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Tuesday 8 January 2013

Today i came across a very handy website filled with some very interesting articles from genetics.
Genetic Links in the Indus Valley

  This month’s feature article explores genetic links in the Indus Valley, the location of the Bronze Age Harappan Civilization. The historical background section includes a discussion of emerging new models of South Asian prehistory. This new research challenges the traditional academic theory of a "Vedic invasion"  from outside of India, and suggests instead local continuity in South Asia dating to the expansion of Neolithic cultures from West Asia.

 The Old Theory (Vedic Invasion): Despite this vivid archaeological record of Harappan life, the
ancient Harappan language (or languages) is unknown, because the Indus Script remains undeciphered.
When the ancient cities of Harappa were excavated, Western archaeologists generally assumed that the
ancient Harappan culture had been replaced by invaders from the Eurasian Steppe and Central Asia at the
end of the Harappan period around 1700-1300 BCE. The new Central Asian invaders were thought to be
the composers of the Rigveda and other Vedic literature written in the Sanskrit language, ancestral to
Hindi and other languages spoken throughout South Asia to the present day.
This “invasion theory” remains the traditional academic model for Indian prehistory, in part
because it explains the similarity of Sanskrit to ancient Greek and Latin. However, archaeologists have
not found clear evidence for a culture from the Eurasian Steppe or Central Asia that influenced South
Asia in the relevant period. The best effort to address this lack of archaeological evidence is currently the
“Kulturkugel” model, in which invaders spread a new Indo-European language without noticeably
impacting the material culture of South Asia. Similarly, linguistic evidence for any pre-Vedic “substrate”
language of the Indus Valley is somewhat limited.

 A New Model (Vedic Harappans): To address this lack of evidence for Vedic invaders from
Central Asia, some scholars are beginning to explore evidence for greater antiquity of the Vedic culture
(dating to the Harappan period) and a South Asian geographical setting for the Rigveda and other texts.
Proposed evidence for the antiquity of Vedic cultures has included astronomical references in
Vedic texts that date to 2,500 BCE and possibly older based on changed star positions (due to the
precession of the equinoxes). Geographical terms in the Rigveda suggest a South Asian setting, including
areas near the Indus Valley and as far east as the lower Ganges. Similarly, river names in the Punjab
suggest the local antiquity of Sanskrit speaking cultures in northern India.2
Most importantly, the Rigveda itself does not mention any migration to northern India. In
contrast, related Zoroastrian texts from Central and West Asia do mention a migration from an earlier
homeland (possibly near the Hindu Kush Mountains). Early evidence from outside of India also includes
West Asian Mitannian and Kassite cultures (contemporary with the Harappan Civilization), which used
Rigvedic like deity names and the peacock (a South Asian animal) as an artistic motif. Taken together,
this suggests the possibility that Vedic cultures were indigenous South Asians (possibly one of several
Harappan cultures), appearing in West Asia through the trade links known to archaeologists.

 The Language Puzzle and Evidence for Early Migrations: A new model of “Vedic
Harappans” would however, create a new puzzle: if there was no Vedic invasion, how did Indo-European
languages find their way to both Europe and South Asia? Archaeological evidence supports two major
expansions into South Asia: (1) a Neolithic expansion (possibly from West Asia) between 6,000-4,500
BCE; and (2) an Iron Age expansion (possibly from Central Asia) between 800-200 BCE.
Neolithic (Pre-Harappan) Expansion: One possibility is that food producing cultures of West
Asia brought Indo-European languages to South Asia during the Neolithic expansion (6,000-4,500 BCE).

 This early date for the languages ancestral to Sanskrit would not contradict the Neolithic date for the
Proto-Indo-European language that has been proposed by some linguists

 It was going nice unill got struck by this funny and idiotic assumption-

 Iron Age (Shakya) Expansion: The second expansion dating to 800-200 BCE has been
associated with Shakya or Saka (Scythian related) cultures from Central Asia that influenced early
Buddhist culture in India. For instance, the Sanskrit scholar Michael Witzel has suggested Central Asian
links for some Shakya customs, such as the use of burial mounds (stupas) and Zoroastrian concepts in
Buddhist literature.
First emerging in Śākyamuni’s native kingdom of Lumbini (in present day Nepal), Buddhism
eventually spread outward from the Indian Subcontinent and flourished in the mercantile Silk Road oasis
settlements of Central Asia. In the context of a “Vedic Harappans” model, these Shakyas might have been
peripheral Harappan or Vedic influenced cultures from Central Asia that returned to the core Vedic
location of India during the Iron Age.

