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Lord Indra

Lord Indra

51WnxzkxMTL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_The Indo-European Controversy: Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics, by Asya Pereltsvaig and Martin Lewis is a pretty one-sided monograph. The reason, as admitted by the authors, is that they believe a certain sector of academia and the middle-brow reading public are not exhibiting enough skepticism about the application of Bayesian phylogenetics in linguistics. To a great extent The Indo-European Controversy: Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics is a book length rejoinder to a paper published in 2003 to great acclaim, Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin. It’s basically a short letter to Nature. When this paper came out I did not have academic access to such things, and there weren’t online resources (like Twitter) to allow one to make an end-around to academic paywalls. So I remember actually going down to the local college library, and getting a paper copy of the edition of Nature, and reading it just like that. In fact that may very well be the last scientific paper I read on paper. And, I went in search of that paper because of an article I saw in The New York Times by Nick Wade, A Biological Dig for the Roots of Language. Pereltsvaig and Lewis correctly peg Nick Wade’s influence in my opinion. My own passing interest in the topic was triggered by coverage in the media. That’s probably true for many people. There are other papers of note which follow in the tradition of the 2003 letter to Nature. In particular, I recommend Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family, in Science. If you don’t know much about Bayesian phylogenetics, read the supplements.

5140FASZyJL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_The heart of the argument Pereltsvaig and Lewis present seems to be that some key assumptions in the model that Bayesian phylogeneticists are using to make inferences about the emergence and spread of Indo-European languages are wrong. And, those incorrect assumptions lead to empirical results which are also wrong. Though it was difficult for me to follow much of the deep dive into technical linguistics (thanks for that Asya!), some of the problems with inferences are pretty easy to see. They note that in the supplements of the 2012 paper (second one above) the Romani language is placed as an outgroup to the other members of the Indo-Aryan family. This seems wrong to Pereltsvaig and Lewis, and from what I know it is wrong. Linguistic consensus is that Romani dialects are related to those of Northwest India. It turns out that the genetics favors this, as their South Asian ancestry does seem to derive from Northwest Indian populations. We can go on with details in this vein, and the authors do, assembling a list of fallacious inferences, but what’s the root of the problem?

One of the major weaknesses brought up in The Indo-European Controversy: Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics is that these Bayesian phylogenetic models utilize lexical information as data inputs. In particular, a set of a few hundred cognates. There are two elements to the objection. First, the choice of cognates might be biased, or at least bias the output. Second, vocabulary may not be the best foundation on which to generate a phylogeny of language. Rather, something like grammar may be more phylogenetically informative. The authors of the above works under criticism actually state they’re trying to use grammar as an input too. But in any case, the tendency for vocabulary to be exchanged between nearby groups, irrespective of their phylogenetic origin, is presumably the reason that the Romani languages drifted far enough away from the other Indo-Aryan languages to seem like an outgroup. No matter how ingenious your method, if your input data is biased or not informative, your output is not likely to be useful. Pereltsvaig and Lewis allude to the fact that linguistics has not found their “atoms” yet. I’d state it differently: linguistics lacks its DNA sequence. Using a biological analogy, these linguistic applications of Bayesian phylogenetics are attempting to discern evolutionary history from phenotype.

9780631205661_l The second major problem with the papers coming out of the Bayesian phylogenetic tradition in linguistic history is an incorrect model assumption: that populations expand purely through diffusion-like processes. If you read the detailed methods it’s pretty clear that they’re converging on the joint posterior probability of tree given the data as well as the geographic distribution assuming a demic diffusion framework. The Indo-European Controversy tackles extensively the historiography of migrations, or lack thereof. Before World War II archaeologists naively traced migrations through the change in cultural forms, while after World War II the backlash became so strong that the null was always that pots, rather than people, were on the move. And, when people were on the move in pre-state societies, it was envisaged in almost a mechanical fashion, as individuals on the farming frontier had higher fertility, and so endogenous growth simply swamped out other groups like European hunter-gatherers. Part of its appeal isn’t just ideological, it’s an elegant model. Historical detail and contingency isn’t relevant, and inter-group conflict can be sidestepped. It’s all about endogenous growth of a population assuming particular resources, until it hits a Malthusian limit in the locality.

Unfortunately this model is almost certainly wrong for human history. Ancient DNA has revolutionized everything, because it is shown just how punctuated demographic shifts can be. Ancient DNA reveals key stages in the formation of central European mitochondrial genetic diversity highlighted this dynamic a few years back. More recently, Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia and Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe indicate discontinuity. I want to emphasize the term discontinuity, as this is very different from gradual diffusion. Rather than a methodologically individualistic model, where higher fertility in farmsteads or at least villages gradually resulted in the transition from one group to another, a more likely in my opinion is inter-group tension, conflict, and amalgamation. In some cases, near total replacement. It may not have been always violent, rather, agriculturalists on the Malthusian margins may not have been able to withstand the shock of a new culture arriving and sequestering critical resources (an analogy I’m thinking is the massive collapse of Roman culture in the Balkans whenever the imperial limes withdrew toward the coasts; without state support and scaffold the way of like the Latin peasantry just wasn’t feasible, so they quickly migrated or died off).

For example, it looks as if the Uygurs are not descended in large part from the first Indo-Europeans on the fringes of western China. I took the data the Reich lab posted and ran TreeMix on it. After reducing the number of populations, I ran TreeMix on it. Below are 10 plots. The West Eurasian ancestry of the Uygurs is not overwhelmingly Northern European-like. Weirdly the graphs below suggest it is somewhat less Northern European than the West Eurasian ancestry contributing to the Hazara! Though that may be an artifact of some sort. The point is that as suggested by many scholars it seems highly likely that the Indo-European population of the Tarim basin was a composition, and that Tocharians and Indo-Iranians were both present. And, probably did not appear at the same time.

IndianHazUyg.1 IndianHazUyg.2 IndianHazUyg.3 IndianHazUyg.4 IndianHazUyg.5 IndianHazUyg.6 IndianHazUyg.7 IndianHazUyg.8 IndianHazUyg.9 IndianHazUyg.10

So a second question that came to has to do with the origin of the Indo-Aryans, and the genetic history of the Indian subcontinent. About five years ago I told John Hawks that I was skeptical of too much European-like contribution to the Indian population because not enough European pigmentation alleles were segregating in the population. My inference was based on a wrong assumption. It turns out that the earliest steppe dwellers were not particularly pale of mien going by their genetic architecture on pigmentation loci. My objection has no basis, because the modern European phenotype is very new, and likely post-dates the arrival of Indo-Europeans to India. Additionally, there is suggestive evidence of a steppe connection, such as the widespread presence of the “European” allele for lactase persistence in Northwest India. This allele is new, and swept up in frequency very recently. Its presence in Northwest India almost certainly indicates non-trivial demographic connections.

