Skeleton Lake is so named for the hundreds of skeletons found there, a spooky tableux high in a Himalayan pass. It was believed that the 500 or so dead were killed by a freak hailstorm, but a new study reportedly rebunks that hypothesis. It's more mysterious than ever.
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In a new study published today in Nature Communications, an international team of more than two dozen archaeologists, geneticists, and other specialists dated and analyzed the DNA from the bones of 37 individuals found at Roopkund. They were able to suss out new details about these people, but if anything, their findings make the story of this place even more complex. The team determined that the majority of the deceased indeed died 1,000 or so years ago, but not simultaneously. And a few died much more recently, likely in the early 1800s. Stranger still, the skeletons’ genetic makeup is more typical of Mediterranean heritage than South Asian.
“It may be even more of a mystery than before,” says David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard and one of the senior authors of the new paper. “It was unbelievable, because the type of ancestry we find in about a third of the individuals is so unusual for this part of the world.”
Archaeologists at an excavation site for London's Thames Tideway Tunnel (the "super sewer") dug up a 500-year-old skeleton who died with his boots on. Based on the location of the find, the boots, and other signs, the fellow may have been a fisherman or sailor. From National Geographic:
"It’s extremely rare to find any boots from the late 15th century, let alone a skeleton still wearing them," says Beth Richardson of the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). "And these are very unusual boots for the period—thigh boots, with the tops turned down. They would have been expensive, and how this man came to own them is a mystery. Were they secondhand? Did he steal them? We don't know."..
The position of the body—face down, right arm over the head, left arm bent back on itself—suggests that the man wasn’t deliberately buried. It’s also unlikely that he would have been laid to rest in leather boots, which were expensive and highly prized.
In light of those clues, archaeologists believe the man died accidentally and his body was never recovered, although the cause of death is unclear. Perhaps he fell into the river and couldn't swim. Or possibly he became trapped in the tidal mud and drowned...
She's approximately 12,000 years old now, but when she died in the Yucatan Peninsula she was only a teen. Read the rest
Yesterday a homeless woman at New Haven Green park in Connecticut noticed something odd tangled in the roots of a huge oak tree torn from the ground by Superstorm Sandy: a human skeleton. Apparently, The Green was used as a burial ground until 1821. The headstones were eventually moved but the bodies were not. "Skeletal Remains Found In Upended Tree" (New Haven Independent) Read the rest
I'm really digging the look of Dr. Paul Koudounaris' new book, The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses.
Don't yet have a copy in my hands (it's not out 'til October), but I've pre-Amazonned one for myself. The book is packed with hundreds of gorgeous color photographs of these sites throughout the world, many of which are usually inaccessible to outsiders.