Five years ago, in the heart of Western Sahara, a motorbike with two men traveled through unpaved roads, sometimes blocked by the sand and then stopped, and despite the difficulty of the journey, the intercourse continues, until the desired discovery point is reached.
This motorcycle was carrying Dr. Jabili Abu Al-Khair, who carries the flag in his bag, while the uncle of Ahmed Farraj, one of those familiar with the secrets of the desert, drives it. Where the two men met by coincidence, and later led them to search for ancient fossils in the western desert of Egypt.
The passion for science alone ensured that this simple journey was the beginning of an inspiring research path, in which ancient fossil discoveries were found that occupied the global scientific community after scientific papers clarified their importance and uniqueness.
A few days ago, the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, the respected journal of paleontology, agreed to publish a research paper presented by three Egyptian researchers, headed by Dr. Jabili Abul-Khair, Dr. Muhammad Qarni Abdel-Gawad, and Dr. Walid Gamal Kassab.
According to the research paper agreed to be published in the Polish Journal, issued by the Institute of Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, a part of the arm of a giant sea turtle, dating back 70 million years, will be unveiled in the Cretaceous period.
In addition to the recent discovery, there are several other fossils all dating back to the Cretaceous period, ranging in age from 70 million to 75 million years, and they are preserved in the Excavations Center at the Nile Valley University, southwest of Egypt.
Among these discoveries is a giant reptile named “Plesiosaurus” (plesiosaurs), a type of marine predatory reptile, which was at the top of the food chain in the “Tethi Sea”, the ancestor of the Mediterranean.
There is also a large river turtle in good condition, discovered in the city of Kharga, along with a giant sea turtle, which is the subject of the research paper, which received the approval of publication from the Polish journal.
Discoveries on the back of a motorcycle
Dr. Jabili Abu Al-Khair, Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology at the College of Science, tells the story of these fossils that faced countless hardships, especially at the beginning of the road. When he came to the university five years ago, there were no possibilities to search for fossils in the desert.
Jabili told Sky News Arabia that these excavations began with his enrollment in the Faculty of Science at South Valley University, that time he organized a scientific trip in the desert for the third-year students of the faculty, and the Ministry of Antiquities accompanied us an antiquities inspector and a guard who also works in archeology.
The professor of vertebrate excavation adds that the password was with the antiquities guard, Ahmed Farrag, who accompanied them during the university trip He had an interview with him, during which Jabili told him that he was excavating ancient excavations, and the sentinel immediately informed him that he had encountered some bones in the desert.
Jabili explains that Hajj Ahmed Farraj found the extensive experience and innate intelligence in understanding and dealing with deserts, which is very distinct evidence, and from here the two men agreed to move together to search for “ancient bones”, or what is known scientifically as fossils.
“There was a problem with transportation. The university does not provide transportation in the desert, such as four-wheel drive cars, and we had no choice but to move with his motorcycle, Haji Ahmed Farrag.”
The Egyptian researcher describes the hardship that met them during the journey to search for fossils, as sometimes the sand prevented them from moving completely, which often forced them to stop walking, after traveling 30 km away from the city.
River turtles and dinosaur bones
After going on the motorcycle to the bone areas that Farraj saw, the paleontologist first discovered evidence of turtle bones, and as excavation continued, he discovered a large number of river turtles found in this area.
Jubaili reveals to Sky News Arabia the discovery of dinosaur bones in this area, which were not previously announced by the media, and these bones are currently being researched with Dr. Hisham Salam, in preparation for scientific publication about them.
As for the first evidence that led Jabili to reach these discoveries, he explains that it began with the detection of dung fossilized by vertebral fossils, and this was the first thread, with which the discoveries were followed in this region, which is about 15 km from the university.
According to the university professor, he assigned 10 marks to each student for practical participation in extracting the fossils, and this has already been done. Students spent whole days at the site, extracting dinosaur and sea turtle bones, and taking them to the university after putting them in plaster shirts.
It was found on the shore of Al-Tathi sea
The Egyptian researcher’s appetite did not convince him to search for fossils in a narrow area around the university, so his decision to move to a distance of 450 km from the city of Kharga, north of the New Valley Governorate. Dr. Jabili Abu Al-Khair went to the Abu Minqar area, and he was joined from Cairo University by Dr. Muhammad Qarni Abdel-Gawad and Dr. Walid Jamal Kassab after they had traveled about 700 km from Cairo.
According to Jabili, the areas of Kharga and Dakhla were, in the past, only swamps. But the “Abu Minqar” area is considered the shore of the Al-Thi sea, which is the ancestor of the Mediterranean, about 70 million years ago.
For his part, Dr. Muhammad Qarni Abdel-Gawad, a teacher of geology at the Faculty of Science, Cairo University, explains that from the reality of their studies of geology, the Abu Minqar area is likely to have important discoveries dating back to ancient times.
And Abdel-Gawad added that after three days of study and research in the area, a sea turtle was found, and it was transported in a plaster shirt to Dr. Jubaili Center in the city of Kharga.
The geology teacher notes that, for a year, they worked on studying and describing this part of the sea turtle, and then they spent about a year and a half also seeking to publish their findings in a scientific paper.
Regarding the importance of this detection, the Egyptian researcher explains that this detection highlights the anatomical shape of organisms at this time, as well as the size of sea turtles, and a stand on the evolution of this type until reaching the sizes of turtles that are known today.
Abdel-Gawad concludes by saying: “Among the importance of this discovery is also to know the diet of the organisms that live at this time, and in general they can add to the tourist activity by displaying them in fossil museums.
After a long journey of research, Dr. Jabali says that his work conditions began to improve after the separation of Wadi Al-Jadid University from Assiut University in 2018, especially that Dr. Abdel Aziz Tantawi, who assumed the presidency of the university, is a specialist mainly in geology, and he fulfilled all our needs until we had University excavation center.
This development was followed by the formation of a scientific team in the New Valley concerned with fossils, to be the first discovery of a giant marine reptile, “plesiosaurs” (plesiosaurs), with a length of 8 meters, that was found in the Gharb al-Mawhab area, and is a very large discovery, according to Jabili.
Dr. Jabili concludes, speaking to Sky News Arabia, that the search for fossils faces great challenges, including Some thought that we were excavating antiquities, in addition to known desert dangers, such as wolves’ attacks, and storms that may blow suddenly out of nowhere, explaining that whatever Challenges have reached, the passion for science is too strong for anything to stop it.