Tuesday, 1 November 2011

About India and Central Asia

In the Wikipedia entry about the Y-DNA Haplogroup R1a, so popular among the fans of Indo-Europeans, something has recently changed. We find acknowledged the fact that, notwithstanding various studies suggesting a South Asian origin, still there is a resistance by some researchers:
R1a and R1a1a are believed to have originated somewhere within Eurasia, most likely in the area from Eastern Europe to South Asia. Several recent studies have proposed that South Asia is the most likely region of origin. But on the other hand, as will be discussed below, some researchers continue to treat modern Indian R1a as being largely due to immigration from the Central Eurasian steppes.”
Below, about the South Asian origin hypothesis, we read:
“A survey study as of December 2009, including a collation of retested Y-DNA from previous studies, concluded that a South Asian R1a1a origin was the most likely proposal amongst the various uncertain possibilities.[2]
On the other hand, other recent studies such as Zhao et al. (2009) continue to treat R1a in modern India as being at least partly due to immigration from the northwest associated with Indoeuropean languages and culture. One argument for this, as stated for example by Thanseem et al. (2006), is that this is implied by the uneven distribution pattern of R1a between castes and regions. Higher castes and more northerly Indian populations are considered to be more directly descended from the populations who brought Indoeuropean languages to India, and they tend to have higher levels of R1a than lower castes, and more southerly populations, while tribal castes and non Indoeuropean speaking groups tend to have the lowest frequencies of R1a. In order to explain exceptions to this pattern, these authors propose that R1a in India is also partly due to earlier movements of people from central Asia.”

Then, I decided to see this study of Zhao et al., which I did not know. The title is Presence of three different paternal lineages among North Indians: A study of 560 Y chromosomes. It concerns only North Indians, and two particular categories of North Indians: Brahmins and Muslims. We read in the introduction:
"India occupies a unique stage in human population evolution because one of the early waves of migration of modern humans was out of Africa, through West Asia, into India (Cann 2001). More recently, about 15 000–10 000 years before present (ybp), when agriculture developed in the Fertile Crescent region that extended from Israel through Northern Syria to Western Iran, there was an eastward wave of human migration (Renfrew 1989; Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1994). It has been postulated that this wave brought the Dravidian language into India (Renfrew 1989). Subsequently, the Indo-European (Aryan) language was introduced into India from the Iranian plateau approximately 4000–3000 ybp, where this language was probably brought by pastoral nomads from the Central Asian steppes (Renfrew 1989). Therefore, linguistic evidence suggests that West Asia and Central Asia were two major geographical sources contributing to the Indian gene pool."
So, we find the 'postulate' of the arrival of the Dravidians with agriculture from West Asia, and the 'probability' of Indo-Europeans as pastoral nomads from the Central Asian steppes. These old theories (supported here by a publication of Renfrew, accepted as authority for unknown reasons), become at the end 'linguistic evidence' which can even suggest the major sources of the Indian gene pool. This entails that linguistic speculation can give some proof about the origin of the major part of the Indian gene pool, which is not justified.    

