Browncast: Both sides of the Aryan debate

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

This episode was a spin-off of the history of India series we are creating. As we touched on the OIT/AIT debate in the IVC episode we thought maybe we should bring both sides of the debate on a common good faith platform and have a debate. In this episode, we have Kushal Mehra of the Carvaka, Kartik Mohan, Razib Khan, Mukunda, and me discussing the Aryan question. It was a good discussion though I doubt if it will be a great podcast to listen – but it is what it is.

As episode notes – I have written a blogpost putting my position on record – something which I wasn’t able to do well in the podcast due to a variety of reasons.

A big thanks to Kushal Mehra and Kartik Mohan for the podcast.

Both sides of the Aryan debate

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Skeptic | Aspiring writer | Wildlife enthusiast

33 thoughts on “Browncast: Both sides of the Aryan debate”

  1. Hi GauravL and Razib, I’ve been been following this blog for long and really like it a lot. I just have couple of questions as to population genetics, especially of South Asia, which I hope you guys would not mind.

    – Did Andronovo people go beyond Punjab to spread steppe ancestry in India or was it their descendants that spread Steppe ancestry in gangetic plains?

    – Is it true Baloch and Brahui people derive 60-65% of their ancestry from Iran_N or Iran_HG related?

    – Was there any ANE rich population (deriving 60-70% of ancestry from ANE type) living in the periphery of northern part of South Asia?

    – Is CHG is basically Mesolithic Iran_HG that went to Caucasus during or before LGM, admixed with EHG/ANE and acclimated itself to Caucasus when got trapped during LGM?

    – What’s the frequency of light hair in EEFs(ANF+WHG) of Europe and CHG?

    – Why do Pasthuns have more number of people with light hair, skin and hair than NW Indian groups like Rors and Haryanvi Jats, who have more Steppe ancestry than Pashtuns, yet they don’t have reasonable minority with light eyes and hair and look no different from average upper caste North Indians who have 35-40% AASI and 20% Steppe?

    – Is it true the western eurasian ancestry in Ethiopians is from Natufian related population?

    1. unable to figure out what is wrong. Nothing seems different for this episode.
      Libsyn says published/released on spotify but it is not present in spotify

  2. It is pretty disappointing that Gee is taking a long service leave now, when we are just about to solve the ait/oit dilemma. We nailed the problem to one sentence only which, if truthful, resolves both, PIE homeland and Aryan issue. The credit for this breakthrough belongs to Razib K. who categorically stated that “The Indo-Iranians originated in Poland” (and left Europe before Yamnaya’s arrival). We already knew that Yamnaya has nothing to do with Sanskrit and Rg Veda and the previous statement just confirms this. The paper referred in a comment under JR text also challenges the ‘Indo-European’ concept in Europe after Yamnaya arrival. The map presenting Yamnaya migration to SA is misleading, they were no Aryans. Now, we have de facto three incorrect, abandoned or obsolete migration hypotheses – Anatolian, Kurgan (to be announced) and oit. I skimmed some old comments and, interestingly, found one theory from a former reader, compatible with the previous RK’s statement, which locates PIE homeland in Vincha (it is close to Poland) and asserts that proto-Slavs were Aryans. The later assertion is pretty much a consensus among ait proponents. Moreover, there is a methodology proposed in this theory which can be used for checking various hypotheses that is similar to Gee’s proposition (genes, linguistics, archaeology) which additionally includes the religion and toponyms (and it is open for other additions, e.g. anthropology, etc).

    1. “The Indo-Iranians originated in Poland” (and left Europe before Yamnaya’s arrival)
      They originated in the Poland area, but nobody has ever said they left after Yamnaya’s arrival… including Razib. Where are you getting this?

      1. RK: “The origins of Indo-Iranians in Poland and Byelorussia explain why upper-caste Indians today display genetic affinities with Europeans. These connections are the result of a migration of Indo-Iranians from the lands to the south of the Baltic Sea thousands of years ago all the way to India’s Gangetic plains, a 3,000-mile migration that took over 1,500 years.”

