Work has started on the construction of a Fossil Museum at Varnavasi village in Southern India’s Tamil Nadu State.
The aim of the museum is to showcase the region’s rich fossil heritage for paleontologists, locals and tourist alike.
Tamil Nadu’s Rich Fossil History
Varanavasi is a suitable location for the fossil museum as the region is highly fossiliferous. Over 25 sites in the state have been marked as National Geological Monuments. These include two national Fossil Wood parks, at Tiruvakkarai and Sathanur. The latter is a site with petrified woods and tree trunks dating back 120 million years whilst the former has fossil trees that are much younger at 20 million years.
The sites around the location of the fossil museum at Varanavasi have rich deposits with Albian to Maastrichtian sediments, divided into several groups. The Cretaceous marine fossils in the area have provided important paleontological discoveries. There is also evidence of some Quaternary formation too.
The fossil museum would, like other famous paleontological museums such as The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada, be both an institute for scientific work – preserving, conserving and studying the paleontology of the region- but also a visitor attraction showcasing the region’s geological history.
The Fossil Museum and Education
Visitors to the fossil museum will gain first-hand knowledge of the geological context of the fossils on display. They will also gain an additional perspective of the tertiary and quaternary formations and prehistoric archaeology of the wider state.
The area has a large number of cement factories. So one important role of the new museum will be to educate factory executives about the importance of the area’s paleontology. This would encourage local factories to support the museum by seeking their help and advice during mining operations or other development.
The fossil museum will also house both a research laboratory and an audiovisual unit.
The State government has given priority for the construction of the museum. It has set aside ₹2 crore (approximately £240, 000) for the purpose. Just over half of this will be aloocated to the building itself, the remainder to the exhibits.
As to the footprint of the museum, the ground floor wil take up 470 square metres (5, 059 square feet). The first floor will add an additional 140 square metres (1, 507 square feet).