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Post Info TOPIC: Journalist Attempts to Revive Aryan Invasion Myth Using Discredited Genetic Research


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Journalist Attempts to Revive Aryan Invasion Myth Using Discredited Genetic Research
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Journalist Attempts to Revive Aryan Invasion Myth Using Discredited Genetic Research

 

 

Tony Joseph’s new book “Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From” attempts to revive the colonial Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) on the basis of racist, Hinduphobic Harvard geneticist David Reich’s recent research. The review demonstrates how the Russian archaeologist Leo Klejn has thoroughly debunked Reich’s pro-AIT research and how the New York Times has exposed Reich’s dubious, deeply flawed research methodology, alleged unethical practices, and unprecedented preferential treatment by scientific journals, thereby invalidating the basic premise behind the book’s conclusions, effectively consigning it to the trash heap.

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Tony Joseph, a former business journalist, has published a new book titled “Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From” [1].

Joseph is a vociferous advocate of the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). I have in the past debunked [2] his attempt to “settle” the AIT debate [3]. I have also debunked [4] his attempt to “answer” the question of “How We, The Indians, Came To Be” [5].

In his new book, Joseph purports to reveal the entire history of India’s ancient past and conclusively answer questions such as “Who were the Harappans?” “Did the Aryans migrate to India?” and “When did the caste system begin?”

The gist of the book can be found on page 221 where he concludes by making the following claims:

  1. India is a multi-source civilization.
  2. The genetic lineages of “Out of Africa migrants” who reached India sixty-five millennia ago form the bedrock of India’s population.
  3. West Asian migrants built the Harappan civilization which was associated with the Dravidian languages.
  4. East Asian migrants brought new languages, plants, and farming techniques to India.
  5. Central Asian Sanskrit-speaking Hindu Aryans were the last to migrate to India; they “reshaped” India’s society in “fundamental ways”.

In other words, Joseph’s book is a fresh attempt to re-establish the AIT as a robust theory of the origin of Hinduism and the Sanskrit language, despite an immense amount of evidence to the contrary [6].

The book’s conclusions are based upon genetic studies that have been thoroughly invalidated

The book’s findings are largely based upon paleogenomic studies conducted by David Reich and his team at Harvard Medical School.

The majority of the book’s conclusions are drawn from two studies by Reich’s team:

  1. A preprint (non-peer-reviewed research paper) titled “The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia” [7] which was co-authored by 92 scientists from around the world, co-authored and co-directed by Reich, and lead-authored by a member of Reich’s team named V. Narasimhan.
  1. An older paper titled “Massive Migration from the Steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe” [8].

The preprint (Narasimhan et al.) suffers from a number of glaring issues.

The study is based on ancient DNA from 612 individuals from various regions and periods: Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (5600-1200 BCE), the Steppe east of the Ural Mountains, including Kazakhstan (4799-1000 BCE), and Pakistan’s Swat valley (1200 BCE to 1 CE).

The study determines a total of three ancient individuals from Turkmenistan and Iran to be “Harappan migrants”, despite not having access to any actual Harappan DNA for making a genuine comparison.

The study deems these three individuals to represent an “Indus periphery” population, and since the study does not have access to any actual Harappan DNA for making a genuine comparison (a point that bears repeating), these three foreign DNA samples are made to “stand in” as “proxies” for the entire Harappan population itself!

This is the very definition of a circular argument.

The Harappan civilization had a population of over five million people at its peak. It is absurd to arrive at sweeping conclusions about its genetic make-up based on three dubious foreign DNA samples. Nevertheless, that is precisely what the study does.

Furthermore, the study makes another arbitrary and dubious assumption: it assumes the Onge tribes-people who inhabit the Little Andaman Island to be representative of what it calls the “Ancient Ancestral South Indians (AASI)”, whom Joseph refers to as the “First Indians” in his book.

This is problematic in the extreme, as it is well-known that the Andamanese people have been cut-off from the rest of humanity for several tens of thousands of years, and therefore, any genetic affinity or kinship they may have with other groups can only be distant and tenuous at best.

These are significant methodological problems that invalidate any conclusions that the study makes. It is therefore not surprising that the preprint has not been accepted for publication by any scientific journal till date.

Nevertheless, Joseph touts the Narasimhan et al. preprint as the epitome of scientific achievement and bases much of his book’s claims on it.

The older study by Reich’s team (Haak et al.) makes the dubious claim of being able to associate language (and culture) with DNA. It purports to support the hypothesis that the steppe Yamnaya culture represents the origin of Indo-European (IE) languages and culture.

The conclusions of Haak et al. are thoroughly demolished by the legendary Russian archaeologist Leo Klejn in two papers published in Acta Archaeologica [9] and the European Journal of Archaeology [10].

In the first paper, Klejn questions the circular argument the geneticists make: no-one has ever identified a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) culture, which invalidates the entire basis for the claim that massive migrations from one “home” brought Indo-European languages and culture to other regions. He raises the point that the Yamnaya culture may be Indo-Iranian or Indo-Aryan.

In the second paper, which is a discussion paper between Klejn, Reich et al. and Willerslev et al., Klejn reduces the geneticists’ arguments to complete rubble. The geneticists do not have answers to very basic questions, such as, what exactly is PIE.

There are other points:

  1. Archaeologically, the European Bronze Age Corded Ware culture is practically contemporaneous with the Yamnaya culture. Therefore the geneticists’ claim that the former was descended from the latter is falsified. It is more likely that branches of one people migrated to both Yamnaya and the Corded Ware, which explains the observed genetic affinity between both.
  1. The Yamnaya had clear contacts with the Middle Danube, so they may have given Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan features to Italo-Celtic languages. For example, “raja” (Sanskrit), “regis”, “rex” (Latin), “ri” (Gaelic), “rix” (Gaulish) for king. However it is unlikely that Yamnaya migrants would have reached the North of Europe, where the languages have very different characteristics: in the Germanic and Nordic languages, and even English, “raja” translates to “king” and its variants like “kong” and ”könig”.
  1. In the second paper, the geneticists admit “other migrations from the Steppe” (which they are unable to identify) may have brought IE languages to Europe. Apart from the repeat of the circular claim (why Steppe again?) and the lack of any basis for making this wild claim, they do not seem to have realized the really damning self-contradiction in that statement: if “other” migrations from the Steppe could have brought IE languages to Europe, that means other differentiated branches of IE were already present on the Steppe! So where did these branches originate, if they were already in a differentiated form on the Steppe, ready to launch into Europe? Could these be the people who migrated to both Corded Ware and Yamnaya, mentioned in 1?

Point 2 becomes more interesting, considering that it is a one-time historical linguistics sort of agree with archaeological observation.

Finno-Ugric languages are known to have Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan loanwords, but not vice versa. This would mean, only some Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan migrants had come to the Steppe, coming in contact with the Finno-Ugric speakers, leaving the bulk of the Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan speakers behind.

Also, as the loanwords in Finno-Ugric are not from PIE, but from one specific daughter branch, PIE speakers were clearly not present on the Steppe. The parsimonious explanation for all this is, the home of IE was well to the south of the Steppe (in other words, India).

From the above, it is clear that the genetics-based arguments of Reich and his team, which form the basis of Joseph’s book, are completely and thoroughly invalidated.

Understanding Reich’s deeply flawed research methodology

Imagine that a team of geneticists undertakes a study to determine the ancestry of the people of North America using only genetic evidence. They collect ten bone samples that are up to four centuries old from one archaeological site.

DNA is extracted from the samples. It is analyzed, and the samples are determined to represent individuals who belonged to three separate ethnic groups: French, English, and Africans.

