The Indian Neolithic


To understand the genetic patterning of South Asia more understanding of the archaeology of the Neolithic is necessary. Unfortunately, I don’t have that. The site of Chirand in Bihar has extensive Neolithic features which date to at 4,500 years at the latest (the region seems to have undergone stepwise development for thousands of years earlier). Who were these people? What happened to them?

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34 Replies to “The Indian Neolithic”

  1. Good that being a good Bangladeshi, u have shown total Kashmir as part of mother India and not “contested”. As u know i am a fierce Indian (Hindu ?) nationalist and wouldn’t have it any other way. 😛

    Also Bangladesh won the U19 Cricket World Cup (defeating India) , that silly little baseball-ish type of game. Seems like I am going to say BD defeating India a lot more times in coming years (in different fields) .

    But the real surprise( in the post match conference), was for the first time in my life, i heard a N-Indian (India’s captain) speaking in better English than a Bengali.

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    1. “Also Bangladesh won the U19 Cricket World Cup (defeating India)”
      I watched the whole match, didn’t expect so much heat from teenagers lol too much sledging, and they almost came to blow after the game. The India-Bangladesh rivalry is growing day after day.

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      1. LOL, the BD current team reminds me India’s team of 90s. No more an underdog but trying to be one. Completely understand.

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    2. “But the real surprise( in the post match conference), was for the first time in my life, i heard a N-Indian (India’s captain) speaking in better English than a Bengali.”

      The Indian captain is an UPite right? Also, their best batsman “Jaiswal” was from UP from what I’ve heard from the commentators. UP is providing good cricketers it seems.

      I was also surprised by the English skill of this 16 years old Bangladeshi cricketer :
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-5ay0TLxCU
      All Bangladeshi players are from lower-middle-class from what I’ve read in the local newspapers.

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      1. “UP is providing good cricketers it seems.”

        I mean we are better at pretty much nothing else, so might as well play some cricket 😛

        On the English thing i meant was the respective captains who came out for the post match conference. Not the whole team, LOL.
        Kudos to BD team though if the players are from lower middle class. This essentially has been the reason of India’s cricketing success in the past decade.

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    3. You are being unfair to baseball which is a stately and gentlemanly game. If an American wanted to watch a sport with the fast pace appropriate for football, he would simply watch basketball or hockey; he would not try to dumb baseball down.

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  2. There’s a paper by Lukacs and Pal that states: “The Damdaman adults have structurally robust jaws, large teeth (total crown area = 1383 mm2), and were tall statured (male 178.7 cm, female 167.8 cm)”

    https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/ase/124/2/124_160324/_html/-char/ja

    We’re looking at mesolithic Indians who were taller than their contemporaries in many other parts of the world, and significantly taller on average than the present-day geographic population.

    I understand that those guys are genetically different, but do you see any potential for an India with a male 5’11 and woman 5’6 average height in the future? After all, the Dutch male went from an average of 5’4 to over 6′ within a space of 150 years.

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    1. “I understand that those guys are genetically different”
      They lacked Sintashta, which is now 10-25% in the modern gangetic folks. Based on some traits(Caucasoid Cro-magnon affinity), we can assume they were a mixed population. The probable result of a palaeolithic Levantine CRO-magnon migration(most likely they brought Y-DNA H which is one of the dominant y-haplogroup in the Gangetic plain).
      “but do you see any potential for an India with a male 5’11 and woman 5’6 average height in the future?”
      Those robust Paleolithic/mesolithic traits are still widespread in modern South Asians, so I assume the height potential is also there. Some socio-economically advantage groups might reach it within this century while for disadvantaged groups, it might take longer times.

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  3. To understand the Neolothic in South Asia, we may note the following :-

    1. The earliest Neolithic sites in the northwest are Mehrgarh in Baluchistan and Bhiranna in Haryana. Barley dominates as the staple crop with wheat coming a distant second. The native Zebu cattle and goats & sheep are part of the Neolithic economy.

    2. In the Gangetic plains, sites such as Lahuradewa and Jhusi as well as Koldihwa give the earliest dates for the emergence of the Neolithic – upwards of 6000 BC and maybe even earlier. The site of Lahuradewa gives the clearest evidence of the exploitation of rice at such an early date – Indian archaeologists, principally Rakesh Tiwari, term it as the origin of local rice domestication in South Asia but guys like Dorian Fuller question it because they are invested in the idea that domestic rice came to South Asia from China. Barley seems to be absent. There is an anamously early evidence of wheat at Jhusi but it needs to be confirmed again.

