I had made a partial review of the recent paper on Indus Valley populations last time around where I tried to argue that the genetic evidence brought out by the paper confirms the Vedic tradition. As per the Vedic tradition the region of Haryana and Western UP was the Vedic homeland from where the Vedic culture, religion and language spread across the entire subcontinent. It is conceivable that this was accompanied by migration of people from the Vedic heartland into regions further inland spreading their genetic signature in the process. It is also conceivable that this genetic signature was present in higher proportion among the Upper Castes like the Brahmins & Rajputs than the lower castes in those regions. Such a signature, found in higher proportions among the Upper Caste Brahmins and Rajputs, has been claimed to be identified by the geneticists but its source is said to come from the Pontic Caspian Steppe. Its entry into South Asia supposedly formed a group termed as ANI that then became the source population for the Indo-Aryan spread & expansion across South Asia and that the genetic signature on this Indo-Aryan expansion in the recipient groups further inland was in terms of their relative share of this ANI ancestry. In short, the Indo-Aryan and Vedic civilization spread across South Asia was accompanied by admixture with this ANI group by the recipient populations.
It has also been argued that the greater presence of ‘steppe’ ancestry among the Upper Castes is an implicit confirmation of this ancestry having brought Indo-Aryans and the Vedic culture into South Asia.
The present study under review shows quite clearly that a group presently living in the region of the ancient Vedic heartland, Rors (but also the much more numerous Jats), have the highest ‘steppe’ ancestry among South Asians and than they can be considered as that hypothetical ANI source population. Since this puts the ANI source population squarely in Haryana & Western UP (places inhabited by the Haryanvi Jats) it suggests that Haryana is the genetic ground zero from where the genetic signature of ancient Vedic people spread across the subcontinent.
This inference is therefore clearly in support and confirmation of the Vedic tradition which revers the land of Haryana & Western UP as the ancient Vedic heartland from where the Vedic culture disseminated across the wider South Asian region.
Recently, there was a paper on some communities of Northwestern India such as Rors, Jats, Kambojs, Gujjars & Khatris. The primary focus of the paper was the community of cattle herders from Haryana known as Rors.
This is part 1 of my review of the paper. In part 2 I shall focus on whether the evidence furnished in the paper proves a steppe migration into South Asia.
Let me first quote the abstract in full :-
The Indus Valley has been the backdrop for several historic and prehistoric population movements between South Asia and West Eurasia. However, the genetic structure of present-day populations from Northwest India is poorly characterized. Here we report new genomewide genotype data for 45 modern individuals from four Northwest Indian populations, including the Ror, whose long-term occupation of the region can be traced back to the early Vedic scriptures. Our results suggest that although the genetic architecture of most Northwest Indian populations fits well on the broader North-South Indian genetic cline, culturally distinct groups such as the Ror stand out by being genetically more akin to populations living west of India; such populations include prehistorical and early historical ancient individuals from the Swat Valley near the Indus Valley. We argue that this affinity is more likely a result of genetic continuity since the Bronze Age migrations from the Steppe Belt than a result of recent admixture. The observed patterns of genetic relationships both with modern and ancient West Eurasians suggest that the Ror can be used as a proxy for a population descended from the Ancestral North Indian (ANI) population. Collectively, our results show that the Indus Valley populations are characterized by considerable genetic heterogeneity that has persisted over thousands of years.
Pay attention to the bolded part. As per the pre-print by Narasimhan et al, the ANI is the likely population that spread Steppe ancestry and hence Indo-Aryan ancestry among South Asians by mixing with the ASI group. Now this paper on Rors says that Rors (by corollary the Jats) are the population most identical to this hypothetical ANI population. Please note – It is not Brahmins but a herder group from Haryana, which is the vert heartland of Vedic India. This is very significant because it clearly establishes the veracity of our Vedic tradition.
Let us look at this in more detail.
The ancestors of Rors and Jats from Haryana spread the Vedic civilization
As many of you here might be aware, the Vedic homeland was situated on the banks of the river Saraswati in a region which encompassed today’s Haryana and Western UP from where it eventually spread further into Northern India, principally in the Gangetic plains and beyond.
In terms of genetics therefore, one may argue that if there is a genetic signature of the Vedic people, it should be found most strongly in the original Vedic homeland and gradually reduce as one moves away from this homeland. Ofcourse, the caveat would be, that unless the modern people residing in the Vedic homeland had come to completely replace the original inhabitants of Haryana who spread the Vedic culture.
The ancient DNA research has now shown that in terms of autosomal ancestry, there is link between the modern presence of Indo-European speakers across Eurasia and the ‘steppe’ ancestry component.
In South Asia it is argued, that the ‘steppe’ component is highest among the Brahmins and decreases as one moves down the caste heirarchy and this is said to be one of the principal evidences of movement of steppe people into South Asia having spread the Indo-European language and culture. Infact, the recent Narasimhan et al paper, even went so far as to suggest,
Although the enrichment for Steppe ancestry is not found in the southern Indian groups, the Steppe enrichment in the northern groups is striking as Brahmins and Bhumihars are among the traditional custodians of texts written in early Sanskrit. A possible explanation is that the influx of Steppe_MLBA ancestry into South Asia in the mid-2nd millennium BCE created a meta-population of groups with different proportions of Steppe ancestry, with ones having relatively more Steppe ancestry having a central role in spreading early Vedic culture.
However, it has already been known since many years that the population having the highest ‘steppe’ ancestry in South Asia are not the Brahmins but the Jats, more specifically, the Haryanvi Jats. This was also noted by Razib in one of his earlier blogs.
The following is the admixture graph from the study,
As can be seen in the selected enlarged portion of the graph, the ‘steppe’ like light blue component, which is highest in some of the Northern European groups closest to the steppe, like the Latvians, Lithuanians, Russians etc., is far higher in Rors than it is in the Brahmins or any other South Asian group.
As per the authors themselves,
Outgroup f3 analysis in the form of (PNWI, X; Yoruba) showed that the Ror (and Jat) have distinct, high genetic similarity to modern Europeans (Figures 1C, 1D, and S5), far higher than the similarity observed in other NWI populations, such as the Gujjar (Figures 1D and S5). Among an extended set of South Asians, this pattern was repeated only in the Pathan population from Pakistan (Figure S5).
Refined IBD analysis highlights the general trend whereby the sharing of IBD segments declines as one moves along the cline from PNWI and NI_IE toward Dravidian and Indian Austroasiatic (IN_AA) groups (Figure 2A). Strikingly, among all PNWI groups studied, the Ror demonstrate the highest number of IBD segments shared with Europeans and Central Asians, whereas the Gujjar share a higher number of IBD segments with local Indian Indo-Europeans and Dravidians than do other PNWI groups (Figure 2A).
In CHROMOPAINTER analysis, as expected, the Ror (and Jat) exhibited a significantly higher number of chunks received from Europeans than do other NWI populations studied (t test, p value < 0.01).
They also state further,
A higher level of European ancestry in the Ror and Jat compared to other South Asians (Figures 1, 2, S2, S5, and S13 and Tables S5–S8) makes these two populations outliers within the broader Northwest South Asian landscape. This could be indicative of either a possible recent gene flow from a population related to Europe or to ancient West-Eurasian-related influx, which would agree with previous studies on adaptation, wherein the Ror and Jat have stood out for their high frequency of the lactase persistence allele (LCT-13910T) and the light-skin-color gene variant (SLC24A5).
