Page images
PDF

V.—-Note on the Fossil Bones of the Nerbudda valley, discovered by Dr. G. G. Spilsbury, near Narsinhpu'r 8;c. By J. Pnmsur, Secretary, &c. (See Plate xxiv).

[Read at the Meeting of the 6th August.]

The circumstances of the discovery of the gigantic fossil bones now presented by Doctor Smnsnunv, were brought to the notice of the Society on the 30th October last*. I should feel inclined in pointing to these splendid trophies, to repeat the obligations of Indian geology to this eminent cultivator of the science, but that his modesty will not allow me to designate him ‘ geologist,’ although his zeal and enterprise in the systematic prosecution of geological inquiries, and his continued success in making known these treasures of the ancient world, treasures which had escaped so long the diligent search of professed geologists, have fairly won for him all the fame that the most enthusiastic disciple of the Wernerian hammer could covet.

Dr. Smnsnunr’s discoveries indeed forcibly exemplify the truth of the fable of “ eyes and no eyes.” As it was his conversation with the limeburner that first brought tolight the existence of the Jabalpfir fossil shells, so was it an humble native carpenter at Narsinhpfir from whom he obtained the knowledge of the giant at Segaunf, which was followed up by an immediate visit to the spot, and the reaping of a rich harvest of discovery. Again, “ on mentioning these fossil bones to the medical oflicer stationed at Hoshangribrid,” says Dr. Smnsnunr, in a private note to myself, “ he told me there were plenty just below his house, and that‘ he would shew them to me : off we went, and I flatter myself I brought away what you will deem it real acquisition-—the head of a horned animal (buffalo P) imbedded in the stone. Dr. IRVINE had considered them of too recent formation to be worthy of much notice, but I thought differently, and so I submit them to those who are more cognoscent on the subject : claiming for myself no more credit in the matter beyond a wish to contribute to this very interesting science such discoveries as mere accidents have thrown in my way.”

We should remember that the specimens, collected on these occa-. sions, are not little hand samples, easily carried about, but bulky masses weighing from one to two maunds each ; that they have to be conveyed 3 or 400 miles by land carriage over a difiicult country before they can be embarked for another voyage of 600 miles to Calcutta. The care taken in packing them has however been so effectual, that I can safely say we see them now as theyleft the rocky conglomerate of the Omar nadi bank, from which they were detached nearly a year ago. More than this,—I believe, from an inspection of CUVIER's plates, that the two femurs of the elephant now on the table are as perfect as, if not superior to, any of the sort in the celebrated museum of Paris.

' See Journ. As. Soc. vol. ii. p. 586.

I will now hazard a few observations on the remains of the Narsinhpzir or Segaum' elephant.

It may be looked upon as most fortunate that the two bones of this animal, selected for dispatch, are the right and left femora, since it is principally upon the conformation of the condyles of the femur that Cuvmn has decided the specific difference of the fossil or extinct, from the existing, varieties of the elephant.

I stated on the examination of the fossil jaw-bone of another elephant from the Brimhcin Ghdt near Jabalpu'r, side by side with a recent jaw in our museum, thatit wasimpossible to discoverany such distinction as should constitute a difference of species*. But the case is very different now : the magnitude, as well as the peculiarities of structure, of the present animal, at once pronounce it to be the “ mammoth,” or elephas primigenius of BLUMENBACH. The head is not forthcoming to confirm this conjecture,

having, according to the tradition of the village, been washed down the,

river seventy years ago: one tooth only was obtained from a Thékur in the neighbourhood, but that has not yet reached us :—Dr. Row (to whose care we are indebted for the dispatch of the specimens from Benares) writes, that he has sent it by another opportunity: however, the expressions and drawings of Covmn accord so perfectly with the bone before us, that no reasonable doubt can be entertained even in the absence of the teeth. He thus describes its conformation :

“ La téte inferieure du femur m’a fourni un caractére distinictif tressensible dans son échancmre entre les dew condyles, qui se réduit 1) me ligne étroite,” (see figures 5 and 6,) “ an lieu d’un large enfoncement qu’on voit dans les deux especes vivantes," (see figures 2 and 8.)