Another significant passage:
"Furthermore, it has been reported (Cordaux et al. 2004) that the Y lineages of Indian castes are more closely related to Central Asians than to Indian tribal populations, suggesting that Indian caste groups are primarily the descendants of Indo-European migrants."
Thus, it is taken for granted that this connection means that the members of Indian castes come from Central Asia (and not that there could also be some movement from India to Central Asia), and there is an equation Central Asians=Indo-Europeans, but what do we know of the languages of Central Asia in the II millennium BC and before? Presently, many men belonging to the Hg R in Central Asia speak Turkic languages, as is acknowledged by the study itself:
"Haplogroup R reflects the impact of expansion and migration of Indo-European pastoralists from Central Asia, thus linking haplogroup frequency to specific historical events (Sengupta et al. 2006). Haplogroup R is widely spread in central Asian Turkic-speaking populations and in eastern European Finno-Ugric and Slavic speakers and is less frequent in populations from the Middle East and Sino-Tibetan regions of northern China (Karafet et al. 1999; Underhill et al. 2000)."
It is really strange that the fundamental study by Sengupta is cited to support the idea that Hg R reflects a migration of Indo-European pastoralists from Central Asia, since the main thesis of that study is that Central Asian impact in South Asia is really limited (italics are mine):
"The ages of accumulated microsatellite variation in the majority of Indian haplogroups exceed 10,000–15,000 years, which attests to the antiquity of regional differentiation. Therefore, our data do not support models that invoke a pronounced recent genetic input from Central Asia to explain the observed genetic variation in South Asia. R1a1 and R2 haplogroups indicate demographic complexity that is inconsistent with a recent single history. Associated microsatellite analyses of the high-frequency R1a1 haplogroup chromosomes indicate independent recent histories of the Indus Valley and the peninsular Indian region. Our data are also more consistent with a peninsular origin of Dravidian speakers than a source with proximity to the Indus and with significant genetic input resulting from demic diffusion associated with agriculture."
"The pattern of clustering does not support the model that the primary source of the R1a1-M17 chromosomes in India was Central Asia or the Indus Valley via Indo-European speakers. Further, the relative position of the Indian tribals (fig. 6), the high microsatellite variance among them (table 12), the estimated age (14 KYA) of microsatellite variation within R1a1 (table 11), and the variance peak in western Eurasia (fig. 4) are entirely inconsistent with a model of recent gene flow from castes to tribes and a large genetic impact of the Indo-Europeans on the autochthonous gene pool of India. Instead, our overall inference is that an early Holocene expansion in northwestern India (including the Indus Valley) contributed R1a1-M17 chromosomes both to the Central Asian and South Asian tribes prior to the arrival of the Indo-Europeans. The results of our more comprehensive study of Y-chromosome diversity are in agreement with the caveat of Quintana-Murci et al. (2001, p. 541), that “more complex explanations are possible,” rather than their simplistic conclusion that HGs J and R1a1 reflect demic expansions of southwestern Asian Dravidian-speaking farmers and Central Asian Indo-European–speaking pastoralists."  
So, even the 'postulate' of the West Asian 'agricultural' origin of Dravidians is refuted by Sengupta's study, which appears to accept without discussion the traditional theory about the coming of Indo-Europeans, but gives no genetic support for it. Actually, this 'early Holocene expansion in northwestern India' could have something to do with the diffusion of Indo-European languages, in connection with the emergence of agriculture, which is placed in the Early Holocene (see here). The only thing said about an origin of the Hg R out of South Asia is this:
"The phylogeography of the HG R*-M207 spans Europe, the Caucasus, West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia; therefore, the hypothesis that there is an HG R*-M207 expansion locus central to all these regions is both plausible and parsimonious. This is consistent with our observation that HG R*-M207 is observed at a maximum of 3.4% frequency in Baluchistan and Punjab regions, whereas, in inner India, it is 0.3%."
So, it can even be that all Hg R comes from North-western South Asia. More recently, a study by Firasat et al. (2007), R* has been found in 10.3% (10/97) of a sample of Burusho (speakers of an isolated non-IE language, Burushaski), 6.8% (3/44) of a sample of Kalash, and 1.0% (1/96) of a sample of Pashtuns from northern Pakistan.
But Zhao's study appears to ignore all this, and finally asserts:
"we suggest that Central Asia is the most likely source of North Indian Y lineage considering the historical and genetic background of North India (Karve 1968; Balakrishnan 1978)."
So, it seems that publications of the '60s and '70s give us the final authority on the genetic background of North India.
Now, we do not want to deny genetic differences between castes and tribals, but there are other explanations. Castes developed in the agrarian civilization of Northern India (and present Pakistan), and then spread with Brahmanism to Eastern and Southern India. So, it is to be expected that Hgs more connected with Western and Central Asia like J and R are more frequent in castes than in tribals. 
J because it is originally connected with West Asian agriculturists, and R because it is probably connected with agriculturists, pastoralists and metal-workers from North-western South Asia and maybe also Afghanistan, which is an ancient area of Neolithic and rich in R1a.    
And if some Turks of Central Asia have a high frequency of R1a, it can be because of the migrations of Iranians and Tocharians in those regions from the South and West. Turks arrived later from North-Eastern Asia, with some Mongolic features which are not a legacy of R1a, and mingled with the previous Indo-European speakers.

