Mitogenomes show continuity of Neolithic populations in Southern India

New paper (behind paywall) Neolithic phylogenetic continuity inferred from complete mitochondrial DNA sequences in a tribal population of Southern India, by Sylvester et al. Genetica (2018).

This paper used a complete mtDNA genome study of 113 unrelated individuals from the Melakudiya tribal population, a Dravidian speaking tribe from the Kodagu district of Karnataka, Southern India.

Some interesting excerpts (emphasis mine):

Autosomal genetic evidence indicates that most of the ethnolinguistic groups in India have descended from a mixture of two divergent ancestral populations: Ancestral North Indians (ANI) related to People of West Eurasia, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East, and Ancestral South Indians (ASI) distantly related to indigenous Andaman Islanders (Reich et al. 2009). It is presumed that proto-Dravidian language, most likely originated in Elam province of South Western Iran, and later spread eastwards with the movement of people to the Indus Valley and later the subcontinent India (McAlpin et al. 1975; Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1988; Renfrew 1996; Derenko et al. 2013). West Eurasian haplogroups are found across India and harbor many deep-branching lineages of Indian mtDNA pool, and most of the mtDNA lineages of Western Eurasian ancestry must have a recent entry date less than 10 Kya (Kivisild et al. 1999a). The frequency of these lineages is specifically found among the higher caste groups of India (Bamshad et al. 1998, 2001; Basu et al. 2003) and many caste groups are direct descendants of Indo-Aryan immigrants (Cordaux et al. 2004). These waves of various invasions and subsequent migrations resulted in major demographic expansions in the region, which added new languages and cultures to the already colonized populations of India. Although previous genetic studies of the maternal gene pools of Indians had revealed a genetic connection between Iranian populations and the Arabian Peninsula, likely the result of both ancient and recent gene flow (Metspalu et al. 2004; Terreros et al. 2011).


Haplogroup HV14

mtDNA haplogroup HV14 has prominence in North/Western Europe, West Eurasia, Iran, and South Caucasus to Central Asia (Malyarchuk et al. 2008; Schonberg et al. 2011; Derenko et al. 2013; De Fanti et al. 2015). Although Palanichamy identified haplogroup HV14a1 in three Indian samples (Palanichamy et al. 2015), it is restricted to limited unknown distribution. In the present study, by the addition of considerable sequences from the Melakudiya population, a unique novel subclade designated as HV14a1b was found with a high frequency (43%) allowed us to reveal the earliest diverging sequences in the HV14 tree prior to the emergence of HV14a1b in Melakudiya. (…) The coalescence age for haplogroup HV14 in this study is dated ~ 16.1 ± 4.2 kya and the founder age of haplogroup HV14 in Melakudiya tribe, which is represented by a novel clade HV14a1b is ~ 8.5 ± 5.6 kya

Maximum Parsimonious tree of complete mitogenomes constructed using 38 sequences from Melakudiya tribe and 11 previously published sequences belonging to haplogroup HV14 [Supplementary file Table S2] Suffixes @ indicate back mutation, a plus sign (+) an insertion. Control region mutations are underlined, and synonymous transitions are shown in normal font and non-synonymous mutations are shown in bold font. Coalescence ages (Kya) for complete coding region are shown in normal font and synonymous transitions are shown in Italics

Haplogroup U7a3a1a2

The coalescence age of haplogroup U7a3a1a2 dates to ~ 13.3 ± 4.0 kya. (…)

Although, haplogroup U7 has its origin from the Near East and is widespread from Europe to India, the phylogeny of Melakudiya tribe with subclade U7a3a1a2 clusters with populations of India (caste and tribe) and neighboring populations (Irwin et al. 2010; Ranaweera et al. 2014; Sahakyan et al. 2017), hint about the in-situ origin of the subclade in India from Indo-Aryan immigrants.

I am not a native English speaker, but this paper looks like it needs a revision by one.

Also – without comparison with ancient DNA – it is not enough to show coalescence age to prove an origin of haplogroup expansion in the Neolithic instead of later bottlenecks. However, since we are talking about mtDNA, it is likely that their analysis is mostly right.

Finally, one thing is to prove that the origin of the Indus Valley Civilization lies (in part) in peoples from the Iranian plateau, and to show with ASI ancestry that they are probably the origin of Proto-Dravidian expansion, and another completely different thing is to prove an Elamo-Dravidian connection.

Since that group is not really accepted in linguistics, it is like talking about proving – through that Iran Neolithic ancestry – a Sumero-Dravidian, or a Hurro-Dravidian connection…


2 thoughts on “Mitogenomes show continuity of Neolithic populations in Southern India

  1. Today how much Neolithic Iranian ancestory does Dravidian speakers[middle caste] on average has ? Some 30%-40%? Does this paper add weight to Elam-Dravidian theory? I can’t read the paper but only abstract.