Based on these results, the team declares that modern North Americans are descended from a “sex-based admixture” of French, English, and African people.

This conclusion is patently incorrect because it is well-known that the Americas were settled by Indigenous Americans at least 13,000 years ago, and European colonization did not begin until 1498.

So, what did the geneticists do wrong?

Firstly, they used a very small number of samples (ten) to deduce the ancestry of the people of an entire continent.

Secondly, they studied samples taken from a single archaeological site, which represents an infinitesimal pin-point in a continent that covers an area of nearly 25 million square km.

Thirdly, they studied samples that are only up to 400 years old.

Should they not have looked for a larger number of samples from different archaeological sites spread across the continent? Should they not have looked for older samples – samples that are 1,000 years old? 2,000 years old? 10,000 years old?

Is it not possible that by looking further back in time and in different geographical locations, they would have found vastly different genetic results?

Should they have not tried to verify whether their findings are consistent with known archaeological evidence?

These fictional geneticists’ methodology is reminiscent of the ancient Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant, where each blind man feels a different part of the elephant’s body, and comes to an incorrect conclusion about the nature of the elephant based on incomplete, limited knowledge.

Why did the geneticists make such glaring mistakes? Why did they not seek to look at the bigger picture? Were they novices, not yet well-versed in the best practices of their craft?

What if they weren’t? What if they are the world’s pre-eminent team of geneticists, equipped with the world’s best laboratory and with access to vast amounts of funding?

What if they deliberately excluded samples older than 400 years from their study? What if they were motivated by a racist, Eurocentric worldview that led them to seek to deny the existence of Pre-Columbian Native American civilizations?

A brief history of Eurocentrism, racism, and white supremacism

As Europe colonized, subjugated and devastated the Americas, Asia and Africa over the past five centuries or so, it became immensely wealthy while the rest of the world sank into poverty and despair. With immense wealth came a sense of immense superiority which manifested itself in the form of Eurocentrism, racism and white supremacism. White skin came to be considered superior, dark skin inferior. European languages and culture came to be regarded as being refined and superior, whereas subjugated peoples came to be viewed as having no culture or history.

Consider the French explorer, naval officer, botanist and cartographer Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville (23 May 1790 – 8 May 1842) who explored Antarctica as well as much of Oceania. He arbitrarily classified the people of Oceania into three broad categories, a scheme that persists till today: light-skinned Polynesians who inhabit the Eastern Pacific, Micronesians who inhabit “small islands” north of the equator, and black-skinned Melanesians who live in Papua New Guinea and islands close to it.

Europeans came to imagine the lighter-skinned Polynesians as a kind of aristocracy, whereas the black-skinned Melanesians were considered to be naturally backward.

When it came to the question of their origins, a consensus emerged that the black Melanesians originated in nearby Papua which is inhabited by “savage” and “backward” black tribes, whereas the lighter-skinned, more “advanced” Polynesians must have originated in Asia, wherefrom they undertook long, arduous, heroic voyages to reach and populate the farthest Eastern Pacific islands.

How Jules D’Urville’s arbitrarily classified the peoples of Oceania

The underlying assumption was that dark skin was inferior to lighter skin, and that superior culture, technology, and social structures were inextricably linked to migrations of superior, civilizing peoples from far-away lands.

European colonialism was therefore justified as being part of the natural order of things wherein superior, enlightened, lighter-skinned peoples undertook heroic voyages to new lands and acted as a civilizing influence on inferior, savage, darker-skinned natives.

Such racist attitudes persist well into the present day, in various spheres of life, and will continue to exist until the rest of the world recovers economically and decolonizes culturally.

In the academic field, this is evident in a Eurocentric approach to world history, and a patronizing attitude towards Asian and African culture, societies, and history – something that Edward Said is credited with first drawing attention to in his book “Orientalism“.

Consider the similar arbitrary classification of Indians into descendants of superior, civilizing white-skinned Aryans and inferior, dark-skinned Dravidians, a scheme that was first proposed by the German orientalist Max Müller in the 19th century. This scheme has also persisted to this day. It drives the mainstream narrative of how India’s population and civilization originated and evolved, despite an immense amount of evidence to the contrary.

Joseph’s book is an attempt to perpetuate the Aryan Invasion Myth and its insidious 21st-century mutation: the Aryan Migration Myth.

Academic racism and David Reich

On March 23, 2018, David Reich wrote an essay in the New York Times, promoting his new book “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past”. The essay was titled “How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’” [11]. In this essay, Reich re-ignited an old controversy about race, genetics and IQ, which hearkens back to the days of the Third Reich and the racist Nobel-prize winning scientists William ShockleyJames Watson and Francis Crick.

Reich wrote:

Is performance on an intelligence test or the number of years of school a person attends shaped by the way a person is brought up? Of course. But does it measure something having to do with some aspect of behavior or cognition? Almost certainly. And since all traits influenced by genetics are expected to differ across populations (because the frequencies of genetic variations are rarely exactly the same across populations), the genetic influences on behavior and cognition will differ across populations, too.

And:

“I have deep sympathy for the concern that genetic discoveries could be misused to justify racism. But as a geneticist I also know that it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races.’”

In other words, Reich revealed himself to be a proponent of the arbitrary, superficial, pseudo-scientific and racist concepts of “race” and “racial differences”, which derive their origins in pseudo-sciences such as phrenology and dubious classification schemes such as the ones d’Urville and Müller proposed.

As a scientist myself, here’s what I can tell you: Race is a social construct, not a scientific fact. There is no such thing as a “pure race” or ethnicity. In fact, it is increasingly becoming clear that there is not even such a thing as a pure species.

Reich’s essay prompted 67 prominent scientists, scholars and researchers to write an open letter [12] in response to his claims. The letter says:

“(Reich) misrepresents the many scientists and scholars who have demonstrated the scientific flaws of considering ‘race’ a biological category. Their robust body of scholarship recognizes the existence of geographically based genetic variation in our species, but shows that such variation is not consistent with biological definitions of race. Nor does that variation map precisely onto ever changing socially defined racial groups.”

And:

“Reich critically misunderstands and misrepresents concerns that are central to recent critiques of how biomedical researchers — including Reich — use categories of ‘race’ and ‘population’.”

This isn’t Reich’s only brush with controversy. He is infamous, for example, for obliquely disparaging Hinduism and comparing it with Nazi ideology in the same essay.

There are also long-standing, persistent claims that Reich is associated with highly influential genetics blogs such as Dienekes’ AnthropologyWest HunterDispatches from Turtle Island, and the Eurogenes Blog, all of which enforce a distorted Eurocentric version of human prehistory, support theories that deeply undermine many indigenous peoples (such as in the Americas), and support the Aryan Invasion Theory in guarded forms.

Reich isn’t alone in this: It is well-known that many geneticists, linguists, and other experts both read and comment, usually under pseudonyms, on these blogs.

How ancient DNA research systematically distorts the truth

An article published earlier this year in the New York Times [13] blew the lid off a shocking scandal in paleogenomics. David Reich figures as a central character in this scandal.

