Not all of the hundreds of skeletons at the Himalayan site are from the same place or period
By Bruce Bower
High in the Himalayas, the bones of several hundred mysterious people lie scattered around a small lake, earning it the nickname Skeleton Lake.
Some of those people originated in the vicinity of Greece and Crete around 220 years ago, a new analysis of DNA and radiocarbon-dated bones finds. But why the genetically unrelated men and women traveled to Skeleton Lake, or how they died, is still a mystery, scientists report August 20 in Nature Communications.
“We were extremely surprised to find Mediterranean ancestry at such a harsh geographical location,” says paleogeneticist Niraj Rai of Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow, India.
Also known as Roopkund Lake, the pool sits more than 5,000 meters above sea level in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand. A trip from Greece to the sky-scraping lake covers about 5,000 kilometers.
Other people whose bones rest at the site came from South Asia around 1,000 years before the enigmatic Europeans arrived, the team found. DNA extracted from 38 Roopkund Lake skeletons pegs 23 as having South Asian genetic roots, as opposed to 14 with eastern Mediterranean ancestry.