The Mystery of the Skeletal Remains at Roopkund Lake

Nestled in the Himalayas, Roopkund's glacial lake had developed a baffling mystery around it wherein it was discovered that hundreds of human skeletons were found surrounding the lake. It was detected by a forest guard back in the 1940s.
  
It has been tagged as the mystery lake ever since. It lies at an elevation of 5000 meters above sea level. A lot of Scientific inferences have been made over the lake. Until now, it was concluded that the skeletons were of people who were of Indian origin who died around the 8th century.
  
But a recent study by Scientists of Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences who have been researching the area for over five years now has further deepened the mystery. The area certainly has a much more complicated history than what has been presumed earlier.

Recent Findings on the Origins of the Skeletons

Skeletons at Roopkund Lake
Source

Kumarasamy Thangaraj of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, said that after carrying out extensive DNA analysis for years, the team concluded that the human skeletons found at the lake belonged to two distinct genetic groups.

Some researchers have deduced that the skeletons belong to a group of Eastern Mediterranean, people from Greece and Crete, to be specific, who may have travelled to this region around the 27th century. There are others that believe the skeletons are of another group of 14 victims- origins of the Indian tribe who probably died there a thousand years later—likely in a single event.

Results Raise More Questions than Answers!

Why was a Mediterranean group at Roopkund, and how did they meet their end? Researchers are unaware.

"We have tried to answer all possible sources of genetic ancestries of [the] Roopkund skeletons but failed to answer why Mediterranean people were travelling to this lake and what they were doing here," writes study co-author Niraj Rai, an archaeo-geneticist at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow, India, in an email. He is also heading the study of Roopkund along with international scientists.
 
Rai has also mentioned that the lake and it's surrounding have been subjected to some catastrophe which led to 'massive casualties'. "This must've resulted in accumulation of skeletons in bulk at Roopkund lake"- he said.
 
Roopkund's strangeness has unnerved even professionals.  For decades now, scholars have been trying to figure out who the men and women at Roopkund were and when and how did they die.

A Systematic Study on the DNA History

Skeletons at Roopkund Lake
Source

The international team of researchers performed genomic analyses of the Roopkund remains. The team didn't have concrete evidence for who these people at Roopkund might have been, but traits of Mediterranean ancestry high in the Indian Himalaya came as a surprise.

"When we actually got the DNA back, it was super clear that some of these were not individuals with typical South Asian ancestry. It was definitely not something we were expecting at all." says Éadaoin Harney, study co-author and a researcher at Harvard's department of organismic and evolutionary biology.

Ever since the project has been going on, minimal discoveries were made and then left dormant. Rai restarted this study during his postdoctoral studies in 2014 since there was an advancement in technology, more so in the field of retraction of ancient DNA. Thus he gathered interest in the study again.

Researchers have plans to unravel further Roopkund's mysteries: Rai said that next year, another expedition would visit the lake to study artefacts associated with the skeletons.

Are you fascinated to find out more about this project? Let us know in the comments below.

This post was published by Sony Punjabi

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