Wednesday, February 2, 2011

✈Worldwide Wednesdays: Roopkund (Skeleton Lake) of INDIA

Where shall we travel to today?....

Roopkund (Skeleton Lake), INDIA 

Pic source:

Roopkund (Skeleton Lake) is a glacial lake in Uttarakhand state of India famous due to more than five hundred skeletons found at the edge of a lake. The location is uninhabited and is located in Himalaya at an altitude of about 5,029 metres (16,499 feet). The skeletons were rediscovered in 1942 by a Nanda Devi game reserve ranger H K Madhwal, although there are reports about these bones from late 19th century. Earlier it was believed by specialists that the people died from an epidemic, landslide or blizzard. The carbon dating from samples collected in the 1960s vaguely indicated that the people were from the 12th century to the 15th century.

Another assumption (it being war time) was that these were the remains of Japanese soldiers who had died of exposure while sneaking through India. The British government, terrified of a Japanese land invasion, sent a team of investigators to determine if this was true. However upon examination they realized these bones were not from Japanese soldiers—they weren't fresh enough. 

It was evident that the bones were quite old indeed. Flesh, hair, and the bones themselves had been preserved by the dry, cold air, but no one could properly determine exactly when they were from. More than that, they had no idea what had killed over 500 people in this small valley. Many theories were put forth including an epidemic, landslide, and ritual suicide. For decades, no one was able to shed light on the mystery of Skeleton Lake.

However, a 2004 expedition to the site seems to have finally revealed the mystery of what caused those people's deaths. The answer was stranger than anyone had guessed.
Roopkund, India
pic by Wiki user Bhotiya
Radiocarbon dating of the bones at Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit determined the time period to be AD 850 ±30 years.

After studying fractures in the skulls, the scientists in Hyderabad, Pune and London determined that the people died not of disease, but of a sudden hailstorm. The hailstones were as large as cricket balls, and with no shelter in the open Himalayas, all of them perished. With landslides in the area, some of the bodies made their way into the lake. What is not determined was where the group was headed to. There is no historical evidence of any trade routes to Tibet in the area but Roopkund is located on an important pilgrimage route of Nanda Devi cult with Nanda Devi Raj Jat festivities taking place approximately once per 12 years.

Wow, what a way to go! And being out in the open like they were, I guess they never stood a chance with no place to seek shelter.  So sad yet fascinating!

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