The Rors and Jats also have higher frequencies of Lactase persistence and light skin color gene variant which makes the case of their more recent ancestry sharing, compared to other South Asians, with Northern Europeans or steppe groups stronger.
We also report that, relative to other South Asians, the Ror group has high shared drift with the EHG and Steppe_EMBA groups, higher allele sharing with the Steppe_MLBA group, and higher affinity with the Iron Age (prehistorical) and early historical first South Asian ancient sources (Figures S6A, S6B, S7, S8A, S8D, and S9 and Tables S9 and S16).
Finally the authors argue that the Rors are the best proxy for the ANI ancestry in South Asians,
In summary, we demonstrate a higher proportion of genomic sharing between PNWI populations and ancient EHG and Steppe-related populations than we observe in other South Asians.We report that the Ror are the modern population that is closest to the first prehistorical and early historical South Asian ancient samples near the Indus Valley, and they also harbor the highest Steppe-related, EHG, and Neolithic Anatolian ancestry. However, compared to other adjoining groups, the Ror show less affinity with the Neolithic Iranians. The Ror population can plausibly be used as an alternative proxy for ANI in future demographic modeling of South Asian populations.
The bar graph below explains it very well, where it can be seen that the proportion of the steppe orange component is higher among Rors and Jats than either the Pathans, the Brahmins or any other South Asian group.
The admixture proportions as per the qpAdm given in the Supplementary Table 11 and it is instructive to observe that the steppe_emba proportion for Rors is estimated at 57 % of total ancestry while for Jats it is 61 %. The same proportions for Brahmins from UP, Gujarat & Bengal are 46 %, 45 % & 44 % respectively. Even for Pashtuns from Afghanistan it is 52 % and for Kalash it is 58 %. Only the Yaghnobis and Pamiris from Central Asia are estimated to have a higher proportion of steppe_EMBA at 62 % & 67 % respectively.
Before moving forward it is necessary to point out that the light blue component observed in the admixture graph which is highest among the Northern Europeans is not the same as the steppe_EMBA or steppe_MLBA ancestry. Steppe_EMBA & Steppe_MLBA are an amalgation of the light blue, the dark blue (Anatolian-Farmer related) and the light green (Iran_N/CHG) components you see in the admixture graphs. So while the light blue component which peaks in Northern Europe is significantly less among South Asians, the light green component which correlates well with Iran Neolithic type ancestry, peaks in South Asia but it present at a lot less proportion among the northern Europeans.
Infact, the authors even stress that,
The Ror and Jat peoples stand out for having the highest proportion of Steppe_ MLBA ancestry (- 63%). The proportion of Steppe ancestry in the Ror is similar to that observed in present day Northern Europeans.
Therefore, the predominance of the light blue component in Northern Europeans is not alone an indication that their ‘steppe’ ancestry is far higher than among South Asians.
Now, if steppe-related ancestry correlates with presence and spread of Indo-European languages, the above data clearly implies that the highest steppe-related and therefore IE ancestry among South Asians is among the Jats & Rors, significantly higher than in other NW groups as well as Brahmins and Kshatriyas. Jats and Rors sampled for the study, live in Haryana & Western UP, which is the Vedic homeland.
It therefore supports the ancient Indian tradition according to which the region of Haryana & Western UP was the homeland of the Vedic people from where they spread out across Northern India. It can therefore be argued perfectly well, that the Brahmins and Kshatriyas in other regions have higher proportion of ‘steppe’ ancestry than the lower classes around them precisely because they have greater percentage of their ancestry derived from the ‘steppe’ rich people from the Vedic homeland. It has long been an argument that the ‘steppe’ ancestry in higher among the Brahmins and Kshatriyas than the lower castes across all regions of India and that this was evidence of IE culture spreading in South Asia with the ‘steppe’ ancestry. But the example of Jats and Rors in Haryana puts to doubt all such claims. Instead, we can argue that the higher ‘steppe’ related ancestry in Upper Castes across India is a function of them having a greater portion of their ancestry from their Vedic forefathers who lived in Haryana & Western UP, just as is suggested by the Vedic tradition.
I may finally add that there is a closely related group based on close fst distances and similar admixture proportions that likely descends from the core group that was responsible for the spread of this ancestry into the Caucasus and the steppe. This group consists of Rors, Jats, Kalash, Pashtun, Pathan, Tajik & Pamiri. They have broadly similar levels of Iran_N (15 to 30 %), Steppe_EMBA (49 to 67 %) & Onge (15 to 25 %) as per the qpAdm modelling in table S11. Fst distances also indicate that they are quite closely related. For example, the Fst distance between Rors and Pamiris (0.0069), Pashtuns (0.0057) & Tajiks (0.0058) is similar to Fst distances of Rors with neighbouring groups like Kamboj (0.0088), Gujjar (0.0064), Khatri (0.0056), Brahmins (0.0052) & Kshatriyas (0.0062). Considering the fact that Rors (& perhaps Jats) haven’t probably admixed with Pamiris, Tajiks or Pashtuns since millenia, their Fst distances would have been even less initially. The other Indus Valley modern populations are also not very far off in terms of Fst distances with each other but the above groups seem to form a subset among them.
It is conceivable that an ancestral group related to these populations with similar levels of ancestry proportions as exhibited by them (but perhaps with lowel levels of AASI – since BMAC has only 5 % in comparison to Pamiris who have 15 %), spread out from North India to Central Asia and those from Central Asia venturing further towards Caucasus and from there onto the steppe.
I have earlier on in two of my posts here & here , cited several evidences which support migrations out of India or South Asia.
However, I haven’t put out all of these evidences in one place. So I shall, in this post, cite and quote as much as of the evidence as I am aware of. But I realise that if all of it was put in one post, it would become gargantuan and tedious to read. So I will break it up in 3 or 4 parts. This is the 1st part. I would request Razib, Zack, Slapstik, Anan, Santosh, Vijay, Numinous, Fraxinicus, Snake Charmer & others to read and comment.
The Yamnaya cultural complex in the late 4th – early 3rd millenium BC on the Pontic Caspian steppe is currently the most favoured archaeological complex for the PIE or atleast the late PIE (i.e. IE languages after the early separation of Anatolian).
It has also been known since long that the Maykop culture in North Caucasus significantly influenced the genesis of the Yamnaya phenomenon and therefore some argue that the IE languages also likely spread to Yamnaya from the Maykop culture.
