The Roots of Indo-Iranian cultural genesis

Here is my take on the significance of South Asian aDNA from Eastern Iran and Central Asia during the Bronze Age –

The Chalcolithic contacts between South Asia and regions immediately to its East & North i.e. Eastern Iranian cultures such as Jiroft or Halil Rud (from sites such as Jiroft & Konar Sandal) & Helmand (Shahr-i-Sokhta) as well as Central Asia (from sites such as Geoksiur or Sarazm) are not so well documented. This is an unfortunate lacunae that needs to be filled up in the near future because the Chalcolithic appears to be a critical phase where the communication channels within this vast region are likely to have become more intensified leading to a process of urbanism and continuing well upto the downfall of these urban civilizations.

Nevertheless, there are some tantalising and very important clues for this period that can have larger repurcussions as more research is done but I will come to that later.

Let me first point out the archaeological and genetic evidence we have for the 3rd millenium BC.

First let us note the evidence of interaction between the Helmand civilization (exemplified by sites such as Shahr-i-Sokhta & Mundigak)

A series of artefacts found at Shahr-i Sokhta and nearby sites (Iranian Seistan) that were presumably imported from Baluchistan and the Indus domain are discussed, together with finds from the French excavations at Mundigak (Kandahar, Afghanistan) that might have the same origin. Other artefacts and the involved technologies bear witness to the local adaptation of south-eastern manufactures and practices in the protohistoric Sistan culture. While the objects datable to the first centuries of the 3rd millennium BCE fall in the so called “domestic universe” and reflect common household activities, in the centuries that follow we see a shift to the sharing of luxury objects and activities concerning the display of a superior social status; but this might be fruit of a general transformation of the archaeological record of Shahr-i Sokhta and its formation processes.

The above is part of the abstract from this paper –

https://www.harappa.com/sites/default/files/pdf/Indus-helmand2.pdf

Let me quote a few more paras from the same paper which are important and relevant to our topic –

In general, the cultural relationships between the Helmand centres and the Subcontinent appear to have been ephemeral and sporadic, had a secondary economic impact, and probably do not justify the use of the term. The links, anyhow, are well-established archaeological facts. Some classes of ceramics, tools and ornaments, throughout the whole sequence, seem to be the local versions of artefacts and habits more firmly rooted beyond the south-eastern frontier. Interestingly, at Shahr-i Sokhta we can recognize at least three technologies that may have been adopted from Indus ones: the possible evidence of local steatite disk bead production, the still unknown technology involving the making and use of terra- cotta cakes, and the import of Turbinella pyrum for a local, scarcely standardized bangle industry; the habit of impressing stamp seals onto terracotta cakes or marking them with incised signs points to a local adaptation or transformation of the original functions of these cheap objects. The carnelian abundantly present on the surface of Shahr-i Sokhta would ,b>appear to have been fired in order to enhance its colour, according to the traditional Indian technology

 Although these activities cannot be considered as economically very relevant, and possibly involved just a minority of the population of Shahr-i Sokhta, the city, particularly in Period III, appears quite per- meable to the influence of Indus habits and fashions, definitely more than any other early urban centre of eastern Iran so far excavated.

In Period II, both for the items presumably imported and those locally produced with stylistic or technical features comparable to the Subcontinent, the links include basic domestic equipment (seals, pottery, terracotta fi gurines, mouse-traps,terracotta cakes). In contrast, when one moves to Period III, the connections shift to a different functional realm, ornamentation and status display: we encounter steatite, ivory and carnelian beads, shell inlays and bracelets, gaming pieces. The use of terracotta cakes, as we have seen, continued and might even have increased. It is hard to say whether, or to what extent, this peculiar pattern refl ects an actual cultural process (a growing cultural interaction between the elites of the two cultures)

Read these above extracts from the paper and especially keep note of the bolded part.

Moving on, let us also go over similar observations made by scholars from the sites of the Jiroft civilization in Eastern Iran which is situated in the Kerman province and thus immediately to the east of the Sistan province where the Helmand civilization existed.

http://www.academia.edu/11850285/Indus_Components_in_the_Iconography_of_a_White_Marble_Cylinder_Seal_from_Konar_Sandal_South_Kerman_Iran_

This paper presents a detailed analysis of the iconography carved on a cylinder seal found in a metallurgical site within the archaeological complex of Konar Sandal South, near Jiroft, in the Halil river valley of the Kerman province, south-eastern Iran. This seal is made of a whitish marble and – even if heavily worn by use – it retains traces of different animal figures. These animals represent the translation into local style of a rare but characteristic iconography found in the seal production of the Indus CivilizationThe merging into a single seal of different animals, some of which clearly belong to the standard animal series of the Indus seals, might have provided the owner with a special authority that allowed him/her to hold different administrative functions. Moreover, the discovery at Konar Sandal South of a cylinder seal bearing an Indus-related iconography might further testify to the direct interest of Indus merchants and probably craftsmen in trade exchanges with a major early urban site in south-eastern Iran

This is the abstract from the paper.