The article reveals extremely troubling facts about how ancient DNA research is done. It reveals that:

  1. There is extensive collaboration to the point of collusion between three well-funded and well-connected labs that dominate the field of paleogenomics, in a manner that harms their competitors. These labs are the Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School (David Reich), the Department of Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany (director: Svante Pääbo), and the Department of Archeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany (director: Johannes Krause).
  1. Small labs are unable to compete with the Big Three because they lack access to the datasets that would enable them to place their work in the context of the bigger picture. The only way to get access to the data is to give their samples to Reich or one of the other two teams, in return for being added to the list of contributors of their research paper.
  1. The Big Three labs function as an oligopoly. Their power extends to funding, samples, data, and even technology. They have marginalized all competition and their dominance of the field leaves researchers and archaeologists with no option but to submit samples to them in return for a token junior authorship.
  1. Samples are routinely procured by extremely dubious means, often violating ethical norms. This has created a “smash and grab” culture among archaeologists in which hopeful co-authors source their bones by any means necessary, even under false pretenses. Among teams at work on any given excavation, it takes only a single colleague to deliver a bone to one of the industrial giants for the entire group to lose control of their findings. Ancient specimens in museums, too, are being swept up by these perverse incentives.
  1. It isn’t unusual for junior authors to be given just days to review a finished manuscript, with little input into its broader framing.
  1. This has created an atmosphere of intense suspicion, anxiety and paranoia, among archaeologists and geneticists alike. In dozens of interviews with practitioners of both disciplines, almost everyone requested anonymity for fear of professional reprisal.
  1. Reich and his team are accused by an ancient-DNA researcher in Turkey of seeing the rest of world as the 19th-century colonialists saw Africa — as raw-material opportunities and nothing else.
  1. Reich is shown to repeatedly arrive at broad, grandiose, sweeping conclusions about ancient migrations, invasions and wholesale replacements of one population by another on the basis of flimsy and dubious evidence – in one case, on the basis of a single sample from a single island – and often uses different, unrelated, arbitrary population groups as stand-in proxies for modern populations whose DNA samples he is unable to procure.
  1. Reich’s team makes “disproportionate or even wholly unwarranted claims on the basis of both the archaeological and genetic evidence it provides”.
  1. Reich and his team invariably express absolute certainty about their inferences and conclusions and presume to offer the final word on the ancestry and history of entire regions and cultures. They do not consider the possibility that their inferences could have been skewed by biases and faults in the set of assumptions that are inherent in their complex statistical models. Their paleogenomic papers, which are riddled with assumptions that are often weak, tenuous or outright unwarranted, end up being interpreted as fact. (What the New York Times article does not reveal is that once published, Reich’s papers are immediately taken up and politicized by blogs such as Eurogenes, West Hunter, etc.).
  1. There is a shocking nexus between Reich and the journal Nature, which is the world’s pre-eminent scientific journal, as well as other scientific journals. Nature is shown to violate long-established peer-review norms and standards when dealing with Reich’s papers. Nature’s actions demonstrate clear favoritism toward Reich’s work.
  1. For example, Nature allowed Reich, against its own norms, to revise and resubmit a paper that was rejected by reviewers (rejections are final, papers that are rejected are not allowed to be resubmitted).
  1. Reich resubmitted his paper on the basis of flimsy new evidence. The revised paper addressed very few of the reviewers’ concerns. Nevertheless, Nature’s editors overruled the reviewers’ steadfast objections and accepted the paper. Editors overruling a peer-review panel is unheard of.
  1. Nature’s preferential treatment of Reich and his team is demonstrated by the fact that other researchers and teams that arrived at the same conclusions as Reich, but by different means, had their papers inexplicably rejected, which defies logic and justice.
  1. The journal Current Biology accepted a paper by Reich’s team just one week after it was submitted. Peer review and acceptance of a scientific paper in a week is an unprecedented feat, unheard of even among low-quality scientific journals. It is unheard of even among low-quality scientific journals. It takes a lot of time to review a scientific paper – typically several months – as any scientist can attest. The acceptance of a complex genetics paper in just one week is absurd to the point of being ridiculous. It is a red flag that raises the very real specter of possible scientific misconduct and/or corruption.

These are but a few of a large number of extremely serious and troubling revelations in the New York Times article.

These revelations establish a case of possible ongoing scientific misconduct and raise serious doubts about the veracity of the entire corpus of Reich’s research. They demonstrate that the glaring issues in Reich’s papers that support the AIT are repeated throughout the entire corpus of his and his team’s research.

The New York Times revelations indicate the need to critically re-examine every single research paper published by Reich and his team.

They invalidate all conclusions drawn on the basis of Reich and his team’s research. They invalidate Reich’s studies purporting to support the Aryan Invasion Theory. They invalidate the entire basis for Joseph’s book.

Most importantly, the New York Times article reveals that there is an ongoing, concerted effort between influential, well-connected geneticists and some of the world’s leading scientific journals to keep perpetuating distorted, racist, Eurocentric narratives of human prehistory, including the colonial Aryan Invasion Theory.

A global neo-colonial nexus revealed

Racist, Eurocentric distortions of history are invariably targeted at disadvantaged cultures and developing nations that are recovering from recent colonization. Such distortions misinform and mislead formerly colonized people by portraying their culture in a variety of negative ways.

This leads to the gradual erosion of native culture and creates artificial divisions in the targeted societies, which makes them amenable to exploitation by an assortment of foreign, typically Western (but of late, Middle Eastern and even Chinese) neo-colonial forces.

It is therefore correct to view the act of distorting history as an act of neo-colonial aggression.

India’s left-secular-Nehruvian establishment, which has been reduced to grasping at straws to remain relevant in a nation that is increasingly confident and self-aware, has found common cause between its Hinduphobic revisionist agenda and the racist, Eurocentric agenda of Western academics such as David Reich.

Both agendas seek to portray Hinduism and Sanskrit as being foreign to India. Both seek to disparage, denigrate, and erode India’s millennia-old, incredibly varied, harmonious, and tolerant indigenous religious system and culture. Both seek to create artificial schisms within India’s society in order to make it amenable to exploitation by neo-colonial forces.

The Indian left-secular-Nehruvian establishment has been increasingly leaning on David Reich’s distorted research of late, a salient example of which is a scarcely coherent article by someone named Kai Friese wherein he indulges in character assassination of an entire team of Indian scientists on Reich’s behalf.

In my rebuttal to Friese’s article, I wrote about a hidden nexus [14] between India’s Marxist academia, left-secular ecosystem, Western academics, and India’s mainstream media.

Joseph’s book is an unmistakable sign of this nexus in action.

The New York Times article has ripped the cover off this nexus and revealed some of its global contours.

Conclusion: Joseph’s book sells racist, Eurocentric lies about Indian history based on thoroughly discredited research

To summarize, we have the following:

  1. Glaring issues, circular logic, dubious, arbitrary and unwarranted assumptions and severe methodological problems in David Reich’s studies that support the Aryan Invasion Theory.
  1. Two papers by the legendary Russian archaeologist Leo Klejn that thoroughly and conclusively lay bare and demolish the weak assumptions, flawed methodology, and conclusions of Reich’s pro-AIT research.
  1. Documented proof of Reich’s racism and Eurocentrism.
  1. A damning New York Times article that exposes shocking malpractices in the ancient DNA research ecosystem, reduces Reich’s scientific reputation to dust and discredits nearly every piece of research he and his team have published.

The above evidence, taken together, invalidates every single conclusion presented by Tony Joseph in his book.

Joseph’s book is riddled with outright false claims (pages 9, 10, 88 – Sanskrit was brought to India sometime after 2000 BCE by migrants who called themselves “Aryans”. Really?! Where’s the evidence?), circular logic, unnecessary ambiguity, idle speculation, sly dissembling, misinterpretations, misrepresentations, false claims and conclusions, fake news, references to pizza, extensive, repeated Reich quotes, especially about “extraordinary hierarchies and imbalances in power”, references to Ambedkar, references to the “ankles of Indian society”, references to the Manusmriti, and outright, utter nonsense at times.

The illogic is so severe at times that the book reads almost as if it were written with the help of David Reich himself.

But most importantly, and this bears repeating, Joseph’s book is based on Reich’s incorrect, flawed, distorted, racist interpretations of prehistory that have been thoroughly and utterly invalidated.

