The Origins of the Neolithic in the Indian subcontinent

Last week was a good one for all those who had been waiting endlessly for the Rakhigarhi aDNA paper to see the light of day and also for the pre-print ‘The Genomic Formation of South & Central Asia’ to come out in a peer-reviewed journal.

Unfortunately, the talk around both these papers has quickly degenerated to only figuring out whether these papers support an Aryan Migration or whether they do not.

However, the combined data that has come out from these two papers is a treasure trove of information and this data has enormous implications for a lot of other theories of South Asian prehistory.

I wish to focus one post for each of these important discoveries starting with the important discovery about the antiquity of IVC ancestral population in South Asia and its implication for origins of farming in the region.

The graphical extract given above is quite self-explanatory. But let us also quote from the paper itself to re-inforce what the graphical extract implies :-

The Iranian-related ancestry in the IVC derives from a lineage leading to early Iranian farmers, herders, and hunter gatherers before their ancestors separated, contradicting the hypothesis that the shared ancestry between early Iranians and South Asians reflects a large-scale spread of western Iranian farmers east. Instead, sampled ancient genomes from the Iranian plateau and IVC descend from different groups of hunter-gatherers who began farming without being connected by substantial movement of people.

They elaborate on what the implications of this finding is –

Our evidence that the Iranian-related ancestry in the IVC Cline diverged from lineages leading to ancient Iranian hunter-gatherers, herders, and farmers prior to their ancestors’ separation places constraints on the spread of Iranian-related ancestry across the combined region of the Iranian plateau and South Asia, where it is represented in all ancient and modern genomic data sampled to date. The Belt Cave individual dates to 10,000 BCE, definitively before the advent of farming anywhere in Iran, which implies that the split leading to the Iranian-related component in the IVC Cline predates the advent of farming there as well…Thus, the Iranian-related ancestry in the IVC Cline descends from a different group of hunter-gatherers from the ancestors of the earliest known farmers or herders in the western Iranian plateau.

So the paper on the Rakhigarhi aDNA sample makes it abundantly clear that the geneticists find the Iran farmer/herder related ancestry in the IVC people to have split up from the actual Iranian farmers/herders atleast before 12,000 years ago. This is well before the origin of farming on the Iranian plateau. Therefore, the clear implication of this is that the Iranian Neolithic Farmers did not contribute ancestry to the ancestors of the Harappans but that the ancestors of Harappans and the early Iranian farmers/herders descend from a common ancestral source that existed more than 12 kya.

What was the place of origin of that ancestral source ? We do not know that as yet so to assume that it is coming from Iran, as some are doing, is not borne out by evidence. It may well have originated in South Asia before moving into Iran.

I have written at length on this topic at my blog.

Infact, the deep pre-Neolithic origins of Iran N like ancestry in South Asians was already becoming apparent that as early as 2011 when this major paper on South Asian populations made the following observation –

… regardless of where this component was from (the Caucasus, Near East, Indus Valley, or Central Asia), its spread to other regions must have occurred well before our detection limits at 12,500 years.

Even before this, in 2004, when a paper, by this very same Estonian team, on mtDNA lineages shared between Iran & South Asia had come out, it was already noted that the spread of shard mtDNA lineages between the two regions was quite old.

This separation between the South Asian & Iranian farmer/herder ancestry not just dates to before 12 kya but it likely dates to the very end of the Last Glacial Maximum, somewhere around 18-17 kya.

Figure 1

The above graphic shows the early split of mtDNA U7 across Eurasia. One can quite clearly see that the oldest splits seem to be between Iranian plateau & South Asia. This pattern is also observable for other shared mtDNA & y-dna lineages shared between these 2 regions. For more on this please refer to my blog.

Therefore, the Rakhigarhi provides one more line of evidence to re-inforce what was already evident from many previous studies on modern DNA, that the major portion of the shared ancestry between the Iranian plateau and South Asia was not brought into South Asia from Iran by the Iranian farmers but had separated from the ancestors of Iranian farmers/herders well before 12,000 years ago. With this Rakhigarhi paper getting such widespread coverage, one can only hope that from now on this fact will become known to much more people than it had been previously.

South Asian Neolithic

Since it has now become clear that there was no migration of early Iranian farmers into South Asia, so it has begun to be argued that farming must have been adopted by local NW hunter gatherers of South Asia through spread of ldeas from the fertile crescent.

While this is certainly plausible, it rests on the premise that farming began independently only once in the Fertile Crescent and it spread from there to everywhere else.

This is however not so straightforward. There are similarities at Mehrgarh with the Neolithic sites of the Eastern Fertile Crescent or the Iranian Neolithic but not with the Levant or Anatolian Neolithic. The archaeologist who discovered the Neolithic site of Mehrgarh and carried out decades of excavation over there, J F Jarrige, had this to say

The similarities noticed between Neolithic sites from the eastern border of Mesopotamia to the western margins of the Indus valley are highly significant. A sort of cultural continuum between sites sharing a rather similar geographical context marked with an also rather similar pattern of evolution and transformation becomes more and more evident. But the Neolithic of Mehrgarh displays enough original features to imply an earlier local background which has so far not been documented. Nevertheless the cultural dynamism shown by the inhabitants of Mehrgarh as early as level I of Period I indicate that the Neolithic of Balochistan cannot be interpreted as the “”backwater” of the Neolithic culture of the Near East. (link)

So indeed there are cultural similarities between the South Asian Neolithic and the West Iranian Neolithic and we know that the early farmers of both these regions were also separated from a common ancestor but the genetic evidence makes it clear that the common ancestor likely lived at the end of LGM aroynd 18 kya rather than the beginning of Neolithic around 9-8 kya.

