The structure of the Himalayan lake has been a mystery to scientists for decades. New analyzes of DNA of human skeletons in and around water have raised more questions than answers.
At a height of just over 5,000 meters above sea level, there is a small lake in the Indian Himalayas called Roopkund. Steep mountain slopes and rock glaciers descend to the coast.
But the Aborigines use a very different name for Roopkund. It is commonly referred to as Skjelettsjøen or Mysteriesjøen.
Hundreds of human skeletons have been found at the bottom of the water and along the coast.
The skeletons were seriously discovered in 1942 after several reports from the lake.
Robekund has been a mystery to researchers for decades. The skeletons were previously (incorrectly) dated to the 9th century, but how and why they got there, science does not have a complete answer.
New DNA tests have since been carried out, but that has only added to the mystery.
– We were very surprised by the genetics of Roopkund structures, says study leader Éadaoin Harney from Harvard University at declaration.
The results of the tests are published in an article in the journal Links with nature.
Here, the researchers write that “the origin of these skeletons is not well known, because they have never been the subject of systematic anthropological or archaeological research”.
Researchers explain the lack of research in part due to the location of the water. The area is often struck by scree and is regularly visited by local pilgrims and walkers who have fiddled with skeletons and removed objects.
Wooden objects, spearheads, leather soles and rings with skeletons were found.
DNA analyzes of 38 skeletons baffled researchers. It turns out that while 23 of them were of typical South Asian descent, 14 of them were from the Eastern Mediterranean. A person of Southeast Asian origin has been found.
The fact that there are individuals whose ancestry is generally associated with the Eastern Mediterranean indicates that the Robekund was not only of interest to indigenous peoples, but also attracted visitors from all over the world, Harney says.
Studies of the diets of people who ended up in the lake support data showing that it relates to different peoples.
Previous research has dated almost all 300 skeletons to the 9th century. The new research indicates that South Asian individuals died 800 BCE, while other skeletons date back to 1800 BCE.
These findings go against the theory that people in the lake died in a catastrophic event, the researchers say in Nature Communications.
Several explanations have already been offered on how the skeletons ended up in the small lake.
One explanation is that the soldiers or merchants were surprised by a storm. Another theory is that an epidemic has killed people in the lake.
According to folklore, a group of pilgrims, led by a king and a queen, came to the mountain to worship the mountain goddess Nanda Devi. However, the inappropriate party in the mountains must have angered Nanda Devi, who quickly ended the festivities with a fatal outcome.
The Birbal Sahni Paleontological Institute in Lucknow, India, also participated in the study.
It is still unclear what drove these people to Roopkund or how they died. “I hope the new study is the first of many investigations into the mysterious site,” said Neeraj Rai of the institute.