The blogger at Eurogenes has illustrated the dynamic, but it’s pretty obvious that Northwest Indian populations have some affinity to the Yamnya population in particular. Below are the results from TreeMix using a narrower set of population than above. Notice how Pathan tends to move toward the Yamnaya…..

Indian.7

Indian.6

Indian.5

Indian.4

Indian.3

Indian.2

Indian.1

Indian.10

Indian.9

Indian.8

But why the affinity to the Pathan, and not the Iranian samples? Who knows. I’ll pull down the data set from the Willerslev lab soon, but I think ancient DNA from India is going to have to answer the question. But I’m curious how the “Out of India” people spin this, because they will have a ridiculous rationale….

 
• Category: History, Science • Tags: Indo-European 
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  1. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    There were massive movements from the Tarim Basin into Central Asia and North India, following the invasion of the Xiong-Nu. In other words, it is not surprising that the modern day populations of Xinjiang have little NE. The Xiong-Nu and Turkics (whoever they are) drove out the existing tribes, then bred out the laggers.

    Iranians (Persians really) are West Asians is why. Eastern Iranics (Pashtuns) are Sintashta descendents. Early Achaemenids (Cyrus) were likely Central Asians (modern-day Afghanistan), who imposed rule on West Asians. Eastern Iranics will always have more NE autosomal than Persians. Sad for all those Persians who love their narrative of Aryan purity. I shed tears for them.

    Out-of-India theorists will have to accept the truth. Waves into India (of Aryans) happened successively. Ethnogenesis of Aryans and West Asians, with autosomal coming from Onge/Andaman dark-skinned beauties. A man’s got to do, what a man’s got to do. And that is why R1a1a is so present in tribals folks.

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  2. ohwilleke says: • Website

    I’m skeptical of the Out of India theory, but if you want to make it, the argument goes like this:

    1. The Harappans had an advanced agricultural culture with a trading network that extended to trade colonies on the Steppe and Sumeria.

    2. The Steppe people were receivers of Harappan trade goods, culture, agricultural practices, religious ideas and ultimately were strongly linguistically influenced by Harappan despite only slight introgression of Harappan ancestry into their society.

    3. Fueled by the Harappan cultural package, hybridized with rugged Steppe culture more suited to arid conditions, the Steppe people rushed in to fill the early Bronze Age void created when an arid period that affected areas from the Northwest India to the Balkans led to the widespread collapse of existing civilizations giving better adapted steppe people (who now spoke Harappan derived languages) an edge that allowed them to become the dominant culture.

    Harappan, in this scenario, is proto-Indo-European, and this scenario solves the mystery of how a predominantly pastoralist civilization could have so much agricultural vocabulary. Not all PIE words and grammatical tendencies were Harappan in origin, but enough to make Harappan the most important parent language for PIE. This also explains the lack of a strong Harappan substrate in the early Rig Vedic material, and more generally the lack of any linguistic traces of this once dominant and unified South Asian civilization because Harappan traces are indistinguishable from the Harappan derived PIE lingustic influences.

    * * *

    There are good counterarguments to most of these points.

    The technological package of the steppe people seems to have derived more from the Caucasus than South Asia, and the characterization of the relevant archaeological cultures as pastoralists overstates what was really a mixed farming and herding means of subsistence. The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance), and referencing practices like Soma use not found in other early PIE religions. Distinctively early PIE religious practices like cremation, meanwhile, were clearly intrusive to South Asia rather than derived from it. Caste too did not figure prominently in other early PIE cultures.

    Legendary history describes an ethnically distinct population moving into South Asia.

    The center of gravity of PIE origins now seems to be further north than previously believed which puts it outside the range of Harappan trade influence.

    While language shift is possible with modest demographic impact, in a pre-literate culture, some meaningful demographic impact which isn’t present in modern or ancient DNA was necessary. Mere trade ties shouldn’t have been sufficient to cause language shift – it certainly didn’t in the case of the Sumerians.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sunbeam
    " Caste too did not figure prominently in other early PIE cultures."

    Is it possible that had a Dravidian origin? No matter how it played out later?

    Social stratification along hereditary lines isn't exactly unknown in farming cultures.

    Not that I have a dog in the fight, but doesn't the argument that raiding, nomadic, light skinned barbarians conquered peaceful and advanced farmers, and eventually imposed a wicked caste system... well isn't that like a script or something?

    Though if I understand the topic of this thread, the invaders might not be exactly who they were always assumed to be anyway.

    "The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance),"

    I used to like to read Hindu mythology. Great stuff, though to me it served the role of fiction. But there always seemed something alien about it to me. Just have to wonder about the roots of things like Ganesha and his elephant head, or the multiple pairs of arms of some deities and beings. Not sure I have ever seen the arm thing anywhere else.

    Is there some kind of root of that, some reason for it, or did it just happen just because? Only thing I can think of like it is the 3 or 6 pairs of wings some angels were supposed to have in Hebrew mythology.

    You wouldn't have found Zeus packing a few spare pairs of arms. Typhon or the Heca - (okay I'm not googling it), but not Zeus.
    , @anonymous coward

    The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance), and referencing practices like Soma use not found in other early PIE religions.
     
    You're assuming for some reason that 'the Hindu religion' is a static concept, when in reality the religion of the Rigveda was vastly different compared to modern-day Hindu cults.
  3. Davidski says: • Website

    Yes, my TreeMix runs are only showing around 23% admixture from the Andronovo/Corded Ware/Sintashta/Yamnaya part of the tree to the Human Origins Iranians, who I suspect are from southwest Iran.

    But in any case, it seems that the populations from the Hindu Kush/Pamirs have a lot of this steppe ancestry, as much as 70% among the Shugnan Tajiks.

    I suspect the reason is the close proximity of the former Andronovo horizon to the Pamirs. If that’s where the Indo-Iranians came from originally, then they moved into Iran from the east, diluting their steppe ancestry along the way.

    Btw, the Allentoft et al. dataset is available from Martin Sikora by request, and as far as I can see to get optimal results with no noise it needs to be run on transversion SNPs.

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  4. My daughter plots closer to Hazara than Uygurs on a PCA plot, but she can pass as Uygur (and has on occasions). I doubt she could pass as Hazara (she hasn’t tried).

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  5. SD says:

    If Pathans have more affinity than Iranians, then I think it may be because of White Huns (Hepthalite empire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hephthalite_Empire ). Iran was not part of this empire. In present day India, only parts of Punjab and small parts of Rajasthan was part of this empire. Whole of Pakistan was part of this.
    This is my guess but I don’t know how this can be verified.
    What is your opinion ?

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  6. Sunbeam says:
    @ohwilleke
    I'm skeptical of the Out of India theory, but if you want to make it, the argument goes like this:

    1. The Harappans had an advanced agricultural culture with a trading network that extended to trade colonies on the Steppe and Sumeria.