It is not quite clear how the early South Asian & Iranian farmers interact or relate to each other during this Neolithic phase but it is quite clear that the early Iranian farmer was significantly different than the nearby farmers of the Levant & Anatolia both genetically and even culturally while he has much more in common with his much distant eastern cousins. Might not this imply that the origins of these Iranian farmers lay to the east close to its South Asian cousins ?

Jarrige provides several lines of evidence that suggest that the Neolithic in South Asia developed independently of West Asian input.

Lorenzo Costantini has shown that the plant assemblage of Period I is dominated by naked six row barley which accounts for more than 90% of the so far recorded seeds and imprints. He has also pointed out the sphaerococcoid form of the naked-barley grains with a short compact spike with shortened internodes and small rounded seeds. According to him, such characteristics in the aceramic Neolithic levels can be ascribed to probably cultivated but perhaps not fully domesticated plants. Domestic hulled six-row barley (H. vulgare, subsp. vulgare) and wild and domestic hulled two-row barley (H. vulgare subsp. spontaneum and H. vulgare subsp. distichum) have also been recorded, but in much smaller quantities. According to Zohary quoted by R.H. Meadow, the distribution of wild barley extends today to the head of the Bolan Pass. It is therefore likely that local wild barleys could have been brought under cultivation in the Mehrgarh area.

The main crop at Mehrgarh was barley by far and we see that there is enough evidence to suggest its local domestication from nearby wild varieties.

There is also genetic evidence to suggest two independent centers of barley domestication.

There has long been speculation that barley was domesticated more than once. We use differences in haplotype frequency among geographic regions at multiple loci to infer at least two domestications of barley; one within the Fertile Crescent and a second 1,500–3,000 km farther east. The Fertile Crescent domestication contributed the majority of diversity in European and American cultivars, whereas the second domestication contributed most of the diversity in barley from Central Asia to the Far East.

It is abundantly clear that the barley used by South Asian Neolithic farmers fits in very well with this second domestication scenario.

Jarrige also notes,

The presence of bones of relatively small subadult and adult animals in the trash deposits of the early levels confirms, according to R.H. Meadow, the domestic status of at least some of the goats. Meadow has also clearly shown that “” though in the course of Period I at Mehrgarh, the remains of sheep and cattle became to increasingly dominate the faunal assemblages of the successive strata, at the same time, the animal represented grew smaller in body size”. By the end of Period I, cattle bones amount for over 50% of the faunal remains. Osteological studies as well as clay figurines indicate that zebu cattle (Bos indicus) is well attested in Period I and became most probably the dominant form (Fig. 12). Mehrgarh provides us therefore with a clear evidence of an indigenous domestication of the South Asian zebu. We know today that Bos indicus and Bos Taurus, the non-humped bull from the Middle-East, have a different genetic origin. Therefore the assumption that farming economy was introduced full-fledged from Near-East to South Asia needs to be questioned.

The archaeological & genetic evidence therefore clearly implies a local domestication of indigenous cattle just as is the case with the domestication of barley. Even the goats and sheep were likely domesticated from local wild populations of the same. We may bear in mind that the Iranian Neolithic farmers were essentially goat herders and did not have cattle for a long period before it eventually came in from the Anatolian-Levant region. So they couldn’t possibly bring in the know-how or cattle domestication to South Asia.

With such an abundance of evidence at our disposal it becomes clear that the origins of Neolithic economy in South Asia can be attributed to local South Asian Hunter Gatherers, deeply related to Iranian farmers/herders, who started it by indigenous domestication of barley and cattle from local wild ancestors. So the only question that remains is whether the Neolithic technological knowledge came in from the Fertile Crescent.

That is difficult to answer, but we may end here by noting that in the case of the Near Eastern Neolithic, the transition from hunting gathering phase to the farming phase brought about an admixture of Iranian Farmer like admixture in the local Anatolian HGs. 

Fig. 2

In the above figure a, AHG is Anatolian HG while AAF is Anatolian Aceramic Farmer. We see from this graphic that, with a transition from AHG to AAF, we see that there is an influx of admixture into AAF which brings it slightly closer to Iranian Farmer & CHG ancestry. In contrast no such admixture is seen in South Asian farmers.

So might this indicate that the Neolithic technology spread from East to West ? Future research will surely shed more light on it but it should be clear to everyone that South Asia most likely was an independent and major center of Neolithic transition and deriving its origin from the Fertile Crescent looks rather unconvincing.

We may also look afresh at the question of origins of Central Asian Neolithic and whether it derived from Iranian Neolithic or South Asian Neolithic.


58 thoughts on “The Origins of the Neolithic in the Indian subcontinent”

  1. All of this sounds plausible, but what was the original reason to assume that farming spread from the Zagros to the Indus Valley and not the other way round? And is there enough evidence now to counter that reasoning?

    1. Lack of much research in South Asia coupled with a biased reasoning that civilization arose in the Fertile Crescent because that is where the Christian world traces its old roots. Remember this research process began as early as the late 18th & Early 19th century when religion had a big stranglehold on even scientific reasoning.

      Regardless, fresh scientific evidence cannot be held hostage to old beliefs & dogma.

      1. There is Iran-like and AASI ancestry in IVC people. There is Iran-like ancestry in ancient Iran, but no AASI.

        There’s also plenty of archaeological evidence pointing to the invention of farming in the ME…

    2. Blind belief that original people of N India were the dark skinned dasas and that modern indians should be grateful that Iranians came and gave us Neolithic technology and later steppe people came and gave us culture.