Joseph’s book is a calculated, calibrated neo-colonial enterprise that was conceived, designed, and launched with a singular purpose in mind: to revive the discredited Aryan Invasion Theory and thereby mislead Indians and alienate them from the truth about their history.

Be warned, dear reader. Do not allow yourself to be misled.

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank Dr. A. K. Suri for bringing the Klejn papers to his notice and providing an excellent summary. The author would like to thank M. D. and G. L. for insightful discussions.

References

  1. Joseph, T. Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From. Juggernaut (2018).
  1. Chavda, A. L. Propagandizing the Aryan Invasion Debate: A Rebuttal to Tony Joseph. IndiaFacts.Org (22-06-2017).
  1. Joseph, T. How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate. TheHindu.Com (16-06-2017).
  1. Chavda, A. What Reich’s Study Says And Doesn’t About How Indians Came To Be. SwarajyaMag.Com (20-04-2018).
  1. Joseph, T. How We, The Indians, Came to Be. TheQuint.Com (03-04-2018).
  1. Chavda, A. L. Aryan Invasion Myth: How 21st Century Science Debunks 19th Century Indology. IndiaFacts.Org (05-05-2017).
  1. Narasimhan, V. et al. The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia (2018). doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/292581
  1. Haak W. et al. Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe. Nature (2015). doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14317
  1. Klejn, L. S. The steppe hypothesis of Indo-European origins remains to be proven. Acta Archaeologica 88,1,193-204 (2017). doi:10.1111/j.1600-0390.2017.12184.x
  1. Klejn, L. S. et al. Discussion: Are the Origins of Indo-European Languages Explained by the Migration of the Yamnaya Culture to the West? European Journal of Archaeology, 21(1), 3-17. doi:10.1017/eaa.2017.35
  1. Reich, D. How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’. NYTimes.Com (23-03-2018).
  1. Kahn, J. et al. How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics. BuzzFeedNews.Com (30-03-2018).
  1. Lewis-Kraus, G. Is Ancient DNA Research Revealing New Truths — or Falling Into Old Traps? NYTimes.Com (17-01-2019).
  1. Chavda, A. Lies, deception and character assassination: Aryan invasion propaganda touches new low. MyNation.Com (07-09-2018).

Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From by Tony Joseph. Hardcover – 20 Dec 2018. Juggernaut Books. Rs. 699

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
 
 
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A. L. Chavda is a theoretical physicist whose research interests include dark matter, dark energy, black hole physics, quantum gravity, and the physics of the very early universe.



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Journalist Tony Joseph camouflages as geneticist: Left-Evangelical sinister game exposed

The Aryan Invasion Theory was getting  jeopardized from early 2000 by researches and studies  of Indian and foreign scholars such as Kenneth AR Kennedy, George F Dales, Edmund Leach, BB Lal, SR Rao, A Ghosh, Dilip Chakrabarti, VN Misra, RS Bisht, DP Aggarwal, Vasant Shinde, Nayanjot Lahiri, Yashpal, Baldev Sahai and  RK Sood. These eminent paleoanthropologists, archaeologists and palaeohydrologists  were  highly distinguished scholars in their areas of research. These genuine scholars never felt the need for camouflaging from other faculties to launch projects, publish books  and propagate certain religio-political ideologies challenging India’s past, as their interests were solely academic.

For several decades, the Aryan Invasion Theory has been used as a political weapon by political parties to divide and widen faultlines in the society. Its rejection has shocked and infuriated the Left and Evangelical camps. Further,  researches on lost Sarasawati river was also gaining momentum by 2000. The Left  had no archaeologist of repute to counter it. Instead they camouflaged Rajesh Kochhar, an astrophysicist, as an archaeologist to reinstate the Aryan Invasion/Migration Theory. He came out with his book titled, “The Vedic People—Their History and Geography”, which crumpled and collapsed.

Later, the move to  establish the  arrival of St Thomas in India by AD 52, his conversion of natives into Christianity and martyrdom in the hands of Hindus  as history, received support  under the patronage of JNU historians Romila Thapar and KN Panikkar. The Kerala Council of Historical Research infested with Marxist and Church  historians such as  PJ Cherian, Rajan Gurukkal, Kesavan Veluthat, K Rajan, Roberta Tomber and Istvan Perczel, launched  a big budget Muziris Heritage Project. They excavated Pattanam site which raised huge controversies and allegations of forgery.

Few are aware of the fact that Muziris Project and Pattanam excavation was the brainchild of CPI(M) minister Dr TM Thomas Isaac. The Left  Front government initially announced the Muziris Heritage Project in Thomas Isaac’s first Budget speech of 2006.

PJ Cherian did his Ph.D in modern Kerala History with focus on Communist movements. Launched by Left-evangelical lobbies, he embarked upon the project to excavate the Pattanam site, projecting himself as an eminent archaeologist.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) identified the unbridled foreign funds received by KCHR and cancelled its license along with Kerala Muslim Educational Association and Kerala United Theological Seminary  under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010. (The New Indian Express, Dec. 8, 2016).

Earlier, the Accountant-General detected irregularities  in  the KCHR  audit report of 2010-11 (The New Indian Express, July 22, 2012). Later,  in 2016, the KCHR was accused in creation of fake government documents, illegal appointments and financial irregularities worth crores. It is also alleged that the KCHR obtained the licence for the Pattanam excavation after submitting fake documents to the Archaeological Survey of India.

(Read more at: https://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/kerala/rampant-irregularities-detected-at-kchr-kerala-kerala-council-for-historical-research-corruption-1.1478483)

ENDORSING THE ARYAN MIGRATION THEORY, JOSEPH CONTENDED THAT INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGE SPEAKERS, WHO CALLED THEMSELVES ARYANS STREAMED INTO INDIA SOMETIME AROUND 2,000 – 1,500 BC. VINDICATING JOSEPH’S ARTICLE, SITARAM YECHURY, CPI(M) GENERAL SECRETARY, OBSERVED THAT THESE RECENT FINDINGS BASED ON SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS ON THE GENETIC DATA PROVE, “AN ARYAN MIGRATION INTO INDIA AROUND 3,500 TO 4,000 YEARS AGO”. YECHURY ARGUED THAT THIS  HAS SHATTERED THE FASCIST AGENDA IN INDIA.

Following  serious charges  on Pattanam excavations, and unscientific approaches adopted by the KCHR, a  probe was conducted on the basis of complaints to the Union Minister of State for Culture,  Mahesh Sharma. Based on the complaints, a meeting of the central advisory panel of the Archaeological Survey of India  asked the KCHR to stop the excavation (Business Standard Jan. 5, 2016). The authenticity of Pattanam excavation has been questioned by eminent south Asian archaeologists and historians such as Professors Dilip Chakrabarti,  A Sundara, Vasant Shinde, MGS Narayanan, R Nagaswamy and T Satyamurti.

(Read More at: http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com/2018/12/politics-of-past-row-in-tamil-nadu-and.html)

Prof Vasnt Shinde, eminent archaeologist and Vice-Chancellor of Deccan College Research Institute, has discarded dubious claims by KCHR on Pattanam. He made his observations in an interview  published as cover story in  a Malayalam journal, Madhyamam (Oct., 15, 2018). KCHR has not yet  defended its stand nor challenged Prof. Shinde.

In his work,  Nation First, published in 2014, veteran south Asian archaeologist, Dilip Chakrabarti cautions that Pattanam is supported by ‘Biblical and Jewish’ interest groups, and urges the Indian government to take serious note of such unholy conglomerations.

