DNA samples from Rakhigarhi burial pits sent for analysis


Analysis of Rakhigarhi burial pits may reveal the ancestry of people who lived in the ancient city, whether native or emigrated

Analysis of Rakhigarhi burial pits may reveal the ancestry of people who lived in the ancient city, whether native or emigrated

DNA samples taken from two human skeletons discovered in a necropolis at a Harappan-era urban site in Haryana have been sent for scientific examination, the result of which could reveal the ancestry and dietary habits of people who lived in the Rakhigarhi region for thousands of years. from.

The skeletons of two women were found a few months ago at mound number 7 (named RGR 7 by the Archaeological Survey of India or (ASI), believed to be nearly 5,000 years old. Pots and other artifacts have also were found buried next to them in a pit, part of burial rituals from the time of the Harappan civilization, ASI officials said.

“Seven mounds (RGR 1-RGR 7) scattered around two villages (Rakhi Khas and Rakhi Shahpur) in Hisar district are part of the Rakhigarhi archaeological site. RGR 7 is a cemetery site from the Harappan period when it was a well-organized city. The two skeletons were unearthed about two months ago by our team. And DNA samples were taken by experts about two weeks ago,” said the deputy director general of the ASI, SK Manjul, at PTI.

Currently, RGR 1, RGR 3 and RGR 7 have been investigated.

Dr Manjul, who has led the excavation team at the Rakhigarhi site, about 150 km northwest of Delhi, since they began on February 24, 2022, said the DNA analysis will help answer many questions, anthropological or otherwise.

The samples will first be examined by the Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences in Lucknow for preliminary investigation and scientific comparison, before being sent further for forensic analysis from an anthropological perspective, it said. -he declares.

“The result of the DNA analysis will help reveal the ancestry of the people who lived in this ancient city, whether they were indigenous or migrated from elsewhere to settle. In addition, samples taken from the teeth area would indicate their eating habits, what type of food they consumed and other anthropological patterns related to this human settlement which must have been one of the most important, dating back to the period of the Harappan civilization,” Dr Manjul said. , who also led excavations at Sanauli in Uttar Pradesh in 2018, where pre-Iron Age artifacts were discovered.

For the collection of DNA samples, the experts had done so while wearing a special uniform so as not to contaminate the samples. And samples were taken from the region of the teeth and from the petrous part of the temporal bone, located at the base of the skull in the region of the ear.

In Rakhigarhi, the team, consisting of members of Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Institute of Archaeology, Greater Noida and ASI Excavation Branch-II, in addition to several local men and women, continued working in scorching heat on Saturday, and ASI officials shared some of the findings from the current round of digging which is set to close by the end of May and a new field season set to begin from September after the monsoon.

The Rakhigarhi site is one of the “five iconic sites” declared by the central government in the Union Budget 2020-21.

The cultural span of the Harappan civilization can be broadly subdivided into three periods – early (3300 BC to 2600 BC), mature (2600 BC to 1900 BC) and late (1900 BC to 1700 BC), depending on the archaeological experts.

Five major urban sites – Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Ganweriwala, all three sites now in Pakistan, and Rakhigarhi and Dholavira in India – have been identified as regional centers of Harappan civilization.

Archaeological evidence of the Rakhigarhi site spanning seven mounds is spread over almost 350 hectares, covering the current villages of Rakhi Khas and Rakhi Shahpur in Hisar, according to ASI.

Dr Manjul said that at the Rakhigarhi site one can see “layers of history”, ranging from the early Harappan to the mature Harappan period, but compared to the previous excavation, where the outlines of town planning had emerged, in the current excavation, “detailed town planning schemes, street designs including provisions for cesspools” as part of a possible drainage system can be seen.

ASI officials are banking on analyzing DNA samples to dig deeper into the fascinating history of Rakhigarhi, located in the Ghaggar River Plain of the seasonal Ghaggar River.

Arvin Manjul, Regional Manager (North), ASI, said that if carbon dating would indicate the age via a scientific process, the excavation site of the RGR 7 mound, according to the current state of the excavation, can be thought to be tentatively dated to near the 3,000 BC period, making the site around 5,000 years old.

“Again, there are techniques to obtain the exact age of skeletal remains, but the two skeletons found in separate burial pits are female. Sex was determined by examination of pelvic structures and other details The age of the two women when they died was possibly between 40 and 50 years old, according to our assessment,” she told PTI.

Both skeletons were found lying supine with their heads pointing north. They were both buried with a plethora of pottery and ornate jewelry like jasper and agate beads and shell bracelets. A symbolic miniature copper mirror was found buried with one of the skeletons, officials said.

Animal bones were also found at the site, they said.

The first attempts at archaeological exploration of the Rakhigarhi site are said to have been made in the late 1960s.

The site was first excavated by the Institute of Archaeology, ASI in 1998-2001. Later, Deccan College in Pune excavated the site from 2013 to 2016, and RGR 7, which is located 500m north of RGR 1, had yielded about 60 burials in previous excavations, ASI said.

“At RGR 1, in addition to other activities, there is a large amount of debitage of semi-precious stones such as agate and carnelian which were used to make objects such as beads as part of an extensive lapidary activity. Evidence of street layout has been found with widths of 2.6m according to available exposed remains,” ASI said.

Other notable artifacts and antiquities found in current excavations include soapstone seals, terracotta bracelets, unfired terracotta seal with elephant relief, and Harappan script. Dog and bull animal figurines, in terracotta and soapstone, copper objects, a large number of soapstone beads, semi-precious stone beads, shells and agate and carnelian objects, said Disha Ahluwalia, a PhD student at Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, who is part of the excavation team.

A Memorandum of Understanding is in progress between ASI and the government of Haryana, whereby the Rakhigarhi antiquities would be exhibited in a site museum, the building of which is currently under construction by the state government. near the RGR 1 mound.


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