    2. The Steppe people were receivers of Harappan trade goods, culture, agricultural practices, religious ideas and ultimately were strongly linguistically influenced by Harappan despite only slight introgression of Harappan ancestry into their society.

    3. Fueled by the Harappan cultural package, hybridized with rugged Steppe culture more suited to arid conditions, the Steppe people rushed in to fill the early Bronze Age void created when an arid period that affected areas from the Northwest India to the Balkans led to the widespread collapse of existing civilizations giving better adapted steppe people (who now spoke Harappan derived languages) an edge that allowed them to become the dominant culture.

    Harappan, in this scenario, is proto-Indo-European, and this scenario solves the mystery of how a predominantly pastoralist civilization could have so much agricultural vocabulary. Not all PIE words and grammatical tendencies were Harappan in origin, but enough to make Harappan the most important parent language for PIE. This also explains the lack of a strong Harappan substrate in the early Rig Vedic material, and more generally the lack of any linguistic traces of this once dominant and unified South Asian civilization because Harappan traces are indistinguishable from the Harappan derived PIE lingustic influences.

    * * *

    There are good counterarguments to most of these points.

    The technological package of the steppe people seems to have derived more from the Caucasus than South Asia, and the characterization of the relevant archaeological cultures as pastoralists overstates what was really a mixed farming and herding means of subsistence. The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance), and referencing practices like Soma use not found in other early PIE religions. Distinctively early PIE religious practices like cremation, meanwhile, were clearly intrusive to South Asia rather than derived from it. Caste too did not figure prominently in other early PIE cultures.

    Legendary history describes an ethnically distinct population moving into South Asia.

    The center of gravity of PIE origins now seems to be further north than previously believed which puts it outside the range of Harappan trade influence.

    While language shift is possible with modest demographic impact, in a pre-literate culture, some meaningful demographic impact which isn't present in modern or ancient DNA was necessary. Mere trade ties shouldn't have been sufficient to cause language shift - it certainly didn't in the case of the Sumerians.

    ” Caste too did not figure prominently in other early PIE cultures.”

    Is it possible that had a Dravidian origin? No matter how it played out later?

    Social stratification along hereditary lines isn’t exactly unknown in farming cultures.

    Not that I have a dog in the fight, but doesn’t the argument that raiding, nomadic, light skinned barbarians conquered peaceful and advanced farmers, and eventually imposed a wicked caste system… well isn’t that like a script or something?

    Though if I understand the topic of this thread, the invaders might not be exactly who they were always assumed to be anyway.

    “The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance),”

    I used to like to read Hindu mythology. Great stuff, though to me it served the role of fiction. But there always seemed something alien about it to me. Just have to wonder about the roots of things like Ganesha and his elephant head, or the multiple pairs of arms of some deities and beings. Not sure I have ever seen the arm thing anywhere else.

    Is there some kind of root of that, some reason for it, or did it just happen just because? Only thing I can think of like it is the 3 or 6 pairs of wings some angels were supposed to have in Hebrew mythology.

    You wouldn’t have found Zeus packing a few spare pairs of arms. Typhon or the Heca – (okay I’m not googling it), but not Zeus.

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    • Replies: @Kothiru

    Is it possible that had a Dravidian origin?
     
    Very likely, if PIE didn't have their own caste, I think there is enough evidence that I now suspect it was an earlier development. Probably Dravidian. That can be inferred from early Tamil poetry and description of their caste system.
    , @ohwilleke
    I think that a Harappan origin for caste in South Asia is much more likely than a Dravidian one, and I am reasonably confident that the Harappan culture and the early Dravidian culture were very separate with largely independent origins.

    The caste system also probably didn't come into being all at once. There may have been a handful of Brahmins in pre-PIE Harappan derived society, but I suspect that the conception of this group as a caste was invented to fit Indo-Aryans into the picture. Also notably, the Dravidian peoples sometimes have one less varna than their neighbors to the north.
  7. In the second set of TreeMix graphs, in figures 3 & 8, I see an arrow going from between Pathan & Sindhi to the Yamnaya.

    Now what would that mean under ordinary circumstances ? I am not very good at interpreting the results of TreeMix and hence this is a sincere question. Can anyone explain ?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    if the pop is closer to 50/50 it might "flip" the position of the population and change the node it's situated on. so that will flip the direction of the gene flow arrow.

    e.g., on a tree you can put the uygur on the west eurasian branch. gene flow would come from east eurasian branch. if you put it on the east eurasian branch, gene flow will come from the west eurasian branch. the yamnaya have something that makes them a lot like NW south asians. if you put them too close to europeans on the tree you need to have gene flow from NW south asians to compensate for that.
    , @Davidski
    TreeMix is not a method to look to if you want reproducible results down to the smallest detail. Its output depends heavily on the choice of samples. In fact, the direction of migration edges can switch just by adding or taking away a single individual.

    So it's more useful as a tool to explore data and get ideas to build models that seem plausible in the context of, say, linguistics and archeology.

    For example, let's say you thought that South Asians had a lot of ancestry from the Caucasus, but when you run TreeMix with the right samples you don't see this, but instead regularly see massive migration edges from Yamnaya to South Asia. Not always, but regularly.

    So with that in mind you can try to build a model that you never knew was possible before running TreeMix with something stable like Admixture graph.
  8. it is shown just how punctuated demographic shifts can be.

    You seem to be arguing for demographic shifts by jerks rather than creeps. ;)

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  9. Kothiru says:
    @Sunbeam
    " Caste too did not figure prominently in other early PIE cultures."

    Is it possible that had a Dravidian origin? No matter how it played out later?

    Social stratification along hereditary lines isn't exactly unknown in farming cultures.

    Not that I have a dog in the fight, but doesn't the argument that raiding, nomadic, light skinned barbarians conquered peaceful and advanced farmers, and eventually imposed a wicked caste system... well isn't that like a script or something?

    Though if I understand the topic of this thread, the invaders might not be exactly who they were always assumed to be anyway.

    "The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance),"

    I used to like to read Hindu mythology. Great stuff, though to me it served the role of fiction. But there always seemed something alien about it to me. Just have to wonder about the roots of things like Ganesha and his elephant head, or the multiple pairs of arms of some deities and beings. Not sure I have ever seen the arm thing anywhere else.

    Is there some kind of root of that, some reason for it, or did it just happen just because? Only thing I can think of like it is the 3 or 6 pairs of wings some angels were supposed to have in Hebrew mythology.

    You wouldn't have found Zeus packing a few spare pairs of arms. Typhon or the Heca - (okay I'm not googling it), but not Zeus.

    Is it possible that had a Dravidian origin?

    Very likely, if PIE didn’t have their own caste, I think there is enough evidence that I now suspect it was an earlier development. Probably Dravidian. That can be inferred from early Tamil poetry and description of their caste system.

    Read More
  10. @Jaydeepsinh Rathod
    In the second set of TreeMix graphs, in figures 3 & 8, I see an arrow going from between Pathan & Sindhi to the Yamnaya.

