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Harappan site of Rakhigarhi: DNA study claims to debunk Aryan invasion theory

The much-awaited DNA study of the skeletal remains found at the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi, Haryana, shows no Central Asian trace, indicating the Aryan invasion theory was flawed and Vedic evolution was through indigenous people.

Harappan site of Rakhigarhi: DNA study claims to debunk Aryan invasion theory
The Aryan invasion theory holds forth that a set of migrants came from Central Asia armed
with superior knowledge and arms and invaded the existing settlements to establish a more
 sophisticated civilisation in India and pushed the original inhabitants down south
[Credit: The Economic Times]
The lead researchers of this soon-tobe published study — Vasant Shinde and Neeraj Rai — told ETthat this establishes the knowledge ecosystem in the Vedic era was guided by “fully indigenous” people with limited “external contact”.

“The Rakhigarhi human DNA clearly shows a predominant local element — the mitochondrial DNA is very strong in it. There is some minor foreign element which shows some mixing up with a foreign population, but the DNA is clearly local,” Shinde told ET. He went on to add: “This indicates quite clearly, through archeological data, that the Vedic era that followed was a fully indigenous period with some external contact.”

According to Shinde’s findings, the manner of burial is quite similar to the early Vedic period, also known as the Rigvedic Era. The pottery, the brick type used for construction and the general ‘good health’ of the people ascertained through the skeletal remains in Rakhigarhi, he said, pointed to a well-developed knowledge system that evolved further into the Vedic era. The study has, in fact, noted that some burial rituals observed in the Rakhigarhi necropolis prevail even now in some communities, showing a remarkable continuity over thousands of years.

Shinde, who is the vice-chancellor of the Deccan College, Pune, was the lead archaeologist in the study while Rai, who is the head of the ancient DNA laboratory at Lucknow’s Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, did the DNA study.

Minor traces of Iranian strains

According to Rai, the evidence points to a predominantly indigenous culture that voluntarily spread across other areas, not displaced or overrun by an Aryan invasion. “The condition of the human skeletons, the burial...all show absence of palaeo-pathology symptoms which could indicate ailments due to lack of medical care. The persons here were healthy; denture morphology showed teeth free of any infection; bones are healthy, as is the cranium,” Rai told ET.

He also discounted the notion of any violent conflict. “There are no cuts and marks which would be associated with a population subjected to warfare. All this indicates that the people were receiving well-developed healthcare and had full-fledged knowledge systems.” The excavations in Rigvedic phase, he said, corroborate this. “This points to greater continuity rather than to a new Aryan race descending and bringing superior knowledge systems to the region,” Rai said.

The Rakhigarhi study, he said, while showing absence of any Central Asian/Steppe element in the genetic make-up of the Harappan people, does indicate minor traces of Iranian strains which may point to contact, not invasion.

The Aryan invasion theory holds forth that a set of migrants came from Central Asia armed with superior knowledge and arms and invaded the existing settlements to establish a more sophisticated civilisation in India and pushed the original inhabitants down south. Rakhigarhi is one of the biggest Harappan civilisation sites spread across 300 hectares in Hisar, Haryana. It’s estimated to be 6,000 years old and was part of the mature phase of the Harappan period.

Rai disclosed that 148 independent skeletal elements from Rakhigarhi were screened for the presence of DNA molecules at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad. Of the 148 skeletal remains, only two samples yielded any relevant DNA material.

Meanwhile, hectic last-minute efforts are on to get additional genetic details of the DNA material. One of the DNA samples recently faced contamination in a Seoul laboratory and efforts are on to segregate it. Samples were sent to laboratories in Seoul and Harvard for establishing accuracy. The contamination, Rai said, is unlikely to have any major bearing on the study’s primary findings.

Author: Anubhuti Vishnoi | Source: The Economic Times [June 13, 2018]


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  1. So they're trying to debunk the Aryan invasion theory based on two DNA samples? Did I read correctly?

  2. It is a bit of a stretch to claim that this find "debunks" the Aryan Invasion Theory because it is about 2,000 years too old. Also, no one doubts that the Vedic culture incorporated elements from previous Indian cultures.

    A discussion of the origins of the Indo-Aryan invaders can be found in a paper that appeared in the Journal of Indo-European Studies (JIES) by Lyudmila A. Sokolova titled "The Southern Migration of the Sayan Archaeological Complex". Prof. Sokolova states that the migration was lead by people of the Okunevo culture of southern Siberia:

    "During the movement ethnic groups of different origin flowed into the migration stream. The Okunevo population dominated this complex of people, providing an ideological influence on others and uniting all into one super-ethnos, under a single ethnonym – Arya."

    The people of the Okunevo culture are related to modern Native Americans, and significantly, many Sanskrit words closely resemble equivalents found in Native American languages. For example, 'reed' in Sanskrit is kāṇḍa - compare with Iroquoian Seneca gano:da’ 'reed, flute' and Oneida kanúta'‘reed’. Perhaps more to the point, words for 'arrow' in the Nuristani languages resemble their equivalent in Iroquoian languages, such as Kamkata-vari k'oN and Nišei-alâ kʹâṇ which are close to Seneca ga’nö’ 'arrow' and Cherokee gani 'ammunition, mountain cane'. In all likelihood, these languages share a common "Ancient North Eurasian" heritage. Links between the Indo-Aryans and native North Americans is further supported by the presence of the blood factor albumin Naskapi in Punjabis.

    The association of the early Indo-Aryans with Native Americans is not new. In 1895, American Sanskrit scholar Edward Washburn Hopkins writing in his book "Religions of India" notes a number of parallels between Indo-Aryan and Native American traditions, and even suggested an identification of Hindu Manu with the Algonquian culture hero Manabozho.

  3. There is no need to debunk a theory that has never been proven in the first place. Archaeology does not support the massive migrations (which used to be violent invasions! now watered down for political correctness). The simplistic equation of r1a M17=to a particular linguistic group not possible as these groups cut across linguistic families. Now, lately there has been a surge of genetic studies lead by Harvard geneticist David Riech to prove massive migrations into South Asia, the latest one being by his chela Narsimhan. The study suffers from so many methodological flows and manipulations and hasty attempts to fit genetic facts into 19th century philological models. Refer to the work of geneticist Premendra Priyadarshi who has surveyed the South Asian genetic scene. The main problem is Reich is frustrated that there is no genetic evidence for an Egyptian/Sinai route Out of Africa. Human migrations clearly proceeded through the Arbian peninsula onto South Asia and onwards. So by definition West Asia and South Asia contains enormous genetic diversity to construct hypothetical populations such as (Ancestral North and South Indians) to prove preconceived ideas.


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