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landmark research on Strontium Isotope analysis of 166-year oldhuman skeletons from Ajnala (Punjab)

Chandigarh: The researchers from Panjab University, Chandigarh (Dr J.S. Sehrawat), Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences, Lucknow(Dr. Niraj Rai and Dr. Shailesh Agrawal) and Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada (Prof. Vaughan Grimes and Dr. Andrew. P. Kenney) participated with their individualistic scientific inputs in a landmark research on Strontium Isotope analysis of 166-year oldhuman skeletons from Ajnala (Punjab). The research has been published in the reputed International Journal of Legal Medicine on 18thOctober, 2023. The finding of this study revealed that the skeletons belonged to brave soldiersof the Eastern Gangetic plain regions.The published results are first time ever use of stable isotopes in the mass scale forensic identification in the country and are expected to provide baseline data for future forensic provenance studies that will contribute to the global efforts of mapping Sr isotope variations by the isotope community, stressed Dr. Sehrawat and Dr. Rai.

Researchers have used strontium isotope ratios obtained from 27 teeth samples for isotope analysis andthe research findings supported that the human skeletons found in the well were not of people living in and around Ajnala i.e., Punjab. Rather,strontium isotope abundances matched with the water sources, cereals and rock samples from Gangatic plains in UP, Bihar, and West Bengal”, said Dr JS Sehrawat, Department of Anthropology, Panjab Univrsity, Chandigarh, the first and corresponding author of this study published.Strontium isotope analysis results revealed that Ajnala individuals did not live in the Amritsar region during their childhood and they came from the Gangatic plain regions.

“The results from this research are consistent with the genetic evidences that the slain victims of26th Native Bengal Infantry Battalion came from the Gangatic plains of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar and coastal Orissa”and endore the molecular forensic results published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics in April 2022, stated Dr J.S. Sehrawat. As per the historical records, soldiers from this battalion posted at Mian-Meer cantonment (nowadays in Pakistan), killed British officers in a revolt. They were captured by the British army near Ajnala on banks of river Ravi and executed very next day.

Dr Niraj Rai, the lead researcher from BSIP and an expert on ancient DNA, said that scientific research done by this team helps look at the historical events from a more evidence-based scientific perespective.

Dr. Sehrawat stressed that present study findings would prove a landmark/reference for future provenanve studies aimed at estimating geolocation of unknown human remains based on strontium isotope analysis in Indian contexts and claimed that it will add asignificant chapter in the history of the unsung heroes of India's first freedom struggle killed in 1857 at Ajnala.

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