Thursday, June 19, 2014

Archaeogentics and the Dravidian and Aryan Divide

Geneticists use Bayesian statistical models to make inference relating to population movements. Using genetics to document population movements has usually involved geneticists making statistical models to detail ancient population movements. Colin Renfrew invented the term Archaeogenetics, to refer to the application of the techniques of archaeology and molecular biology to study of the human past.

 A statistical model is basically a hypothesis until it can be confirmed by ancient DNA (aDNA) or archaeological remains and linguistic evidence. Much of the contemporary population movements based on genetics often fail to correspond to the archaeological, anthropological and linguistic data. Ray and Excoffer argue that coupling the archaeological data with genetic data is a powerful way to infer population migration (1).Rresearchers have noted the absence of congruency between Indian population genetics and rchaeological research (2) As a result research into India population studies are not supported by historical,
archaeological  and linguistic evidences (3).

The archeological evidence indicated that the first settlers of India were probably Negritos and Austro-Asiatic, then Dravidian speakers and finally Southeast Asians (4-5). But Geneticists maintain that the
Dravidian speakers originated in India (6-7). They support this view by showing how the Indian mtDNA belonging  to the M haplomacrogroup must have developed in situ in India (7).

         Some researchers use Rosenberg et argue that there is a low level of genetic divergence
across geographically and linguistically diverse Indian populations based on their analysis solely of Indo-Aryan and Dravidian speakers from India  (8-9).

         This study by HPASC contradicts  Rosenberg et al and supports the view that the Indian populations are not homogenous and that Negritos were probably the first settlers of IndiaUsing an Indian sample from India, HPASC acknowledges that the Dravidians were probably not the first population to settle India. The research of HPASC also supports an Indo-European migration into India.
          The HPASC finding is supported by linguistic and archaeological evidence that indicated a Dravidian substratum in the Indo European languages and the major probability that Rosenberg et al.  use of only  Indo- Aryan and Dravidian speakers in the United States as a  representative sample of diverse Indian populations was not an accurate example of the linguistic and geographical diversity of Indian populations because TMRCA of the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian speakers in India was probably a Proto-Dravidian speaker and a high level of genetic divergence across Indian populations (11) . A shared MRCA for Dravidian and Indo-Aryan speakers , is supported by the Dravidian substratum in Indo-European languages which indicates that the speakers of these languages lived in intimate contact in North India for 1000s of years .

   The finding of heterogeneity in ancient India by the HUGO Pan –Asian SNP Consortium is in conformity
with the archaeological and linguistic data. This makes the research of  HPASC significant and suggests future studies which will provide keen insight into the ancient human demography in India and the rest of Asia.


1. Ray N, Excoffier L.2009.  Inferring past demography using spatially explicit population genetic models. Human Biology, 81 (2-3): 141-157.

2. Tripathy V, Nirmala A, Reddy BM. 2008. Trends in Molecular Anthropological Studies in India. Int J Hum Genet, 8(1-2): 1-20.

3. Winters,C. 2008.Origin and Spread of Dravidian Speakers Int J Hum Genet, 8(4): 325-329 (2008)

4. Cordaux R, Saha N, Bentley GR, Aunger R, Sirajuddin SM, et al. (2003) Mitochondrial DNA analysis
reveals diverse histories of tribal populations from India. Eur J Hum Genet 11:253–264.

5. Kumar V, Reddy ANS, Babu JP, et al. (2007). Y-chromosome evidence suggests a common paternal heritage of Austro-Asiatic populations. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 7:47.

6. Rajkumar R, Banerjee J, Gunturi HB, Trivedi R, Kashyap VK. 2005. Phylogeny and antiquity of M macrohaplogroup inferred from complete mtDNA sequence  of Indian specific lineages. BMC Evo.
Bio., 5: 26.

7. Thangaraj K, Chaubey G, Singh VK, Vanniarajan A, Thanseem I, Reddy AG, Singh L. 2006. In situ origin of deep rooting lineages of mitochondrial macrogroup M in India. BMC Genome, 7: 151.

8. Rosenberg NA, Mahajan S, Gonzalez-Quevedo C, Blum MGB, Nino-Rosales L, et al.. 2006. Low Levels of Genetic Divergence across Geographically and Linguistically Diverse Populations from India. PLoS Genet, 2(12): e215 DOI: 10.1371 /journal.pgen.0020215

9. Winters C (1989). Review on Dr. Asko Parpola’s ‘The Coming of the Aryans’. International Journal of
Dravidian Linguistics 18 (2): 98-127.

10. Krishnamurti K 2001. Comparative Dravidian linguistics: Current perspectives. Oxford: Oxford
Press.11. Winters CA 2007. High Levels of Genetic Divergence  across Indian Populations. PloS
Genetics. Retrieved 4/8/2008 http://www.plosgenetics

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