        Indo-Iranians arrived in India about 2000BC, their voyage took them over 1500 years. Yamnaya came to Europe in 2800BC (2500BC British Isles). It means that I-I most likely haven’t met Yamnaya nor their ‘Indo-European’ language. Unless, someone can prove that they met somewhere btw Poland and India, spent few hundreds of years together (as nomads?), I-I adopted Yamnaya language (but not their religion?), both groups preserved their uniqueness (!) and after some time continued in their original directions. The question is why I-I during several hundreds of years of common living, did not give metal to Yamnaya nomads, who had to go with their stone maces to conquer the Europe, fight I-I cousins in Europe and spread their Indo-European language and nomadic civilisation.

  3. This is absurd claim.
    Cored ware was clearly formed out of Yamnaya redux into North Europe. Some Corded ware migrated east forming Fatayanovo Balanovo culture where first R1Az93 is attested – hence Razib claims these are the first I-Ir (plus potentially Balto Slav).
    The alleged I-IR + B/S were clear descendants of Yamnaya via Corded Ware

    1. I am not sure if the ‘absurd claim’ refers to the hypothetical scenario (when In-Ir met Yamnaya on the road to Gangetic plain), but, if it is, I also agree – it sounds ridiculous. Let analyse RK’s sentences by using calculator. Also, instead of inadequate and heavily backdated terms (Indo, Iranian, Balto, Slavic) which make confusion let use the generic term, e.g. ‘polish’ (people). So ‘polish’ people left Poland (originated there much earlier) several hundreds of years before we have any record of Yamnaya existence (at that time they were probably developing their Indo-European language in some secret location) and at least 7-800 years before Yamnaya came to Europe. ‘Polish’ people were taking their ‘polish’ language to India. If we refute the above ‘absurd’ scenario of meeting Yamnaya on the way and accepting their (Indo-European) language, they brought their ‘polish’ language which became Sanskrit in India (plus Rg Veda, Mahabharata, etc). (Some linguists assert that a bit earlier the ‘polish’ language split to Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic).

      It is regularly avoided to be recognised that Yamnaya people were no Aryans. Their Yamnaya (Indo-European) language did not produce Vedas and it was not proto-Sanskrit. Yamnaya people were R1b and it is not possible that Balto-Slavs evolved from them. Corded Ware culture consists of pottery (done by indigenous Euro women) and Yamnaya nomadic burial practices. Considering the previous, the concept of Indo-European (i.e. Yamnaya) language has big problems on both sides – in India it was not proto-Sanskrit, in Europe it missed to influence the ‘polish’ language and did not have time to be diffused and diversified around the Europe. And we don’t know where was this language before 3000BC and where it originated.

      1. There is some work in pipeline which states Corded Ware are geneological descendents of Yamnaya. RK discussed this with some guests on his podcast.
        CW is 70% of Yamnaya anyways but geneological descent makes it clear that CW was atleast partially descendants from Yamnaya.

        I assume you have some preference on seeing Poland as Urhemeit – like OIT. Enjoy it might come true no one knows

        1. The connection between CW and Yamnaya is pretty clear. What is not clear is what was happening in Europe for 8000 years before Yamnaya. I have no preference for Poland to be Urheimat, I was just citing Razib. I rather tend to agree with your mate Novak regarding the Urheimat because his version maybe is not correct, but it is logical and comprehensive unlike all other hypotheses (Anatolian, Kurgan, oit). I hope that you will invite him to contribute again. In meantime, I hope that you, at least, also concluded that Yamnaya nomads were no Aryans and that their language was no proto-Sanskrit.

