Pune: Archaeologists in Pune have discovered a couple’s skeletons buried in the same grave, said a report on Wednesday. The discovery by archaeologists of Deccan College Deemed University (DCDU) is the first anthropologically confirmed joint burial of a couple in a Harappan cemetery.

The grave was found in the Harappan settlements excavated at Rakhigarhi in Haryana, 150km northwest of Delhi. Archaeologists said evidence showed the duo was buried simultaneously or about the same time but they couldn’t tell if one was buried before the other.

This is the first couple’s burial to be discovered in a Harappan cemetery. Archaeologists found the two bodies lying face up, arms and legs stretched out. The findings have been published in the peer-reviewed international journal ACB journal of Anatomy and Cell Biology.

The excavation was undertaken by the department of archaeology of the Deccan College Deemed University and the Institute of Forensic Science, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. The report in a leading daily quoted Vasant Shinde, corresponding author of the research, and vice chancellor of DCDU, as saying that archaeologists in India have often debated the historical meaning of joint burials.

He said the Harappans believed in life after death and that is why pottery and bowls were found in the graves. He said those pots may have contained food and water for the dead.
“Hence, the contemporary view of life after death may actually be as old as 5,000 years,” he said.

Earlier, a Harappan joint burial was discovered at Lothal but it was regarded as an instance of a widow’s self-sacrifice over her husband’s death, Shinde told the daily. “Other archaeologists claimed it was difficult to estimate the sexes of the individuals, and they may not have been a couple… other than that, none of the joint burials reported from Harappan cemeteries has been anthropologically confirmed to be a couple’s grave,” he said.

The manner in which the individuals had been buried—with the male’s face towards the female—could be to show lasting affection even after death, he said.  “A couple’s grave is not so rare in other ancient civilizations. Yet, it is strange that they were not discovered in Harappan cemeteries till now,” he said.

The skeletons were taken to the laboratory of the DCDU for analysis after the field surveys were completed. Each skeleton’s sex was determined after studying the pelvic region.
Their ages at the time of death were estimated to be between 21 and 35 years. Researchers did not find any evidence of trauma or lesions in the skeletons.  Of the 62 graves in the Rakhigarhi cemetery, only this one was identified as a couple’s burial.