  2. Why not dark-skinned Dasa farmers – why do the first South Asian agriculturalists have to be Iranian related? Is there any positive evidence for AASI showing up later?


    Lack of solid dates for earliest agriculture in South Asia (unless that’s changed recently), plus trend of farming moving eastward from western Iran toward Central Asia. Taurine cattle spread eastward considerably later than initial spread of cereals, sheep, and goats. So could be early farmers migrated into Pakistan and domesticated local zebu cattle. But could also be local beginning of agriculture with later adoption of western domesticates.

    1. Yes of course there is evidence.
      1. Shinde, Narsimhan paper notes increasing AASI ancestry in haryana from southeast india post mature Harappan stage till modern pops.
      2. AASI in 12 Indus periphery samples ranges from 6%-31%. The oldest samples (3200bc) have 6-12% & the youngest (2100bc) has 31%. So with time we have increasing AASI ancestry moving from S/SE
      3. The indian Iran like component has no admixture with Iran farmer component. So it clearly didn’t come from where did it come from?we haven’t seen such a pop elsewhere. Easiest explanation is that it was present in NI itself.
      4. Narsimhan estimates AASI mixing with Iran like ancestry around 4500bc. ANI mixes with AASI in palliyar post 1700bc.
      5.AASI rich tribal groups like palliyar, irula are very short (avg height around 150-154cm). Onge avg height is 147. Mesolithic ganga plain males 6500bc had avg height of 180cm. Rakhigarhi avg male height was 176cm. Iran hotu belt cave male height also 176cm. Doubtful that the ganga Mesolithic men were aasi.
      6. The simplest explanation is that NI was rakhigarhi female like, south India AASI rich and Central India somewhere in the middle.
      7. More ancient data will make picture clearer

      1. The indian Iran component has no admixture with Iran farmer Neolithic. Hence highly unlikely that it was hiding in some secret Iranian valley (and not mix) then came into India around 5000bc to mix with aasi. There is no population apart from NW India where such a distinct pop has been found. Therefore, the simplest assumption is that indian iran farmer like component was present in India itself since it split with Iran farmer.
        The onus is on those who think indian iran farmer like ancestry wasn’t in India till 5000bc to find such a pop outside India.
        And to find a pure aasi population in NI if they propose that aasi was from N india

      2. Thanks, Vasistha

        I don’t think there is a strong case either way (though I’m not done wading through the supplements). One bit of evidence which could point to AASI-rich early farmers is that the Mehrgarh Neolithic skeletons were Sundadont; but I don’t suppose that really rules out their being AANI (or ANE or who knows what else), and it’s only one site. Lack of AASI in Geoksyur and Sarazm, which have some cultural connections to the Early Harappan area, is also unexpected if that was full of AASI.

        Stature and body shape is under selection, not a neutral characteristic that should track phylogeny across different environments. Rainforest people are often very short, while people from hot dry regions are often tall and thin. So height doesn’t tell us anything about the deep ancestry of the Gangetic foragers.

        I’m not clear on why we should link these AASI trends far apart in space and time to some long-term migration from the southeast. What independent evidence is there for that happening? Within Shahr-i-Sokhta the earliest Indus Periphery samples are at the AANI end (assuming dating is right), but there are too few samples to say that’s not chance. We could also speculate that the change from Early to Mature Harappan (Regionalization to Integration Phase) lead to migrants coming from a larger and more heterogeneous pool, or whatever else you want to come up with.

        The Rakhigarhi study qpGraph was underwhelming. Since they didn’t model the Iranian-related ancestry in Caucasus or Steppe or early Central Asian populations, they still didn’t work out the relationship of the ancient Iranian-like components in India and Europe, which means they didn’t actually test the hypothesis of Indo-European languages and Iranian-related ancestry spreading together from a southern homeland (apart from the Zagros).

        Also, it leaves open the relationship between AANI and Copper Age Turan. Narasimhan et al successfully modelled all the Indus Periphery samples in qpAdm as Anau + Sarazm + Andamanese, with good fits, despite Anatolian in the outgroups. The Turan Copper Age samples are later than the AANI + AASI admixture dates of Indus Periphery, the minor Anatolian component declines going eastward and could be recent. So nothing prevents AANI-related ancestry being in Turan (and maybe the Iranian Plateau) elsewhere or earlier. As always we end up wishing for more aDNA.

        1. @megalophias

          Regarding mesolithic Indians, see below.

          “Craniometric features of Mesolithic Bhimbetkan skeletons appear similar to the Iron Age settlers of south India,with broad noses and wide palates (platyrrhinic, brachystaphaline), and they are thus different from the people of the Ganga Plain, although the revised dating of this site places them fairly close to the Ganga Plain time frame (see above).” from

          and from
          “For the reconstruction of stature from long bones various methods and equations have been proposed (Pearson, 1899; Nat, 1931; Dupertius and Hadden, 1951 ; Trotter and Glesser, 1952 1958 ; Athawale, 1963 ; Sharma 1974. The long bones of Bhimbetka material viz., humerus and ulna have been utilized for the reconstruction of stature. It seems that the stature of individual was between Ì 5 1-1 57 cm. As from Nat’s (1931) equation the stature from humerus comes out to be 156.88 cm. and from ulna it comes to be 151.2 cm. These results get support if we utilize the regression equation of Athawale (1964) given for Maharashtrians (neighbouring state of M.P.). The stature by Athawale’s (1964) equa- tion from ulna also comes to be 152.70 cm. So, we can* conclude that the probable stature of the individual of Bhimbetka skeleton was between 151-157 cm.” This is for an adult FEMALE.