Now, it may be noted that Maykop shows several artifacts which are clearly of Central or South Asian origin. Let me quote the archaeologist Mariya Ivanova :-
Graves and settlements of the 5th millennium BC in North Caucasus attest to a material culture that was related to contemporaneous archaeological complexes in the northern and western Black Sea region. Yet it was replaced, suddenly as it seems, around the middle of the 4th millennium BC by a “high culture” whose origin is still quite unclear. This archaeological culture named after the great Maikop kurgan showed innovations in all areas which have no local archetypes and which cannot be assigned to the tradition of the Balkan-Anatolian Copper Age. The favoured theory of Russian researchers is a migration from the south originating in the Syro-Anatolian area, which is often mentioned in connection with the so-called “Uruk expansion”. However, serious doubts have arisen about a connection between Maikop and the Syro-Anatolian region. The foreign objects in the North Caucasus reveal no connection to the upper reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris or to the floodplains of Mesopotamia, but rather seem to have ties to the Iranian plateau and to South Central Asia. Recent excavations in the Southwest Caspian Sea region are enabling a new perspective about the interactions between the “Orient” and Continental Europe. On the one hand, it is becoming gradually apparent that a gigantic area of interaction evolved already in the early 4th millennium BC which extended far beyond Me- sopotamia; on the other hand, these findings relativise the traditional importance given to Mesopotamia, because innovations originating in Iran and Central Asia obviously spread throughout the Syro-Anatolian region independently thereof.
So the culture that apparently had a transformative effect on the steppe and probably brought the Indo-European languages on the steppe is said to have been in interaction already with South Central Asia with several features of the Maykop phenomenon probably derived from there.
Now one may argue this influence seems to come to Maykop from Iran & Central Asia and how does South Asia come into the picture ? So let us quote a few passages from Mariya Ivanova’s book . In one of the sites, Dolmen 2, of the Maykop culture we find the following:-
The textile samples from Klady 31/5 consisted of very fine, 0.15-0.30 mm thin linen fibres. The threads were spun, plied, and dyed in two different hues of brown. In contrast, the fabric from Dolmen 2 was woven from a mix of wool with a plant fiber, possibly cotton.
Cotton was rare in the bronze Age and is known earliest from Mehrgarh and Indus civilization in general. Its appearance in the Maykop culture links it with the Early Harappan phase. Even the wool found at the other site could have come from the East since the earliest evidence of wool was discovered at Shahr-i-Sokhta, a site which was in close contact with the Harappans (as we will see later) –
The earliest actual remains of a wool textile have been recovered at Shahr-i Sokhta I and date to the last centuries of the fourth millennium BC.
It may be noted that the earliest Indus Periphery sample that was recovered from Shahr-i-Sokhta dates to 3100 BC (i.e. precisely to the period when wool is found at the site).
Further, Ivanova discusses an axe of copper-lead alloy discovered from the Klady site –
The axe from Klady was not work-hardened and possibly never intended for use, as suggested by its elaborate decoration. It demonstrates that the north Caucasus belonged to an area of early use of copper-lead alloys. The earliest evidence for this material has been reported from the Indus valley and dates to the fifth millennium BC (Mille et al. 2004, 267). Terekhova (1981, 316) reports that during the Namazga II period artefacts of copper with high lead content were common at sites in the Kopet Dag piedmont.
So this copper-lead alloying technology possibly could also have spread from Early Harappans to Central Asia (Namazga) and from there to North Caucasus.
But this is not the only technology apparently borrowed from the Early Harappans. We may also note,
Finally, several metal artefacts such as animal figurines, axes with relief decoration, “forks”, and daggers with complex profiles were apparently produced in the lost-wax technique (Ryndina et al. zoo8). The earliest evidence for the lost-wax technique so far comes from the chalcolithic levels at Mehrgarh in north Baluchistan and dates to the fifth millennium BC (Mille et al. 2004, 267). Lost-wax casting was widespread in central and south- west Asia during the late fourth millennium BC.
So the Maykop culture also shows the use of lost-wax casting and this technique is also known to have been practiced the earliest by South Asians as demonstrated at the site of Mehrgah. This yet again shows the possible direction of exchange of technology and the important role of South Asia in it.
Ivanova goes on to describe the various copper based objects found at Maykop sites and then adds, “Most of the described copper objects have comparisons on the Iranian plateau and in central Asia, dating to the early fourth rnillenniurn BC. ”
The absence of shaft-hole axes outside the Caucasus during the fourth millennium BC is striking. The only exceptions are probably the shaft-hole axes found in Level III, 6 at Mundigak in south Afghanistan.
Ivanova then moves on to the discovery of wheeled transport among the Maykop people,
Half of all third-millennium finds of wheeled vehicles between the Danube and Ural were uncovered in the region of Kuban. Trifonov (2004, note 2) interprets this striking concentration of early graves with wagons on Kuban as an indication of the spread of the wagon from this area into the steppe.
Pay attention to the bolded part. So the wheeled vehicle technology apparently reached the steppe from Maykop. Wheeled vehicle technolgy is considered by David Anthony as probably the most transformative technology that helped the steppe people spread their influence across a wide region in the form of the IE languages.
Now, let us note what Ivanova has to say about the appearance of the wheeled vehicles in Maykop itself,
The evidence for wheeled vehides dating to the preceding Maikop period, in contrast, is very tenuous… The vehicle from which the wheels at Novokorsunskaja originate might have been a two-axle wagon like the roughly contemporary wagon from Koldyri on the Lower Don (see Chapter 5). But it is also possible that the find from Novokorsunskaja was a two-wheeled cart. Clay· models of two-wheeled carts with rotating wheels attest to the use of this type of vehicle in central Asia and the Indus valley in the late fourth millennium BC. At Altyn-depe in south Turkmenistan, such models occur in the second half of the fourth millennium (Namazga III period) and become more common in the earlv centuries of the third millennium (Kircho 2009). Cattle figurines with holes in the withers for attaching the yoke have been recovered at Kara-depe (Kircho 2009, 30). Comparable models appeared in the Indus valley around 3500-3300 BC, during the Ravi-Phase of the Indus culture at Harappa.
So again, the link extends all the way to the Early Harappans and this time it is the technology which David Anthony deems as transformative for the spread of IE languages.
There is also evidence of long distance trade between Maykop and SC Asia. Cylinder seals of carnelian discovered at a Maykop site is similar to such seals found as far away as Shahr-i-Sokhta and Sarazm, both sites with significant Harappan contacts (as discussed later in the next post).
Another exotic item is undoubtedly the carnelian cylinder seal from Krasnogvardejskoe, engraved with a depiction of a stag and a tree (Fig. 4·5).145 A cylinder seal with a stag and a tree depicted in a remarkably similar manner has been found at Tepe Sialk IV… Further cylinder seals with animal depictions dating to the late fourth and early third millenniums have been unearthed at Sarazm III and IV in the valley of Zaravshan and at Shahr-i Sokhta I in Seistan.
Ivanova then proceeds to do a survey of the various animal figurines found on the Maykop vessels and concludes,
In conclusion, the north Caucasus, a geographic region which has never been inhabited by lions, Asiatic gazelles and wild sheep, can be ruled out as the area in which the two silver cups frorn Maikop were designed and manufactured. The alluvial plains of Mesopotamia can be also excluded…The animal depictions from Maikop are unique indeed. However, they show resemblances to some of the objects from a hoard of five gold and seven silver vessels recovered during illicit excavations in 1966 near Fullol in north Afghanistan.
Probably the most attractive and highly valued ornamental stone of exotic origin, lapis lazuli, has been found at only three sites north of the main Caucasus range… The most famaus source of lapis in the Old World is the mines of Sar-i Sang located in the Kokcha Valley in the Afghan province of Badakshan (Weisgerber 2004). Sources of secondary importance are situated in the Chagai hills in Pakistani ßaluchistan and in the Pamir mountains.