The peculiarity was remarked in the Siberian mammoth, in the fossil elephant of Constadt, in that of Florence, and in all others, indeed, which were examined by this eminent naturalist; and here we find the same characteristic in another individual at this distant part of the globe. Doctor J . Trrmm has obligingly furnished me with the femur ofa modern elephant, to render the comparison more obvious. (It is depicted as fig. 1 of the plate, in an exact relative proportion to the fossil bones.)

Doctor Trrnna’s bone belongs to a young animal, if the detachment of the epiphysis be taken as a test of its age; but the same detachment is apparent in the round head of the leftfossil femur also (fig. 9,) and in the condyles of another very large specimen, distinct from the other

[ocr errors]

two (figure ll); so that asfar as regards age the fossil and recent bones are by no means unfit for acomparison of magnitude inter se. Judging from the plates of elephant skeletons, it appears that the height of the crown of the animal’s skull from the ground is from 37%, to 3% of the length of the femur ; and the height to the top of the shoulder is 2% of this length ; the latter is, I believe, the mode of estimating the height of the elephant.

The recent femur, measuring 40 inches exactly, would thus give an animal of nine feet high, whichis by no means a small elephant in the present day ; while the ratios between several measurements of the fossil and recent bone are as follows :

The length of the femur itself was fortunately taken by Dr. SyneBURY, while it remained whole, and attached to the rocky matrix ; otherwise the length deduced from the measurement of its parts alone would have needed some confirmation to obtain implicit credence.

Fossil Specimen Skeleton of on from the Omar Nadt. elephant of 9feet. Ratio.

Greatest length of the fe

mur, between extremi-} 63 inches. 40 inches. 1.6

ties,...... .. .. .. .. .. Circumference of the ball a b, 27 16,5 1,6 Diameter of ditto (measured) 8.7 5 5.15 1.7 Breadth from tip of tro-}

chanter to exterior of 18 11 1.6

ball, a c, . . . . . . . . . . . . Circumference of the cen

tral or smallest cylin-} 19 11 1.7

der of the bone, . . . Breadth of the condyles, .. 11 . as 1.6

Mean ratio of the fossil to the existing species, 1.63

There is a very satisfactory agreement between all these measure- '

ments, and we may be warranted therefore in fixing as the height of our fossil animal 9 X 1.63, or 14% feet: 15 feet was the estimate at first made from the proportion of the bones in Cuvmn’s work.

Thus, a femur of an African elephant 1.11 metre, or 43.’? inches long, denoted an animal of 92 feet: and

The longest of the entire fossil bones accurately measured by CAMPER was 52 Rhenish inches, = 53.9, indicating a height of 12 feet 2 inches.

“ Si l’on pouvoit se fier aux measures rapportées dans la gigant0maclrie, 1e femur du pretendu Teutobochus anroit été encore plus grand, puisqu’il anroit eu cinq pieds de long; et néanmoins cette dimension n’indiqueroit qu’un individu de quatorze pieds du haut : ce qui ne sur_ passe point ce que les relations nous disent des éléphans vivans dans les Indes.” It is evident from this passage, that no entire specimen of the magnitude of our fossil had been seen at Paris. There was in the

museum, however, the head of a femur from the Pyrénees measuring 8.6 inches in diameter, indicating an individual of 14 feet 8 inches according to Cuvrnn : a té’te inferieure from the Boy belonging to an animal of 15 feet : and another from Montserrat of the same dimensions.

All of these support the measurement we have assumed of about l5 feet for our specimen, and prove it to be certainly one of the most complete, as well as one of the largest remains of this magnificent quadruped of which even the museums of Europe can boast.

None of the animal matter of these bones remains : it is replaced entirely by carbonate of lime, not by silex as was the case with the specimen of imbedded bone from Brimhan Gluit. In the hollow interior

of the femur, long interwoven and pendent stalactites of calcareous matter have been deposited, which shew that the bone must have been incased in the rock in nearly aperpendicular position; it is also remarkable that there are two series of these fibrous stalactites forming a considerable angle with one another, as if the position of the mass had been at one period altered. Towards the ends of the bones the cavity is entirely filled with the calcareous deposit.

