Ancient DNA Reveals Mediterranean Migrants in India

August 20, 2019
Roopkund Lake-Figure 1. Photo by Atish Waghwase

Roopkund Lake is a small body of water nestled deep in the Himalayan mountains. The Lake is known colloquially as Skeleton Lake due to the remains of several hundred ancient human bones scattered around its shores. The skeletons have never been studied so little was known of the origins. 

Graduate student, Éadaoin Harney (Wakeley Lab) and an international team of researchers analyzed the remains using bioarcheological analysis (including ancient DNA, radiocarbon dating, stable isotope dietary reconstruction and osteological analysis) and discovered three genetically distinct groups deposited at different times approximately 1000 years apart. Of the 38 skeletons examined, 23 are typical of present-day South Asians, 14 are typical of eastern Mediterranean. The study published in Nature Communications refute previous suggestions that the skeletons were deposited in a single catastrophic event.  Harney's study was covered by National Geographic and The Atlantic


Image: Context of Roopkund Lake. a Map showing the location of Roopkund Lake. The approximate route of the Nanda Devi Raj Jat pilgrimage relative to Roopkund Lake is shown in the inset. b Image of disarticulated skeletal elements scattered around the Roopkund Lake site. Photo by Himadri Sinha Roy. c Image of Roopkund Lake and surrounding mountains. Photo by Atish Waghwase
See also: Graduate News, 2019