    Now what would that mean under ordinary circumstances ? I am not very good at interpreting the results of TreeMix and hence this is a sincere question. Can anyone explain ?

    if the pop is closer to 50/50 it might “flip” the position of the population and change the node it’s situated on. so that will flip the direction of the gene flow arrow.

    e.g., on a tree you can put the uygur on the west eurasian branch. gene flow would come from east eurasian branch. if you put it on the east eurasian branch, gene flow will come from the west eurasian branch. the yamnaya have something that makes them a lot like NW south asians. if you put them too close to europeans on the tree you need to have gene flow from NW south asians to compensate for that.

    Read More
  11. ohwilleke says: • Website
    @Sunbeam
    " Caste too did not figure prominently in other early PIE cultures."

    Is it possible that had a Dravidian origin? No matter how it played out later?

    Social stratification along hereditary lines isn't exactly unknown in farming cultures.

    Not that I have a dog in the fight, but doesn't the argument that raiding, nomadic, light skinned barbarians conquered peaceful and advanced farmers, and eventually imposed a wicked caste system... well isn't that like a script or something?

    Though if I understand the topic of this thread, the invaders might not be exactly who they were always assumed to be anyway.

    "The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance),"

    I used to like to read Hindu mythology. Great stuff, though to me it served the role of fiction. But there always seemed something alien about it to me. Just have to wonder about the roots of things like Ganesha and his elephant head, or the multiple pairs of arms of some deities and beings. Not sure I have ever seen the arm thing anywhere else.

    Is there some kind of root of that, some reason for it, or did it just happen just because? Only thing I can think of like it is the 3 or 6 pairs of wings some angels were supposed to have in Hebrew mythology.

    You wouldn't have found Zeus packing a few spare pairs of arms. Typhon or the Heca - (okay I'm not googling it), but not Zeus.

    I think that a Harappan origin for caste in South Asia is much more likely than a Dravidian one, and I am reasonably confident that the Harappan culture and the early Dravidian culture were very separate with largely independent origins.

    The caste system also probably didn’t come into being all at once. There may have been a handful of Brahmins in pre-PIE Harappan derived society, but I suspect that the conception of this group as a caste was invented to fit Indo-Aryans into the picture. Also notably, the Dravidian peoples sometimes have one less varna than their neighbors to the north.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Kothiru
    I won't say that a Harrapan caste system is unlikely, but Harrapan archaeology is such that everyone has tried to put it in line with their own ideas. The Harrapans were either egalitarian utopian society where everyone had a solid brick house with a proper toilet and drainage system and were totally peaceful, or were warlike but only in defense against the Aryan oppressors.

    And few scholars have put forward hypotheses against the IE origin of caste stratification. But reading early Tamil poetry like Purananuru it's pretty obvious that the Dravidian caste system was pretty much always different from the "Aryan" one, if the IEs ever had one to begin with.
    , @Razib Khan
    varna is less important than jati socially. but in any case, i believe the genetic evidence shows in many case that endogamy is not at the varna level, but jati. it probably didn't come into being at one time, though the basic outlines were there throughout s. asia ~2,000 years ago...
  12. Kothiru says:
    @ohwilleke
    I think that a Harappan origin for caste in South Asia is much more likely than a Dravidian one, and I am reasonably confident that the Harappan culture and the early Dravidian culture were very separate with largely independent origins.

    The caste system also probably didn't come into being all at once. There may have been a handful of Brahmins in pre-PIE Harappan derived society, but I suspect that the conception of this group as a caste was invented to fit Indo-Aryans into the picture. Also notably, the Dravidian peoples sometimes have one less varna than their neighbors to the north.

    I won’t say that a Harrapan caste system is unlikely, but Harrapan archaeology is such that everyone has tried to put it in line with their own ideas. The Harrapans were either egalitarian utopian society where everyone had a solid brick house with a proper toilet and drainage system and were totally peaceful, or were warlike but only in defense against the Aryan oppressors.

    And few scholars have put forward hypotheses against the IE origin of caste stratification. But reading early Tamil poetry like Purananuru it’s pretty obvious that the Dravidian caste system was pretty much always different from the “Aryan” one, if the IEs ever had one to begin with.

    Read More
  13. @ohwilleke
    I think that a Harappan origin for caste in South Asia is much more likely than a Dravidian one, and I am reasonably confident that the Harappan culture and the early Dravidian culture were very separate with largely independent origins.

    The caste system also probably didn't come into being all at once. There may have been a handful of Brahmins in pre-PIE Harappan derived society, but I suspect that the conception of this group as a caste was invented to fit Indo-Aryans into the picture. Also notably, the Dravidian peoples sometimes have one less varna than their neighbors to the north.

    varna is less important than jati socially. but in any case, i believe the genetic evidence shows in many case that endogamy is not at the varna level, but jati. it probably didn’t come into being at one time, though the basic outlines were there throughout s. asia ~2,000 years ago…

    Read More
  14. Thanks for the review, Razib, and kudos for “the deep dive into technical linguistics” (actually, more like shallow-water snorkeling but I can see how it can be intimidating to a novice).

    I have to respectfully question your statement that “linguistics lacks its DNA sequence”. Or rather I’d put it differently: the object of study of linguistics is far more complex and complicated than a physical, long yet linear sequence of just four building blocks, virtually identical across the entire species, and entirely out of conscious control of individuals who carry it… When it comes to language, it’s not a physical object you could pull out of an individual and study in isolation like the DNA in a drop of blood or hair follicle. Most imaginable experimental manipulations on it wouldn’t pass the ethics board. Also, language operates with far more “building blocks” (sounds) than just four, structures them in a double-association fashion (sounds into morphemes/words, morphemes/words into phrases and sentences), the structures are non-linear. And language varies within the species in some pretty radical ways and is far more subject to conscious control than DNA… Which means that applying the methods from genetics in a blind way would inevitably lead to a dead-end.

    The point we make in the book is not so much that we haven’t found the atoms, but although we have the “Periodic Table” conceptualized, like Mendeleev himself, we don’t have all the cells in that table filled out with discovered elements yet.

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  15. notanon says:

    The multi-armed thing makes me wonder about the sun / wheel / swastika.

    Read More
  16. Why Pashtuns rather than Iranians is an interesting question. David has found 65% Sintashta/Andronovo/Corded Ware/Yamnaya ancestry for Pashtuns and Kalash, and as he noted above, 70% for some Pamiri Tajiks (using TreeMix), yet only around 20% for Iranians (who, based on what I’ve been told, aren’t actually from a single location in Iran. And if they are, apparently they are probably from Tehran, and probably involve individuals with ethnic roots in different parts of that country). The new Haak et al. modelling shows the same thing (qpAdm), around 60% European-like steppe admixture for Pashtuns, 70% for Pamiri Tajiks, and anywhere from 5% to 20% for Iranians (depending on the populations used to model the Iranians alongside steppe groups).

