O2a and Munda


Counting the paternal founders of Austroasiatic speakers associated with the language dispersal in South Asia:

The phylogenetic analysis of Y chromosomal haplogroup O2a-M95 was crucial to determine the nested structure of South Asian branches within the larger tree, predominantly present in East and Southeast Asia. However, it had previously been unclear how many founders brought the haplogroup O2a-M95 to South Asia. On the basis of the updated Y chromosomal tree for haplogroup O2a-M95, we analysed 1,437 male samples from South Asia for various downstream markers, carefully selected from the extant phylogenetic tree. With this increased resolution, we were able to identify at least three founders downstream to haplogroup O2a-M95 who are likely to have been associated with the dispersal of Austroasiatic languages to South Asia. The fourth founder was exclusively present amongst Tibeto-Burman speakers of Manipur and Bangladesh. In sum, our new results suggest the arrival of Austroasiatic languages in South Asia during last five thousand years.

From the discussion:

The diverse founders as well as the large number of unclassified samples (41% for Mundari, 38% for Khasi and 1% for Tibeto-Burmans) suggest that the migration of Austroasiatic speakers to South Asia was not associated with the migration of a single clan or a drifted population. Neither does the contrasting distribution of various founders discovered in this study amongst both Mundari and Tibeto-Burman populations support the assimilation of the former to the latter.

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West Bengal Kayasthas are heterogeneous paternally and conventional Bengalis overall


A few years ago there was a short paper that analyzed genotypes from some Kulin Kayasthas from West Bengal. The plot above illustrates what you really need to know. The Kayasthas are positioned on the PCA right between East Bengalis and people from the main India cline, with a slight shift toward more ANI.

I’ve looked at a few West Bengal Kayasthas myself, and that’s what I always see. When I look at individuals from Bangladesh, the ones with the most East Asian ancestry are invariably from the furthest east. So it looks like going from eastern Bengal to western Bengal there is progressively less East Asian ancestry. And, unlike Bengali Brahmins, Bengali Kayasthas do not seem to be that different from generic Bengalis as such. In contrast, Bengali Brahmins tend to have a strong shift toward Uttar Pradesh populations and look very similar to Uttar Pradesh Brahmins with a minority non-Brahmin Bengali admixture.

Finally, take a look at the Y and mtDNA. Though R1a is overrepresented, one of the Kayasthas has both male and female East Asian uniparental lineages.

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Is Hindutva-pop cringe?


The New York Times, India’s Soundtrack of Hate, With a Pop Sheen – Mixing dance tracks with calls for religious warfare, Hindutva pop amplifies a wave of Hindu nationalism in Narendra Modi’s India. The title says it all. I am not personally invested in Hindutva (I’m American, it would make as much sense as an Indian being very interested in Republican politics), but The New York Times is.

Contrary to the subhead of the piece, Hindutva-pop comes off as more amateur and LARPy than insidious. It seems this music is a reflection of a broad counter-culture in the nation.

My question is simple: is this stuff as cringe as American “Christian music”?

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South Asian human geography as a post-Aryan synthesis


One of the things that is evident in the most recent work on Indian genetics is that some groups, often Brahmin, are enriched for “steppe” ancestry when looking at overall contributions of proximal ancestral components. But, there are other groups that are enriched for “Indus Periphery” ancestry. The plot above takes Indus Periphery on the x-axis, and steppe on the y-axis. You can see that Brahmins are above the main trend, but groups like “Panta Kapu” are below (click the image).

These trends can be hard to spot because of the complexity of the Indian genomic landscape, where geography is not entirely predictive. What explains them?

I outlined my general model in a blog post, The Aryan Integration Theory (AIT). In short, unlike Northern Europe, and like Southern Europe, pre-Indo-European cultural matrices have maintained some robustness in the face of agro-pastoralist intrusion. The persistence of linguistic isolates in the far northwest in the form of Burusho is indicative of this. But also the persistence of the Dravidian language family, which has pre-Aryan roots. The enrichment of “Indus Periphery” ancestry in groups in the west and south, in particular, as well as a Dravidian substrate in toponyms in Gujarat and Maharashtra, and the relative lack of such features in the Gangetic plain, point to the reality that Dravidian speaking peoples are not primal, but their current range is partially reflective of the human geography in the wake of the Indo-Aryan shock on the decaying IVC.

