A recent archaeological find in Rakhigarhi, Haryana, could shed light on the history of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
According to a report in India Today, a 4,500-year-old skeleton, possibly belonging to the Indus Valley era, was exhumed from the site and reveals an interesting quirk found in its DNA composition.
To study the DNA of ancient skeletal remains, researchers gathered blood samples from the petrous bone of the skeleton; this is the part of the skull housing the components of the inner ear. The petrous bone is vital in studies like these as it has extremely high DNA preservation.
This DNA found in the petrous bone shows that ancient denizens of the area were “a mix of two populations” – One of ancient ancestral South Indians and the other of Iranian Agriculturalists, both not native to the Indian subcontinent.
These particular findings are the much-awaited results of an excavation conducted in 2015 in Rakhigarhi, Haryana by a team led by Dr Vasant Shinde, an archaeologist and Vice-Chancellor of Pune’s Deccan College.
The skeleton – classified as I4411 – was found in one of the mature Harappan settlements of the time which is said to have sustained for more than 4,000 years.
So what exactly were the findings that led to the understanding of a mixed group surviving in the Harappan civilisation?
Well, it wasn’t what they found, but rather what they didn’t find–the complete absence of the genetic marker R1a1 in I4411’s DNA.
R1a1 is a gene that is commonly observed in high frequency in the modern Indian subcontinent. This particular gene, which is loosely called the “Aryan gene”, is usually used as evidence for the Indo-Aryan Migration. The theory describes the movement of Aryans from outside the Indian subcontinent from the North of India to the South.
But the skeleton found in this particular site shares more affinity with South Indian tribal populations, the early draft of the paper reads. The draft suggests that the Rakhigarhi remains is more closely related to the Irula, a south Indian tribal community from the Nilgiri Highlands.
This finding suggests that the Indus Valley people belonging to the area, Indus, probably spoke an early Dravidian language.
This finding could lead to a reevaluation of history as it sheds light on the cultural diversity present in the Indus Valley Civilisation, which previously was thought to be non-existent.
Though there are limitations to the findings, namely the limited DNA data available, the study may prove to be controversial as it resets the earlier established notion of Aryans. In any likelihood, the Rakhigarhi man is influencing 21st-century beliefs, 4,500 years after his death.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)