July 26, 2010
One of the brightest civilization of south Asia, Persia (note that Iran is also often considered as located in west Asia), was Indo-european – from the Indo-iranian branch. Most of south Asia is nowadays speaking Indo-european languages from the Indo-iranian branch (comprising three branches : Indo-aryan, Nuristani and Iranian).
The name “Iran” itself is etymologically derived from “Aryanam” meaning “(land) of the Aryans” (source), “Aryan” being generally the name associated with the people thought to be the original Indo-iranian speakers (the term is also used as an ethnic designation in several inscriptions and Darius I, the famous Persian emperor was referring to his Aryan lineage in a well-known inscription at Naqsh-e rustam :
“I am Darius the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage.” (source)).
It is quite likely that this language family was brought from central Asia in south Asia by nomadic pastotalist populations that later became the Scythian peoples, for the ones that remained in central Asia (and Sakas, Alans (which left an Indo-iranian language in the Caucasus, the Ossetic language) and Sarmatians, all nomadic warriors speaking Indo-iranian languages related to the Old Persian language (and indeed, old Indo-iranian roots are found up to Finland, and also in the languages of the east of Caucasus or in Slavic as well (like in Russian, in words such as bog (“god”, related to old Persian baga and Sanskrit bhag (-as)), sobaka (“dog”, probably from Iranic spaka), budit’ – a Russian verb meaning “to wake up”, “to awake” – that is related to the Indo-aryan word Buddha (“the awakened one”), and other words))).
As we have seen, all the area of central Asia, Afghanistan and the north-east of Iran (and probably south Siberia when this region became part of the Andronovo archaeological horizon, during bronze age, or when the Sakas ruled this region) was speaking Indo-iranian languages * during bronze age **, a group of languages that quite likely spread further in south Asia also during this time period of bronze and then Iron age.
The ethnogenesis of the Indo-iranian branch of the Indo-european family is surmised to have probably occured in the Andronovo culture, an antique culture of Central Asia [pastmists : specifically close to the Urals; some scholars believe that the proto-Indo-iranian language can be tracked up to Russia (generally, specifically the Abashevo culture), thus explaining the early Indo-iranian words in Finno-Ugric languages (such as Finnish) [a few examples of old Indo-iranian roots in Finno-ugric languages]], during bronze age. The Andronovo archaeological horizon is an ensemble of cultures whose traits match well what we could expect to find in early Indo-iranian cultures (as an example of this, the Sintashta site)), according to many specialists. It seems that this population was largely of Europoid type *** (something apparently confirmed by the DNA tests on the ancient human remains of this region, as we will see in the article about Central Asia).
* also known as the Aryan languages (a famous Kushan King was indeed referring to the local language of Bactria (basically, what is now south Tajikistan and east and north Afghanistan) as the “Aryan language”, in one of his writings (source)). In this context it is also interesting to remind that during the Achaemenid rule, the Arya or Aryana satrapy (a region of the Persian empire) was located mostly in Afghanistan.
** the time of origin of the Indo-iranian language family can probably be tracked back roughly to the 2,500 BCE – 2,000 BCE period at most. Earlier dates seem unlikely given how close were Avestan (early Iranian language) and Sanskrit (early Indo-aryan language) to each other (Vedic Sanskrit is often thought to have been maybe in use in the 1,700 BC-1,100 BC period and Avestan maybe around 1,000 BC, more or less).
*** references about the Andronovo morphological type : “The origin of the indo-iranians, vol. 3″ by Elena E. Kuz’mina – Chapter 11 : Verification of the hypothesis – Anthropological evidence.
Here are a few significative phenotypes found in these regions :
The words of Zoroaster (a.k.a. Zarathustra), the famous Persian sage, described the place of origin of the Aryans (Aryanam Vaejah) in terms that led some historians to believe he was maybe referring to a place in central Asia (excerpt from “The Cambridge ancient history“ by John Boardman).
