genetic markers revisited

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Dec 2 15:24:50 UTC 2000

>example).As a test case from relatively recent times one could look at the
>north western  Indian population which presumably absorbed the Greeks who
>came before,with and after Alexander.

1. That calls for highly specific tests on selected individuals.
Currently, population genetics is largely a statistical science.
How is one to know that any given individual or even social group
in NW India or Pakistan or Afghanistan has such a unique ancestry?
Surely, the same northwestern population has also absorbed various
other peoples of diverse origins, in the 2300 years since then.
And if the date of Rgveda is closer to 1000 CE, Alexander was only
700 to 800 years younger - not very recent after all. Unless we
can dig up an old grave of a specific date and salvage DNA from
it for study, there are too many unknowns. So, as far as genetics
is concerned, the problem may be rather ill-posed.

2. Moreover, the error bars span kilo years in this field. That
makes this issue even more problematic. In other words, genetics
may not yet be equipped to address this unambiguously.

3. The current results comparing some European mtDNA and higher
caste Indian mtDNA already show that the two populations share
common *maternal* ancestry. Under the idea that the Aryans came
from outside, if Vedic ruling men marrying women from outside
their pale was a frequent occurrence, then these women would
have introduced very different mtDNA types into their descendant
populations. One would then expect contemporary Kshatriya mtDNA
to have less similarity with European mtDNA and more with Asian
mtDNA. But one of the papers listed on Farmer's site shows the
opposite to be the case, and says that Kshatriya mtDNA shares
more in common with European mtDNA than even Brahmana mtDNA,
which is closer to Asian mtDNA types. In fact, one other paper
that I have seen reports similarities between some Brahmana
mtDNA and SE Asian mtDNA types, with the latter showing older
features. So, even if textual evidence can be found for Vedic
kings marrying women from outside, the average population of
Kshatriyas seems to relate a very different story. More Vedic
priests may have married outside women than Vedic kings.

4. However, one could argue that contemporary Kshatriya groups
are only remote descendants of Vedic royalty. Satyavati may have
been a purely mythical character. The Mauryas and the Guptas, on
the other hand, were historical people, and we know for certain
that they married women from the "Indo-Greek" dynasties. Modern
Kshatriya groups are then nearer descendants of Greek, Persian,
Saka, Kushana and other elite groups of a more western origin,
which may account for the similarity with European mtDNA types.
Thus, this genetic evidence may not be very informative about
Vedic priesthood and royalty, or Aryan invasion/migration, after
all! It may have more to do with the theory of the more recent
Central Asian origin of the Rajputs. The interpretation of such
data depends heavily on how much history one chooses to ignore.
The problem lies less with the science behind it and more with
those for whom Indian history remains suspended in time, with
the Rgveda.

>Genetic studies cannot possibly distinguish between invasion and

Yes, and similarly for acculturation. However, there is also the
possibility that genetic results may not be able to distinguish
between movement from west to east and movement from east to west.
Scalar correlations from genetic data often attain directionality
only due to other considerations. The more one looks for older
markers, in an attempt to address this problem, the more one is
forced to talk about a period that is much earlier than the
possible date of Rgveda. This gap only increases, as and when
the date of Rgveda is brought down, from 1700 to 1500 to 1200 to
1000 to 900 BCE. At least, that is how things stand now.

Best regards,

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