No Horse was domesticated in the steppe of Kazakhstan, west Siberia and Ukraine: DNA study

Was the wild steppe horse ever domesticated?

Archaeology and DNA

Sir William Ridgeway had noted on anatomical grounds that the Przewalskii was not the ancestor of the caballus horses (1905:425). Further than this the US Bureau of Animal Husbandry noted in its Report (1910:165) that the modern horse had come from many sources: “But notwithstanding the absence of well preserved skulls it has been possible by making use of the new methods to obtain a considerable amount of evidence that the domestic horses had a multiple origin, that they include amongst their ancestors not only varieties allied to the wild horse which still survives in Mongolia, and varieties adapted for a forest life, but also varieties specialized for ranging over boundless deserts and plateaus, and for living amongst foothills and upland valleys.” (emphasis added). The contribution of the horse genes from many regions in the domestication of horse has been proved, yet any contribution from the steppe-horse has not been supported by these DNA studies of the caballus and the Przewalskii horses (Jansen 2002; Bowling 2003; Wade 2009; Cai 2009:481; Achilli 2011).

The official position in science is that the steppe horse Equus przewalskii has different chromosome number, and that has not been found in any domestic horse and hence it is an entirely different species (Oakenfull 2000; Clark 2006) from which the modern caballus horse could not have descended.

Confirming the non-domesticablility of the Przewalskii horse, Jansen et al (2002:10910) noted, “Modern breeding of the wild Przewalski’s horse initially encountered problems such as pacing, excessive aggression, impotence, and infanticide, leading the Przewalski’s horse to the brink of extinction. The Przewalski’s horse is not ancestral to domestic horses, but if their wild ancestors were similarly intractable, it is unlikely that the technique was mastered many times independently during prehistory. The ease of domestic horse breeding today may be the genetic consequence of selections of particularly amenable beasts some thousands of years ago.”

It can be proposed that the true horse might have lived along with the Przewalskii in the steppe. But that imagination is not allowed. The non-Przewalskii horse could not have lived along with the Przewalskii in the steppe because of the Gause’s Law of Competitive Exclusion, which states: “No two species can equally and successfully occupy the same niche in the same habitat at the same time.” With time one species completely eliminates the other by competition. Hence all the horse bones recovered from the steppe must be considered those of the wild Przewalski. This view is consistent with Levine’s findings too; and the bones with evidence of domestication must be considered imported from outside into the steppe-region.

None of the archaeological claims made so far for the presence of the domestic horse in the steppe have been uncontestable. Outram (2009) found evidence of mare’s milk on pottery at Botai. However the bones of the Botai horses, particularly the vertebral bones showed no damage to them which normally occurs due to riding. After her detailed examination Levine noted, “the material from Botai examined so far most probably was from wild individuals” (Levine 2005:107). Thus presence of milk on a potsherd does not necessarily mean evidence of domestication. It was easy to capture a Przewalskii full-term pregnant mare, keep her captive through delivery, then use her milk for some time before slaughter. For the domestication status of any animal there should be complete package of evidence, not just a stray finding.

More than this, the Bronze Age Botai horses examined by Outram were not indigenous but were imports from outside, as Outram himself noted: “Metrical analysis of horse metacarpals shows that Botai horses resemble Bronze Age domestic horses rather than Palaeolithic wild horses from the same region.” The import of the steppe horses from outside during the Bronze Age is further confirmed by ancient DNA studies (vide infra). Morphological studies too have shown that metrically, the Bronze Age and later domestic horses of Eurasia resembled the European and Indian fossil horses (stenonis, sivalensis etc), but not with the steppe horse.

Ancient Horse DNA

Ancient DNAs of horse recovered from archaeological samples do not support the steppe origin or domestication of horse. Keyser-Tracqui (2005) examined 13 horse DNAs recovered from a third century BC Scythian Era frozen tomb at Berel in Kazakhstan. “It shows that the 15 ancient Asian horse’s sequences obtained did not form a separate cluster.” (p. 206). This means they did not have a common source of origin, and they were not locally domesticated. The study revealed that the DNAs had come from six different clades of Vila.  “No clear geographical affiliation of the specimens studied was thus determined”, they noted.

