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.
Did you know that high in India’s
Himalayan mountains lies a shallow lake filled with medieval bodies?
You might have heard of it because some of those bodies looked
Well recently, researchers studied the full genome of a few of those bodies!
“Golimar” – This Indian version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is definitely not what you expected
Most people think the pizzas they know and love – four cheese, pepperoni – were invented in Italy. But they were actually developed by Italian immigrants in the United
States, and then exported back to Italy. Syracuse University
anthropologist Agehananda Bharati calls this the “pizza effect.” Here are some other examples of when
elements of a nation’s culture developed elsewhere and were then reimported:
- Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade was invented for the James Bond film Spectre and then adopted by the city.
- American blues music influenced English musicians in the 1960s, who then exported blues-rock to the United States.
- Adapted from India’s chicken tikka, chicken tikka masala became one
of the most popular dishes in Britain before being re-exported to India.
- Yoga became popular in India after its adoption in the West.
- Salsa music originated largely among Cuban and Puerto Rican
immigrants to New York in the 1920s and then spread throughout the
- Teppanyaki, the Japanese style of cooking on an iron griddle, grew to prominence in America in “Japanese steakhouses.”
Ayurveda, a ancient medical tradition from India, has three great ancient authors. Each is known for one significant text. Today they are understood to be compilation texts, summaries of schools of medicine at the time of their writing, but the authors are believed to have been real people who wrote each individual book. Like an encyclopedia.
Sushruta, writing sometime in the 600s BCE (probably) wrote the “Sushruta Samhita,” a treatise on medicine and surgery with a large section dedicated to medical instruments as well. Charaka, alive sometime in the 200s BCE, wrote a treatise focusing solely on medicine, the “Charaka Samhita.”
The third great author, Vagbhata, came much later in the 600s CE. His two major ayurvedic treatises similarly covered a broad swathe of medicine, but they also explicitly referenced the Sushruta Samhita and the Charaka Samhita, covering where they disagreed and the various solutions that had arose to those disagreements over the centuries.
The Neolithic Revolution, also known as the Agricultural Revolution, occurred about 12,000 years ago. For those, like me, who are not the best at math, that is around 10,000 BCE. There was a global trend away from nomadic hunting and gathering and towards sedentary farming. It appears to have arisen independently in multiple places in the Middle East, as well as in China and Papua New Guinea. Egypt and the Indus River Valley may have independently developed agriculture as well, or gotten the idea and the seeds from the Middle East or China.
Cereals, like barley in the Middle East and rice in China, were likely the first to be domesticated, eventually supplemented by protein-rice plants like peas and lentils. As people began to settle down they also domesticated animals. The earliest archaeological evidence of sheep and goat herding comes from around 10,000 BCE in the Iraq and Anatolia. Animals could be used as labor in the fields, or as sources of additional nutrients and calories to supplement the new cereal-heavy diet.
The Neolithic Revolution did not happen everywhere, and not all at once. And there remain a variety of hypotheses as to why humans stopped foraging and started farming. Population pressure may have caused increased competition for food and the need to cultivate new foods; people may have shifted to farming in order to involve elders and children in food production; humans may have learned to depend on plants they modified in early domestication attempts and in turn, those plants may have become dependent on humans. Whatever the reason, the Neolithic Revolution changed humanity – and our world – for good.
Franz Ferdinand after a successful tiger hunt during his visit to India, 1893
Archduke Franz Ferdinand didn’t just like hunting – he loved it, and the man who died by the bullet lived by it too.
In his lifetime, Franz Ferdinand’s trigger finger took down 274,899 animals, a number confirmed by his meticulously kept records. He lived in palaces and hunting lodges that were stuffed with the grim trophies of his kills, all sorts of exotic remains lining every wall of every room to bear testament to his hunting prowess. In fact, Ferdinand bagged so many beasts on his world tour that he dreamed of opening a museum to show them off.
To bring the scale of his killings into perspective, in a hunting career spanning over half a decade, the keen and dedicated hunter Emperor Franz Joseph killed 48,000 animals. Of course, unlike the emperor, the enthusiastic archduke embraced technology, sometimes even mowing down his prey with a machine gun.
A group of college students in India recently discovered a well dating to the 1000s CE. The well was constructed with two terracotta rings measuring seven feet across and six inches tall that were placed one on top of the other and sealed with clay. The well was connected to a tank, and when the tank filled, the water would flow into the shallow well. It is unclear if the tank was filled with rainwater or from a nearby river and estuary.
The excavation team also recovered pieces of Chinese celadon pottery, a spout, iron ore, terracotta roof tiles, and pieces of conch shells. Some of the pottery dated to earlier than the rest of the Chola-period site, and may have been brought to the surface when the well was dug. When the well became lost in the sand, so did the ancient artifacts, preserving them both.