Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 April 2022
Pressing geological questions emerged during the early nineteenth-century exploration of the Himalaya, especially around fossils, volcanoes and glaciers. This chapter considers the place of East India Company employees and travellers on the fringes – both geographically and socially – of rapidly evolving debates. The chapter argues that overlapping political frontiers, topographical barriers and ‘cultural borderlands’, all shaped geological practices. The chapter begins with a group of fossils sold by Bhotiyas under the name of bijli ki har or ‘lightning bones’, which reveal tensions between specimens that were both scientifically and cosmologically significant. The chapter also considers the important roles of brokers in locating and transporting fossils, especially by discussing the career of Pati Ram. This is followed by a broader assessment of how these material remains fit into discussions about the upheavement of the Himalaya and notions of a universal deluge. Expanding from fossils, the chapter concludes by examining glaciers (especially debates over their existence in the Himalaya, and evidence of their retreat over both long timescales and within the memories of Himalayan peoples).