Plate XXIV. represents different views of the two fossil femora in

their relative proportion to the modern bone.
Referenc'es to the Plate.
Fig. 1. Modern femur of a young elephant of 9 feet high.
Fig. 2. View of the lower end of ditto, to shew the separation between the

condyles. Fig. 3. Head of the left femur of the fossil species, broken ofi’ towards the shaft,

but originally found united with Fig. 4. The lower extremity of the same bone. Fig. 5. Is a portion of the shaft of the same bone at the narrowest part: the stalactitic formation in the interior is partially visible at the lower extremity. Fig. 6. End view of fig. 4, to shew the conformation of the condyles united, or meeting, as described in Cuvum’s Ossemens Fossiles.

Figs. 7, 8. are from Cuvn~:n’s Plate in Oss. Foss. vol. i. to shew their accordance with the above. 7, the fossil; and 8, the existing, species.

Figs. 9, and 10, are the same fragments of the right fossil femur, viewed on the inside. They are in as perfect a state as the left femur, excepting that the epiphysis of the ball of the thigh is detached and lost. Its place is shewn by

a dotted line. Fig. 12. Is a petrified bone of still larger dimensions than the preceding, but not

so well preserved. It seems from the curved depression at Iv, and the rudiments of condyles at f’, g‘, to be the lower end of a femur. This fragment weighs 1% mans, and it is nearly one-fourth larger than figs. 4 and 10 ; figs. 12, 13.

Fossil bufalo. With regard to the fossil skull, supposed by Dr. Srlnssunv to be that of a buffalo, from Hoshangribdd, the same good fortune has in this instance also attended his discovery: for as the condyles of the femur were chosen by Cuvnm for one of the distinguishing types of the fossil elephant, so it happens that the forehead and skull, with or without the horns, are the only parts upon which reliance can be placed for determining the specific character of the ruminantia.

The present specimen is, with exception of the horns, as perfect as could be desired; the expanse of the forehead has its bony surface uninjured, shewing the suture along the middle, (which is a sign that the animal was not aged) and the attachment and bony process of the left horn. On the under side, the condyles of the occiput protrude through the stony mass; and by carefully chiselling away some of the stone, the position and form of the teeth on either side of the jaw have been exposed to view. All the interior of the skull is filled with the hard calcareous sandstone.

The direction of the horns in the Hoshangdbdd fossil skull give it at first sight the appearance of a buffal0’s head : and the convexity and breadth of the forehead as well as the angle of the occiput, both tend to rank it with this genus : or at least certainly to'separate it widely from the aurochs and the domestic ox. as described in the following perspicuous passage on the specific difference of these animals by the Baron Cuvmn.

“ Le front du breuf est plat et méme un peu concave : celui de l'aurochs est bombé, quoiqu'un peu moins que dans le buflle ,- ce meme front est carré dans le bmuf, sa hauteur étant a pen pres égale a sa largeur, en prenant sa base entre les orbites ; dans Yaarochs en le mesurant dc méme, il est beaucoup plus large que haut, corhme trois a deux. Les cornes seut attachées, dans le lueuf, aux extrémités de la ligne saillante la plus élevée de la téte, celle qui sépare l’occiput du front; dans Yaurochs, cette ligne est deux pouces plus en arriere que la racine des comes; le plan de l’occiput fait un angle aigu avec le front dans le bmtf; cet angle est obtus dans Yaurochs ,- enfin ce plan de l’occiput quadrangulaire dans le bwuf, represente un demi-cercle dans l’aurochs. Ces caracteres assignés a l’espéce du boeuf, ne sont pas seulement ceux d’une on deux variétés; ils se sont trouvés constans, non-seulement dans tous nos bueufs et vaches ordinaires, mais encore dans toutes les variétés étrangeres que nous avons examinées."

Those acquainted with the comparative anatomy of the Indian species will be able to say whether these distinctions are here also equally

[graphic]

marked, and consequently to pronounce at once on the character of the I

fossil skull. The latter has no point of resemblance to the fossil ox of tlie Mississippi, described and depicted in the second volume of the Ann. Lye. Nat. Hist. of New York, page 280. 7

None of the fossil skulls, depicted in the Ossemens Fossiles, at all resemble the present specimen: neither do the dimensions of the

« PreviousContinue »