My lab performed excavation in Rakhigarhi/India for Feb 19 to Mar 8 (Hong JH); Mar 4 to Mar 13 (Shin DH), 2016. The excavation is supported by National Geographic Foundation.
The Camp site in Rakhigarhi
About the project this time for Rakhigarhi is as follows:
1. For many anthropologists worldwide, nothing is more important than the inhabitants of the Harappan (Indus Valley) civilization. In fact, there have been a number of spirited debates on the IVC. Some have contended that it might have been part of Harappan society, while others have disputed that. In previous investigations, researchers were unable to draw any definitive conclusions on the question of the in situ continuity of the Harappan people’s biological traits. Meanwhile, the health and disease status of the Harrapan people also has long attracted anthropologists’ interest. For the time being, the Harappan people, in their biological and anthropological aspects, remain shrouded in mystery.
2. The Rakhigarhi site, the ancient ruins at which are much larger and older than those in any IVC cities, is located in the Indian state of Haryana. It is situated near the site of the Ghaggar-Hakra River, which is believed to have dried up by 2000 BC. Indian archaeologists believe that Rakhigarhi represents all of the IVC’s phases, Early, Mature and Late. Although the previous findings on Rakhigarhi, including a wide road, granary and brick-lined drain, show it to have been well-planned and consistent with other IVC sites, it remains, for the most part, incompletely excavated. Now though, after long-term preliminary investigations, additional Rakhigarhi sites have begun to be excavated by Deccan College. One of the most important discoveries thus far is a Mature-Harappan-period cemetery. In our preliminary excavations of some of the many graves (date-estimated to 4,500 BP) therein, we have identified a number of human skeletons. More excavations currently are scheduled for this cemetery.
3. As anthropology specialists, our team has participated in the Rakhigarhi excavations from the outset. As regards our plans for the relevant human remains, they will be collected via a procedure specifically designed to minimize contamination by modern DNA. They will then be moved to and maintained at Deccan College. Subsequent anthropological analyses will proceed as follows: 1) gross anthropological study (determination of sex and age, identification of any pathological signs in bones, forensic investigation for race determination, etc.); 2) paleoparasitological study (analysis of soil sediments on hipbones, determination of any presence of parasite eggs, drawing of tentative conclusions on parasitic infection of Harappan people); 3) aDNA mitochondrial, Y-chromosomal, autosomal and stable-isotope analyses (obtainment of information on maternal and paternal lineages); 4) first-ever facial reconstruction of approximately 4,500-year-old Harappan person, a member of one of the greatest civilizations in human history (based on DNA and forensic data obtained in this study). It is anticipated that by the proposed research and the various advanced techniques entailed, a full and very detailed biological and anthropological picture of the Harappan people will be obtained.
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Our paper, " Ancient mitochondrial DNA analysis of avian bones collected from the 4th century pit burial found in South Korea " is published in Archaeological Research in Asia. Pheasant is a bird commonly interred in the ancient graves of Korea. The avian bones collected during excavation are sometimes too small to be used for morphological species identification. Since ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis becomes widely used nowadays for molecular diagnosis, we carried out aDNA research on the 4th century avian femurs (K-14 and K-15) for which the species could not be confirmed by conventional zooarchaeological technique. In this study, we revealed that the mitotypes of the current ancient specimens were almost identical to those of modern genus Phasianus DNAs reported in NCBI/GenBank, re-confirming the usefulness of the genetic analysis on genus Phasianus bones when the species identification of the ancient avian bones found at archaeological sites is in a dispute.