The genetic origin of Indians

onge2.jpgThe question of national and individual origins has a corporeal and concrete dimension, and a mythic and symbolic one. This is evident in the religious traditions which most of the world’s populations adhere to. Israel is both literally and figuratively a descent group. They issue from the tribes descended from the sons of Jacob. Those who convert into the Jewish religion customarily also convert into the Jewish nation, and so figuratively share the same descent. Similarly, among Muslims there is a particular prestige given over to the descendants of Muhammad, the Sayyids. Within Hinduism the importance of descent groups manifests generally in terms of the endogamy prevalent among South Asians, and also in specific cases, such as with gotras. The fundamental atomic basis of Confucian religious morality is arguably filial piety. Confucius’ descendants still play a prominent role in modern China promoting his ideas.

But descent also has a scientific and concrete aspect. Sometimes the mythic and scientific align. It does seem that the notional male line descendants of Genghis Khan are actually descended from one individual who flourished ~1,000 years ago. In other instances the connection is complex. Jews do seem to share common descent, but it is also evident that they have mixed greatly amongst the nations. And sometimes the inferences generated by science may warrant a reconsideration of treasured myths. Most reasonable people will probably accede to the clear overwhelming descent of South Asian Muslims from the native people of the Indian subcontinent, but the genetics clinches that. True, there is quite often a clear trace of Middle Eastern and African ancestry among the Muslims of South Asia above and beyond what may be found amongst non-Muslims, but often this component is dwarfed by a minor East Asian element which seems to warrant no cultural memory! In this post I will not address specific cases as much as a general framework. I have been talking about genetics, and to a lesser extent South Asian genetics, since 2004 on this weblog. But we know so much more now than we did then. I thought it was time for me to sit down and actually condense the current state of knowledge as best as I can. I will not address the biomedical dimension of human population genetics in this post, only the historical ones.

First, a few notes. I understand that this is a controversial and fraught topic. One major issue I have when I bring up this area of knowledge in a South Asian forum is that people accuse me of promoting models which I barely understand. What I mean is that often I have to go and look things up to figure out what people are actually accusing me of implying. I didn’t grow up in South Asia, so I don’t know the political-cultural battles too well. Please be explicit and clear in your comments, and don’t assume I can connect the dots!  Also, I’m going to apologize to some of you ahead of time for deleting your comments. I am going to track this thread and actually answer questions from interested parties, which means that I will need to shave off the noise. I won’t apologize to the people whose comments I delete because they address my comment moderation policy. Finally, I am going to use the word “Indian” from this point onward where in other cases I’d use “South Asian.” On the historical time scales that I’ll be addressing our ancestors were considered Indians (“Hindus”) by the rest of the world, and this seems a time where this clarity of terminology should trump contemporary geopolitical valences.

Why does any of this history matter? I have a hard time addressing this insofar as I have weak conditional effects based on my ancestry. By this, I mean that the details of my ancestry don’t matter much to me, except as a source of amusement or interest. I hope you don’t view me any differently if you find out that I seem to have a close genetic relationship to South Indian Dalits! (I do, probably far closer than you) You can also download a raw text file of my 23andMe v3 genotype if you want to poke around (I’ve made it public domain). But this sort of information matters for other people a great deal. I am, for example, kind of tired of listening to brown people talk about their non-Indian ancestry, whether it be Syrian Christians who claim Jewish antecedents, Jatts who claim Scythian antecedents, or Muslims who claim Arab, Turk, or Persian origins. From what I can tell reviewing the genetic data there is a grain of truth to many of these claims, but most brown people have ancestry that is overwhelmingly…brown. That’s pretty evident on our faces.

Second, I do know that finding ancestry from various groups can change how people view themselves. To give a personal example I have a friend who is a white American whose maternal grandparents were very racist against black people. After a detailed inspection of his genome it’s pretty clear that he’s ~5% African in ancestry. Some of his paternal relatives have been genotyped. This black ancestry doesn’t show up on that branch of his family tree, so by elimination it seems likely that it was his anti-black side which had black ancestry (my friend told me that as a child he thought his maternal grandfather did look a touch black, an observation triggered by their vocal racism). A story is here, which he is only beginning to explore. There is something similar in my own family. My maternal grandmother comes from a family with some distant Middle Eastern ancestry. This obviously a point of pride. But a closer look at my mother’s genome makes two things clear: first, she does have a very small proportion of Middle Eastern ancestry. This could be noise, but it seems associated with a smaller African component, which is not uncommon among people of Muslim origin in the Indian subcontinent from what I have seen. But, a much larger fraction of my mother’s genome exhibits clear derivation from Southeast Asia, perhaps from an Austro-Asiatic or Tibeto-Burman group. But there is no mention of this in my family’s oral history.

But enough! Brass tacks, who are we as brown folk? The map at the top of this post gets at a big part of the answer. It was generated by the blogger behind The Jatt Gene using results from the Harappa Ancestry Project. It shows the rough distribution of a genetic element associated with the peoples of the Andaman Islands, and found from Pakistan to Vietnam to Indonesia. What does it mean? The Harappa Ancestry Project has thousands of individuals from hundreds of populations, and hundreds of thousands of genetic markers per person. This data set was then run through the program ADMIXTURE, which breaks apart the ancestry of individuals contingent upon the variation you throw into the program and the number of ancestral populations you want it to generate, the latter defined by the parameter “K.” This is just software, a dumb algorithm, so it needs to be used with care. But to give a concrete example, consider that you have three populations in your data set:

  • White Americans
  • Black Americans
  • Nigerians

You tell ADMIXTURE to break apart the genomes of the individuals in your data set into at most two components. Two clusters if you will. The result in this case is going to be straightforward:

  • The White Americans will be in one cluster
  • The Nigerians in the other
  • The black Americans will be a mix, with an average admixture fraction of 80% and 20%

The program is easy to interpret in this case, as we have a history, as well as other lines of evidence, to interpret these results. One component is clearly African ancestry, and the other is European. African Americans are on average 80% African and 20% European. So ADMIXTURE nicely popped out with that result.

What does ADMIXTURE tells us about South Asians? First, it depends on what reference populations you use and how many clusters you want it to generate. I’ve addressed this detail before. But the Harappa Ancestry Project has lots of Indian populations. What you immediately see is that at higher K values a “South Asian” cluster breaks out. This cluster has the highest frequencies in southern and eastern India. It drops off as one moves west to Iran and east to Southeast Asia. Case closed?

Not quite. ADMIXTURE is a computer program. It can give strange results. It does not tell us reality, it tells us the the result of an algorithm. The “South Asian” cluster exhibits some peculiarities in terms of how it relates to other groups which can not be easily explained by history. I won’t get into the details of that, but move to the main issue: deeper analytic techniques as well as moving up K’s allows the “South Asian” cluster to fractionate into two dominant components. The major insight was unveiled nearly two years ago in a paper published in Nature, Reconstructing Indian population history:

India has been underrepresented in genome-wide surveys of human variation. We analyse 25 diverse groups in India to provide strong evidence for two ancient populations, genetically divergent, that are ancestral to most Indians today. One, the ‘Ancestral North Indians’ (ANI), is genetically close to Middle Easterners, Central Asians, and Europeans, whereas the other, the ‘Ancestral South Indians’ (ASI), is as distinct from ANI and East Asians as they are from each other. By introducing methods that can estimate ancestry without accurate ancestral populations, we show that ANI ancestry ranges from 39-71% in most Indian groups, and is higher in traditionally upper caste and Indo-European speakers. Groups with only ASI ancestry may no longer exist in mainland India. However, the indigenous Andaman Islanders are unique in being ASI-related groups without ANI ancestry. Allele frequency differences between groups in India are larger than in Europe, reflecting strong founder effects whose signatures have been maintained for thousands of years owing to endogamy. We therefore predict that there will be an excess of recessive diseases in India, which should be possible to screen and map genetically.

(ungated copy of the paper)

Using public data sets multiple bloggers have replicated the general shape of these results. The Harappa Ancestry Project has several populations from the Andaman Islands, and at K = 11 a component which is fixed in the Onge tribe correlates almost perfectly with the ANI/ASI ratios from the above paper.

Here’s the short of it: Indians are hybrids between two ancient and very distinctive groups. If you want to know more details, I posted about it on my science blog. The top line is that the ANI is very much like Middle Eastern and European populations. In fact, ANI seems no closer to the ASI than these two other groups. Who were the ASI? The Andaman Islanders are their distant cousins, separated for tens of thousands of years. But the most current genomics shows a clear submerged substrate from the Indian subcontinent into Southeast Asia. Coincidentally Southeast Asia has been strongly influenced by Indian culture. The ASI were closer to the populations of East Asia than to those of West Eurasia. Probably in part because East Asian populations are daughter groups from the modern humans who entered the Indian subcontinent from Africa tens of thousands of years ago. But the ASI are also quite distinct from East Asians. In some ways they represent a southern Eurasian population which seems to have been submerged within the last 10,000 years.