Intriguingly, none of these third century Scythian horse samples matched with Akhal Teke (Turkmenistan) breed of horse. Keyser-Tracqui noted, “Whereas no matches were found with the Akhal-Teke specimens, some complete matches were observed with Chinese Guanzhong and Tuva horses (the Tuva republic is localized between the Siberia and the Mongolia) as well as with Anatolian horses.” (p. 208)

This finding helps us understand the origin of the Akhal Teke horse. The South Central Asian horse Akhal Teke has no contribution from the hypothetical source of horse located in the steppe. It also means that the Akhal Teke breed is not as old as we think, and it has been formed after the Scythian Era from admixture of Iranian and other breeds.

Many of these ancient horses in Kazakhstan had arrived from north Europe: “None of the Scythian haplotypes matched those provided for Przewalski’s horses, which are considered to be a relic population of wild horse of Eurasia (Lister et al. 1998; Oakenfull & Ryder 1998). Interestingly, we noted that BER10-11-13 sequences perfectly matched that of a Viking Age horse bones found in a restricted area in Sweden (Vila` et al. 2001) as well as that of an Icelandic horse, which represents an ancient Norwegian breed.” (p. 208)

This indicates arrival of the European as well as the Chinese horse in Kazakhstan during or before the Scythian period. Older Bronze Age DNAs from the steppe are not reflected in these third century BC samples, implying that the Scythian Era horses were fresh arrivals from other places and the Bronze Age horses had been replaced by the imported horse during the Scythian period. Two of the samples belonged to haplogroup A6, two to hg D and three to C1 (p. 205). Thus the haplogroups ascribed to the horses in this study were A, C and D. The Bhutia (Himalayan, Country Bred Indian) breed of horse has haplogroup composition of A, C, D, F, and it is possible that there was a significant arrival of Himalayan horse from North India to Berel.

The mtDNA haplotypes detected in the ancient horse from Kazakhstan and West Siberia from the periods Copper and Bronze Ages were X3, X3c1, X5, X7a, G3, K2 and D3 (Cieslac 2010:Figure 2). These have not been found in the modern Indian horses (Devi and Ghosh 2013:5862 Table 1). The X5 which was confined to this region during the Bronze Age is found today in the Fulani horse of Africa (Cieslac 2010:3 pdf). Further investigation is needed to confirm that the X5 reached Africa and the steppe both from a common source in Europe. Likewise the X3 too was found in the steppe during the Bronze Age. It appeared later in China in the Iron Age (ibid). This lineage is possibly European in origin and indicates a migration of European horse to the steppe during the Bronze Age. These ancient lineages are absent from the modern Kazakh breed of western China (Tao Zhang 2012:923). This means the steppe horse of the Copper and Bronze Ages neither contributed to the horse population of later India nor to the breeds Kazakh and Akhal Teke.

In the study of Iranian horse breeds by Moridi, it was found that the Sistani breed, native of the Sistan-and-Baluchistan province (adjoining Baluchistan of Pakistan) had the maximum number of haplogroups. The European haplogroup B was present only in the coastally located Arabian-Irani and the Sistani breeds and was not found in the northerly located breeds viz. Kurd, Caspian-Short and Turkoman. In Devi’s study of Indian breeds, only the Marwari and Kathiawari breeds which are nearer to Sistan-and-Baluchistan had haplogroup B, but others including Bhutia, Spiti, Zanskari and Spiti did not have this haplogroup.

The haplogroup B has been found in Guizhou breed of South China and the Mongolian breed of northwest China too (Tao Zhang 2012:923, 924). It is also present in the ancient Chinese DNA (2.9%) and modern Mongolian (6.1%), Korean Cheju (17.6%), Tuva (9.1%, north of Mongolia), Mesenskaya (27.8%) and Orlov (16.7%) breeds (Dawei Cai 2009:838 Table 3).

Thus there is a circumscribed region where the haplogroup B is absent. This region is Tibet, Turkmenistan, Kurdistan and Himalayan India. This fact too indicates that apart from some introgression in the Marwari and Kathiawari breeds, the Indian breeds are pure and have been free from Central Asian and Western influence.

