Who came first, Indians or Europeans?
04, 2009 2:12:00 AM
K V Ramana / DNA
We often talk and worry about brain drain, where the brightest Indians move out of the sub-continent, generally to the West, seeking better opportunities. However, it may turn out that this is hardly a new trend.
Geneticists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad released a study last week which suggested that the Indian population has its origin in migrants from Africa who arrived here 45,000 to 65,000 years ago. The next stage of the study, they say, will explore whether Europe got populated by migrating Indians. This will go against the belief that in ancient times, humans moving from Europe populated India.
Earlier studies published in 2005 have established that the mega droughts in East Africa had forced the population there to migrate to greener pastures some 75,000 years ago. The migrant Africans are believed to have taken the southern coastal route to reach India. The currently prevailing view is that the original inhabitants of Africa followed a northern route of migration via Middle East, Europe, south-east Asia, Australia and then to India.
In addition to these findings, CCMB’s recent research has shown that today’s sub-continental population originated from two groups of ancestors: Ancestral North Indian (ANI) and Ancestral South Indian (ASI). While the ASI entered from the south, the ANI entered India from the northern region.
“We are now going to answer several key questions going forward,” says Dr Lalji Singh, former director of the CCMB and a senior scientist on genetic research.“We are always told that people from different parts of the planet migrated into India. But we were never told that people from India, too, had wandered out. The ANI have similarity to Europeans and to Iranians. When you look at the origin of the Indian population, the Onges in the Andaman Islands are dated to about 65,000 years ago, and the European population is dated to 40,000 years ago. So the question of Europeans coming to India does not arise.
The ANI must have given rise to the European population. We would now like to confirm this,” he says.
Though the scientists now seem to have enough evidence to prove that the Europeans have their origins in India, there are a couple of questions that need to be answered first. There is a possibility that the Europeans had a common ancestor like the ANI. If this is disproved, then it will add strength to the argument that Indians populated Europe Implications for medical research
According to Singh, some genetic disorders can be treated in a better manner if “what we’ll be working on in the next three years gives all the desired results.”
Indeed, more information about the nature of the Indian genome would aid bio-technology research to streamline treatment for genetic disorders that are more prevalent among than Indians in other populations.
There are two types of genetic disorders. The recessive diseases are those that do not show up in a person though one of the two genes (from the father and mother) has some defect. But a dominant disease shows up if either of the two genes have any defect. So, the recessive disease remains hidden. “The genetic studies of smaller groups, tribes and castes in the country will give us a clear idea on the hidden (recessive) diseases. Similarly, we can look for better treatment for the yet-to-be born child,” he said.
“India was neglected all these years. Scientists in
western countries normally study Europe, America and Russia and for them that
is the whole world. Any theory they make is based on the findings in these geographies.
From our studies they have now realised their blunder. India is a melting pot
and I am sure many countries and continents were populated by India. It (our study)
is going to rewrite both science and history,” Singh said.