You can see shadows of their influence in this three dimensional visualization of genetic variation. Each point below is an individual projected onto a three dimensional space which is generated by the three largest components of variance within the data. The geographical clustering is pretty straightforward, but notice the “kink” in the South and Southeast Asians. That’s ASI’s shadow:

I just threw a lot out there for you to process. These results are pretty robust though. They’re based on hundreds of thousands of markers and there’s good population coverage. But their interpretation is more problematic. That’s because we don’t have records from prehistory. We are literally grappling with shadows. So let me address a few possibilities, and give my own take. All of these assertions are far less robust than what has come before because they are synthetic. They go beyond genomics, though they operate within the constraints that the new genomics imposes upon us.

  • Who were the ANI? I think they derive from a set of farming populations from between the Black Sea and the Caspian. The reason I think this is that there are suggestive associations with populations around the Caucasus with Indian groups, even more than with Iranians! This sort of “geographic leapfrog” requires a macrohistorical explanation.

  • Were the ANI Aryans? I don’t think so. The admixture event with ASI is very old. Likely within the last 10,000 years, but probably older than 4,000 years (I know this from personal communication with one of the researchers who attempted linkage disequilibrium decay based time-from-admixture tests). Some of the Caucasian groups which have an affinity with Indians are not Indo-European speaking.

  • So why did ANI arrive in India? I think it has to do with farming. Recent evidence is now pointing to massive reconfigurations of genetic variation across the world in the past 10,000 years. We have semi-historical evidence for nearly total replacement in Japan and Africa. But there is now a great deal of circumstantial evidence that the same occurred in Europe, at least once, and probably more than once. The ANI were one of the great farming Diasporas to pulse out of the Near East.

  • But why didn’t they replace ASI? I am not an archaeologist, so I am on weak ground here insofar as I’m relying heavily on others who know this stuff. But I suspect that the indigenous populations of the Indian subcontinent themselves had started an independent transition to farming. The ANI-ASI synthesis, both genetic and cultural, was that of two incipient farming toolkits. In contrast the relatives of the ASI in Southeast Asia did not enter into an independent phase of farming, and were marginalized to a far greater extent by populations from southern China (the exceptions being the Papuans). The Andaman Islanders then are exceptions, and not representative in their hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

  • What about the Aryans? The data from Europe is far thicker than from the Indian subcontinent, and there there is evidence for multiple movements and cultural influences. I believe that the Indo-Aryans arrived later, and are a minor overlay upon the ANI-ASI synthesis (South Indian tribals have 30-40% ANI, indicating how old and thoroughgoing the synthesis was). Some speculative suggestions can be made from the genetic data in regards to a post-ANI West Eurasian influence which does not seem Middle Eastern. I will leave that for now because we just don’t have much to go on, though I do suggest that one keep track of The Jatt Gene. I think the answers we’ve long been waiting for will be coming soon, especially with the imminent release of Indian populations from the 1000 Genomes.

  • The northwest-southeast axis is the dominant genetic story of India, but not the only one. There is a northeast-southwest axis. It seems probable that the Munda are relative newcomers as well. Though mostly Indian, there is an element of ancestry in these populations which suggests relatively recent affinities with East Asians. This is probably at least part of my personal story, so I take an interest in this “third wheel” component of our heritage.

  • South Indian Brahmins claim northern Indo-Aryan origins. The genetics certainly bear this out, albeit with some probable admixture with the local substrate. There are many specific questions which can be asked and answered. The Cochin and Bene Israel Jews of the west coast of India clearly do have highly elevated Middle Eastern components of ancestry, though they are highly admixed with the native populations. My own question: do the Nasrani Christians truly descend from Jews? I would have dismissed this outright a few months ago, but I am not sure sure now. The western coast of India seems to have long-standing connections to southern Arabia, so we need to flesh out these patterns in more detail.

What’s the biggest surprise from these results? For me I think it is the deep and incredibly thorough biological synthesis which characterizes the Indian subcontinent. We all know that there is a big difference between a Kashmiri Pandit and an Adivasi from South India. But about one third of the Pandit’s ancestry is “Ancestral South Indian,” which is almost absent outside of the subcontinent. And about one third of the Adivasi’s ancestry is “Ancestral North Indian,” which connects this individual with the populations which span the Atlantic, to the Urals, to the Sahara. The past is a strange and mysterious land. But the veil of ignorance is slowly lifting….

Note: Some might wonder why I didn’t address uniparental lineages. The post is long, that’s why. The short of it is that ASI seems to have a much stronger impact on maternal lineages, while ANI is more dominant in paternal ones. Additionally, among the Munda the East Asian element is far more frequent on the paternal lineages than the maternal ones. This indicates a consistent trend of deep time events of sex-biased migration.

89 thoughts on “The genetic origin of Indians

  1. Razib, A lot to digest there. Isn’t it interesting that so (relatively) much ANI got into the tribals? That’s a lot of mixing between settled and not-so-settled groups. Is that anomolous if we think globally (that is, I doubt that much non-Ainu admixture with the Ainu.)? Or is that more the norm globally. Great post!

  2. That’s a lot of mixing between settled and not-so-settled groups. Is that anomolous if we think globally (that is, I doubt that much non-Ainu admixture with the Ainu.)? Or is that more the norm globally.

    it is not expected. but, i think that’s because we don’t have a proper conception of the origin of the adivasis. they’re perceived to be the aboriginals, the ur-indians. i think that it is pretty obvious that they’re derived from the same ethnogenesis process as most brown folk. perhaps they were early “frontier” groups which were later marginalized? it is not uncommon for farming groups to transition back to facultative hunting, gathering, etc., if pushed into suboptimal land, or, if there is a massive land surplus.

    there is less uncertainty about the munda. these groups clearly have an east asian connection which is recent. and, it is possible that they were the first intensive rice agriculturalists in eastern south asia. but the rich bottom-lands are now dominated by indo-european language speakers. why? how? some of it is probably demographic marginalization, but some of it is probably indo-europeanization. perhaps we bengalis who accepted indo-aryan culture became bengali and remained rice farmers in the lowlands, while those defeated munda who wished to maintain their distinctive traditions fled to the marginal lands?

  3. Razib,

    I have come across evidence indicating that the Aryans of the Rig Veda were not fighting Dravidians. They were actually fighting Persians.

  4. “The short of it is that ASI seems to have a much stronger impact on maternal lineages, while ANI is more dominant in paternal ones. Additionally, among the Munda the East Asian element is far more frequent on the paternal lineages than the maternal ones. This indicates a consistent trend of deep time events of sex-biased migration”

    I’m not any sort of trained scientist, or genealogist, but might that interesting tid-bit also point to the effects of invasion and warfare – males being slaughtered wholesale while women were captured?

    • might that interesting tid-bit also point to the effects of invasion and warfare – males being slaughtered wholesale while women were captured?

      I have studied early classical Tamil literature, and many of the poems from that era are about conquering kings and defeated kings (as one might expect). The custom then, as the literature references, is that able-bodied men from the defeated side were slaughtered, and the older men usually died on the long forced marches. Children were sold into slavery. The wives of the defeated kings were married to the conquerors, and the other women were given away as sexual slaves.

      I think this may be a wider trope than just in South India, and this may explain the wide admixture of ASI and ANI heredity over all of India. A lot of kings got pretty far in their conquering exploits…

  5. Right, we shouldn’t assume the tribals lived where and how they did in the 19th C. always! Maybe ANI came in slowly–so, mix at first, then the later, bulk of ANI marginalized the tribals? Would make a great novel.

    Is it also fair to surmise that there could have been major events that don’t show up in the genetic record (like, I’m guessing, British colonization)? Or, is the norm to think that in pre-history that wouldn’t have happened? I wonder how much archeology from prehistory is available in eastern/southern India?

  6. Aside from this prehistoric substrata of ANI/ASI there have been so many cross-migrations (west to south-east, north to south-east, north to west etc…) in the last 1000 years, 2000 years etc… that it all becomes very hard to track. The way I look at it, the brahmins and kshatriyas have always been a diaspora; the merchant communities(Hindus, Muslims, Jains) to a lesser extent and in more recent times and finally the dalits,adivasis and tribals who are most rooted to a place. I consider myself Indian (not Tamil, not Andhra, not Bengali etc…) –my family’s history and prehistory pretty much covers Kashmir to Kanyakumari (there is a strong chance my father’s people moved from Kashmir to the deepest South); coastal Maharashtra to coastal Andhra, Bengal to Gujarat. The US is the latest in what has been a 3000? year-old story of packing and unpacking.

  7. Who are the “Aryans” here anyway? My impression from prior reading was the word aryan is a more of a cultural identity rather than a genetic one, is that not correct?

  8. I would like to give my take on the whole Layers of migration into south Asia, Keeping aside the paleolithic migrants i would call the real indigenous people to be of Australoid (Negrito) and of Austric/Autro Asiatic (east Asian type) stock, These people were hunter gathers. Then came along some proto-Caucasoid groups from the north they brought with them a primitive form of agriculture, this group largely displaced the indigenous to mountainous areas and other pockets and most importantly they hybridized with the indigenous types over time, This proto-Caucasoid group should be called the Dravidian, A similar case outside of south-Asia would be the Ainu of Japan, they migrated into Japan and displaced and mixed with the other Indigenous people of Japan (probably also of Australoid and Austic in nature), today both the Dravidian’s and the Ainu are termed as the indigenous.