  4. I heard the full thing. Thanks to all the debaters for laying out their PoVs clearly!

    Kartik made very cogent challenges in his opening statement, which are exactly the kinds of questions one ought to ask about any multivariate theory built upon incomplete evidence and modeling. (As a computer scientist, I understand modeling and statistics and their pitfalls.) I thought Razib responded to all of those quite effectively with the extensive knowledge he possesses, so at least when it comes to genetics, it looks like the steppe model fits the data MUCH better than any other. But I didn’t hear Kartik either agree or continue to disagree. Not sure if he still has doubts, and if so, why. He moved on to linguistic arguments, where the AIT is on flimsier ground.

    Kushal’s assertion that genetics has no role in this debate is flat out wrong (Talageri said the same thing on one of Kushal’s podcasts which I heard). Genetics probably tells us more than any other field how the ancestries of different people are related. From this, we can theorize about migrations of peoples, and also the directionality with high (though not absolute) confidence. And if lots of people move, clearly there will be effects on languages; I can’t imagine how it cannot. If Kushal still refuses to accept this, he should give a cogent reason why. (Languages do not teleport themselves across vast distances.) I didn’t hear one in this podcast. He made the same assertion in the beginning and in the end.

    I do understand the puzzle of the more archaic Rig Vedic language seemingly being out-of-sync with steppe culture (especially horse references) where the later language (and mandalas) seem to have more of an affinity with steppe culture. I haven’t read the text and only understand Sanskrit at a rudimentary level but I’ll take Kushal’s and Mukunda’s work for it. But if this is supposed to say something about how PIE dispersed, I don’t know what that is. Neither OIT nor AIT seem to solve this puzzle, but one of those two must be correct (either IE speakers were intrusive to India, or they were native to India and dispersed out).

    The discussion that happened around the words in the Rig Vedas’ mandalas and their meanings and implications seem like hair-splitting to me (sorry!) but everybody seemed to agree that the Veda was the work of poets who penned verses about things they thought were important, and was not meant to be a cultural reference manual. If that is true, then why does it matter what references lie in the older mandalas and what lie in the newer ones? Perhaps the people composing the more archaic verses thought of horses as a commonplace enough thing? Or something like that? I mean, any reasoning about the motivation of poets can lead into umpteen plausible directions, whereas genetics gives us a very small number of plausible theories in which we can have high confidence. Why then should we not privilege genetic theories over speculative ones derived from ancient verses?

    1. Pandit Brown — it is classic Baal ki khaal nikalana ;
      to be fair other side is also guilty of the same.

      Some data analysist can just bend the data any way possible to fit their model given the scientific method/ paucity of data and interpretation. Even the trad AIT scholars are guilty of that and so is Talageri IMO

      1. Isn’t Talageri a crank and conspiracy theorist? Surprised anyone takes him seriously.

        Anyway, language distribution – even just the Indo-Iranian branch (let alone IE generally) – is enough of a smoking gun for where the ārya came out of. Calling India the homeland of IIr is like calling England the homeland of Proto-Germanic. Laughable.

        1. I am done with this topic for now;

          Anyways the larger issue is interesting

          all domains have experts and amateurs and a lot of people in between. I wouldn’t advice listening to the whole podcast but just listen to Kartik – Razib exchange – Where Kartik not an expert not a layman was able to speak smartly with jargon, references which are enough to create doubt in minds of anyone who is truly a layman in these fields. People get drowned in jargon and data and even if they intuitively understand this appears wrong they have no mechanisms of countering it effectively without spending lot of time (In this case Razib being a expert and a good podcaster was able to do | whereas someone like me who is neither an expert nor a greater rhetorical is unable to do)

          You would know if his work has any merit or not (Witzel found it of enough value to respond in 2 long articles) – but most people cannot distinguish between him and other commentators on linguistics. Can a person with just preliminary understanding chemistry and biology distinguish between Western empirical medicine, Ayurveda and Homeopathy ? They ought to but that doesnt stop something as crackpot as homeopathy to be popular in UK right ? In this case its not merely technical issue but deeply emotive/political issue for most who engage in the debate

          1. “ I am done with this topic for now;”
            Thankfully 😅

            “ Isn’t Talageri a crank and conspiracy theorist? “

            TBH I feel that about everyone who keeps on commenting on AIT, AMT and OIT

          2. @Gaurav
            I listened to the podcast. I think you were bullied a bit in it by whoever the Talageri-apologist was posing as a neutral RV expert. Not cool at all. Of course RV is all about fast moving chariots yoked to horses. Not even up for debate.

