The last days of pre-ancient DNA Indian population genomics

If anyone wants to know about the population genetics of South Asia, I recommend three papers (all are open access):

Genetic Evidence for Recent Population Mixture in India

A genetic chronology for the Indian Subcontinent points to heavily sex-biased dispersals

The promise of disease gene discovery in South Asia

In the near future ancient DNA will do for South Asia what has been done for Europe, and to a lesser extent the Near East. It will pull back our veil of ignorance. But until then we have genomic inference from larger data sets with a greater number of markers. What can we say now?

– The 2009 work that modern South Asians are broadly a compound of two streams of the out of Africa populations is correct. One is much like other West Eurasians. Another is distantly related to other East Eurasians, with possible affinities to Paleolithic Southeast Asian hunter-gatherers.

– The West Eurasian ancestry of South Asians, the “Ancestral North Indians” (ANI), does likely seem to be a mixture at minimum between two groups. One element is related to the eastern farmers who first adopted agriculture on the slopes of the Zagros ~10,000 year ago. Another stream is closely related to the Yamna people who flourished on the Eurasian steppe north of the Black Sea ~5,000 years ago.

– The Munda peoples seem to have a distinct Southeast Asian component that ties them with other Austro-Asiatic peoples. Their migration was almost certainly tied to the Neolithic migration of rice farmers. They are likely not the primal aboriginals of South Asia.

– The R1a1a-Z93 Y chromosomal lineage found across much of South Asia, and especially the higher castes and the north, increased in frequency within the last 4,000 years. It is almost certainly exogenous to South Asia; ancient DNA from the steppe finds the Z93 in Iranic peoples, but no Indian ancestry in these groups.

As I said, ancient DNA will clarify lots of things. I expect that to happen in the next few years.

7 thoughts on “The last days of pre-ancient DNA Indian population genomics”

  1. Required that we really find true representative ancient DNA samples, either because of lack of appropriate weather conditions (temperate weather rather than colder climate as present in Europe) to preserve ancient DNA as well as cultural practice of burning the dead bodies pan India since ancient times…I think the practice of burying the dead was introduced in recent times. Let’s hope for the best!

  2. I’m going to take a wild guess: what they knew in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries – namely, that invaders from the steppe brought language, mythology, technology and genes to the peoples of the Indus Valley.

    The non-genetic evidence is pretty straight forward; some thought that genetics would overturn those conclusions, but it will strengthen them.

  3. aDNA from Oxus can reveal much more about R-Z93 as BMAC is highly probable area as transit point to South Asia as well as Arabia.Its a million dollar question whether quality sample can be recovered or not

  4. “R1a is exogenus to South Asia’. It is quite amazing how modern country boundaries and geographical terms are used to discuss ancient events, when such boundaries and terms would have been unknown to those populations. South Asia is a term coined in the twentieth century. Why should ancient people be thought to be beholden to such definitions? Would it not be better to say that genes spread from the Oxus region? There is evidence that Indus Valley cities traded extensively with Oxus populations. What evidence does genomics offer that the people inhabiting these two regions thought that they were different from one other in cultural terms? And if they did think they were different, how much and on what basis? In the Bronze age were there countries and nations in the modern sense? While discussing migrations and invasions I feel that one should be careful not to fall into the trap of colonial scholarship bent on belittling indigenous cultures around the world.

  5. Pingback: South Asian DNA

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