I would like to add another note about the relation between India and Central Asia. It has been generally thought that horse came to India from Central Asia, where it was firstly domesticated 5500 years ago in Kazakhstan. But a very recent discovery in Arabia can change the picture. In the site of Al-Magar in Central Arabia archaeologists have found remains of a Neolithic civilization dated back to 9000 years ago (see here, cfr. here). In that site, there are many images, drawn and sculpted, of the horse.
One is this, around 1 m. in length, with possible signs of harness. A cave drawing appears to show a man riding a horse. The shape of these horses reminds the famous Arabian horse... now, Indian horse breeds like Marwari and Kathiawari are akin to Arabian horses, and there is an interesting detail which was noted by Rajaram (I am not a follower of Rajaram, but useful remarks are always welcome): Vedic horse (see RV I.162.18) has 34 ribs, differently from the average Central Asian horse, who has 36 ribs. Now, what is not observed by Rajaram, as far as I know, is that the Arabian horse has typically 17 pairs of ribs (see here). Moreover, horse in Indian mythology comes from the ocean, and at Ajanta we find a picture with horses brought in a ship (see here). So, maybe the first horses came to India directly from Arabia and not from Central Asia, at least in the 3rd millennium BC, when they appear in Harappan sites (often near the coast)...  


  1. The war has started hasnt it?
    1. The main war is between zhivotovskys evolutionary method vs. The genealogical method.
    The problem with the genealogical method is that it struggles when the STR variance is high, but zhivotovsky method is also not applicable to every population(eg. Basques)
    2. The remains of arabian horses again indicates south to be more older than north.
    3. The uneven distribution of R1a1 and to judge it as intrusional to the subcontinent have some serious baseful problems as India always was and is made of many local endogamic tribes which can go to archaic times, but again the idea that Caste was racial is furious as many low born people have also got great position like vasishtha, vyaasa etc. We also know how visvamitra became a brahmin from king and out siders like yavanas even jews were given the honour to become brahmins!! However, to be rational i dont think there is a single country or haplogroup which have smooth distribution over all!!! Specially If there is various tribes for sure!
    4.On R-ydna i want to say if its successor R1a1 is invasional to India then how its brother R2a have almost 0-5% frequency outside?? and how some of the pocket tribes in india have M-73 or R1b1a whereas europe and eurasia have the later R1b1b M-269 as almost all?. Kivisild(2003) clearly said Southern-western asia to be the seed of R Y-DNA.
    5.The farmana DNA will answer many of these genetic questions directly.
    6. It is obvious that academics and their fans are desperate to prove their theory as a fact, so it will not matter if a paper is 40 or 60 or even 100 years old if it supports their view.
    They have always lacked the broader and point to point neutral attitude.

  2. Thank you for your rich comment, but what do you mean when you write that Vasistha and Vyasa were low born?
    The case of R2a actually is very significant, and its presence in Central Asia and Caucasus can be a sign of the ancient movements from South Asia. Its high frequency among the Kurmanji speakers of Georgia (11 on 25!) is very interesting, because they are Kurds, and not only Kurds speak an Iranian language, but the homeland of Kurds is in the area of the Mitanni kingdom...

  3. Dear Giacomo, Vyasa was actually from fishermen family and vasishthas fathers identity was unknown, i have read the facts from the trustable works of Swami vivekananda.
    On kurds R2a: I think the whole southern-western asia was a part of the broad Vedic and pre-Avestan culture whom had lots of sharings with each other and the culture was diffused to the northern areas which led to rise scythian, tocharian and others later.
    Now i want to say about some of the changes of aryan identity by historic discoveries.
    1. SANSKRIT discovered: India became the cradle of aryan(i.e.Indo-european) civilization which once was of elite white people.
    2.Hittite/Mitanni discovered: aryans became the blonde invaders from caucasian valley whom civilized negrito-mongoloids India with urbanization/ literature everything.
    3.IVC/ISC discovered: civilized aryans became blonde barbaric pastoral nomads whom destroyed the native advanced civilization of black skinned "Dravidians" and estabilished "pastoral" vedic culture.
    4.BMAC discovered: aryans became semi-mixed people and wrote the earliest parts of RV there and moved to india later!
    Now as kennedy have shown the skeleton structure of indus basin was constant from 4600-800 b.c.! and i belive that upto 800 b.c. The Janapadas were well estabilished and if we see the depth of Itihaasic literatures of vedas,brahmanas,sutras,mahabharata,ramayanas etc then it is impossible to say that "aryans entered" india on that time.
    I also think that chanakyas(370-287 b.c) neeti and arthasashtra can work as a standard unit as its sanskrit is surely of 4th-3rd century b.c! So with comparing it other books can give us a scientific date for sanskrit and vedic devbhasa!
    What do you think?
    Have a good time.