    Next wave was the Caucasoid people, they most probably came in waves as well, Historians agree that before the Indo-Aryan branch of languages entered South Asia the Dardic branch of languages existed, likewise it would be safe to assume that there were other Caucasoid groups migrating in before the Dardic speaking groups ie the Kalash. IA languages must have absorbed the other smiler languages of the broader category IE languages group.

    When the Dravidian migrated in they established themselves and prevented further back migration from the eastern front becasue they were a agricultural people, but they probably lacked advanced metallurgy and Iron works and the most importantly domesticated horse. Which the Invading Aryan tribes had, this is problem why the Dravidian was mostly displaced from the north of of the subcontinent, The big question is why couldn’t they furthest penetrate down south? The reason I would most favor is because of agricultural limitation. Thee Dravidian’s had time to adapt their agriculture to the humid tropical clime of the south, the Invading tribes bringing the agricultural methods of the Mediterranean clime was incompatible with the tropics. This the Aryan juggernaut stopped at a certain latitude, here i would used Jared diamonds analogy of white south African farmers, juggernauting there way from the southern Mediterranean type clime to the northern tropics where they had to stop. IN the case of Ainu the invading mongoloid east Asian took with them more advanced farming techniques (paddy field/irrigated vs dry farming) which was compatible throughout Japan.

    I believe this theory is mostly floated around amateur anthropological groups, The question is would the HAP data confirm?

  9. “Finally, I am going to use the word “Indian” from this point onward where in other cases I’d use “South Asian.” On the historical time scales that I’ll be addressing our ancestors were considered Indians (“Hindus”) by the rest of the world, and this seems a time where this clarity of terminology should trump contemporary geopolitical valences.”

    Who was this “rest of the world” that imposed the identity “Indian” on my ancestors? Did my ancestors embrace this identity voluntarily or were they coerced to be “Indians” by default because the “rest of the world” imposed that identity on them? Where did the boundary “Indian” begin and end? And why shouldn’t “contemporary geopolitical valences” question the “historical timeline” that emphasized “brownness” and minimized “blackness” and “whiteness” and everything in between?

  10. Atomicfunk, I was wondering if you could point me at the poems. From my admittedly brief reading of the purananooru, I did not get the impression that the wholesale male slaughter/female slavery was common. I thought the captured king got the chop, people were left mostly alone.

    • try purananuru 23 for an interesting scene of defeated kings’ sons begging forgiveness. also purananuru 112 for the story of Pari’s daughters. a more modern poem that coalesces these stories try சு. வில்வரத்தினம்’s நிலவின் எதிரொலி from 1980. also this info comes supported from my prof. who has read much more extensively than I have.

      • This is pura nanooru 112. I don’t see anything of the sort you mentioned

        அற்றைத் திங்கள் அவ்வெண் ணிலவின் எந்தையும் உடையேம் ; எம்குன்றும் பிறர்கொளார் இற்றைத் திங்கள் இவ்வெண் ணிலவின் வென்றெறி முரசின் வேந்தர்எம் குன்றும் கொண்டார்யாம் எந்தையும் இலமே.

        என்பது அப்பாட்டு. இதன் கருத்து வருமாறு:

        “மூவேந்தரும் முற்றுகை இட்டிருந்த அந்த நிலாக் காலத்தின் 
        

        வெண்மையான நிலா ஒளியில் எங்கள் தந்தையை நாங்கள் பெற்றிருந்தோம். எங்களுடைய மலையையும் பிறர் கொள்ளவில்லை; எங்களிடமே இருந்தது. இந்த நிலாக் காலத்தின் வெண்மையான நிலா ஒளியில் வென்று ஒலிக்கும் முரசினைக் கொண்ட வேந்தர்கள் எம்முடைய மலையைக் கொண்டார். நாங்கள் எங்கள் தந்தையையும் இழந்தோம்”,

        மூவேந்தர் ஒன்று கூடித் தம் தந்தையை வஞ்சித்துக் 
        

        கொன்றதை உணர்த்த வென்றெறி முரசின் வேந்தர் என இகழ்ச்சியாற் குறித்தனர்.

          • pura nanooru 112

            http://learnsangamtamil.wordpress.com/purananuru/

            English translation looks quite ordinary –

            Last month under that white moon We had our father and nobody had taken our hill; this month under that white moon, the kings who attacked and won are beating their victory drums, they took our hill, we don’t have our father. Translated by Vaidehi


            But noway this translates into assertions made by the commenter about killing of youth, taking sex slaves etc.. Pura nanooru 23 is similar..

  11. first, mad props to those who you are trying to get smarter instead of seeming smarter. i’m learning a lot! to your questions, etc.

    I have come across evidence indicating that the Aryans of the Rig Veda were not fighting Dravidians. They were actually fighting Persians.

    can you give citations? i’ve heard of similar things, but i lack language fluency and literacy obviously, so i come at it through secondary sources. i think there’s a bias for us to impose dichotomous black-white bins on everything in the past, and we collapse its complexity. so it could be that a lot of the stuff in the vedas might refer to inter-tribal warfare between similar populations. OTOH, are there not references to the “son of the black woman,” referring to those warriors and priests who had indigenous mothers?

    I’m not any sort of trained scientist, or genealogist, but might that interesting tid-bit also point to the effects of invasion and warfare – males being slaughtered wholesale while women were captured?

    right. but it doesn’t need to be death. you can socially marginalize subject males, and eventually replace them genetically. this seems to have happened in much of latin america, for example. there is evidence this may have happened in england too (the anglo-saxon males replacing the celtic males).

    Maybe ANI came in slowly–so, mix at first, then the later, bulk of ANI marginalized the tribals? Would make a great novel.

    perhaps. honestly i don’t think it was that slow. the admixture seems way more even than it should be. my own suggestion is that there was a small ANI/ASI population which hit upon a really great agricultural system which expanded demographically. as they expanded that assimilated remaining ASI, producing the gradients of region and caste we see today.

    Is it also fair to surmise that there could have been major events that don’t show up in the genetic record (like, I’m guessing, British colonization)? Or, is the norm to think that in pre-history that wouldn’t have happened? I wonder how much archeology from prehistory is available in eastern/southern India?

    right. the muslims do show up, but barely. as i said, muslim south asians are overwhelmingly indigenous, but in much of north india you can detect mid-east admixture which seems recent at 0-5%. but more importantly, there are very low levels of african admixture across many pakistani populations. this seems a clear artifact of the islamic era, when african soldiers arrived with the arab and later turco-mongol armies (purchased slaves).

    for archaeology, i would suggest:

    http://sheilamishra.wordpress.com

    Aside from this prehistoric substrata of ANI/ASI there have been so many cross-migrations (west to south-east, north to south-east, north to west etc…) in the last 1000 years, 2000 years etc… that it all becomes very hard to track. The way I look at it, the brahmins and kshatriyas have always been a diaspora; the merchant communities(Hindus, Muslims, Jains) to a lesser extent and in more recent times and finally the dalits,adivasis and tribals who are most rooted to a place.

    we need more genetic data coverage. brahmins in punjab seem to cluster with other punjabis like like jatts. they do not cluster with other indian brahmins, who do cluster with each other. so i think the model is more complex than even you’re suggesting.

    I consider myself Indian (not Tamil, not Andhra, not Bengali etc…) –my family’s history and prehistory pretty much covers Kashmir to Kanyakumari (there is a strong chance my father’s people moved from Kashmir to the deepest South);

    this is fine. but please note that there are signs of extremely long term endogamy in the genes of south asian populations, as well as local population structure. for example, my family tends to cluster with other bengalis (or oriyas). south asians show a lot of local population structure and clustering. this isn’t abnormal. most people marry those near them the world over. you can see village level population structure in parts of europe.

    My impression from prior reading was the word aryan is a more of a cultural identity rather than a genetic one, is that not correct?

    culture and genes have correlates (as do languages). there isn’t a hard & fast rule. cultural groups tend to intermarry, and so exhibit their own genetic distinctiveness. this occurs with jews for example, who have a very distinctive signature the world over (with a few exceptions, such as the black jews of ethiopia, who seem to be relatively recent converts or judaizers).

    I think this may be a wider trope than just in South India, and this may explain the wide admixture of ASI and ANI heredity over all of India. A lot of kings got pretty far in their conquering exploits…

    yes. but please remember that it need not be due to killing, or even extreme coercion. social status can make a huge difference, and over generations it can compound reproductive fitness of lineages.

    I believe this theory is mostly floated around amateur anthropological groups, The question is would the HAP data confirm?

    mithra, there is a lot of truth i think in some of what you say. but the details i’d disagree with. here are some

    1) i believe that there is an indigenous south asian agricultural tradition, from the non-caucasoid substrate. that is why i think there’s so much of that ancestry left over.

