Podcast on South Asian genetics this week

As some of you know I co-host a podcast on genetics and history with Spencer Wells. The very first podcast we recorded in late June of 2017 was about India, but we were still getting the hang of it to be honest, and we didn’t cover much territory.

A lot has happened between then and now, and so it’s time for an “update,” which is going to cover many more topics. That being said, we haven’t recorded yet and so I’m open to “questions from the audience” that we might integrate. So please use this post to leave comments about specific topics…. (please note we have only ~1 hour or so so might not get to everything)

Update: Podcast recorded.

20 thoughts on “Podcast on South Asian genetics this week”

  1. Please provide some background for non technical readers. For example, link to references that list all known and proposed DNA admixtures from around the world along with current understandings of their connections together. Hopefully a data set that includes how many generations back said DNA Admixture might have happened.

    For example for India:
    AASI — maybe 2100 generations ago? (including ideas on origin location)
    Iranian farmer –maybe 320 generations ago? (including ideas on origin location)
    Turin steppe — maybe 150 generations ago? (including ideas on origin location)

    But in this case for all around the world.

    Please also share the latest thinking on how homo sapien modern came about. How many years ago. [400 K or 350 K?] What other hominids it might have evolved from. And the latest on mating between modern humans and other types of hominids along with approximately when such mating might have entered DNA admixture streams.

    Is it too scary to discuss how DNA might be connected to various physical health, personality trait, mental health and intelligence measures (hopefully beyond simple IQ averages and distribution functions)? If it is, please don’t discuss.

  2. It’s probably what’s on your plate anyway,but here goes request: Would you please discuss iranian farmer, rakhigarhi dna, indus valley periphery, and steppe ancestry how it reflects in the populations and castes, north, south, east, west, also how it pans out paternally and maternally for groups. If you have time, please discuss the Indian academia and media’s political edged responses. Further request: Don’t be PC/dipolmatic about it! 😉

    1. “fwiw looking my current outline we’ll talk science this time than last. the politics angle is kind of boring now to me. ”

      Too bad, but understandable, it’s due to my inate south asian tendency for juicy gossip/drama, won’t expire from lack of it.

      Do have another request: Caste age depth across populations, i.e. in the north/south/east/west are there populations that show the structure of caste older than others? Can a timeline of caste in populations spreading across the sub continent be surmised from current research in genetics? Would we be able to theorize a so called “epicenter” region? I have this pet hypothesis that with the rise of Buddhism there might of been a break or suspension of caste populations forming, but then restarted again when Buddhism declined.

      This podcast will be very interesting, waiting with great anticipation!

  3. Can you in your introductory remarks just give 2 mt summary of where the things stand now regarding the whole ASI,ANI etc thing. As well as what are some upcoming evidences you are looking forward to AND what would be some clear criteria of what inference should one draw if certain evidences are found (ie: If X is established than we can be sure that steppe people came before Y date etc, hopefully no “might be” and “possibly”)

      1. Great! Hopefully this thing closes once and for all and not drag along the lines of architectural, linguistic data etc

          1. TBH i hope the archaeologist ,linguist etc just stay the F out of all this. They are the ones who have aggravated the politicization of the whole issue (Another example is the whole Ayodhya Ram temple thing where claims and counter claims have been produced in the court depending on the Govt at center). When the data started coming initially from the genetics unlike now the left historians were cagey and dismissed it. Now since the results have closely mirrored their views they have started championing it.

            I would much rather have genetic take the lead considering it can be challenged in a more scientific way if needed.

  4. As our understanding of heritability of intelligence and cognitive ability grows, I’m interested in knowing how would it correlate to 1,500 years of endogamy in S. Asia. If the traits for intelligence are shown to be widespread across castes, would it mean India’s caste based affirmation system needs to end ? Or probably, one can argue it needs to be reinforced further. If the traits are not so widespread, would they explain the skewed representation of certain castes in the white collar professions ?

    In a future where you could select your offspring with preferred traits, would the Indian people use or even abuse the technology, like they did for sex selection and female infanticide ?

    It poses questions in ethics and sociology, some of which are probably not unique to S. Asia, but can have volatile consequences given S. Asian society.

  5. When the data started coming initially from the genetics unlike now the left historians were cagey and dismissed it. Now since the results have closely mirrored their views they have started championing it.

    i’ve been very annoyed by some of the ‘secularist’ championing of the science before it’s even done in the details. the politicization doesn’t help.

    1. Will get off from work and listen to the linked podcast (since it covers the politics surrounding the whole issue)

  6. Discuss “Caste” & what insights does Genetics provides regarding the topic. Why genetics should not be taken as a proof of Caste but rather a tool to gather the aspect that is considered to be a part of Caste i.e. Endogamy.

    Check the twitter thread & try to address the questions from it as i find it to be quite interesting.

    1. I was wondering is there a link between Ancient India’s prostitution culture & high male genetic component in Indian population ? Can you look into it.

  7. I would like to know:

    1. “R1a1 gene – where and when originated, how it dispersed over time.”

    The assertion is – the oldest R1a1 originated in the Balkan (today’s Serbia) 12.000 years ago (so-called Serbian gene), all nations in Europe (except two) have more than 40% of this gene, after 200 generations (i.e. 4.800 years ago) one part migrated from Danube to the East-European plain (future Russians), R1a1 in India is 3.850 years old, it was brought from the Balkan and now there is 100 million people in India with this gene. One stream of people moved to the Middle East, their R1a1 is 4000 years old.

    2. Please define (if you have time) the term “Indo-European” – what does it mean?

    The assertion is that for e.g. “Indo-European language” is euphemism. This is Serbian language which was a basis for European languages, Sanskrit and languages at rivers Don, Ural and Dnjepar. This language was brought to Iran, India and Afghanistan.

    Also, the terms ‘steppe’ or ‘farmers’ people do not mean much, please say which genes the had and which language they spoke.


  8. My questions would be:
    1. Any evidence of caste or population sub-structure before steppe admixture happened?
    2. More archaelogical/historical questions: we know roughly when Steppe admixture happened – but how/why? Do we know for sure it was male-mediated, likely to be violent?
    3. Origin of dravidians – we know the dravidians likely adopted a different crop-bundle at some point – any insights from genetics here?

    1. On Topic 3 (I know you asked RK, but I doubt if he can tell between jowar and pearl millet) I can reply.

      Crops, like languages cannot be readily related to people and their genes. Each crop has a different archaebotany age and history of Indian crops have been investigated by a number of people including Fuller, Snowden. However, some indications of Dravidian culture in south, west and central India can be synthesized using the first available crop date.

      Sorghum: Originated between Uganda and Lake Chad and moved to India by 1400 BC, with traces located in Late Harappan. In India, major indication of sorghum corresponds to Jorwe culture about 1400 BC.

      Millets, pearl and finger: Pearl from West Africa and Finger M. from Uganda (and surroundings) made their first appearance in the last centuries of the third millennium. Locations include both, Harappan and Neolithic sites in Gujarat and Karnataka.

      Toor and other pulses: Horsegram was the earliest located pulse in Neolithic Karnataka. Fuller and Harvey discuss a wide variety of Pulses from early harappan to Neolithic.

      To summarize, the sorghum-millet-pulses complex of Dravidans may have been an innovation translated from Africa; a cultural appropriation by the colonizers. The age varies from 6500 BC to as recent as 1000 BC based on the crop.

    2. or population sub-structure before steppe admixture happened?

      it looks like it fwiw. what everyone is saying about the papers to come from IVC.

      dravidians are in the outline.

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