Individuals with Europoids features, though rather rare, are findable in these regions as well, like in all the regions where Indo-european languages have been spoken or are currently spoken. It can probably be seen as a legacy of bronze age migrations from central Asia, (and originally from the north-east of the black sea, according to the Kurgan theory). The admixture estimates of these populations (such as for instance the Pathans/Pashtuns or even the Sindhis) do have indeed a non-negligible amount of genetic sequences apparently identified as “European” (even if it is of course clearly minoritary in their overall genotype (Example of such estimates (look at the dark blue component | source: metspalu et al. 2011))).
In the eastern part of Afghanistan, in a region named Nuristan (formerly known as Kafiristan), Europoid phenotypes are not that rare. The Nuristani (previously known as Kalasha before their conversion to Islam in 1895) are a people living in a very remote and isolated mountainous region of east Afghanistan, in the Hindu-Kush mountains. They maintained their very old pre-islamic traditions, believed to be derived from the antique Indo-iranian traditions of yore, and were polytheistic before being conquered and islamized in the end of the 19th century. They are speaking in a specific branch of Indo-iranian language family (sometimes perceived as having evolved from an archaic branch of the family (i.e. spawned from a different branch than proto-iranian or proto-indo-aryan within the indo-iranian family, even if some see a bigger proximity and more similitudes of this language family with Indo-aryan languages (interestingly some expressions have a direct link with rigvedic terms: e.g. in the Kati language, “earthquake” is said indriç (to be compared with indra-iṣṭi (“strike” from Indra)) and dewutr “fairy” is related to vedic Sanskrit deva-putrī “daughter of god”)).
It is interesting to note that the regions where the Europoid phenotypes are the most frequent are also the most isolated places where population movements and mixing was much rarer.
Some people believe these Europoid phenotypes are actually the results of rapes by the USSR army during the invasion of Afghanistan that took place from 1979 to 1989. It is very unlikely for several reasons : a/ It’s already difficult to imagine the Russian army changing the face of Nuristan (especially such an isolated and difficult to access mountainous region), in 10 years – especially since it was a region it didn’t control – but b/ there are photographs of Nuristani from before the Russian invasion such as this one from 1971 (8 years before the invasion) , c/ Europoid phenotypes are found way further in Asia (north-west China, India, north Pakistan, etc…) that in the area the USSR troopers operated, even though they are not frequent, d/ We know by archeological findings and ancient DNA that individuals with such characteristics existed deep into Asia (and it seems confirmed by a few Mummies as well) not so far from these regions (more will be said about this in the next articles), and e/ We have ancient writings that confirms that such features are found in these regions for a long time. For instance, a Chinese buddhist monk from the 7th century AD describes the population of a kingdom in what is probably nowadays either south Tajikistan or north-eastern Afghanistan where most of the people had blue eyes (source : Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World | the excerpt can be found there in searching “Ta-mo-si-tie-ti“)
Kurdistan : The Kurds are a people located partly in Turkey, north Syria, north of Iraq and north-western Iran and speaking an Iranic language. They are generally associated with the antique Medes, an ancient “Persian” people having likely brought the ancestor of the Kurdish language in this region. Haplogroup Y-DNA R1a1a is found at a low frequency in west Asia, except among the Kurds where this male lineage reaches apparently between 10-25% of the local male population, obviously in accordance with the theory presented on this blog.
Here are a few examples of europoid phenotypes found among the Kurdish population :
June 21, 2010
The south of Asia was the homeland of bright and famous ancient civilizations, culturally and linguistically Indo-european, especially India (of the Indo-aryan linguistical family) and Iran (formerly known as Persia, of the Iranian linguistical family).
It was at the end of the 18th century, that sir William Jones realized the relation between European languages and south Asian languages such as Sanskrit, inaugurating then the existence of the now famous Indo-european language family theory.