            “was able to speak smartly with jargon, references which are enough to create doubt in minds of anyone”

            I think that other chap was basically deflecting. He was making fairly general jargon-laden points about 1970-80s signal processing theory. So impressed nobody, except a few gullible laypeople. Didn’t he also give random half-arsed arguments about aśva being an entirely different animal in RV, and some “loanwords” of that type in Armenian or some tosh to that effect?
            I don’t know / care what Witzel does or doesn’t do. Some of his “para-Munda” arguments are silly too.
            There are no two sides to this debate, anymore than good explanations and conspiracy theories are two sides to any debate. इति |

          3. Not a confident podcaster/speaker yet 🙂 – especially when it becomes a debate instead of a conversation
            I had to control myself throwing in an Atlantis (The Out of Atlantis PIE – Great flood model) reference while the sheep discussion was going on out of politeness – in face to face discussion i would have probably.

  5. Razib’s remark about this being a mahbharata length podcast had me in splits, I was listening with headphones on and didn’t realize how loud I was laughing until I got some looks from strangers.

    I didn’t really understand Kushal’s whole theory. I think he was implying that older RigVeda books didn’t have Steppe influence whereas latter ones did, so I guess his claim is that Vedic culture predates Steppe migration into India. But how does that help OIT? Even this claim agrees with Steppe migration into India even if it disagrees with Sintashta bringing Sanskrit to India. Or is he just trying to decouple Steppe immigration into India from the Vedic culture without supporting OIT?

    1. You answered your question in your last sentence. The point is to prove that Sanskrit/Veda are not ‘imported’ culture. The ‘importation’ of genetic material is irrelevant and it is used in various gymnastics to prove the previous.

  6. There is no opposition to the fact that Steppes autosomal components are in modern Indians.

    To pretend that Steppes and only Steppes people could have brought the IE languages to India is beyond the empirical power of genetics.

    This is clearly an overstretch which makes it susceptible to parading weasel claims. That the IVC language disappeared without a trace is the most outrageous claim. The most ultraconserved words for cow, wheat, bricks – all of which are archaeological attested to the 3rd millennium BCE – are all Sanskrit.

    The Steppes does not display any signs of phonological, textual or linguistic maturity. Absolutely no sign of a developed civilization – standardisation, uniformity in the form of a script.

    To bestow linguistic excellence on the Steppes people and steal it away from the IVC people is cultural theft. Small mercies that genetics proved conclusively that IVC people had nothing to do with the Steppes.

  7. It is symptomatic that no one tries to question, challenge or build on Razib’s statement: ‘Indo-Iranians originated in Poland’. Some potential questions could be: who are the modern European descendants of these European (Polish) Indo-Iranians, is Indo-Iranian language older than Yamnaya (i.e. Indo-European), is the Indo-Iranian language – protoSanskrit, does it mean that Yamnaya have neither genetic nor linguistic nor religious connections with Aryans/Sanskrit/Vedas, is the term ‘Indo-European’ appropriate term for Yamnaya language, is the term ‘Indo-Iranian’ itself misleading, etc?

    1. Here is my simplistic understanding based on what I have read in his articles:
      – The R1a haplogroup was (and is) concentrated in the Corded Ware areas, centered in what is today Poland.
      – Two main child branches of R1a exist: one inherited by many/most Indo-Iranian speakers (and the Sintashta people) and other inherited by many/most Balto-Slavic speakers.
      – So a strong case can be made that there was a fraternal split around the Poland area, with the Indo-Iranian progenitors moving east and south.

