GenoGraphic Project: Caste System Pre-dates Aryan Invasion.

When I searched for the definition of *Genographic*, all the top references pointed to Genographic Project of the National Geographic Society: ^^Since its launch in 2005, National Geographic’s Genographic Project has used advanced DNA analysis and worked with indigenous communities to help answer fundamental questions about where humans originated and how we came to populate the Earth^^. Geno-Graphic is quite obviously a cojoined word derived from Genome or Genetics and Geographic. By studying selected gene markers of different indigenous communities, and through comparative computational analysis of similarities and  differences in their gene markers; the project aims to answer questions of origin of humans and the paths they followed to populate the earth over time. “Out of Africa” hypothesis of human origins is now more or less the accepted theory in mainstream science based on fossil evidence [paleo-anthropology] and genetics [mitochondrial DNA inherited exclusively through matrilineage].
First major wave of migration to pass through west and south of Indian subcontinent occurred somewhere between 50 to 40 thousand years ago. The second major wave reached India through north-west some time around 30 thousand years ago. There have been successive waves of migrations of modern humans later on. The latest offering of Genographic project released on 28 November asserts that Southern India’s Caste System Predates Arrival of Indo-Europeans. The study took samples from 1,680 men from Tamilnadu belonging to 12 tribes and 19 castes [non-tribes]. The results of the study suggest a minimal genetic influence in Tamilnadu either from migrations of agricultural communities in the neolithic period [around 12,000 years ago] from fertile crescent [modern day Iraq, and parts of Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan etc.] to Indian subcontinent; or  from later migrations of Eurasian [Aryans] that began in 8,000 BCE, but reached South India much later, may be gradually since 2000 years ago. Compared to genes from tribes’ samples, the castes’ samples showed slightly higher proportion of paternal lineages from these later migrants; but on the whole the common paternal lineages shared by all of them are likely drawn from the same ancestral genetic pool that emerged during the 18,000 years  from 30,000 years ago to 12,000 [10,000 BCE] years ago.
The study asserts that genetic differences [Y-Chromosomal differentiation] in the samples drawn from Tamilnadu population seem to have been influenced by demographic shifts that occurred during neolithic era [12,000 years ago] with the emergence of agriculture technology in South India and due to specialisation in occupations that new mode of life -that is permanent settlements- demanded. That means the tribes and castes emerged in South India much before the advent of  Aryan invasion.
A study by the Genographic Project has given new insight into how demographic factors have shaped genetic diversity in Indian populations. Among the most surprising findings was that genetic differences between tribal and caste groups in Tamil Nadu seem to pre-date the arrival of the Indo-Europeans in the region by approximately 2,000 years.
Our conclusions provide a new framework to better understand the relative impacts of demographic events and other cultural, social and economic factors that might have influenced modern genetic diversity in India.

The genetic data also revealed that genetic differentiation among populations in Tamil Nadu began as early as 6,000 years ago, with no significant genetic admixture among them for at least the last 3,000 years. These results indicate a minimal genetic impact from the Indo-European migrations into the region over the past 2,000 years. These results are consistent with the earliest historical records of the region that document a highly structured society prior to the establishment of the Hindu Varna system. Rather, the timing of the Y-chromosomal differentiation among Tamil Nadu populations seems to fit better with the emergence of agricultural technology in South India and the resulting demographic shifts during the Neolithic period.

Genographic Project, it is to be assumed, has applied due scientific rigour in its analysis, particularly in ensuring that those involved in genetic profiling were unaware of which sample belonged to whom. That is after the tests on 1680 samples were completed, these were sorted into 31 groups [12 tribes and 19 castes] based on their genetic profiling; and then alone these finding were checked against the actual sampling information about which sample was drawn from whom. If there were any errors or mismatches, the brief release from National Geographic doesn’t state so. But even if there were few, those must have been eliminated as statistically insignificant; and genetic profiling classification must have been found to be good fit of sampling classification
This study throws now many challenges at established notions about the origins of castes. The very fact that it was possible to sort the samples back into 31 groups based on genetic profiling [my assumption] points to non or little mixing of their gene pools after they were separated before some 12,000 years ago. This would agree well with the caste practice that violently dissuades exogamy outside the rigid caste boundary. In parallel, consciousness must have developed to shun endogamy within Gotra [or sub clan] or close relatives [especially patrilineage] to escape implications of narrow gene pool. The notion that Conquerors created caste system to permanently subjugate Conquered populations and to thereby have a hierarchical structure beneficial to rulers also now runs into trouble. Is it then possible that the new comers saw a caste system in operation, found it useful, and then incorporated it into their ideological superstructure as an opportunistic expedient.   Put another way, it is not caste that created rigid hierarchy of stratified occupations, but it is occupations that created rigid hierarchy of stratified castes. But to answer this question with any degree of confidence, the Genographic Project would have to  enlarge its study to other regions of India, particularly to north-west. The study of Origins of Caste System would be once again back in firmament.
To see the greatest success story of Africa, Dr. Spencer Wells in his TED talk advises, one has to only look in the mirror. Towards the height of the last ice age some 70,000 years ago most of the fresh water and water vapours had got trapped in the ice. Africa, most tropical of the continents,  was drying up. Due the pressures of survival brought about by climate change, the modern human population possibly dropped to couple of thousands, but barely escaped extinction as one can say now. Period from around 60,000 years onward is marked by tremendous burst of diversity and creativity among humans specie. He points out all this happened in barely 2000 generations. Each one of us in just 2000 ancestry-steps would go back to our roots in Africa. Fascinating!!
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The Genographic Project is a multiyear research initiative led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells. Dr. Wells and a team of renowned international scientists are using cutting-edge genetic and computational technologies to analyze historical patterns in DNA from participants around the world to better understand our human genetic roots. The three components of the project are:

  • To gather and analyze research data in collaboration with indigenous and traditional peoples around the world
  • To invite the general public to join this real-time scientific project and to learn about their own deep ancestry by purchasing a Genographic Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit, Geno 2.0
  • To use a portion of the proceeds from Geno 2.0 kit sales to further research and the Genographic Legacy Fund, which in turn supports community-led indigenous conservation and revitalization projects

The Genographic Project is anonymous, nonmedical, and nonprofit, and all results are placed in the public domain following scientific peer publication.

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One Response to “GenoGraphic Project: Caste System Pre-dates Aryan Invasion.”

  1. Sadanand Patwardhan Says:

    I had wrongly written 200 generations would take us back to our roots in Africa. It should have been 2000 generations. The correction has been made in the body above.

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