Ivanova finally sums it up as follows,
Let us consider the elements of central Asian origin in the material culture and technology of the north Caucasian societies. The most unambiguous evidence is provided by beads of colourful ornamental stones. Not only are the deposits of lapis lazuli, turquoise and possibly carnelian situated on the Iranian plateau and in the mountainous regions of central Asia, but the indirect supply with such materials via Upper Mesopotamia can be essentially ruled out. In the early fourth millennium lapis lazuli and turquoise were nearly absent in southwest Asia. Sites in Iran and central Asia, in contrast, provide ample evidence for the continuous exchange of these materials at least since the sixth rnillennium BC…An exotic fabric from Dolmen 2 at Klady, a rare red pigment from the same tomb, a unique bone pin with flat triangular head at Ust Dzheguta, and a carnelian cylinder seal with an engraved stag and tree motive from Krasnogvardejskoe all point to the Iranian plateau and its borderlands. Furthermore, the silver vessels with animal depictions from the kurgan of Maikop portray animal species which are native in Azerbaijan and west Iran, and resemble in style another gold vessel with animal decoration found at Fullol in north Afghanistan. Along with these exotic commodities, exotic ideas and technological knowledge reached the communities of the Maikop period from the southeast. Most shapes of locally made copper tools, for example, derive clearly from Iranian and not from Syro-Anatolian prototypes. Other technological peculiarities of the north Caucasus, like lost-wax casting, beads of gold and silver sheet over faience core, copper-lead alloys, copper-silver alloys, arsenic-nickel copper, use of silver and gold, manufacturing of metal vessels, may well originate from the “Irano-Afghan” cultural sphere, and not from Greater Mesopotamia. All these innovations were part of the technological systern in central Asia and Iran during the early fourth millennium BC.
So a whole host of artefacts of the Maykop culture ,that suppossedly brought ‘IE’ to the steppe, have their most likely origin in SC Asia. Isn’t this worth pondering ?
Ivanova also briefly comments on Central Asian and South Asian links,
Terracotta female figurines in central Asian (Geoksyur) style have been found in the lowest levels of Said-Qala in the Helmand valley and at pre-Harappan sites in the Indus valley… the presence of characteristic wheel-made pottery and seashell bracelets in Sarazm points to contacts with Baluchistan.
So we see a large interaction zone that starts in South Asia and stretches upto the North Caucasus. The direction of movement however is largely from Southeast to Northwest. This North Caucasian Maykop culture eventually ends up greatly influencing the steppe culture of Yamnaya which suppossedly spread the late Indo-European (PIE) culture. So one can see that South and Central Asia were already key drivers in an interaction zone that had the designated IE cultures on the steppe.
Having done a survey of the archaeological evidence we may now also look at some genetic evidences that directly link the Maykop and related cultures in the Caucasus with South Asia.
According to an ancient mtDNA study of 6 human samples from various Maykop sites –
…we used target-enrichment together with high- throughput sequencing to characterize the complete mitochondrial sequence of three Maikop and three Novosvobodnaya individuals. We identiﬁed T2b, N1b1 and V7 haplogroups, all widely spread in Neolithic Europe. In addition,we identiﬁed the Paleolithic Eurasian U8b1a2 and M52 haplogroups, which are frequent in modern South Asia, particularly in modern India
We have an mtDNA haplogroup M52, in one of the site of Maykop, which is today mostly found in South Asia and is likely of deep South Asian ancestry. Clearly its presence at one of the Maykop sites in the 4th millenium BC in North Caucasus along with the abundance of the artefacts of SC Asian origin that we discussed earlier, reveals that South Asians were indeed migrating towards Caucasus at that early period.
We have even more evidence still. In the 2016 study by Lazaridis et al which for the 1st time published the samples from Neolithic Iran, there were also 3 samples from Chalcolithic Armenia and this is what they say about these samples in the Supplementary Section of the paper –
All three males from this population belong to Y-chromosome haplogroup L1a-M27/P329. The M27 mutation is common in South Asian haplogroup L Y-chromosomes, but was absent in a survey of Y-chromosomes from Anatolia. Haplogroup L occurs at a very low ~2% frequency in present-day Armenians.
Considering the high frequency of this haplogroup among South Asians and its very low frequency among the present Caucasian or Near Eastern populations, this y-dna is also very likely of South Asian origin.
But y-dna L was not just found among the 3 samples from Chalcolithic Armenia. In a later study published this year which had a very comprehensive ancient sample set from the Caucasus, there were another 3 samples from late Maykop period which were designated as y-dna L but which was not resolved for its sublineages. Considering the presence of South Asian L1a already in Chalcolithic Armenia and also the presence of South Asian mtDNA M52, it may not be surprising that these L lineages were also L1a like those from Armenia.
Combine this with the fact that the y-dna J2a, a common haplogroup among South Asians and Iranians was also found in the Chalcolithic Caucasus samples and in the Narasimhan et al paper among the Chaocolithic & Bronze Age Central Asians. There are also many mtDNA found among these ancient Caucasian samples (mostly from Maykop sites) which are shared with South Asians (though not exclusively) such as T2a1, T2e, H2a1, H13ala, U4c1, U5a1b, U7b, U1a1a, U2e1b, R1a1a, I4a, W1.
The Narasimhan et al paper also shows us through several d-stats that the Armenia Chalcolithic and Armenia Early Bronze Age samples have quite a bit of ancestry sharing with Chalcolithic & Bronze Age Central Asia & Eastern Iran.
Therefore, not only do we find material evidence from the 4th millenium BC Caucasus of artefacts and technologies with South Central Asian origin like cotton, wheeled vehicles, copper-lead alloys, lost wax casting etc but we also see genetic evidence linking both regions with definite evidence of some human migration from SC Asia into the Caucasus. And from this same Caucasus region flowed the cultural assemblage and perhaps genes as well, which is said to have brought the IE languages to the steppe.
We can therefore observe that the Chalcolithic SC Asians were already linked to the suppossed IE cultures of the steppe during its early phases with influences going from SC Asia to Maykop and then steppe and not vice-versa.
Now for some evidence from animal genetics which further supports migration from South or Central Asia into the Caucasus but also the steppe.
Zebu is the South Asian native cattle which was domesticated in South Asia and is found from the earliest periods at the sites of Mehrgarh in Balochistan and Bhiranna in Haryana (both sites date to atleast 7000 BC and possibly even earlier)
According to this FAO webpage, “There are grounds for believing that zebus were raised on the territory of the present-day Azerbaijan 4000-4500 years ago. During the excavations of a stone burial ground in the vicinity of the city of Lenkoran the French archaeologist Jacques De Morgan unearthed and described a unique round seal of black and grey agate depicting a humped zebu bull covered with dense hair. This he dated to 2500-2000 B.C.”
We can see from our earlier discussion that there was a transfer of technology and material assemblage with some human migration from SC Asia to the Caucasus during the Chalcolithic age. So it is very likely that the Azerbaijani Zebu could have reached the Caucasus around the same time.