  4. For exmaple of how can we use chanakyas sanskrit:
    1. Ramayana is been theorised to be newer than Mahabharata dated from 5th century b.c., now there is a famous quote from chanakya:
    "Ati darpey hata lanka ati maaney cha kaurava. Ati daney Balirbaddha ati sarvamtantya garhitam."
    meaning is "Too much pride destroyed lanka too much prestige did kauravas(kurus). Too much givings made Bali trapped (in underworld) too much is always to be leaved"
    As you can see from a historic man chanakya who lived in 370-283 b.c makes the notion of "newer" Ramayanas lanka before the "older" Mahabharatas kurus!
    Can we sense something here?
    2. Gita is been also
    "dated" from 500 b.c to 200 a.d!
    but if we simply check the complexity of Gitas sanskrit and Chankyas then we will find that Gitas one is much more complex and tough to spell! The entropy of Bhagvads sanskrit is way higher than 4th-3rd century b.c. Sanskrit of Chanakya! how is that negotiable???.
    As we know words become complex to easy to say as time passes!.

  5. How can we use chanakyas sanskrit II: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakshmi#Evolution_and_legends
    as we can see Vishnus wife Lakshmi have no direct origins in vedas or brahmanas but here again from chanakyas qoute:
    "Chala Lakshmi chala pranaaschalam jivita yauvanam, chala chaley cha samsarey dharma eko hi nischala"
    meaning: wealth goes and come, life and youth goes from living, in the world of coming and going Dharma alone is constant.
    It is far more direct here that the word Lakshmi is used as a matter of wealth as the goddess is now of.

  6. Actually, languages do not follow the laws of physics. They can have evolution and devolution, because are cultural products. I think that Chaucer's English is simpler than Shakespeare's English, and the ancient Vedic prose of Brahmanas is very simple. Moreover, different literary genres have different styles. So, it is not surprising that a political treatise has a simpler language than a philosophical poem like the Gita. Some scholars have argued that Arthasastra treatise has been completed in the 2nd century AD. But if it is really of the 4th/3rd cent. BC, this reference to the stories of Ramayana and MBh. is very interesting, proving that those stories were already popular at that age, even if we do not know in which form.

  7. About Lakshmi, this word is already present in RV (meaning '(auspicious) mark'), in AV means good luck, prosperity, and a special goddess named Shri (which, as you know, is a name of Lakshmi), is already in the Shatapatha Brahmana.

  8. Yes thats tempting, but it is sure that chanakya clearly mentioned lanka and sita also but at the end we dont know the truth but can only speculate and they are 2 types of speculations.
    1.political/biassed: largely dominanted by academics.
    2. Neutral: which is scientific, example: you.
    Now on R1a wiki it is said "Higher castes and more northerly Indian populations are considered to be more directly descended from the populations who brought Indoeuropean languages to India, and they tend to have higher levels of R1a than lower castes, and more southerly populations, while tribal castes and non Indoeuropean speaking groups tend to have the lowest frequencies of R1a. {{In order to explain exceptions to this pattern, these authors propose that R1a in India is also partly due to earlier movements of people from central Asia."}}
    can anyone give a sense what is the base of the highlighted suggestion?.

  9. Giacomo, here is a latest and very significant paper on Afghanistani archaeogenetics with ample relations to South asian genetics and population history.
    what to do you suggest?

  10. Very nice study, thank you! It confirms the kinship between Afghans and Indians, the movement from India to the West (which probably was also present in the historical period in Afghanistan), and suggests that East Europeans, Iranians, Afghans and Indians have a common origin, and they split with the Neolithic revolution. So, where should we put this origin? I would say: between Afghanistan and Baluchistan (Mehrgarh).

  11. Yes it is logically suggestive and can be the place where PIE originated! Again as can be seen practically R1a1a7 is atleast 4600y.o. In eurasia as evident in ancient DNA but its almost not found in India and As we know now in Afghanistan! Which again supports its migration from the South Central Asia where its parent clade R1a1a is most frequent, it is clear if R1a y-dna is connected with Vedic Aryas and their relatives which is factual due to its peaking frequency In Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Pastuns( pakth people of Rg veda) and even in many tribals both Indoeuropean and non! then South Central asia (the area around Sapta Sindh) was the seed of PIE.

