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An Eternal Joint Slumber?

Two skeletons are lying side by side… One’s skull is slightly tilted towards another, as if it is gazing at its partner! Archaeologists recently discovered these two skeletons – one of a young male while the other of a female – in northern Indian city of Rakhigarhi, some 150km northwest of New Delhi.
Archaeologists from the Deccan College Deemed University in Pune were excavating the site to find the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilisation or Harappan Civilisation, a Bronze Age civilisation (3300-1300 BC). Accidentally, they discovered a Harappan cemetery and found the two bodies placed in the supine position (face up) with arms and legs extended. Preliminary reports suggest that the man and the woman were buried in the grave together in the sprawling cemetery about 4,500 years ago. Lead archaeologist Dr Vasant Shinde said: “The man and the woman were facing each other in a very intimate way. We believe they were a couple. And they seemed to have died at the same time. How they died, however, remains a mystery.

Dr Shinde claimed that their ages at the time of death might have been between 21 and 35 years. While the man’s approximate height is 5ft6inch, the woman’s is 5ft2inch. However, researchers are yet to find any evidence of trauma or lesions in the skeletons. According to the lead researcher, this is the first time when skeletons of a couple have been found in the ruins of Harappan civilisation. So, the discovery has triggered a sensation among archaeologists. Researchers are of the opinion that this unique joint grave was not an “outcome of any specific funeral customs commonly performed at that time”. They believe that the man and the woman “died almost at the same time and that, therefore, they had been buried together in the same grave“.
Dr Shinde explained that as the Harappans used to believe in life after death, presence of the pottery and bowls in the Harappan graves is quite natural. “The pots may have contained food and water for the dead, a custom probably fuelled by the belief that the dead may need them after death. Hence, the contemporary view of life after death may actually be as old as 5,000 years,” he stressed. The senior archaeologist further said that the manner in which the individuals had been buried – with the male’s face towards the female – could commemorate lasting affection even after death. “We can only infer, but those who buried the two individuals may have wanted to imply that the love between the two would continue even after death,” added Dr Shinde. “A couple’s joint grave is not so rare in other ancient civilisations. Yet, it is strange that they were not discovered in Harappan cemeteries till now,” he told the press.


The couple are believed to have died at the same time

Archaeologists believe that the mystery couple lived in a nearby settlement spread over more than 1,200 acres and the area housed tens of thousands of people. Of the 2,000 Harappan sites discovered so far in India and Pakistan, this settlement in Rakhigarhi is the largest. It is even bigger than the more well-known city of Mohenjo Daro in neighbouring Pakistan.
It is to be noted that archaeologists found ancient joint burial sites in other parts of the globe in the past. They discovered a man and a woman locked in an embrace in a Neolithic burial site in an Italian village. In another such instance reported from Russia, the couple were holding hands and facing each other. Nearly 6,000-year-old skeletons – embracing each other, with their legs and arms interlocked – were found in Greece.

Now, the Indian archaeologists will have to find whether joint burials were a popular practice in Harappan civilisation.

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