Following serious allegations on Pattanam excavations, the Kerala government  terminated the service of Cherian from  KCHR in 2016 . Cherian launched  his own NGO,  PAMA in Thiruvananthapuram. Prov. RVG Menon, an engineer and  former president of CPI(M) affiliated Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad or People’s Science Movement, is the new chairman of PAMA. No archaeologist  is willing to head PAMA, which has been blackened by academic duplicity and financial irregularities.

The Aryan Invasion/Migration Theory has been launched  by Left evangelical lobbies with exuberant vigor, after the Modi government came to power in 2014. Prof. TK Oommen, former Prof. of Sociology at JNU,  said on May 2014 that,  considering voting patterns in India, northern and western region of the country  have an Aryan population whose ancestors migrated to India in 1500 AD. Oommen was vice chair, Church and Society, World Council of Churches, Geneva, maintains close links with Communist parties in India and elsewhere.

Now, the Left-Evangelical lobby has launched Tony Joseph, former  editor of Business World, to propagate that India’s ancient past took place through Aryan migrations. Joseph is neither a historian, archaeologist nor geneticist like  his  predecessors, Rajesh Kocchar and PJ Cherian. Joseph was fabricated as a geneticist by Left  lobbies  and launched as a paleoanthropologist faculty in Indian Archaeological Studies.

Endorsing the Aryan Migration Theory, Joseph contended that Indo-European language speakers, who called themselves Aryans streamed into India sometime around 2,000 – 1,500 BC (The Hindu, June 16, 2017). Vindicating Joseph’s article, Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) General Secretary, observed that these recent findings based on scientific investigations on the genetic data prove, “an Aryan migration into India around 3,500 to 4,000 years ago (Frontline, June 21, 2017). Yechury argued that this  has shattered the fascist agenda in India.

In his work titled Early Indians, Joseph has not included observations by veteran palaeoanthropologists and archaeologists such as  Kenneth AR Kennedy, Dilip Chakrabarty, John Lukacs, Brian Hemphill, DE Hawkey, Todd R Disotell, Toomas Kivisild, Susanta Roychoudhury and Sanghamitra Sahoo.

AIDED BY LEFT-EVANGELICAL LOBBIES, JOSEPH’S MAIN MISSION NOW IS TO PROPAGATE ARYAN INVASION/MIGRATION THEORY.  SPEAKING AT THE FIFTH ANNUAL DR. TK RAMACHANDRAN MEMORIAL LECTURE AT KOCHI IN JULY 2019, TONY JOSEPH SPOKE ON ARYAN MIGRATIONS INTO INDIA

Joseph depends on geneticist David  Reich to articulate his hypothesis. Dissenting and protesting against David  Reich, a group of 67 scientists and researchers from disciplines ranging from natural sciences, anthropology, genetics, medicine, biosciences, sociology and history, wrote a rebuttal on March 30, 2018. It was signed, inter alia, by Alondra Nelson, Joseph L. Graves Jr., Lundy Braun, Nathaniel Comfort, Richard Cone and Robert Dessalle. They argued that Reich’s understanding of race is seriously flawed.

The DNA studies  of the skeletal remains found at Rakhigarhi shows no Central Asian traces, indicating the Aryan invasion theory was flawed, and Vedic evolution was through indigenous people. Prof Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor, Deccan College, said this establishes the knowledge ecosystem in the Vedic era was guided by “fully indigenous” people with limited “external contact” (The Economic Times, June 13, 2018). Neeraj Rai  who is the head of the ancient DNA laboratory at Lucknow’s Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, did the DNA study.

(Read More at: http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=5090)

Joseph tweeted that “this story makes ZERO sense”,   as he is more an authority than Vasant Shinde and Neeraj Rai in DNA studies.

Now, Joseph is  sent  by Left-Evangelical groups to propagate Aryan theory.  In July, 2019, Tony Joseph spoke on Aryan migrations into India  at a function in Kerala.  He was speaking at the fifth annual Dr. TK Ramachandran Memorial Lecture at Kochi (The Hindu, July 22, 2019).

Shockingly, it is learnt that Joseph along with CPI(M) minister Isaac and few KCHR historians visited Pattanam site in July 2019,  where the St Thomas is propagated  to have landed in first century AD. Has Joseph found genetic material to support  the arrival of Apostle Thomas in India? Anyway the association of journalist Joseph with Aryan Invasion and Pattanam excavations unveils many ongoing  stories  getting manufactured  behind the curtain on India’s past.

(Several eminent archaeologists were consulted for writing this article.) 



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Problems with ‘genetic evidence’ for AIT – Punarvasu Parekh

Rig Veda

The geographical evidence of Rigveda is very clear and unambiguous. It shows that the Vedic Aryans … were inhabitants of interior parts of India, to the east of the river Sarasvati and were only just expanding into and becoming acquainted with areas further west. – Punarvasu Parekh

Champions of Aryan Invasion/Migration Theory (AIT) refuse to give up. With virtually nothing to show in support of their pet theory in linguistics, archeology or ancient texts and inscriptions, they keep coming up with new kinds of evidence. Thus Tony Joseph’s new book Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From claims to prove once and for all, with the help of genetics, that a group of pastoral people from steppes east of the Ural mountains entered India during 2000-1000 BCE, bringing with them Indo-European languages and new religious and cultural practices. The migrants—invaders?—drove away Dravidian-speaking Harappans to deep down in the south and started a caste system.

Sadly for the champions of AIT, they can no longer rule the roost by stonewalling the debate. Shrikant Talageri, Mumbai-based independent scholar on ancient India, critically examines [1] the material presented by Tony Joseph and shows that what is claimed to be a clinching evidence is actually flimsy and weak data which cannot support the conclusions drawn from it or claims made on its behalf.

For his data, Tony Joseph relies largely on two Paleogenomic studies conducted by David Reich and his team at Harvard Medical School: (a) a preprint (non-peer-reviewed research paper) titled “The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia” which was co-authored by 92 scientists from around the world, co-authored and co-directed by Reich, and lead-authored by a member of Reich’s team named V. Narasimhan (2018) and (b) an older paper titled “Massive Migration from the Steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe” (2009).

Tony Joseph tells us that India is a multi-source civilization. The present population of India represents varying combinations of basically three ancestral lineages. The genetic lineage of “Out of Africa migrants” who reached India 65000 years ago (First Indians) forms the bedrock of India’s population. West Asian migrants (Iranian-agriculturist-related pastoralists from the Zagros mountains in Iran and the steppe grasslands (from the belt of Latvia to the west of Mongolia) provide the other two lineages.

Of these, the West Asian migrants built the Harappan civilisation which were associated with the Dravidian languages. The proof for this, Tony Joseph tells us, is that the Harappans had combinations of basically only two ancestral lineages: First Indian and Zagros. But there are no ancient DNA samples from any part of India for the Harappan period. So how can we determine the genetic make-up of its people?

Tony Joseph’s answer is disingenuous and gives the game way. Reich’s study is based on ancient DNA of 612 individuals from various regions and periods: Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (5600-1200 BCE), the Steppe east of the Ural Mountains, including Kazakhstan (4799-1000 BCE), and Pakistan’s Swat valley (1200 BCE to 1 CE). Three of 612 specimens stood out from the rest in that their DNA showed presence of First Indian and Zagros ancestral lineages and no Anatolian ancestry at all. In contrast, other specimens showed early Iranian agriculturist related ancestry, Anatolian agriculturist related ancestry and west Siberian related ancestry; but they had no First Indian ancestry. In other words, three out of 612 individuals had ties on the Indian i.e. Harappan side of the area but not with the Anatolian side.

