DNA results from Rakhigarhi are now being reported (really!)

It looks like Outlook India is the first out of the gates to start reporting on the results from Rakhigarhi in northwest India, We Are All Harrapans. This is a “mature phase” Harrapan site that dates to about 2250 BC or so. Media reports have always been garbled on this topic, so anything that is coming not out of a paper needs to be treated cautiously. But I’ve heard some of the same things from independent sources from a while back, so I believe that this reporting is broadly on the mark.

Basically, the individual(s) they got DNA out of did not have any Eurasian steppe ancestry. This seems to confirm again that Eurasian steppe ancestry, which is found in fractions as high as ~30% in twice-born varna in Northern India (e.g., Rajputs, Tiwari Brahmins), arrived after 2000 BC. That is, after the peak period of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Again, one has to be wary of anything from the media because I’ve heard so many confusing things, including claims of garbled quotes, but here’s one of the authors of the forthcoming paper being quoted:

We did some analysis to figure out the exact date of the admixture. We have prepared a model in which all these stats fit together very tightly and that model suggests the Central Asian admixture happened about 1500-1000 BC…. Significant mixing happened around 1000 BC, also at 800 BC and 600 BC.

This is totally in line with the results from the March preprint discussed in the piece. That is, the Swat Valley samples show admixture and genetic change after 1200 BC. And the semi-historical understanding that we have of India during the period between 1000 BC and the rise of Mauryas is that it was a society in flux. But the only way the dating was changed by the Rakhigarhi results is if the genome is high enough quality that it allowed them to narrow down the parameters on some of the estimates of admixture.

One thing to keep in mind is that it is unlikely that the “Harappan people” were one single people genetically. There was probably a lot of variation in admixture with the indigenous South Asian substrate. And, I believe that the inflated steppe & AASI (“Ancient Ancestral South Indian”) ancestry you see in some North Indian Brahmin groups compared to Sindhis (who are more “Iranian”) is evidence that the Indo-Aryan intrusion resulted in an expansion of people with West Eurasian ancestry much deeper into South Asia than was the case with the Harappans.

And of the Harappans, some of the Indian scholars have asserted that their descendants are still present in the region. I think this is right, insofar as some of the jati groups, often scheduled caste, in the northwestern region of South Asia share a lot more affinity with populations to the south and east.

Related: Michael Witzel has commentary from a more linguistic perspective. If the “Para-Munda” hypothesis is right, I think what Witzel is seeing is the substrate language on which Munda was overlain, because Munda people are clearly intrusive from Southeast Asia in the period between 2000 and 1000 BC.

Addendum: If a relatively late intrusion (after 1500 BC) of Indo-Aryans to South Asia is supported by the evidence, it would be interesting in light of the high likelihood that Indo-Aryans were present in the region of upper Mesopotamia before 1500 BC. I believe that these “Indo”-Aryans actually probably never had any contact with South Asia, but descended from the horizon of cultures of which Sintashta and Andronovo were constituents. The Indo-Aryans who arrived in South Asia were probably from a different branch, and likely had interactions with other peoples in what is today eastern Iran and Afghanistan.

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29 thoughts on “DNA results from Rakhigarhi are now being reported (really!)

  1. Quote:
    “If a relatively late intrusion (after 1500 BC) of Indo-Aryans to South Asia is supported by the evidence, it would be interesting in light of the high likelihood that Indo-Aryans were present in the region of upper Mesopotamia before 1500 BC. I believe that these “Indo”-Aryans actually probably never had any contact with South Asia, but descended from the horizon of cultures of which Sintashta and Andronovo were constituents. The Indo-Aryans who arrived in South Asia were probably from a different branch, and likely had interactions with other peoples in what is today eastern Iran and Afghanistan.”

    I agree, this different branch went from the Steppe to the Caucasus, Armenia_MLBA can be modeled as a mixture Armenia_EBA and a Sintashta like population, due to political upheavals and wars with Anatolians to their west, this population moved further south and mixed with the BA_Levant, they are the Mittani and Hurrians of the Late Bronze Age.