Now let me quote a few extracts of interest from the rest of the paper –

Regardless of its manufacturing tradition, this seal from Konar Sandal South seems in fact to re-elaborate and adapt to the local style an original and peculiar iconography of the Indus Civilization, respecting also a series of rules at the basis of the Indus seal production. In the impression, all animal images face (in this case, one could also say ‘rotate’) right, as they are normally arranged in the Indus seals once stamped on clay. Interestingly, zebu 3.1 is the first animal of the procession. This order seems to match the prominence that most scholars ascribe to the seals showing zebus in the standard Indus stamp seals

Even if the depiction of a zebu bull would not necessarily imply a Harappan affiliation of the complex imagery of this seal, this animal being physically present in south-eastern Iran at the time and well-represented also in the local art tradition, the association of three distinctive Indus animal icons – zebu, unicorn, and buffalo – almost certainly does.Moreover, the pars pro toto synoptic principle fully belongs to the Indus iconographic tradition, as demonstrated by the several composite animal figures present in the corpus of Indus stamp seals. Considered all together, these animals may symbolize something more than a simple list or procession, representing instead the physical disembodiment of a concept represented on two similar Indus whirl-like images on stamp seals

In general, the Halil Rud animal imagery more directly linked to the iconography of the Indus civilization suggests a precise knowledge of very important eastern symbols , but also a strategic will of subverting their original implications, adapting them to the local style and tradition

These bleached beads and cylinder seal from the copper-processing area can be added to a consistent series of other Indus-related artefacts discovered at Konar Sandal South: animal figurines with human faces on exhibit at Jiroft Museum,one cubical and twelve spherical weights related to the metrological system of the Indus Valley,the metal stamp seal with typical Indus animal icons already discussed for its manufacturing technique,fired steatite disk-beads found in both the settlement area and the pilfered grave- yard of Mahtoutabad,and the local processing of a limited amount of unmistakable chert from the Rohri Hills in Pakistan, including an over-exploited ‘bullet’ core reduced by indirect pressure techniques. Most probably, a systematic editing of the excavation reports of Konar Sandal South will add more evidence of the direct presence of Indus traders in the most important civilization core of south-eastern Iran.

Here is another article which dwelves on the above same subject –

https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=5487839

Unfortunately at present this article is not freely available online as it was apparently earlier (I have a copy).

Not let us look at Indus influence in BMAC.

I am quoting from the concluding section of the below paper –

http://www.academia.edu/34596109/Manufacturing_and_trade_of_Asian_elephant_ivory_in_Bronze_Age_Middle_Asia._Evidence_from_Gonur_Depe_Margiana_Turkmenistan_

The detailed study of the substantial collection of artifacts made from the ivory of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus Linnaeus, 1758) discovered at the Oxus Civilization site of Gonur Depe, in southern Turkmenistan, demonstrates that most of these objects were probably manufactured in Central Asia according to the local artistic tradition and did not arrive as finished items from sites in the Indus Valley. In fact, almost all ivories excavated at Gonur Depe show a marked degree of functional and stylistic separation from the contemporaneous pro- ductions of ivory objects in the Indus Civilization. A few ivory objects may have occasionally arrived in Central Asia from the greater Indus Valley as finished items. However, considering the sources of elephant ivory available for Gonur Depe, the discovery on site of the large unworked section of an elephant tusk, and the evidence for reworking of ivory objects at Gonur Depe and possibly also at other sites in the Oxus basin, it seems more likely that tusks of male Asian elephants were traded to Central Asia, whole or in large sections, by merchants who might have provided also the skilled craftsmanship necessary to transform them into finished objects. The highly specialized skills and expertise required to carve ivory objects comparable to the ones found at Gonur Depe suggest that they were manufactured by local wood carvers or most likely by Indus-trained ivory carvers.

If one goes through all of these extracts, there is an unmistakable pattern. There is an attempt to imitate objects or materials that are originally from the larger Indus civilization region. It is also speculated by the authors that Indus traders were likely involved.

However, we now have the genetic evidence from the Narasimhan et al paper that clearly show that there were migrants from the Indus civilization living in both Eastern Iran and in Central Asia from 3100 – 2500 BC. The preprint only had 3 of these InPe samples as Razib calls them. But now it seems, there are 15 more InPe samples that have been discovered by the Harvard team with specific Indian origin mtDNA and y-dna as well. It is also evident that almost samples from Bronze Age Shahr-i-Sokhta and BMAC have South Asian admixture.

So we see a very substantial genetic imprint in Eastern Iran and Central Asia during the Bronze Age which is preceded by a lot of South Asian migrants into these regions between 3100 – 2500 BCE.