Therefore, in Tony Joseph’s reasoning, the three outliers must be migrants from Harappan civilisation who were residents in neighbouring cities that the Harappans had trade relations with. They represent what Tony Joseph calls “Indus periphery” and since no ancient DNA has been recovered from the Harappan civilization to enable genuine comparison, they stand in as proxy for the entire Harappan population itself. How? With what logic?

Notice the circularity of the argument. “Harappan civilization was built by people with First Indian and Zagros ancestral lineages. Three out of 612 specimens had First India and Zagros ancestral lineages. Therefore, they must be Harappans.”

Notice also flimsy nature of the data. The Harappan civilization must have had a population of some millions at its peak. Tony Joseph thinks nothing of making sweeping generalisations about such a large population on the basis of three dubious foreign DNA samples.

The circularity of the argument and paucity of data are bad enough for Joseph’s mission. But there is something worse.

Talageri delves deeper into the findings of the Reich’s research paper and shows that instead of supporting Joseph’s conclusions, the findings in fact contradict him!

Let us try to summarise it without being too technical. According to Reich’s study (2018), it is possible to model almost every population as a mixture of seven deeply divergent distal ancestry sources. The study tabulates ancestral components of 21 ancient groups (some of which consist of just one individual each) from different ancient periods. In the Harappan period, one of the seven lineages—Anatolian agriculturist related represented by 7th millennium BCE Anatolian agriculturists—is found to be present in 8 groups of Iran-Turan region (other than the Indus periphery people), including the BMAC. [2] In a later post-Harappan period it is present in three groups from the Swat valley from northern Pakistan. In none of these groups from both periods do the charts in the report show the Steppe DNA. It looks as if the Anatolian ancestry (which had been in Central Asia since a very long time), and not the Steppe ancestry, had moved from the BMAC area in a post-Harappan period into northern Pakistan.

However, both Reich and Joseph claim that the Steppe DNA in a post-Harappan period came from the north and entered northern Pakistan after bypassing the BMAC area. But both the earlier BMAC DNA and the later Swat DNA in the charts shown in the report show the same DNA composition. So where is this Steppe DNA which bypassed the BMAC and entered northern Pakistan?

A.L. Chavda makes an interesting point in this context. “In the second paper, the geneticists admit “other migrations from the Steppe” (which they are unable to identify) may have brought Indo-European languages to Europe. Apart from the repeat of the circular claim (why Steppe again?) and the lack of any basis for making this wild claim, they do not seem to have realized the really damning self-contradiction in that statement: if “other” migrations from the Steppe could have brought Indo-European languages to Europe, that means other differentiated branches of Indo-Europeans were already present on the Steppe! So where did these branches originate, if they were already in a differentiated form on the Steppe, ready to launch into Europe? Could these be the people who migrated to both Corded Ware and Yamnaya? (See “Journalist Attempts To Revive Aryan Invasion Myth Using Discredited Genetic Research“)

Tony Joseph goes on to tell us that Central Asian Sanskrit-speaking Hindu Aryans were the last to migrate to India; they “reshaped” India’s society in “fundamental ways”. That, in fact, is the crux of his argument. Let us see how he proves it.

The only DNA from ancient India is from the Swat valley in northern Pakistan from a post-Harappan period: after 1200 BCE till around 100 BCE. This DNA, Tony Joseph tells us, represents a combination of all the three major ancestral lineages found in present-day India: First Indian, Zagros and Steppe. This proves, according to Tony Joseph, that Steppe DNA entered India during 2000-1000 BCE. But this is the period that Indologists and linguists have long held as being the period of Aryan Invasion of India by speakers of Indo-European languages who are also said to have come from the steppes of south Russia. This, according to Joseph, proves AIT.

This again is a circular argument at its best, or worst. Joseph assumes AIT which he is expected to prove.

Genetic data may help us determine ancestral strands in the DNA of individuals, family, community or a people. But it cannot link people to a language or group of languages; nor can it account for spread and movements of languages. Joseph is aware of the problem and solves it by offering R1a1 DNA, which he describes as the “genetic signature” of “Aryans”.

“How do we know that R1a DNA and its subgroups are linked to Indo-European language speakers in India? There is an easy way to check: look at the distribution of R1a among Indian population groups and see if they are linked to the traditional custodians of the Sanskrit language, the upper castes in general or the Brahmins in particular”.

On checking, however, we find that the signature is not authentic. The Brahmins are described by Joseph as the custodians of “Sanskrit” as also of “texts written in Sanskrit” and therefore identified as “Aryans”. Ironically, R1a1 DNA is found in much higher or comparatively similar percentage in non-Brahmin castes like Khatris (67%) and Gujarat Lohanas (60%), and even in non-Aryan speakers like the Manipuri people of the east (50%) and purely Dravidian tribes of the South like the Chenchu (26%) and Kota (23%), as compared with most Brahmin communities: the Iyengars have 31%.

In fact, the idea of linking genetic make-up with custody of traditions is highly tenuous. The endogamous “Aryan” Parsis in India and the endogamous Zoroastrians still in Iran, “the traditional custodians of the Avestan language“, have less than 20% of R1a1 DNA (many Iranian groups going as low as 0-3%), while the non-“Aryan” Semites to their west include the Shammar Arabs in Kuwait (43%) and the Ashkenazi Levites of Israel (52%): the Ashkenazi Levites are “the traditional custodians of the Hebrew Old Testament text and language“!

Dismissing these pathetic attempts to prove AIT on the basis of esoteric data and wild claims as mumbo-jumbo, Talageri says that there is really solid  evidence to show that Vedic Sanskrit and related languages were deeply entrenched in northern India at least in the third millennium BCE if not much earlier. This evidence is provided by ancient texts like Rigveda and Avesta in conjunction with dated inscriptions and documents of peoples like Mitannis and Kassaites.

The Rigveda, the oldest book in the world and the most primary source of knowledge about ancient India, consists of 1028 hymns divided in ten books or mandalas. There is strong and massive internal evidence in the Rigveda itself that all of it was not composed at the same time. There is a general agreement among scholars that Books II to VII, known as “family books”, are older, whereas Books I, VIII, IX and X came later. Of the family books, Books III, VI and VII are the oldest, II and IV are the Middle Books and Book V represents the transition from the old books to the late ones.

Now, Rigveda and Avesta have a lot in common—names of people, animals, meters, geography. However, the Early Books of Rigveda have very little in common with Avesta while the Middle Books have a little more. But it is the Late Books of Rigveda that have a lot in common with Avesta, pointing to a period of contemporary development.

The next question is: in which area were the Early and the Middle Books composed? Where were the Vedic Aryans living in the period before the development of this joint Indo-Iranian culture? The geographical evidence of Rigveda is very clear and unambiguous. It shows that the Vedic Aryans, in the period of the Early and the Middle books, were inhabitants of interior parts of India, to the east of the river Sarasvati and were only just expanding into and becoming acquainted with areas further west.

Then there is some more evidence from ancient Mesopotamia that could help us determine a lower limit for the Vedic Age. The Mitanni, who ruled northern Iraq and Syria around the 15th century BCE, spoke Hurrite, a non-Indo-European language unrelated to Vedic Sanskrit. But their kings and other members of the ruling class bore names which were corrupted versions of Vedic names: Mittaratti (Mitrātithi), Dewatti (Devātithi), Subandu (Subandhu), Indarota (Indrota), Biriamasda (Priyamedha), to mention a few. In a treaty with the Hittites, they invoked Vedic gods Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nāsatyas (Aśvins). A Mitanni manual on training of chariot horses by Kikkuli has words like aika (eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pancha,  five), satta (sapta, seven) na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, turn round in the horse race). Another one has words like babru (babhru, brown), parita (palita, grey) pinkara (pingala, red) and so on. Many centuries must have elapsed between the entry of their Vedic ancestors into West Asia and this loss of language leaving behind just a super stratum of Vedic words. The Kassite conquerors of Mesopotamia (c. 1677 BCE) had a Sun god Surias, perhaps also Marut and may be even Bhaga (Bugas), as also a personal name Abirattas (Abhiratha).