  2. The Indus valley civilization (IVC) is the largest of the three river valley civilizations which is now classified as cradle of civilization. IVC is at least 5300 years old (i.e. from 3300 BCE) and some recent excavations suggest that it could predate Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilization. The fourth oldest civilization (the Chinese) is just 3500 years old (1500 BCE). Thus Indians must be proud of this ancient civilization which covered a vast area.
    However, this is the least understood civilization. There have been many debates on whether it is “Dravidian” or Vedic etc. While scholars across globe enthusiastically jump and male conclusions that IVC is not “Vedic”, no attempt is made to counter claims by Dravidianists. Unfortunately, this anti Hindu approach is preventing the largest river valley civilization to be understood and it still remain an obscure civilization.
    The only proof to claim IVC language being Dravidian is existence of Brahui in Baluchistan. This is a debatable proof. Many scholars postulate that this language came to Baluchistan from central India around 1000 CE
    Language, alphabets & script:
    Language, alphabets and script are three different things. Sanskrit has standard alphabets which is the base for all Indian alphabets. Even Tamil alphabet is a subset of the Sanskrit/Hindi /Malayalam alphabets comprising of 14 -15 vowels and 25 main consonants. Tamil has just 10 consonants while Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi or Sanskrit has 25 consonants from “Ka” to “na” (—dha .. na). Bottom line is so called Indo Aryan languages such as Hindi or Sanskrit and Dravidian languages such as Telugu, Malayalam etc. has the same set of alphabets…
    Sanskrit was taught orally even until mid-20th century in Kerala. A typical Sanskrit teacher of Kerala might be knowing entire works of Kalidasa (such as Sakuntalam or Raghuvamsham) by heart and also knows all alphabets of Sanskrit, grammar rules etc. but cannot read Devanagari (present Hindi) script. Sanskrit was never written in Devanagiri in south. It was written in Grantha script and later in Malayalam or Kannada or Telugu scripts.
    The earliest literary work not just in India but perhaps in the entire world seems to be the Rig Veda according to most scholars. They have dated this work to 1200 BCE. Although religion does not say that Rig Veda is older to other Vedas, this is the opinion of present day historians.
    One common argument Tamilologists and Dravidianists would say is well Vedas were composed in Vedic Sanskrit and not in today’s classical Sanskrit. The classical Sanskrit is best described as the Sanskrit post Panini and best example of it is the Kalidasa’ s works. However closer examination of Vedas reveal that Vedic language is simpler and the basic difference between Vedic and Kalidasan works is Vedas have less compound words. Meaning of 99% of words in Vedas can be found in the Kanippayyur’s Malayalam-Sanskrit dictionary. The other difference is lack of exploding visarga in classical sanskrit which is present in Vedic. This argument is laughable as Malayalam taught till recently has exploding AH: instead of Aha for the last vowel. In Tamil it is spelled Ak. Sanskrit mantras chanted in Kerala also prefer the exploding visarga instead of adding the “Ha” whenever a visarga”:” is encountered.
    Reason why sanskrit works are mostly poetic is because they can be memorized. Very less people those days rely on books and paper. They mostly memorize a whole work. So script does not matter much for Sanskrit. It is thus foolish to say that since stone inscriptions in sanskrit was found only around 1st century BCE or 1st century CE but prakrit or Tamil were written atleast 3rd century CE they predate Sanskrit. To me IVC script resemble the Brahmi. Even if it is an early form of Brahmi, it does not prove IVC language was sanskrit or Tamil. Best example of Brahmi can be found in Asokan inscriptions. These were written for Pali a prakrit language. Even Tamil Brahmi came from north Indian Brahmi as most scholars say. Tamil Brahmi works could only be seen since 3rd century BCE. Some Tamilologists however make claims of Tamil Brahmi from 6th
    century BCE which are mooted.
    Yaska’s niruktam (etymology) is perhaps the oldest work on etymology for any language. He is believed to have lived in 7th century BCE even older than Panini (6th -5th century BCE). Whereas Tamil etymology and grammar work written by Tolkappiar (The tolkappiyam) has been dated variously between the third century BCE and the 5th century CE (AD). Some Tamils may argue that Tolkappiyar was a disciple of sage Agasthya and he lived much before. If he is a puranic person and lived much before then Vedas were composed by God himself and was present before creation of present universe.
