The discovery of a human skeleton, estimated to be around 3,500-4,000 years old, at Baanga village in Puri district brings to light early civilisation in coastal Odisha as the remains belong to the Copper Age.
The skeleton of an adult male was found at the chalcolithic-neolithic site of Baanga village by a team of anthropologists on February 5, 2013. Subsequently, an osteobiographic (skeletal biology) study revealed that the man died at the age of 35-40 years.
An anthropological analysis of the skeleton by a team of experts, including Prof Subash R Walimbe and Veena Mushrif Tripathy of Deccan College, Pune, and Prof Kishore Kumar Basa of Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, revealed that the skeleton belongs to 1500-2000 BC pointing to a Copper Age civilisation in that area.
Prof Walimbe, one of the anthropologists who had carried out neolithic-chalcolithic excavation of Inam Gaon near Pune, said the age of the skeleton was ascertained by studying the growth of its six long bones, besides some facial features, teeth and most importantly the sciatic notch of its pelvis.
The 5 foot 7 inch tall man with a slender body had facial phenotype (morphological features) resembling Odia people. ‘The skeleton sheds light on the individual and culture of that period. The man had died at the age of around 35-40 years and was healthy. He had a fracture on the left forearm, which had healed. The successful treatment of the injury indicates that traditional healing was in vogue at that time,’ said Prof Walimbe.
Paleopathology test revealed that the injury was accidental. “Though the cause of death cannot be positively asserted, the death was not untimely. The average age of people 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. “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. There were also signs of secondary infection of an open wound due to the fracture which was successfully treated,” he said.
Experts also revealed that the skeleton’s feet were missing. “The feet of the person were chopped off after death probably due to some kind of belief prevalent in that period. Similar practice was also found at the historic site of Inam Gaon in Maharashtra,” Walimbe said. Meanwhile, the skeletal sample has been sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, for possible DNA extraction.
The team also said that the discoveries made at Banga and Golabai showed the evolution of civilisation in Odisha till the fort settlement of Sisupalgarh came up in the third century BC. They said this excavation would throw light on the emergence of early farming communities, their settlements and exploitation of natural resources in coastal Odisha.
The study of the adult male’s skeleton shows he died at the age of 35-40 years
The 5 foot 7 inch-tall man had a slender body and facial phenotype (morphological features) resembling Odia people
He had a fracture on left forearm, which had healed completely. The successful treatment indicates that traditional healing was in vogue at that time
The man was healthy and his death was not untimely. The average age of people during the chalcolithic period was around 40 years