What is notable is that the ancestral Vedic names used by the Mitanni kings, and the one known Kassite name, all belong to the names which are common to the Avesta and the Late Books of Rigveda. So the ancestors of the Mitanni and Kassites must have migrated from northwestern India in the period of the Late Books. This places Late Books of Rigveda in the late third millennium BCE at the latest. The Middle and the Early books of Rigveda must have been composed much earlier. Please note that this is the lower limit for the date of Rigveda. There is nothing here that precludes a reasonably earlier date.

Between Joseph’s wild claims based on paltry data of dubious veracity and the clear and consistent case presented by Shrikant Talageri, the choice is clear.

In short, Tony Joseph’s book Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From is a calculated and audacious attempt to revive the colonial Aryan Invasion Theory through impressive-sounding but hollow rhetoric. It is based on the recent research led by racist, Hinduphobic Harvard geneticist David Reich of Harvard Medical School. Many scholars+ have debunked this research for its flawed methodology and incorrect racist interpretations of pre-historic past, invalidating the conclusions based on it. The resurgent India needs to be on its guard against such clever attempts to mislead and divide its people.

Notes

  1. Genetics & The Aryan Debate: “Early Indians” Tony Joseph’s Latest Assault by Shrikant Talageri. Publishers: Voice of India, New Delhi. The volume has been brought out as part of a publication initiative by Ram Swarup-Sitaram Goel Memorial Fund.
  2. The Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, also known as the Oxus civilization, is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age civilization of Central Asia dated c. 2400-1600 BCE located in present-day Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and Western Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus river).

See also

Shiv Sastry in “Migrations, Yes. But ‘Aryan’ Migrations? Not really”, Aravindan Neelakandan in “Here we go again. Why they are wrong about the Aryan Migration debate this time as well”, A.L. Chavda in “Propagandizing the Aryan Invasion debate: A rebuttal to Tony Joseph”, Koenraad Elst in “Genetics and the Aryan Invasion debate” and Michel Danino, with a rebuttal by Joseph “The problematics of genetics and the Aryan issue”.

›  Punarvasu Parekh is an independent senior journalist in Mumbai.

Human migration out of Africa to India and India to Europe.


 



-- Edited by Admin on Friday 30th of August 2019 10:36:58 AM

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MIGRATIONS | HISTORY & CULTURE

New reports clearly confirm ‘Arya’ migration into India

A Rakhigarhi resident surveying the excavation site in 2014.

A Rakhigarhi resident surveying the excavation site in 2014.   | Photo Credit: D. Krishnan

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The Arya were central Asian Steppe pastoralists who arrived in India between roughly 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE, and brought Indo-European languages to the subcontinent

The last time a paper titled ‘The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia’ was released online, in March 2018, it created a sensation in India and around the world. Mostly because the paper, co-authored by 92 scientists, many of them doyens of different disciplines, said that between 2000 BCE and 1000 BCE, there were significant migrations from the Central Asian Steppe that most likely brought Indo-European languages into India — just as Steppe migrations into Europe a thousand years earlier, beginning around 3000 BCE, had spread Indo-European languages to that continent as well. In other words, the paper supported the long-held idea of an ‘Arya’ migration into India — or, to put it more accurately, a migration of Indo-European language speaking people who called themselves ‘Arya’.

There were many who did not like that finding, and the most important counter-argument they made was that the paper was not peer-reviewed and was merely released in a pre-print server and, therefore, one had to withhold judgement until the paper was published in a scientific journal with peer review. That the paper was co-authored by 92 scientists of high reputation, including many from India, did not matter in their opinion. The lead author of the paper was Vagheesh Narasimhan of Harvard Medical School, while Kumarasamy Thangaraj of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology was a co-director, along with David Reich of Harvard Medical School. Other Indian co-authors included Niraj Rai of the Birbal Sahni Institute for Palaeosciences and Vasant Shinde, then Director of Deccan College.

 

Even more evidence

Well, that paper has now been peer-reviewed and published in the most reputed of journals, Science. It has 117 scientists as co-authors, significantly up from the 92 last year. The paper is now titled ‘The Formation of Human Populations in South and Central Asia’. And what does it say on the question of Steppe migrations? The same thing, but with even more evidence and detail. Here is a direct quote, and not just any quote, but the very essence of the paper:

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How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate

“By sequencing 523 ancient humans, we show that the primary source of ancestry in modern South Asians is a prehistoric genetic gradient between people related to early hunter-gatherers of Iran and Southeast Asia. After the Indus Valley Civilization’s decline, its people mixed with individuals in the southeast [i.e, southeast of northwestern India where the Indus Valley Civilization flourished: editor] to form one of the two main ancestral populations of South Asia [called Ancestral South Indians or ASI: editor], whose direct descendants live in southern India. Simultaneously, they mixed with descendants of Steppe pastoralists who, starting around 4000 years ago, spread via Central Asia to form the other main ancestral population [or Ancestral North Indians, ANI: editor]. The Steppe ancestry in South Asia has the same profile as that in Bronze Age Eastern Europe, tracking a movement of people that affected both regions and that likely spread the distinctive features shared between Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages.”

 

A map of Steppe migrations, from the paper in ‘Science’.

A map of Steppe migrations, from the paper in ‘Science’.  

The First Indians

Shorn of scientific jargon, here is what that means: The reference to the early hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asia is a reference to the Andamanese, whom the rest of the paper abbreviates as AHG or Andamanese Hunter Gatherers. This is the same as the Ancient Ancestral South Indians (AASI) that the earlier paper talked about, or First Indians, which is the term used in my book, Early Indians. No matter which name you use — hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asia, AHG or First Indians — they all refer to the descendants of the Out of Africa migrants who reached India around 65,000 years ago and then moved on to Southeast Asia, East Asia and further on.

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The Harappans were themselves a mix of the early Indians and Iranian immigrants: Tony Joseph.

We are like pizza. Early Indians were just the base: Tony Joseph

So this is what the abstract means in full: The primary source of ancestry for today’s South Asians is a mixture of First Indians and a people related to the hunter-gatherers of Iran. This mixed population created the agricultural revolution in northwestern India and built the Harappan Civilisation that followed. When the Harappan Civilisation declined after 2000 BCE due to a long drought, the Harappans moved south-eastwards (from northwestern India) to mix with other First Indians to form the Ancestral South Indian (ASI) population whose descendants live in south India today.

Around the same time, the Harappans also mixed with Steppe pastoralists who had by then migrated to north India through Central Asia, to form the Ancestral North Indian (ANI) population. The Steppe ancestry of the people of both South Asia and Eastern Europe in the Bronze Age explains how the movements of the Central Asians between the two regions caused the well-known similarities between the Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages.

 

A calf grazes at the excavation site.

A calf grazes at the excavation site.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The study goes on to further elaborate on the Steppe migration. Here is another quote from the same paper: “Between around 2000 and 1000 BCE, people of largely Central Steppe - MLBA (or Middle to Late Bronze Age) ancestry expanded toward South Asia, mixing with people along the Indus Periphery Cline to form the Steppe Cline.”

If these quotes surprise you because you thought the recent genetic studies had disproved Arya migration, then you have a bone to pick with some voices in Indian mass media for utterly misleading you. The Science study substantiated its earlier findings about Steppe migrations into India with even more evidence, but many newspapers and websites chose to go to town with headlines such as this: ‘New genetic studies dent Arya migration theory.’

