Google’s Caste-Bias Problem – A talk about bigotry was cancelled amid accusations of reverse discrimination. Whom was the company trying to protect? Expect Becky to be lecturing you on your caste privilege soon!
Following the tragic situation in Sri Lanka, thousands of demonstrators flocked to the streets in many Bangladeshi cities when the Sheikh Hasina administration raised fuel prices to their highest level since the neighbouring nation’s independence by about 52%.
Global supply shocks due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The US and other developed nations will do fine, but small developing nations, not so much.
A casual comment…most Indo-European societies seem to have originally had some sort of occupational caste system. I’m talking here of Dumezil’s trifunctional hypothesis, warrior, priest and commoner. But only the Indian subcontinent has jati.
I was thinking about it when reflecting on work to come out soon from David Reich’s lab on ancient Pontic steppe ancestry in Bronze Age Greece. There is no stratification by class when it comes to steppe ancestry. From the talk:
In the Balkans, we reveal a patchwork of Bronze Age populations with diverse proportions of steppe ancestry in the aftermath of the ~3000 BCE Yamnaya migrations, paralleling the linguistic diversity of Paleo-Balkan speakers. We provide insights into the Mycenaean period of the Aegean by documenting variation in the proportion of steppe ancestry (including some individuals who lack it altogether), and finding no evidence for systematic differences in steppe ancestry among social strata, such as those of the elite buried at the Palace of Nestor in Pylos.
So why is India so different? One hypothesis that some make is that the Indo-Aryans were racially so different from the indigenous people. But I do not that that is the issue. Instead of bringing strict endogamy to the subcontinent, the Indo-Aryans adopted indigenous forms. There’s genetic differences indicating strong endogamy across South India among non-Brahmin groups. There is also a ‘mystery’ in terms of how the IVC was organized sociopolitically. I think I have a possibility: jati obviated the need for central political authority.
We defined two other cohorts based on ancestry: African (XAF; n = 9,633; Extended Data Fig. 4) and South Asian (XSA; n = 9,252; Extended Data Fig. 5) (Fig. 3a–c). The 37,598 UKB individuals who do not belong to XBI, XAF or XSA were assigned to the cohort OTH (others). The WGS data of the XAF cohort represent one of the most comprehensive surveys of African sequence variation to date, with reported birthplaces of its members covering 31 of the 44 countries on mainland of sub-Saharan Africa (Extended Data Fig. 4). Owing to the considerable genetic diversity of African populations, and resultant differences in patterns of linkage disequilibrium, the XAF cohort may prove valuable for fine-mapping association signals due to multiple strongly correlated variants identified in XBI or other non-African populations.
Nearly 10,000 South Asians at high-quality whole-genome sequence scale is nice to see. Obviously, this is oversampling some groups (Mirpuris, Syhletis, and East African Indians who are mostly Guju), but it’s better than nothing. It’s really sad that the British are pushing forward with this. The Chinese have started to move into sequencing their whole nation (they have millions at low coverage). This isn’t that expensive; less than $100 per person at scale. Why is India tarrying on this? I don’t have inside info but I think the Permit Raj strikes again.
Indian cultural influence is remarkable in present-day Mainland Southeast Asia (MSEA), and it may have stimulated early state formation in the region. Various present-day populations in MSEA harbor a low level of South Asian ancestry, but previous studies failed to detect such ancestry in any ancient individual from MSEA. In this study, we discovered a substantial level of South Asian admixture (ca. 40% – 50%) in a Protohistoric individual from the Vat Komnou cemetery at the Angkor Borei site in Cambodia. The location and direct radiocarbon dating result on the human bone (95% confidence interval is 78 – 234 calCE) indicate that this individual lived during the early period of Funan, one of the earliest states in MSEA, which shows that the South Asian gene flow to Cambodia started about a millennium earlier than indicated by previous published results of genetic dating relying on present-day populations. Plausible proxies for the South Asian ancestry source in this individual are present-day populations in Southern India, and the individual shares more genetic drift with present-day Cambodians than with most present-day East and Southeast Asian populations.
No surprise to readers of this weblog. South Asians obsess about possible admixture/contact with West Asia and Europe for obvious reasons, but it’s been pretty clear for a while that the “Indian cultural influence” on Southeast Asia was also demographic. Mainland Southeast Asia and the western part of Maritime Southeast Asia have minor but consistent levels of Indian ancestry. It showed up decades ago in Cambodian males who carried R1a Y haplogroup. And it showed up in a 2012 methods paper that detected gene flow from Pakistanis to Cambodians (no Indian samples in the dataset):
Genetics is basically done now. You can observe, for example, that lowland Thai populations have Indian ancestry, while highland tribes don’t have it.
We now know that the influence of Indian culture of a southern flavor to Southeast Asia was mediated by large numbers of humans. Indian genetic imprint on Burma can be chalked up to being Bengal’s neighbor, but you can’t say the same about Cambodia or Bali. Who were these people? Well, in a way, you could say that they were the “Brown Rajahs” for ancient Sarawak…
What’s going on?
A new paper on Southwest Indian genetics highlights the Toda sample from Genomes Asia. People in the comments of this weblog have asserted this small southern tribe may have the most “Indus Valley Civilization” ancestry in the subcontinent. This is perhaps an exaggeration, but, looking at the admixture plots the Toda clearly have hardly any steppe ancestry, but a lot less “ASI” ancestry than their tribal neighbors, with the balance being something like the IVC ancestry.
Genomes Asia doesn’t make it’s data public, and for ancestry purposes I don’t think they’ve done the best job.