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{{{Brahmins}}} do not descend from a common group

I don’t know if I mentioned it, so I will do so here: Brahmins do not seem to form a natural descent group from a common ancestral population. I say this because Vagheesh Narasimhan looked into the question, and the model could not be made to work.

That being said, Brahmin groups do not seem arbitrarily descended from just any South Asian groups. South Indian Brahmins are clearly shifted toward having more ANI-like ancestry than other South Indians. Bengali Brahmins are clearly very distinct from other Bengalis. Both these groups can be well modeled as UP Brahmins in three parts and one part non-Brahmin native.

I will leave it to readers to puzzle these facts out and suggest how {{{Brahmin}}} groups emerged in the Indian context.

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Who doth speaketh the mleccha bhasha?

A question post in the comments: how plausible is that much of South Asia today is dominated by languages that were introduced agro-pastoralists in the period between 2000 and 1500 BCE? (the proposition put forward in The formation of human populations in South and Central Asia). This is not a peculiar question. It seems that in the range of 10-20% of the ancestry in the Gangetic plain derives from people whose origins are in the Eurasian steppe (please see the table at the bottom of the post, which I derive from Narasimhan et al., for why I say 10-20%).

Is it plausible that agro-pastoralists from the Eurasian steppe gave their language, their mythos, to the Indian subcontinent, when most of the ancestry predates their arrival? If the figure is 10-20%, I would say it certainly is plausible and entirely within the realm of likely given the model (male-mediated expansion).

Some non-Indian examples.

The Ugric languages are widely dispersed in Eurasia. The reason being that the Hungarian language is a recent cultural artifact on the Pannonian plain. Genetically modern Hungarians have only trivial (1-5% most generously) affinities to Central Eurasia, being genetically similar to their German and Slavic neighbors. Ancient DNA has yielded that Hungarian nobles from the medieval period were more Asiatic in the background, with exotic Y chromosomes. One explanation for the discrepancy with moderns is that the flower of Hungarian nobility was decimated by the Mongol invasions, as well as the latter predations of the Turks. But, in any case the Magyar and their Turkic federates were never likely more than 10% of the population of the Pannonian plain.

(in contrast to the Magyars the Avars and Bulgars left no linguistic imprint, and were assimilated into their substrate; the Bulgars only leaving their ethnonym despite being Slavicized)

Before the arrival of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, the people of the British Isles either spoke a Brythonic dialect or Latin. Were the Anglo-Saxons a major demographic shift? Or did the switch to Old English, which is really a German dialect, happen through elite transmission? The best work today suggests that at most 25% of the ancestry of England proper is German, with perhaps a high fraction of 40% in East Anglia. The switch to a German identity in the centuries after the 5th-century withdrawal of Roman legions seems to involved both migration and assimilation into the barbarized identity.

In the late Roman period, the dominant language in the Balkans was Latin, with Greek and Illyrian minorities. In the 7th-century the Balkan limes collapse. Today Slavic languages are dominant (Romanian and Albanian being exceptions). Though a significant genetic impact occurred through the Slavic migrations, it looks to be less than 50% in the Balkans. The barbarian Slavic tribes assimilated Latin peasants into their culture.

The Turkic languages have expanded a great deal over the last 2,000 years. Today large swaths of Central Asia that were once Iranian speaking are now Turkic, while Anatolia, which was once Greek, Iranian, and Armenian, is now mostly Turkish in speech. In the eastern edge of Turkdom East Asian ancestry is predominant. But once one reaches Anatolia the fraction is the 5-20% range.

Arabic has famously spread outside of its Arabian-Syrian homeland since the rise of Islam. I think it is difficult to judge the genetic impact in the Fertile Crescent because these Aramaic and Assyrian speaking populations had long been interacting with north Arabian peoples. That being said, a comparison of religious minorities (e.g., Assyrian Christians) with their Muslim neighbors indicates that only a minority of the ancestry is due to migration since the rise of Islam, though in some areas it may be substantial (e.g., 30-40%).

A better test is Egypt, where the linguistic substrate (Coptic) was significantly different from the Semitic of the Fertile Crescent. It looks likely that there is overall continuity with Pharaonic Egypt, though some Levantine, Turkic, and Sub-Saharan African ancestry has been added. In contrast, in the Maghreb Arabicization has been overwhelmingly cultural.