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Tracing the roots: Vasant Shinde, left, and Niraj Rai at the release of the Rakhigarhi project results in New Delhi on Friday.

‘Indus Valley settlers had a distinct genetic lineage’

 

So how did Indian media twist a straight story into something diametrically opposite? To answer that, we have to look at a second study that was released at the same time. This study, based on the ancient DNA of a woman who lived in the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi about 4,600 years ago, was published in Cell, co-authored by 28 scientists including some co-authors of the Science report, such as Thangaraj, Reich, Narasimhan and Rai, with Shinde being the lead author. The study’s title seemed straightforward: ‘An Ancient Harappan Genome Lacks Ancestry from Steppe Pastoralists or Iranian Farmers.’ But this made many journalists jump to the conclusion that it meant there was no Arya migration either.

 

Two of the four skeletons found at Rakhigarhi in 2015.

Two of the four skeletons found at Rakhigarhi in 2015.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The journalists would not have reached this hasty conclusion had they read at least the summary of the Cell paper. Here is a direct quote from the summary: “These individuals had little if any Steppe pastoralist related ancestry, showing that it was not ubiquitous in northwest South Asia during the IVC as it is today.” Pay particular attention to the last four words: “as it is today”. The meaning is clear. Today, Steppe pastoralist ancestry is ubiquitous, but it was not so during the period of the Indus Valley Civilisation. (How ubiquitous is it today? The new studies have that figure too: it could be up to 30% in some population groups in India.)



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The only possible conclusion from this, therefore, is that the Steppe migrations to India happened after the decline of the Harappan Civilisation. That is no surprise. It has always been understood that the Arya migration from the Steppe happened after 2000 BCE. So to anyone who applies their mind, the absence of Steppe ancestry in a skeleton in Rakhigarhi from 2600 BCE is clear confirmation that the earlier understanding was correct, that the Arya were not present during the Harappan Civilisation, and that they arrived later. In other words, the Harappan Civilisation was pre-Arya, and so was the language they spoke.

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Study of ancient DNA throws light on origin of farming, languages

 

So what’s new?

The Cell paper, in fact, goes on to talk about Indo-European languages arriving with the Steppe pastoralists after 2000 BCE. Here is a quote from the paper that minces no words about migrations from the Central Asian Steppe bringing Indo-European languages to India between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE: “However, a natural route for Indo-European languages to have spread into South Asia is from Eastern Europe via Central Asia in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE, a chain of transmission that did occur as has been documented in detail with ancient DNA. The fact that Steppe pastoralist ancestry in South Asia matches that in Bronze Age Eastern Europe (but not Western Europe) provides additional evidence for this theory, as it elegantly explains the shared distinctive features of Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian languages.”

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Too early to settle the Aryan migration debate?

 

On the two key issues: who were the Harappans and who were the Arya, the new studies thus arrive at the exact same conclusions. The Harappans who created the agricultural revolution in northwestern India and then built the Harappan civilisation were a mix of First Indians and Iranians who spoke a pre-Arya language. The Arya were central Asian Steppe pastoralists who arrived in India between roughly 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE, and brought Indo-European languages to the subcontinent. Is there anything on which the two papers differ? No. They have the same conclusions — not surprising considering that the simultaneously published papers have many authors in common many authors are common between the two papers published simultaneously.

But is there anything new in these two studies, which we didn’t know earlier? Yes, a few details. For example, the earlier study on Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia said the migrants from Iran who mixed with First Indians were herders. The new study says the Iranians arrived in India before agriculture or even herding had begun anywhere in the world. In other words, these migrants were likely to have been hunter-gatherers, which means they did not bring a knowledge of agriculture. In Early Indians, I have made a strong case for agricultural experiments to have begun in India independently and have pointed out, in support, that critical domestications of animals such as zebu cattle and water buffalo had happened in India independently of elsewhere.

 

A seal found at Rakhigarhi.

A seal found at Rakhigarhi.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

A few other details provide greater clarity to these prehistoric migrations that shaped Indian demography. For example, previous studies had described the Steppe migrations as happening between 2000 BCE and 1000 BCE. The new Science paper narrows it to between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE or to the first half of the second millennium. This is because after 1500 BCE the populations of Central Asia begin to show a higher level of East Asian ancestry of a kind that is not noticeable in India.

Another spin around the new studies suggests an ‘Out of India’ migration. This is also misleading. If by ‘Out of India’ migration we are referring to the fact that some Harappans visited neighbouring civilisations or cultures such as the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) or Shahr-i-Sokhta, with whom they had trade and cultural links, these are well-known and unsurprising facts.

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The problematics of genetics and the Aryan issue

 

But if by ‘Out of India’ migration we mean large-scale migration of prehistoric Indians towards the West, spreading culture and language all the way from, say, Harappa to Iceland, then there is not a shred of evidence, genetic or otherwise, to suggest that. It also contradicts the studies’ position that migrations from the Central Asian Steppe brought Indo-European languages to India after 2000 BCE.

The DNA clincher

One question often raised is: how robust can ancient DNA studies based on a few samples be? The answer is that it would be a mistake to look at one genome as something akin to say, a person in a survey answering a question as Yes or No. A single genome carries within itself the genetic track record of a person’s ancestors going back thousands or tens of thousands of years. So when you sequence a genome, say the one belonging to the woman from Rakhigarhi, you are getting a peek into the genomes of thousands of people ancestral to her. That is why in population genetics studies, even a few samples can provide huge insights.

Importantly, the two recent studies are based on 12 ancient DNA samples: one from Rakhigarhi, 8 from Shahr-i-Sokhta in eastern Iran and three from Gonur in BMAC. The study published last year was based on just three samples from Shahr-i-Sokhta and Gonur. The number of samples has now trebled.

The reason why the three samples studied last year were considered as proxy for Harappan people was because they stood out (or were outliers) from the rest of the population of that time; they carried a significant amount of First Indian ancestry unlike the others around them. This suggested they were migrants from the Harappan Civilisation. The new Cell study validates the assumption that these outliers were indeed migrants from Harappan cities because the Rakhigarhi DNA sample matches exactly the 11 samples from Shahr-i-Sokhta and Gonur. It has reconfirmed the earlier findings with even more robust data.

 

Clay toys found at Rakhigarhi

Clay toys found at Rakhigarhi   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

On the question of the language of the Harappans, the 2018 study had mentioned the possibility of it being Dravidian. The new paper goes into greater detail to suggest that Dravidian was likely to have been the language of the Ancestral South Indians (ASI) formed as a result of the mixing of the Harappan population with First Indians. The study says: “A possible scenario combining genetic data with archaeology and linguistics is that proto-Dravidian was spread by peoples of the Indus Valley Civilisation along with the Indus Periphery Cline ancestry component of the ASI.” The study also points out that of the 11 ancient DNA samples of Harappan migrants recovered from Shahr-i-Sokhta and Gonur, two carried the Y chromosome haplogroup H1a1d2, which is today primarily found in southern India.

There is a lesson here for both readers and the media. When reporting on science, it is important to go by what is written in the papers rather than by statements made outside them. Peer-reviewed papers published in reputed journals by well-known scientists are robust and durable; fleeting statements made at press conferences are ephemeral and prone to being misheard or misreported, and could sometimes run contrary to the evidence on hand.

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What we know today, based on these two papers, is mostly what we knew last year, but with far greater supporting evidence. Which is that we are a multi-source civilisation, not a single-source one, drawing our cultural impulses, traditions and practices from a variety of heredities and migration histories. We are all Indians. We are all migrants. And we are all mixed.

The writer is the author of Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From.



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