          We already have 2 diff mesolithic indian pops from anthropological data.

          “The Rakhigarhi study qpGraph was underwhelming. Since they didn’t model the Iranian-related ancestry in Caucasus or Steppe or early Central Asian populations, they still didn’t work out the relationship of the ancient Iranian-like components in India and Europe, which means they didn’t actually test the hypothesis of Indo-European languages and Iranian-related ancestry spreading together from a southern homeland (apart from the Zagros).” Completely agree. Such lapses occur only in 1 direction.

  3. @Vasishtha: The Iran-like component didn’t magically materialize in India. It probably migrated into India during the Holocene or during the last bit of the last glaciation period. Considering that it split from other Iran HGs over 12,000 years ago, it may have come from the general south Capsian Trialetian zone which would have extended all the way east to places not very far away from modern day Turkmenistan (like Hotu cave). At least that would be my current speculation.

    1. It may have come from anywhere. Siberia also an option for both Iran type ancestries. Both pops may have differentiated over millennia of no contact with each other in their same respective geographies. Who knows. It is not material to the current discussion where they came from in pre Neolithic times.
      Question is – just prior to NI farmers and AASI mixing in haryana post 5000bc (as calculated by Narsimhan from Rakhigarhi sample), were haryanvis NI farmer like or were they AASI like. AIT proponents want it to be the latter. I’m trying to explain in the previous posts why that is highly improbable given current data.
      The original hypothesis was this -Iranians brought dravidian and farming to NI and built up IVC. Hence, IVC was dravidian. – false, Iranians never brought anything to India, no language, no IVC, no agriculture as per Shinde 2019
      Now they have to explain the language of the IVC people. If they were genetically AASI, makes it easier to push Dravidian as IVC language. That conclusion is hard given current data. Do note that few Indus periphery samples are 90+% indian Iran farmer related. So they have an almost pure indian ancestral component from NI, but no pure AASI yet. So if IVC language is not dravidian, then what did they speak? Vedic or some other unknown language?

      1. This is a gross misreading of the data.

        Everyone agrees that the Iranian Hunter-Gatherer component that forms the bulk of the IVC samples came from Iran. The distinction is that it did so before the Caucasus component arrived in the region, and possibly before the development of agriculture. Meaning its possible that the Iranian Hunter Gatherer independently developed agriculture in modern-day Pakistan, either before or after mixing with AASI Indians.

        The language was still likely Dravidian. A lot of the cultural quirks of these Iranian HG’s and later the IVC had connections with Iran at the time, not India. AASI relative admixture has nothing to do with this fact.

        1. Read the paper again, then also read Reich’s interview. Dont mislead people. Noone can claim to know where the common ancestors of iranian and north indian farmers came from. The paper says the same thing.

          The paper also says, unequivocally, that NW indian farming was developed without any population inflow through Iran plateau.

          IVC being dravidian is impossible. No linguist believes that today. Witzel surely does not. Vedic has no dravidian substrata to prove your claim. There are later loanwords from Dravidian into sanskrit, which is natural. Even Razib doesnt believe your claim.

          As far as Dravidian Brahui in balochistan is concerned, heres the reason. “However, it is now argued by Elfenbein that the Brahui could only have migrated to Balochistan from central India after 1000, because of the lack of any older Iranian (Avestan) loanwords in Brahui. The main Iranian contributor to Brahui vocabulary, Balochi, is a western Iranian language like Kurdish, and moved to the area from the west only around 1000.”

          1. I’ve read all of it. Not a single person argues or even implies that Iranian HG’s did not migrate to India from Iran. As for the development of farming, it could go either way. Not enough evidence to say for sure.

            IVC being Dravidian is the most prominent theory regarding the IVC language. You are also misrepresenting Razib here, who is arguing specifically against the Munda language theory, and Dravidian being the language of all ancient India, rather than the IVC and its migrants into the South. Though he can correct me if I’m wrong.

      2. Well, the divergent Iran HGs could have been in south Asia for a fairly long time (perhaps going as far back as early Holocene/ 10,000 BC) and later developed agriculture either independently or through slow cultural transmissions (without a genetic imprint) or both. They probably didn’t entirely originate from Siberia. I know that Iran HGs are something like 25% or 35% Siberian ANE (IDK the exact number, so if you know what it is then feel free to correct me) while the rest is basal Eurasian + proto-WHG-like.
        Regarding the question of what Haryana dwellers were like say 8,000 years ago- they could have been either on an Iran HG-AASI cline already or perhaps they were simply 100% Iran HG who had not yet mixed with AASI. I do recall Razib talking about a barrier to geneflow between south Asia and western Eurasia in the ice age, so maybe this barrier survived until later (in the early Holocene) in a reduced form, thus allowing Iran HGs to settle northern south Asia while still being separated from substantial AASI populations during the early Holocene. Either way, I don’t see how this causes problems for a Dravidian IVC scenario. The idea is that Dravidian languages were introduced to south Asia via these Iran HGs (which might have been present in south Asia for the entire Holocene) and then over time it was spread to native AASI people who themselves lost their AASI languages. The Dravidian IVC hypothesis would directly posit that Dravidian is not a native AASI language and was instead brought to south Asia by the Iran HGs.

        1. Again, there’s no dravidian substratum in Vedic to prove that NW India was dravidian speaking. It’s just wishful thinking.

          1. @indthings

            Read David Reichs statements and try to understand

            “We say ‘Iranian-related’ because we don’t know where they lived,” Reich says. They could have lived in the Iranian plateau, but the team’s data point to them having lived in South Asia for many thousands of years before the Indus Valley Civilisation, he adds.