    The classification of Indian languages in to Indo-Aryan (a sub class of Indo European) and Dravidian itself is questionable. For example, even Tamil language is closer to Sanskrit and it shares more words with Sanskrit than say English (A Germanic Indo European language) is to Sanskrit. Although there are some words like “man” or “three” which are similar to Sanskrit “manushya” or “manava” for human and Sanskrit “thraya” for three there are much more words you could find in Tamil which are exactly same in Sanskrit. Example Jwara (Fever) mean the same in Sanskrit and Tamil.
    Tamilologists knew this problem and they come up with bizarre etymological explanations such as poo –sei is Puja etc completely ignoring the fact that Sanskrit has an etymology work by Yaska. They claim that all common words were in fact Tamil which Sanskrit have adopted. Word Pushpa in sanskrit mean poo (flower) in Tamil. However, puja does not mean offering flower. Puja has five offerings (flower, water, sandal-paste water, dhoopa or smoke and Deepa or lamp). Jala, gandha, pushpa, dhoopa, deepa is part of Puja.
    Artefacts: –
    The Pashupati seal was named so by scholars agreeable to all parties and not Vedic enthusiasts. This is considered to be an early form of Lord Shiva. This does not prove IVC is non Vedic. “Shiva” can be found in Rig veda as well as many places in Yajur Veda as well such as in punyaha mantra, Sri Rudram etc multiple times.
    Even “Pashupathaye” namah is mentioned in Sri Rudram of Krishna Yajur Veda Samhita. “Prasitha homa” which is a must for yajur vedic Brahmins during grihya sutra rituals have ghee offered to fire chanting “Rudraf Pashunam athipathi samavathu swaha”
    Rudra is invoked as Pashu pathi or lord of animals.
    The priest king status is identified with a king sitting as a yajamana in a vedic sacrifice(Aswamedha)
    Ritual bathing in ponds and rivers is a grihya sutra ritual. Thus having ponds and tanks is not a sign of Dravidian culture but that of Vedic Aryan culture. Brahmins of Kerala build tanks to bath ritually in every houses.
    Horse factor: Many scholars have argued that horse riding is a thing of Indo Europeans / Indo Iranians or Aryans who came from outside and IVC is devoid of horse. However, horse skeletons are found in IVC sites as early as 2000 BCE
    Lack of horse on seals and availability of bulls in IVC seals does not prove anything. Even though horse is an important animal in Vedic sacrifices, cow is the most important animal. Even in holy Vedas, “cow” is mentioned more numerous than horse.
    Refer Taittireeya Samhita of Krishna Yajur Veda cow is mentioned 213 times while word horse is mentioned 167 times. Word bull appears 60 times and word ghee appears 159 times.
    Town planning and hygiene: –
    One other argument being said to prove IVC is non Vedic is town planning. IVC towns had efficient drainage system and drains were covered. Such a nice town planning could not be found even in modern cities of India. Well that does not prove IVC is Dravidian. Chennai has the worst drainage among many Indian cities. If it rains entire city will be flooded.
    Open defecation is high in southern states than many other states of India (especially the ones in western India). Even today Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are behind Gujarat, Maharashtra or West Bengal. This is despite the tremendous improvement in these so called Dravidian speaking states in recent decades.
    There is ample proof that IVC sites were once well rain-fed (monsoon fed). Once rains became less and mighty Sarasvati (present Ghaggar) river dried, people migrated to Gangetic plains abandoning these cities. Centuries later they were unearthed. There is increased urbanization in Ganga-Yamuna doab towards the end days of Indus valley civilization. We all know that Ganga- Yamuna doab is the homeland of Brahmins and Vedic civilization. The Srutis(Vedas) , Smritis (Dharma sutra, Srauta sutras and Grihya sutras, Mahabharata) celebrate the Himalayas, Ganga and Yamuna.
    Aryan migration myth: –
    The Indo Aryan migration wiki pages shows movements of Indo Iranians outside Indian subcontinent. There is no proof to substantiate the mass migration of Indo Aryans in to present Pakistan- east Afghanistan area around 1500 BCE. The Indo Iranian Scythians moving to Russian steppe region or Kazakhstan replacing other Iranian people like Cimmerians or Sarmatians does not prove anything. Similarity between Avestan, old Persian and Sanskrit only proves one thing that our neighbours (Iranians) were either heavily influenced by our language or they are in fact fallen Aryans migrated out of India.
    Some even argue that Hindu gods are first mentioned in Mitanni. This is even more ridiculous. Mitanni was a Hurrian(Armenian) kingdom in present day north Syria. This was part of the greater Armenia and outside Mesopotamia. They were ruled by a small Indo Aryan elite. They invoked Indra, Mithra, Vayu etc in their contracts with Hittites but that does not mean these gods came from Mitanni to India. This small indo Aryan rulers made treaties around 1200 BCE much the same time historians claims Rig Veda was composed in India. In fact, Mitanni existed till 1000 BCE 200 years after Rig Veda was probably composed.