This shakya-saka connection theory is an old one with recently regenerated by Indologists like Michael Witzel but has no real base at all. Now just see the vital conclusion-

 Both STR and SNP based analyses indicated substantial genetic links between the Indus Valley
and both the interior of the Indian Subcontinent and West Asia. Archaeological evidence for a population
expansion (possibly from West Asia) between 6,000 and 4,500 BCE might relate to genetic links with the
Mesopotamian region (STR) and Caucasus-Anatolian region (SNP). Expansions of food producing
cultures during this period might have provided an opportunity for the Indo-European languages
(ancestral to Vedic Sanskrit) to reach the Indian Subcontinent.
In contrast, genetic links with Siberian populations were smaller. These included relatively small
Altaian (STR), Baltic-Urals (SNP), and Mongolian (SNP) genetic components. These genetic links might
express later and less extensive population expansions from the Eurasian Steppe and Central Asia, such as
possible Shakya migrations during the Iron Age.
In addition, results also suggested genetic expansions from India to Central Asia. This included
South India components identified in Kalash, Tajik, and Turkmen populations near the periphery of the
Indus Valley region. These genetic links might express population expansions from South Asia, such as
during the period of the Bronze Age Harappan Civilization. Future research might explore South Asian
genetic links in more distant locations (such as the BMAC and Urals), where evidence for Vedic
influences in material culture have been suggested by archaeologists.
In summary, results are consistent with emerging alternative models of South Asian prehistory, in
which the Vedic cultures were descended from indigenous Harappans already resident in South Asia.
Rather than a putative “Indo-European invasion” from Central Asia in the late Bronze Age, results
suggest the possibility of an earlier and more peaceful “Indo-European diffusion” of food producing
cultures from West Asia during the Copper Age.


 My conclusion:

Atleast the age of Indo-European language here is getting older which i think is correct and yes Rikved should be pushed 6-5 centuries deeper than its current date of around 1700-1100 B.C.

  About the 800 B.C. intrusion( should be close to 600b.c. instead of 800b.c. See the BMAC post link) i think they were related to the Parthians or to the  Dasa-Dasyu people mentioned frequently in the Rikved  rather than the saka people.

As we should know the scythian related people started to venture here only from the middle 2nd century b.c.

so the 800-200 b.c. idea is not that promising at all.
And at the last the age of the components is more vital than the proportion on certain populations.







Monday 7 January 2013

Harappan people used an older form of Brahmi script?

