Category: harappa

Getting DNA from Indus River Valley Civilization burials is quite difficult, as the hot South Asian climate provides the perfect conditions for degrading biological material. After 5,000 years in the ground there is usually nothing left to sequence. But for the first time, a full genome has been sequenced! A team from Deccan College in India successfully recreated a genome from an individual buried in a cemetery at the site of Rakhigarhi, in Haryana, India. They were able to get enough undamaged DNA by patiently re-sampling the skeleton over 100 times and pooling the results.

It has been known that there are cultural connections between the Indus River Valley Civilization and Iranian civilization. It has even been theorized that the hunter-gatherers who lived in the ecologically rich valley learned farming from Iran. The recent study therefore compared the Rakhigarhi remains to genomes from 523 genetically sampled from Gonur in Turkmenistan and Shahr-i-Sokhta in Iran.

Their analysis showed that the genes associated with this individual’s Iranian ancestry came from before the time when farmers and hunter-gatherers in the area separated from each other. This individual’s Iranian ancestors left before farming spread through Iran, meaning that the Indus River Valley civilization did not learn farming from Iran but independently decided to give up hunting and gathering for farming. The genetic analyses also found that 11 individuals from the 523 belonged to the same genetic group as the Indus River Valley Civilization remains. That suggests that the 11 were migrants, or near descendants of migrants, from the Indus River Valley.

The ancient Sumerians are known for having created one of the earliest agricultural civilizations in the world. A new discovery in southern Iraq suggests they also conducted some of the earliest maritime trade.Remains of brick ramparts, docks, and an artificial basin created to be the town’s port have been found at the site of Abu Tbeirah since 2016. That suggests they knew how to build boats and fish, at least. But what about maritime trade?

At the same site, researchers found some unusual artifacts that show the ancient Sumerians almost certainly had long-distance contacts, likely by sea. Vases made of alabaster, a stone not found in Mesopotamia. Carnelian beads from India. A necklace in the style of the Indus River Valley; the Indus River Valley civilization flourished at the same time as Sumer.

Ancient Sumerian texts mainly talk about agriculture, and little about maritime trade. The is understandable. Agriculture required the most organization, and effort by the state. Archaeology is uncovering a relatively hidden aspect of  ancient Sumerian life. They had farmers, yes, but also sailors.