Scientists hunt for fossils in the 250 million year old B’bang mountain range

Archaeologist Lim Vanchan from the Ministry of Environment led a team to search some of the mountainous areas in Banan district, Battambang province. Photo provided

Some of the mountainous areas in Banan district, Battambang province – near Kamping Puoy cave – are part of a 10km stretch of limestone hundreds of millions of years old, it has been discovered , thanks to the presence of fossils.

In May, a team of fossil hunters from the Department of Environment’s Heritage Department discovered many excellent examples in the area.

Experts have identified several fossilized examples of marine life on a hill known as Phnom 150, including remains of snails, corals and insects. Nearby, in Phnom Preah, they discovered fossilized corals and beehives. Some of the fossils measured up to 50 cm in diameter.

In Ta Kream commune, Banan district – not far from Kamping Puoy Reservoir – they found fossils very similar to examples from the same region that are on display in museums across Vietnam. They were discovered during the time of the French protectorate and taken to Vietnam.

According to the geological map of Cambodia, some of the mountains in Battambang date back to the Permian period (251-299 million years) in the Paleozoic era. This was confirmed by Lim Vanchan, an expert archaeologist at the heritage department.

“Our studies began in 2019. We wanted to deepen our understanding of the national history of the Kingdom, including the species that lived here millions of years ago. So far, we have identified 43 sites of archaeological interest. Each has different characteristics. There are potential dinosaur fossils, as well as those of marine and plant life,” he said.

Vanchan, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in archeology from the Royal University of Fine Arts in 2001, said: “In our program we have primary studies that we excavate for research. Our preliminary objective is to locate the fossiliferous sites. Once we have identified one, we usually proceed with a 10 day excavation. Additional investigations will be carried out later. »

Work to determine the age of Cambodia’s mountains has been underway for four years. Vanchan leads the expeditions.

He was first employed at the Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture and later at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, but headed the heritage department for the past eight weeks.

“This work is directed by me. There are no strangers involved. Other teams are involved, including mappers and program coordinators. I am also the first Cambodian to research ancient animal fossils in the Kingdom. We have spent the last four years identifying new sites, so that they can be protected for future generations of researchers,” he said.

He explained how he was able to determine the age of the mountains.

“Thanks to a geological map of Cambodia – and by the evolutionary stage of each of the fossilized creatures we find – we can measure the age of the mountain range. To identify the evolution of animals, we compare our results with tables of what has been studied and published by different academics in the past,” he said.

“We published our first findings in a book called ‘Pre-Biodiversity Fossil Records in Cambodia, first edition’ last year,” he added.