    2) the ‘austroloid’ stock has no real genetic relationship to australians (very, very, distant, not worth mentioning). these are ASI. also, the andaman islanders on sentinel who are not in contact with the rest of the world are not ‘negritos.’ they’re tall, and extremely fit. i think the ‘negrito’ phenomenon is just a function of sick hunter-gatherers who have a difficulty with agricultural diets and diseases.

    3) the austro-asiatics are not indigenous. there’s some good data on this, and their relationship with east asia is close, not distant. if you want me to be concrete, there’s a selection even which is recent in east asia, and austro-asiatics show signs of it. that means their last common ancestors with east asians is not old, but new. i think the austro-asiatic intrusion is contemporaneous with the aryans, and certainly post-dated the ANI/ASI fusion.

    Who was this “rest of the world” that imposed the identity “Indian” on my ancestors? Did my ancestors embrace this identity voluntarily or were they coerced to be “Indians” by default because the “rest of the world” imposed that identity on them? Where did the boundary “Indian” begin and end? And why shouldn’t “contemporary geopolitical valences” question the “historical timeline” that emphasized “brownness” and minimized “blackness” and “whiteness” and everything in between?

    i will delete future comments from you, because you see to be up to no good. but the quotes were funny. in any case, the persians named us as hindus. obviously brownz had some self-consciousness as to our distinctiveness, form the himalaya to ceylon, from the indus to bengal. those were the traditional boundaries, even if the ‘aryavarta’ was given special pride of place. this is not rocket science.

    • Razib wrote:

      can you give citations? i’ve heard of similar things, but i lack language fluency and literacy obviously, so i come at it through secondary sources. i think there’s a bias for us to impose dichotomous black-white bins on everything in the past, and we collapse its complexity. so it could be that a lot of the stuff in the vedas might refer to inter-tribal warfare between similar populations. OTOH, are there not references to the “son of the black woman,” referring to those warriors and priests who had indigenous mothers?

      Razib,

      My evidence comes mainly from studies that I have done on the Rig Veda. Therefore, it would qualify as a “primary source”. I will list the evidence below:

      1) EVIDENCE FROM THE VEDAS The Rig Veda states that the Aryans were fighting a tribe called the Dasas. They are also known by the names “Dasyu” and “Pani”. Book 7, Hymn 6 of the Rig Veda explicitly states where the Dasas went after they were defeated:

      1. PRAISE of the Asura, high imperial Ruler, the Manly One in whom the folk shall triumph- I laud his deeds who is as strong as Indra, and lauding celebrate the Fort-destroyer. 2 Sage, Sing, Food, Light,—they bring him from the mountain, the blessed Sovran of the earth and heaven. I decorate with songs the mighty actions which Agni, Fort-destroyer, did aforetime. 3 The foolish, faithless, rudely-speaking niggards, without belief or sacrifice or worship,— Far far sway hath Agni chased those Dasytis, and, in the cast, hath turned the godless westward.

      2) EVIDENCE FROM ETHNOGRAPHY If you look at the names of the various Dravidian tribes of the Indian subcontinent, you will find that none of the refer to themselves as “Dasas”. However, you WILL find Persian tribes that refer to themselves as “Dahae”. The Wikipedia article has some references on this.

      3) EVIDENCE FROM ZOROASTRIANISM Before the Islamic invasions, the people of Iran practiced a religion called Zoroastrianism. In this religion, the demons are referred to as “Devas” and the gods are referred to as “Ahuras”. The chief deity is referred to as “Ahura Mazda”, and he bears striking similarities to the Vedic deity Varuna. For example, both Varuna and Ahura Mazda are associated with the deity Mithra:

      2 O Asuras, O Varuṇa and Mitra, this hymn to you, like food, anew I offer. (Rig Veda 7.36)
      1. Ahura Mazda spake unto Spitama Zarathustra, saying: ‘Verily, when I created Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, O Spitama! I created him as worthy of sacrifice, as worthy of prayer as myself, Ahura Mazda. (Zend Avesta, Mihir Yast, Part 1)

      The similarities between Zoroastrianism and the Vedic religion indicates that one religion must have split off from the other at some point in ancient history. Interestingly enough, Zoroastrian scriptures state that the Persians came from a place called “Airyanem Vaejah“.

  12. Hey Razib, first off let me say Great posting. Your post was a great read and very interesting and did a great job providing links and showing your sources. But I have a question. I myself am not too knowledgeable about genetics and despite the various instructions you put up Im still a little confused and I would like to know how can I find out my own ancestral heritage?

  13. I would like to know how can I find out my own ancestral heritage?

    get genotyped. lots of companies out there. a few hundred dollars is what it’ll cost u.

  14. Oh ok, thank you. Hmm now I just gotta decide if spending a few hundred dollars on that is worth it lol

  15. my own suggestion is that there was a small ANI/ASI population which hit upon a really great agricultural system which expanded demographically. as they expanded that assimilated remaining ASI, producing the gradients of region and caste we see today.


    That’s really interesting, and very plausible. I’ve been weirded out on my trips back to India at how “aboriginal” the tribals seem, but you are helping me think more broadly on this–for example, re-marginalized, etc. Those sorts of stories do much better fit the genetic data, than just thinking of them as “forest-dwellers.” Thanks a lot for broadening my horizons.

  16. Razib:

    This is a tour de force in population genetics, my friend. Thanks. I’d like to contribute to this discussion, hopefully, in a productive way.

    TTCUSM: “I have come across evidence indicating that the Aryans of the Rig Veda were not fighting Dravidians. They were actually fighting Persians.”

    There were no Persians when the Aryans came to India around 1700 BC. Aryans only migrated to Iran around 1000 BC. Therefore, the pre-Aryan population of Iran were NOT Persians. This is akin to referring to pre-Columbian people where I live as “Bostonians.” And, “YES”, the Aryans did fight (successfully) against the Dravidians who had no shields/defensive equipment, and were overall, less pugnacious. The Aryans wrote that they “overcame their forts like old age overcomes a garment.”

    my_dog_jagat: “my family’s history and prehistory pretty much covers Kashmir to Kanyakumari (there is a strong chance my father’s people moved from Kashmir to the deepest South);

    This is the pre-selected history of your family, which conveniently omits our collective migration from the Horn of Africa ~60KYA. Moreover, why does your ancestry magically encompass modern-day-India?

    Regarding your Indianness: I noticed that there are certain Indian groups which are quicker to identify as “Indians” and not take their regional identities.

    Razib Khan: “I am, for example, kind of tired of listening to brown people talk about their non-Indian ancestry, whether it be Syrian Christians who claim Jewish antecedents, Jatts who claim Scythian antecedents, or Muslims who claim Arab, Turk, or Persian origins.

    I’m not tired of listening to this, Razib. I have some hilarious pedigree claims here from different ethnic groups within India. Nagars, Saraswats, Nairs, Gurjar, Chitpavans, Bunts, and Datts. I had no clue that an ethnic group could have an origin from Syria, Macedonia, Egypt, and Iran at the same time. Wow.

    Mithra: “Thee Dravidian’s had time to adapt their agriculture to the humid tropical clime of the south, the Invading tribes bringing the agricultural methods of the Mediterranean clime was incompatible with the tropics.

    These ancient wanderers didn’t board an airplane, and voila, 2 hours later, ended up in a totally different climate/vegetative zone. Their rate of development to their new climate would have been a lot faster than their rate of migration. I would even think that they were unaware of their great journey, in much the same way that the Gypsies – one of the progenies of the Indo-Aryans – became unaware of their own journey.

    Also, I’m under the impression that we view that many foreign groups migrated and mixed with the Indic inhabitants. We start the population genetics research with this idea already as a given. But wait a minute…there is no rule that states that genetics/people can only migrate towards India, and the borders of India is very discrete. The ancients didn’t observe a discrete border, but I’m sure that they observed great physical/geographic/geologic barriers, like the Thar Desert, Himalayan/Pamir Mountain Ranges, or the Seas. Anyways, our narrative is that we have all these admixtures. However, isn’t it also the case that FOREIGNERS (from as far away as S.E. Asia, China, Afghanistan, C. Asia, etc.) have Indian blood due to cross migrations? Of course, you won’t hear them bragging about this to the extent that we brag our foreignness.

  17. There were no Persians when the Aryans came to India around 1700 BC. Aryans only migrated to Iran around 1000 BC. Therefore, the pre-Aryan population of Iran were NOT Persians. This is akin to referring to pre-Columbian people where I live as “Bostonians.” And, “YES”, the Aryans did fight (successfully) against the Dravidians who had no shields/defensive equipment, and were overall, less pugnacious. The Aryans wrote that they “overcame their forts like old age overcomes a garment.”

    i think the point about anachronistic terms if valid. the term persian after all comes from the peopel of fars. the ancient iranians referred to themselvse as aryans as well. but be careful about chronology. i tend to accept your position, but there is a school of thought which argues that indo-european expansion from anatolia dates to 7,000 years B.P.

