The remains of some people found buried near ancient Harappan centers show they
often migrated, according to
research done at the University of
Florida and involving researchers
from the Archaeological Society of
India and at Deccan College in
Benjamin Valentine, who is now
at Dartmouth College, told India
Abroad that the information was
gleaned from studying the minerals embedded in three molars
found in the skeletons of people
buried in urban centers that were
part of the Indus Valley civilization.
Valentine, who had done excava-
tion work in southeast Asia, said
his work, which has been pub-
lished in PLOS One, was a result of
his compulsive interest in studying
ancient urban civilizations to bet-
ter “understand aspects of our own
Valentine and his PhD adviser
John Krigbaum worked with
George Kamenov, an isotope geolo-
gist, and with researchers in India,
particularly V N Prabhakar, Veena
Mushrif-Tripathi and Vasant
“Shinde reached out to me,”
Valentine said. The older
researcher was a co-director of
excavation at Farmana, one of the
locations. The history dates back to
between 2,900 BC and 1900 BC.
Prabhakar and Mushrif-Tripathi
came to Florida and learned the
new dating techniques in use.
Valentine and the others meas-
ured the ratio of different forms
(isotopes) of strontium, and also of
lead, in the enamel of the three
molars found in the skeletons.
They compared it to the enamel of
teeth in skeletons from contemporary local animals (pigs and dogs
from Rakhigarh near Farmana and
from Harappa itself). Because
enamel is so hard and will not
absorb minerals the way bone
does, it gave a suitably accurate
measure of the nutrients the person was getting at the time the
teeth was being formed.
“They can stay in the ground for
thousands of years and hold on to
same elements,” Valentine said.
And as Krigbaum put it, “Bones
decay: Ashes to ashes, dust to
Krigbaum pointed out that dif-
ferent teeth form at different times.
The first is made soon after birth,
the second when the person is 2-5
years of age, and the third, more
variably between 3 and 11 years of
age. If the isotopes found in the
human remains and those of the
animals were different, it would
suggest the humans came from
elsewhere. And so they were.
“This is not about race or ancestry, but what geophysical place
they come from and when in their
lives they moved,” Valentine said.
The researchers found that the
ratio of lead isotopes found in
Farmana (then an urban center
that is now in India’s Haryana
state), was consistent with that of
the people having come from
Ganeshwar, near Jodhpur, also in
India, and a source of copper.
The ratio of strontium isotopes
possibly helped identify another
source of migrants, an area to the
northwest, close to the Hindukush
mountains in Afghanistan.
“There are very few Indus cemeteries,” said Valentine, describing
the bodies as being positioned
north to south, face up, and with a
small number of pots at the head
and by the pelvis.
“Few people are being given
such a similar burial style. They
don’t appear to be exceptionally
rich or privileged,” he said
describing them as being in good
skeletal health and somewhere
between rich and poor.
The paper described the buried
people as being composed almost
entirely of first-generation immigrants.
According to Krighaum, “What
seems interesting is that these
people seem to be coming from
abroad and, when they die, being
Eight Asian scientists were honored for their contribution in cancer research by the Society of Asian American Scientists
in Cancer Research as part of the American
Association for Cancer Research Meeting in
Philadelphia recently. All the scientists presented
their original research work at the meeting and
accepted the awards from SAASCR president, Dr
Dahiya is a professor and the director of the
Urology Research Center, University of
California San Francisco School of Medicine and
the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical
Center since 1987. He founded SAASCR with Dr
Dharam Paul Chauhan, the group’s general secretary, in 2004.
Registered in California, the SAASCR has
more than 5,000 Asian scientists as members,
most of them of Indian origin and doing cancer
research in the United States and Canada. This
society is a non-political and non-profit
organization, funded wholly by BioCare of
Among the winners, Dr Mansoor M Ahmed,
the acting chief of the Molecular Radiation
Therapeutics Branch at the National Cancer
Institute’s Radiation Research Program, focuses
on head, neck, lung, ovarian and pancreatic cancers.
Dr Keping Xie, a professor at the University of
Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and chief
of the Section of Gastroenterology Research
at the center, originally from China, has worked
on how tumors gain blood supply, grow and
Dr Shafiq Khan, an associate professor in the
Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry at
Texas Tech University, where he also served as
the Director of Basic Research of the Southwest
Cancer Center, focuses on prostrate cancer, and
has a background in building a comprehensive
cancer research and education program.
Dr Raj Kumar Tiwari, a professor and the
Graduate Program Director at the New York
Medical College’s Department of Microbiology
and Immunology, is an entrepreneur who does
research in cancer therapeutics, prevention and
Dr Anil K Sood is a professor and vice-chair,
Translational Research, Departments of
Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology, and co-director, Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNA, at the MD Anderson Cancer
Center. His work addresses how ovarian tumors
get blood supply and become cancerous, the role of
stress hormones on such cancer growth and progression and using RNA to slow down cancer cells.
Dr Ritu Aneja, a professor and the director of
graduate studies in the Department of Biology at
Georgia State University in Atlanta, works on
‘kinder and gentler’ chemotherapeutic treatments for cancer and finding new signs for early
Dr Bellur S Prabhakar, a professor in the
departments of microbiology and immunology,
and ophthalmology, and associate dean for technological innovation and training, University of
Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, works on
immune responses in Type-1 diabetes and cancer, particularly thyroid cancer.
Dr Sujit Basu, a professor in the Department
of Pathology and Medical Oncology
(Department of Internal Medicine) at the Ohio
State University, Columbus, addresses various
internal factors, such as tumor blood supply
and wound healing.
What teeth told Florida researchers about Harappan centers
Asian scientists honored for
contribution to cancer research
From left, Dr Mansoor Ahmed, Dr Keping Xie, Dr Rajvir Dahiya (president, SAASCR); Dr Shafiq Khan, Dr Raj Kumar Tiwari, Dr Anil Kumar Sood, Dr Ritu Aneja, Dr Bellur Prabhakar, Dr Dharam Paul Chauhan (secretary, SAASCR) and Dr Sujit Basu.
Benjamin Valentine, who led the team that discovered local migration patterns in Harappan cities.
Captain Suryarao Kurmety
Aconference room at the Zauel Memorial Library was named after Captain Suryarao Kurmety, a retired radi- ologist from the United States Navy, after his family
donated $50,000 soon after he was diagnosed with pancreatic
The conference room is at the library in the town Kurumetry
called home: Saginaw, Michigan.
The donation was used to renovate the main conference room
and upgrade the audio-visual equipment.
Kurumety, who also worked for the Indian government before
moving to the US in 1974, died February 28. His memorial
services included Hindu rites and military honors.
In memory of Captain Kurmety