Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean connected by the sea routes of the Western and Eastern worlds. Although settlements of anatomically modern humans date back to 48,000 years, to date there is no genetic information on pre-historic individuals in Sri Lanka. We report here the first complete mitochondrial sequences for Mesolithic hunter-gatherers from two cave sites. The mitochondrial haplogroups of pre-historic individuals were M18a and M35a. Pre-historic mitochondrial lineage M18a was found at a low prevalence among Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, and Sri Lankan Indian Tamil in the Sri Lankan population, whereas M35a lineage was observed across all Sri Lankan populations with a comparatively higher frequency among the Sinhalese. Both haplogroups are Indian derived and observed in the South Asian region and rarely outside the region.
No idea why this comes out of Sri Lanka first, and not India (bigger country), but it is what it is.
Another Browncast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, Apple, Spotify, 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!
In this episode, Omar and Jay discuss the rise of the “Great” Mughals. We start from the rise of Babur and follow through the empire his descendants. We do not cover the challengers to the Mughal hegemony (Maharana Pratap, Chattrapati Shivaji and Lachit Borphukan) OR the fall of the Mughal empire or other softer aspects in this episode. All that will be covered in the coming episodes.
Recently there was a debate on Twitter about whether the legacy of the Indo-Aryans, one of the most impactful descendants of the Sintastha culture, was positive, significant and worthy of admiration. More generally, what have the descendants of the Yamnaya culture of the Pontic steppe done for us?
This is a complicated question. I think for Indian Hindus who revere the Vedas and the Vedic people the question has some broader and deeper implications. As I am not an Indian Hindu, any strident opinion on this is above my pay grade.
But I will repeat something that the Indo-Europeanist J. P. Mallory told me a few years ago: the reason that archaeologists fixate on the graves of these people is that these are among the few materials remains that they left. They were an agro-pastoralist society, and their arrival in Northern Europe 5,000 years ago saw the end of the ancient Neolithic traditions of megalith building. I think it is fair to say that these barbarians ushered in a “dark age” for a millennium in Europe.
What about elsewhere? In what became Greece the arrival of the steppe populations resulted in a synthetic culture that to be candid initially aped their Minoan predecessors, producing a coarser and more militaristic society. In ancient Elam, the arrival of the ancient Iranians resulted in the co-option by what became the Persians of much of the culture of the people of that region. Finally, the debates about India are endless in terms of what the influences on the Indic culture are in terms of whether they are Aryan or non-Aryan.
The daughter Indo-European societies were often quite culturally creative, in particular, the early Greeks and Indians. But I think this owes more to the fact that Indo-Europeans encountered either complexity (Minoans) or the faded elements of complexity (IVC), assimilated them, and leveraged their economic base to produce complexity and creativity societies. In contrast, Indo-European populations that remained closer to the ancient lifestyle, like the Slavs of the early medieval period, were culturally simple.
That being said, a skein of common Indo-European linguistic and oral culture did span Greece and India. Their origins were clearly brutal and barbaric, but the southern Indo-Europeans quickly assimilated and acclimated.
Sometimes people pass me data. Turns out Rajasthani Brahmins are quite different from UP Brahmins (more northwest-shifted). In this, they are like Pandits. In contrast, Bihar Babhans are just like UP Brahmins, who don’t seem to have much structure. Gujarati Brahmins are between South Indian Brahmins and North Indian Brahmins, and closer to the latter, while Maharashtra Brahmins seem more like South Indian Brahmins.
My previous post on Adivasis was not totally clear. So I’m going to try in shorter fragments and outline things so I’m more clear. I am not 100% correct with the model below (we’ll know more later), but this is my best current conception.
10,000 BC, end of the Ice Age, NW quadrant of the Indian subcontinent inhabited by a West Eurasian associated hunter-gatherers, related to the hunter-gatherers of the Zagros mountains in Iran, with some Siberian ancestry. The other three quadrants are dominated by hunter-gatherers with deep (40,000 years diverged) associations with East Eurasians and Australo-Melanesians. These “Ancient Ancestral South Indians” (AASI) seem to have separated from the Andaman Islanders (AI) more than 30-35,000 years ago, but the AI are their closest current relatives (AI-related populations were dominant in mainland Southeast Asia until 4,000 years ago, when rice farmers from southern China migrated into the region).
Between 7,000 and 4,000 years ago extensive admixture occurred within the IVC zone in the NW between the IVC-Iranian-related population and AASI groups moving northwest. The resultant population was far more Iranian-related than AASI (say 10-20% AASI), and these people eventually became the “Indus Valley Civilization.
To the south and east the AASI populations probably did experience reciprocal gene flow at the same time, as Iranian-related populations spread south and east
Why this distinction? I believe during the late Pleistocene the Thar desert was larger and more forbidding and blocked gene flow between the easternmost West Eurasians and westernmost East Eurasians.
Steppe ancestry likely does not show up until after 2000 BC.
I believe there was a Dravidian language spoken in Sindh, and later Gujarat and Maharashtra. These populations spread southward before and after 2000 BC, and eventually, they mixed with all the AASI groups in the same.
In the period between 2000 and 1 BC there is more and more mixing and the arrival of steppe populations that become culturally ascendant across the subcontinent. In the south, the Dravidian-speaking zone, there is a distinction between post-IVC populations that engage with the expanding Indo-Aryans and those that do not engage with the Indo-Aryans
The period between 2000 and 1 BC is essential. In some areas, like the NW, large numbers of steppe people settled, and imposed their language and culture, albeit in synthesis with the local populations, who would be mostly IVC. While the IVC seems to have expanded only gingerly into the upper Gangetic plain and Gujarat, the Indo-Aryans pushed into the eastern zones, and parts of the south. The fact that Adivasi in the south have the canonically Indo-Aryan R1a-Z93 indicates that young bands of Indo-Aryan men penetrated all across the subcontinent. Their genetic imprint is clear in non-Brahmin southern groups like the Reddys, so they were ubiquitous.
But it is culture that matters more. The synthesis that developed in Punjab and Upper Gangetic plain eventually spread across the whole subcontinent and explains why Sangam literature has Sanskrit loanwords. The distinction between Adivasi and caste Hindu emerges from the distance to the expanding proto-Hindu culture based on a core of Aryan culture with indigenous accretions. This was a diverse religious and cultural matrix, but there were broad family similarities, and again, the Sangam literature alludes to “brahmins,” indicating that there was an early penetration of Aryan ritualists in the south. The Adivasi emerges not as a relict or the remnant of an early population, but as a set of societies at one of the spectra of the Aryan-indigenous synthesis that characterized the subcontinent.
The Aryan can become an Adivasi, as is attested by the Aryan men who clearly integrated themselves into those communities and lost their cultural distinctiveness. Similarly, Adivasis can become caste Hindus by adopting the norms of caste Hindus.