          2. @Vasistha: Perhaps Dravidian was completely rooted out or almost rooted out of north India- something that seems to be fairly clear. You know, the steppe migrations and all.

  4. We wait for Razib to hold forth…….

    (Minor point. We can’t always rely on Razib, his getting old. We need new up and comers, so cut this guy some slack, at least his giving it a go. But I would love to see more learned people on par withRazib, imagine the landscape!).

    1. FWIW, i feel Razib is still better than almost everybody else i read on this topic, since i feel he doesn;t have a dog in this fight.

    2. “We can’t always rely on Razib, his getting old.”

      I have a feeling that you are gonna regret saying that…

  5. @Vasistha

    IVC being dravidian is impossible. No linguist believes that today. Witzel surely does not. Vedic has no dravidian substrata to prove your claim.

    My understanding as a layman is that Witzel is an outlier here, and very few linguists support his para-Munda thesis. And you are plain wrong when you say “No linguist believes that”. Asko Parpola certainly did. In fact, it seems to be the view held by a substantial number of linguists. Who exactly are you chanelling when you pooh-pooh that theory?

    Again, as a layman, my opinion is that it’s very hard to explain the linguistic landscape of modern South India if Dravidian languages and dialects are autochthonous to that region. The languages are quite similar to the ear (I’m a Tamil-speaker so I’m not talking out of my ass here.) This points to a relatively recent split from Proto-Dravidian, probably in the first millenium BC if not even later. That’s perfectly consistent with a mostly ASI-minority ANI spread from the NW to the south as is hinted at by genetics. One would likely see a much higher diversity if Dravidian were the language of south Indian hunter gatherers (think of the diversity in Papua New Guinea, a much smaller area.)

    As for Brahui, it’s an outlier regardless of what theory you hold (the people seem to be genetically identical to Baloch, but speak a relatively “fresh” Dravidian language, as I understand it; correct me if I’m wrong.)

    1. \Asko Parpola certainly did.| (believe that IVC languages were proto dravidian)

      If you read AP, there is no linguistic or literary evidence , but in a very roundabout way , ‘proved’ with a lot of circumstantial evidence. If you have to believe Parpola, you have to take many things on faith. So far , there has been no clinching evidence about the identity of languages of IVC.

      IVC despite it’s size speaks very little to us.

      1. Correct, there is no clinching evidence. That should not be translated to “disproved” though. IVC bring Dravidian is more plausible given current evidence than otherwise.

  6. First they wanted to make us believe that neither Indo Aryan nor dravidian languages are native to India, and that both came from outside.

    Since there has been no pop movement into India from Iran since neolithic at least, we can now claim with high certainty that Dravidian is indigenous. Unless one believes that the steppes, austro asiatics or Han brought dravidian.

    In the north, only steppe has entered since the BA. The movement is small, slow and stretched over time with no large scale population turnover and no visible signs of invasion. In this scenario, how is it that hardly any important place or river name or mountain name in NI is of dravidian origin?

    Proto dravidian homeland likely existed in godavari basin as suggested by Southworth 2005.

    1. and that both came from outside.

      Dude, everyone in every country “came from outside” if you go back far enough in time. Why is this such a touchy topic with people like you? Or do you not subscribe to the theory of human evolution that is widely agreed upon? Do you have any alternative theory?

      What kind of theory would you find emotionally satisfying, that you will not go to great lengths to try and disprove? That apes in southern India evolved to become Dravidian speakers? and that apes in northern India evolved to become Indo-Aryan speakers? And at some point in the Holocene they came together and sang kumbaya and formed the Vedic culture?

      (BTW… IVC is very much within historical India, so even if Dravidian spread from there to peninsular India, it’s all within the punyabhoomi.)

      1. “That apes in southern India evolved to become Dravidian speakers”

        Are we talking about Ramayana and Hanuman here 😛

  7. We need more IVC samples. From the current data we can assume, that IVC people were a mix of South-Central Asian HG and AASI, who spoke a Dravidian language. Earliest R1a DNA was found only about 1000 BCE. Game over for OIT.

  8. Also why does that one academic have such a had on regarding the para-Munda thing?

    @Vasistha: Most of current south Asian ancestry comes from outside of south Asia. At some point the Iran HGs must have migrated to south Asia (maybe over 10,000 years ago). Them and the steppe people would have been nativized over a long period of time, but their ancestors ultimately came from outside of south Asia. Nobody reasonable is arguing in favour of a movement from Iran in the neolithic anymore. Perhaps the movement dates back to the mesolithic (ice age) and perhaps it didn’t even come from Iran, but they almost certainly weren’t in south Asia for something like 30,000+ years since the pre-LGM upper paleolithic.

  9. There are some strange arguments being made here inspite of the evidence I have shown which is quite crystal clear.

    Let me summarise it in short –

    1. There was already considerable evidence from DNA studies on modern South Asians and West Eurasians which showed that the so-called Iranian Farmer/herder ancestry in South Asians separated from its Iranian cousins already around 18 kya.

    2. This is much before the so-called Iranian farmer/herder/Hunter Gatherer is attested in Iran around 12 kya. All the early samples dating to 12 or 10 or 8 kya are from Iran and hence the geneticists have labelled this as Iranian farmer/herder ancestry. The label itself does not signify the place of origin of this ancestry but where it was earliest attested.

    3. All the early samples from Iran including the geographically closest Hotu cave sample which dates to 12 kya, were one group when the ancestors of IVC people separated from them. It was only after the ancestors of IVC people separated from them that the Iranian hunter gatherers spread across Iran.