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  2. I am not sure what this Niraj Rai is up to. The Rakhigarhi paper was supposed to be published by a team of Indian geneticists such as Gyaneshway Chaubey & Kumaraswamy Thangaraj of which Rai is only a junior member.

    How is it that he is hogging so much media attention while we hear nothing from the rest ?

    And by the looks of what is being said in the article, Rai is teaming up with Narasimhan to publish the Rakhigarhi paper ? How did Harvard come into the picture now ? So are Chaubey and Thangaraj not part of this ? Are they coming up with a separate paper ?

    And I also find it strange that this Rai fellow is continuously coming out spilling the beans on what Rakhigarhi aDNA is all about and has been doing this for months now while we have no clues about the actual paper.

    Even Narasimhan, if one notes, is silent on the actual data. It is only Rai who is the loudmouth. How can he talk about the Rakhigarhi results so non-challantly before the paper has even come out ? Especially since all other geneticists are tight lipped about it ?

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  3. The article also has quite a few gems such as –

    – it quotes Rai as saying that the Rakhigarhi samples have a greater affinity with Ancestral South Indian tribals than with modern North Indians.

    This is most certainly wrong. Regardless of the imaginary steppe migration being proved or not, it is most certainly a given that the Rakhigarhi samples will be most similar to modern Haryanvis than to anyone else – and almost unlike the South Indian tribals who live thousands of miles away.

    – then we have the following which is even more ridiculous

    “The Rakhigarhi samples have a significant amount of ‘Iranian farmer’ ancestry,” says Rai. “In India’s present-day population, only the south Indians have Iranian farmer ancestry. You won’t find Iranian farmer DNA in the north Indian population.”

    So we don’t have any Iranian farmer related ancestry in North Indians ? Really ? Is that what Rai said ? What load of rubbish is this ? The North Indians clearly not only have Iranian farmer related ancestry but they have it in greater proportion than the South Indians.

    Indian journalists are making a fool of themselves and so is Rai.

    But most of the Indian media is heavily leftist and they would certainly support the Aryan Migration narrative. It appears that Outlook is having a special feature on Rakhigarhi. And true to its form, it has an article by Witzel – a far from neutral scholar and an avid supporter of the steppe theory.

    ———-

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  4. That the Indo-Aryans came to South Asia between 1500-900 BC was always the most likely scenario.
    It gets more interesting to research what exactly happened on the steppe with such huge and successful migrations from it in all directions were taking place at roughly the same time.
    There must have been a demographic explosion.

    Obviously Iranian farmer DNA is present and strong in the modern North of India and was constitutive for the IVC people.

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  5. //Regardless of the imaginary steppe migration being proved or not//

    Nice illogical irrational self contradicting sentence.If something is imaginary, how can it be proven?

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  6. We might be making progress on maping the world’s bringers of civiilzation. Now if only we had DNA from Sumeria or Central to South Iraq.

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  7. @Jaydeepsinh Rathod

    There is no point arguing with someone like you who believes in fiction. Please read Yuval Noah Harari to understand people who believe in fiction like yourself.

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  8. From outlook article:
    “In one, South Korean genetic scientists are trying to reconstruct, for the first time ever, what the Harappans looked like. Expect a Harappan face, or a DNA artist’s impression of it, to be hitting the internet soon.”

    Fascinating! Science has come such a long way to be able to use strands of DNA to reconstruct a face (Must be a great tool in solving mysteries in criminal forensics). Also interesting is that there is a position out there of a “DNA artist”? A couple of decades ago would we ever of imagined such a futuristic profession?!

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  9. Why is a post-1500 BC difficult to support? Steppe pastoralists dna may have taken 800 years to diffuse from Afghanistan to northwest India. The pre-1500 Aryan in India is weak, and existed primarily between Afghanistan and pakhtunistan. Rigvedic India was primarily in Afghanistan.