Why was there such a large migration from South Asia outwards ? In my opinion, this migration co-incides with the onset of the Mature Harappan phase. The mature Harappan phase is characterised by a high degree of uniformity and urbanism over the Greater Indus region which was lacking earlier. Some archaeologists have even argued that this represented a political empire.

So, just maybe, around 3000 BCE, one political tribal group among the several regional polities in South Asia began to extend its political power over other entities ultimately leading to the vast scale uniformity and unity of the mature Harappan phase. This perhaps forced these other regional political entities to flee into more distant regions. This may have led them to migrate into Eastern Iran and Central Asia. These migrants may have then created or catalysed the formation of urbanism in these regions.

This could also mean that the larger Indus civilization region as well as the Eastern Iranian and Central Asian civilization were genetically, culturally and quite possibly linguistically brought into unity by this process starting in the early 3rd millenium. Let us bear in mind that it is this very region that historically was the classical Indo-iranian linguistic region.

There is also evidence that the materials excavated from the sites of the Jiroft civilization have Zoroastrian iconography such as the Vara – the enclosure of Yima where all living beings were safe from calamity, already in the 3rd millenium BC adding further credence to my proposition that the roots of Indo-Iranian culture were already laid by the cultural transformation that came about in the Greater Indus, Eastern Iran and Central Asian regions through an impetus from Indus migrants.

https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=6099872

Protohistory of the vara. Exploring the Proto-Indo-Iranian Background of an Early Mytheme of the Iranian Plateau

Abstract:-

In this article I propose, after the original inspiration of a paper by A. Panaino (2012), that a peculiar architectural motif, quite common on a class of carved softstone artifacts produced in south-eastern Iran in the 3rd millennium BC, mirrors a mythological theme linked to an archaic flood or cataclysm legend. The stone vessels I discuss were funerary in character, and I argue that perhaps they were used to contain and distribute sweets during funerals. It seems that in south-eastern Iran, during the the 3rd millennium BC, one or more versions of flood myths were deeply rooted in the local cultural substrata. In a unknown later moment, a version would have been absorbed into the official Zoroastrian religious literary corpus, retaining important correspondences with the iconography of the middle Bronze age.

There is also evidence from several Harappan sites where the Indian archaeologists have argued that the funerary customs mirror those described in Vedic texts and that at sites such as Kalibangan & others there is actually evidence of fire altars just as in Vedic sacrifices.

http://www.academia.edu/10187944/How_the_Harappans_Honoured_Death_at_Dholavira

http://www.heritageuniversityofkerala.com/JournalPDF/Volume2/152-183.pdf

In contrast, let me quote about the archaeological evidence of the so-called steppe migration into Central & South Asia which suppossedly brought Indo-Iranians into South Asia.

This survey of the archaeological and biological record of southern Central Asia yields four important findings. First, contacts between the sedentary food-producing populations of the Namazga culture populations residing in Kopet Dagh piedmont and Geokyur oasis of southern Turkmenistan who likely established the outpost at Sarazm had little to no contact with populations residing in the southern steppe zone. Second, contacts between Bronze Age steppe populations and NMG V and BMAC populations appears to have been one in which the dynamic of cultural influence was stronger on the side of the well-established sedentary food- producing populations, and this resulted in the partial assimilation of these initial newcomers to the region both culturally and, to a lesser degree, biologically as well. Third, not all of those who emigrated from the north turned to farming but may have continued a semi-nomadic existence in the highlands, which were unsuitable for the kind of intensive farming practiced in the BMAC homelands or in the regions of Khorezm. Fourth, if there was any Central Asian influence on South Asian populations, that influence likely long predated any development of Iranian, let alone Indo-Aryan, languages, and most likely occurred during the late NMG IV to early NMG V period (ca. 2800–2300 BCE) and even earlier during the Eneolithic from Kelteminar culture groups (4000–3500 BCE).

https://zenodo.org/record/1240516#.W4qS384za1s

This last paper shows that the influence of steppe migrants was limited to the northern periphery of the BMAC civilization and that most likely these steppe migrants assimilated into the culture of the BMAC than vice-versa.

And there is no archaeolgical evidence of any influence on South Asia.

And based on this flimsy evidence, we are asked to believe that some steppe people migrated into South Asia and transformed the religi0-cultural and linguistic landscape of Iran, Central Asia and a very large portion of Central Asia. Do you find this argument convinving ?

I would say that the hypothesis I have put forward is more convincing. The fact that steppe groups interacted with the BMAC may infact have lead to the formation of nomadic Iranic Scythian culture but to suggest this was the beginning of a process which transformed the linguistic landscape of the entire urbanised regions of Central Asia, Iran and South Asia in favour of the languages of the steppe nomads is stretching it a bit too much.