But Zebu genetic inheritance is not just restricted to the Caucasus and it extends to the ancient steppe cattle as well.
According to a study of ancient and primitive European DNA, “The divergence of the BAI cattle as suggested by PCA (Figure 2c) can be attributed to an indicine genomic component which is identiﬁed in the ADMIXTURE (Figure 3) and D-statistics (Table 2) analyses. By analysing the genome-wide SNP markers, McTavish et al. (2013) and Decker et al. (2014) also reported an indicine inﬂuence on Italian cattle breeds. Using whole-genome sequences of ancient human DNA, Jones et al. (2015) and Haak et al. (2015) suggested massive migration of Yamnaya steppe herders as a source of dispersion of Indo-European languages to both northern-central Europe and India. These herders might also have mediated gene ﬂow between Indian zebu and Ukrainian steppe cattle. “
So here the authors are directly linking the presence of Zebu genetic admixture in the ancient Ukrainian steppe cattle to the Bronze Age steppe herders or in other words to IE expansions. But how would Indian Zebu get admixed in the ancient steppe cattle if it was not brought there by people ? Is it really probable that steppe pastoralists went all the way to SC Asia and brought back the Zebu cattle to the steppe on their return ? What is much more likelier to be the case is that people with origins in SC Asia, as they gradually migrated through Iran into the Caucasus and beyond probably also brought their Zebu cattle along with them.
But not only is there evidence of cattle migration from South Asia to the Caucasus and the steppe, there is also evidence of possible sheep migration.
As per this study on mtDNA diversity in Indian sheep,
“Previous studies on mitochondrial DNA analysis of sheep from different regions of the world have revealed the presence of two major- A and B, and three minor- C, D and E maternal lineages. Lineage A is more frequent in Asia and lineage B is more abundant in regions other than Asia… The breed differentiation in Indian sheep was essentially due to variable contribution of two major lineages to different breeds, and sub- structuring of lineage A, possibly the latter resulting from genetic drift. Nucleotide diversity of this lineage was higher in Indian sheep (0.014 ± 0.007) as compared to that of sheep from other regions of the world (0.009 ± 0.005 to 0.01 ± 0.005). Reduced median network analysis of control region and cytochrome b gene sequences of Indian sheep when analyzed along with available published sequences of sheep from other regions of the world showed that several haplotypes of lineage A were exclusive to Indian sheep. Given the high nucleotide diversity in Indian sheep and the poor sharing of lineage A haplotypes between Indian and non-Indian sheep, we propose that lineage A sheep has also been domesticated in the east of Near East, possibly in Indian sub-continent. ”
Haplotype A is more widespread and frequent in Asia while mtDNA haplotype B is more common in Europe.
The above is an map from another paper which shows the relative distribution of various sheep mtDNA lineages. One can observe that the mtDNA A lineage (in Blue) predominates in Asia while mtDNA B (in Red) predominates in Europe. However, it is also evident that mtDNA A has a significant presence in the Caucasus as well as on the European steppe and Northern Europe. Considering its likely origin in South Asia and its presence in the Caucasus and steppe, this may again indicate that a sheep lineage spread out from South Asia to these two regions along with the Zebu cattle and was accompanied by human migration as well.
We also have evidence from actual animal aDNA.
There is ancient dog DNA from a Corded ware site that shows possible Indian dog and Indian wolf admixture. The study involved aDNA from 3 dog samples, one of which, labelled as CTC, came from a corded ware site in Germany. Corded ware culture, as many here would know, is considered the 1st IE culture in Europe proper which was heavily influenced by Yamnaya groups from steppe.
In a peer review file, the authors respond to one of the critics in the following manner,
A key finding of our analysis is indeed that CTC appears to share some ancestry that is predominantly found in modern Indian dogs (which we refer to as India-like as it is also found in Central Asian and Middle Eastern dogs). All analyses that incorporate some model of admixture show this. We would argue that visually CTC is approximately halfway between European and Indian dogs rather than being “clustered with Indian dogs”, but nonetheless, any Indian-like component inferred from this PCA analysis is clearly significant, as correctly pointed out by the reviewer. CTC also appears to show a clear Indian component in both the NGSadmix and ADMIXTURE clustering analysis, on the order of 25% (so closer to modern Europeans and thus consistent with the Neighbor joining tree analysis). The MixMapper and ADMIXTUREGRAPH analysis also point to other higher values of Indian-like admixture.
The below admixture graph from the same paper explains the likely path of admixture from Indian dogs into the Corded ware CTC dog sample.
Whether it be domesticated cattle, sheep or dogs, their movement is usually associated with the movement or migration of humans. In this case, we can see migration into the steppe of all three domesticated species from a likely origin in South Asia. So can we also detect some signs of human migration into the steppe. While we have clearly seen the signs of human migration from South & Central Asia into the Caucasus associated with a cultural and technological package, such evidence for steppe is much harder to come by. More so because of the absolute rarity of aDNA from South Asia.
But nevertheless, there is tentative evidence. Let us go through it.
There was this recent paper which was covered by Razib on his blog.
In it the authors make the following observation :-
The Bronze Age Srubnaya-Alakulskaya individuals from Kazburun 1/Muradym 8 presented genetic similarities to the previously published Srubnaya individuals. However, in f4 statistics, they shared more drift with representatives of the Andronovo and Afanasievo populations compared to the published Srubnaya individuals. Those apparently West Eurasian people lacked significant Siberian components (NEA and SEA) in ADMIXTURE analyses but carried traces of the SA component that could represent an earlier connection to ancient Bactria. The presence of an SA component (as well as finding of metals imported from Tien Shan Mountains in Muradym 8) could therefore reflect a connection to the complex networks of the nomadic transmigration patterns characteristic of seasonal steppe population movements.
The South Asian ‘lilac’ component can be observed in trace components across most of the steppe samples above here. This ‘lilac’ component is also the one that peaks South Indian tribal groups like the ‘Mala’. So is this sign of AASI admixture on the steppe during the late Bronze Age ?
Even the Narasimhan et al preprint, observed that, “we examine the second set of outliers from this time period, those related to Turan. We see that these samples are drawn towards the BMAC on the PCA and have substantially higher proportions of Iranian agriculturalist related ancestry on the ADMIXTURE plot as well as by f4-statistics. These samples are at the southern end of our geographic sampling, suggesting that the individuals of the Andronovo material culture horizon came into contact with the people of the BMAC at around 1500 BCE.
These outlier samples from the steppe dating to around 1500 BC, show evidence of BMAC admixture where models with the Swat samples or even the high AASI groups like Irula, work as good proxies for the 3rd ancestral source in these outliers.
However, it is possible that the Srubnaya individuals did not receive the AASI-like admixture directly but rather inherited through a steppe Yamnaya like ancestor. As can be seen below, even earlier steppe groups like the Yamnaya shows traces of AASI like ancestry component at k=15
The South Asian ‘lilac’ component is present also in a wide range of earlier steppe samples such as the Yamnaya and it is therefore likely that later steppe groups inherited it from these early steppe precursors rather than directly through BMAC contacts (which also looks quite possible).