In China there are five regional indigenous horse types viz. Mongolian, Kazakh, Hequ, Tibetan and the Southwest, to each of which several breeds belong (Tao Zhang 2012). The Kazakh breed of the Chinese native horse is the one which was most probably imported from Kazakhstan in the historical periods. Haplogroup B is not found in the Kazakh breed of Chinese horse, and is absent from the Tibetan horse too (Tao Z.:923; Dawei Cai: Table 3). Haplogroup B was not found in Kazakhstan in the Bronze Age, although it appears in the Iron Age (Ceislac 2010:Fig 2) to disappear again from the Kazakh breed. This shows that there were some European horse arrivals to the steppe during the Iron Age.

We can hence conclude that the modern Kazakh breed of horse was imported into Kazakhstan from the Himalayan provinces of India and northeast Iran during the Iron Age, wherein the haplogroup B was absent then. The Bhutia, Spiti, Zanskari and Manipuri Indian horses have remained isolated from the Muslim period influence on the horse breeds in India. The Turkoman, Caspian Short and Tibetan breeds too have remained in isolation. Clearly, instead of being the source of horse to Europe or India or even to Turkmenistan, the steppe was the recipient of the European DNA haplogroup B from Europe, and also several horse lineages from India.

The mtDNA haplogroups A and F were the commonest lineages in the Chinese ancient horse, and were the only ones in the pre-domestication samples (Dawei Cai 2009:837, 840). None of the ancient DNAs recovered from the steppe as reported by Cieslac, belonged to the haplogroup F (Cieslac 2010: Table 1). In the modern horse breeds these two (A and F) in the highest frequency are found in Chinese and Indian Himalayan breeds (34%; Devi and Ghosh 2013:5862 Table 1). F is present in the modern Kazakh breed.

However this combination (high proportion of both A and F) is not present in Russian horses. In fact the minimum frequency of F is found in Vyatskaya (Russia), Mesenskaya (Russia), Orlov (Russia) and European horses (ibid), indicating that the domestication of the Chinese horses was distinct and separate from the steppe and the European horses. The low level of the hg F might have come into the Russian horses as the result of some horse migration from China. McGahern’s study too noted the absence of haplogroup F from the Orlov and Akhal Teke, and its very low frequency in Vyatskaya breeds of steppe and adjoining areas (2006: Fig 1).

Thus haplogroup F belongs to a domestic horse clade which once lived in Himalayan India, Tibet, China and Mongolia, but did not live in the steppe. We can say that the steppe region (Kazakhstan, Ukraine, West Siberia) received migrant domestic horses from China/Mongolia (hg A, F), Tibet (hg E, D, A), Europe (hg B) and India (A, D, F), particularly during the Iron Age and after. Our conclusion is supported by ancient DNA study by Keyser-Tracqui. The ancient DNA study of the domestic horse remains from the Scythian Period recovered from the steppe proved that they all had been imported from outside regions like Anatolia, China etc (Keyser-Tracqui 2005). None of the thirteen such DNAs matched the DNA of today’s horse breeds from Central Asian, steppe and other neighbouring region such as Yakut, Mongolian, Akhal Teke (Turkmenistan) horses, or the Pleistocene horse from northeast Asia, which are generally conjectured as the close relatives of the ancient steppe horse. Matching was not done with the Indian horse.

These DNA findings are consistent with the archaeological finding from the Scythian era that the domestic horse of the south Ural region (Siberia; e.g. Rostovka, Preobrazhenka, Samus’ IV etc) came from Central Asia at about 1300 BCE (Kuz’mina and Mallory 2007:200). In our study, we surmise that these horses had reached Central Asia from further south like Iran and India, and not from north to south. It is consistent with Warmuth’s DNA study which found that the no horse migration from north to south took place in Eurasia (2012b:7).

In a study of horse DNA from ancient horse remains found from China showed 75% of Chinese horses (from 2000 BCE and later) had same DNA as those found from earlier periods, implying their local domestication from the pre-existing wild Chinese horse (Cai 2009:481). The remaining 25% DNAs of post-2000 BCE were new arrivals from outside, but not from the steppe. The conclusion is that the 75% of the late Bronze Age horses of China had been domesticated locally from the wild Chinese horses, and they had contributed to the steppe domestic horse population too; however, none of the Late Bronze Age domestic horses of the steppe had any local ancestry from the wild steppe horse. This type of solid DNA evidence is lacking for the steppe.