    Can we really use the HArvard dates of admixture to a place? I believe this proposal can coexist with admixture model dates.

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  10. @Vijay, I think you are right. The genetic timing also means that there were non-IA speaking populations well into the historical period.

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  11. :”Michael Witzel has commentary from a more linguistic perspective. If the “Para-Munda” hypothesis is right, I think what Witzel is seeing is the substrate language on which Munda was overlain, because Munda people are clearly intrusive from Southeast Asia in the period between 2000 and 1000 BC”

    I am apprehensive about “para-munda”. Introgression of Munda people into India is a fact. However, there is no evidence that the language spread far and wide all the ay into Northwest India. Neither is there evidence that the language in India in 1500-2000 BC was similar to Munda languages. Outside of Korgu, most of the munda people are located a few hundred km off the east coast in Orissa, Jharkand and Chhaatisgarh. The language is way different than any extand Indian language. Specific examples are: “Characteristics of the Munda languages include three grammatical numbers (singular, dual and plural), two genders (animate and inanimate), a distinction between inclusive and exclusive first person plural pronouns and the use of suffixes or auxiliaries to indicate tense. Consonant sequences are infrequent except in the middle of a word.” I cannot truly explain this, but the Munda languages are unique in India, and very similar in relation to isolated Amerindian languages in south America.

    Wirtzel sees Munda people in India in 1500-2000 BC and postulates a para-mundic language all over north and west India. If this were true, there would have been more lingual influences, but they exist none. There has been relatively little influence of the language and people in India.

    There was a language and people in India before 1500-2000 BC. The language and genetic structure is unclear. Dravidian, possibly, but real research on the peopling of India who are non-ANI and before ANI is still in progress.

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  12. Why talking about ANI vs ASI in that context? ASI or at least AASI is one thing, the Iranian farmer input another. The Iranian farmer input, which might have dominated IVC, can’t be called (A)ASI and Indo-Aryan is not ANI, but contributed to it. I think it is more reasonable to leave the simple ANI vs ASI division behind and talk about the non-West Eurasian South Asian hunter gatherers (and possibly more subdivisions), the Iranian Neolithic farmers and the Indo-Aryans/steppe people as well es later influences of West and East Eurasian origin.
    Probably the Indo-Scythians and other groups had a significant impact too, its up to the future research to prove it. The simple ANI vs ASI division is outdated and not precise enough imho.

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  13. “The North Indians clearly not only have Iranian farmer related ancestry but they have it in greater proportion than the South Indians.”

    NO, Both north and South Indians have same amount of Iranian ancestry.
    In fact it peaks among Dravidian middle caste.IE upper caste have significant Steppe ancestry compared to S.Indians who have significant AASI ancestry. However,both have same amount of Iran_N ancestry.

    “..and almost unlike the South Indian tribals who live thousands of miles away.”
    IT does not make any sense. Even swat people from Narashiman et al showed more AASI than Steppe.

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  14. fwiw, i think there is some serious garbling in the quotations going by what has happened in the past.

    that being said, the big result that i hear through back channels = no steppe ancestry in the mature harappan samples. that’s what matters.

    the rest is commentary.

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  15. @Bladan – Mathematicians say that there are imaginary numbers that are real, like the square root of minus one, which is called ‘i’. You can do algebra with it, it’s really cool. So maybe something imaginary can be proven if it’s a real imaginary thing, rather than an imaginary thing that’s just imaginary 😀

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  16. How much percentage of so-called Iranian_N ancestry found in modern Dravidian Middle caste people?
    Anyone please clarify this to me.I have been searching for an answer for a while.

