Disease and Trauma -Gwen Robbins Schug

Reference and acknowledgement ---

Article created on Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Lead author is  Gwen Robbins Schug, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Appalachian State University.
This site is one of the largest urban centres of the Indus Civilisation and the study suggests that climate, economic and social changes contributed to the disintegration after 1900 BCE; the change being evident within the declining health of the population and the seeming rise of interpersonal violence towards those suffering from visible diseases.

A clear correlation

The researchers examined 160 individuals (67% of the total number excavated) from three main burial areas at Harappa: an urban period cemetery (R-37), a post-urban cemetery (H), and an ossuary (Area G) where it is clear that the prevalence of infection and infectious disease increased through time.
Of the 209 skeletons excavated from Cemetery R-37, 66 (31.6%) were available at AnSI (Anthropological Survey of India) for the present research. Of these 66, 16 were from complete burials, 29 from fractional burials, and 21 were from multiple burials. Most of the burials were adults but there were two immature individuals present over five years of age.
Examination of the Harappan skeletons, showed evidence for non-specific periosteal reactions, sinus infections, and individuals that demonstrate a pattern of lesions consistent with leprosy and/or tuberculosis. In addition, there seems to be clear signs of internal and structured violence within what had previously been thought to be a ‘perfect‘ and peaceful society.

An unequal struggle

The results demonstrated that during this critical period there was no evidence for violence consistent with invasion or warfare, that would have supported the general belief of an Aryan Invasion. Rather, the majority of violent trauma seemed to have been directed against  women and children of the local population; showing untreated cranial fractures associated with the presence of congenital and communicable diseases.
Interestingly, one male with a cranial fracture consistent with interpersonal violence had received a craniotomy, perhaps as a form of surgical intervention to relieve the effects of the trauma. Women and children suffering from highly visible and often stigmatized diseases were


 Washington: Inter-personal violence, infectious diseases and climate change had played a major role in the demise of the Indus or Harappan civilization around 4,000 years ago, according to a new study. 

Climate, economic, and social changes all played a role in the process of urbanization and collapse, but little was known about how these changes affected the human population, Dr Gwen Robbins Schug, an associate professor of anthropology at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, explained in a statement.

"The collapse of the Indus Civilization and the reorganization of its human population has been controversial for a long time," Schug said, who is the lead author of a paper, published in the journal PLOS ONE. 

Schug and an international team of researchers examined evidence for trauma and infectious disease in the human skeletal remains from three burial areas at Harappa, one of the largest cities in the Indus Civilization, the University said in a media release. 

The results of their analysis counter longstanding claims that the Indus civilization developed as a peaceful, cooperative, and egalitarian state-level society, without social differentiation, hierarchy, or differences in access to basic resources, it said. 

The data suggest instead that some communities at Harappa faced more significant impacts than others from climate and socio-economic strains, particularly the socially disadvantaged or marginalised communities who are most vulnerable to violence and disease. 

This pattern is expected in strongly socially differentiated, hierarchical but weakly controlled societies facing resource stress, the university said, adding that, the study add to the growing body of research about the character of Indus society and the nature of its collapse. 

"Early research had proposed that ecological factors were the cause of the demise, but there wasn't much paleoenvironmental evidence to confirm those theories. In the past few decades, there have been refinements to the available techniques for reconstructing paleoenvironments and burgeoning interest in this field," she said. 

"Rapid climate change events have wide-ranging impacts on human communities. Scientists cannot make assumptions that climate changes will always equate to violence and disease," Schug said. 

"However, in this case, it appears that the rapid urbanization process in Indus cities, and the increasingly large amount of culture contact, brought new challenges to the human population. Infectious diseases like leprosy and tuberculosis were probably transmitted across an interaction sphere that spanned Middle and South Asia," Schug said. 

Schug's research shows that leprosy appeared at Harappa during the urban phase of the Indus Civilization, and its prevalence significantly increased through time. New diseases, such as tuberculosis, also appear in the Late Harappan or post-urban phase burials, she said. 

Violent injury such as cranial trauma also increases through time, a finding that is remarkable, she said, given that evidence for violence is very rare in prehistoric South Asian sites generally, Schug said.

"As the environment changed, the exchange network became increasingly incoherent. When you combine that with social changes and this particular cultural context, it all worked together to create a situation that became untenable," she said. 

The results of the study are striking, according to Schug, because violence and disease increased through time, with the highest rates found as the human population was abandoning the cities. 

However, an even more interesting result is that individuals who were excluded from the city's formal cemeteries had the highest rates of violence and disease, she said. 

In a small ossuary southeast of the city, men, women, and children were interred in a small pit. The rate of violence in this sample was 50 percent for the 10 crania preserved, and more than 20 percent of these individuals demonstrated evidence of infection with leprosy. 

Schug said lessons from the Indus Civilization are applicable to modern societies too. 

"Human populations in semi-arid regions of the world, including South Asia, currently face disproportionate impacts from global climate change," the researchers wrote.
Analysis and criticism of the above given research findings:

Very good article on decline of IVC .The author has done a nice study and has presented the paper without any distortion.  Read the research paper carefully, the author is presenting the reasons for death among the skeletons found in IVC. Death due to various diseases was also a major cause of death other than violence. If the Aryans had suddenly invaded those cities and killed those inhabitants, then the skeletons would have been that of healthy individuals only. Whereas the skeletons also includes of high level of diseased people. Which shows that these IVC sites were burial yards and all kinds of dead people had been buried there. Only deficiency in this research paper is that the author is not aware that those IVC sites were burial sites and merely correlated his findings with already existing theories on IVC decline.

 We have to wait for some more time, till people realise the truth that IVC sites were burial sites and not cities as popularly imagined so far. My other conclusion is that Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) is also wrong. IE speaking people were already present in IVC and spread of IE language was gradual and cultural assimilation and not through invasion. ---Follow the link for my website for more information --https://sites.google.com/site/induscivilizationsite/
Notes against this theory of environmental degradation:

                  One group of scientist blame everything on climate change without any proper evidence. That group of scientists seems to be some kind of "Interest group" , who thrive on creating fear psychosis among common people and get some research fund for their laboratories. 

                    Now, coming to the topic under consideration, the lead author has done a good study. Only mistake committed by her is that she believes in "Environmental degradation theory" for "Decline of Indus Valley Civilization" But, reality is that these excavated sites of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa were burial sites and that was the reason these sites have remained undisturbed for many centuries. Any burial site will give a deserted look if they are not maintained properly.

                   Indus people were burying their dead people like ancient Egyptians. That burial practice declined after arrival of Central Asian nomads, who preferred to burn their dead bodies. Naturally , the old burial yards were neglected and gave a deserted look. The conclusion is that the burial yards were deserted not the Indus Valley cities were deserted. Hope this will give a good explanation to this environmental degradation theory. ---Jeyakumar Ramasami