Domestication of horses fundamentally transformed long-range mobility and warfare1. However, modern domesticated breeds do not descend from the earliest domestic horse lineage associated with archaeological evidence of bridling, milking and corralling…at Botai, Central Asia around 3500 BC3. Other longstanding candidate regions for horse domestication, such as Iberia5 and Anatolia6, have also recently been challenged. Thus, the genetic, geographic and temporal origins of modern domestic horses have remained unknown. Here we pinpoint the Western Eurasian steppes, especially the lower Volga-Don region, as the homeland of modern domestic horses. Furthermore, we map the population changes accompanying domestication from 273 ancient horse genomes. This reveals that modern domestic horses ultimately replaced almost all other local populations as they expanded rapidly across Eurasia from about 2000 BC, synchronously with equestrian material culture, including Sintashta spoke-wheeled chariots. We find that equestrianism involved strong selection for critical locomotor and behavioural adaptations at the GSDMC and ZFPM1 genes. Our results reject the commonly held association7 between horseback riding and the massive expansion of Yamnaya steppe pastoralists into Europe around 3000 BC driving the spread of Indo-European languages. This contrasts with the scenario in Asia where Indo-Iranian languages, chariots and horses spread together, following the early second millennium BC Sintashta culture.
The paper is open access. Basically the Sintashta seem to have triggered the equine revolution across Eurasia.
Since people ask me this I have to post this now and then. We have genetic data. So in short order
1) Kashmiris are like other people in the Northwest of India. They are not enriched in steppe ancestry, at least compared to many Punjabis or Brahmins from the Gangetic plain
2) There is no genetic difference I can see between Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims, indicating to me that one distinctive aspect of the Vale of Kashmir in comparison to the rest of the Indian subcontinent is that it does not exhibit the jati-varna structure common across the subcontinent
3) Some researchers and genetic genealogists have found some Tibetan admixture at low levels among Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits
4) It is probably correct that elite Muslims have low levels of Central Asian and Iranian ancestry, though that’s harder to detect than Tibetan background
We are at a tipping point,” said Rohit Chopra, one of the conference organizers and a professor of communication at Santa Clara University. He said the issue went beyond the conference. “It’s about the principles of freedom of expression, academic freedom and of a university being a space where people can speak for the most vulnerable.”
The online conference, Dismantling Global Hindutva, included panels on the hierarchical caste system, Islamophobia and differences between Hinduism the religion and Hindutva the majoritarian ideology. The event was co-sponsored by departments of more than 40 American universities, including Harvard and Columbia.
The whole piece is a mishmash. First, let’s stipulate that many Hindu activists are unsophisticated, illiberal, and nasty pieces of work. But someone like Suhag Sukhkla is none of those things. So the article focuses more on the former than the latter because the former is sensationalistic. Yet, many of the reported threats are credible to me because I myself have received various forms of these invectives from 15-year-old masturbaters in India on Twitter (though a little surprised adults behave like this too). But beneath the bluster and thuggishness, there’s a legitimate grievance. Imagine an academic conference on Islam that spotlighted its hierarchical gender system, religious dominionism, and the differences between Islam as a culture and Islam as a religion. Such a conference wouldn’t happen because academics would fear Muslim outrage and violence, and, they see Muslims as subalterns and marginal, and so above criticism.
The first issue illustrates why many Indians and Hindus are behaving like this: they’ve seen the heckler’s veto work on weak-spined academics before. They’ve seen it work for Muslims, and they’ve seen it work for left-wing activists. When Charles Murray was physically attacked at Middlebury it got results. Murray really can’t speak in public anymore at such venues because the cost of security would be prohibitive. The second issue is that academics don’t really believe in freedom of expression anymore, they believe in critiquing the powerful. They’re activists. Ideologues. What the Hindus are doing is turning the master’s tools against the master when they leverage identity politics and their status as people of color. The academics, who don’t really believe in freedom of expression, respond with most gusto when they try and smear Hindus by connecting them with Nazism and argue for their hegemonic status vis-a-vis Muslims in the subcontinent. It’s all who/whom here.