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  17. @razib, bit a question on a tangent… In Europe, as ancient dna is sampled from hunter gatherer populations, it looks like (despite the LGM) there is quite a bit of differentiation between different HG populations, from Iberian HG and WHG with contributions from the Magdalenian population of the Iberian refugium, to the Iron Gates population which lacks this element (or with less of it) and is closer to the Near East and EHG. This matters for differentiation of Neolithic populations to each other, but because of the relatively low fraction of contribution of European HG to present day people and the general mobility of the Bronze and Iron Age, it’s hard to tell if this contributes at all to present day population differentiation.

    Turning to India, it seems like contribution from AASI (as the comparable group to European HG) spans a much higher range, is much more recent, and the geography and size of the continent implies there should be at least differentiated AASI groups as European HG (esp. assuming greater LGM continuity), and so different AASI should be at least somewhat recoverable from present day populations.

    But against my assumption, looking at different South Asian groups, it always seems like there’s not much structure beyond Iran_N+Steppe+AASI and founder effects for castes/jatis. No clear effect of differentiated AASI groups contributions.

    Does this apparent homogenity of AASI seen via present day populations seem to indicate that there really was a single ASI population which migrated through India, as Narasimhan’s paper implies? Or is this an artefact and there really were contributions from lots of differentiated AASI populations and no single ASI? What’s your take? Is it even possible to address without plentiful mesolithic adna?

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  18. To OBS:

    The last line “but real research on the peopling of India who are non-ANI and before ANI is still in progress.” is garbled. I was just referring to people before the great migration from northwest.

    At this time, the ANi-ASI model is outdated; ANI itselfis a composite, but the composition of ASI is even less understood. Various combinatons of Iranian neolithic farmers, Indian hunter gatherers in India.

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  19. “How much percentage of so-called Iranian_N ancestry found in modern Dravidian Middle caste people?
    Anyone please clarify this to me.I have been searching for an answer for a while.”

    Could be anything from 45% to 60% or even more?
    The same can be asked for how much percentage of AASI ancestry do have a mid-caste south Indian or a Gujrati or a Bihari or a Bengali ect. ?

    “At this time, the ANi-ASI model is outdated; ANI itselfis a composite, but the composition of ASI is even less understood. Various combinatons of Iranian neolithic farmers, Indian hunter gatherers in India.”

    Almost every south Asian have similar amount of Iranian Farmer ancestry, probably? But there might be different type of Iranian farmer migration.
    Y Haplogroup L and also J are common in Dravidians,West Indians and south Pakistanis but less common in the East India/Bangladesh, where haplogroup R2 and H are common(excluding Indo Aryan R1a),H is not uncommon in the south and in the west though and R2 is also present in the south India/Srilanka dont know bout west India.
    It is also important to note who brought those Iranian farmer ancestry in different parts of the subcontinent.

    The term InPe sounds better than ASI as “Iranian Farmer+AASI” is not restricted to south India only.

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  20. I think entire ANI(or 90%) of Dravidian middle caste people contributed by Iranian Farmers since Steppe ancestry is some 2 0r 3%. if that is true then we could say some 45%-55% for Middle caste. For tribals[say Paniya] that could be some 25-30%.
    100%-Iran_N=AASI => AASI = atmost 55% for Middle caste like Vellala Gounder and Reddy.
    ASI itself harboured significant Iranian_N component.
    Significant presence of Iran_N component says Harrapans were enriched with this. The South and Indian Harrapans could have had relatively higher proportion of AASI than western Harappans.

    @Kevin
    Thank you Kevin.
    “Almost every south Asian have similar amount of Iranian Farmer ancestry, probably?”
    I think probably YES.

    Regarding quotes, lets wait for paper to be released (within a month?)

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  21. In the end you will find out that the same happened in Europe and South Asia. A certain mixed population of farmers and hunter gatherers became very successful and substituted most of the rest. Thats why the variation in modern Indians is not that big. Its coming from one successful mixed group of Iranian farmers and South Asian hunter gatherers rolling over the rest.
    Probably some tribals will show additional variation, especially those with very low West Eurasian input, but most of the subcontinent will not. My guess is it all comes down to the IVC and associated groups, or even one group of people among the early IVC.

