Indians Are From… ?
By Maxwell Pereira
After reading about the National Geographic Society’s $40
million genographic project to map the origins of humanity, I
couldn’t resist access their website at www3.nationalgeographic.com/genographic
– to learn what it is about. It puports to be a global effort
to collect DNA samples from thousands of people across the world
– to trace the big migrations over the past 100,000 years
as our ancestors moved out of Africa to populate the world.
participation kit is being offered through this website for $99.95
to allow anyone across the world to take a swab of saliva and
send it to one of the ten identified research centre laboratories
around the globe for DNA analysis – at the end of which
participants can get their genetic profile, with a peek into their
deep ancestral history, under total secrecy.
rationale for this, is that each individual is the result of a
unique combination of their parents’ genetic code, and hence
identified by the same ‘marker’ that would appear
through mutation essentially unchanged in a lineage. Information
on a large set of such markers projected back in time using computer
algorithms could track the trail of mutations in a single Y-chromosome
whose owner lived 40,000 to 140,000 years ago in Africa.
know that most fossil evidence so far has suggested that modern
humans evolved in Africa between 100,000 to 200,000 years ago
and began migrating to other continents just about 60,000 years
ago. Asia, Europe and Australia were the next to be populated,
and Americas the last.
this background and the new development, where do we stand? What
do we know about the origin of us Indians!
this context, I believe three research papers of recent yers,
are relevant: (i) Human Evolution: The Southern Route to Asia,
Current Biology 1999 Dispatch R295; (ii) Deep Common Ancestry
of Indian and Western European Mitochondrial Lineages, Current
Biology, 1999; and (iii) Fundamental Genomic Unity of Ethnic India
is Revealed by Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA, Current Science,
papers spell out both, the genetic breakup of modern Indian populations,
as well as the likely conclusions regarding the time, magnitude
and type of their original migrations into the Indian subcontinent
a nutshell, the findings draw upon certain facts relating to mtDNA
data breakups within and outside the Indian populations –
(i) that East Africans, most Europeans and most Indians in general
possess haplogroup-U (considered a prime West European marker);
(ii) that some East Africans from Ethiopia, some coastal Arabians,
most East Asian populations and almost all Indians have haplogroup-M
(considered a basic East Asian marker, which is conspicuously
absent in Europeans); (iii) that the coalescence age of haplogroup
M is considered about 60,000 YBP and that of haplogroup-U around
55,000 YBP; and (iv) that among Indian populations within each
gene pool, tribal populations have greater haplogroup-M than any
other, North Indians have more haplogroup-U than haplogroup-M,
South Indians have more haplogroup-M than haplogroup-U, and as
one moves up the caste ladder – whether in North Indians
or South Indians – more haplogroup-U than M is present.
these, researchers have broadly come to a consensus about there
being most likely two migrations into India. Each probably a small
group of females (or more females than males). One carrying haplogroup-M
around 60,000 YBP starting from Ethiopia, rounding the Arabian
coast, landing into the Indian subcontinent, some of whom must
have proceeded eastwards to populate SE Asia, Australia and beyond.
around 55,000 YBP, a second group of females carrying the haplogroup-U
marker got out of Africa, and on reaching the Middle East –
split into two groups, one heading west to Europe and the other
east towards India, merging with the forerunners, the haplogroup-M.
The researchers point out against any major splash in our gene
pool occurring in the recent past, though there is some data to
indicate smaller admixtures around 32,000 YBP and a much smaller
one centering over a time period ~ 9000 YBP.
of us Indians grew up learning about “the Aryans who overran
Harappa around 1500 BC” and so on regarding the origin of
Indians. So what happens to that in the face of these research
findings? Most would find it surprising that this “Aryan
invasion” theory still persists – not only among seasoned
researchers within the ASI, ICHR and other historical organizations
entrusted with documenting our history, but from time to time
also in respected mainstream magazines.
feel, the reasons why such notions persist in spite of seemingly
water-tight facts being now available – are for one, because
the information is simply not widely known. For another, it is
still complex enough not to be easily susceptible to sensationalism
in the media and the popular press. Perhps it is easier to misinterpret
some other data and breathtakingly declare ‘European gene
found in upper caste Indians’.
beliefs die hard. When non-mainstream historians pointing to the
new facts draw ‘non-traditional’ conclusions, they
are likely to be pared to size with cries accusing them of being
revisionist-history-fanatics or some other bogey of that sort.
Same goes for mainstream academics too, who are wary and unwilling
to rock the boat and say anything seemingly radical, if at all.
there could be efforts at belittling all these new-fangled interpretations,
it would be interesting to know how many Indians would volunteer
to participate in the latest genographic study of National Geographic.
It is also interesting to learn that heading the collaborating
IBM’s Computational Biology Centre is an ethnic Indian.
words: 24 .04.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23,
Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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