The possibility of early southern admixture into the steppe during the Yamnaya period is also indicated by the qpAdm admixture model for the Yamnaya Ozera sample which can be modelled with a significant degree of confidence as having Sarazm_EN admixture. The 2 samples from Sarazm Eneolithic from Tajikistan dating to 3500 BC are the earliest Central Asian samples with AASI admixture. The Sarazm samples are also closer or share more alleles with Indian tribal groups with high AASI, in comparison to the BMAC main cluster which themselves have around 5 % AASI. Such a group with close genetic linkages to SC Asians acting as a good proxy for the southern admixture on the steppe again reinforces that some sort of genetic admixture ultimately originating from SC Asia may have mixed into the steppe groups.
Such southern admixture in the main sample set of Yamnaya can also not be discounted since the Yamnaya is already modeled as part Iran_Chl which is not so distant to populations like Sarazm_EN.
We may end by discussing the historical knowledge we glean from Greek sources regarding some tribes living in the Kuban valley of the North Caucasus.
Traces of Aryan tribes and names are also found in the northern Black Sea area in the Kuban region, as well as in the vicinity of the Caspian. These Aryan words, more archaic than the later Iranian forms,include the river name Sindes and the tribes Sindoi, Sindoi (in classical sources; cf. Skt. Sindhu- ‘Indus River; India’); the Kuban River (Cuphis, Kouphis, cf. Skt. Kubha ‘Kabul River’ in the Rigveda); the Caspian tribe Das- (cf. Skt. DAsa, dasyu- ‘foreign tribe’, OPers. dahyu- ‘province, district’): see Kretschmer 1943 (1944); cf. Uslar 1881:451, Thumb and Hauschild 1958:1:1.87, Trubacev 1976; Trubacev 1977 gives a list of names from this region with possible Indo-Aryan etymologies. The isolated location of these places north of the Caucasus gives reason to assume that Aryan tribes entered the area from the Near East via the Caucasus.
How and when these South Asian groups reached the Caucasus where they were recorded in antiquity is a matter of curiosity.
I shall in the next two posts, focus on evidence of Bronze Age human migrations from South Asia into Eastern Iran, Central Asia, Mesopotamia, Magan, Dilmun, Syria and the Tarim Basin.
In the recent podcast and its follow-up post, an argument has been made that AIT/AMT or more specifically the steppe migration into South Asia in the 2nd millenium BC is already proven by genetics and that there is no hope for OIT. It has also been insinuated that OIT is being propogated more due to politics and that there is hardly any data or rationale behind it.
While in my two previous posts, I have shown data that supports OIT, I shall again breach this topic but I shall approach it in a different manner and also bring in a lot more data that I have not touched in my earlier posts.
I shall in this post, explain why AMT makes little sense. In the next post, I shall present archaeological and genetic data that supports OIT.
I see that a lot of people outside India can’t seem to get why Indians are so opposed to the AMT as apparently it is most ‘scientific’ and is supported by linguistics, archaeology and now genetics. Let me just put it in brief why Indians like me oppose AMT .
Many Hindus have grown up with stories from the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the various Puranas. They have been told that this is the history of their ancient forebears. Most Hindus believe that it is history and they grow up being proud of this great heritage. And this has been happening since millenia. It is since millenia that Indians have been growing up with the stories of the Ramayana, Mahabharata & Puranas and of other Vedic literature. They have in the ancient period even spread this knowledge across the vast expanse of SE Asia where the indigenous people still perform plays based on these Indian epics.
It is a well-known fact that the Puranas stop narrating history around the time when the Guptas were about to become the pre-eminent powers in South Asia i.e. around 2000 years ago. All the history narrated by Puranas is therefore of a period earlier than 2000 YBP. It is also well-known that without the help of the Puranas a lot of ancient Indian history would be still remain unknown. That the Puranas have historical information is unquestionable.
However, the Puranas date the ancient events it dates events like the ascension of Mahapadma Nanda, the Nanda emperor – a historical person, from the reference point of events mentioned in the Mahabharata like the birth of Parikshit who was born during the Great War of the epic.
The Mahabharata event is believed to have happened in the 32nd century BC and there is a very strong consistent tradition behind it. Astronomers such as Brahmagupta, for example, have said that there is a lapse of 3179 years between the Saka Era of 78 CE and the Kaliyuga Era. The Aihole inscription of the Chalukya Emperor Pulakeshin (who defeated Harshavardhana), dates the inscription in both the Saka & the Kaliyuga Era. Kalhana mentions it as well though he seems to have fallen into confusion between Kaliyuga Era and the period of the Pandavas.
All traditional histories, whether it be the very ancient narratives of the Puranas or it be Kalhana’s Rajataringini (of Kashmir) or be it the Gopala Rajavamshavali (of Nepal) date their histories in reference of the Era of the Pandavas and the Kaliyuga.
And if that is not enough, as per the Epics and the Puranas, there are scores of Kings and leaders who preceded the kings of the Mahabharata period. In the Suryavamsha (the Solar Lineage), there is a list of 95 successor kings from the time of the Great Father of All, Manu Vaivasvata. Manu or Manusha is cognate with the father of Germanic people, Mannus. Therefore even his name is of IE origin.
Megasthenes, around 320 BC, relates and Indian tradition, which is no longer extant, according to which 6451 years and 154 kings have elapsed between the 1st Indian king, whom Megasthenes calls Dionysus, and Sandrocottus or Chandragupta. This Dionysus was none other than Prthu Vainya, who is said to lived even earlier to Manu Vaivasvata in the 6th epoch, while Manu Vaivasvata is the father of all mankind in the 7th epoch. Manu Vaivasvata is also the same person who is known in the Semitic tradition as Noah or Nuh (Arabic).
So all of this gargantum ancient tradition which is believed to be several thousands of years old and which has been handed down to Indians for millenia is to be thrown away ? Based on what ? What exactly have the Europeans shown that disproves of discredits this ancient tradition ?
William Jones in the late 18th century, laid the groundwork to bring down the great antiquity claimed by the Indians for their own history. He did this guided by the very ‘scientific’ belief of the enlightened Europeans of his age that Earth was only 6000 years old, so how the hell can the Indians claim such absurdly ancient dates for their history !
So in William Jones’ time began the effort by the British to cram down all of the ancient history claimed by the Indians from the time of Manu, in a timeframe not older than 2000 BC. It is in following this great tradition set by Jones, that Max Muller pulled out the date of 1500 BCE for the arrival of the Aryans. Ofcourse, in all of the ancient Vedic and Puranic or Epic tradition, which talks of great ancient events and personalities of importance, there is never a single mention of Indo-Aryans coming into South Asia from Central Asia or from anywhere else. Their sacred home and their sacred places are all in South Asia.
So, you want the Indians to believe that all of their ancient historical traditions which they have been handed down from their forefathers for thousands of years are of exaggerated antiquity and that they are in actual fact of much later time period and whats more so, the progenitors of this great cultural tradition of yours only came to South Asia in 1500 BC. Before that they were not here and all of your tradition that claims otherwise is worthless. It also does not matter that there is no mention of such migration in Indian tradition anywhere.
One may accept such a extraordinary proposition if it was based on some concrete data such as archaeological evidence. But where was archaeology in the late 18th and most of the 19th century when these theories were proposed ? Even after that, where has archaeology produced evidence of Indo-Aryan migration into South Asia ?
