How ancient DNA may rewrite prehistory in India

 
Representational photoThe origin of Indians has been the subject of a heated debate


New research using ancient DNA is rewriting prehistory in India - and shows that its civilisation is the result of multiple ancient migrations, writes Tony Joseph.

Who are the Indians? And where did they come from? In the last few years, the debate over these questions has become more and more heated.

Hindu right-wingers believe the source of Indian civilisation are people who called themselves Aryans - a nomadic tribe of horse-riding, cattle-rearing warriors and herders who composed Hinduism's oldest religious texts, the Vedas.

The Aryans, they argue, originated from India and then spread across large parts of Asia and Europe, helping set up the family of Indo-European languages that Europeans and Indians still speak today.

As it happens, many 19th Century European ethnographers and, of course, most famously, Adolf Hitler, also considered Aryans the master race who had conquered Europe, although the German leader considered them to be of Nordic lineage.

Bust of a Priest King wearing a cloak decorated with clovers, Harappan period, Steatite once coated in pink pasteThe Harappan civilisation thrived in north-western India and Pakistan

 

When scholars use the term Aryan, it refers to a group of people who spoke Indo-European languages and called themselves Aryans. And that is how I have used it in this article. It does not refer to a race, as Hitler used it or as some in the Hindu right wing use it.

Many Indian scholars have questioned the "out of India" thesis, arguing that these Indo-European language speakers - or Aryans - were possibly just one of many streams of prehistoric migrants who arrived in India after the decline of an earlier civilisation. This was the Harappan (or Indus Valley) civilisation, which thrived in what is now north-western India and Pakistan around the same time as the Egyptians and Mesopotamians.

However, Hindu right-wingers believe the Harappan civilisation was also an Aryan or Vedic civilisation.

Tensions between the two groups backing these opposing theories have only increased in the last few years, especially since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in India in 2014.

Into this long-running dispute has now stepped the relatively new discipline of population genetics, which has started using ancient DNA to figure out when people moved where.

Studies using ancient DNA have been rewriting prehistory all over the world in the last few years and in India, there has been one fascinating discovery after another.

The most recent study on this subject, led by geneticist David Reich of Harvard University, was published in March 2018 and co-authored by 92 scholars from all over the world - many of them leading names in disciplines as diverse as genetics, history, archaeology and anthropology.

Underneath its staid title - The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia - lay some volcanic arguments.

A tourist explores the ancient Dholavira archaelogical site in Kachchh district in Gujarat state on December 18, 2011Dholavira in Gujarat state is one of the five largest Harappan sites

 

The study showed that there were two major migrations into India in the last 10,000 years.

The first one originated from the Zagros region in south-western Iran (which has the world's first evidence for goat domestication) and brought agriculturists, most likely herders, to India.

This would have been between 7,000 and 3,000BCE. These Zagrosian herders mixed with the earlier inhabitants of the subcontinent - the First Indians, descendants of the Out of Africa (OoA) migrants who had reached India around 65,000 years ago - and together, they went on to create the Harappan civilisation.

In the centuries after 2000 BCE came the second set of immigrants (the Aryans) from the Eurasian Steppe, probably from the region now known as Kazakhstan. They likely brought with them an early version of Sanskrit, mastery over horses and a range of new cultural practices such as sacrificial rituals, all of which formed the basis of early Hindu/Vedic culture. (A thousand years before, people from the Steppe had also moved into Europe, replacing and mixing with agriculturists there, spawning new cultures and spreading Indo-European languages).

Other genetic studies have brought to light more migrations into India, such as that of the speakers of Austro-Asiatic languages who came from south-eastern Asia.

Pilgrims on the way to Kumbh Mela in the Holy City of Haridwar. Haridwar, located in the foothills of Himalaya, is an important center of pilgrimage for Hindus on February 10, 2010 in India.India's population is made up of a number of layers, according to the research

 

As I write in my book, the best way to understand the Indian population is to imagine it as a pizza, with the first Indians forming its base. Though the base of this rather irregular pizza is thin in some places and thick in others, it still serves as the support that the rest of the pizza is built upon because studies show that 50% to 65% of the genetic ancestry of Indians derives from the First Indians.

On top of the base comes the sauce that is spread over the pizza - the Harappans. And then come the toppings and the cheese - the Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burman and Indo-European language speakers or Aryans, all of whom found their way into the subcontinent later.

To many in the Hindu right wing, these findings are unpalatable. They have been campaigning to change school curricula and remove any mention of Aryan immigration from textbooks. And on Twitter, several hugely popular right-wing "history" handles have long been attacking India's leading historians who have defended the theory of Aryan migrations and continue to do so.

