Steppe lineages in northern Pakisan

This is not the most important paper, but it is a contribution: Complete mitogenomes document substantial genetic contribution from the Eurasian Steppe into northern Pakistani Indo-Iranian speakers. Abstract:

To elucidate whether Bronze Age population dispersals from the Eurasian Steppe to South Asia contributed to the gene pool of Indo-Iranian-speaking groups, we analyzed 19,568 mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from northern Pakistani and surrounding populations, including 213 newly generated mitochondrial genomes (mitogenomes) from Iranian and Dardic groups, both speakers from the ancient Indo-Iranian branch in northern Pakistan. Our results showed that 23% of mtDNA lineages with west Eurasian origin arose in situ in northern Pakistan since ~5000 years ago (kya), a time depth very close to the documented Indo-European dispersals into South Asia during the Bronze Age. Together with ancient mitogenomes from western Eurasia since the Neolithic, we identified five haplogroups (~8.4% of maternal gene pool) with roots in the Steppe region and subbranches arising (age ~5–2 kya old) in northern Pakistan as genetic legacies of Indo-Iranian speakers. Some of these haplogroups, such as W3a1b that have been found in the ancient samples from the late Bronze Age to the Iron Age period individuals of Swat Valley northern Pakistan, even have sub-lineages (age ~4 kya old) in the southern subcontinent, consistent with the southward spread of Indo-Iranian languages. By showing that substantial genetic components of Indo-Iranian speakers in northern Pakistan can be traced to Bronze Age in the Steppe region, our study suggests a demographic link with the spread of Indo-Iranian languages, and further highlights the corridor role of northern Pakistan in the southward dispersal of Indo-Iranian-speaking groups.

Don’t focus on the percentages too much. Rather, focus on the coalescence estimate. Basically, that indicates diversification and demographic expansion. The presence in the southern subcontinent is indicative of the fact that “steppe” ancestry and cultural influence extends far beyond the distribution of modern Indo-Aryan languages. R1a we know, as it is found in adivasis. And low fractions of steppe are found in most South Indian groups (but not all).

11 thoughts on “Steppe lineages in northern Pakisan”

  1. Can’t read the paper behind paywall.
    Does this mean Steppe ladies were also coming down to Indian sub-continent from around 5k years ago? (2500BCE-1CE)?
    Or, does this mean steppe people (males and females) showed up from before but had demographic success (hence “sub-branches arising”) since 2500BCE?
    I am struggling to understand what “arising” of sub-branches implies other than having had success with having lot of kids and preventing inter-marriages of different groups at later dates, rather than just “arrival”.

  2. These are interesting findings. I have suspected that some Steppe pastoralist females may have migrated to the subcontinent alongside R1a-carrying males. My Punjabi Jatt grandmother has mtDNA haplogroup U5b2a2, which I believe came from the Steppe migrants. I was surprised as I would have assumed she would carry an AASI or Iran_Neolithic originated mtDNA. So does this confirm that the Steppe peoples brought their women alongside with them on their journey to India?

    (I have been lurking this blog for years and this is my first comment so go easy on me. I am trying my best to learn about population genetics and ancestry as I find the subject fascinating.)

  3. So does this confirm that the Steppe peoples brought their women alongside with them on their journey to India?

    yes. some. though not that many ratio wise

    but this seems MOSTLY restricted to the NW. looks like second-wave out of punjab was really male biased too

    1. My humble 2c – this isn’t as complicated as it looks. I will use my own caste as an example.

      I’m from the Nair caste in Kerala – who were traditionally the feudal ruling class. The majority of Nairs today would have elevated levels of steppe compared to other groups because Nairs intermarried with Nambudiri brahmins. Nairs historically were both polygamous and polyandrous i.e. both men and women could take on multiple partners and monogamy as we understand it today wasn’t really a thing.

      This was mostly because Nair society is matrilineal and inheritance follows the female line in order to preserve the lineage. This is because the men had a higher mortality rate as a result of warfare. In fact until about 50 years ago almost all Nairs referred to their maternal home when asked for their name. Your eldest uncle was the most important male figure in your life. He would be the one to teach you martial arts/weaponry/art of ruling/etc.

      Brahmins on the other hand (who were brought to kerala sometime in the 6-8th century by the ruling class who were also of nair stock) could be polygamous but not polyandrous. As brahmins were considered a more cultured caste it was acceptable within Nair society for women to also have brahmin partners in addition to nair partners, though the reverse wasn’t typical at all as all non-brahmins were considered shudra by the brahmins.

      Over time this leads to more steppe ancestry in the Nair community. The brahmins continue to be patrilineal and the Nairs continue to be matrilineal. The Nair men being soldiers also had many polygamous relationships with women of other caste groups as well. Over time the steppe ancestry takes a further star pattern into a new group. And so on and so on.

      The Nairs continued to be the feudal ruling class, and the brahmins were given ritual functions within temples and resources to ply the arts (music, written word, etc) which also came with land and titles. There was no invasion necessary for this to occur as this works for everyone involved. Simply a staunchly patrilineal society meeting a staunchly matrilineal society where ruling power is in the hands of the latter group but the arts and culture are in the hands of the first group. The Nair get to continue ruling and the Nambudiri brahmins bring arts and culture to the land.

      Though Nairs and our history may be unique, to me its not entirely impossible that similar patters played out in Northern Pakistan and India about 4000 years ago. It would certainly explain the star phylogeny on the paternal side.

    2. So does this confirm that Aryans were mostly migrants, not invaders (i.e. AMT, not AIT)? Or that the invasionists were Amazons? Btw, anyone knows who were Amazon-women? Stay tuned and don’t change the channel.

      1. As a preview, just one sentence from Wiki:

        WIKI: “Polyaenus (MT: Macedonian 2nd c.AC author and rhetorician) writes that after Dionysus has subdued the Indians, he allies with them and the Amazons and takes them into his service, who serve him in his campaign against the Bactrians.”


        Pundits already know that Dionysus was the first Aryan leader and later considered as a deity among Greeks and Romans (Dionysius, Bacchus). He also founded the city of Babylon and was mentioned in the Bible, too.

  4. “a time depth very close to the DOCUMENTED Indo-European dispersals into South Asia during the Bronze Age”.
    They probably do not understand well what the word documented means in this context

    1. Let’s dissect this statement. Something as ‘Indo-Europeans’ could not come to South Asia. We maybe could say ‘Europeans came to SA’. But, Europe did not exist at that time. So as the term ‘Europe’, what means that we cannot use the specific term ‘East Europeans’, either. Some could say that we can say: ‘Slavics (with or without ‘Balto’!) came to SA’. Again a problem, this term originated in the c.AC and was in use after the 16th c.AC. It means that we should use the specific names of arriving tribes or, by convention – the name of the language(s) they spoke. But, we are coming back to the beginning, this language(s) could not be called ‘Indo-European’. Those people who came to South Asia should called by the name of the language they spoke, from which shortly after their arrival evolved – Sanskrit.

  5. W1c is probably another haplogroup that migrated down from the steppes based on the data from Narasimha 2019 paper.

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