Adivasis are just like everyone else…sort of…but not

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. Steppe ancestry likely does not show up until after 2000 BC.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

15 thoughts on “Adivasis are just like everyone else…sort of…but not”

      1. A better explanation of Dravidian language in Balochi people is elite driven language shift as the Dravidian language that they speak has Dravidian language features that did not arise until 1000 CE.

        It is more plausible, IMHO, that Dravidian derives from an AASI hunter-gatherer language that was the first to convert from hunter-gatherer practices to farming in the South Indian Neolithic, possibly with some cultural and linguistic influence from Sahel Africans at the fringe of the Niger-Congo linguistic region who may have been the means by which crops domesticated in the African Sahel arrived in Southern India.

        IMHO, a West Asian origin of Dravidian is less plausible, even though a West Asian origin for the language(s) of the IVC culture (which was almost surely not Dravidian) at a time depth of about 8000 years which agriculture first arrived in the IVC with a Fertile Crescent package of domesticated crops and animals is quite plausible.

  1. @Razib Any idea on what was the initial “proto tamil/dravidian” speaking population and their origins ?

  2. I’ve heard you say on a podcast that South Indian Dalits have 0 steppe. But this seems to suggest South Indian Adivasis do have steppe – what’s the definitive about these two groups in South India please?

    1. the % is low. 0-5% depending on the group and depends on the parameter settings.

      idk, it doesn’t matter too much whether brahmins are 25% steppe or 30% steppe, but i see ppl arguing vociferously about 5 percentage points. it’s kind of weird

  3. “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.”

    Another important factor impeding the earlier expansion of the IVC civilization into the rest of the Indian subcontinent was that the IVC farmers had a package of crops domesticated in the Fertile Crescent that did not thrive in the monsoon driven climate of Southern India and the African Sahel (where some key crops in the South Indian Neolithic revolution ca. 2500 BCE were first domesticated).

  4. Weren’t AASI estimates 0-50% in IVC? I thought average IVC in Indus periphery (tended to be Western zones) was averaged at ~25% across the 3 individuals in Narsimha 2018.

    I think Gujarat is a big meeting point of IVC and heavy aasi people. Hence why patels have very little steppe and a lot of other two. Possibly Patels are probably among the best preserved relic populations of Eastern edge of IVC.

    1. yes re patels

      i think the rakhighari woman was 15%. it seems that AASI has gone up noticeably in the Punjab in the last 5,000 years. i think that’s cuz of gene flow in

  5. “Indo-Aryan R1a-Z93 indicates that young bands of Indo-Aryan men penetrated all across the subcontinent.”

    nice pun

  6. Wonder why IVC people didn’t go into Gangetic plains earlier or rather at greater Scale.

    East-West migration at similar enough latitude is relatively easier & faster than North-South axis which even today can shake people up, Someone from Punjab going to TN and vice-versa and the shock is real, without AC these people would not stay for as long as they do.

    Maybe Gangetic plains was too forested and got more flooding, etc but the timeline is massive from proto-IVC to Steppe. And it’s not like the region was marginally fertile, it one of the best lands on the planet, esp for pre-Industrial age.

    Maybe climate, moisture content in Gangetic plains caused a greater degradation of human fossil remains so we seem to be not knowing a lot. But it is still a bit weird to me.

  7. plonking buddha (600bc), mahabharatha, ramayana and rig veda in this time line will be helpful. otherwise, just like oit followers, the nilesh oak’s bhakts will have their own tales.

  8. The Iron Age in South India began uniformly between 1700 and 1400 BCE. A full spectrum of iron-associated use and smelting technologies have been discovered across the Southern region.

    From Hallur, Komaranhalli in Karnataka, Veerapuram in Andhra, Adam in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, Javadu Hills belt in North Tamilnadu. The dating is highly accurate because of leftover wood chucks in the spongy slag left behind in the furnace.

    The Iron Age is also called the Megalithic Age in South India because of the funerary practices (urn burials, stone cairns, stone circles). The metallurgical vocabulary for Iron is completely Dravidian and can hardly be termini technici from another language group.

    There is no Harappan or IVC culture south of Daimabad in Maharashtra. No artifacts, grave goods or cultural practices relating to the IVC have ever been found in South India.

    Only two North Indian archaeological cultures intrude into South India –
    OCP culture – 2000 BCE onwards
    Black & Red Ware culture – 800 BCE onwards

    The BRW culture has also been found in Sri Lanka.

    Of greater interest should be the OCP culture which was a contemporary of the IVC – but to the East of the Yamuna river. The Sinauli chariots are an OCP artifact.

    There is only one archaeological candidate for the spread of IA vocabulary and loans into South India – that is the OCP. The BRW is too late and pretty much close to the Early Historic in South India. Tamil-Brahmi writing on potsherds have been dated to 500 BCE.

    An important textual concordance – Tamil Sangam literature has no memory or mention of Saraswati – the grandest river in Rgvedic consciousness.

    Instead it is the Ganga that is the most deified in Tamil Sangam literature. Such a dichotomy can only be explained if we map the route of IA speaking groups down the Eastern flank of the country.

  9. Doesn’t AASI have significant residual ANE admixture, which would indicate embedded West Eurasian admixture within AASI? When did AASI come into contact with West Eurasians to be able to acquire this admixture? Was obviously before Zagros Hunter gatherers arrived into the region. And well before Steppe pastoralists arrived and later Scythian invasions.

    This would also indicate that AASI is not a measure of indigeneity as its West Eurasian admixture still needs to be teased out.
    Also, AASI has different strains/subgroups, so not all strains will have the same amount of ANE nor will they look similar or have the same pigmentation. Lastly, some AASI strains have additional admix from Onge like sources and this would greatly impact things as well.

    What’s fascinating is that IVC was predominantly West Eurasian, and predominantly located in NW South Asia, with outliers in the East having additional AASI skeeing the average. This indicates that NW South Asians have always been distinct, even prior to Steppe and Scythian invasions, which only exacerbated differences much more, genetically and phenotypically.

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