you know that Oman had once experienced varied climates and environment,
and even an ice age? Or that the barren, desolate terrain of Central
Oman was once a fertile place with rivers, lakes and trees? And
to confound you further, there is another nugget of information
that monkeys, rhinoceros, crocodiles and elephants had inhabited
this land. No wild theories these, but scientific conclusions
derived from fossils prised out of rocks.
through time: the section providing for the fossil history of
Oman at the Natural History Museum Pictures
by Abdullah bin Ibrahim al Shuhi
trunk of what is believed to be Omans oldest tree preserved
in the premises of the Museum
facilitate reconstruction of the heritage of a place since life evolved,
and in the case of Oman, such hard remains and traces found reflect
a picture that is starkly at variance with the rugged features this
land came to possess over the ages. Fossils normally originate from
the hard parts of animals and plants-shells, teeth, bones and wood,
which are buried in sediments and survive the vagaries of times to tell
a tale. And what a fascinating tale that these craggy remains have to
recount about Oman's past!Studies of Oman's geology and rock history
trace its evolutionary process over the periods from Precambrian to
Permian (800 to 245 million years ago), Triassic, Jurassic to Cretaceous
(245 to 65 million years ago) and Tertiary (65 million years ago).
found in Oman reflect a picture that is starkly at variance with
the rugged features this land
of corals that help reconstruct the fossil history of Oman
scientific belief is that the movement of the continents over geological
times had caused Oman to shift through various latitudes and climatic
zones, even moving closer to the South Pole during the Permian period,
when reptiles of the carboniferous era evolved into various groups
and started to stalk the land, before returning northwards to its
present position.For many tourists, the charm of Oman lies in its
mountain ranges, and how did they come to adorn the land? The theory
is that about 90 million years ago, an ocean existed to the north
of Oman, which slowly closed, and a collision occurred between the
Arabian and Asian plates.
fossil exhibits at the museum
triggered the uplift of Oman mountains, and earth movements which pushed
ocean crust onto the land. And there's much more to the country' s past,
and for experiencing 'Oman through time', there is no place better than
the Natural History Museum of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture at
Al Khuwair, Muscat.Aptly greeting a visitor and standing preserved enticingly
in the premises of the fossils section of the museum is the trunk of
what is regarded as Oman's oldest tree 260 million years old.
of teeth and bones of animals discovered in the interior of Oman in
is of a fossil fir tree the cells filled with heavy silica or
quartz crystals found in the ancient river sands and gravel in
the Huqf region of Central Oman, which has been dated to Permian period.
Fossil wood, including complete tree trunks are found in Permian strata
of Huqf, and it is believed that this area was once covered with lush
vegetation fringing a series of large meandering rivers. The two sections
inside, devoted to Precambrian to Permian and Tertian periods, put the
visitors on the course to discovering Oman's extraordinary past.
rock, originally molten in the earth's bowels but solidified at the
surface, and metamorphic rocks, igneous or sedimentary hard material
of the earth's crust but altered by high temperatures and pressures,
are among the earliest pointers to Oman's origin. Next follow corals,
270 million years old brachiopods from Ghneem, where a fossil tree was
also found, which probably grew on the bank of a stream and was preserved
after falling in mud. Dated 290-245 million years ago, the tree, weighing
about four tonnes, almost turned into pure silica, and it is believed
that its hardness allowed it to survive.
around it withered by wind and rain. An interesting exhibit is of 'fossiled
track', believed to have been left behind by trilobites (insects, spiders
and crustaceans) walking over soft sediments, which was found near Qarn
Mahatta Humaid in the interior of Oman. It is traced to Cambrian period
(595-510 million years ago) when animals with shells or other hard covering
appeared in the seas.The earliest fossils known in Oman are of stromatolites
from Mukhadba near Duqm (570 million years ago). Stromatolites are dome-shaped
or pillar-like structures built by primitive single celled algae which
secrete calcite and trap sedimentary particles.
remains of Ammonites
earliest fossils known in Oman are of stromatolites from Mukhadba
near Duqm (570 million years ago). Stromatolites are dome-shaped
or pillar-like structures built by primitive single celled algae
which secrete calcite and trap sedimentary particles
highlighting the triassic age (245-210 million years ago), the beginning
of the period of reptiles on land, including the dinosaurs, offer exhibits
of ammonite-bearing limestone from Mudhaibi (220 million years ago).
Ammonites are cephalopods like squids and octopusses, which had a wide
geographic range but did not last long. They, are, however, taken as
ideal guide fossils for determining the age of rocks. The most interesting
exhibits from tourists' view-point are the findings made in recent times.
geologists unearthed fragments of teeth and bones in the interior of
Oman, 50 km east of Ghaba. The remains were identified as the bones
and teeth of land and shallow marine animals, which had roamed this
land 20 million years ago. They included mastodons (early elephant like
animals), crocodiles, turtles and a primitive ancestor of the giraffe.
The awe-inspiring exhibits are of the tooth of Deinotherium, an early
elephant standing four metres tall (17 million years ago), teeth of
Gomphotherium, a primitive mastodon about 1.80 metres tall (15 million
years ago), teeth of ancestral elephant and monkeys from Thaytini and
Taqah in Dhofar (35 million years).
at two places in Dhofar yielded teeth belonging to animals believed
to be early forms of monkeys, rhinoceros, crocodiles and elephants 35
million years ago. These help scientists to picture the environment
of Oman in that age.A piece of coal discovered at Wadi Muswa near Sur
(50 million years old) also makes a telling commentary on Oman's past.
Scientists theorise that during early Tertiary period, swamps existed
in the north of Oman, and that trees and plants growing locally were
preserved in the stagnant waters, and were gradually compressed to form