    The same repeated itself for the incoming steppe/Indo-Aryan people, at least in what is now clearly Indo-Aryan.

    There might be some South Asian hunter gatherers which were once more prominent and widespread, which are now as important as pre-WHG palaeolithic Europeans.

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  22. Well if the 1200bc to 600bc dates for inter mixture are correct, esp in SPGT, then can’t we conclude that there was no invasion? Clearly the IVC cities were already fully collapsed by this period. So the intermixture likely happened well after the collapse of the Ghaggar hakra river system.

    Sounds to me like the drying of the river caused the IVC people to move south and east and at the same time steppe/centralasian migrants started coming in from the north. All of these influences together form the culture that we know as hinduism.

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  23. Sounds to me like the drying of the river caused the IVC people to move south and east and at the same time steppe/centralasian migrants started coming in from the north. All of these influences together form the culture that we know as hinduism.

    the admixture seems ‘male-biased.’ in most circumstances when men are taking women from indigenous groups they aren’t doing so nicely.

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  24. Sorry, late to this thread.

    You suggest:”If a relatively late intrusion (after 1500 BC) of Indo-Aryans to South Asia is supported by the evidence, it would be interesting in light of the high likelihood that Indo-Aryans were present in the region of upper Mesopotamia before 1500 BC. I believe that these “Indo”-Aryans actually probably never had any contact with South Asia, but descended from the horizon of cultures of which Sintashta and Andronovo were constituents. The Indo-Aryans who arrived in South Asia were probably from a different branch, and likely had interactions with other peoples in what is today eastern Iran and Afghanistan.:”

    But let’s map out some details, and correct me if I have missed something. So far, we have the earliest steppe MLBA – R1a-Z93 people from a region of Turan (Kaskarchi 1200 BC; Narasimhan), followed by Turkmenistan Iron Age (c. 800 BC; Daamgard) then Saidu-Sharif c. 500 BC, Iron Age Pakistan. Of course, we anticipate more samples, esp from LBA Indus region, which might amend the picture.

    (Link -> https://imgur.com/a/W654pur)

    As things stand, my (quick, rough) map demonstrates the “R1a(Z93) trail” from E.E. to SCA and South Asia: it moves from Poltavka to Sintastha, then east via north Kazakhstan, in a route hugging the forest-steppe/ steppe border, then down to the IAMC, which it had entered by the Federovo-Alakul horizon, c. 1600 BC, reaching the southernmost aspect by 12-1000 BC.

    Even in agreeing that the Mitanni superstratum did not come from India itself, this leaves us with a (minus) 500 year and > 1000 km gap from our hypothesized Ind-Iranian homeland to northern Mesopotamia.

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  25. @Mohan Nair

    “Sounds to me like the drying of the river caused the IVC people to move south”

    There might of been no rivers there to dry up if the recent research in this article from The Hindu (dated 8/11/18) is correct:

    “Paleo-rivers predated Harappans by 35,000 years”

    https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/paleo-rivers-predated-harappans-by-35000-years/article24666100.ece

    A excerpt:

    “Along with a 2017 paper in Nature Communications by A. Singh from IIT Kanpur and others, this study now provides scientific evidence that contradicts the suggestions on Harappans flourishing on the banks of the mythical Vedic rivers, Sarasvati and Drishadvati. These studies provide evidence that these rivers changed their course much before the time of Harappan settlements about 5,000 years ago. The study was published recently in Quaternary Geochronology.”

    They had been researching this due to the farming techniques used by the IVC which did not act as if a river was nearby and was monsoon based:

    “Prof Singhvi, who led the study….He points out that this inference is also buttressed by the evidences of water harvesting techniques of Harappans, the cropping patterns suggesting their dependence on seasonal monsoon rather than constant supply of water.”

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