They came not to bring peace but a sword

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.

41 thoughts on “They came not to bring peace but a sword”

  1. I will no longer be using the word “Aryan” and will instead settle for indo Iranians or steppe people. Some Indians online want to align themselves genetically with Germans and slavs and imagine themselves as part of some international Aryan brotherhood. Nothing wrong with taking pride in your ancestry but some of this stuff spills over into racialism. Indian religion and culture as it exists today is a mix of many influences from Indus , steppe , austroasiatic, mesopotamia , Persia, anglos, etc. Don’t want to appear bad faith but fixation on bronze age steppe peoples is clearly a racial obsession. I think we can appreciate the contributions of bronze age indo iranian peoples not just to India but the whole world if we put aside the racial idée fixe.

    1. the only people who called themselves aryans were indo-iranians. in particular, the southern branches (Iran and India). i can see how it is tactically prudent to abandon the word…but that’s ceding literal cultural appropriation

        1. Hi Razib thank you for reply
          I didn’t mean to imply that using the word “Aryan” is racist. The steppe indo Iranian people didn’t use this term as a racial designation. Indians have European cordedware ancestry and we can appreciate that. Studying the indo European or indo Aryan peoples or taking pride in their achievements is obviously not racist. I feel the Nazis have ruined the “Aryan” for me. Maybe we can rehabilitate theis word

          1. Indic culture owes a lot steppe indo Aryans. Didn’t mean to downplay their contributions.We are their heirs at the end of the day

          2. I watched the dan Davis video. I think I saw some blue eyed blonde person I thought this was some neo nazi thing. This was what set me off and prompted me to comment . I was mistaken.the video is really intersting

          3. Bharat,

            you wrote: “Indians have European cordedware ancestry and we can appreciate that. Studying the indo European or indo Aryan peoples or taking pride in their achievements is obviously not racist.”

            Why should we “appreciate” that we have European Corded Ware ancestry? Should we be ashamed of some of our other ancestry, if we can be proud of some of our ancestry?

            The same goes for the achievements of some past people. Do you have any pride in your AASI ancestors?

          4. Bharat: “I didn’t mean to imply that using the word “Aryan” is racist.”

            However, the word “aryan” could totally be used in a very racist context in ways that you probably didn’t consider. Did you know that the people who lived north of the Sintashta culture used the word “orya” for “slave?” SOURCE:

            Interestingly derivatives of the word
            appear in non-Indo-European languages (whose ancestral languages were
            presumably therefore spoken in proximity to Indo-Iranian), with
            Finno-Ugric *orya, Pre-Saami *oarji “southwest”
            and ārjel “southerner”,
            Finnish orja “slave” and
            Estonian ori “slave”.

        2. The northern branches do not use this word.
          Ossetians do not call themselves Alans, but “Iron” which goes back to the “Aryan”, the etymology of Alan=Aryan is not generally accepted, Harmatta pointed out this problem 50 years ago: In the Ossetian language, there are only a few controversial cases of ri>l(based on dubious etymologies), and not a single ry>l. Simply put, there is no reliable evidence of ry>l in the Ossetian language.

  2. Brahmins as a coherent group would not exist today if there was no ivc ritual class. A lot of vedic rituals were created in India with ivc influences.Vedic tradition shares similarities with greco roman traditions but there are many differences too. Indians today practice idol worship which likely has its roots in ancient mesopotamian culture. Hindu religious tradition can trace its lineage to bronze age indo Iranian peoples but why downplay other contributors. Indo Iranians descended from corded ware people but the culture they created later on were influenced by other people they encountered in central asia. If you want to fixate on corded ware, I’ll call you a white worshipper.

    1. Bharat: “Vedic tradition shares similarities with greco roman traditions but there are many differences too.”

      True, but when studying the IE religions, Greek and Roman religions are considered less than the Baltic religion (Romula), Slavic religion, and the German religion because the Greeks and Romans had a lot of Middle Eastern and other non-IE influences.

