Archaeologists compare DNA samples to affirm Adichanallur early inhabitants were ancestors of present populace

Though the report had not discussed information on race, it mentioned that anthropological studies pointed to the site being occupied by different races in ancient times.

Published: 30th April 2023 06:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th April 2023 06:49 AM   |  A+A-

Burial urns , Adichanallur

Burial urns in Adichanallur

Express News Service

THOOTHUKUDI: Archaeology enthusiasts have sought a comparison of DNA samples collected from the skeletons unearthed from burial urns in Adichanallur with the DNA of the present populace in the region. There has been discussion among activists in recent days about whether they were descendants of the ancient settlers of Adichanallur.

The carbon dating of rice found in an offering pot at the neighbouring Sivagalai excavation site had already proven that the Porunai River valley civilisation was around 3,200 years old. Renowned archaeological sites Adichanallur, Sivagalai, and Korkai -- all discovered along river Thamirabarani (Porunai) -- have been revealing chilling information about the region's history.

T Sathyamurthy, Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey Of India (ASI), extensively researched the Iron Age site of Adichanallur extensively in 2003-05 and unearthed over 178 burial urns. His research report was released in 2021, following a legal battle that lasted several years, by writer Muthalankurichi Kamarasu.

Though the report had not discussed information on race, it mentioned that anthropological studies pointed to the site being occupied by different races in ancient times. Experts from the state archaeology department had also excavated five spots around Adichanallur.

No information has been revealed about the indigenous people of Adichanallur, said archaeology enthusiast SMA Gandhimathinathan. "Interestingly, the region is even at present home to a large number of potters, weavers, goldsmiths, ironsmiths, cattle rearers, palm climbers, agrarians, and farmhands. The government must conduct a DNA analysis comparing the samples collected with the DNA of the present populace, to affirm whether the early inhabitants were the ancestors of the present-day occupants of the region," he told TNIE.

There are attempts to depict the ancient Adichanallur settlers as foreigners, said another enthusiast Prabakar, who wants a detailed study about race and ethnicity conducted.

It may be noted that the forensic bio-archaeological investigations conducted by experts G Pathmanathan, Raghavan Pathmanathan, and T Satyamurthy, on the 169 skeletons collected from Adichanallur, have implied that three major racial groups -- Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid (Australoid) -- may have existed in Adichanallur.

As per FORDISC analysis, some skeletons reflect mixed racial traits and very few of them display similarities with the contemporary Tamil ethnic group, they said. The racial affinities of skeletal remains recovered from Adichanallur have been further classified into 30% Mongoloids, 35% Caucasoids, 16% Negroids, 6% Australoids, 8% ethnic Dravidian, and 5% mixed trait populations.
Meanwhile, a reply from the Department of Archaeology said genomic studies are underway at the Ancient DNA Laboratory in Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU) in association with Harvard University's David Reich Lab. Speaking to TNIE, HOD of the Department of Genetics at MKU professor G Kumaresan said experts, including five research scholars, are working on the DNA studies of the human remains collected from various places in Tamil Nadu.

The skeletal remains collected from Adichanallur for the study were found to be porous and fragile due to the seepage of rainwater into the urns coupled with other climatic factors, he said adding that the first set of skulls yielded a majority of bacterial DNA. An analysis of a set of samples took at least three months. "We need solid teeth or strong bones for the study, as DNA can be extracted either from the root of the teeth or from the cochlea bones of humans," he said.

Referring to the DNA study conducted on human samples collected from the archaeological site of Harappa, Kumaresan said the researchers there extracted over 80,000 DNA markers. "However, the bones from Adichanallur yield only a few hundred DNA markers, which is insufficient for analysis. However, with the assistance of experts from David Reich lab, we have adopted a different methodology called the human DNA enrichment method, to extract the required DNA from amidst heavily-loaded bacterial DNAs," he added.

"At present, the DNA study on samples from five to six skulls unearthed from Adichanallur is underway. It has dense bones and we expect a good quantity of DNA markers to be extracted from them. The findings of the DNA study can help discover its lineage and evolution pattern by matching them with the computational data base of ancient DNAs analysed from various time periods in different countries," Kumaresan further said.


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