In DepthHUMAN EVOLUTION

Ancient DNA untangles South Asian roots

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Science  20 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6386, pp. 252
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6386.252

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Summary

Today, the population of South Asia is divided into dozens of ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups that live side by side—but not always in harmony. A contentious border separates India and Pakistan; political movements draw stark lines between India's Muslim and Hindu populations. Groups don't mix much, as people tend to marry those who share their ethnicity and tongue. Now, a study of the first ancient DNA recovered from South Asia shows that populations there mingled repeatedly thousands of years ago. Nearly all of the Indian subcontinent's ethnic and linguistic groups are the product of three ancient Eurasian populations who met and mixed: local hunter-gatherers, Middle Eastern farmers, and Central Asian herders. Three similar groups also mingled in ancient Europe, giving the two subcontinents surprisingly parallel histories. The study also strengthens the claim that Proto-Indo-European—the ancestral language that gave rise to languages from English to Russian to Hindi—originated on the steppes of Asia.