VARANASI: Is Brahmi the oldest script of India. The mysterious script of Indus Valley civilization, which is not deciphered yet may have some ancestral connection with Brahmi script can be deciphered in coming years.
A palm leaf manuscript discovered from Harappan site in Afghanistan has strengthened the belief of existence of a proto Brahmi script, which was used by Indus Valley people. This discussion was raised by Dr DP Sharma, Harappan archaeologist and director, Bharat Kala Bhawan, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in the International Conference on Harappan Archaeology held recently in Chandigarh.
According to Sharma, who has carried out research works on the palm leaf manuscript with Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for last five years, the palm leaf has Harappan as well as Kohi script engraved. "Kohi symbols and letters have an affinity with the Harappan script and hence can be very significant in the decipherment of Harappan scripts. At the same time the palm leave manuscript has seven lines, which is the longest script recovered from any Harappan site. So far the scripts or the signs of Indus Valley script engraved on tablets, seals, potteries and other objects had not more than 18 letters or pictures," informed Sharma.
Sharma also said, "The script on the palm leaf runs from right to left while Brahmi script runs from right to left. The objects discovered from excavation sites indicate that they were using two scripts as few objects have right to left run of the script while some objects have left to right written scripts. However, no traces of objects with bilingual scripts has been found so far of Harappan period, which suggests that there was only one script called Brahmi and the script that Harappan people used was an older form of Brahmi called 'proto Brahmi'. During the mature Harappan period (2700 BC to 2000 BC) the direction of Harappan writing system was right to left and later on around 2000 to 1500 BC they started their writing system from left to right. The existence of no long manuscript had posed the difficulty in deciphering the Harappan script, however, the manuscript on palm leaves may solve this problem".
Sharma further strengthens his argument by quoting the DNA analysis carried out by Dr Lalji Singh, vice-chancellor, BHU. According to Sharma, the analysis by Singh suggests that the two ancient races Aryan and Dravidians were native of India and none of them came outside of our country. The Aryan and Dravidian races in India have the same genetic basis. This suggests that proto Dravidian and proto Aryan races were present in Harappan population and Harappan were using proto Dravidian and Sanskrit as their language and their script was proto Brahmi only.
According to Sharma, during the conference, his research works in deciphering the Harappan scripts were also consolidated by BR Mani additional director general, ASI. "These new researches can help a great deal in deciphering the Harappan script and once the script is deciphered a number of mysterious seals, square pieces, pottery, coins and other objects can be read and hence we can know about their trade, literature, art and other aspects of civilization," informed Sharma.
However, according to  Prof. Dr. Roland Bielmeier of University of Bern the artefact is probably a fake! as he suggests-
 Whether this last statistic also indicates that the signs encode similar phonetic and
logographic values in the two systems, remains unclear however. It just seems too
problematic to judge with any certainty, whether the Kabul text could exhibit this
pattern of sign frequency overlap, if the symbols represented entirely different linguistic
units in the Indus corpus. One would need to decide, whether sign frequencies could
coincide in this manner, if a non-Indus people had stumbled upon a collection of Indus
inscriptions and merely adopted the shapes of some of the most common symbols for
their script without adopting their encoding value. If this scenario could be discounted
on the basis of signs frequencies, then it could be assumed that a number of Kabul
graphemes share the same value as their matching Indus symbols. This, in turn, would imply that the Indus symbols belong to a speech-encoding writing system and the
hypothesis of the non-linguistic Indus symbol system would be refuted.
If this problem were solved, then researchers would need to establish whether the
Kabul text employed the exact same writing system as the Indus Civilization or whether
the system was modified in any way. The manuscript might represent a later simplified
stage of the Indus script for instance. This hypothetical stage could contain a reduced
number of logographs and rely predominantly on syllables instead. Evolutionary
patterns of other scripts show that this development is a widespread phenomenon.
 A large portion or maybe even all of the Kabul signs might therefore encode
syllables. The amount of proposed Kabul graphemes would not rule out either of these
possibilities because the total of Kabul graphemes might increase drastically, or merely
a little, if a larger corpus than 172 graphs were available for examination. This
relatively limited corpus simply does not allow predictions on the matter. Therefore, it
would certainly be worthwhile uncovering and analysing the other layers of bark to find
out how many more graphemes would join the 62 already visible graphemes.
 It would also be extremely interesting and potentially revealing to compare the
frequencies of particular signs sequences. If it could be demonstrated that the most
common Indus grapheme sequences also occur relatively frequently in the manuscript,
then it would seem likely that the Kabul penman not only used the Indus script but that
the text encoded the language, or one of the languages, of the Indus Civilization. As it
stands the manuscript might encode a non-Indus language and merely utilise the Indus
writing system.
 Many issues therefore still remain unresolved and numerous aspects beg further
investigation. So far, a graphemic analysis of the Kabul manuscript has only enabled the
positing of a Kabul grapheme list and its subsequent comparison to the symbols of the
Indus corpus has merely lead to the definite conclusion that the majority of the signs on
the analysed birch bark were borrowed from the collection of Indus symbols. It should
also be kept in mind that any of the contentions that were presented in this thesis would
be invalidated if the Kabul manuscript proved to be a forgery. As all arguments hinge
on the assumption that the manuscript is not a fake, establishing the date of the strip of  birch bark would certainly head the list of top priorities, which need to be addressed in
any further examination of this intriguing artefact.
So, a simple radiocarbon dating would have been ideal to solve this debate.
The debate also reminds me of the late  veteran scholar S.R. Rao who found the IVC script to be Indo-Aryan contradicting the popular views of Munda and of course Dravidian.
There is also a debate of whether the script represents a language or not!.
But if you ask me there is a direct player waiting to unleash, the player is  the aDNA of an ancient harappan site in  Farmana which i think holds the key to solve the indo-european riddle and to give the field of indology a true direction, a revolution which already have been started with some academic indologists like here.
Happy 2013 to all.