Roopkund lake astounds with its beauty at par with its surrounding, but scattered within and around the lake are hundreds of human skeletons.
Far from the nearest village, on top of the great Indian Himalayas sits a glacial lake known as Roopkund. The unassuming lake astounds with its beauty at par with its surrounding, but little do people know that scattered within and around the lake are hundreds of human skeletons.
The bones that are set to belong to roughly 300-800 people have been a mystery since its discovery by a forest ranger in 1942.
The Deepening Mysteries of the Roopkund Skeleton Lake
Despite scientific advancements in archeology, scientists are still baffled by the mysteries of Roopkund Skeleton Lake. Genetic analysis in 2019 details the ancient DNA of the bones in the journal Nature Communications entitled, “Ancient DNA from the Skeletons of Roopkund Lake Reveals Mediterranean Migrants in India”.
Researchers found that at least 14 of the skeletons in the lake weren’t from South Asia. Instead, DNA revealed that they belonged to modern-day easter Mediterraneans. These remains were also newer than other remains in and around the lake dating back to roughly 800 while the Mediterranean remains died estimated 1800 years ago.
Investigating the Past
The answers to the expounding questions surrounding Roopkund Lake were sought out by Douglas Preston in an article in The New Yorker.
The history of Roopkund shows the need for multiple pieces of evidence when investigating the past. The bones alone belonging to men and women, mostly young adults leave more questions than answers.
Oral histories from nearby villagers shed some light on the illuminating history of the lake. According to locals, the lake is on a pilgrimage trail for Nanda Devi. The legend says that once Nanda Devi’s rage intensified by an old king who set off on a pilgrimage along Roopkund lake and his party was killed in a terrible hailstorm by the manifestation of the Hindu goddess Parvati.
Researchers believe that the tale isn’t far from the truth. Some skull remains at Roopkung lake had fractures that resulted from blunt-force trauma according to a study entitled, “Roopkund Mystery “Pathology Reveals Head Injury Behind Casualties.”
Although there is no consensus on the ongoing mysteries of Roopkund Skeleton lake, one theory suggests that pilgrims were caught in a terrible hail storm on the ridge on top of the lake that caused blunt-force trauma, while most died due to exposure and hypothermia. The bodies then would have rolled downhill or were brought to the lake by mini-avalanches common in the area.
Another theory suggests that the remains belonged to an isolated population of Central Asians that descended from Alexander the Great and his armies.
Preston explains that the main culprit as to why Roopkund is a persisting mystery despite scientific advancements is the lack of studies in the area. The lake itself is on a popular trekking route where hikers, over the decades, have shifted the remains, stacked them unnaturally, or stolen specimens. Additionally, the weather and high elevation of the lake make it difficult for systematic studies of the remains and the location to be held.
Originally published at The Science Times