Latin. Iberia and Gaul adopted Latin through cultural processes. The genetic impact seems marginal (the same is true is the Balkans, but there only Romanian remains of the Latin period; though Romanians show no greater affinity to Italians than their neighbors).

The Chadic languages are a curious branch of Afroasiatic languages in West Africa. Less than 5% of the ancestry of these people is West Eurasian.

Spanish and Portuguese in the New World. Substantial genetic impact. On the order of 50%. But far less in some areas than others.

The Australian Pama-Nyungan languages seem to have spread mostly via cultural diffusion or some sort, rather than genes.

About 30-40% of the ancestry in Iberia is steppe. But the people seem to have spoken Indo-European langauges (though some not!) before the Romans. In Italy 30-40% is also steppe, dating to the same period. Again, Indo-European languages. The fraction in Greece is lower for the antique period. Again, Indo-European languages.

In China, Japan, and Northern Europe, language shift seems to have been accompanied by preponderant demographic shifts (though not overwhelmingly or exclusive). The shift from hunter-gatherers to agriculture saw the same in Southeast Asia, though the shift between language families is often mostly cultural (e.g., Thailand is only minority Tai in ancestry).

The moral of the story is that it is possible that unlettered barbarians can impose their language and culture on a people more advanced, but fallen. Ask the Britons. Ask the Greeks of Anatolia, or the scions of the Pharaohs. Ask the Minoans and the Pelasgians. The men of Urartu who fell to the Hayk.

Continue reading “Who doth speaketh the mleccha bhasha?”

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The Indo-Aryan enigma

A friend sent me this piece, Aryan Debate: Do the recent genetic studies validate Aryan invasion theory? The conclusion:

To sum up, how exactly the Indo-Aryanization India happened would remain unclear unless we get more ancient DNA samples, especially that of male individuals, from various Harappan sites and Gangetic regions as well. Until detailed studies are conducted on them, we can only speculate about the ancient events. Thus, far from validating AIT, these two papers, both Narasimhan et al and Shinde et al, leaves out many unresolved issues.

In my opinion, based on the current genetic data we have, we can now safely reject the kulturkugel BMAC proxy theory and the theory of large scale male dominant invasion into Swat valley which were modelled by the Indo-Europeanists and Indologists for Aryan expansions into India. Also since Indus periphery/Harappan ancestry overwhelmingly peaks among ANI group whose closest descendants are North Indian Indo-Aryan speakers, it is likely that the Indus periphery/Harappan ancestry would have represented some early Indo-Aryan or perhaps other related groups.

A common refrain for several years has been “let’s wait for ancient DNA.” Now that it’s here, is there more clarity?

On some questions, yes. On others, no. It seems now that while the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) was influenced culturally and demographically by the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), the BMAC did not impact South Asia demographically (though perhaps culturally via the Indo-Aryans; e.g., soma). This is definitely something that was learned.

But ancient DNA has not, and may not, solve the “Aryan question” in regards to origins and impact. Ultimately a synoptic take is probably necessary, where many disciplines and regional histories and archaeology are brought to bear. The main critique I have of the “Indian take” is that it is often substituting Indocentrism for Eurocentrism.

The reality is that the categories at issue, European or Indian, didn’t really make sense before the Iron Age, at the earliest (I would argue that a modern European self-identity really comes into being with the rise of Islam and the sundering of the Mediterranean). The early Indo-Europeans helped create the categories of the world around us, they were not of it.

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Why brown Americans find ethnic and national factionalism amusing sometimes

What do they call a light-skinned Punjabi? “The brown guy.”

What do they call the Pakistani Muslim? “The guy who worships cows.”

What do they call the sharp-featured Khatri? “The Indian looking girl.”

What do they call the black-skinned Tamil? “The brown guy.”

What do they call the pale Pandit? “The brown guy.”

What do they call the Brahmin? “Curry smelling guy.”

All this is not to say that you have to be what other people call you. Just because most of my life people have assumed I’m Hindu, and that I speak Hindu, doesn’t mean I should identify as Hindu and embrace he nonexistent Hindu language. But, the “important” differences between North Indians and South Indians, dark and light, even Muslim and Hindu, can seem a bit marginal to some people from the American perspective…

The converse of this is that liberal socially progressive Indian Americans should not think that people in India are just versions of themselves in the past. People in India are a different “fork” and have their own identity.

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