    Also this theory does not successfully prove why most of north India had middle Indo Aryan prakrits as common language while Sanskrit was the language of the earliest work in sub-continent – viz the Holy Vedas.
    Naga worship: –
    One common argument Malayalee- Dravidian enthusiasts make is “snake worship” which is common in Kerala has Dravidian and IVC roots. Again IVC has no evidence of wide spread snake worship. The snake statues one sees in Kerala are of Nagaraja (Serpent King) and Naga Yakshi (his consort). For Brahmins Nagaraja is Shiva and Naga Yakshi is Shri Parvathy. Brahmins in Kerala who do rituals here perform mainly two rituals. One is the Sarpa Bali and the other one is Payasa Homa. Both are performed in accordance with Vedic ritual way. Even Tantra vidhi based rituals follow the standard Vedic way. Main mantra of Payasa homam is “Sarpa Suktam” which is in Vedas.
    Thus Snake worship is very much Vedic as Sarpa Sukta is present in Krishna Yajur Veda.
    The burial rituals of IVC proper are distinct from the later Vedic ones: –
    This is yet another ridiculous argument. In Vedic rituals not always dead are cremated. Dead Ascetics or Sanyasis are buried instead of being cremated. Infants are buried. This is the custom among true followers of Brahmin grihya sutra rituals even today.
    No palaces, remnants of armies or weapons have been found in the IVC sites: –
    Description of palaces in puranas might be of splendid palaces made of gold, and lack of any major palatial structure unearthed from IVC is often cited as a proof that IVC is non Vedic. Firstly, even in ancient India (i.e. 600 BCE) you cannot find such palace remnants. Even the Mauryans did not build a splendid palace similar in lines with those of say Achaemenian Persians (Darayavahus or Darius) who built a magnificent palace around 500 BCE. Close examinations of Sanskrit works such as Panchatantra, or many other reveal that palace pillars were mostly built of wood. Palaces of ancient north India were mostly made using wood and less stone or bricks were used. This is similar to palaces of Kerala. Temples however were extensively made using stones. Palace is just a bigger building in a line of houses. The Kings of mahajanapadas, usually held an assembly where all people of town could assemble. Mostly these assemblies were open. The King of ancient India were not only the ruler of the town, but the chief magistrate, chief police officer as well. Remnants of such assemblies (Citadels) could be found in almost every IVC sites.
    India was never been militaristic state in its whole history. If at all India is militarily strong, then it is now. We must understand that Vedic people are Brahministic. Without the Vedic rituals how can a people be called “Vedic”? No weapons are used in any Vedic rituals be it Grihya sutra rituals or Srauta rites. Even the powerful Nanda empire of north India which had 6000 elephants and 2,00,000 strong army was poor in terms of strength, strategy or weaponry compared to Alexander’s Greek army. During the battle with Porus, at first Alexander was terrified at the sight of his elephant army. But once Greeks realized that a wounded war elephant will turn back and cause more damage to Indian army they cracked the problem. Indian elephants were not armored. Chain mail armor was used only during Gupta period due to influence from Sakas(Scythians). Mauryan army had a small cavalry of 30,000. Some kind of metallic body plate armor was used by rich and elite soldiers, but vast majority of the 6,00,000 infantry soldiers were bare chested. Also long lances were unknown to Indians of that time. Most of the infantry men were carrying bows and arrows. At this time the so called Dravidian south and Aryan north both were militarily poor. No weapons unearthed from IVC does not prove that it is not a Vedic civilization. In 600 BCE both north India and south India were militarily poor. Even the so called mighty Mughal empire was very weak compared to Persian Safavid empire of that time. Aurangazeb finally had to give up all claims to Kandahar to Iranians. We must not forget that Iranians could raise a maximum of 200000 only while Mughals with all their vassals could raise an army of atleast 4,00,000. Now even these Iranian Muslims were militarily poor compared to Ottoman Turkish Sultanat further west.
    I don’t want to even discuss this nonsense as every Indian community has mix of all haplogroups. Every community in entire world has mix of Y chromosome haplogroups. While Romilla thappar says that endogamous marriages started only with Gupta period some others are saying it started only with Adi Sankara’s times.
    Conclusion:- Once westerners realized that there are similar words in Sanskrit and many European languages, avestan and Persian, they concluded that Indo European languages came to India because their prejudiced mind could not digest the possibility of India being the mother of the so called Indo European languages

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.