Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

New reports clearly confirm ‘Aryan’ migration into India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various sites of IVC

Mains level : Theory of Aryan Origin

  • ‘The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia’ was released online, in March 2018 creating a sensation in India and around the world.
  • It propounded 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.
  • In other words, the paper supported the long-held idea of an ‘Arya’ migration into India.

The First Indians

  • 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.
  • The 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.

Evolution of Indians

  • 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.

Dissenting ideas

  • The study by Pune based researchers is based on the ancient DNA of a woman who lived in the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi about 4,600 years ago.
  • It refuted Aryan migration theory.
  • However, it has always been understood that the Arya migration from the Steppe happened after 2000 BCE.
  • 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 Civilization.
  • In other words, the Harappan Civilization was pre-Arya, and so was the language they spoke.

So what’s new?

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It elegantly explains the shared distinctive features of Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian languages.

Who were the Harappans then?

  • The Harappans who created the agricultural revolution in northwestern India and then built the Harappan civilization 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.
  • 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.

Also read

No Central Asian ancestry in Indus Valley Civilization

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