A new article has come out in Nature Magazine dealing with the Peopling of India, a subject I have dealt with quite a bit on this site. The Indian nationals who hate the Aryan Invasion concept have been jumping up and down for joy over this article. I’m not sure where these people are coming from, but generally, it’s a silly, anti-scientific and reactionary place.
Their argument is usually that the Aryan Invasion could not have taken place since our Hindu texts say that it never happened. Well, there is not much to say to such a powerful scientific argument like that!
Those who oppose the Aryan Invasion theory are generally Far Rightwing Hindu nationalists or Hindutvas. They also tend to be associated with the higher castes, especially the Brahmins. One argument is an Indian nationalist one. This crazy line says that there was no Aryan invasion – instead this was a lie made up by the evil British colonialists to “divide the people of India.” As Hindutva fascism claims (falsely) to be a national unification project, as all such projects do, they rail against the “outsiders who divide our people.”
Problem with this argument is that the Indians themselves and the Hindus in particular had done a mighty fine job dividing up the Indian people themselves into many thousands of insane, cruel, backwards and anti-human caste structures.
Another crazy Indian nationalist argument is that there was no caste until the evil Brits came. Or there was caste before then, but it was nothing. The evil Brits came and made caste so much worse. This argument is favored with high castes, typically Brahmins. It’s dubious. Caste was probably much worse before the British came.
The British, civilized folks that they were, hated the animalistic, bestial, primitive caste system and tried to eliminate as part of the necessary mission of civilizing the Indians. This article notes that caste is as old as India, and that the British did not hoist it upon the unwilling heads of the innocent and pure Indians.
Another crazy Indian nationalist line is that there was no race structure in India. Race was invented in India by those evil Brits again. The Brits divided the peaceable, loving, brotherly and Kumbayaa-singing Indian people into two races, a northern race that appeared European or Aryan and a southern race that they called Dravidian.
There does seem to be something to the concept of a somewhat bimodal race structure in India. The people of the South are darker and have a different physical type than the Northern Indics, who look more Iranian or even European. Some say that the Dravidians are the remains of a Mediterranean Caucasian Race that moved into India 13-17,000 years ago. That seems reasonable to me.
This article turns that on its head and argues that all Indians are a mixture between North Indians and South Indians. The South Indians are more Asiatic types and the North Indians are a more European type, yet all of the Indian people are thoroughly mixed between the two. This also seems reasonable.
Articles about the piece, especially from the reactionary Brahmin-controlled Indian media, are crowing about “the death of the Aryan invasion theory.” But the Nature piece proclaims no such thing.
The Nature article claims that the South Indians came to India 70,000 YBP. The only remaining pure members of the South Indian group are the Negritos of the Andaman Islands. This part is reasonable enough. The piece also claims that the North Indians (or Aryans) came to India 45,000 YBP. This much is a real shocker, and I do not know what to make of this.
45,000 YBP, there were no real Caucasoid types anywhere. Further, skulls from even north India dated at 24,000 YBP look like Aborigines. So these North Indians must have looked like Aborigines at first. In fact, all Indians looked something like Aborigines until 8,000 YBP when they started transitioning to Caucasian types.
Anyway, there was an Aryan invasion. Or at least, a group of Indo-Aryans moved down from Kazakhstan into Iran, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, the Caucasus, Pakistan and North India about 3,500 YBP. They all speak related languages that we can provably trace back to the Russian steppes. We can follow their movements archeologically as they moved down from Kazakhstan into North India.
Now whether or not these folks were “invaders” is open to question. Perhaps they were “migrants.” Maybe they were “undocumented workers.” Maybe they were going on an extended vacation down South. I haven’t the faintest idea. But there was clearly a movement of Indo-European speaking Indo-Aryan folks down from Kazakhstan into Central and South Asia 3,500 YBP. That’s a fact of history, and no sane person questions that. Nor does this paper call that into question.
Another argument that Indian nationalists are making is that Indians are a unique race, a separate race, not part of any other race. If you look at the data, that’s an interesting argument, but skull and genetic data (see Cavalli-Sforza for instance) show that Indians are a member of the Caucasian race, though they are one of the most divergent members of that group.
One interesting finding is that Gujaratis seem to form their own separate minor race in India and differentiate from all the others. I can’t explain that, but it may have something to do with stories about Scythians moving into that area 1,200 YBP.
One of the more sensible dissections of the article is here by Razib of GNXP Science Blogs. Razib is sounding a lot more sensible since he got his better writing gig at Science Blogs.