For Hindu nationalists, there is a cost to admitting that the Aryans were not the first inhabitants of India and that the Harappan civilisation existed long before their arrival. It would mean acknowledging that Aryans or their Vedic culture were not the singular fountainhead of Indian civilisation and that its earliest sources lay elsewhere.

India's junior minister for human resource development, Satyapal Singh, was recently quoted in the media as saying: "Only Vedic education can nurture our children well and make them patriots who have mental discipline."

The idea of the mixing of different population groups is also unappealing to Hindu nationalists as they put a premium on racial purity. There is also the additional issue of the migration theory putting Aryans on the same footing as latter-day Muslim conquerors of India - such as the Mughals.

Young Brahmins training to be priests in VaranasiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionYoung Brahmins training to be priests in Varanasi - India is a predominantly Hindu nation

These are not just theoretical debates. The ruling BJP government in Haryana state, which neighbours the Indian capital Delhi, has demanded that the Harappan civilisation be renamed the Saraswati river civilisation. Since the Saraswati is an important river that is mentioned in the earliest of the four Vedic texts, such a renaming would serve to emphasise the link between the civilisation and the Aryans.

The new study puts an end to these debates and it has thus come as a shock to the Hindu right-wing. In a tweet attacking its co-author Prof Reich, ruling party MP and former Harvard University professor Subramanian Swamy said: "There are lies, damned lies and (Harvard's 'Third' Reich and Co's) statistics."

However, the real message that the new research carries is an exciting and hopeful one: that Indians have created a long-lasting civilisation from a variety of heredities and histories.

The genius of the Indian civilisation during its best periods has been inclusion, not exclusion. Unity in diversity is, indeed, the central theme of India's genetic make-up.

Tony Joseph is the author of Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From, published by Juggernaut

 
Original Post

A different take, considering what is written in Bible and the things archeologist have concluded.

Point form.

Plains of Shinar is not too distant from the site of the Indus Civilization.

Before the dispersion and introduction of languages, the only language was sanskrit. Today, NASA is emitting words of sanskrit into the universe hoping for a response from a superior being.

Travelling east, west, north and south to populate the earth with ethnic languages. 

The Indus Civilization was bothersome to the Arch-angles and God come down to see it. His response was to destory it. Archeologist have found traces of radio-activity. Some type of bomb was used. The placement of the skeletal remains concluded their demise was instanteous and not as an invading army would have people running in defense.

The Books of Enoch was still available to ancient ppl after the dispersion. Some took the knowledge of Fallen angles(satans) namely civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. It is opined that the things of the Ancient of Days became the Vedas, stressing how to commune with God. The men who were versed in the rites were known as Guru. Each Guru had his followers which later became the different sects of Brahmins.

There were attempts to re-develop the Indus valley, to no avail it was a barren place. The Gurus travelled along the many rivers and educated the inhabitants living along the river. In all reality there is no such thing as Hinduism, there are sects of Guru teachings and followers.

The conclusion is, there were no invasions in early history.

The Hitties 0r ppl from Anatolia did come centuries after. They fought with every civilzation at the time.     

seignet posted:

A different take, considering what is written in Bible and the things archeologist have concluded.

Point form.

Plains of Shinar is not too distant from the site of the Indus Civilization.

Before the dispersion and introduction of languages, the only language was sanskrit. Today, NASA is emitting words of sanskrit into the universe hoping for a response from a superior being.

Travelling east, west, north and south to populate the earth with ethnic languages. 

The Indus Civilization was bothersome to the Arch-angles and God come down to see it. His response was to destory it. Archeologist have found traces of radio-activity. Some type of bomb was used. The placement of the skeletal remains concluded their demise was instanteous and not as an invading army would have people running in defense.

The Books of Enoch was still available to ancient ppl after the dispersion. Some took the knowledge of Fallen angles(satans) namely civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. It is opined that the things of the Ancient of Days became the Vedas, stressing how to commune with God. The men who were versed in the rites were known as Guru. Each Guru had his followers which later became the different sects of Brahmins.

There were attempts to re-develop the Indus valley, to no avail it was a barren place. The Gurus travelled along the many rivers and educated the inhabitants living along the river. In all reality there is no such thing as Hinduism, there are sects of Guru teachings and followers.

The conclusion is, there were no invasions in early history.

The Hitties 0r ppl from Anatolia did come centuries after. They fought with every civilzation at the time.     

So this god was not a kind god. He/she used a radioactive bomb to wipe out this civilization. I always believe that some of mankind was placed here by an advanced and ancient civilization. Wonder why people always look up in the sky when they talk about God?

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