Throughout history, humans have tackled the unknown. It’s part of what separates us from other creatures on our planet. We have the ability of advanced thinking. We investigate things scientifically and logically. It is what has allowed us to advance so far as a society and a species in general. So when we see something that truly defies explanation, it’s hard for humans to just take it at face value. We want to delve deeper and come up with solutions. That is what makes this story extremely interesting and unique. For years, scientists were baffled by what happened at a place called Skeleton Lake, located in Roopkund, India. Years of research and study were yielding no results, and people were becoming frustrated with the lack of progress. An expedition in 2004 however would bring the answers the scientists were looking for, and closure to this thousands of years old mystery.
This is Skeleton Lake. Located in Roopkund, India, it sits 16,000 feet above sea level at the bottom of a tiny valley in the mountains. It actually looks like a beautiful place to hike to.
In the 1942, a British forest guard was wandering through the mountains, he made a grizzly discovery. He came across a lake that sat 16,000 feet above sea level. In the lake he noticed some object. Upon closer investigation he concluded they were human remains. Over 200 sets of them in fact.
Speculation began immediately about who the skeletons could belong to. The explanation that gained the most traction was that it was a group of Japanese soldiers who died from exposure while trying to sneak their way through the Indian mountains.
The British empire was terrified of a Japanese invasion at the time, so they sent a group of investigators to the site of the bones to see if they were in fact the remains of Japanese soldiers. After looking at the facts, the investigators determined these couldn’t be the bones of Japanese soldiers as they were not fresh enough.
The cold and dry air high up in the mountains allowed hair, flesh and bone to all be preserved extremely well. It quickly became apparent that these bones were quite old however. Other than that though, not much was known about how these people had all come to meet their end in this small valley by the lake.
After the original theory was put to rest, more and more started take shape as to what could have possibly killed these people. Epidemic, landslide and ritual suicide were all floated around as possible reasons for hundreds of dead bodies so high in the mountains. These theories persisted for decades, but no one was able to definitively say what happened.
That is until a 2004 investigation up to Skeleton Lake shed some light on the horrific events that must have played out here. The answer is one that no one ever expected.
According to scientists, the bodies date to around 850 A.D. There are also two distinct groups of people who were killed here. One was a family group or tribe closely related to one another, and the second group was composed of smaller, shorter people. These were most likely guides or porters hired to take this family or tribe through the mountains.
The bodies all had similar wound patterns which were consistent with blows to the head and shoulders. The cracks in the skulls were short and deep however, leading scientists to believe that they were not caused by weapons. Rather, they speculate what killed these people was a rounded object. The majority of the wounds were in the area of the head and shoulders. Scientists theorize whatever killed these people came straight from above. So what on Earth could it have been?
There is a traditional folk song among Himalayan women that describes a goddess that was so enraged at a group of outsiders who had been defiling her mountain home that she hurled stones from the sky “hard as iron” and rained death down upon them. Scientists actually concluded that this was no mere legend in a folk song. Their findings brought them to the unlikely answer that these people had in fact been killed by a severe and sudden hailstorm.
These people literally had nowhere to run or hide. The “hard as iron” hailstones were estimated to be about 23 centimeter/9 inches circumference. That is a huge hailstone! They were relentless and came by the thousands and struck down the group of travelers. Their remains lay by the lake for 1,200 years until they were finally discovered.
This is pretty bizarre story. In the end, science was able to figure out what actually happened to these people, but the mystique of the story still somewhat lives on. While this may not have been the actual events described in the old Himalayan folk song, the similarities are undeniable, and actually lend credence that the song might have some truth to it. Either way, this 1,200-year-old mystery was finally solved and all the other theories can finally be put to rest.