Dixie Forum to discuss mystery of Skeleton Lake in the Indian Himalayan Mountains

Dixie State University will host the lecture “Exploring the Mystery of Skeleton Lake Using Ancient DNA” in the next installment of its weekly lecture series, Dixie Forum: A Window on the World.

Éadaoin Harney, a doctoral candidate in organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University, will present the lecture at noon on Feb. 11 in the Dunford Auditorium, located in the Browning Resource Center on the Dixie State campus. Admission is free, and the public is encouraged to attend.

In her Dixie Forum presentation, Harney will discuss how Roopkund Lake, located in the Indian Himalayan Mountains, has become known as Skeleton Lake due to the discovery of several hundred human skeletons in and around the frozen lake’s shores. She will delve into how the use of ancient DNA is helping solve the mystery.

It was assumed that the skeletal remains were from a large group of travelers who died during one large catastrophic event, but new analyses reveal that the skeletons belong to multiple distinct groups, separated in time by approximately 1,000 years. In fact, the earliest set of skeletons dates back to 800 CE and has ancestry that is typical of present-day Indian populations. Additionally, approximately one third of the skeletons date back to 1800 CE and have ancestry typical of people from present-day Greece.

Harney is currently studying human population history through ancient DNA. Her research spans from developing new methods for extracting DNA from ancient bones and teeth to developing statistical tools for analyzing ancient genomes. She uses ancient DNA to learn about the genetic ancestry of ancient people from around the globe over the last several thousand years.

Dixie Forum is a weekly lecture series designed to introduce the St. George and Dixie State communities to diverse ideas and personalities while widening their worldviews via a 50-minute presentation. Dixie Forum will be on recess Feb. 18 but will continue at noon on Feb. 25 in the Dunford Auditorium.