Latin, for instance, has many similarities with Sanskrit. Indeed, how couldn’t we link words such as vox (voc-is), “voice“ in Latin and vac in Sanskrit (also “voice” ; found in many other Indo-european languages, e.g. Tocharian vak/vek or Hittite huek), candor (“bright whiteness” in Latin ) and candra, “moon” in Sanskrit, ignis (“fire” in Latin) and agnis (“fire” in Sanskrit, Agni also being the god of fire – also ugnis in Lithuanian and ogon’ in Russian, all meaning “fire“), Latin jugum (meaning “yoke“, also derived from the same proto-indo-european word) and Sanskrit yugam, giving the word “yoga“ (also in the ancient greek zugon, Tocharian yuk or Hittite yukan, among many examples), Latin nebula and Sanskrit nabhas (but also Hittite nepiš, German nebel and Russian nebo, for instance, meaning all either “cloud“, “mist” or “sky“), or pater (“father” (a word also related) in Latin) and pitar in Sanskrit (also the ancient greek pater or Tocharian pacer, and many others). Likewise, we can find some similarities between the declension suffixes in both languages (examples : -ibus at the plural dative and ablative cases in Latin and -ebhyas in Sanskrit in the same cases).
When it became obvious that most of the languages of Europe and most of the languages of south Asia were related, then started the search for an explanation to such an astonishing geographical extent. Many theories have been erected to try to solve the puzzle of the origin of the extent of this language family and to discover the original population responsible for this situation and their ancestral homeland.
The Kurgan hypothesis explains the repartition of the Indo-european languages in Eurasia by the successive migrations of pastoralist populations living north of the black sea (in what is nowadays east Ukraine and south Russia), whose arrival is visible in the archeology. In this theory, the early Indo-iranians originated in the region between Russia and north-west Kazakhstan between 2,500 BCE and 2,000 BCE (the Abashevo culture of Russia is also considered possibly a good candidate for the origin of the proto-indo-iranian language by some (The fact that it was influential in the origin of the Sintashta site (a site just east of the Ural mountains often considered as having the oldest visible expression of indo-iranian practices) could support this view as well)) and were subsequently found in the Andronovo culture of central Asia. Also, the fact that the Andronovo culture was followed by the Indo-iranian-speaking Scythians/Sakas (who clearly seem spawned from it (there is an archaeological continuity between these cultures)) seem to clearly make this theory the most logical one.
The Gandhara grave culture of the north of Pakistan is also seen as the advance of Indo-iranian populations in south Asia. The presence of proto-Indo-iranian loanwords in Finno-ugric languages (such as Estonian and Finnish) and in languages from the east of the Caucasus can be seen as supporting this theory of the Indo-iranian ethnogenesis (Interestingly, among the terms that the ancient Finno-ugric language borrowed to the ancient Indo-iranian language seems to be the “arya” word:
“Early Proto-Indo-Iranian words that were borrowed into common Finno-Ugric included Proto-Indo-Iranian *asura- ‘lord, god’ > Finno-Ugric *asera; Proto-Indo-Iranian *medhu- ‘honey’ > Finno-Ugric *mete; Proto-Indo-Iranian *čekro ‘wheel’ (pastmists: hence sanskrit cakra)) > Finno-Ugric *kekrä; and Proto-Indo-Iranian *arya- ‘Aryan’ > Finno-Ugric *orya. Proto-Indo-Iranian *arya-, the self-designation “aryan”, was borrowed into Pre-Saami as *orja-, the root of * oarji, meaning “southwest”, and of arjel, meaning “southerner”, confirming that the Proto-Aryan world lay south of the early Uralic region. The same borrowed *arya- root developped into words with the meaning “slave” in the Finnic and Permian branches (Finnish, Komi and Udmurt), a hint of the ancient hostility between the speakers of Proto-Indo-Iranian and Finno-Ugric.”
“The Horse, the wheel, and language” by David W. Anthony (source (go to page 385 of the book by typing “197″ in the page search field))).