Similar DNA study of ancient horse remains from Iberian Peninsula (Spain) revealed many of the modern Spanish lineages had been present throughout the early Neolithic, Copper Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, indicating a local domestication within the Iberian Peninsula itself from the local wild horse population (Warmuth 2011). Cieslak found that the domestic horse’s DNA lineages B, H1 and J originated from within the Iberian Peninsula and were domesticated probably during the Copper/Bronze Age.

However, some East/Southeast Asian lineages (namely A, D2, X4a) were too present in Iberia at the Bronze Age indicating an early arrival of some domestic horses from outside from the south-east Eurasia possibly through North Africa and India (Cieslak 2010:3). In our view, horse migration from Southeast Asia to the Iberian Peninsula necessarily involved passing through South Asia under a state of domestication. Luis (2006) found that the modern American horses were related to the ancient Iberian (Spanish) horse DNAs from the prehistoric dates.

Cieslak found that all the regions of Eurasia had local Pleistocene horse DNAs preserved in continuity into the modern primitive breeds of the regions. The steppe region, however, was the only exception in this respect which showed no such continuity of lineages in Cieslak’s study. His has been supported from the DNA study of the second millennium BCE remains of horse from the steppe (supra). Thus we conclude that no horse was domesticated in the steppe.

Modern DNA Studies

Yinghui Ling (2010: Fig 1) examined the Y chromosomes of the existing Chinese horse breeds. They found that there were two male lineages in the Chinese horse, designated haplogroup A and haplogroup B. The haplogroup A was distributed all over China, but the haplogroup B was found only in the southern regions of China adjoining the Indian boarders and Southeast Asia. The study was not extended to include India. However from the data generated it can be said that there the male horse lineage (hg B) was domesticated in the Himalayan region, and that this lineage extended into Tibet and Southeast Asia, but it has not spread far north into China.

The genome-wide SNP data study of the horse breeds showed that the modern Iberian and three Middle Eastern breeds (viz. Caspian, Arabian and Akhal Teke breeds) formed one single genetic cluster (Petersen 2013:6 pdf; 7pdf Fig2). The Middle Eastern breeds clustered with the Iberian breeds, indicating ancient migrations of domestic horse between Iberia and the respective regions of Middle East. Such migrations involved North Africa, Arabian Peninsula and Iran when the climate was better during the Bronze Age or before. From Iran horses were taken to Central Asia during the Copper and Bronze Ages, when there was large scale human migration from Iran to Central Asia. Yet the migrations seem to have taken place from East Iran during the Scythian Era because the Akhal Teke DNA does not match any ancient Scythian DNAs. Or, the Akhal Teke was formed after this time. Thus horse came to the steppe from south, west and east. It is also notable from the study of Petersen that the steppe, or Central Asia or Ukrainian breeds of horses do not form any cluster (see dendrogram Petersen: Figure 2), indicating that they did not originate from any distinct or demarcatable source.

The mitochondrial DNA haplogroups A to G are widely distributed in world. However there is some pattern. McGahern’s study demonstrated that the domestic horse breeds of the world belong to two distinct genetic cohorts, eastern and western, on the basis of their mtDNA variation. However the steppe countries like Kazakhstan and Ukraine did not come within any of the two cohorts indicating mixed origins from both east and west (McGahern 206:495).

The haplogroup F, very common in China, Mongolia, Tibet, Kazakhstan and India is absent from the Kurd, Turkoman and Sistani breeds of Iran (Dawei Cai 2009:Table 3; Devi and Ghosh 2013; Moridi:4 pdf, Fig1). However the hg F is present in the Arabian and the Caspian breeds, in which it might have reached from India and Tibet during the historical Arabian Empire period. In the steppe region consisting of Kazakhstan and West and South Siberia, the hg F occurs in the Bronze Age but not in the Iron Age (Cieslac 2010:Fig 2; Keyser-Tracqui 2005). That means the Iron Age import into the steppe was mainly from south (Iran) and west (Europe) where haplogroup F did not exist then.