    I think the much lower levels of this ancestry in Iran might boil down to the fact that steppe populations never really made a huge demographic impact there. If I’m not wrong, the closest thing to that came via the Caucasus region (I doubt the Mittani sojourn left much of a trace. Then again, I don’t really know), and all movements from Central Asia involved populations “filters” that would have diluted steppe ancestry (if that makes sense).

    By contrast, South Central Asia has supposedly seen direct onslaught after direct onslaught from the steppe region (Indo-Aryans, Hepthalites, Kushans, Scythians, Dahae, etc). Also, some of these later steppe groups are often directly implicated in the ethnogenesis of Pashtuns and Central Asian Tajiks, at least per most scholars who’eve tackled these questions. Although robust historical/anthropological work is lacking when it comes to Pashtun ethnogenesis, I do often see suggestions concerning Pashtuns being descended from a confederation of steppe Iranic tribes which eventually settled in southeastern Afghanistan/northwestern Pakistan (which is now a pretty reasonable proposition, considering the fact that Pashtun ancestry seems to be predominately LN/EBA European, and considering that those Iranic steppe tribes were probably direct descendants of LN/EBA Europeans). Then again, I often see talk of Scythian associations for Pamiri Tajiks and Pashtuns. These are all rather probable now, looking at the results we are now seeing, and none of them are mutually exclusive notions.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I think the first commenter gave a plausible answer.

    Generally, the Northwest invasions always stopped short of where their horses could not graze or travel easily. The invasions also generally moved from arid to lush environments, which makes sense. You do not conquer crappy lands generally, who look for lands rich in resources.

    Afghanistan has distinct populations (Pathans, Hazara, Tajiks). The Saka, Hephtalites, and Kushanas, were all Eastern Iranic. There is a significant difference between Eastern Iranic and Western Iranic. The results are not surprising. They are only surprising if one took Persians and Eastern Iranics to be the same. See difference between Parthians, Sassaniads, etc.

    to Razib. I've seen ASI in Romania, Armenian, and Turk. The Romanian I interpret as from Roma (aka Gypsies). The Armenian is curious, but there are early Hindu settlements in Armenia. And the Turks, from the soldiers of the original Turkics.
  17. Matt_ says:

    Tree phylogenetic position in tree mix often seems to be a compromise heavily dependent on the choice of other populations. When a tree branches into two with a third population sitting in the centre, is this because it has gained relatedness to one branch, or just lost relatedness to the other branch? Particularly when allowing an “edge” from exactly the root of the tree.

    Read More
  18. Balaji says:

    Thanks for this interesting analysis. Uygurs have a migration edge from close to the Iranians. Iranians have a migration edge from between the Druze and EEF. But South Asian populations do not have migration edges from outside of South Asia. Therefore these trees are not inconsistent with Out of India. In fact following Jaydeepsinh Rathod’s astute observation, we may even argue that some of these trees support Out of India. After all, Haak et al. found that Yamnaya had 50% EHG and 50% Near Eastern ancestry. The 50% Near Eastern ancestry could have been from South Asia as suggested by Trees 3 and 8.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    you can't read TreeMix like that. when TreeMix was first applied on large data sets there was a migration edge from Native Americans to Europe. that was in hindsight clearly *Ancestral North Eurasian*, which native americans have more than any extant population the world data set.

    in any case, there is no evidence, to my knowledge, for ASI beyond eastern iran. there are ASI-like populations in SE Asia though.
  19. Davidski says: • Website
    @Jaydeepsinh Rathod
    In the second set of TreeMix graphs, in figures 3 & 8, I see an arrow going from between Pathan & Sindhi to the Yamnaya.

    Now what would that mean under ordinary circumstances ? I am not very good at interpreting the results of TreeMix and hence this is a sincere question. Can anyone explain ?

    TreeMix is not a method to look to if you want reproducible results down to the smallest detail. Its output depends heavily on the choice of samples. In fact, the direction of migration edges can switch just by adding or taking away a single individual.

    So it’s more useful as a tool to explore data and get ideas to build models that seem plausible in the context of, say, linguistics and archeology.

    For example, let’s say you thought that South Asians had a lot of ancestry from the Caucasus, but when you run TreeMix with the right samples you don’t see this, but instead regularly see massive migration edges from Yamnaya to South Asia. Not always, but regularly.

    So with that in mind you can try to build a model that you never knew was possible before running TreeMix with something stable like Admixture graph.

    Read More
  20. @Balaji
    Thanks for this interesting analysis. Uygurs have a migration edge from close to the Iranians. Iranians have a migration edge from between the Druze and EEF. But South Asian populations do not have migration edges from outside of South Asia. Therefore these trees are not inconsistent with Out of India. In fact following Jaydeepsinh Rathod's astute observation, we may even argue that some of these trees support Out of India. After all, Haak et al. found that Yamnaya had 50% EHG and 50% Near Eastern ancestry. The 50% Near Eastern ancestry could have been from South Asia as suggested by Trees 3 and 8.

    you can’t read TreeMix like that. when TreeMix was first applied on large data sets there was a migration edge from Native Americans to Europe. that was in hindsight clearly *Ancestral North Eurasian*, which native americans have more than any extant population the world data set.

    in any case, there is no evidence, to my knowledge, for ASI beyond eastern iran. there are ASI-like populations in SE Asia though.

    Read More
  21. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @SeinundZeit
    Why Pashtuns rather than Iranians is an interesting question. David has found 65% Sintashta/Andronovo/Corded Ware/Yamnaya ancestry for Pashtuns and Kalash, and as he noted above, 70% for some Pamiri Tajiks (using TreeMix), yet only around 20% for Iranians (who, based on what I've been told, aren't actually from a single location in Iran. And if they are, apparently they are probably from Tehran, and probably involve individuals with ethnic roots in different parts of that country). The new Haak et al. modelling shows the same thing (qpAdm), around 60% European-like steppe admixture for Pashtuns, 70% for Pamiri Tajiks, and anywhere from 5% to 20% for Iranians (depending on the populations used to model the Iranians alongside steppe groups).

    I think the much lower levels of this ancestry in Iran might boil down to the fact that steppe populations never really made a huge demographic impact there. If I'm not wrong, the closest thing to that came via the Caucasus region (I doubt the Mittani sojourn left much of a trace. Then again, I don't really know), and all movements from Central Asia involved populations "filters" that would have diluted steppe ancestry (if that makes sense).

