The water rises and Canute drowns

The Genetic History of Indians: Are We What We Think We Are?. The answer is that people of all races have always been what they always were. What we think about what we were…well, that changes.

“I KNOW PEOPLE won’t be happy to hear this,” geneticist Niraj Rai says over the phone from Lucknow. “But I don’t think we can refute it anymore. A migration into [ancient] India did happen.” As head of the Ancient DNA Lab at Lucknow’s Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences (BSIP), he earlier worked at the CCMB in Hyderabad and has been part of several studies that employed genetics to examine lineages. “It is clear now more than ever before,” he says, “that people from Central Asia came here and mingled with [local residents]. Most of us, in varying degrees, are all descendants of those people.”

Some researchers, even those associated with the current study like Shinde, aren’t quite convinced that an ancient influx of people into the subcontinent from the northwest has finally been established by the latest findings. Shinde does not like the word ‘migration’. “It is better to say movement,” he says, implying a two-way pattern. “Everyone back then was moving to and fro. Some people were moving here and some were moving out. There was contact, yes. There was trade. But local people were involved in the development of several things. So I am not very sure of the interpretation.”

As Rai points out, the analysis of the DNA sample they will present will be of a period before the Steppe people supposedly arrived in India. If R1a is absent in the Indus Valley sample, it suggests that it was brought into South Asia, perhaps by a proto-Indo- European speaking group, from elsewhere. “How do I say it? See, I am a nationalist,” Rai says over the phone. “People will be upset. But that’s how it is. All the studies are showing that people came here from elsewhere.”

I’ve been hearing from Indian journalists that some of these researchers have only “evolved” over the last few months. First, it’s a credit to them if they changed their views on the new data. If the above is correct they got usable DNA from one Rakhigarhi sample. I predict it will be like “Indus Periphery”, but with more AASI. It seems rather clear they’re going to submit a preprint within a month or so (that’s the plan, but it’s been the plan for a year!), but the results are being written up now.

Meanwhile, the ancient DNA tsunami is going to come in further waves in the near future. Various groups have huge data sets from Central Eurasia that are going to surface. Unfortunately, samples are going to be thin on the ground from India, but we have enough now that in broad sketches most people are now falling in line with what happened demographically from the northwest. The “AASI” ancestry is deeply rooted in South Asia, and it doesn’t look like there’s much of an impact of this outside of the subcontinent aside from nearby regions.

The real action is now in understanding the cultural and archaeological processes involved in the perturbation in the years after 2000 BCE. I’ve talked to a few of the geneticists working in this area over the past month or so, and they agree.

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25 thoughts on “The water rises and Canute drowns”

  1. Hi Razib, I’ll preface this by stating I’m just an interested total amateur. 🙂

    Is it possible that CHG has some AASI, as on the Gedmatch calculator Gedrosia Ancient Eurasia K6, CHG is assigned 8% ASE, and Steppe Eneolithic is assigned 7% ASE.

    Also, the British Bell Beakers show a median score of 4% Indian in MDLP K16 and modern Irish and Scottish people also seem to pick up ~3% Indian on the same calculator.

    Or are these calculators picking up shared Caucasus/Iran-type ancestry from the formation of ANI?

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    1. Or are these calculators picking up shared Caucasus/Iran-type ancestry from the formation of ANI?

      probably.

      the issue with the models is that they will produce results that are strange if you constrain the possibilities.

      eg south asians routinely get “melanesian.” but they don’t have melanesian ancestry. it’s just the reference pops don’t include the full range of south asian ancestry.

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  2. I also have some naive questions now, I finally managed to go through your maturation of south Asian genetic landscape post (not claiming to understand it clear-headedly, of course).
    (Sorry for the long comment, but I hope having more questions will increase the probability that you will find one of them non-stupid).

    1. According to Reich’s book, ANI was 50% Steppe + 50% Iranian Farmer. If InPe has a substantial AASI component and ANI is formed of InPe + Steppe, doesn’t it mean that now ANI has some AASI too, and hence the old ANI model is wrong? If so does there exist a good explanation of why the earlier estimate for ANI turned out to be wrong?

    2. I thought one main reason for claiming male mediated migration from Steppe was that Indian mtDNA was not found elsewhere. Shouldn’t this mean that Iranian farmer migration was also male mediated?

    3. You put the Steppe arrival at about 1500 BC agreeing with the traditional date, and yet Narasimhan et al claim Steppe component to be increasing in Swat valley with time from 1200 BC to 1st century CE. Does this mean more Steppe migration during this period? If so, who does that square with the fact that the Kazakh Steppe had so much east Asian DNA by around 1600 BC (something that was used to preclude earlier migration)? Given that Narasimhan et al claim BMAC region to have been mostly bypassed, where were all those non-east-Asian-admixed Steppe people putting up after 1500 BC?