  3. it is rank stupidity to sit on the moral judgement of the pre-modern people. concepts like sovereign rights over land, universal human rights (extending even to your enemies), self-determination etc are modern concepts. pre-modern world functioned with just one, very basic principle – might is right.

    pre-modern people conquered as much land and as many people as their military prowess allowed. the most destructive demographic and environmental damage in human history, by far, was caused by the rapid population growth and expansion of europeans. (think of the near total destruction of the native population of entire continents, forced translocation of millions of africans to new continents, invasive species destroying flora and fauna, decimation of rain forests, and you begin to have some idea of the capacity of humans to alter the environment around themselves.

    mongols come a distinct second, who also deliberately destroyed large chunks of human population and attempted to turn the conquered land into the pasture land for their horses. amusingly enough, their net impact on the environment was probably positive. they destroyed so much of human population that the resulting depopulation of land caused new forests to grow on earth!

    compared to such cataclysmic enterprises, the doings of indo-europeans appear mere child’s play.

    1. It could be because we just lack written evidence about how destructive the Indo-Europeans were. The world was also less populated and civilized in 2000 BC so there wasn’t as much for them to destroy compared to Europeans and Mongols. However, given their genetic legacy, I think it’s fair to say that they were a pretty brutal people.

    2. compared to such cataclysmic enterprises, the doings of indo-europeans appear mere child’s play.
      Yes, but it happened in our backyard so it matters more to us. Hindus are a very inward looking people, we don’t care about Mongol Rampages or European misadventures but we do want to maintain a sugarcoated view about the creators of Vedas.

    3. Wow. I read that the Mongolian Campaigns killed around 10% of the world’s population, but I don’t know if this was during only Genghis Khan’s reign or their entire reign which ended in Egypt around 1368.

  4. The past does not matter,and peoples ability to be honest about the past also requires us in focusing on how it is being put to use. It just is as it is. One should say things as they are, but also make it clear to those attempting to politically make use of it. There are supremacists who are using this. whether they be uc or brahmins in particular or others . Often with regards to reservation/ iq and such stuff. One has to brutally shut those people down. @aryamsa is one such odious character. ofcourse dmk types use it too. my position is opposite to left in this sense. People interested in truth should also be clear in not allowing odious characters from abusing it. The whole topic became toxic because of the original british historians /west using this for racism , spreadin dravidian/aryan divide and rule policies.

  5. It’s doubtful that the Vedic ritualism represented the high culture of ancient India after 700 BCE. Apart from Buddhist texts and the rock edicts of Ashoka, the last layer of Veda also places Vedic ritualism below enlightenment based philosophies in the status hierarchy. However, at that time Brahmin was a generic tag applied to anyone connected to religion or philosophy. So people often overlook the fact that Brahmins who practiced pure Vedic paganism were viewed differently from high status Sanyasi Brahmins who practiced Brahmanism or Adhyatma.

        1. Question for Razib,

          What’s a good distance on qpAdm. there’s this simulated qpAdm thing on Nmonte (genoplot). Also, have you run any qpAdms of us Bengalis?


  6. Why are Sylheti Bengalis so short? In the UK, they make up like what, 90-95% of all the Bangladeshis there and they are infamously known for being midgets there. Razib, I know you’re 5’8 as you’ve said but that’s about average for brown people in general and above average for those of your generation that was born in the 1970s like yourself.

    Here in Canada, specifically Southern Ontario where we live, we don’t have that reputation. We’re about as tall as other brown people. I’d say the tallest group are the Sri Lankan Tamils but even then it’s not a night and day kinda difference. Like we don’t have that stereotype even in places in uni or pickup soccer or whatnot where there are tons of us cuz we’re about as tall as other brown folks so it’s not a matter of numbers cuz we are known in those settings… I was wondering about this a while back. But yes, we are shorter than white people, no doubt. All brown people are. I’d say we’re a bit taller than the East Asians from my anecdotal experiences from what I’ve seen.

    I think it’s the diet. Too much rice+not enough proteins+not enough diverse grains=this. I’m around 5’9 and I turned 20 a while back and I’d say I’m above average for brown people my age, easily. The average South Asian should be like 5’7-5’7.5 , the average White should be 5’9-5’10, and the average East Asian should be 5’6-5’6.5.

