Skeleton Lake: Genetic Surprise Deepens Riddle Of The Dead
A lake with hundreds of Ancient Skeletons surrounding it. The surprise is what killed them, who killed them,why they were killed and when they were killed.
Roopkund is a frozen lake in the Uttarkhand state of India. It is located in the Trishul Range of Himalayas.
In 1942 British Forest Guard in Roopkund, India made a discovery. Some 16,000 feet above sea level, at the bottom of a small valley, was a frozen lake absolutely full of skeletons. That summer, the ice melting revealed even more skeletal remains, floating in the water and randomly around the lake’s edges. Something horrible had happened here.
The immediate assumption was that these skeletons are of Japanese Soldiers who had died of exposure while sneaking through India. The British Government, terrified of a Japanese land takeover, sent a team of investigators to find if this was true. However upon examination they realized these bones were not from Japanese Soldiers—they weren’t fresh enough.
It was clearly understood that the bones were quite old indeed. Flesh, hair, and the bones themselves had been preserved by the dry, cold air, but no one could properly determine exactly when they were from. More than that, no one had any idea what had killed over 200 people in this small valley. Many theories were put forth including an epidemic, landslide, and ritual suicide. For decades, no one was able to find out the Mystery of Skeleton Lake.
However, a 2004 mission to the site seems to have finally revealed the mystery. The answer was stranger than anyone had guessed.
As it turns out, all the bodies date to around 850 AD DNA evidence indicates that there were two distinct groups of people, one a family or tribe of closely related individuals, and a second smaller, shorter group of locals, likely hired to carry baggages and guides. Rings, spears, leather shoes, and bamboo staves were found, leading experts to believe that the group was comprised of pilgrims heading through the valley with the help of the locals.
Roopkund skeletons belong to three genetically distinct groups that were deposited during multiple events, separated in time by approximately 1000 years. These findings prove previous suggestions false that the skeletons of Roopkund Lake were deposited in a single catastrophic event. Roopkund individuals cluster into three distinct groups, which we refer to as Roopkund_A, Roopkund_B, and Roopkund_C .
Individuals in Roopkund_A (n = 23) fall along a genetic gradient that includes most present-day South Asians.
Individuals belonging to the Roopkund_B cluster (n = 14) do not fall along this gradient, and instead fall near present-day West Eurasians, suggesting that Roopkund_B individuals possess West Eurasian-related ancestry.
A single individual, Roopkund_C, falls far from all other Roopkund individuals in the PCA, between the Onge and Han Chinese, suggesting East Asian Related Ancestry.
The discovery of multiple, genetically distinct groups among the Skeletons of Roopkund Lake raise the question of whether these died simultaneously or during separate events.We used Accelerator Mass Spectrometry radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the remains.We find that the Roopkund A and Roopkund B groups are separated in time by 1000 years, with the calibrated dates for individuals assigned to the Roopkund A group ranging from the 7th–10th centuries CE, and the calibrated dates for individuals assigned to the Roopkund_B group ranging from the 17th–20th centuries. The single individual assigned to Roopkund C also dates to this later period. These results demonstrate that the skeletons of Roopkund Lake perished in at least two separate events.
All the bodies had died in a similar way, from blows to the head. However, the short deep cracks in the skulls appeared to be the result of something rounded. The bodies also only had wounds on their heads, and shoulders as if the blows had all come from directly above.
Among Himalayan women there is an ancient and traditional folk song. Lyrics describe a goddess very angry at outsiders who spoil her mountain sanctuary that she rained death upon them by throwing hailstones “hard as iron” After much research and consideration, the 2004 mission came to the same conclusion. All 200 people died from a sudden and severe hail storm.
Trapped in the valley with no place to hide or seek shelter, the “hard as iron” cricket ball-sized hail stones came by the thousands, resulting in the travelers’ unusual sudden death. In this unusual event most of the people died of the deadly consequences and rest of them just frozen due to snow storm. And their remains lay in the lake for 1,200 years until their discovery.