DNA samples from 2 human skeletons found in burial pits at Harappan-era Rakhigarhi sent for analysis

Pots and other artefacts found buried next to the skeletons, which are believed to be 5000 years old

DNA samples from 2 human skeletons found in burial pits at Harappan-era Rakhigarhi sent for analysis

File photo of a skeleton found at a 5,000-year-old cemetery in Rakhigarhi village of Hisar. Photo courtesy: Excavation team

Rakhigarhi (Haryana), May 8

DNA samples collected from two human skeletons unearthed at a necropolis of a Harappan-era city site in Haryana have been sent for scientific examination, the outcome of which might tell about the ancestry and food habits of people who lived in Rakhigarhi region thousands of years ago.

The skeletons of two deceased women were found a couple of months ago at mound number 7 (named RGR 7 by the Archaeological Survey of India), believed to be nearly 5,000 years old. Pots and other artefacts were also found buried next to them in a pit, part of the funerary rituals back in the Harappan Civilisation era, 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 of the Harappan period when this was a well-organised city. The two skeletons were unearthed about two months ago by our team. And, DNA samples were collected by experts about two weeks ago," Joint Director General, ASI, S K Manjul said.

At present RGR 1, RGR 3 and RGR 7 have been taken up for investigation.

Manjul, who is leading the excavation team at Rakhigarhi site, about 150 km north-west of Delhi, since it commenced on February 24, 2022, said the DNA analysis will help answer a lot of questions, anthropological or otherwise. The samples will be first examined by Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences, Lucknow for preliminary investigation and scientific comparison, before being sent further for forensic analysis from anthropological perspective, he said.

"The outcome of the DNA analysis will help tell about the ancestry of the people who lived at this ancient city, whether they were native or had migrated from elsewhere to settle. Besides, samples taken from the teeth area would tell about their food habits, what kind of food they consumed and other anthropological patterns related to that human settlement which must have been one of the largest, dating from the Harappan Civilisation period," said Manjul, who had also led the excavation at Sanauli in Uttar Pradesh in 2018 where pre-Iron Age artefacts were unearthed.

Arvin Manjul, Regional Director (North), ASI, said while carbon dating would tell the age via scientific process, the excavation site at mound RGR 7, as per current status of the excavation, can be said to be tentatively dated close to 3,000 BC period, making the site about 5,000 years old.

"Again there are techniques to get exact age from skeletal remains, but the two skeletons found in separate burial pits are of women. The sex was determined through examination of pelvic structures and other biological details. The age of the two women, when they had died, was possibly in the range of 40-50 years, as per our assessment," she informed.

The two skeletons were found lying in supine position with head pointing in the north direction. They both were buried with plethora of pottery and adorned jewellry like jasper and agate beads and shell bangles. A symbolic miniature copper mirror was found buried along with one of the skeletons, officials said. Animal bones were also found at the site, they said.

An MoU is in process between the ASI and the government of Haryana as per which antiquities from Rakhigarhi would be displayed at a site museum, the building of which is currently being constructed by the state government near RGR 1 mound.  

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