Who were the original Indians? Tony Joseph speaks about the genetics of Indians. . .
This is a conversation based on Tony’s new book Early Indians
Parth: If one had to simply answer, who are the ancestors of the modern day North Indians, what would you say, who are they?
Tony Joseph: Until around 2000 BCE, what we could see in the North would have been hunter-gatherers as well as Indus Valley civilization which is a mixture of hunter-gatherers plus the Iranian agriculturalists that came. In the South, what you would have seen are the descendants of the original out of Africa migrants, the hunter-gatherers. All that changed. A big– a dramatic tempestuous beginning of the millennium between 2000 BCE and 1000 BCE when all of this significantly changed. You see a civilization that is declining, you see a new influx of migrants who were not there earlier, and you see new mixing happening between the new arrivals from the Steppe and the Indus Valley population.
We also see movement of the Indus Valley people down south perhaps taking new agricultural practices. It’s possible that agricultural practices had began in the South already, but around 2000 BC, you can see slow intensification of all that also. In the South, also, there is a mixing that is happening and in the North. At this point of time, according to the study, is when they say ancestral North Indian and Ancestral South Indian (ASI) formed. Ancestral North Indian (ANI) is a mixture of three and the ancestral South Indian is a mixture of two. During the period that followed and there has been significant mixing between ANI and ASI. Of course, we are the indigenous so we are a mixture of at least three main groups.
Parth: Tony, am I right in saying that the ancestral South Indians are a mixture of the original hunter-gatherers, the out of Africa migration as well as the Persian as well as the Iranian agriculturalists? The Ancestral North Indians are a mixture of these two groups, the hunter-gatherers and the Iranian agriculturalists as well as the migrants from the Steppe in the second millennium BCE? That forms the ANI, Ancestral North Indian and ASI, Ancestral South Indian, and the modern Indians who we see today are a mixture of these two?
Tony Joseph: Yes. During the period from 2000 to maybe the turn of the– When we moved into the common era is a period when mixing happened between all of these ancestors. ANI and ASI, all of it. At some point there are endogamic practices and the mixing stopped.
Parth: What is endogamic?
Tony Joseph: Regulations on whom you marry. That’s when the– You could theoretically argue whether this is a period when the caste system fell in place. But we do see a period after which mixing reduces constantly.
Parth: I see.
Tony Joseph: Before the gates closed, we had already mixed up, it is already a mixed population.
Parth: You say that the bottom line in India is that we are all migrants.
Tony Joseph: Yes, and I want to add to it also. I said that it’s a mixture of at least three populations but in actuality it’s a mixture of more number of groups.
Parth: Just let us end with what is the political significance of what has now been of the Aryan migration theory that now has the backing of DNA evidence, what is the political significance of it?
Tony Joseph: It is sad that this should become a political issue because what the study actually does is to understand and appreciate the diversity of our population and how we have all contributed. All of us are part of it. All of us … to some extent or the other. It shouldn’t be a political issue. I think it is a political issue because when there is an effort to see Indian civilization as a uni-source civilization, there’s a problem, it is a multisource civilization. It draws its impulses, its culture, from multiple sources with multiple migration histories. When you accept that, those political issues should go away. I think there’s difficulty in accepting that we are a multisource civilization, which we have built together in common.
Parth: I’m sure the trolls don’t like you saying that.
Tony Joseph: Yes, it’s to be expected.
Parth: Thank you, Tony, thank you so much.