New Delhi: No traces of the R1a1 gene or Central Asian ‘steppe’ genes were found out in the study of DNA samples of skeletons found in Rakhigarhi, an Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) site located in Haryana. The historical study to trace the ‘Aryan gene’ is titled “An ancient Harappan genome lacks ancestry from Steppe pastoralists or Iranian farmers”. It examined the skeletal remains of an individual in Rakhigarhi for DNA. The skeleton dated back to around 2500 BC, which was part of the mature Harappan civilisation or IVC.
“The population has no detectable ancestry from Steppe pastoralists or from Anatolian and Iranian farmers, suggesting farming in south Asia arose from local foragers rather than from large-scale migration from the West,” said the study published on Friday. The ‘steppe’ gene from Central Asia is but found in many Indians today.
“These individuals (in Rakhigarhi) had little of any Steppe pastoralist-derived ancestry, showing that it was not ubiquitous in north-west South Asia during the IVC as it is today,” the study reported. “While there is a small proportion of Anatolian farmer-related ancestry in South Asians today, it is consistent with being entirely derived from Steppe pastoralists who carried it in mixed form and who spread into South Asia from 2000–1500 BCE.”
Archaeologist Vasant Shinde who was one of the researchers to head the study, concluded, “Our analysis of data from one individual from the IVC… demonstrates the existence of an ancestry gradient that was widespread in farmers to the northwest of peninsular India at the height of the IVC, that had little if any genetic contribution from Steppe pastoralists or western Iranian farmers or herders, and that had a primary impact on the ancestry of later South Asians.”
However, there is a disclaimer towards the end of the study, stating, “While our study is sufficient to demonstrate that this ancestry profile was a common feature of the IVC, a single sample — or even the gradient of 12 likely IVC samples we have identified — cannot fully characterise a cosmopolitan ancient civilisation.”
India’s former colonial rulers had peddled the Aryan invasion theory. They claimed that the country’s high castes were descendants of an Aryan race that hailed from Central Asia and are also the European forebears.
Subsequently, as leftists continued with the theory made by some British ICS officers masquerading as historians, people asked for evidence of a conflict, which must have taken place in the case of an invasion. Unable to gather evidence of a clash, battle or war in the fossils, the Marxist historians revised Aryan “invasion” to Aryan “migration”. The revised theory was challenged too when it was found that the migrations were two-way, with people in hordes leaving what is now India for what is now Iran centuries before the Indus valley civilisation as much as there were groups that immigrated to the geographical area of present-day India.
At the same time, the indigenous people argued that Aryan, or rather Arya, was a mere honorific used to address the more evolved people in the population. They said these were indigenous people who developed Vedic Hinduism and were not invaders at all. Vedic Hinduism, as suggested by the “invasion theory”, was developed by European migrants, and came after the IVC.
Discussing the findings of the study in a press conference, Vasant Shinde said that the Indus Valley Civilisation brought much of the development associated with the “foreigners”. “Earlier, it was thought that development only started with the movement of those from Central Asia and West Asia towards the Indus Valley Civilisation. But that is incorrect. All the development was done by indigenous people,” Shinde said.
The study was headed by genetic researcher Dr Niraj Rai, who said that enough evidence was still not there to call the movement of Central Asians an “invasion”.
Rai, talking about how steppe genes, which weren’t found in the Rakhigarhi DNA samples, could be present in contemporary South Asians, said, “There is a difference between migration and movement. There was certainly some mixing and assimilation, but we can’t call that an invasion.”
An uproar was created by a draft of the Rakhigarhi study which was published last year. The lack of R1a1 gene in the skeletons had created a wave of discussion when it was reported. Since no ancestry of Central Asia was found in the excavated DNA sample, the Aryan invasion or migration theory stands discarded.
“We did not find any Central Asian ancestry in the DNA sample. This suggests that the Rakhigarhi residents hadn’t mixed with the Central Asians till then,” Niraj Rai said.
“Plenty of people believe the Aryans came from Central Asia. But we have no evidence of that,” Shinde, who led the 2015 excavation in Rakhigarhi, had said. He had debunked reports that confirmed the Aryan invasion.