  12. Now there are some recent researches which have tried to prove/support the Arya'n migration to India. Like:
    1. Stepanov et al. 2011.
    This paper concludes that the indian R1a1a is 5200-2600 years old and cognates with indoeuropean movements from steppe to India the steppe R1a1a is 10-12kyo! And the Central Asian is 7-9 kyo But the paper is probably not published yet. However there are few things.
    I. If Indian R1a1a is atmost 5200 years old then it cognates with the emergence of IVC/SSC not any migration!
    II. where are the factual evidences which suggests R1a1a carrying people came here rapidly and created the highest frequency from 3200-600b.c. As said in the paper?
    III. Corded Ware culture have R1a1a7 M458 from 2600 b.c. already! Why there is no sign of the young clade in Afghanistan and India almost which is atleast 1000 year old than the said aryan migration(1500bc) and is the dominant clade of R1a family in the steppe populations?
    The stepanov paper is a centrist one which have taken the theory as a sublime truth.
    2. Moorjani et al.
    This paper says ANI ASI admixture started rapidly 3500-1200 years ago which they found overlapping when "the indoeuropean languages first began to be spoken in the subcontinent" but they are some problems
    a. They clearly mentioned in the paper that there were ANI ASI admixtures before 1500b.c.
    b. They didnt show the age of the ANI component here and when Metspalu et al. 2011 Tried to score the age Of Ancestral North Indian component in this AJHG paper
    they found it to be atleast 12500 year old in India which blowed away the 'putative' Aryan migration/invasion from 1500b.c!
    Now I don't know what will be next:-).

  13. Thank you for the comment and the links, which I had already seen. About the first paper, you cite dates that are not present in the abstract, have you read the full paper? In the abstract, it is said that the Central Asian/South Siberian cluster arrived into Hindustan 3,9 +/- 1,3 ky, which can be an effect of migrations of Shaka, Turks and other Central Asian populations, without disturbing Indo-Aryans. The first date of 3900 years ago matches very good with the period of change of climate which brought some Central Asians to the Indus Valley region, at the end of the Mature Harappan. But what about the 'Indo-Pakistani' cluster? The conclusion seems really hypothetical: "Probably, the primary center of the generation of diversity and expansion of R1a1a was the territory of the Eastern European Steppe." There are some very critical remarks on an anthropological forum: http://s1.zetaboards.com/anthroscape/single/?p=668090&t=4486895

    About the second paper, a stronger admixture after 1500 BC matches with the end of the Harappan civilization, the general abandonment of Northwestern India and the spread of the Indo-Aryans towards the east and probably also the South. Why thinking that the ANI people arrived in Northern India at that age? They were already there, I remember that the first study speaking about ANI component said that they arrived 45000 years ago...

  14. Very sorry for the wrong dates:-( yes your view is factual and any guy who believes in directness will say a big yeah! and the Thangaraj quote of ANI to be 45kyo in India is strangely not used or said in any study! What is the reason? Can you guess? Did he joked it? A veteran scientist? Or the news paper fraud? God knows and surely him and the reporter;)
    oh yes here is guess what another pill from Afghanistan. http://www.nature.com/ejhg/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ejhg201259a.html
    Its R1a info.

  15. Thank you for the new pill, also from the abstract is reaffirmed the relation of Afghans with South Asia, and is also interesting the allusion to Khazars. About Thangaraj, actually in his published study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2842210/ there is not yet a date for the admixture of ANI and ASI. Maybe the guess of 45/40k BP had not a strong basis... But in a susequent study by Metspalu et al. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002929711004885) it is clearly recognized that "Modeling of the observed haplotype diversities suggests that both Indian ancestry components are older than the purported Indo-Aryan invasion 3,500 YBP." And there is also stated that the ANI component "is spread at comparable frequency and haplotype diversity in populations of South and West Asia and the Caucasus"

  16. Annoyed Tamilian22 July 2013 at 08:29

    Csn you people please stick to something scientific other than the useage of the term "Dravidian".

    You are so unscientific that you are now trying to inject meaning into the term and searching for any if you have to in order to do so. Instead of accidentally coming across it.

  17. Dear Annoyed Tamilian, so which term would you use for the Dravidian languages or for the speakers of them?

  18. another italian obsession with anything india or hindu to eventually in the end reject and curse india .

  19. What are you alluding to? What is this Italian obsession? I have no interest in rejecting and cursing India...