    By contrast, South Central Asia has supposedly seen direct onslaught after direct onslaught from the steppe region (Indo-Aryans, Hepthalites, Kushans, Scythians, Dahae, etc). Also, some of these later steppe groups are often directly implicated in the ethnogenesis of Pashtuns and Central Asian Tajiks, at least per most scholars who'eve tackled these questions. Although robust historical/anthropological work is lacking when it comes to Pashtun ethnogenesis, I do often see suggestions concerning Pashtuns being descended from a confederation of steppe Iranic tribes which eventually settled in southeastern Afghanistan/northwestern Pakistan (which is now a pretty reasonable proposition, considering the fact that Pashtun ancestry seems to be predominately LN/EBA European, and considering that those Iranic steppe tribes were probably direct descendants of LN/EBA Europeans). Then again, I often see talk of Scythian associations for Pamiri Tajiks and Pashtuns. These are all rather probable now, looking at the results we are now seeing, and none of them are mutually exclusive notions.

    I think the first commenter gave a plausible answer.

    Generally, the Northwest invasions always stopped short of where their horses could not graze or travel easily. The invasions also generally moved from arid to lush environments, which makes sense. You do not conquer crappy lands generally, who look for lands rich in resources.

    Afghanistan has distinct populations (Pathans, Hazara, Tajiks). The Saka, Hephtalites, and Kushanas, were all Eastern Iranic. There is a significant difference between Eastern Iranic and Western Iranic. The results are not surprising. They are only surprising if one took Persians and Eastern Iranics to be the same. See difference between Parthians, Sassaniads, etc.

    to Razib. I’ve seen ASI in Romania, Armenian, and Turk. The Romanian I interpret as from Roma (aka Gypsies). The Armenian is curious, but there are early Hindu settlements in Armenia. And the Turks, from the soldiers of the original Turkics.

    Read More
  22. Balaji says:

    I agree with Davidski and Razib that Treemix results cannot be used to claim with confidence that Yamnaya had South Asian ancestry. By the same token, the Treemix results do not prove that South Asians have ancestry from the Steppe.

    In fact the Seppe ancestry of all Indo-Europeans even within Euripe is not a fact established beyond reasonable doubt. Haak et al. only made the modest claim, “These results provide support for the theory of a steppe origin of at least some of the Indo‐European languages of Europe.” They did show that the Corded Ware people originated in the Steppe. The languages of Northern and Central Europe are likely to have a steppe origin. But the languages of Southern Europe may well have had a different origin.

    Regarding ASI in Europe, the ADMIXTURE figure from Haak et al. can be found at the following.

    http://biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/suppl/2015/02/10/013433.DC1/013433-1.pdf

    At K=6 and K=7, there is an ENA component that is modal in Papuans and that is present in appreciable amounts in South Asians. This component is also present in small amounts in Ymanaya and Europeans especially Southern Europeans. WHG, EHG, Early Neolithic and Middle Neolithic Europeans completely lack this component as do Sardinians and Basques. For many southern Europeans f3 stats involving LBK_EN and Papuan are significantly negative (calculated by Davidski). For example:

    f3(Spanish;LBK_EN,Papuan) = -0.003703 z = -6.239

    These facts do suggest that there is some kind of ENA in Southern Europeans and Yamnaya. Perhaps it is ASI.

    More aDNA and improved analytical methods are likely to resolve these questions in the near future.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Davidski
    The genetic structure of much of West Eurasian shifted east after the Neolithic. The cause of this shift is beyond any doubt a population expansion from the Bronze Age steppe/forest steppe of Eastern Europe. You can see this on any decent PCA of West Eurasia.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9o3EYTdM8lQUTBldWlzck9nZnM/view?usp=sharing

    Clearly, the Corded Ware people were involved in this process. So whether the Corded Ware culture actually came from the steppe or not isn't relevant.

    Also, the shift was so massive that we can indeed place the origin of all Indo-European languages in the steppe/forest steppe, either directly or indirectly.
  23. Davidski says: • Website
    @Balaji
    I agree with Davidski and Razib that Treemix results cannot be used to claim with confidence that Yamnaya had South Asian ancestry. By the same token, the Treemix results do not prove that South Asians have ancestry from the Steppe.

    In fact the Seppe ancestry of all Indo-Europeans even within Euripe is not a fact established beyond reasonable doubt. Haak et al. only made the modest claim, “These results provide support for the theory of a steppe origin of at least some of the Indo‐European languages of Europe.” They did show that the Corded Ware people originated in the Steppe. The languages of Northern and Central Europe are likely to have a steppe origin. But the languages of Southern Europe may well have had a different origin.

    Regarding ASI in Europe, the ADMIXTURE figure from Haak et al. can be found at the following.

    http://biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/suppl/2015/02/10/013433.DC1/013433-1.pdf

    At K=6 and K=7, there is an ENA component that is modal in Papuans and that is present in appreciable amounts in South Asians. This component is also present in small amounts in Ymanaya and Europeans especially Southern Europeans. WHG, EHG, Early Neolithic and Middle Neolithic Europeans completely lack this component as do Sardinians and Basques. For many southern Europeans f3 stats involving LBK_EN and Papuan are significantly negative (calculated by Davidski). For example:

    f3(Spanish;LBK_EN,Papuan) = -0.003703 z = -6.239

    These facts do suggest that there is some kind of ENA in Southern Europeans and Yamnaya. Perhaps it is ASI.

    More aDNA and improved analytical methods are likely to resolve these questions in the near future.

    The genetic structure of much of West Eurasian shifted east after the Neolithic. The cause of this shift is beyond any doubt a population expansion from the Bronze Age steppe/forest steppe of Eastern Europe. You can see this on any decent PCA of West Eurasia.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9o3EYTdM8lQUTBldWlzck9nZnM/view?usp=sharing

    Clearly, the Corded Ware people were involved in this process. So whether the Corded Ware culture actually came from the steppe or not isn’t relevant.

    Also, the shift was so massive that we can indeed place the origin of all Indo-European languages in the steppe/forest steppe, either directly or indirectly.

    Read More
  24. Chiron says:

    Iranic speakers were once dominant in Central Asia and Russia but got pushed out by the Turks, Slavs and Mongols, only a tiny Ossetian population between Russia and Georgia still speak a Iranic language.

    The Harappan civillization was extremely advanced but disappeared, why?

    Read More
  25. @ohwilleke
    I'm skeptical of the Out of India theory, but if you want to make it, the argument goes like this:

    1. The Harappans had an advanced agricultural culture with a trading network that extended to trade colonies on the Steppe and Sumeria.

    2. The Steppe people were receivers of Harappan trade goods, culture, agricultural practices, religious ideas and ultimately were strongly linguistically influenced by Harappan despite only slight introgression of Harappan ancestry into their society.

    3. Fueled by the Harappan cultural package, hybridized with rugged Steppe culture more suited to arid conditions, the Steppe people rushed in to fill the early Bronze Age void created when an arid period that affected areas from the Northwest India to the Balkans led to the widespread collapse of existing civilizations giving better adapted steppe people (who now spoke Harappan derived languages) an edge that allowed them to become the dominant culture.