Let me end by quoting none other JP Mallory, one of the foremost proponents of the PIE steppe theory

This is indeed the problem for both the Near Eastern and the Pontic-Caspian models and, fol- lowing the logic of this analysis, the Bouckaert model appears to be in the same boat. All of these models apparently require the Indo-European languages (including their attendant agri- cultural vocabulary) to be superimposed/adopted by at least several major complex societies of Central Asia and the Indus… In any event, all three models require some form of major language shift despite there being no credible archaeological evidence to demonstrate, through elite dominance or any other mechanism, the type of language shift required to explain, for example, the arrival and dominance of the Indo- Aryans in India. …all theories must still explain why relatively advanced agrarian societies in greater Iran and India abandoned their own languages for those of later Neolithic or Bronze Age Indo- Iranian intruders.

https://www.proto-indo-european.ru/ie-cradle/_pdf/clouds-over-ie-homelands-nallory.pdf

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Admittedly, what I have proposed does not explain how Indo-Europeans reached Anatolia and Europe. The genetic evidence for that is not evident at present but I can certainly show some archaeological evidence and linguistic support for such an argument. But that shall be in a later post.

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28 thoughts on “The Roots of Indo-Iranian cultural genesis”

  1. “Helmand civilization”

    Helmand is cognate with Sanskrit Setumant i.e. a place with bridges (Setu). Once it should have been easy to cross rivers in Helmand , hence the name Setumant (setu+mant) . Suffix ‘Mant’ has a wide range of Indo-european cognates like in ’emolument’ in English which means ‘full of’. Mant in sanskrit is ‘vant’ in Avestan

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    1. You’re right that it is cognate with Sanskrit Setumant since the word Helmand is considered to be ultimately derived from Avestan Haetumant.

      But as per the Wikipedia entry (which is also suppported by other sources) it’s meaning appear to one which is dammed or having dams and may have something to do with use of the river for irrigation.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmand_River

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    2. Mant in sanskrit is ‘vant’ in Avestan

      This is obvious nonsense. Both -mant and -vant suffixes exist in Sanskrit (and Avestan or Old Persian). Examples in modern Persian are khodavand and sehatmand.

      A small set of examples attested in Sanskrit (by no means exhaustive):
      putravant = having a son,
      apUpavant = having cakes,
      UrNAvant = wooly,
      taviSivant = vehement,
      agnivant = ignited,
      padvant = having feet,
      nasvant = with nose

      And

      yavamant = rich in barley,
      avimant = possessing sheep,
      madhumant = rich in mead/honey,
      AyuSmant = long-lived,
      virukmant = shining,
      vipruSmant = with drops/wet,
      shrImant = with money/fame

      -mant suffixed words are generally interchangeable with -vant suffixed words, and typically the latter occur much more in Sanskrit (2-3 times in frequency). There are some minor grammatical differences in their use as well.

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  2. However, we now have the genetic evidence from the Narasimhan et al paper that clearly show that there were migrants from the Indus civilization living in both Eastern Iran and in Central Asia from 3100 – 2500 BC.

    To be honest, the archaeological details go over my head (and are painstaking for me to grasp at a glance). So I’ll take whatever you have to say at your word for now pending future evaluation if I get more time.

    But regarding what you say in the above sentence: isn’t this consistent with the theory that the IVC culture spread as far as BMAC (which I don’t think any AIT/AMT proponents dispute)? It wouldn’t necessarily prove that their horizon went any further, unless you find more evidence to track “pots” and “genes”. And 2500 BC is early enough to account for the Andronovo people moving south around 2000 BC or after as is proposed in the Kurgan theory.

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    1. No the horizon of the Indus civilization was not just limited to this. There were Harappan colonies in Arabia as well and Harappans are also documented to have been present among the Bronze Age Near Eastern people.

      The BMAC civilization itself shows significant influence on the Sintashta site which is held up as seat of origin of Indo-Iranians on the steppe.

      But the point is this – since a very large area comprising NW South Asia (the Greater Indus region), Eastern Iran and Central Asia were already urbanised and in communication and since this process itself was probably driven by large no of South Asian migrants into these outer regions, it is likely that they may have spoken related languages.

      If we believe the steppe theory, we are forced to believe, that this entire vast stretch of urbanised civilizations were totally divested of their languages by nomads from the steppe, nomads who based upon archaeology appear to have been more influenced by rather than influence the urbanised civilization of BMAC. And the evidence for interactions of these steppe groups further South into South Asia is non existent. So why should be believe that steppe groups brought Indo-Iranian languages into these regions ?

      Rather it is more probable that in the 3rd millennium BC, these great urbanised civilizations of South Asia, Eastern Iran and Central Asia were already Indo-Iranian or IE speaking.

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  3. Doesn’t a lot of the data suggest that IVC is an Arya civilization? Including the pictures, religious symbols, and depictions of Siva/Purusha?

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  4. Good day!Here the question is not even in continuity or replacement of one language to another. The question should be about the cultural basis. For example, the life described in Rigveda-how much corresponds to the civilization of Harappa?