    1. A bit of personal context, I ate tons of chicken and whatnot growing up because I hate veggies but still ate tons of rice. If I ate a more diverse grain-ed diet, I feel like I would easily be taller. My dad was born in the early 70s and he’s 5’6 which is actually contextually speaking impressive considering that time period and how he kinda grew up not rich at all (his brothers are even taller).

      The reason for me discussing this was that I was going through some of the studies I had read and one of them was about the body fat percentages of South Asians, East Asians, etc and how different ethnicities carried fat and whatnot and it had this height chart (it was from this Singapore Army study)

  7. For height, it is a W to E cline. W is taller. Not really N to S. Nutrition also matters a lot. AASI, iranic meso related, and steppe were all tall. AASI actually quite tall. Austronesian farmers were shorter. The E Asian in Bengalis, I suspect, is what makes them shorter on average.

    Main diff is bone structure. steppe more robust bones. aka more diameter wrists, ankles, ribs. wider clavicles. Also more stocky w/ shorter limbs. Follow Alan and Bergmans rules. Basically cold adapted vs. warm adapted SA: volume optimizing physiques.

    Steppe enriched people dominate wrestling more because of body shape rather than height. Culture is plays a role of course.

    1. yeah, someone did a polygenic score on bengalis. they turn out to be shorter than other indians in the predictors, and the east asian ancestry seems to be a major reason.

      not all east asians are short, north Chinese and koreans not really, but southeast asians are really small, and that’s the ancestry in bengalis

      1. UP mesolithic sites maximum height was 6’3 while steppe people (Yamnaya and Corded Ware were maximum 5’6 – 5’7 haak et al and other studies) steppe were bit shorter than Rakhigarhi farmers (maximum 5’10).

        1.Rakhigarhi male avg 175.8cm (max 179.4 cm)
        2.Yamnaya male avg 175.5cm (Haak et al, no max mentioned)
        3.Corded Ware male 173 to 176 cm (Lithuania, no avg stated in study)
        4. Corded Ware male 161.3 to 175 cm (Poland, no avg stated in study)

        ‘Assessing the physical and pathological traits of human skeletal remains from cemetery localities at the Rakhigarhi site of the Harappan Civilization, 2018’

      1. just some quick google search:

        Mean stature for neolithic iran-n heavy skeletons from rakhigiri (indus valley ) for men was around 5’9

        Mean stature for mesolithic aasi heavy skeletons from Uttar Pradesh sites men was a bit under 5’10

        aasi had notably thinner bone structure, these would have been kinda tall, lanky looking people, with very dark skin and wavy hair.

        also keep in mind the neolthic transition in europe is associated with shorter stature.

        Mesolithic uttar pradesh: (page

        (add https :// in front of the urls)

        1. Yeah and those are two biggest components for most Indians. Steppe people were like 5’10 with heaviest build.

          Basically, all groups with decent height. One is thick boned, then one medium boned, and one thin boned.

          I think Indians are way below height potential. Even with good nutrition, averaging like 6’0 like some Euros will not be a thing. 5’9-5’10 maybe except more E Asian heavy regions at 5’8 as a floor average there. This is with excellent environmental conditions, conditions which S Asia is far from. This is a big part why diasporans “look different,” as previously noted several times before here.

          1. india is more diverse than europe. and europeans vary in height. at 5’8 i’m not really atypical in southern europe when I’ve been. but in northern europe i am short. we know this is partly genetic. so the same applies to indians. i bet some groups in India may be northern europe average but they’re select communities. in general i think southern European level height is viable for all indians

            diet is some of it, but also weird stuff we don’t think about like exposure to feces because of previous outdoor defecation probably has an impact too

          2. Yeah. Random stuff like parasite load. The genetic variance is certainly large.

            I think who comes out tallest, in good conditions, may end up being partially expected and partially surprising, just given how disparate average group environmental conditions are.

          3. As a 5’9 Bangladeshi in North Italy, I see myself as kinda average. Several generation Z Bangladeshis here are taller than me. Some are over 6 feet.

  8. As this topic is about West Eurasian Indo-European invasion, so i am curious to know opinion from people who know about these stuffs:
    Is West Eurasian(especially indo-european) admixture in Burmese people gained by mixing with Bengalis/Bangladeshis an essential factor why the Myanmar army is particularly brutal? Would they exhibit this much sadism if they didn’t have West-Eurasian/indo-European admixture?
    It is certainly possible that Burmese soldiers take mind-altering drugs just like the Japanese army did which cause them to be cruel.