    Harappan, in this scenario, is proto-Indo-European, and this scenario solves the mystery of how a predominantly pastoralist civilization could have so much agricultural vocabulary. Not all PIE words and grammatical tendencies were Harappan in origin, but enough to make Harappan the most important parent language for PIE. This also explains the lack of a strong Harappan substrate in the early Rig Vedic material, and more generally the lack of any linguistic traces of this once dominant and unified South Asian civilization because Harappan traces are indistinguishable from the Harappan derived PIE lingustic influences.

    * * *

    There are good counterarguments to most of these points.

    The technological package of the steppe people seems to have derived more from the Caucasus than South Asia, and the characterization of the relevant archaeological cultures as pastoralists overstates what was really a mixed farming and herding means of subsistence. The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance), and referencing practices like Soma use not found in other early PIE religions. Distinctively early PIE religious practices like cremation, meanwhile, were clearly intrusive to South Asia rather than derived from it. Caste too did not figure prominently in other early PIE cultures.

    Legendary history describes an ethnically distinct population moving into South Asia.

    The center of gravity of PIE origins now seems to be further north than previously believed which puts it outside the range of Harappan trade influence.

    While language shift is possible with modest demographic impact, in a pre-literate culture, some meaningful demographic impact which isn't present in modern or ancient DNA was necessary. Mere trade ties shouldn't have been sufficient to cause language shift - it certainly didn't in the case of the Sumerians.

    The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance), and referencing practices like Soma use not found in other early PIE religions.

    You’re assuming for some reason that ‘the Hindu religion’ is a static concept, when in reality the religion of the Rigveda was vastly different compared to modern-day Hindu cults.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Numinous

    the religion of the Rigveda was vastly different compared to modern-day Hindu cults.
     
    In what ways? Enlighten us, please.
  26. Hrw-500 says:

    A bit off-topic but still in the languages family, it could be interesting to mention the larger proposed groups like Eurasiatic,Nostratic, Borean, Indo-Semitic where the Indo-European languages are part of a bigger family.

    Read More
  27. Numinous says:
    @anonymous coward

    The Hindu religion is relatively divergent from the religious traditions of other early PIE peoples (e.g. featuring gods who are less human-like in appearance), and referencing practices like Soma use not found in other early PIE religions.
     
    You're assuming for some reason that 'the Hindu religion' is a static concept, when in reality the religion of the Rigveda was vastly different compared to modern-day Hindu cults.

    the religion of the Rigveda was vastly different compared to modern-day Hindu cults.

    In what ways? Enlighten us, please.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    are you being serious or sarcastic? this is usually considered common knowledge, and self-evident if you have even cursory familiarity with vedic religion vs. normative hinduism.
  28. @Numinous

    the religion of the Rigveda was vastly different compared to modern-day Hindu cults.
     
    In what ways? Enlighten us, please.

    are you being serious or sarcastic? this is usually considered common knowledge, and self-evident if you have even cursory familiarity with vedic religion vs. normative hinduism.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Numinous
    I apologize if my question sounded stupid or snarky. I was being serious though. I didn't mean to suggest that the religious practices of modern-day Hindus are identical to those practiced during the Vedic era, but from what I know, there's a continuity in religious practice that stretches back in time over the past 2-3 millenia. Please note that I am referring to Brahminical religious practices, and not fringe or tribal cults. Brahminical rituals and prayers are taken straight from the Vedas, and I am personally familiar with these (having practiced them as a kid). No one drinks soma, but the rituals are all about chanting hymns and emulating practices from the Vedas.

    Perhaps I had it wrong all this while, or perhaps Brahminical religion is not what you would call "normative Hinduism"? That's why I asked the OP for a clarification. I should admit that these religious practices I refer to have faded from my mind, as I turned atheist by my late teens, and I recall very little Sanskrit.
  29. Numinous says:
    @Razib Khan
    are you being serious or sarcastic? this is usually considered common knowledge, and self-evident if you have even cursory familiarity with vedic religion vs. normative hinduism.

    I apologize if my question sounded stupid or snarky. I was being serious though. I didn’t mean to suggest that the religious practices of modern-day Hindus are identical to those practiced during the Vedic era, but from what I know, there’s a continuity in religious practice that stretches back in time over the past 2-3 millenia. Please note that I am referring to Brahminical religious practices, and not fringe or tribal cults. Brahminical rituals and prayers are taken straight from the Vedas, and I am personally familiar with these (having practiced them as a kid). No one drinks soma, but the rituals are all about chanting hymns and emulating practices from the Vedas.

    Perhaps I had it wrong all this while, or perhaps Brahminical religion is not what you would call “normative Hinduism”? That’s why I asked the OP for a clarification. I should admit that these religious practices I refer to have faded from my mind, as I turned atheist by my late teens, and I recall very little Sanskrit.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    two quick points

    1) the gods of the vedas are now minor gods, while the major gods in sanatana dharma were then marginal (e.g., vishnu). so you have a transformation of the pantheon.

    2) devotionalism like vaishnavism on the populist level and the ascendency of advaita on the elite level transformed the substance of the vedic religion.

    one way to characterize it is that brahmanical religion was transformed by the challenge of sramanic movements like buddhism. an analogy might be the difference between the temple judaism of the sadducees and the jewish religion of the pharisees.

    some people go further and assert that much of puranic hinduism consists of the sublimation of indo-aryan religion into the religious substrate of pre-aryan india, with the eventual victor of the cultural-religious traditions of the latter. i think this is too neat a formulation, because i think there's a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india....
  30. @Numinous
    I apologize if my question sounded stupid or snarky. I was being serious though. I didn't mean to suggest that the religious practices of modern-day Hindus are identical to those practiced during the Vedic era, but from what I know, there's a continuity in religious practice that stretches back in time over the past 2-3 millenia. Please note that I am referring to Brahminical religious practices, and not fringe or tribal cults. Brahminical rituals and prayers are taken straight from the Vedas, and I am personally familiar with these (having practiced them as a kid). No one drinks soma, but the rituals are all about chanting hymns and emulating practices from the Vedas.

    Perhaps I had it wrong all this while, or perhaps Brahminical religion is not what you would call "normative Hinduism"? That's why I asked the OP for a clarification. I should admit that these religious practices I refer to have faded from my mind, as I turned atheist by my late teens, and I recall very little Sanskrit.

    two quick points

    1) the gods of the vedas are now minor gods, while the major gods in sanatana dharma were then marginal (e.g., vishnu). so you have a transformation of the pantheon.

    2) devotionalism like vaishnavism on the populist level and the ascendency of advaita on the elite level transformed the substance of the vedic religion.

    one way to characterize it is that brahmanical religion was transformed by the challenge of sramanic movements like buddhism. an analogy might be the difference between the temple judaism of the sadducees and the jewish religion of the pharisees.

    some people go further and assert that much of puranic hinduism consists of the sublimation of indo-aryan religion into the religious substrate of pre-aryan india, with the eventual victor of the cultural-religious traditions of the latter. i think this is too neat a formulation, because i think there’s a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india….

