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Genetic Study Added to Debate on India’s Bronze Age Languages

Thursday, July 6, 2017

YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND—Could men from Central Asia have brought Indo-European languages to India thousands of years ago? Live Science reports that archaeogeneticist Martin Richards of the University of Huddersfield and his colleagues conducted an analysis of genetic material collected from modern populations living in India, where ancient DNA rarely survives in the hot climate. The data from the study suggest that multiple waves of people migrated into the subcontinent from Anatolia, the Caucasus, and Iran over the past 20,000 years. In particular, Richards and his colleagues say between 4,000 and 3,800 years ago, the Y-chromosome subtype associated with men of the Yamnaya culture appeared in Indian populations. The Yamnaya lived between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, are known for their pit graves and wheeled horse chariots, and spoke a precursor of Indo-European languages. The Yamnaya subgroup is now carried by about 17.5 percent of Indian men—more often in the north than in the south. So, did Yamnaya warriors conquer northern India, or perhaps migrate there and have large families? “It’s very easy for Y-chromosome composition to change very quickly,” Richards said. “Just because individual men can have a lot more children than women can.”  To read more about Bronze Age Indo-European cultures, go to "The Wolf Rites of Winter." 

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