    4. Had the ancestors of IVC people come from Iran, they would have come from some particular region within Iran. The ancient Iranian farmer/herder/HG samples are from different regions of Iran. Therefore, for example, had the IVC ancestors come from Zagros they would form a clade with Iranian farmers of Zagros to the exclusion of Iran Hotu HG.

    5. There is no such evidence and thus based on the available data, it is highly unlikely that the IVC ancestors came from Iran. They came from a place where they separated from ancestors of Iranian farmers/herders before the latter group expanded across Iran. So from this clear fact there is no way one can argue that the IVC ancestors come from Iran.

    6. If people still don’t understand this you are welcome to put a query and I shall try to answer, God wiling.


    This is not an attempt to prove that everything originated in India. Rather it is an attempt to look at one’s nation’s history based on your own terms and not allowing the researchers to spoon-feed you. It, after all, just comes down to a matter of interest and this subject is quite fascinating to me. South Asia or the Indian subcontinent is a big place with a rich history of enormous complexity. Most western academia project South Asia as a backwater of west Eurasian civilization which was always on the receiving end but did not contribute much to Western Eurasian civilization. I find this rather unsatisfactory and factually incorrect.

    1. @Jaydeepsingh:
      That is because there is no DNA available from Iran or India much older than the Holocene as far as I know. A separation between 18,000 and 12,000 years sounds reasonable and an assertion of it being 18,000 years old is fine as well (since we know that CHG and Iran HG paternal lineages split 18,700 years ago). This coincides with the end of the Baradostian late into the LGM or just after it.
      We do not know exactly where the ‘Iran-HG-like’ ancestors of IVC came from, but they certainly aren’t east Eurasians which are associated with east/south Eurasian mtDNA M (which would be an AASI maternal marker). BTW do you have more recent data regarding the Ganga basin mesolithic skeletons? Like the robustness? I have heard that the revised estimates put them at an average of 178 cm for the males and 179 cm for the females (a revision of the previous estimates of ~183 cm for males and 181 cm for females). Still taller than contemporary European and native American HGs. Of course, I wouldn’t know if this revision is valid itself, which is why I am asking for your input.
      >Most western academia project South Asia as a backwater of west Eurasian civilization which was always on the receiving end but did not contribute much to Western Eurasian civilization.
      Personally I disagree with both views. India didn’t receive much from or give much to the west before the historical periods. India was surprisingly isolated until the last 5,000 or so years. The farming seems to be autochthonous from the HGs which were likely already present in south Asia for a while. Speaking of which, if the Iran farmers were really present in SA for close to 18,000 years, then perhaps yDNA H might have come from them, is this a real possibility?

  10. Most western academia project South Asia as a backwater of west Eurasian civilization which was always on the receiving end but did not contribute much to Western Eurasian civilization.

    i dispute this assertion. though i can see where it comes from.

    the barely paper is not very good (now, it was OK back then since the tech was what it was). it’s from 2006 and uses few markers. there are lots of more recent barely papers with more genomes and higher marker quality (not speaking to whether your model is right or not, but that paper is not good support).

  11. @dathang said “but they almost certainly weren’t in south Asia for something like 30,000+ years since the pre-LGM upper paleolithic.”
    I never claimed such a thing and I have no clue about pre Neolithic Indian population distribution.

    @jaydeep thanks. Some people do need constant drilling of this new info.

  12. You know what- I am willing to change my mind of the nativity of Iran HGs if there is solid clue (ideally genetic proof) of them being in south Asia for over 10,000 years. 10,000 to 12,000 years is probably enough to consider HGs *native* to a region (like EHGs (whose ANE ancestors arrived in Europe perhaps some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago) which are considered to be native to eastern Europe).

  13. Or maybe we do away with often value-laden words like “native” and just use more specific language. Some European amateur anthro-enthusiasts use a similar trick to show how native PIE is to “Europe” which at the time housed populations far far further apart than any modern Europeans are to each other and whose mainstream was closer to a group mostly of Anatolia_N ancestry with varying amounts of HG rather than the EHG/CHG combo that was found only in a small part of the steppe right at the eastern border of “Europe” at that time, before their dramatic expansion. Were the PIE more native to Iberia or Germany, or most of Europe, in the 5th millennium than the local EEF-HG population because the latter had very recent admixture from outside, if the CHG on the southern steppe ends up being older?

    Probably the only relatively meaningful ways to use the word “native” is in a comparative sense as oldest population in a number of senses (religious, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, genetic) inhabiting a very specific area, especially when the distinction is very clear like in the case of Australian Aborigines and Anglo-Australians or native Americans and the relative newcomers, and in a non-comparative sense having undergone what we might describe as their ethnogenesis in that specific area. I wouldn’t call a population like the European Roma “native” to the subcontinent, despite their ancestors having lived there for far longer than in Europe. Even then, it can be subjective.

  14. Hi Jaydeepsinh

    I was firmly in the AMT camp.
    Reading this now need to go back and sit on the fence.

    Thanks, well written, referenced blog post.


  15. Since someone commented on the antiquity of Munda languages in India during this discussion, let me point you to two recent (2017, 2019) papers which are relevant to the question of the (very probable) ancient migration of Proto-Munda speakers to South Asia from mainland Southeast Asia.

    Simanjuntak, Truman. “The Western Route Migration: A Second Probable Neolithic Diffusion to Indonesia.” In: New Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory, edited by Philip, J. et al. (Acton, Australia: 2017), pp. 201-12.