    However, isn’t it also the case that FOREIGNERS (from as far away as S.E. Asia, China, Afghanistan, C. Asia, etc.) have Indian blood due to cross migrations? Of course, you won’t hear them bragging about this to the extent that we brag our foreignness.

    this is an interesting point.

    1) on a certain level, yes, indian blood does exist in non-indians. the gypsies are one example. but there was a case of a DNA extraction of a roman slave whose maternal lineage is clearly indian. there’s no back story of how this could have happened, but it did. i can give you other random examples, as far as afield as denmark.

    2) the biggest element of this issue though is that “indian” ancestry has several discrete elements. the ASI component seems only to be shared with southeast asians, and only at a lower level with them.

    3) there are some groups which take some interest in their putative indian origin. these are usually of southeast asian origin. there are strange claims of certain malagasy lineages which claim indian antecedents. not totally implausible given the likely role of the austronesians in the indian ocean trade prior to the arabs.

    • Razib Khan: i think the point about anachronistic terms if valid. the term persian after all comes from the peopel of fars. the ancient iranians referred to themselvse as aryans as well. but be careful about chronology. i tend to accept your position, but there is a school of thought which argues that indo-european expansion from anatolia dates to 7,000 years B.P.

      Yes, the people who imposed their culture on Iran called themselves as “Aryans”, just as the people who’ve imposed their culture on S. Asia. The Aryans came to India via Punjab around 1700 BC, and the Aryans migrated to Iran from their north eastern area (modern day Balkh area and perhaps Turkmenistan) around 1000 BC.

      One thing that I’d like to point out to you: The IE expansion started occurring 6,000 years ago from NORTH of Anatolia, and not from Anatolia. Most established linguists without a nationalistic/revisionistic agenda would agree that their urmheit was Ukraine area – Pontic Steppes – to Western Kazakhstan. I personally think that it was located in Turkey, myself. But apparently, some linguists detect similarities between the Uralic family of languages and IE. If IE originated in Anatolia, these linguists would be able to detect Causasian/Kartvelian and Semitic, which they don’t.

      1) on a certain level, yes, indian blood does exist in non-indians. the gypsies are one example. but there was a case of a DNA extraction of a roman slave whose maternal lineage is clearly indian. there’s no back story of how this could have happened, but it did. i can give you other random examples, as far as afield as denmark.

      Very interesting. I’m very familiar with the Gypsies.

      2) the biggest element of this issue though is that “indian” ancestry has several discrete elements. the ASI component seems only to be shared with southeast asians, and only at a lower level with them.

      This is amazing stuff. I had no idea that Tamil tribals have >20% ANI. But then again, ANIs were probably Neolithic farming expansionists. I wish that Cavalli-Sforza did his analysis on these with the same rigor and resources that he used to study the peopling of Europe.

      3) there are some groups which take some interest in their putative indian origin. these are usually of southeast asian origin. there are strange claims of certain malagasy lineages which claim indian antecedents. not totally implausible given the likely role of the austronesians in the indian ocean trade prior to the arabs.

      Malagasy! They have a city there named “Mahajanga”, and they have apparently an Indian connection. Did you know that Malagasy (people from Madagascar) and Indonesians all speak the same family of language? This doesn’t mean that they are mutually intelligible. Apparently, Indonesian sea-farers went there about 1,000 years ago. I have met some Malagasy girls here in Boston, and I SWEAR, they looked like they were Indians. I totally thought that this girl was an Indian who, like a lot of Indian castes on Wikipedia, didn’t want to admit she was Indian.

  18. This is the pre-selected history of your family, which conveniently omits our collective migration from the Horn of Africa ~60KYA. Moreover, why does your ancestry magically encompass modern-day-India?

    I mean, all of humanity originated from East Africa, right, so imo it would seem silly for an Indian (or any modern non-African) to include “African” as part of their ancestry. Tbh I’ve only ever heard that type of a comment from people (typically white) right after they deny that race exists and chip in with “we’re all African!” If I were East African I’d be annoyed by that, just sayin’

    Regarding your Indianness: I noticed that there are certain Indian groups which are quicker to identify as “Indians” and not take their regional identities.

    I’ve noticed it too – this is prevalent across a lot of cultures; for example I’ve met a lot of Americans who will tell you they’re of “Sicilians” not “Italian” ancestry. I’ve noticed Pashtuns, Punjabis, and Tamils often identify as their group rather than “Paki” or “Indian”. I guess this is partly because “Pakistan” is a relatively modern concept whereas say, “Pashtun” or “Punjabi” goes back for centuries…

    @Razib – in regards to gypsies, I’ve frequently heard people say they’re originally from India and migrated to Europe; is there any truth to this? Even in modern day Europe, Gypsies are seen as outsiders, certainly not “white” or “European”. The ones I saw in Italy looked as though they could have some desi ancestry.

    I am, for example, kind of tired of listening to brown people talk about their non-Indian ancestry

    To be fair, “brown” is a subjective term and doesn’t just encompass indians and south asian doesn’t just mean indian. I mean the afghani half of my family certainly identifies as brown, but definitely not indian.

    Anyway, very interesting piece as usual, thanks for sharing. Btw, loved the beer commercial you posted on gnxp :)

  19. B_M, see zack’s estimates of ASI:

    https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AuW3R0Ys-P4HdFA0X2Y0RU5laVJ3SDF3RXNFQnQ0NGc&hl=en#gid=0

    Malagasy! They have a city there named “Mahajanga”, and they have apparently an Indian connection. Did you know that Malagasy (people from Madagascar) and Indonesians all speak the same family of language? This doesn’t mean that they are mutually intelligible. Apparently, Indonesian sea-farers went there about 1,000 years ago. I have met some Malagasy girls here in Boston, and I SWEAR, they looked like they were Indians. I totally thought that this girl was an Indian who, like a lot of Indian castes on Wikipedia, didn’t want to admit she was Indian.

    1) the malagasy language is very close to one particular language in southern borneo.

    2) they had an east african sojourn. that’s pretty obvious from various borrowings, and, it easily explains how east africans have particular crops, etc., of southeast asian origin. but no one knows the details

    3) the malagasy had contact with indians and arabs. the extent is unknown from what i can tell

    4) they are a mix of southeast asian and african. so that’s perhaps why they look indian?

  20. “I have met some Malagasy girls here in Boston, and I SWEAR, they looked like they were Indians. I totally thought that this girl was an Indian who, like a lot of Indian castes on Wikipedia, didn’t want to admit she was Indian.”

    I don’t know what it is about being Indian that makes people so ashamed to admit it. It is amusing to read about the various foreign origin fantasies practically every subcaste on the Internet has concocted. Even the gypsies tried to pass themselves off as Egyptians when they reached Europe.

    • I don’t know what it is about being Indian that makes people so ashamed to admit it. It is amusing to read about the various foreign origin fantasies practically every subcaste on the Internet has concocted. Even the gypsies tried to pass themselves off as Egyptians when they reached Europe.

      To be fair, by the time the Gypsies ended up in Europe, they had already forgotten where they came from. So it’s very possible for a LARGE amount of people to collectively forget their origins in only ~500 years!

      But you’re right about Indians magically stretching their lineage to include Central Asia, Middle East. Northern Europe, Southern Europe, and even the Caucauses. If you wiki “Sud”, which is a common surname in N. India, they make speculations that they’re from France, since that word means “south” in French. Strange, isn’t it?

      On another note: I noticed that Wiki has done some major cleaning up on words like “Kapoor”, which used to make the claim that their ancestry lies with the Chuvash and Lipka Tatars.

  21. Even the gypsies tried to pass themselves off as Egyptians when they reached Europe.

    the gypsies lie and obfuscate about their origin habitually. but that is probably because of their long history of being enslaved, persecuted, and dehumanized. they don’t trust anyone. modern day romany nationalists are quite vocal and proud of their south asian origins. though it seems that evangelical protestantism is really, really big among gypsies the world over, a small minority of activists are actually exploring hinduism. also, let’s be honest here: after 1,000-1,500 years many gypsies are not too aware of what their ultimate origin is. welsh gypsies may know their ancestors came over from europe, but be vague about anything beyond that. the gypsies certainly went through an iranian interregnum, but they don’t remember that either.

  22. I don’t know what it is about being Indian that makes people so ashamed to admit it.

    Well I’d be surprised to hear if some Indians were trying to pass themselves off as Malagasy because unfortunately in my experience, some Desis are often openly racist (in private of course, when speaking to other Desi’s) to black Africans. At least in America, I’ve never heard an Indian pretend to be something else; but then again you can usually tell by their name anyway. I have seen/heard people try to distance themselves from hinduism though, as if embarrassed by it – but this was a teenage boy, so hopefully he grew out of it. Sometimes people are eager to fit in when young and only become more attuned to their culture when older. For example I grew up in a very WASPy community and never took interest in my cultural origins (wasn’t ashamed of it, just apathetic) whereas I care a lot more now.

  23. just a minor PC note: i’m using the old term gypsies because not all “gypsies” call themselves roma. that’s the term for centra/eastern european groups. some people use the term romany, but i think that’s unfamiliar….