    3. The South Indian Neolithic starts around 3000 BC and is significantly later than the North Indian Neolithic. Don’t know much about it at present but Fuller has apparently produced some linguistic evidence supporting the origin of Dravidian languages in Neolithic Peninsular India.

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    1. @Jaydeepsinh_Rathod
      FWIW, Dorian Fuller’s work is world class, and evidence of plant domestication is very valuable as a compliment to more conventional genetic, archaeological, linguistic, “legendary history” and religious belief evidence. It is more abundant and easier to preserve so you get a more comprehensive picture. It is usually easy to date. It is easier to show direction of crop expansion because you can find the origin of a domesticated crop by identifying the place where wild type that it comes from is located. It provides information about the climate at the time which is a major factor in a lot of the big picture of prehistory.

      All this information which is more or less independent of genetics, archaeology, linguistics, “legendary history” and religious belief clues that provides a valuable means by which to discriminate between which possible narratives are more or less likely that are not resolved well by our other windows into prehistory. Integrating evidence from multiple independent disciplines is the best way to get to the truth about pre-history.

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      1. “FWIW, Dorian Fuller’s work is world class, and evidence of plant domestication is very valuable as a compliment to more conventional genetic, archaeological, linguistic, “legendary history” and religious belief evidence. It is more abundant and easier to preserve so you get a more comprehensive picture”

        he produces ‘insights’ like this: 3. The South Indian Neolithic starts around 3000 BC and is significantly later than the North Indian Neolithic. Don’t know much about it at present but Fuller has apparently produced some linguistic evidence supporting the origin of Dravidian languages in Neolithic Peninsular India.

        “Dont know much about it” Guy bangs on about OIT all the time and India being the source of the entire Indo-European culture heavily using likely late arrival/post-main-IA migration- non-elite Jats/Rors when most of his dna (guessing Gangetic Rajput, its mostly IP + extra AASI what 20-25% Sintashta with ANE noise boost?) its kind of sad youd think you want to know more about the indigenous adna within you or the fact that southern India is a lot closer than the spread of Celtic Indo-European languages which of course came from South Asia

        Baloch/Brahui are clearly covert South Indians who used fair and lovely cream (though they have recent West Asian NW Iranian mix as well) and Indus periphery is a construct. South Indian Dravidians lived in a vacuum separated by the Narmada(?) river unfortunately none of their culture made it past Maharashtra forget OIT like Indo-European culture damn

        Anyway like Razib said we need ashmound culture type almost pure AASI to definitely settle the argument (Balangoda man Sri Lanka? aka pure Vedda sample) But its clear the ashmound peninsular culture was nothing like the Mehgarh urban farmers and similar BMAC farmers who were nothing like the pastoralist Sintashta pre BMAC mix when they touched down near the South Central Asian vicinity

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        1. bmoney

          Anyway like Razib said we need ashmound culture type almost pure AASI to definitely settle the argument (Balangoda man Sri Lanka? aka pure Vedda sample)

          >>>>>Balangoda Man is estimated to have
          >>>>>had thick skulls, prominent supraorbital
          >>>>>ridges, depressed noses, heavy jaws,
          >>>>>short necks and conspicuously large teeth

          >>>>>Certain samples of Balangoda Man were estimated
          >>>>>to be 174 cm (approx 5′ 9”) for males
          >>>>>and 166 cm tall (5’4″) for females,

          Its unlikely Balangoda Man and Veddas are directly related

          Balangoda Man was taller than the current average Sinhalese or Vedda.
          That said I think the Balangoda mans genes are admixed in modern Sri Lankans.

          Anecdotal evidence of one, a dear classmate, now late.

          Herman, my classmate was tall 6’1″ perfect build, not fat/heavyset or skinny. One of his nicknames was Balangoda Manawaraya (Manawaraya=pre human I think) . Semi prominent eye brow ridges, and very dark. Fantastic swimmer, it was a joy to watch his dolphin and butterfly stroke, so effortless and smooth it seemed his normal mode of motion. One of the most peaceful humans I have known, sober or dead drunk.

          His family was one of the oldest prominent low country sinhalese. And as far as I know I think the last of the direct paternal line. Guess where his ancestors originated, Balangoda.

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  4. Who were the neolithic folks of gangetic plains? AASI folks or AASI-Iran-HG hybrids? What happened to the tall-robust mesolithic people of Gangetic plain?