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  5. It is pretty confusing the referenced text (JP Mallory) presented at ‘Indo-European Homeland and Migrations: Linguistics, Archaeology and DNA’. He presents three ‘solutions’ to the Indo-European problem. It is not clear the timeline of events and actors. Everything is blurred, so many mentioning of Greeks and their ancestors although they came pretty late in the history, so as Latin and Germanic. Why he does not simple explain who gave the names to Greeks and Germans? It seems no one lived in today’s Greece until Greeks came over there? They came and found already established the city of Athens!? The biggest confusion makes the term (Proto)Indo-European (people, languages). Who were these exotic creatures and why they got this name? And which (IE?) languages were spoken in Europe 2000BC? He concludes his text that he, at the end,actually does not know anything. In every ‘solution’ he could follow some paths for a while until he got struck into the brick wall. Maybe, it is needed a fresh approach and methodology, instead of constantly chasing own tail.

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  6. Robin Bradley Kar is a legal studies professor and a lawyer. He has written 3 part

    On the Early Eastern Origins of Western Law and Western Civilization: New Arguments for a Changed
    Understanding of Our Earliest Legal and
    Cultural Origins (Part 1)

    According to him the western law had it’s origins in IVC . He is not a scientist of any sort , but he takes on board all the scientific theories available and comes to the conclusion IVC was arya and western legal framework is based on concepts from IVC.

    http://ssrn.com/abstract=2039500
    http://ssrn.com/abstract=2039502
    http://ssrn.com/abstract=2039504

    enjoy.

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      1. Thanks.

        I have actually read these papers a few years back but now since you’ve shared the link I will go through it again as I have forgotten a lot of what his arguments were.

        The importance of his papers lie in drawing attention to the fine logical sense it makes when one starts to think of the Indus civilization as being Indo-European. A lot of things about Indo-European origins will start making more sense but the Western academics are too hung up on their decades old theories while the research in India is too little and is not able to draw attention of the Western academics who unfortunately drive the narrative.

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  7. I find it a bit curios that the only people who sort of agree with the Hindu right on the whole Aryan IVC et all, in the south are upper castes.

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      1. I am just hoping that this issue becomes more politically charged than it has been till now. Popcorns are ready

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    1. I find it a bit curios that the only people who sort of agree with the Hindu right on the whole Aryan IVC et all, in the south are upper castes.

      Nothing curious about it. Helps them counter the charge of being foreign interlopers by the Dravidian parties.

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  8. If we believe the steppe theory, we are forced to believe, that this entire vast stretch of urbanised civilizations were totally divested of their languages by nomads from the steppe, nomads who based upon archaeology appear to have been more influenced by rather than influence the urbanised civilization of BMAC. And the evidence for interactions of these steppe groups further South into South Asia is non existent. So why should be believe that steppe groups brought Indo-Iranian languages into these regions ?

    this is not a crazy position.

    but the genetic analysis strongly indicates a lot of incoming genes from north of transoxiana from >2000 BC. even before ancient DNA this was obvious.

    it’s hard to believe. but we have another instance of agro-pastoralists shifting farming/more civilized groups: by the time we have historical writing most, though not all, ppl on the northern fringe of the mediterranean spoke indo-european languages. but the steppe influence is only a minority component.

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    1. But the picture of these incoming genes is not quite so clear. The Harappan civilization was probably already a multi-ethnic civilization. This would mean the Indus_P genes (3 samples) cannot in any way be taken to be an approximation of the genetic diversity of the Harappans. Without this major assumption the theory of a major steppe migration becomes highly questionable.

      BMAC was atleast 10 to 20 times smaller geographically & likely demographically to the Indus civilization, yet we have 69 samples from BMAC. So how can a mere sample set of 3 or 4 (and that too from different places and time-periods) be justifiably be used to approximate the genetic heritage of the Harappans ? It simply cannot give us any decisive conclusion unless one is too hasty to bring things to their end.

      Besides it is not like there was no steppe related ancestry among South Asians during the Harappan period. And there was also variation across various sites in South & Central Asia in terms of the WSHG ancestry. So considering the multi-ethnic character of the Harappans it is not inconceivable that there would have been different groups with different levels of WSHG/ANE + Iran_N + AASI ancestries with some groups having high WSHG/ANE like the modern day Jatts.

      At any rate, we have not found any R1a among the dozens of Swat samples except a solitary one from the Buddhist period. So how do we know that R1a z93 came from the steppe mlba group during the 2nd millennium BC ?

      There is also good chance that R1a has a considerably older presence in South Asia when we take cognisance of the upcoming Chaubey et al study on modern R1a in India.