  24. I mean, all of humanity originated from East Africa, right, so imo it would seem silly for an Indian (or any modern non-African) to include “African” as part of their ancestry. Tbh I’ve only ever heard that type of a comment from people (typically white) right after they deny that race exists and chip in with “we’re all African!” If I were East African I’d be annoyed by that, just sayin’

    just to be precise, there is a lot of dispute currently about where non-african humans came from within africa. at this point you have people making the claim for southern africa, and believe it or not, the mahgreb, as well as east africa. it’s kind of up in the air. it’s a complicated and developing story. stay tuned….

    I’ve noticed it too – this is prevalent across a lot of cultures; for example I’ve met a lot of Americans who will tell you they’re of “Sicilians” not “Italian” ancestry.

    there is a reason for this. remember that the italian language is relatively new, and most italians did not speak it 100 years ago. that is, when the main wave of italian migration occurred. since u have been to italy you know that even today sicilians have a very distinctive self-conception, and other italians view them as particularly differentiated. back when the italian migration was occurring to the USA italy as a nation-state really only existed on paper, and local identity was much stronger. today that is changing as the dialects die off and people marry across region. also, re: “dialects,” you are probably aware they’re basically separate languages. especially sicilian and the speech of veneto in the northeast, in relation to standard italian which comes from florentine.

    in regards to gypsies, I’ve frequently heard people say they’re originally from India and migrated to Europe; is there any truth to this? Even in modern day Europe, Gypsies are seen as outsiders, certainly not “white” or “European”. The ones I saw in Italy looked as though they could have some desi ancestry.

    1) their langauge is indo-aryan.

    2) yes, they clearly have indian ancestry. there are some people with romani ancestry who have been genotyped. they are part indian.

    if you are curious, more:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/09/gypsies-on-a-genetic-island

    To be fair, “brown” is a subjective term and doesn’t just encompass indians and south asian doesn’t just mean indian. I mean the afghani half of my family certainly identifies as brown, but definitely not indian.

    the more i look into this issue, the more i think that the old stereotype that the pashtuns are part of south asia/india, and the tajiks are central asian, is correct. you people have ASI. the other iranian speaking groups do not seem to. in any case, i was referring to the weird stuff about people claiming descent from jews or whatever.

    Btw, loved the beer commercial you posted on gnxp :)

    thanks. someone just complained about it as stereotyping ;-) still funny.

  25. Nice post Razib.

    might that interesting tid-bit also point to the effects of invasion and warfare – males being slaughtered wholesale while women were captured?”

    Alternatively, those who explore the frontiers tend to be men, and the women follow after settlement is established. As the early Munda gradually expanded their territory looking for new lands to farm rice, perhaps it was a largely male population which mixed with some local ASI women. A similar example is the Nyonya (Peranakan) culture of the Malaysian peninsula that is a result of male Chinese traders and local Malay women.

    I agree with Mithra’s argument above that it was most likely agricultural limitations that prevented the ANI from wiping out the ASI. South India’s diet today is primarily a rice-based one, as opposed to the dominance of wheat and corn (dry-land crops) in parts of Northern India. A parallel is the Bantu in Southern Africa, who swamped the Khoisan hunter-gatherers and forced the rest into the areas where the Bantu agricultural toolkit wasn’t successful.

  26. Bostons own Mahesh: “This is the pre-selected history of your family, which conveniently omits our collective migration from the Horn of Africa ~60KYA.” I was only referring to the last few 1000 years when we (my family and others were all completely ensconced in the bosom of Bharat mata.) We are not Muslims or Syrian Christian etc… who might possibly have foreign ancestry so the only issue is the migration patterns within India and combinations of exogamy and endogamy.

    Bostons own Mahesh:” Moreover, why does your ancestry magically encompass modern-day-India?” Good point. It may not–there may be components from Sri Lanka (Tamraparni which is what the Southern most part of Tamilnadu is called is also the name for Sri Lanka) or Punjab or Sindh. On the other hand there was an ocean and mountains and lots of references to the people who lived within those confines.

    Bostons own Mahesh:” Regarding your Indianness: I noticed that there are certain Indian groups which are quicker to identify as “Indians” and not take their regional identities.” This is beginning to get off-topic but I will respond because there may be reasons for this. My parents are from different parts of India so the number of Indian regions and migration patterns under consideration increases. We have records of some of these migration patterns (e.g. the family move from Dharwar to Masulipatnam in the mid 1500s with Akbars armies (there is a webpage of this too) or the accompanying of the Bauls of Bengal). Someone had brought up external influences–the British Raj allowed different peoples to intermingle (Bengalis and Bihari or Tamils and Andhras or Gujaratis and Maharastrians). There are other records–the Panch Gauda, Panch Dravida classification in the 11th century parallels some of the migrations we know about in our family.

    Second, it is also a psychological state. We are urbanized, westernized and cosmopolitan Indians and have been for 150 pr son years. I would have to adopt a community at this point–it is really inauthentic. Indian feels just right and I have the historical perspective (which they may not have had in the past-Naipaul complains about this often) to bolster this assertion. Other people may not have this particular combination I’ve outlined and may more strongly identify with a geographical region. The point BM, and Indians need to be reminded of this again and again and again, is that we are not all the same with identical stories. It makes a lot of sense for me to see myself as pan-Indian.

    • @my_dog_jagat: Very interesting. I see all of your points, and I appreciate that you took the time to educate me. Thank you.

      @TTCUSM: This is simply amazing! Your point has opened my eyes. I look like a brown-star Nancy Pelosi now. I was always aware of the ancient schism between amongst the Indo-Iranians (that is before the proto-Vedics and proto-Iranians split). You’re right: “Asura/Ahura” means opposites amongst Hindus/Zoroastrians. Both cultures also have their magical drink called “Soma/Homa” for both the Hindus/Zoroastrians. “Devas/Devas” means an “angel” and “devil” amongst the ancient Aryan-Indians and Aryan-Iranians, respectively. This is linguistic paleontological evidence of a great schism between the two. Furthermore, the priestly class of both still wear a thread and have fire rituals. And Mithra was an ancient Indo-European god worshipped even amongst Eastern Roman soldiers prior to Christianity. Mithraism was regarded as the last great pagan religion of Europe. However, the article that I read indicated that there may not have been a connection between Mithraism of the ancient Roman Empire and the Mitra worshipped in the Desh.

      Finally, do you notice how the Iranian “h-” became the Indian “s-”? This is an example of a sound shift. Therefore, the ancient Iranians, or Proto-Iranians, being called “dahae” is strikingly similar to a soundshift of the word “dasae”! Moreover, that prayer that you invoke: 1. PRAISE of the Asura, high imperial Ruler, the Manly One in whom the folk shall triumph- I laud his deeds who is as strong as Indra, and lauding celebrate the Fort-destroyer. 2 Sage, Sing, Food, Light,—they bring him from the mountain, the blessed Sovran of the earth and heaven. I decorate with songs the mighty actions which Agni, Fort-destroyer, did aforetime. 3 The foolish, faithless, rudely-speaking niggards [sic], without belief or sacrifice or worship,— Far far sway hath Agni chased those Dasytis, and, in the cast, hath turned the godless westward. This is remarkable for me. This is exactly how the Vedic Aryans wrote. This is so crazy. I can’t believe it.

      On another note: I have an analogy for all of you. In the field of Genetics, we have successfully sequenced the DNA. We have learned that, amazingly, only 2-3% actually codes for proteins. Therefore, we have been focusing only on the tip of TIP of the iceberg. We only directed our research, historically, on what was most apparent. The same way, we direct our own histories on what was most apparent and easy, but the bulk – the super-majority – of the information content is harder to access and more complicated. There has been migrations in all directions, involving not just South Asians, but perhaps all other groups as well – including Africans and East Asians. Moreover, there were migrations, not just involving Gypsies/Romas, that left India to other parts of the world, perhaps even to Afghanistan, Iran, Middle East, Siberia, where many Indians claim partial-descent from. There must have been pestilence and disease and wars which homogenized populations, and so on. I bring this up because we may think that we are half this group + half that group, ethnically speaking. But if we could somehow look at your DNA and analyze it, we would see that, yes, you are half this and that in the last 40 years, but the last 40,000 years, you were X, Y, Z, A, B, C, D, etc. Amazing.

      • “Finally, do you notice how the Iranian “h-” became the Indian “s-”? This is an example of a sound shift. Therefore, the ancient Iranians, or Proto-Iranians, being called “dahae” is strikingly similar to a soundshift of the word “dasae”! ” __

        There’s also: Sindhu/Hindu.

        I remember a story told by my Math teacher in high school – don’t know how much of it is true. He said that Semisphere became a Hemisphere because the Greeks (?) couldn’t pronounce the “s” sound and used “h” instead.

  27. A minor correction. On point #2, it should say “none of them refer to themselves as “Dasas”".

  28. The similarities between Zoroastrianism and the Vedic religion indicates that one religion must have split off from the other at some point in ancient history. Interestingly enough, Zoroastrian scriptures state that the Persians came from a place called “Airyanem Vaejah”.