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sunbeam
    "because i think there’s a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india…."

    Whut?
    , @Numinous
    Thanks for the explanation. It makes a lot of sense. One thing that puzzles me though:

    because i think there’s a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india….
     
    If you are saying that the the oldest parts of the Rig Veda were composed prior to the Indo-Aryans' entry into India, or even before they entered BMAC, then how do you explain the numerous references to the geography of North-West India (including the now extinct Saraswati river) in the early Vedic texts? Based on what I have read (again, second hand, because my Sanskrit is rudimentary), the earliest Vedic seers seemed to be familiar with the geography of Punjab. Are there other interpretations of the texts?
  31. Sunbeam says:
    @Razib Khan
    two quick points

    1) the gods of the vedas are now minor gods, while the major gods in sanatana dharma were then marginal (e.g., vishnu). so you have a transformation of the pantheon.

    2) devotionalism like vaishnavism on the populist level and the ascendency of advaita on the elite level transformed the substance of the vedic religion.

    one way to characterize it is that brahmanical religion was transformed by the challenge of sramanic movements like buddhism. an analogy might be the difference between the temple judaism of the sadducees and the jewish religion of the pharisees.

    some people go further and assert that much of puranic hinduism consists of the sublimation of indo-aryan religion into the religious substrate of pre-aryan india, with the eventual victor of the cultural-religious traditions of the latter. i think this is too neat a formulation, because i think there's a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india....

    “because i think there’s a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india….”

    Whut?

    Read More
  32. @Sunbeam
    "because i think there’s a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india…."

    Whut?

    i meant bactria ;-)

    Read More
  33. Numinous says:
    @Razib Khan
    two quick points

    1) the gods of the vedas are now minor gods, while the major gods in sanatana dharma were then marginal (e.g., vishnu). so you have a transformation of the pantheon.

    2) devotionalism like vaishnavism on the populist level and the ascendency of advaita on the elite level transformed the substance of the vedic religion.

    one way to characterize it is that brahmanical religion was transformed by the challenge of sramanic movements like buddhism. an analogy might be the difference between the temple judaism of the sadducees and the jewish religion of the pharisees.

    some people go further and assert that much of puranic hinduism consists of the sublimation of indo-aryan religion into the religious substrate of pre-aryan india, with the eventual victor of the cultural-religious traditions of the latter. i think this is too neat a formulation, because i think there's a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india....

    Thanks for the explanation. It makes a lot of sense. One thing that puzzles me though:

    because i think there’s a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india….

    If you are saying that the the oldest parts of the Rig Veda were composed prior to the Indo-Aryans’ entry into India, or even before they entered BMAC, then how do you explain the numerous references to the geography of North-West India (including the now extinct Saraswati river) in the early Vedic texts? Based on what I have read (again, second hand, because my Sanskrit is rudimentary), the earliest Vedic seers seemed to be familiar with the geography of Punjab. Are there other interpretations of the texts?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    no, not saying they were composed earlier than that. just that aspects of indo-iranian culture seem distinct from other IE groups, and BMAC might explain that...
  34. @Numinous
    Thanks for the explanation. It makes a lot of sense. One thing that puzzles me though:

    because i think there’s a fair amount of evidence that the indo-aryans were already substantially transmuted by the bacteria-margiana culture before they arrived in india….
     
    If you are saying that the the oldest parts of the Rig Veda were composed prior to the Indo-Aryans' entry into India, or even before they entered BMAC, then how do you explain the numerous references to the geography of North-West India (including the now extinct Saraswati river) in the early Vedic texts? Based on what I have read (again, second hand, because my Sanskrit is rudimentary), the earliest Vedic seers seemed to be familiar with the geography of Punjab. Are there other interpretations of the texts?

    no, not saying they were composed earlier than that. just that aspects of indo-iranian culture seem distinct from other IE groups, and BMAC might explain that…

    Read More
  35. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Griffith’s translation is readily available on the web. The Rig Veda hymns pay continuous homage to the rivers (Sapta Sindhu, i.e. Punkab).

    Many of the comments above are regurgitated without actual knowledge of the Rig Veda. I get it, it’s a tedious read. Still, I invite all to read the hymns themselves. There is nothing BMAC in the Rig Veda. If anything, there are poetic mnemonic devices that would have been brought in before entry into the Indian subcontinent. That is to say, devices used by Greco-Aryan as well.

    Indo-Iranian culture is very similar to Mycenean Greek, and Norse culture for that matter. See Dumezil and Mallory (though in this respect Dumezil better). If there is anything BMAC in the texts, then BMAC is an Aryan (Indo-Iranian) site through and through.

    Here’s the gist of the Rig Veda to clarify above confusions:

    - Main gods are Agni and Indra.
    - Vedic gods are 13-ish. Includes Vishnu and Rudra (future Shiva).
    - Description of Aryan tribes.
    - Description of Dasyu (who are likely not Dravidians as often repeated).
    - Hymns to Nature, Sun, cows, different gods, Soma, priests, poets.
    - Indra and Vrtra battle.
    - More hymns

    All of this is typical I-E. Replace Dasyu with Vanir or other foreign tribe to be fought against. There is also no mention of walking into the subcontinent despite the nauseous repetition of such. And to be clear, I do NOT ascribe to the OIT.

    Religions change all the time. Every priest has his spin.

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  36. @Anonymous
    Griffith's translation is readily available on the web. The Rig Veda hymns pay continuous homage to the rivers (Sapta Sindhu, i.e. Punkab).

    Many of the comments above are regurgitated without actual knowledge of the Rig Veda. I get it, it's a tedious read. Still, I invite all to read the hymns themselves. There is nothing BMAC in the Rig Veda. If anything, there are poetic mnemonic devices that would have been brought in before entry into the Indian subcontinent. That is to say, devices used by Greco-Aryan as well.

    Indo-Iranian culture is very similar to Mycenean Greek, and Norse culture for that matter. See Dumezil and Mallory (though in this respect Dumezil better). If there is anything BMAC in the texts, then BMAC is an Aryan (Indo-Iranian) site through and through.

    Here's the gist of the Rig Veda to clarify above confusions:

    - Main gods are Agni and Indra.
    - Vedic gods are 13-ish. Includes Vishnu and Rudra (future Shiva).
    - Description of Aryan tribes.
    - Description of Dasyu (who are likely not Dravidians as often repeated).
    - Hymns to Nature, Sun, cows, different gods, Soma, priests, poets.
    - Indra and Vrtra battle.
    - More hymns

    All of this is typical I-E. Replace Dasyu with Vanir or other foreign tribe to be fought against. There is also no mention of walking into the subcontinent despite the nauseous repetition of such. And to be clear, I do NOT ascribe to the OIT.

    Religions change all the time. Every priest has his spin.

    i got the griffith’s and muller.

    Read More

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