    4. Frankly I am confused that ANI and ASI must have existed as actual populations and not just mathematical models. Reich etc. seem to claim only ANI as heterogeneous, but according to you ASI must have been too. Then why do we still pretend that there were such populations as ANI and ASI existed? Doesn’t it seem weird that we had three source populations, they mixed in various proportions to become exactly two source populations which thoroughly mixed within themselves to each individually become almost homogeneous and yet kept almost completely away from each other, and after a while again mixed in various proportions remembering the proportions in which they had mixed earlier?

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    1. 1. According to Reich’s book, ANI was 50% Steppe + 50% Iranian Farmer. If InPe has a substantial AASI component and ANI is formed of InPe + Steppe, doesn’t it mean that now ANI has some AASI too, and hence the old ANI model is wrong? If so does there exist a good explanation of why the earlier estimate for ANI turned out to be wrong?

      the old model is wrong. i talked to the first author of the preprint…and basically even “pure” ANI seems to have some AASI (the kalash do). remove the AASI and it’s west asian farmer + steppe.

      2. I thought one main reason for claiming male mediated migration from Steppe was that Indian mtDNA was not found elsewhere. Shouldn’t this mean that Iranian farmer migration was also male mediated?

      that seems likely.

      the only thing i would caution: there is a chance that natural selection impact both mtDNA and Y.

      You put the Steppe arrival at about 1500 BC agreeing with the traditional date, and yet Narasimhan et al claim Steppe component to be increasing in Swat valley with time from 1200 BC to 1st century CE. Does this mean more Steppe migration during this period? If so, who does that square with the fact that the Kazakh Steppe had so much east Asian DNA by around 1600 BC (something that was used to preclude earlier migration)? Given that Narasimhan et al claim BMAC region to have been mostly bypassed, where were all those non-east-Asian-admixed Steppe people putting up after 1500 BC?

      1) remember limits of sampling transect. they got samples from certain dates

      2) i think it is highly likely there wasn’t one single pulse…though it will be hard to distinguish because some of the groups are very similar genetically (f-stats are bad at this, PCA and ibd tract methods better).

      3) i suspect much of eurasia had more heterogeneity than we think/know. eg in europe archaeologists don’t seem to sample HG locations well…as the ‘bounce back’ almost certainly has to do with absorption of local substrate.

      Frankly I am confused that ANI and ASI must have existed as actual populations and not just mathematical models. Reich etc. seem to claim only ANI as heterogeneous, but according to you ASI must have been too. Then why do we still pretend that there were such populations as ANI and ASI existed? Doesn’t it seem weird that we had three source populations, they mixed in various proportions to become exactly two source populations which thoroughly mixed within themselves to each individually become almost homogeneous and yet kept almost completely away from each other, and after a while again mixed in various proportions remembering the proportions in which they had mixed earlier?

      the preprint and the book are clear that ASI = 25% InPe.

      as for the constructs, people like zack ajmal and i have assumed that they’re not real singular pops as early as 2010. we’ve been saying there must have been a different west asian migration event (we were right). ANI + ASI are easy abstractions…but obv they weren’t real peoples. just statistical averages.

      i think “ASI” itself is clearly heterogeneous. the problem is f-stats are bad at picking up small regional differences.

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      1. Thanks very much, really appreciate your taking the time to write a detailed reply. It will take me a while, due to my lack of background, to process some parts of your response (e.g., the cautionary word that natural selection will impact both the mtDNA and Y). I may still bother you more later, perhaps in a different thread, if I can come up with questions that seem non-stupid to me.

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    2. (3) is a very good question. This is one reason I find the Tajikistan area to be the best candidate for the “Indo Iranian” homeland — the massive migration from the Kazakh steppe should have ended by ~2000 BCE — although there should have been a vast area to its north with Indo Aryan dialects (“Uttara Kuru and “Uttara Madra”) that would have carried those Indo Aryan loanwords to the Uralic languages.

      (1) Yes, ANI has ~10-20% AASI ancestry, coming from the InPe.
      ANI is just a statistical variable for a certain mix of populations at one point of time. Those
      “certain mix of populations” is characterized by another variable at an earlier point of time.
      What we see is not unlike an RGB haxagon (see image in link) whose number of vertices and color mix changes with time, and if we go back sufficiently into the past, converges to a single point representing the first migration out of Africa.

      https://hexnet.org/files/images/hexnet/rygcbm-hexagon.png

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    1. Well written. Conflation of genetics with culture is total BS which many on the Left commonly do…

      Punjabis on either side of the Indo-Pak border are almost a single people genetically. But when they were raping and pillaging each other in the Partition riots, that genetic commonality was of little value or worth. Same in the Koreas. Or Balkans. Or the good old Franco-Prussian wars. Over and over again, culture trumps genes.