    Airyanem Vaejah was probably modern-day Tajikistan/Balkh province.

    And one of the words that the Indian Aryans probably called the Dravidians was “Mlecha”, and this word maybe cognate with how the Dravidians referred to themselves as, which was “Melluha.” This word appears in the Old Testament as a sea-faring people from the east. Today, “das” means “servant”, and that’s why we see surnames like “Krishnadas”. Apparently, they enslaved many of the locals there at that time. Even more apparently, they inter-married.

  29. I just read pura nanooru 23. It says nothing like what you claim. it is 22 lines and tedious to type. Let me see if i can get it easily online.

    Can you give references from classical Tamil literature to substantiate the following?.


    I have studied early classical Tamil literature, and many of the poems from that era are about conquering kings and defeated kings (as one might expect). The custom then, as the literature references, is that able-bodied men from the defeated side were slaughtered, and the older men usually died on the long forced marches. Children were sold into slavery. The wives of the defeated kings were married to the conquerors, and the other women were given away as sexual slaves.


    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VÄ“l_Pāri – a good starting point. I’m not a Sangam poetry scholar; I’ve only read what was assigned in class, and the rest is from my prof., who actually has a degree in this stuff.

      I am sure if you spent some time reading more Sangam poetry, and the accompanying commentaries written by people who have studied the tradition more than you or me, you would also find evidence to support my assertions. As it happens, I have final papers to write, and I have better things to do than explain Tamil literary history to a guy whose online handle is the title of an insufferably long (2400 pages?!) book.

      • As it happens, I have final papers to write, and I have better things to do than explain Tamil literary history to a guy whose online handle is the title of an insufferably long (2400 pages?!) book

        he..he.. Bcos your references were wrong, I just asked you to substantiate your claims. BTW, the wiki link says nothing about what you claimed either. Best of luck for your final papers..Hope you don’t write them like your comments here.. :-)

  30. How does su.vi’s poem written in 1980 become part of classical Tamil literature?. Anyways, I’ll check him out

  31. As the early Munda gradually expanded their territory looking for new lands to farm rice, perhaps it was a largely male population which mixed with some local ASI women.

    just to be clear, the munda have plenty of the typical ANI/ASI mix.

  32. boston_mahesh wrote:

    And one of the words that the Indian Aryans probably called the Dravidians was “Mlecha”, and this word maybe cognate with how the Dravidians referred to themselves as, which was “Melluha.” This word appears in the Old Testament as a sea-faring people from the east. Today, “das” means “servant”, and that’s why we see surnames like “Krishnadas”. Apparently, they enslaved many of the locals there at that time. Even more apparently, they inter-married.

    Why are you associating “Dasa” with “Mleccha”? Persian languages are classified as “Indo-European”, while Dravidian languages are not. Therefore, Dasas and Mlecchas could not have been the same people.

    • I believe that the Aryans had an array of racial slurs to choose from within and without the Indo-European languages, and that “mleccha/melluha” was the demonym for Dravidians which later came to mean “demon”. “Dasa/Dasya” was an example of a bad word becoming neutralized.

  33. boston_mahesh wrote:

    “mleccha/melluha” was the demonym for Dravidians which later came to mean “demon”

    “Mleccha” does not mean “demon”. It means “barbarian”. It was applied to anyone who lived outside India, in much the same way that the Ancient Greeks referred to anyone outside of Greece as a “barbarian”.

    Also, the term “melluha” did not originate among the Dravidians. It was used by the Mesopotamians to describe one of their trading partners. Since the Indus Valley Civilization did business with Mesopotamia, many scholars assume that the term was applied to them.

  34. A bit about the Aryans,

    With the wealth of information available from the Harappa ancestry project, a quick (reference data set 3) probe surprised me, take the Iranian, Pashtun, Kalash, and the lezgins. The Iranians according to admixture software has more in common with Kalash. The Kalash Lezgins and Iranians has a competent which is named after Kalash, more than the northern European component which is found in much greater percent in the Pashtun. (this could change in further higher k’s) Second point take the male y chromosome haplogroup R1a1, which is found in greater frequency among the In Pashtun than in Iranians, in fact its found in greater frequency in Northern India and Pakistan than in Iranians. R1a1 is most densely found north of the black sea Ukraine, and then among the eastern Europeans to Scandinavia.

    So who among the Iranians first called themselves the Aryans?, it was the Avestan speaking people from the eastern front, ie Khorasan and current day Afghanistan area. Infact Zarathust Spitama was from what is current day Afghan are and Avestan is much more closely related to Sanskrit than to old Persian.

    So who where these Aryans??

  35. Why all the fascination about who the Aryans were and not who the Mundas, ASI, ANI, and Dravidians were? After all, we’re all part Dravidian/Munda/ASI/ANI, but we’re not all part Aryan.

    • Because our education doesn’t teach us that all of us are descended from Dravidians, Mundas, ASI, ANIs. Only the lower castes are descended from them. The upper castes are descended from Aryans. That all of us are descended from Aryans, Dravidians, Mundas, ASI, ANIs is some private theory that you and perhaps a few others are speculating about–not enough to be in a textbook, not enough to become the received wisdom.

  36. Some corrections

    The Kalash Lezgins and Iranians has a component named Kalash (because they carry that gene block in grater percentage), more than the northern European component which is found in much greater percent in the Pashtun.

    Additionally

    Also i found it interesting that R1a1 was less in Punjab but greater in Kashmir and then further northwest and south of India. I would speculate this si because of later Scythian and Hun (Hephthalites) migration into the region. The Scythians and the Huns were originally white Caucasoid tribes from Central Asia.

  37. Ummm, the whole thrust of Razib’s data is that Scythians, Aryans, etc. don’t play much of a role in constituting India (including Punabis). Please to be paying attention.

  38. “Finally, do you notice how the Iranian “h-” became the Indian “s-”? This is an example of a sound shift. Therefore, the ancient Iranians, or Proto-Iranians, being called “dahae” is strikingly similar to a soundshift of the word “dasae”! ” __

    There’s also: Sindhu/Hindu.

    I remember a story told by my Math teacher in high school – don’t know how much of it is true. He said that Semisphere became a Hemisphere because the Greeks (?) couldn’t pronounce the “s” sound and used “h” instead.

  39. After all, we’re all part Dravidian/Munda/ASI/ANI, but we’re not all part Aryan.

    just to be clear. we’re confusing linguistic and cultural and genetic terms here…but, the distinctive genetic element found in mundas, which clearly connects them to east asians, is not found in most indians. my main issue with bringing up mundas is that these austro-asiatic people are often assumed to be aboriginal or a very ancient substratum within south asia. i don’t think they are. the particular gene which you find in mundas, but not in other indians, is found in east and south east asian populations, and seems to have been driven up in frequency by natural selection recently. that pegs that the last common ancestry between mundas and eat asians is less than 10,000 years BP, and probably well less than 10,000 years BP.

    if you want me to give an explicit chronology, this is what i think is plausible

    1) first, ASI, descended from an older south eurasian substratum

    2) ANI + ASI => the primary south asian “mix”, probably well less than 10,000 years ago

    3) the munda seem like a east asian + (ANI + ASI). there are people, like nadars, reddys, etc., who are almost totally an ANI + ASI mix with hardly anything else. the mundas have an east asian element on top. my own genome is a lot like this, i’m like a south indian with a large dollop of east asian, as well diverse small slivers of other elements more common in northwest india, as well as a tiny, tiny, african component probably from my middle eastern muslim ancestors way back

    4) then you have the indo-europeans. there is an element very close to ANI, but somewhat different, which seems to not be found in south indians except brahmins and other transplants from the north. this is a minority component, dwarfed by the similar ANI, but i think it is likely going to eventually turn out to be the aryan from the pontic steppe. you see small, but consistent, fractions among jatts for example which are way closer to europeans than middle easterners. except south indian brahmins, basically this small element is found among indo-european speakers

    i’m very confident of 1-3 in the details and chronology. #4 i’m not sure of. this is why harappa ancestry project needs more people from the gangetic plain….

    • 4) then you have the indo-europeans. there is an element very close to ANI, but somewhat different, which seems to not be found in south indians except brahmins and other transplants from the north. this is a minority component, dwarfed by the similar ANI, but i think it is likely going to eventually turn out to be the aryan from the pontic steppe.

      Not to be a stickler on semantics, but I must tell you this: Aryans were not from the Pontic Steppes. The Proto-Indo-Europeans were from the Pontic Steppe, and one of their progeny called themselves Aryan only when they made it to Central Asia/Tajikistan area. Many 1920s era linguists conflated the terms “Proto-Indo-European” with “Aryan” with “Nordic” and “Indo-Germanic.” The last word is no longer used (or valid).

      I repeat: PIEs lived about 6,000 years ago north and north west of the Black Sea. They started migrating in all directions, including to the east and south east. This group eventually called themselves as “Aryan”, and they first migrated to India, and about 5 centuries later, another group of this Aryan group migrated to the Iranian Plateau. Oh yes, they also did NOT have blonde hair or blue eyes.