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  5. There is something interesting to note about south India: it is one of the last places in Asia to emerge out of the mesolithic (some 5,000 years ago) and also shows some of the earliest signs of iron usage, possibly going back to 1800 BC. What could be the cause of such dynamic change? Could it be linked to the same (possibly elite) groups responsible for the spread of the neolithic in the Deccan?

    https://www.academia.edu/37685699/Iron_Age_in_South_India_Telangana_and_Andhra_Pradesh

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Age#South_Asia

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    1. Good question to ask.
      The likeliest deduction is that they went from mesolithic to iron age due to a historically discontinuous influx of Inpe with minor Indo-Aryan (R1a and IA culture influenced the earliest written South-Dravidian culture – look at Aryan sage Agastya being considered the father Tamil culture – also there are Sri Lankan Tamil R1as with 0% NE Euro in Harappa – so Aryans ran with these South Dravidians initially and their migration south was clearly post a largely amicable mingling of both cultures further north) who settled there – something Velama/Reddy like genetically (Inpe heavy) who started farming the region. Early peninsular Dravidian culture had a culture of hero-stones and ‘Vel’ titles which if i had to guess were rewarded after conquests of local AHG type hunter-gatherer peoples and their formerly broad hunter-gatherer regions being converted to farmland. The purest AASI tribes are usually located on the most unfarmable land such as the Nilgiris. Unfortunately North Indian climate is bad for preservation of remains, imagine South Indias! so it might be a while before we find our pre-Inpe AASI man but i suspect ANE (R2) ancestry made it south much before the Inpe farmers did as Paniyas etc still score decent ANE outsized to their Basal Eurasian ratios so pure unmixed AASI might be quite old.
      Also Razib could you do a post on the Toda people? they are heavy J2 with light skin alleles in some positions – i suspect they have a good dose of Inpe ancestry but minimal steppe due to isolation. Might look something like the initial South-Dravidian settlers before they mixed further over time with the local AHG

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      1. The iron findings are older than the oldest discernable literature from south Asia. Too old to have Indo Aryan influence either since they are from 1800 bc or even earlier. IMO it has to be from a zone in the broader ivc range. But there aren’t known iron works from ivc proper so far from this period so this could be a case of elites from the eastern zone somehow leaking hidden technology. That too right around the end of the ivc urban period.

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  6. Razib, there is an ongoing excavation at a Sangam age site in Tamil Nadu, “Keezhadi”. One artifact was tested in the USA, possibly pushed the Sangam a bit back to around 580 B.C. (originally I think they the earliest they thought was 300 B.C.), but they supposedly might of found some Indus valley script like graffiti also.

    https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/keeladi-findings-traceable-to-6th-century-bce-report/article29461583.ece

    Have you or anyone heard if they have viable samples to do genetic testing on? Would be interesting to see if any surprises come from dna in that time period.

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  7. I agree that this is a very important issue in understanding South Asian prehistory and in getting the dating straight, and a complex one. We have three, more or less independent complexes that eventually interact.

    We have the IVC Neolithic derived directly from the Fertile Crescent Neolithic that starts to emerge around the same time that the Egyptian Neolithic does (about 1000 year after the Fertile Crescent Neolithic, whose source is complicated by the disconnect between Iranian farmers and Harappans genetically, disfavoring a simple eastward expansion from Zargos to the IVC hypothesis for its origins) and this culture shows continuity through Harappan culture (apparently not suffering the bouts of balkanization seen along the Nile and in Mesopotamia) until Indo-Aryan migration from the steppe which increasingly seems to have happened into a vacuum caused by Harappan culture’s collapse/disruption mostly due to climate related factors. This is the culture, after being transformed but not entirely replaced culturally by steppe influence, that gives rise to the Sanskrit based culture that spread widely in South Asia (and I think there is genetic and culture evidence to support once having had a brief much larger geographical range that was then reconquered by hold out Dravidian civilization).

    Then, we have the Munda bringing rice farming SE Asian/East Asian sourced Neolithic that is just starting to influence and infiltrate Harappan society in its last century or two (as evidenced, for example, by rising domesticated rice consumption).
    Then, we have the South Asian Neolithic, that it is almost impossible to avoid associating with the Dravidian language and culture, which appears to arisen mostly independent of Harappan culture and not just as an expansion of Harappan culture. Lots of its core crops, and some of its technologies and even games and religious concepts, appear very likely to be derived from the earlier Sahel Neolithic of Africa (whose crops are better suited to South India’s climate) although it isn’t at all obvious how this happened as there isn’t much in the way of Sahel genetics there (with a possible Y-DNA T in India exception that could point to a particularly individual or small family of very genetically successful individuals in this transition also found at possible African departure points for these crops). The Dravidian language family probably looks younger than the South Indian Neolithic linguistically because most of its branches probably went extinct due to Indo-Aryan expansions before re-expanding from a monolinguistic core that was never conquered (a hypothesis drawn mostly from linkage disequilibrium based inferred last dates of pulse admixture which is older in Dravidian India than in Indo-European India).