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      1. But the picture of these incoming genes is not quite so clear. The Harappan civilization was probably already a multi-ethnic civilization. This would mean the Indus_P genes (3 samples) cannot in any way be taken to be an approximation of the genetic diversity of the Harappans. Without this major assumption the theory of a major steppe migration becomes highly questionable.

        this depends on representativeness. as you know there more than those 3 now. none of the harrapan era individuals exhibit evidence of noticeable steppe drift.

        additionally, it’s important to remember that *one individual represents the genealogy of LOTS of individuals going back in time* by sampling one individual you are reconstructing the phylogeny of whole populations.

        let’s use a concrete example. when i genotyped my parents and analyzed the results they were eboth around 15% east asian. this was weird to me. they are not related. but they had the same fraction. i immediately concluded that east asian ancestry was surprisingly well mixed into eastern bengal. subsequent work confirmed my inference.

        BMAC was atleast 10 to 20 times smaller geographically & likely demographically to the Indus civilization, yet we have 69 samples from BMAC. So how can a mere sample set of 3 or 4 (and that too from different places and time-periods) be justifiably be used to approximate the genetic heritage of the Harappans ? It simply cannot give us any decisive conclusion unless one is too hasty to bring things to their end.

        as you know statistical power gains level off. going from 3 to 30 is going to give much more information than going from 30 to 300.

        in an case case, your assertions are conditional on the underlying demographic structure…which we don’t know. there are a host of models. some models a few individuals would actually suffice. in others, they wouldn’t. i’m pretty agnostic on the details of the structure, though i suspect there would be a regional admixture cline.

        again, to be concrete, the Loschbour ancient genome form luxembourg was the first mesolithic western european hunter-gatherer. *every subsequent mesolithic hunter-gatherer has been genetically very smilar*, across all of western europe. that’s because they went through a bottleneck and range expansion. it was pretty obviously after the first few from across geographies and time that this homogeneity would be typical.

        Besides it is not like there was no steppe related ancestry among South Asians during the Harappan period. And there was also variation across various sites in South & Central Asia in terms of the WSHG ancestry. So considering the multi-ethnic character of the Harappans it is not inconceivable that there would have been different groups with different levels of WSHG/ANE + Iran_N + AASI ancestries with some groups having high WSHG/ANE like the modern day Jatts.

        i agree with the above.

        when i say *steppe* i’m talking specifically of the genetic element that is Yamnaya+EEF, which is the distinctive european back-migration into the steppe after the corded ware western migration. this component probably has added iranian farmer+ANE/WSHG in some fractions.

        At any rate, we have not found any R1a among the dozens of Swat samples except a solitary one from the Buddhist period. So how do we know that R1a z93 came from the steppe mlba group during the 2nd millennium BC ?

        that is strange and unexpected. otoh the incoming group could have been heterogeneous with non-steppe lineages ‘hitchhiking’. this seems to have occurred in europe: haplogroup I1 shows a star-phylogeny just like r1b and r1a. i’m pretty sure it was integrated into the indo-european expansion after cultural and biological assimilation.

        There is also good chance that R1a has a considerably older presence in South Asia when we take cognisance of the upcoming Chaubey et al study on modern R1a in India.

        yes. i would like to see this.

        perhaps r1a1a-z93 isn’t connected to indo-aryans necessarily, though it is sufficiently. i guess i’d be cool with that, speaking as a carrier myself 🙂

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  9. I think it is worthwhile to approach this problem of mention of westward migrations from the Ganges in the Puranic literature from the opposite direction also, as in making an assumption that they are not describing real events or contemporarily real events or events pertaining to the time period of the Indo-Aryan migration, etc. and investigate as to the causes of why this might have happened, etc. and see what it gives, instead of just ignoring the issue as if it is unimportant and immaterial. In case mainstream people already have done work in that area and have generated a reasonable consensus, then it’s okay and I’m sorry.

    I went and checked the accessible work of Michael Witzel online being the one-trick-pony-hopelessly-amateur-Indologist (now I sneakily might have declared myself an “Indologist” there but what I really am is just an equally hopelessly amateur linguist) that I’m and found the following related to this:

    Michael Witzel, “WESTWARD HO ! The Incredible Wanderlust of the Rgvedic Tribes Exposed by S.Talageri” (LOL how these people fight with each other so ferociously!)

    “The underlying lesson to be learned from studying the representations of the RV in such late sources — a lesson missed by Talageri — is that the politics of later priests and competing Vedic schools (Śåkhås) and redactors active at the Sanskritizing court of Videha often skewed the historical evidence found in the original RV. Note, e.g. the wrangling between the various types of Veda proponents in BĀU 3.3 (Witzel 1987); and cf. the “adoption” schemes among certain poets’ clans (Witzel 1995) as well as a divergent Rgveda at ŚB 11.5.1.10.”

    “Instead of depending on late sources like the Anukramanīs –with the motives of their composers
    remaining unstudied– T. should have first carefully collected…”

    (The diacritics got messed up when copypasting and do not exactly conform to what they are in the source)

    And at least one more relevant remark somewhere else which I can’t quite catch now.

    These are things that need to be explained in my view- it is much better if the mainstream scholars work to identify the precise nature of these Druhyus, etc. mentioned as migrating to some kind of northern areas, as perceived by the original authors of the later texts like Puranas, etc. and who the original Druhyus might have been and all that.

