The common examples of present-day cyanobacteria are Gloeocapsa, Anacystis, Nostoc, Anabaena, Cylindrospermum, Oscillatoria, Scytonema, Tolypothrix, Plectonema, Phormidium, and Gloeotrichia.

What are the Threats to Salkhan Fossil Park?

The fossils found in Salkhan Fossil Park are lying neglected due to the apathetic attitude of state government and local administration. The ignorance of the local people is also a reason for the deplorable state of this invaluable fossil park. Neither the state government nor the concerned officials are making any arrangements for the safety of the fossil park.

The barricading wire surrounding the fossil park has been stolen by thieves and the ignorant rural/tribal people are making shortcut routes through the fossil park to reach the different destinations in the area thus making the fossils vulnerable to damage. The shattered fossil pieces are also collected and carried by the rural/tribal population passing through the park. Due to lack of barricading the fossil park is open to grazing animals as well. The smugglers are plundering the park’s wealth by selling the fossils in the international market. The park is also threatened due to illegal mining in the area.


The plight of Salkhan Fossil Park is a matter of serious concern and needs immediate attention for its safety and development as the main tourist spot of India. The development of Salkhan Fossil Park as a tourist spot will not only generate revenue but also be helpful in creating job opportunities for the unemployed locals in this extremely backward District of Eastern Uttar Pradesh. This, in turn, may lead to the elimination of Naxalism from the District as the economic backwardness and unemployment are the two main causes of Naxalism in the Sonebhadra district of Uttar Pradesh.
Dr. Arvind Singh is M. Sc. and Ph. D. in Botany with an area of specialization in Ecology. He is a dedicated Researcher having more than four dozen published Research Papers in the Journals of National and International repute. His main area of Research is Restoration of Mined Lands. However, he has also conducted research on the Vascular Flora of Banaras Hindu University-Main Campus, India.

keywords: salkhan fossil park in india, fossil park salkhan sonbhadra in india, salkhan fossils park in india, fossils park salkhan sonbhadra, Sonbhadra Fossils Park in India, fossils park india, national fossil park in india, sal khan fossils park in india, sonbhadra fossils park in india, national fossils park in india