According to JP Mallory, who along with David Anthony is the leading proponent of the steppe theory,
The archaeological evidence for an expansion from the steppelands across historical Iran and India varies from the extremely meagre to total absence: both the Anatolian and the Kurgan theory find it extraordinarily difficult to explain the expansion of the Indo- European languages over a vast area of urbanized Asian populations, approximately the same area as that of Europe.
This is indeed the problem for both the Near Eastern and the Pontic-Caspian models and, following the logic of this analysis, the Bouckaert model appears to be in the same boat. All of these models apparently require the Indo-European languages (including their attendant agri- cultural vocabulary) to be superimposed/adopted by at least several major complex societies of Central Asia and the Indus… In any event, all three models require some form of major language shift despite there being no credible archaeological evidence to demonstrate, through elite dominance or any other mechanism, the type of language shift required to explain, for example, the arrival and dominance of the Indo- Aryans in India… But all theories must still explain why relatively advanced agrarian societies in greater Iran and India abandoned their own languages for those of later Neolithic or Bronze Age Indo- Iranian intruders.
An archaeological supplement with a recent aDNA paper informs us thus –
This survey of the archaeological and biological record of southern Central Asia yields four important findings. First, contacts between the sedentary food-producing populations of the Namazga culture populations residing in Kopet Dagh piedmont and Geokyur oasis of southern Turkmenistan who likely established the outpost at Sarazm had little to no contact with populations residing in the southern steppe zone. Second, contacts between Bronze Age steppe populations and NMG V and BMAC populations appears to have been one in which the dynamic of cultural influence was stronger on the side of the well-established sedentary food- producing populations, and this resulted in the partial assimilation of these initial newcomers to the region both culturally and, to a lesser degree, biologically as well. Third, not all of those who emigrated from the north turned to farming but may have continued a semi-nomadic existence in the highlands, which were unsuitable for the kind of intensive farming practiced in the BMAC homelands or in the regions of Khorezm. Fourth, if there was any Central Asian influence on South Asian populations, that influence likely long predated any development of Iranian, let alone Indo-Aryan, languages, and most likely occurred during the late NMG IV to early NMG V period (ca. 2800–2300 BCE) and even earlier during the Eneolithic from Kelteminar culture groups (4000–3500 BCE).
So we have zero archaeological evidence of the so-called steppe migration of Indo-Iranians into Iran & South Asia and even in Central Asia, the interactions between the steppe people and BMAC was such that the former were assimilated into the latter groups (which would have led to them adopting the BMAC language(s)), yet we are to accept that the whole region from Iran, Central Asia and South Asia having some of the most densely populated and advanced civilizations of their time, simply just switched over to the languages of the steppe nomads (who are archaeologically invisible) in such a comprehensive manner that not a trace of the earlier languages of these advanced civilizations exist and what is ubiquitous today all across this vast region is only the language of these invisible steppe nomads. How Incredible !
To give you a perspective, around the same time, the IE Hittites and Mitanni ruled over vast kingdoms in Anatolia & Syria respectively, and that too for many centuries. Where are these Indo-Europeans now in the Near East ? Not a trace of them exists. Yet in South Asia (where the civilizational expanse was much vaster than in the Near East), where the steppe nomads are not even archaeologically visible, we are to believe that the IVC language became invisible while the steppe language reigned supreme.
So we have no archaeological evidence of even a trace of migration from the steppe when we would require a very substantial migration from the steppe to make such a major cultural, religious and linguistic impact on the IVC to make them totally adopt the steppe language and forsake their own languages. And we do not even have any mention of a migration in any of the ancient Indian texts which on the contrary claim a much greater antiquity of IE culture and tradition within South Asia. So why should we people of South Asian origin be compelled to accept this hopeless theory ? There is very good reason to believe that our history is being misinterpreted and our real history is being robbed from us. So why should we lie down and let them walk all over us ?
It may be noted that the very reason the Europeans started archaeological digs in the late 18th & early 19th century in the Near East which lead to the discovery of the great Bronze age civilization of Mesopotamia & Egypt was the mention of ancient Great civilizations in the Bible. So the historical memory preserved in religious texts is very important and not to be dismissed lightly. Moreover, the Bible and Torah are Semitic books written originally in a Semitic language that preserved a memory of Semitic people in Bronze Age Near East. We now know that Semitic speakers were widespread in Bronze Age Near East.
Similarly, the historical memory from ancient Indian texts can help us a great deal in reconstructing the early history of Indian civilization. According to the Vedic literature, the Saraswati region around Haryana and parts of Western UP was the Vedic homeland, and we may note that some of the earliest Early & Pre-Harappan sites such as Kunal, Bhiranna, Farmana, Rakhigarhi etc are now known from Haryana. The fact that this ancient memory of Indian civilization is preserved in an IE language (Sanskrit) should also give a clue that IE languages have a deep history in South Asia intimately connected with the IVC. This is just plain common sense. Or else, we would have to argue that the deep history of Indian civilization was noted by the IVC inhabitants in a Dravidian or some other unknown language and then with the invasion of the Indo-Aryans, they translated that knowledge into Sanskrit which is a bit of a stretch and is also unsustainable because the earliest figures of Vedic literature such as Manu are also early father figures in other IE tradition such as Germanic.
Finally, it may be argued that however dicy the arguments of AMT are and however little evidence there is to support it through archaeology or Sanskrit texts, genetic data has still managed to prove AMT.
Well, that is also not really proven.
We have aDNA from South Asia (dozens of them) that date only from 1200 – 300 BC i.e. well after the so-called AMT and they are mostly from North Pakistan.
We only have 3 Bronze Age samples designated as Indus_Periphery and that too not from South Asia but from Eastern Iran and Central Asia.
These 3 samples do have steppe-related ancestry but they have it less as compared to the Swat samples and many of the modern IE speakers from South Asia.
It has not however been proved that Steppe_mlba related ancestry was absent in Indus_Periphery and came into South Asia only after 1500 BC. It has only been proved that steppe_mlba related ancestry is found in greater proportion among Swat samples and among many of the modern IE groups.
But how does that prove that the extra steppe-related ancestry only came from the Steppe_mlba ? Especially when the y-dna marker of steppe_mlba groups R1a-Z93 is so clearly lacking in all the Swat samples.
And by no stretch of imagination can be assume that the 3 Indus_periphery samples are an accurate representation of the enormous genetic diversity that would have existed in the Indus civilization. Yet the research explicitly makes this assumption that Indus_Periphery captures the genetic diversity of the IVC. However, realistically, in all likelihood, there would have groups in the Indus civilization whose steppe-related ancestry was much higher than those of Indus_periphery. Therefore unless we make sure that such is not the case, how can one argue that the extra steppe-related ancestry in modern South Asia and in ancient Swat was because of a steppe migration,
-a migration for which there is no archaeological evidence,
-there is lack of steppe marker R1a-Z93 in Swat.
There is also little genetic evidence of steppe impact on BMAC and of BMAC genetic impact on South Asians.
All things considered, there is every reason from Indians and South Asians in general to be very skeptical of the AMT.
