Himalayan Bone Lake Mystery: How did the skeletons get there?

In the 1940s, a Briton roaming the Himalayas in northern India came across something quite sinister: a glacial lake littered with human bones. The site lies in a valley over 5 meters high and is called Lake Roopkund, but since its discovery, the mystery of how so many skeletons ended up intrigues scientists.

Himalayan Puzzle

Several theories have been proposed over the years to account for the origin of the bones, such as that they might belong to ancient pilgrims who were caught off guard by a terrible hailstorm during their passage through the valley and eventually perished there. It is also hypothesized that the skeletons could be victims of some ritual involving human sacrifice, collective suicide, an avalanche and even that the bones would be those of Japanese WWII soldiers.

(Source: ScienceAlert / Himadri Sinha Roy / Reproduction)

As you have seen, there is no shortage of possible explanations for the Lake of Bones riddle, and now, after the recent radiocarbon and DNA dating exams, the mystery about the origin of the skeletons has become even more ... mysterious . The tests - performed on 38 skeletons - revealed that they belong to 3 distinct groups of individuals, 23 of them belonging to men and women of South Asian descent, 14 from the Mediterranean region, possibly from Greece, and 1 from the Southeast. Asian.

Examinations also showed that the bones of individuals of South Asian origin are from people who died between the 7th and 10th centuries, while the other skeletons are from much later, 19th century, more or less. These results then suggest that instead of a single dramatic event, the corpses have somehow ended up in the lake on different occasions over the course of a millennium.

Death Valey?

On how the skeletons landed in the lake, previous tests on bones other than those examined now indicated the presence of people from the same family or tribe, as well as a distinct group of smaller individuals. Analyzes also revealed that the skeletons were from the 9th century and had skull injuries - findings that gave rise to the hail storm theory which, by the way, is associated with a local legend about a mountain goddess who punished a group of pilgrims in a violent rain of ice after they disrespected their holy ground.

(Source: ScienceAlert / Pramod Joglekar / Reproduction)

The current study supports storm theory to explain the presence of at least part of the skeletons - the one identified as being of South Asian origin. However, this alternative does not apply to all bones found in the lake. Scientists intend to search ancient archives and documents for records of groups of foreigners who may have passed through the valley (of death ...) in recent centuries and perished during the journey, so the puzzle about the origin of the dead remains.