I believe in dispassionate analysis and Epoche. Many Hindu activists and believers are wrong on many things. And I tell them so when I think this. But I don’t do this because I want to “deconstruct Hinduism.” I don’t really care that much about Hinduism, or Islam, or any religion. I want to know what’s true. When humanities scholars gave up on the truth, they gave up on the high ground from which they could defend their viewpoints as part of free speech. This is the world they created. You told people that truth is subordinate is power. Your enemies now seek power to force you to speak their truth.
I’ll probably be writing a piece (free) for my Substack on caste so that people can use it for a reference. The lie that it was “invented by the British” seems pretty pervasive and will spread in the next few years for various ideological reasons, so it is useful to always remember the truth even as the lie becomes regnant. Falsity always collapses, but it takes a while.
Horse domestication fundamentally transformed long-range mobility and warfare. However, modern domesticates do not descend from the earliest domestic horse lineage associated with archaeological evidence of bridling, milking and corralling at Botai, Central Asia ~3,500 BCE (Before Common Era). Other long-standing candidate regions for horse domestication, such as Iberia and Anatolia, were also recently challenged. Therefore, the genetic, geographic and temporal origins of modern domestic horses remained unknown. Here, we pinpoint the Western Eurasian steppes, especially the lower Volga-Don region, as the homeland of modern domestic horses. Furthermore, we map the population changes accompanying domestication from 273 ancient horse genomes. This reveals that modern domestic horses ultimately replaced almost all other local populations as they rapidly expanded across Eurasia from ~2,000 BCE, synchronously with equestrian material culture, including Sintashta spoke-wheeled chariots. We find that equestrianism involved strong selection for critical locomotor and behavioral adaptations at the GSDMC and ZFPM1 genes. Our results reject the commonly held association between horseback riding and the massive expansion of Yamnaya steppe pastoralists into Europe ~3,000 BCE driving the spread of Indo-European languages. This contrasts with the situation in Asia where Indo-Iranian languages, chariots and horses spread together, following the early second millennium BCE Sintashta culture.
If you ever inspect the domestic horse lineages you will note that they’re a monophyletic clade. They are recently descended from a common ancestor. Additionally, there is a massive skew in stallion lineages toward a few breeders. Ancient DNA has now solved the question of which prehistoric horse population the modern domestic breeds descend from: the horses from the eastern edge of the post-Yamnaya cultural zone.
Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road has an extensive section on Afghanistan. The Bamiyan Buddhas reminds us what the texts make clear: up until 900 AD the highlands in an around modern Afghanistan were heavily Buddhist. The Turki Shahi kings of Kabul seem to have patronized Buddhism. In contrast, their successors, the Hindu Shahi kings, seem to have tilted toward what we would call Hinduism.
Because I’m posting a Substack on Afghanistan soon the civilizational and cultural identity of Afghanistan is on my mind. After my reading and reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that the area and the people can be thought of as a crossroads between Persian, Central Asian, and Indian. Central Asia includes both Iranic and later Turkic cultures, while the Persian influence reflects a deeply west Iranic sensibility. Finally, it has hard to deny that India and much of southern and western Afghanistan are deeply connected geographically, biologically, and culturally.
And yet some Indians keep claiming that “actually Afghanistan use to be Hindu…” This is false. At least by any comprehensible definition of “Hindu.” It is true that Afghanistan was once heavily Buddhist, but Buddhism is not Hinduism. It is true that there have long been Indians in Afghanistan, but there have been Indians in Southeast Asia as well. It is true that the Iranian pagans, like the Nuristanis, worshipped gods and practiced traditions that descend from one’s affinal to the Vedic Aryans, but the pre-Vedic religion of the Indo-Aryans was not Hinduism as we’d understand it.
To a great extent, this sort of cultural imperialism is harmless and cringe. But it’s a bit on the insensitive side given what’s going on in Afghanistan, where ironically Indian-origin Deobandi Islam is is reigning supreme…
I ran a Clubhouse last night on Nepalese genetics. I said something to the effect that most Nepalese Brahmins have Tibetan admixture. A Nepalese Brahmin came up on stage to tell me this was inaccurate, and that they did not intermarry with native people.
The rank order is what you’d expect, with the Magar being mostly Tibetan, and the Brahmins being mostly non-Tibetan. But the Nepalese guy was totally full of shit. I’m sick of listening to people contradict genetics when it’s so clear.