THE FOLLOWING IS A DRAFT I HAD PREPARED A FEW MONTHS BACK. IT IS JUST A WORK IN PROGRESS AND FAR FROM DEFINITIVE. THIS IS A VERY LONG POST AND MAY BORE MANY OF YOU FOR WHICH I APOLOGISE. THIS POST IS A FOLLOW-UP FROM MY EARLIER POST WHICH WAS TEMPORALLY & GEOGRAPHICALLY MORE RESTRICTED –
The Last 2 months have produced a flurry of ancient DNA studies that have given us results with enormous implications for the spread of Indo-European languages. Incorporating the results of these studies along with linguistic and archaeological evidence, we can create a model of spread of Indo-European languages from SC Asia to other parts of Eurasia.
Johanna Nichols had produced, more than 2 decades ago, a wonderful model for the spread of the Indo-European languages from its locus in Central Asia. Her thesis was spread over two articles in two volumes. According to her –
Several kinds of evidence for the PIE locus have been presented here. Ancient loanwords point to a locus along the desert trajectory, not particularly close to Mesopotamia and probably far out in the eastern hinterlands. The structure of the family tree, the accumulation of genetic diversity at the western periphery of the range, the location of Tocharian and its implications for early dialect geography, the early attestation of Anatolian in Asia Minor, and the geography of the centum-satem split all point in the same direction: a locus in western central Asia. Evidence presented in Volume II supports the same conclusion: the long-standing westward trajectories of languages point to an eastward locus, and the spread of IE along all three trajectories points to a locus well to the east of the Caspian Sea. The satem shift also spread from a locus to the south-east of the Caspian, with satem languages showing up as later entrants along all three trajectory terminals. (The satem shift is a post-PIE but very early IE development.) The locus of the IE spread was therefore somewhere in the vicinity of ancient Bactria-Sogdiana. This locus resembles those of the three known post-IE spreads: those of Indo-Iranian (from a locus close to that of PIE), Turkic (from a locus near north-western Mongolia), and Mongolian (from north-eastern Mongolia) as shown in Figure 8.8. Thus in regard to its locus, as in other respects, the PIE spread was no singularity but was absolutely ordinary for its geography and its time-frame.
To summarize the important points of dialect geography in the Eurasian spread zone, the hallmark of a language family that enters a spread zone as an undifferentiated single language and diversifies while spreading is a multiple branching from the root. This is the structure of the IE tree, which has the greatest number of primary branches of any known genetic grouping of comparable age. The hallmark of developments that arise in or near the locus is that they appear along more than one trajectory. This is the distribution of the centum/satem division in IE, and in the later Indo-Iranian spread it is the distribution of the Indo-Aryan/Iranian split (as argued in Nichols, Volume II). The reason that dialect divisions arising in the locus show up along more than one trajectory is that the Caspian Sea divides westward spreads into steppe versus desert trajectories quite close to the locus and hence quite early in the spread. In contrast, developments that occurred farther west, as the split of Slavic from Baltic in the middle Volga may have, continue to spread along only one trajectory.This is why the Pontic steppe is an unlikely locus for the PIE spread. (THE EPICENTRE OF INDO-EUROPEAN LINGUISTIC SPREAD – pgs 137-138)
She further states in her 2nd article,
IE homeland studies so far have had to resolve the dilemma of how to reconcile conflicting lexical evidence about the IE homeland. Were the Indo-Europeans pastoralists or agriculturalists? The lexical evidence can be used to support both viewpoints (for a summary and argument in favour of agriculture see Diebold 1992). If they were a people of the dry grasslands, how do we explain the presence in their language of words for ‘beaver’, ‘birch’, and ‘oak’, the latter with extensive mythic and cultural salience (Friedrich 1970:129ff.)? If they were steppe pastoralists, how do we explain the presence of words for ‘double door’ and ‘enclosed yard or garden’ suggestive of dwellings in the urban Near East (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov [1984:741ff.] 1994:645ff.)? If they were nomadic herders of the plains, how is the presence of a word for ‘pig’ explained? A homeland reconstructed as locus, trajectory and range removes the dilemma: a locus in the vicinity of Bactria-Sogdiana implies a spread beginning at the frontier of ancient Near Eastern civilization and a range throughout the steppe and central Asia, following the east-to-west trajectory, with occasional or periodic spreads into the Danube plain and Anatolia. The PIE ecological and cultural world, then, included the forested mountains southeast of the Kazakh steppe, the dry eastern steppes, the Central Asian deserts, the urbanized oases of southern Turkmenistan and Bactria-Sogdiana, the eastern extension of the urban Near East, the rich grasslands of the Black Sea steppe, the southern edge of the forest-steppe zone and the Siberian taiga, fresh-water lakes, and salt seas (the Aral and Caspian). The economy of the Indo-Europeans included dry-grasslands pastoralism, settled farming, mixed herding and farming, and trade, including not only trade between farmers and herders in central Asia but also, importantly, control of the antecedents to the Silk Route and the trade connections with India to the south. This economic and ecological diversity is reflected in the vocabulary of PIE. (THE EURASIAN SPREAD ZONE & INDO-EUROPEAN DISPERSAL, pg 233)
Nichols dates the breaking of IE languages between 4000 – 3300 BCE. This is contemporary to the Chalcolithic aDNA samples we now have from Central Asia, Iran, the Caucasus, Anatolia and the steppe. But before proceeding with the genetic evidence let us also have a glance at the archaeological evidence.
Here is my take on the significance of South Asian aDNA from Eastern Iran and Central Asia during the Bronze Age –
The Chalcolithic contacts between South Asia and regions immediately to its East & North i.e. Eastern Iranian cultures such as Jiroft or Halil Rud (from sites such as Jiroft & Konar Sandal) & Helmand (Shahr-i-Sokhta) as well as Central Asia (from sites such as Geoksiur or Sarazm) are not so well documented. This is an unfortunate lacunae that needs to be filled up in the near future because the Chalcolithic appears to be a critical phase where the communication channels within this vast region are likely to have become more intensified leading to a process of urbanism and continuing well upto the downfall of these urban civilizations.
Nevertheless, there are some tantalising and very important clues for this period that can have larger repurcussions as more research is done but I will come to that later.
Let me first point out the archaeological and genetic evidence we have for the 3rd millenium BC.
First let us note the evidence of interaction between the Helmand civilization (exemplified by sites such as Shahr-i-Sokhta & Mundigak)
A series of artefacts found at Shahr-i Sokhta and nearby sites (Iranian Seistan) that were presumably imported from Baluchistan and the Indus domain are discussed, together with ﬁnds from the French excavations at Mundigak (Kandahar, Afghanistan) that might have the same origin. Other artefacts and the involved technologies bear witness to the local adaptation of south-eastern manufactures and practices in the protohistoric Sistan culture. While the objects datable to the ﬁrst centuries of the 3rd millennium BCE fall in the so called “domestic universe” and reﬂect common household activities, in the centuries that follow we see a shift to the sharing of luxury objects and activities concerning the display of a superior social status; but this might be fruit of a general transformation of the archaeological record of Shahr-i Sokhta and its formation processes.
The above is part of the abstract from this paper –