A spreading of the Indo-european languages in Eurasia from neolithic agriculturalist populations seems very unlikely as the proto-indo-european language had words for the wheel (examples : Latin rota, Sanskrit rathas, Irish roth and Lithuanian ratas (a root also meaning sometimes “chariot” in a few languages, like in sanskrit)) and a metal (examples: Latin aes (bronze), Sanskrit ayas (iron), Gothic aiz (brass; coin) and old Norse eir (bronze), among others), which seems to exclude, de facto, the oldest typical neolithic time. The fact that the stem for “horse” (*ekwos ; the satem version of it in Sanskrit is ‘asva‘) is also present in the original language, the proto-indo-european language (a root visible in these few examples : Latin equus, Mycenian iqo, Gaulish epos, Tokharian B yakwe or old Irish ech), also excludes both south Asia and neolithic as the geographical origin and the time of the proto-indo-europeans, as the horse was apparently absent of south Asia until the last part of bronze age (this animal (as domesticated one) was apparently also absent of south-west Asia and in a big part of Asia minor until the same historical time (informations about the horse domestication)).
The study of ancient Indo-iranian languages also seems to support an origin of this language family from outside of India (source).
The Gandhara grave culture, located in the north of Pakistan in the Swat valley, sees the arrival of the horse in south Asia during bronze age and a few points allows for a (still controversial and hypothetical) link with the early Indo-aryans. The funerary practices, for instance, show several similarities with other supposedly Indo-european practices and there are many similarities with the Andronovo culture traditions. They also could fit quite well with the RigVedic descriptions. These traditions are clearly the mark of a change in this region, at this time.
In the Kurgan theory, the first Indo-iranian-speaking populations supposedly arrived around 1,800 BC-1,600 BC in south Asia from central Asia. These populations were apparently in large part of Europoid type as hinted by several studies (see the central Asia article), which seems confirmed by the admixture estimates of south Asian populations that do have an european component even if in low quantity (examples here or here (both from dienekes.blogspot.com), or also this, from this 2011 study (“Population structure in South Asia”, metspalu et al. 2011)).
Supporting the theory of migrations from central Asia into south Asia, the presence of the very mutation (mutation T-13910 of the lactase phlorizin hydrolase (LCT) gene) providing the lactose tolerance (here more precisely the lactase persistence) among European populations is also found in south Asia, especially in the north-west of India and in south-east Pakistan (source). This clearly shows that south Asians and Europeans share a specific mutation and as such as specific relation of which west Asians are excluded (this allele is obviously only very marginal and residual among west Asians and likely the result of Indo-european migrations of little demographic impact).
A 2009 study (Kallur N. Saraswathy et al., Brief communication: Allelic and haplotypic structure at the DRD2 locus among five North Indian caste populations) also emphasized the genetic flow inherited from populations extraneous to India within the upper castes populations of north India.
The dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) gene, with its known human-specific derived alleles that can facilitate haplotype reconstruction, presents an important locus for anthropological studies. The three sites (TaqIA, TaqIB, and TaqID) of the DRD2 gene are widely studied in various world populations. However, no work has been previously published on DRD2 gene polymorphisms among North Indian populations. Thus, the present study attempts to understand the genetic structure of North Indian upper caste populations using the allele and haplotype frequencies and distribution patterns of the three TaqI sites of the DRD2 gene. Two hundred forty-six blood samples were collected from five upper caste populations of Himachal Pradesh (Brahmin, Rajput and Jat) and Delhi (Aggarwal and Sindhi), and analysis was performed using standard protocols. All three sites were found to be polymorphic in all five of the studied populations. Uniform allele frequency distribution patterns, low heterozygosity values, the sharing of five common haplotypes, and the absence of two of the eight possible haplotypes observed in this study suggest a genetic proximity among the selected populations. The results also indicate a major genetic contribution from Eurasia to North Indian upper castes, apart from the common genetic unity of Indian populations. The study also demonstrates a greater genetic inflow among North Indian caste populations than is observed among South Indian caste and tribal populations.
[pastmists : interestingly, among the populations being the closest of the north Indian upper castes, in this specific study, we find the Chuvash people (a Turkic-speaking people of Russia whose haplogroups and autosomal profile reveal they are still largely from the ancient "Europoid" autochthonous non-Turkic substrate) [the Finns and even the Russians are close too, seemingly confirming this view] living west of the Ural mountains, where was located the already mentionned Abashevo culture, during bronze age. Is this a sign that the Aryas had come from populations in this general region (and of this historical culture), or maybe more generally from a region close to the Ural mountains?]