    There are also things like the seeming ritual importance of fire in the eastern parts of Indus Civilisation in Haryana and Rajasthan sites like Kalibangan, apparently Lothal, etc. as mentioned in the OP of this thread too that require more research and explanation. I mean if in some hypothetical world there were no non-Indo-Iranian languages of the Indo-European language family surviving, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say that a lot of scholars would associate at least the eastern Indus Civilisation of eastern Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan with early Indo-Aryan- those sites being smack dab in the middle of the valley of the then-monsoon-fed Ghaggar-Hakra which might very well have been the Sarasvati (as opposed to the current thought (though not the only one) that it might be one of the Sarasvatis) and also again what’s with all the evidence for the use of fire in ritual contexts there and apparently also having evidence for fire altars (though it would have to determined if these were related in some form- identical (or ancestral)- to the Vedic sacrifices).

    I get that the aDNA-derived Steppe_XXXX association with the distribution of early Indo-European languages is very strong and enticing- I for one strongly believe that too. But the genuine or at least apparently genuine problems encountered in the Indian archaeology, historical tradition like Puranas, etc. need to be addressed too. We have to see if there are any antecedents/parallels as can be discerned from archaeology, for the ritual importance of fire in the likely-AASI-shifted eastern Indus culture in Haryana, Rajasthan, (Gujarat also?), etc. in any Gangetic mesolithic traditions (which also had some importance for fire but in seemingly very different ways to the Indo-Aryan attachments to fire), etc. and that might lead us somewhere regarding the problems with archaeology, though not with the Indo-Aryan-dominated Puranic discourse perhaps.

    It would also help a bit in my view to reduce thinking always in terms of enthusiastic attachment of linguistic families to archaeological cultures just because some aDNA is beginning to be collected and also incorporate bottom-level realities as associated with the cultural peculiarities of the individual sites from which the aDNA is collected, into the equation. For example, I have found recently that there is an interesting problem regarding the nature of the predominant mode of disposal of the dead within the Harappan civilisation with the number of cemeteries and human remains discovered having been spectacularly low if that was the predominant mode of disposal of the dead for Harappan people.

    There is also a study that showed that most of the skeletons buried in Mature phase Harappa and Farmana might actually have been always first-generation immigrants irrespective of the century within the Mature phase when they were buried, and that they were born in resource-rich hinterlands, some of them non-Harappan even, like the copper mines area in the Khetri region of Rajasthan. The researchers of that study posited that a fosterage-like institution might have existed in the Harappan cities with wealthy Indus merchants entering into symbiotic agreements with groups controlling resources in the hinterlands (like those neolithic non-Harappan groups of the Ganeshwar-Jodhpura culture at Khetri mines for example) promising to foster some young children of the hinterland people in exchange for enhanced access to the natural resources. The authors then suggest that the individuals thus fostered may have not fully been spiritually nativised as Harappan (though they seemed to have been looked after quite well by their foster family of the city and likely married and had kids there and were buried with some modestly good amount of pots and all that) as indicated by their likely different mode of disposal after death, it appearing likely that throwing-dead-bodies-into-water-bodies, cremation, excarnation, etc. may have been the normative ways to dispose the dead for the tremendous number of people of Harappan civilisation. Now is there anything in the above interesting institution as posited bottom-up from isotope data of Harappa and Farmana remains that screams Dravidian or Indo-Aryan at us? (Apparently they found a modern-day parallel to this institution somewhere in the Hindukush mountains) Not to me, at least currently- more research has to be done to see if there is any relationship of this with any later-day Indian institutions.

    In my view, one has to engage with this type of specific low-level hypotheses too in addition to the general high-level concerns of (and neverending frustration about) Indo-Aryan identity or Dravidian identity or whatever of various archaeological cultures. I know that it might be difficult to do the above in the context of places like India in which we may never be able to collect so large amounts of aDNA unlike in more colder, drier regions, but it still helps to perform aDNA and other further analyses and conduct discourse also while having these sorts of ideas in mind too, whenever such very specific and low-level ideas are available due to hypothesis generation from other forms of, non-aDNA-related archaeological data, like physical, dental morphology, isotope-based studies, etc.

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    1. Thanks for your reply.

      Can you send a link of the last study you were talking about which speculated on migrants from hinterland brought into the Harappan civilization ?

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      1. Hello Jaydeepsinh_Rathod,

        The following is that study. (I’m not providing links because I am not liking being in the limbo for quite a while before the comment is getting finally published on the site; I don’t know if that feature is still there but earlier it was there.)

