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Virtual Harappans to come alive

Two of the four skeletons — dating back to the 4500-year-old Harappan era — found recently in a burial mound at Rakhigarhi village in Haryana.— Photo: AFP

Two of the four skeletons — dating back to the 4500-year-old Harappan era — found recently in a burial mound at Rakhigarhi village in Haryana.— Photo: AFP  

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Marriage of genetic and software tech to project their likeness

Using the DNA to be extracted from the four full-sized skeletons excavated from a Harappan site at Rakhigarhi in Haryana and a novel software developed in South Korea, archaeologists of the Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, Pune, are confident of projecting, in a few months, how the Harappans looked like 4,500 years ago — their build, the colour of their skin or hair, their facial features and so on.

In a joint excavation, archaeologists of the Deccan College, a deemed university, and Haryana’s Department of Archaeology excavated the skeletons in March. They belonged to the Mature Harappan period (2600 BCE-1900 BCE). The skeletons were those of two men, one woman and a child.

The tests will be done by the college staff and forensic scientists of Seoul National University, South Korea.

Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor of the college and director of the Rakhigarhi excavation, said: “We want to study the DNA of the Harappan people and try to find out who they were. So we excavated the skeletons scientifically at Rakhigarhi … There was no contamination. All the four skeletons are in good condition. The facial bones of two skeletons are intact. We are going to show the world how the Harappan man looked like. This will happen in July. It will be a breakthrough in Harappan studies.”

Rakhigarhi is a big Harappan site, 25 km from Jind in Hisar district. Twenty-one trenches, besides four burial pits, were dug during the excavation that began on January 23 and lasted till April-end.

Dr. Shinde, who is a specialist in Harappan civilisation and has excavated Harappan sites at Farmana, Girawad and Mitathal, all in Haryana, said the chemical tests would be done on the bones to find out what kind of health the Harappans enjoyed, the diet they had and the causes of their death. The four burial pits with the skeletons had a variety of ritual pottery.

The 21 trenches yielded typical Harappan painted pottery, including goblets, terracotta figurines of wild boar and dogs, and furnaces and hearths that provided evidence of a bangle- and bead-making industry.

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Printable version | Nov 14, 2018 8:31:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/virtual-harappans-to-come-alive/article7165745.ece

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