    Simanjuntak basically agrees with two papers by Roger Blench one can read, respectively, at

    and at

    In all these papers, some maritime migrations of groups of Neolithic Austroasiatic speakers across different seas and straits are posited to have taken place.

    Rau, Felix, and Sidwell, Paul. “The Munda Maritime Hypothesis.” Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society 12 (2019): 35-57.

    No writer who has asserted that Austroasiatic is old has given any evidence. Even Norman Zide, in 1972, dated Proto-Munda at 3500 BP, and said nothing subsequently to change that figure. The 2019 genetic paper by McColl et. al in Science (“The Prehistoric Peopling of Southeast Asia”), based on an analysis of both modern and ancient DNA samples, places the early Austroasiatic farmer expansion in mainland SE Asia at ~ 4000 BP.

    With this on the background, Rau & Sidwell’s new paper hypothesizes a “new”, maritime route for the migration of numerically small Proto-Munda speaking groups directly to Orissa at a late date (> 4000/3500 BP). It is worth quoting here the conclusions of the genetic section of Rau & Sidwell’s paper:

    “The picture that arises from genetics converges with the linguistic findings: Munda populations are Indian populations with a Southeast Asian component that was introduced by a small male Austroasiatic founder population, with no particular connection to Khasi. The indigenous South Asian population was less influenced from ANI populations from the Northwest than all current dominantly ASI populations. The admixture has been dated to either the Neolithic or Chalcolithic in a location that had not yet experienced Indo-Aryan influx. The evidence corroborates the hypothesis of a Munda homeland in the Mahanadi Delta [in Odisha] at around 3.5-4 kya (2000–1500 BCE). This location and time provide a suitable setting for the required population configuration: ancestral South Asian populations away from northwestern influence, still outside of the Indo-Aryan sphere, and without East Asian influenced Tibeto-Burman groups. This location can also account for the fact that the Southeast Asian component is stronger in the southern cluster of Munda groups than in the northern cluster.”

  16. DaThang,

    There is no fixed genetic boundary which can define what is West Eurasian or East Eurasian. It is more a geographic boundary and genetics does not strictly comply with geography.

    Keep in mind that the ANE ancestry which spread from the steppe into Europe and is ubiquitous there, is modelled as 25 % East Eurasian or ENA. Then there is the fact that during the formation of Mesolithic European Hunter Gatherers, the WHG, there was detection of East Asian or East Eurasian admixture in some WHG samples.

    In the recent paper on the Palaeolithic Dzudzuana sample from Georgia, Caucasus, the Iran N and CHG populations were modelled with about 10 % East Eurasian admixture with Iran N ENA modelling well with Onge.

    The WSHG type steppe ancestry which was present across the Central & Eastern steppe as well as in Central Asia and South Asia is also modelled as ANE + extra ENA.

    So things are a bit more complex.

    Regarding ydna H let me state that it has a very deep presence in South Asia likely dating to earlier than 40 kya with almost all deep clades found in South Asia so I am not sure if we can associate it with Iran N type ancestry.

    But one intriguing fact is that y-DNA H2 starts making an appearance in Anatolian Neolithic and subsequent European Neolithic samples where from it was absent earlier. And we know that Anatolian farmers had admixture from some Iran N like group. So could H2 have come with that ? We don’t know at the moment.

    1. @Jaydeepsingh: While the boundaries may not be completely rigid, you can certainly tell the difference in affinity that different modern populations have for ancient ones like ancient west Eurasians and ancient east Eurasians- those translate decently well into modern west and east Eurasians. Obviously, there are mixed cases like ANE and later Siberian populations, but this doesn’t really disprove the notion that there is a deep divide in Eurasian populations (that might as well go back to nearly 50,000 years). Populations mixing have so far not eliminated this divide (that and there are some out of place samples like Oase which are only out of place since they didn’t significantly contribute to the later inhabitants on the region in question).

      Regarding the rest of your post- there are indeed many open questions regarding pre-Holocene south Asia. perhaps non-H2 migrated to south Asia with some of the first waves that settled into south Asia and became AASI later on. Perhaps the Iran-like HGs were already in south Asia even before the Holocene began, we don’t have answers to these questions yet, and I am eager to see if newly discovered samples will clarify the picture in the future. Though I would like to hear about your opinion on the Ganga basin remains. Were they robust enough to be mesomorphic or were they ectomorphic? And just in case if you know more about the samples than the general public does- what were their nasal and orbital indexes?

  17. Razib,

    There is certainly a bias in Western academia which makes it difficult for them to accept that there could have been any major influence emanating from historical India on Europe or the Middle East. They are happy accepting Indian influence on Eastern Eurasia. But for Western Eurasia and especially Europe, they contest it big time if someone were to dare to infer Indian influence on Ancient Greek or Roman sciences. They would much rather believe the reverse.

    As for the barley domestication genetics, here is a more recent paper -

    And an article on it –

    1. @jaydeepsinh
      The funniest part for me is regarding the presence of IA loans in Mitanni.

      You have only 2 places where those words are attested including names of Gods. One in Mitanni as loans and the other in Vedas whose geography is known.

      Rather than place the source in NW india, they choose to invent a hypothetical 3rd region where there is no evidence of any such culture existing and make it a source to fit some overarching grand narrative. It’s unreal.

      It’s not even that they consider it a possibility, they outright reject the idea.

  18. They are happy accepting Indian influence on Eastern Eurasia. But for Western Eurasia and especially Europe, they contest it big time if someone were to dare to infer Indian influence on Ancient Greek or Roman sciences.