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      1. Here is one simple fact idiotic Americans don’t get: the Hindutva emphasis on OIT is not out of any obsession with racial purity (what those American rascals see in their own history, they see in others). The Hindutvavadis were afraid, perhaps even paranoid, of AIT/AMT being used as a tool to divide south vs north and to justify British rule.

        They support OIT with the hope of uniting the country, not with the idea of dividing the people. Look at the Hindu vs Muslim clashes in India, you hardly see any race appearing. It is cultural and political, somewhat in the spirit of what you point out.

        In this sense, the Hindutva naivete on OIT is analogous to SJW naivete on racism, but without realizing that Americans interpret their motivations differently.

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        1. Hello,

          “They support OIT with the hope of uniting the country, not with the idea of dividing the people.”

          Not that I have any strong views in favour of “Hindutvavadis” or against them- but would they have not been much better off trying to realise their goal by employing such methods as emphasising the synthesis in India between cultural groups, both Indo-Aryan and non-Indo-Aryan to give rise to Indian culture, etc. rather than just trying to subsume everything under the Sanskritic umbrella (linguistic-wise)? For example, they mostly concentrated on trying to prove Indus Civilisation as Indo-Aryan-speaking and they have been keeping on doing that for a long while- they could have parallelly done research to establish how much Indian influence there was on hypothetically in-migrating Indo-Aryans and their later culture also, no? With a sort of side view, i.e. as a just-in-case option, that Indus and other old Indian cultures of north India may not have been Indo-Aryan speaking?

          Now the truth value of such things is a different matter (I for one personally believe that the dominant classical Indian culture indeed has Sanskritic origins with a significant percentage of non-Indian Indo-European influences), but this appears to be a better course of action ought to have been taken by Hindutvavadis for their ideologies sake, no?

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          1. I mostly agree with you. In fact one of my pet peeves is that Hindutvavadis often react in a way that makes the American biases about them stronger!

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        2. In this sense, the Hindutva naivete on OIT is analogous to SJW naivete on racism, but without realizing that Americans interpret their motivations differently.

          I agree here, but SJWs have the scientific & media establishment on their side, so are guaranteed a soft-landing- eg: Reich’s Op-Ed in the Times and other such pieces to come that gradually introduce the facts in a semi-safe space. Hindutva doesn’t have that luxury and only brings ridicule on itself through its naivete.

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        3. Yes, the Dravidian politics of Periyar in post-Independence India was a major spanner in the works for the Hindutva project. And then the latter-day Dalit politics joined the bandwagon confounding race and culture further.

          I can totally see a dude from the Gupta period in 500 CE, time travelling to 2000s and wondering what the fuck is wrong with these people. The Brits toyed with us in ways were are only just beginning to realize – crafty SOBs!

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    2. An interesting hindutva response that points to the crystallization of a more mature engagement than mere denial. In my experience with interlocutors among hindutva footsoldiers and even regular Hindus, I find belief of Sanskrit’s development in its Rigvedic form in India, and the composition of those & later works/texts in India to be held more sacrosanct than fanciful notions of India being mother of civilization & PIE homeland etc…

      Question-
      “So there was a migration of people into India, and as it happens, the genetic signals show that there was also an early migration out of India around 4,000-5,000 years ago or so into the Bactria region (modern day Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). “
      This is an interesting claim; what is the genetic evidence here? Could this be spun as an earlier Out of India event before the Into India Steppe migrations shown here? Since we don’t have ancient DNA from the Indo-gangetic plain from before 2500BCE yet (when is the prospective ancient Rakhigarhi DNA dated to?), can such a claim be denied with current genetic data?

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      1. I think if you read the paper in full you will the argument for the South Asian admixture in BMAC and Shahr I Sokhta within the paper itself. Ofcourse the AIT/AMT blind believers will completely ignore this as it does not interest them or suit their agenda.

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      2. This is an interesting claim; what is the genetic evidence here?

        Razib can correct me but I think the reference is to an observation in the recent Narasimhan et al paper, described by Razib here: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/03/31/the-maturation-of-the-south-asian-genetic-landscape/

        Namely, out of the several samples they get from the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, exactly three individuals have their genetic data to be a mixture of Iranian farmer and AASI; which in itself wouldn’t have told us much if not for the fact that these are matched by samples from Swat valley (except for additional Steppe ingredient in the Swat valley samples). The authors conjecture these three individuals to have been migrants from the Indus valley.

        This is as far as I can bullshit based on what I have read, hopefully someone knowledgeable will correct me and/or answer your other questions.