    1. Burmese might be 5% Indo-Aryan west Eurasian as they’re 1/4th Bengali. 5% is low but significant to be brutal (- ‿◦ ).

  9. One would expect Jaats with a range of 35-48% Steppe, (close to 42% Steppe on average), and 15-20% BMAC and rest IVC admix to have much larger average heights and much bigger builds than those South Asians with little to no Steppe and BMAC and much higher AASI levels.

    The AASI range among NW biradris, when accounting for the ~1/4 of IVC that is AASI, in total ranges from 9-15%, which is much lower than the average AASI among non Biradri NW Indians, which ranges from 15-35% generally and up to 50% AASI at the extreme end (Dalit Christian NWners) Therefore the phenotype range in NW South Asia is absolutely massive, ranging from Mestizo looking people to West Iranian and Southern and Eastern Euro looking people.

    This is true in practice as well. NWners have very different body builds and greater average heights. They are also over represented in contact sports and feats of physical strength despite many following a vegetarian diet.

    Even those NW groups with low steppe and moderately higher AASI like Tarkhans and Gujjars have very different builds and physiques, which is also down to the strain of AASI they are mixed with and their lack of Onge and Austroasiatic/SE Asian DNA. So if anything, NWners are below their potential and still perform at world class levels.

    1. “Even those NW groups with low steppe and moderately higher AASI like Tarkhans and Gujjars have very different builds and physiques, which is also down to the strain of AASI they are mixed with and their lack of Onge and Austroasiatic/SE Asian DNA. So if anything, NWners are below their potential and still perform at world class levels.”

      Among the NW/Punjabi biraderis, Tarkhans are not low steppe, in fact they are second to Jatts, and score on par with Punjabi Brahmins, if not higher:

      Target: PunjabiJatt_scaled
      Distance: 1.1141% / 0.01114114
      49.4 IRN_Shahr_I_Sokhta_BA2
      32.2 RUS_Sintashta_MLBA
      10.2 IRN_Tepe_Hissar_C
      8.2 S_AASI_Sim

      Target: Khatri_scaled
      Distance: 1.1704% / 0.01170350
      42.2 IRN_Shahr_I_Sokhta_BA2
      25.2 RUS_Sintashta_MLBA
      20.4 IRN_Tepe_Hissar_C
      12.2 S_AASI_Sim

      Target: Tarkhan_scaled
      Distance: 1.1704% / 0.01170350
      46.0 IRN _Shahr _I_Sokhta BAZ
      26.7 RUS Sintashta MLBA
      13.7 IRN_Tepe_Hissar_C
      13.6 S_AASI_Sim

      In terms of AASI, they are slightly more AASI shifted when it comes to Jatts/Khatris, who are on the extreme end of Punjabi biraderis anyway, however when it comes to the average for Punjabi biraderis/upper-mid castes they are actually on the lower end:

      Target: PunjabiBiraderi_scaled
      Distance: 1.2693% / 0.01269282
      42.6 IRN_Shahr_I_Sokhta_BA2
      26.0 RUS_Sintashta_MLBA
      16.2 IRN_Tepe_Hissar_C
      15.2 S_AASI_Sim

      Likewise, for Gujjars, as they are also on the lower end than the Punjabi biraderi average for AASI:

      Target: Gujjar_scaled
      Distance: 0.9457% / 0.00945729
      51.2 IRN_Shahr_I_Sokhta_BA2
      20.8 RUS_Sintashta_MLBA
      14.2 IRN_Tepe_Hissar_C
      13.8 S_AASI_Sim

      Gujjar’s have lower steppe, but they are in turn more Zagrosian shifted.

      Among the biraderis, it’s Punjabi Rajputs who are usually the most AASI shifted, although even they have considerable Steppe:

      Target: PunjabiRajput_scaled
      Distance: 2.0151% / 0.02015058
      48.6 IRN_Shahr_I_Sokhta_BA2
      23.2 RUS_Sintashta_MLBA
      16.4 S_AASI_Sim
      11.8 IRN_Tepe_Hissar_C

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