      I believe that’s what is meant by “Indo-Iranians originated in Poland” (though this sounds anachronistic). But I didn’t hear Razib’s original statement, so I’m basing it on what you say above.

      is Indo-Iranian language older than Yamnaya (i.e. Indo-European),

      Who is saying this? Again, my simplistic understanding is that Corded Ware archaeological remains are dated later than Yamnaya, plus Corded Ware ancient DNA has a substantial fraction of Yamnaya DNA, hence the model whereby the Corded Ware emerged from a westward Yamnaya invasion still probably holds. I don’t know how to explain the R1a/R1b difference between the two cultures, but their shared ancestry surely means something? Isn’t it possible that CW emerged from a peripheral Yamnaya population rather than the core one?

      1. The Razib’s original (two) sentences are above: Simon says (Jan 30/8:04am, also Jan 31/12.45am). One general problem is that all western papers and commentators here start world history from CW and ignoring previous 8000 years of Euro history. CW was a very poor culture (only pottery done by indigenous Euro women and nomadic burial sites) comparing to for e.g. the first industrial revolution in Europe 5000 years before Yamnaya arrival. The other problem is blinkered views by all commentators which consider only narrow oit and ait (‘steppe’) hypotheses (i.e. ‘camps’).

        One thesis is – Yamnaya people were NOT Aryans and their language was NOT the protoSanskrit (i.e. no connections with Rg Veda, Mahabharata, etc). Commentators (ait proponents) should agree or disagree with previous instead of continual talking about some amorphous ‘steppe’ people and chasing own tail. That would be a huge, probably the crucial step in this discussion.

        1. Can’t understand what you are saying.

          One general problem is that all western papers and commentators here start world history from CW and ignoring previous 8000 years of Euro history.

          This is nonsense. CW is just one of the unearthed cultures following many others. Nobody is ignoring what happened before CW. It just happens to be relevant to Indo-Iranian, which is why we are talking about it more here. You probably need to read more.

          Yamnaya people were NOT Aryans and their language was NOT the protoSanskrit

          Yeah, this pretty much fits the AIT. Yamnaya are supposed to be the precursors to all IE languages, not just Indo-Aryan. Indo-Aryan (and Rig Veda and Sanskrit and Mahabharata and all that) is specifically associated with an offshoot of the Sintashta (Andronovo) culture that moved to India proper. Sintashta itself came downstream from a portion of CW culture, which itself derived much of its ancestry from Yamnaya. Lots happened between Yamnaya and the emergence of the Aryans, so nobody is conflating them. Not sure why you are.

          commentators which consider only narrow oit and ait

          Pick any country (X) that speaks an Indo-European language. You can broadly categorize theories of its language origins into “out-of-country-X” theories or “into-country-X” theories. There is no third option, unless you are doing some funky thinking in the quantum realm. OIT vs AIT (which can be relabeled Into-India-Theory) is just the manifestation of this in India.

          1. 1) Western scholars usually start everything from Yamnaya and their intrusion to Europe from Russian steppes. This is only 1/3 of the post Ice Age history, it means they were skipping 2/3. Pre-CW history is also relevant to Indo-Iranian. According to Razib, Indo-Iranians made a move from Poland/Byelorussia much before CW. Are you interested when and where InIr exactly originated in Europe and which language they spoke while still in Europe? All this happened long time before CW.
            2) What’s happened btw Yamnaya and Aryans? It is only few hundreds of years. According to Razib, Indo-Iranians left Europe with their language when Yamnaya still did not exist. Are you saying that Yamnaya appeared from nowhere and enforced somewhere their language to passing Indo-Iranians but they themselves did not want to come to India?
            3) OIT mission is clear – to prove that Sanskrit/Veda are not ‘imported’ culture, the name is a decoy, they are not interested in migrations and even do not oppose arrivals of people to India. AIT currently is focused on ‘steppe’ but avoids answering if Yamnaya were Aryans and if Sanskrit descended from Yamnaya (=Indo-European) language. If they say that Sanskrit descended from Yamnaya they must explain when, where and how this transaction from Yamnaya to Aryans happened and why no Yamnaya came to India? If they say NO, they must explain where protoSanskrit came from. Razib’s sentences implicitly answer this – protoSanskrit came from Europe without much (language) interference from nomadic, stone-age Yamnaya.

