Secrets tumble out of Banga skeleton

Published: 18th March 2013 12:30 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th March 2013 12:30 PM   |  A+A-


As experts continue to delve into study of adult human skeleton that was excavated from a mound in Banga village near Harirajpur in Jatni, interesting facts are emerging pointing to a civilisation that existed 3,500 to 4,000 years back.

The osteobiographic (skeletal biology) study of the skeleton - belonging to Chalcolithic Age - has revealed that it is that of a man who died at the age of 35-40.

The skeleton was studied for a week by a team of experts headed by eminent anthropologist Prof Subash R Walimbe and V Mushrif Tripathy, both of Deccan College in Pune, and Prof K Basa of Anthropology department of Utkal University since March 11.

The 5.7 feet tall man with a slender body had facial phenotype (morphological features) resembling Odia people. Prof Walimbe, one of the anthropologists who had carried out Neolithic-Chalcolithic excavation of Inamgaon near Pune, said age of the skeleton was ascertained by studying growth of its six long bones, besides some facial features, teeth and most importantly the sciatic notch of its pelvis.

“Though cause of death cannot be positively asserted, the death was not untimely. The average age of death during the Chalcolithic period is stated to be around 40 years,” he said. The individual was healthy and his bones showed no sign of infection or traumatic injuries except for a fractured left forearm.

Prof Walimbe said they found evidence of a healed fracture of left forearm. “The left side ulna and radius exhibit an oblique fracture resulting from an accident. It can be said that the accident took place during adulthood of the individual and the fractured bones were completely healed.

 The injury cannot be taken as indicative of inter-personal clash, but was probably caused by falling. There were also signs of secondary infection of an open wound due to the fracture which was successfully treated,” he said.

The treatment, however, led to deformity indicated by shortening of the forearm. “Such cases are called malunion where a broken bone has healed in an unacceptable position that causes significant impairment,” said Mushrif.

 She said successful treatment of such serious injury indicates availability of skilled medical  assistance in the vicinity.

Signs of minor illness like antemortem loss of one upper molar tooth, traces of age-related arthritic problems were also found in the skeleton.

One of the most interesting findings was that portion below the knee was chopped off and there were cut marks at the distal end of tibia.

“Practice of cutting lower feet of the dead prior to the burial was a common practice in Chalcolithic age and we had seen similar practice in Inamgaon where 17 adult skeletons were found whose lower legs were chopped off,” said Prof Walimbe.

Meanwhile, experts have sent DNA samples of the skeleton to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, for ancient DNA analysis that will help reconstruct the settlement history of Chalcolithic period in Odisha. The fractured bones will be X-rayed to find out the healing process.

A month back, a team led by Prof Basa and Prof RK Mohanty of Deccan College had stumbled upon the skeleton. Some remnants of an ancient settlement including charred animal bones, pottery, stone artefacts, plant materials, copper dust and living floors were also dug out from the spot.

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