    1) indian influence through buddhism was very huge in e. asia

    2) there were really no ‘roman’ sciences, science & philosophy during classical period was mostly ‘greek’ (speaking, if not ethnically greek), and the greeks themselves were free and open about discussing influence.

    but i don’t know the western scholars you are talking about who are contemporary.

    there are good barely papers using whole genomes 2018/2019. haven’t read.

    1. “2) there were really no ‘roman’ sciences, science & philosophy during classical period was mostly ‘greek’ (speaking, if not ethnically greek), and the greeks themselves were free and open about discussing influence.
      but i don’t know the western scholars you are talking about who are contemporary.”

      Trying to follow. My understanding is that Romans and Greeks were part of a common civilizational cultural family. The educated elite Romans conversed in Greek.

      “during classical period”

      Are you referring to pre 200 BC? If so, then we agree.

      Unrelated, a surprising amount of content during the the early part of the Roman empire was in Greek language. Some content (in the later Western part of the Roman empire) was also in Latin. But this would not be considered “during classical period”.

      In the classical Sanskrit and Avestan language texts–there is substantial reference to Yavanas. My hypothesis is that there was substantial exchange between Yavanas (Europeans) and SAARC folk pre 600 BC.

  19. Jaydeep,

    You are a beaming ray of hope. Kudos! Would you comment on the Steppe MLBA ancestry that is being trumpeted about currently? Could you deconstruct it for us lay people?

  20. Jaydeepsingh Rathod wrote:

    “There is certainly a bias in Western academia which makes it difficult for them to accept that there could have been any major influence emanating from historical India on Europe or the Middle East.”

    It is more than bias. Its just outright ignorance, denial and old fashioned stupidity. Check this 2019 one by John Koch out of University of Wales.

    “Formation of the Indo-European branches in the light of the Archaeogeneticc Revolution” by John T Koch University of Wales

    “The Rakhigari MAN was of Ancestral South Indian type more similar to the modern genetic profile common in southern India common amongst Dravidian speakers (p. 15, emphasis added).”

    Professor Koch thinks Rakhigari sample is a male! If there are 100 Indo-Iranian words in Uralic languages (p.14) and NOT ONE the other way round what does that tell you about the direction of migrations?

    Koch is not even familiar with Oxford University Press classics on the Indo-Aryan controversy edited by Bryant and Patton that has been out there for almost 15 years.

    1. Oxford University Press classics on the Indo-Aryan controversy edited by Bryant and Patton that has been out there for almost 15 years.

      In science, old isn’t necessarily (and often just isn’t) gold.

      You may also have heard of Dalton’s atomic model. Just because it’s been around over 200 years doesn’t make it any more right than Bohr’s model, which has been around just over a 100.

      Weigh different arguments against each other (like Bryant’s against others that are more widely accepted) rather than pick one that appeals to you while ignoring ones that don’t.

  21. Professor Koch thinks Rakhigari sample is a male!

    the citation is to the kai friese report which was based on a draft of an earlier paper version which had a male sample (still in the dataset, but they didn’t talk about because they were worried about revision). so you didn’t catch this person in anything, but you sure seem like an asshole with an ideological ax to grind.

  22. Razib Khan wrote.

    ” so you didn’t catch this person in anything, but you sure seem like an asshole with an ideological ax to grind.”

    You are giving me too much credit. That would be Tony Joseph and Devdutt Patanaik.

    1. Thank you! Prof B.B. Lal is such a saintly figure, one is reminded of the great Rishis of our lore. BhishmaPitamaha of Indian archaeology. Such a noble and full life.

  23. Davidski wrote on Eurogenes:

    “The idea that most, if not all, South Asian R1a is derived from European R1a seriously scares a lot of people. This is obvious in many online discussions on the topic. I suspect they’re so frightened by it because, in their minds, it has the potential to encourage discrimination and even racism, perhaps by re-defining the colonization of much of the world by European nations in the recent past as the natural order of things?”

    Why should anyone take this guy seriously as a scientist?!

    1. I tend to, at least partially, agree with you, MMK. He is a moron without any interpersonal skills. Moreover, one of ‘his’ guys made a similar qualification (only used a politically correct term). But D. is also partially right. There is a fear. Look at your oit guys, as we are closer and closer to the truth, they make stronger and stronger resistance. Where is D. wrong?

      R1a has nothing to do with ‘European nations’ and colonialism. These recent ‘nations’ are not r1a nations. R1a is a characteristic of Serbian speaking tribes, i.e. Serbs. To disguise this, several terms are used – Indo-Europeans, Indo-Germans, East Europeans, steppe, Slavic, Indo-Aryans, etc, and their language is never mentioned (also, terms EU and Slavic did not exist then). There is a strong psychological barrier to use a proper term what will take time to overcome but eventually will happen.

      The key fear is not from justification of colonialism. The fear is (I think T.Joseph wrote about this) from the assertion that the most of the culture (and mythology) would be perceived as ‘imported’. It is so stupid that something 4000 years old is treated as a foreign body and that it had destroyed some previous culture about which we have little or no information. Because, there are efforts to stretch post-2000 culture to earlier times just in case if it is undeniable proved that some guys really came 4000 ago. In this context I see not publishing my comment re Russian rivers in Mahabharata.

      The only way is that Aryans are recognized as the local South Asians regardless where they came from. I invited already eminent oit-s to silently and smoothly make a paradigm shift and take leadership before they become lunatics. India’s scholars should stop talking only to western scholars because they were not interested to find the truth in last 200 years. They are actually interested only in what D. mentioned as the SA fear from ‘European’ r1a origins – to justify Western colonial practices, past and future.

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