      Razib Khan: ” lots of arabs are ~10% black or so, so i think that explains how i have it via my mom. the small middle eastern ancestry she has suggests to me not persian, but arab, so much more likely to have black.”

      Very interesting. Your statement here presupposes that Persians don’t have black African genes, but Arabs do @10%. I am very unconfident in this assertion. After all, Iran is very close to Arab, and their likelihood of intermarriage was and is very high historically. Even the Iranians I’ve spoken to claim that they were all Nordic types before getting “savagely invaded by Arabs” and that’s how they became more swarthy (so even they are in racial denial?). Moreover, why are African/Arab genes found amongst Indic Muslims, but not amongst Central Asian Muslims? After all, Arabs spread Islam there in the Middle Asia around 751 AD.

      Moreover, the Arabs come in a LOT of variety: I’ve read (from a Hindu nationalistic source) that ~20% are nomads who are very African in appearance (Prince Bandar comes to mind) and some who are very white in appearance, probably as a result of the 200 years of Crusader migrations in countries like Lebanon/Palestine.

      Finally, I was thinking that if an “average” Arab has ~10% Black genes, and the average Pakistani has ~1% African genes, this means that the “average” Pakistani has ~10% Arab genes (and 10% of 10% is 1%).

  40. egyptians are mostly descended from egyptian speaking people. the people of north africa are mostly descended from berber speaking people. but they identify as arabs now. so it isn’t that surprising that indians emphasize their indo-aryan cultural heritage.

  41. Just curious, Razib, how common is African ancestry amongst S.Asians – I’m assuming it’s more common amongst Pakistani’s/Afghani’s and less common amongst Indians/Bengalis?

  42. Just curious, Razib, how common is African ancestry amongst S.Asians – I’m assuming it’s more common amongst Pakistani’s/Afghani’s and less common amongst Indians/Bengalis?

    yes. way more common among pakistanis than i would have thought! though it seems to be found less among ‘less cosmopolitan’ people like the pathans. some of the makranis have lots of ancestry from africa, but a friend of mine has a fiance from pakistan. i think one of her sides is mohajir and the other punjabi, and she’s 1% african. it does not seem common among non-muslims. lots of arabs are ~10% black or so, so i think that explains how i have it via my mom. the small middle eastern ancestry she has suggests to me not persian, but arab, so much more likely to have black.

  43. Thanks….yeah I imagine it would be particularly common amongst Muslims because of mixing with Mid-Easterners, who literally imported black sub-saharan African slaves for centuries and often used the women sexually; interestingly enough Islam tolerates slaves as long as they’re non-Abrahamic in religion (or non-religious). I have been thinking of getting tested for a while myself; I would be surprised if I wasn’t at least a bit African, although like you said, Pashtuns are less “cosmopolitan” because of a tribal culture where marriage to outsiders was often prohibited. Honestly I think modern Pashtuns are an inbred bunch for that reason. I’ve also always suspected that my mom’s side (Afghani) might be a bit Uzbeki or Tajik because of how central Asian they look (some even have epicanthic eye folds, not common amongst any Pashtuns I’ve seen).

  44. interestingly enough Islam tolerates slaves as long as they’re non-Abrahamic in religion (or non-religious).

    OT, but there was a convenient way that some african muslim rulers who depended on slaving created “product” when all the non-muslims were caught. they simply demanded a tax which their subjects could not pay. then they got a religious authority to declare it apostasy to disobey a command from the ruler. so now these peasants were non-muslims, and the slavers do do their thing. but sometimes you didn’t even need that pretext; it was a serious problem up until the mid-20th century that black hajjis were kidnapped en route to mecca and sold as slaves!

    I’ve also always suspected that my mom’s side (Afghani) might be a bit Uzbeki or Tajik because of how central Asian they look (some even have epicanthic eye folds, not common amongst any Pashtuns I’ve seen).

    my friend’s pakistani fiance found substantial turk ancestry. this is not uncommon among some pashtuns in the HGDP sample. one of the pashtuns is about 30% turk (i usually remove that from my data to prune outliers).

    • Razib Khan: “just to be clear. we’re confusing linguistic and cultural and genetic terms here…”

      but…

      Razib Khan: “my friend’s pakistani fiance found substantial turk ancestry. this is not uncommon among some pashtuns in the HGDP sample. one of the pashtuns is about 30% turk (i usually remove that from my data to prune outliers).”

      Razib, you, my friend, have contradicted yourself. What do you mean 30% Turk? Turkic is a linguistic term, and not a genetic term. Turk from where? From Istanbul or Uighuristan or a Turkic Jew (like Bob Dylan or Joe Strummer) or a Khazar Jew from W. Siberia or a Chuvash speaker? :)

      Also, the Pashtuns and Punjabis have a LOT of genetic variation. I saw a map made by Sforza and one Malhotra showing a heterozygosity gene map made around ’98. It showed a lot of variation in that area and C. Asia. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pashtuns have a lot of genes from the Arabic invasions. I would think that the “Turkic” genes of the Pashtuns could have come by simple first order diffusion from living next to Uzbeks, who are Turks, or even Genghis Khan’s largely Turkic speaking troops.

  45. Mundas are just one tribal entity. Its taken on a prominence of its own in this discussion (Razib brought it up because he has some Munda). We may not all have a Munda component–it might be something else.

    What is interesting to me is that even without looking at the DNA studies, just based on existing classifications in India (varna, jati, religion, region) and whatever else is available in the socio-cultural domain–literature, the oral record, name artifacts etc… I (and you the general observer in India) had a sense of a lot of these things. In other words, the culture tracks the DNA. (When I first read about the ANI/ASI, it wasn’t the least bit surprising that the south indian and north indian stock is different (a dalit in UP is different from a dalit in Karnataka); that Punjabis have a higher percentage of a shared European gene than other Indians including brahmins wasn’t surprising; and the fact that most mainstream communities have admixtures is not surprising either.) I recently read a description of Surpanakha (Ms super nails–thats what her name means) from the Ramayana. I feel like I have a very good idea of what she might have looked like. Surpanakha like her brother Ravan was mostly a brahmin woman (at least three generations of her pedigree are described) with some tribal/asura. She was quite beautiful by some accounts. Now I know brahmin girls (with some tribal e.g. grandmother) who are quite beautiful who might look just like Surpanakha. This record (mostly brahmin+tribal) is preserved in their family name (which translates as mountain people–the people I am thinking of are from the Orissa/Andhra region known to have many tribals.) The fact that I can speculate like this is because in the desh, examples are around us all the time and because of the fidelity of the cultural tranmission.

  46. Not to be a stickler on semantics, but I must tell you this: Aryans were not from the Pontic Steppes. The Proto-Indo-Europeans were from the Pontic Steppe, and one of their progeny called themselves Aryan only when they made it to Central Asia/Tajikistan area. Many 1920s era linguists conflated the terms “Proto-Indo-European” with “Aryan” with “Nordic” and “Indo-Germanic.” The last word is no longer used (or valid).

    B_M, yeah, my sloppiness. and just to be clear, i do know a lot of the stuff you’re talking about. e.g., andronovo, bactria-margiana, etc. don’t want to get into the weeds.

    Very interesting. Your statement here presupposes that Persians don’t have black African genes, but Arabs do @10%. I am very unconfident in this assertion. After all, Iran is very close to Arab, and their likelihood of intermarriage was and is very high historically. Even the Iranians I’ve spoken to claim that they were all Nordic types before getting “savagely invaded by Arabs” and that’s how they became more swarthy (so even they are in racial denial?). Moreover, why are African/Arab genes found amongst Indic Muslims, but not amongst Central Asian Muslims? After all, Arabs spread Islam there in the Middle Asia around 751 AD.

    the distribution of black ancestry in iran follows climate. the southwest around the gulf has it. but the inland/highland areas do not nearly to the same extent. the rule of thumb, validated by genetics, is this in terms of sub-saharan admixture

    1) muslim arabs 2) then non-arab muslims 3) then non-muslims in the middle east

    re: central asia. there’s a simple explanation for this: most of the gene flow into central asia has been from mongolia. you must know the history, so i won’t say more.

    I’ve read (from a Hindu nationalistic source) that ~20% are nomads who are very African in appearance (Prince Bandar comes to mind) and some who are very white in appearance, probably as a result of the 200 years of Crusader migrations in countries like Lebanon/Palestine.

    this is false. arabs have very little new european ancestry. this is clear from the genomics. second, bandar’s mother was a black slave. the whiter arabs are much more like to have caucasian (circassian) ancestry. i’ve seen this is saudi data (yes, you can distinguish western europeans from people from the caucasus pretty easily).

    Finally, I was thinking that if an “average” Arab has ~10% Black genes, and the average Pakistani has ~1% African genes, this means that the “average” Pakistani has ~10% Arab genes (and 10% of 10% is 1%).

    i would have dismissed 10% out of hand, but the data from balochistan and sindh i’m seeing makes me less likely to dismiss….