  8. //
    According to Razib, Indo-Iranians made a move from Poland/Byelorussia much before CW.

    => False Razib doesnt say this.

    He says (I am paraphrasing)
    “A single group backtracked across the forest-steppe boundary (after Corded Ware). Archaeologists term these people the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture”

    pandit brown – I think our friend SimonSays is trolling or operating in bad faith / or has completed mis-understood what RK said or what the data is – no point arguing

    1. Razib’s sentences again:
      “The origins of Indo-Iranians in Poland and Byelorussia explain why upper-caste Indians today display genetic affinities with Europeans. These connections are the result of a migration of Indo-Iranians from the lands to the south of the Baltic Sea thousands of years ago all the way to India’s Gangetic plains, a 3,000-mile migration that took over 1,500 years.”

      Ss: If Indo-Iranians reached Gangetic plains at about 2000BC plus 1500 years (migration journey), it means that they left Poland at about 3500BC what is about 500 years before we know about Yamnaya or 7-800 years before Yamnaya came to Europe.

      1. 3000 km doesnt mean 1500 years.;
        We know from ancient DNA now that Yamnaya descendents moved from Yamnaya to Altai mountains in 4-5 generations. thats around 2000km in 100 years. Even the Sintastha movements would have been rapid – and zero.

        Razib probably means 1500 years from early Fatyanovo to IA in gangetic plain by 1500BCE – thats still only 3000BCE – 300 years after Yamnaya began expanding

        1. This is my final comment under this topic. The citation is from the written text not from audio and it is clear to me – the InIr journey from Poland to Gangetic plains took 1500 years. Yamnaya came to Europe in 2800BC (British Isles in 2500BC). David Anthony said that we don’t know (i.e. he doesn’t know) anything about Yamnaya before 3100BC.
          Say clearly – are Yamnaya Aryans or not? If not, how come Aryans came with an Indo-European language (Sanskrit) to India? Is this language from their European homeland or it was adopted on the way from Yamnaya nomads (when, where)?

          1. Yes, it took them ~1500 years from ~2800BC, to reach the GANGETIC plain between 1500-1000BC. Indian subcontinent =/= Gangetic plain. They arrived in the Indus plain between 2000-1500BC, then migrated even later into the Gangetic plain, for a total time of about 1500 years from Poland to the Ganges. This has always been what Razib meant.

            I will not bother replying more. If you actually have an honest misunderstanding, hopefully this clears it up.

          2. I will make an exception with one comment (never been accused of bad faith commenting). This chronology can be correct, and it may explain some things to Gee and his timeline. However, that was not my point. In this chronology InIr left Poland in 2800BC maybe (or maybe not) as a result of Yamnaya intrusion. The point is their language. How InIr could so quickly forget their own language, adopt the Yamnaya language of stone-age nomads which did not know to build houses and did not know for metal, agriculture and trades and start immediately producing Veda on new language? For something like this it would be needed at least several hundreds of years of common living with intermarriages, religious integration, etc. etc. How they preserved their uniqueness and after, let say 4-500 years, they continued (why?) their migrations in original directions. Why no one mention anything about their previous language (if they adopted Yamnaya)? Do we know any old word of the original InIr language? Any old word remained in their language and came to India? Or, simply, they brought to India their original language (not Yamnaya language) which probably evolved and enriched for 1500 years. Why no one ask about InIr cousins who remained in Europe and did not come to India? Why no one ask about when and where in Europe InIr originated (we know only that they left Poland, let say at 2800BC or whenever), what was their culture/religion in Europe, which language they spoke, if maybe (while still in Europe) already had some early draft of Rg Veda (some scholars state that Rg Veda was created in 3500BC). AIT should answer all these and many other questions including why Yamnaya did not come to India with Aryans.

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