        Valentine B, Kamenov GD, Kenoyer JM, Shinde V, Mushrif‐Tripathy V, Otarola-Castillo E, Krigbaum J. Evidence for patterns of selective urban migration in the Greater Indus Valley (2600–1900 bc): a lead and strontium isotope mortuary analysis. PLOS ONE 2015; 10: e0123103. pmid:25923705

        The main author Benjamin Valentine also has a chapter titled “More than Origins: Refining Migration in the Indus Civilization”, in the archaeology book “A Companion to South Asia in the past” edited by Gwen Robbins Schug and Subhash R. Walimbe.

        Also, I don’t know if the conclusions from this study can characterised as “speculative”- for example, they say that they have used various isotopes of two elements instead of just one and that their interpretation is very likely for at least Harappa (Farmana data is a bit problematic for their hypothesis and seems that it can entertain certain alternative possibilities equally well) (but there are alternative models too that are possible for both Harappa and Farmana which the authors mention and discuss but saying that are quite convoluted and contain a lot of assumptions). But I took their conclusions at face value though, mostly. I’m not competent to evaluate them in a lot of greater detail as they are not about linguistics, which is the only field that I’m comfortable with, in any little manner.

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  10. as you know there more than those 3 now. none of the harrapan era individuals exhibit evidence of noticeable steppe drift.

    What I know, and this is second hand info, is that there are 15 more InPe samples found by the Reich team, and they have enormous variation in the AASI levels. There is also ydna and mtdna which is South Asian. But I know nothing about the ANE/WSHG levels of these populations.

    by sampling one individual you are reconstructing the phylogeny of whole populations.

    That is true but we now know that the Rakhigarhi sample is so low coverage that it is practically useless.

    So we have to fall back on the InPe samples. The InPe that we know so far were definitely not a homogenous group as you know it well. The question was really whether these groups lacked steppe_mlba which modern Indians have. But the paper unfortunately failed to demonstrate this conclusively.

    If you look into the Supplementary section on South Asians in the Narasimhan paper, they only use Swat_IA, Swat_H, Punjabi & Mala to represent the post Harappan South Asians. And in the various qpAdm models they generate (using 2 separate sets of outgroups), the combination with the highest p-value for both the Punjabi & the Mala involve older steppe groups beside the steppe_mlba. It is only the Swat samples that probably show steppe_mlba preference. But then again, the Swat samples show greater preference for steppe_mlba_west rather than steppe_mlba_east, which is again making no sense archaeologically.

    So there are no clear answers. And to top it all, the authors implicitly assume in their qpAdm models that South Asians have to be modelled as comprising of 3 streams – steppe, Iran_N groups, AASI – to arrive at their conclusion.

    the Loschbour ancient genome form luxembourg was the first mesolithic western european hunter-gatherer. *every subsequent mesolithic hunter-gatherer has been genetically very smilar*, across all of western europe. that’s because they went through a bottleneck and range expansion

    But we do not know that such a range expansion took place among Harappans. And it appears that they are arguing Harappans being endogamous already and having population structure which goes against the idea of a range expansion.

    At any rate, the 2 scenarios are different, we are comparing a hunter gatherer society with a complex Bronze Age urbanised society. In Harappan times, if there was a range expansion, it was likely to be more among the less developed populations in Inner India or among the Harappans it is more likely to be restricted to the elites.

    when i say *steppe* i’m talking specifically of the genetic element that is Yamnaya+EEF, which is the distinctive european back-migration into the steppe after the corded ware western migration. this component probably has added iranian farmer+ANE/WSHG in some fractions.

    Though I was initially reluctant to accept this – it appears that the more steppe rich South Asian groups also have slightly more ANF/EEF. The Daamgard et al paper argued that these Northern groups also have CHG which is lacking in others. One may argue that this could only come from steppe_mlba. But then the Harappans were already interacting with Iranians, Central Asians and the Mesopotamians and probably the Caucasus groups as well. This could very well have brought in ANF and CHG in their genetic mix and we do not need to resort to a steppe_mlba explanation for it especially as the archaeological evidence is quite lacking.

    otoh the incoming group could have been heterogeneous with non-steppe lineages ‘hitchhiking’. this seems to have occurred in europe: haplogroup I1 shows a star-phylogeny just like r1b and r1a. i’m pretty sure it was integrated into the indo-european expansion after cultural and biological assimilation.

    Could be. Or it maybe that the reality of things were very different from how it is being interpreted.

    perhaps r1a1a-z93 isn’t connected to indo-aryans necessarily, though it is sufficiently

    I think that the Harappans, East Iranians and Central Asians were already IE. So even if R1a z93 expanded locally, considering how Poznick et al dated the South Asian z93 to between 2500 – 2000 BC, it is more likely, in my opinion, to be related to Indo-Aryan expansion. Nothing else that we know of historically can explain the widespread South Asian presence of this Bronze Age lineage.

    But this would ofcourse mean that the steppe_mlba also received R1a Z93 from South Asia. At present state of our knowledge, there is no evidence so far to support such a claim unless we can show some sort of admixture in steppe_mlba from Harappans or BMAC or Shahr I Sokhta.

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