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        1. No that is not all. There is a main BMAC cluster comprising of 46 samples from 4 sites. This main BMAC cluster has 5 % AASI suggesting that all of these BMAC people had South Asian admixture.

          Ofcourse the South Asian people who spread the AASI in the BMAC people are likely to have been like the IVC migrant from Gonur who himself had only 18 % AASI. Extrapolating from this one can argue that the South Asian admixture among the common people of BMAC was between 25 to 30 %.

          Quite substantial indeed. But ofcourse this is not evidence of Out of India if you were to ask the leftists.

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          1. That is true (about the cluster with 5% AASI), I forgot that. Don’t know enough to comment on the rest.

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          2. Extrapolating from this one can argue that the South Asian admixture among the common people of BMAC was between 25 to 30 %.

            Thank you JaideepSinh & froginthewell!
            Assuming you are correct here (I have only read reviews of the pre-print yet), when are these 46 samples from BMAC dated to?If the upper bound on the composition of RigVeda in India is 5000BP (say at least 500 years after earliest horse domestication in the steppes), and the Rig Veda itself has older and newer sections that have been interpreted as showing a movement in time from environs resembling the Gangetic to the Indus plain (from secondary sources, pardon if I am wrong), perhaps over 1000 years, then won’t this OIT-ish argument will have to rely on BMAC samples being post-4000BP?
            I am an amateur in this area, so please disregard if this sounds unworthy of engagement 😊

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          3. @Rahul: First of all, I am also an amateur, so I certainly don’t have any moral authority to brand someone else an amateur and disregard. Razib has patiently answered many of my questions inspite of that.

            I have only casually looked at the main text of the paper and not its figures and other supplementary data, so I don’t know the precise datings of those BMAC fellows with 5% ancestry, but it seems to be between 2300 BC and 1400 BC, if my understanding of lines 238-254 of the paper ( https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2018/03/31/292581.full.pdf ) is correct.

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  3. If the above is correct they got usable DNA from one Rakhigarhi sample. I predict it will be like “Indus Periphery”, but with more AASI

    I predict that it will have equal or lesser amount of AASI. They are going to be more like Sarazm EN. Let us see who turns out correct.

    we have enough now that in broad sketches most people are now falling in line with what happened demographically from the northwest

    No we do not have enough. We only have Iron Age samples from a peripheral region and 3 IVC migrants. That’s not enough. We need a few IVC samples, a few chalcolithic, Neolithic and Mesolithic samples before we can even begin to conjure a broad outline of South Asian genetic history. Unfortunately some people are just too eager to write the final word.

    The “AASI” ancestry is deeply rooted in South Asia

    The AASI maybe deep rooted but does it prove that it was spread across all the regions of the subcontinent at the start of South Asian Neolithic ?

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    1. . We only have Iron Age samples from a peripheral region and 3 IVC migrants. That’s not enough. We need a few IVC samples, a few chalcolithic, Neolithic and Mesolithic samples before we can even begin to conjure a broad outline of South Asian genetic history.

      there are some neolithic/iron age samples out there. pulled off current papers for some reason. but i’ve seen them.

      Unfortunately some people are just too eager to write the final word.

      no, we’re just pretty sure. we could be wrong. but i don’t think so.

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  4. @Rahul,

    For a proper methodical dating of the Rigveda, you should read Shrikant Talageri’s research on the subject.

    You can start by going through his latest blog on this topic –

    https://talageri.blogspot.in/2018/04/what-is-value-of-new-genomic-evidence.html?m=1

    The BMAC samples have been dated in the paper as being from 2100 BCE – 1600 BCE. But the dating method is not 100 % watertight. There are always error margins. The dates could extend to a couple of centuries on either side.

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  5. The only reason for vagheesh et al to claim that steppe arrived into South Asia is based on proximal modelling and also based on which samples has the right proportions of ancestries to combine with InPe to arrive at Swat Valley composition.\

    And what exactly do the InPe lack is Anatolian ancestry.

    So the whole conclusion is based on the currently available samples to them and of that they cherry pick samples which do not have Anatolian and high AASI and declare then as InPe or migrants from IVC. Pretty convinient I would say.

    I totally agree with Jaydeep, that IVC samples will look like Geokisur_EN/Sarazm_EN with equal or more AASI depending on when the AASI expansion started from the SouthEast to the NorthWest. (The expansion of AASI is documented by the Rakhigarhi study of which we got to hear some preliminary results by G.Chaubey and as indicated by him no other group has found this expansion)

    Infact even vagheesh et al paper considers the same possibility in a round about way but does not arrive at that conclusion due to time of the Eneolithic samples and the artificial constraint introduced by themselves by declaring InPe as IVC.

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