Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Genetic proof for domestication of sheep in Indian subcontinent


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indus valley civilization

Mains level : Key developments on IVC

Researchers at the Central University of Kerala (CUK) have found that domestication of sheep had taken place in the Indian subcontinent, especially in the Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) regions in the 6th or 7th millennium BC.

Animal domestication in IVC

A number of domesticated animal species have been found in excavations at the Harappan cities.

  • The Indian humped cattle (Bos indicus) were most frequently encountered, though whether along with a humpless variety, such as that shown on the seals, is not clearly established.
  • The buffalo (B. bubalis) is less common and may have been wild.
  • Sheep and goats occur, as does the Indian pig (Sus cristatus).
  • The camel is present, as well as the ass (Equus asinus).
  • Bones of domestic fowl are not uncommon; these fowl were domesticated from the indigenous jungle fowl.
  • Finally, the cat and the dog were both evidently domesticated.
  • Present, but not necessarily as a domesticated species, is the elephant.
  • The horse is possibly present but extremely rare and apparently only present in the last stages of the Harappan Period.

Key findings of the study

  • The study has found genetic evidence that sheep had been domesticated in the region in contrast to the general belief that they were domesticated then in West Asia alone.
  • India ranks second in terms of sheep population, represented by as many as 44 well-described breeds in addition to several nondescript species.
  • It highlights that genetic diversity and phylogeography of Indian sheep breeds remained poorly understood, particularly the south Indian breed.

How was the classification held?

  • Researchers retrieved the mitochondrial DNA sequences of another 11 breeds for analysis, which further strengthened their study.
  • The researchers analysed these sequences along with published data of domestic and wild sheep from different countries, including India.
  • The haplotype diversity observed was relatively high in Indian sheep, which were classified into the three known major mitochondrial DNA lineages namely A, B, and C.

Diversity among Indian Sheeps

  • It was found that lineage A was predominant among Indian sheep, whereas lineages B and C were observed at low frequencies.
  • Particularly lineage C was restricted to the breeds of northern and eastern India.
  • The study examined the south Indian breeds, provided strong genetic evidence that the Indian subcontinent was one of the domestication centres of the lineage A sheep.
  • When DNA sequences were compared with other breeds across the world, it was found that the Indian sheep haplotypes were unique and highly diverse.
  • The high genetic diversity and statistical analysis suggest that sheep was domesticated in the country.
  • The wild Sheep, O. vignei blanfordi in Mehrgarh [Pakistan], may be a potential progenitor of domestic sheep lineage.

Breeds studied

  • Among the south Indian breeds, except for Mandya, all others, notably Bellary, Coimbatore, Hassan, Katchaikatty Black, Nilgri, Ramnad White, and Vembur, were fully encompassed with lineage A.
  • However, Kenguri Kilakarsal, Madras Red, Mecheri, and Tiruchy Black breeds, had very low occurrences of lineage B mitochondria.
  • In contrast, a majority of individuals of Mandya and Sonadi breeds carried a relatively high frequency of lineage B.
  • In terms of the conservation of sheep genetic resources, these two breeds are important with respect to maternal lineages.

Try answering this PYQ:

With reference to the difference between the culture of Rigvedic Aryans and Indus Valley people, which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. Rigvedic Aryans used the coat of mail and helmet in warfare whereas the people of Indus Valley Civilization did not leave any evidence of using them.
  2. Rigvedic Aryans knew gold, silver and copper whereas Indus Valley people knew only copper and iron.
  3. Rigvedic Aryans had domesticated the horse whereas there is no evidence of Indus Valley people having been aware of this animal.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3


Post your answers here.
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