Asko Parpola, a Finnish scholar, evokes a few points supporting the migration of Indo-iranian populations in India during bronze age in this excerpt of an interview:
Hindu.com : “Some Indian scholars feel that the Indus Civilisation is Aryan [i.e. Indo-iranian] and connected with the Rig Veda. You are a Vedic scholar and you specialise in the Indus script too. So what is your reaction to this standpoint?”
Asko Parpola : “Rigvedic hymns often speak of horses and horse-drawn chariots, and the horse sacrifice, ashvamedha, is among the most prestigious Vedic rites. The only wild equid native to the Indian subcontinent is the wild ass, which is known from the bone finds of the Indus Civilisation and depicted (though rarely) in its art and script. The domesticated horse is absent from South Asia until the second millennium BCE. Finds from Pirak and Swat from 1600 BCE show it was introduced from Central Asia after the Indus Civilisation. The earliest archaeological finds of horse-drawn chariot come from graves dated to around 2000 BCE in the Eurasian steppes, the natural habitat of the horse. There are also ancient Aryan loanwords in Finno-Ugric languages spoken in northeastern Europe (for example, the word for ‘hundred‘ in my own language Finnish is ‘sata’ [i.e. the same word than in Indo-iranian]). Some of these Aryan loanwords represent a more archaic stage of development (that is, are phonetically closer to the older Proto-Indo-European language) than Rigvedic Sanskrit. It is very likely that these words came to Finno-Ugric languages from Proto-Aryan spoken in the Volga steppes [i.e. in Russia].”
Although often contested, some sentences from the RigVeda, the oldest holy book of Hinduism, are interpretable through an ethnic lense. In this text, the enemies of the Arya, the Dasa, are often associated with the darkness and blackness and sometimes the literal words of black (or dark) skin are written.
Example from the Mandala IX, hymn 73 :
5. “Blowing away with supernatural might from earth and from the heavens the swarthy skin which Indra hates.”
which can be opposed to the following sentence from the Mandala I, hymn 100 :
18. “The mighty Thunderer [i.e. Indra] with his fair-complexioned friends won the land, the sunlight, and the waters.”
[From the Ralph T.H. Griffith translation]
A few of such instances can be found in the RigVeda.
Although rare, blue or green eyes are findable in India. The Buddha, a prince of the north of the Indian sub-continent living in the 6th century BCE and whose real name was Siddhartha Gautama, is said, in the oldest written source of Buddhism, the Pali canon, to have had very blue eyes (“abhi nila netto” literally meaning “very blue eyes“). Similarly, Bodhidharma, an Indian monk of the 6th century AD, founder of the Zen Buddhism, also credited with the martial arts tradition of the Shaolin temple, was nicknamed “the blue-eyed barbarian” by the Chinese.
In the north of Pakistan, some individuals also frequently show a strikingly europoid appearance. The most well-known of these populations where these caractheristics are visible are the Burushos of the Hunza valley (speaking a non-indo-european language, Burushaski) and the Kalash (or Kalashas, like the former name of the Nuristanis of eastern Afghanistan) a population of the Hindu-kush speaking an Indo-iranian language. The Kalash, the Burusho and the Nuristani claim to be descendants of the Alexander‘s army (another legend of the Kalash also claim a link with the Kushans) but so far the genetic tests have not found any link with Greek or Macedonian populations (Very few tracks have been found among the Pathans (a.k.a. Pashtun) of Pakistan though). It is quite possible that these south Asian populations are actually partly the visible remains of the ancient Indo-iranian populations that probably came from central Asia during bronze age and mixed with the local populations, as the DNA tests have revealed that populations of bronze age south Siberia, strongly supposed to have been early Indo-europeans, had such characteristics.
Isolated people of the Hindu Kush mountains in the north of Pakistan (in the Chitral district), the Kalash are a polytheistic ethnic group speaking the Kalash language, a Dardic language (a language group considered as a subgroup of the Indo-aryan language family) of the Indo-iranian language family. Their traditions are said to be close to the ancient pre-Zoroastrian Iranian and ancient Indian Vedic traditions.