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    1. Well said

      Just wanted to state that Y-dna L/T is not an African export especially in those timelines. Its likely West Asian and with T migrating into Northern/Horn Africa and Europe and L going to Europe (L2) and Asia (L1a1/L1a2) with L1b in the Anatolian surrounds.

      In fact T has retained even more West Asian association than L based on limited migration distance outwards

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      1. I haven’t seen any recent papers on Y-DNA T in South Asia, and the papers that do discuss it that I have seen are not very precise in subtype of Y-DNA T in South Asia or its phylogenetic relationships. With that, I think you’d get better detail. My suspicion is that Y-DNA T in South Asia is derivative of the Y-DNA T in Somolia. But, that is no more than an educated guess.

        I’d love to see more recent and detailed data.

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  8. About Indian DNA……

    Using G25 PCA I get ancient Indus Valley scores for Indians at 70-80% across all of India. Which is higher than what Razib got. Looks like Indus Valley samples genetic makeup forms foundation for modern India?

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  9. It’s an issue. The overall obsession seems to be on IVC, steppe intrusion, and nothing else. Even the Swat Valley samples tell a far more complicated story.

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  10. Has any knowledgeable archaeologist here compared the neolithic tools from India to other kinds of neolithic tools from other places?

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  11. Have you or anyone heard if they have viable samples to do genetic testing on? Would be interesting to see if any surprises come from dna in that time period.

    there is some south indian dna from 3000 years ago i think? don’t know when it’s gonna get published? might be contaminated?

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  12. bmoney,

    “Dont know much about it” Guy bangs on about OIT all the time and India being the source of the entire Indo-European culture heavily using likely late arrival/post-main-IA migration- non-elite Jats/Rors when most of his dna (guessing Gangetic Rajput, its mostly IP + extra AASI what 20-25% Sintashta with ANE noise boost?) its kind of sad youd think you want to know more about the indigenous adna within you or the fact that southern India is a lot closer than the spread of Celtic Indo-European languages which of course came from South Asia

    You are the same fellow who posts on anthrogenica aren’t you ? Whats with all this bile ? My relative lack of knowledge about the South Indian Neolithic has nothing to do with my curiosity about AASI ancestry. How are you equating the two ? AASI ancestry was ubiquitous across South Asia and not limited to South India. Isn’t it ? So what exactly are you trying to argue ?

    And how the hell do you know that only AASI is indigenous to South Asia while Iran_N & ANE ancestry is not ?

    And by the way, I know slightly more about the South Indian Neolithic than the European Neolithic. I am not really all that interested in learning about European pre-history as I am about Indian prehistory and that includes South India.

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  13. ohwilleke wrote:
    .

    “We have the IVC Neolithic derived directly from the Fertile Crescent Neolithic that starts to emerge around the same time that the Egyptian Neolithic does (about 1000 year after the Fertile Crescent Neolithic, ”

    That is wrong.

    Changing Perspectives of the Indus Civilization:
    New Discoveries and Challenges!
    JONATHAN MARK KENOYER*

    https://www.harappa.com/sites/default/files/pdf/Kenoyer_Changing%20Perspectives%20of%20the%20Indus%20Civilization.pd

    “The simplistic diffusion model of early
    domestication, or specific technologies, urbanism
    and writing emcrging (sic) first in Mesopotamia, and then
    spreading to Egypt and the Indus Valley region is NO LONGER
    SUPPORTED by the recent discoveries in each of
    these regions (emphasis added)”

    https://www.harappa.com/sites/default/files/pdf/Kenoyer_Changing%20Perspectives%20of%20the%20Indus%20Civilization.pdf

    “These data indicate that foragers were present in the
    exact locations where we later see the emergence of
    settled agro-pastoral communities during the Early Food
    Producing Era (7000-5500 BCE) and the Regionalization
    Era (5500-2800 BCE). “

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  14. I know that Reich (or perhaps it was another scientist working with him) said that they were initially skeptical about being able to derive any DNA from Rakhigarhi or other IVC sites because India is not cool and dry, yet we have Neolithic sites in Kashmir and preserved full skeletons there! I would be fascinated to know if any genetic material could be successfully evaluated from the Burzahom remains. My grandfather said the skeleton he saw seemed to be 6 ft or more.
    In Kashmir we have legends of “pre-Aryan” people known as Nagas. I wonder if the Burzahom people are the Nagas. Either way, would be interested to know if genetic material could be successfully extricated from Burzahom.

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