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Indians – Who we are? Where did we come from?

Indians – Who we are? Where did we come from?

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Our country India and its populace embody a rich amalgamation of diverse cultures. Yet, the genesis of this cultural tapestry remains a captivating query for numerous anthropologists. Recently published study on bioRxiv, elucidating the genetic composition of Indians.

India and Indians stand as a testament to the kaleidoscope of human diversity. With its myriad ethnic identities, languages, religions, castes, and customs, this region is home to more than 1.4 crore individuals, making it one of the most culturally rich and complex areas on Earth. Now, a groundbreaking study has provided unprecedented insights into the formation of this diverse population, shedding light on ancient migrations, genetic admixtures, and even encounters with our evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Published as a preprint last month on bioRxiv, the study represents the largest modern whole-genome analysis from South Asia. Led by researchers including Priya Moorjani, a population geneticist from the University of California, Berkeley, the study delves deep into the genetic makeup of modern Indians, revealing fascinating details about their ancestral origins and the intricate tapestry of their past.

At the heart of the study lies the exploration of three ancestral populations that have shaped the genetic landscape of South Asia: the indigenous hunter-gatherers, Iranian-descended farmers, and pastoralists from the Eurasian steppe. Through meticulous analysis of over 2700 modern Indians genomes, drawn from diverse geographic regions, linguistic groups, tribes, and castes, the researchers have uncovered new insights into the origins and interactions of these ancestral groups.

One of the study’s notable findings revolves around the Iranian-related farmers who migrated to the region thousands of years ago. By examining ancient DNA from groups with Iranian ancestry predating their arrival in this part of the world and becoming Indians , researchers traced their origins to an ancient agricultural center called Sarazm, located in present-day Tajikistan. The discovery of cultural artifacts and genetic traces linking Sarazm to India suggests a complex interplay of migration, trade, and cultural exchange, challenging conventional narratives of unidirectional population movements.

Moreover, the study delves into the deep past, exploring the genetic legacy of early human migrations to the Indian subcontinent. By analyzing genetic mutations and population variations, researchers suggest that modern South Asians are descendants of a single migration out of Africa approximately 50,000 years ago. This finding not only sheds light on the ancient peopling of South Asia but also underscores the interconnectedness of human populations across continents.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the study reveals an unexpectedly rich diversity of Neanderthal and Denisovan genes among modern South Asians. Despite the absence of fossil evidence, the presence of these archaic genes suggests encounters and interbreeding between ancient humans and their Neanderthal and Denisovan relatives on the subcontinent. The abundance and variety of archaic genes in South Asian populations present tantalizing questions about the nature of these interactions and their potential evolutionary implications.

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However, the study also highlights the complexities and gaps in our understanding of South Asia’s genetic history. Despite significant advancements, uncertainties remain regarding the contributions of other ancestral populations and the mechanisms underlying the retention of Neanderthal and Denisovan genes in South Asian genomes. As researchers continue to unravel the genetic tapestry of South Asia through interdisciplinary approaches combining genetics, archaeology, and anthropology, new discoveries are poised to reshape our understanding of human evolution and migration.

In conclusion, the largest ever whole-genome analysis from South Asia offers a glimpse into the rich and intricate history of the region, from ancient migrations and cultural exchanges to encounters with our distant relatives. By unraveling the genetic tapestry of South Asia, researchers are not only shedding light on the origins of its diverse population but also illuminating broader patterns of human evolution and interconnectedness on a global scale. As we delve deeper into the genetic mysteries of the past, the story of South Asia continues to unfold, revealing the remarkable journey of humanity through time and space.

Sources: science.org

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