Similarly, the haplogroup B is considered European (Iberian) in origin and it is not found in the Indian country-bred or the mountain breeds of India and Kazakhstan. Some of the Iranian breeds have haplogroup B, others do not (Moridi: Fig 1). In the ancient samples, B is absent from China, Korea and Mongolia (Cieslac 2010:Fig 2). It is absent from West and South Siberia and Kazakhstan during the Bronze Age but appears there in the Iron Age (ibid). Today it is absent from the Kazakh breed of China yet is found in the western steppe breeds. This indicates migration of some horse from Europe to the steppe during the Iron Age.

Lira and colleagues (2010) demonstrated that horse was domesticated in Iberia from the wild horses present there since Late Pleistocene period. They also found that haplogroup D1 had not been present in Bronze Age Iberia and arrived there during the medieval period. Warmuth and colleagues (2011:4 pdf, Fig 1B) too concluded that horse was domesticated in Iberia from native wild horses.

Warmuth (2011) noted that apart from Iberia, there was another likely source for the European domestic horse–the region of Iran south of the Caspian Sea. The archaic Caspian breed lives here. “Our investigation of genetic diversity in traditional European horse breeds reveals two hotspots of genetic diversity, one in the Caspian region of western Asia and one in the Iberian Peninsula.” (Warmuth 2011:2 pdf). However the steppe was not found to be a genetic hotspot in their study. This study was not extended to the further east and had not included India and China.

Study of the autosomal genes by Warmuth (2012b:7pdf) demonstrated that there was a general migration of the true horse from east to west before domestication. However, horses of Lithuania and Kazakhstan showed evidence of recent arrival from the East, implying import after domestication. This fact about Kazakhstan militates against Central Asia having been a place of domestication of horse.

The study (2012b:7) ruled out any migration of horse from north to south: “There was no significant correlation between genetic diversity and latitude, despite written accounts documenting a continued flux of horses from the steppe lands in the north into both India and much of China (Gommans 1994)” (Warmuth 2012b:7pdf). This finding rules out the common conjecture that the horse arrived into Iran and India from north.

DNA study of living Greek horses revealed that many of them (Crete, Pindos and Pinias breeds) had arrived there from the Middle East route, and not from Ukraine/East Europe route (Bömcke 2010:7/9pdf). This too goes against the domestication of the horse in the steppe, and is consistent with the arrival of the horse from Iran and India to Middle East and from there to Southeast Europe.

Hence the steppe region of today was not the source of the horse populations for Central Asia, China, India, Iran, Greece and Spain–we can say from the above studies. The study by Warmuth (2012b:5,Table 1) also showed that Ukraine, Kalmykia (Russia) and Kyzilorda (Kazakhstan) of the steppe had no private or unique alleles, while other regions like Jammu (India), Yunnan (Southwest China adjoining northeast India) and Naryn (Kyrgyzstan not far from the northern reaches of India) had many unique alleles each indicating local evolution in these areas.[1] Thus Kyrgyzstan, located immediately to the north of Pamir, was the only place north of the Indo-Iranian plains where we find any evidence of in-situ horse domestication. No place to the further north, including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Siberia has any DNA evidence of local domestication of horse.

This reflects that Ukraine and the other steppe regions possibly had received all their domestic horse DNAs from outside, while Jammu, Kyrgyzstan and Yunnan—the regions adjoining the Himalayas where sivalensis, the Indian wild horse once prevailed–had local domestication of horse. Considering facts from every angle it becomes obvious that the steppe origin of horse domestication cannot be sustained any more, and it was an academic hoax.

The Multiple Primary Domestication events of Horse:

Necessarily associating the horse domestication with the Aryans was the most unfortunate event of historiography. The DNA studies revealed that horse had not been domesticated only at one or a few places, but at seventy seven places throughout Eurasia, and can be grouped into seventeen DNA types (Jansen, 2002; Vila, 2001; Lippold 2011a; Cieslak 2010). Lippold (2011b) noted that the DNA remains of the wild horse from ancient Siberia, Alaska and Yukon proved that they all belonged to the Przewalskii, and it is enough to prove that the caballus horse had not lived there in the wild then. Lippold also found that all the ancient remains of horse with features of domestication (dated 800 BCE) belong to the non-Przewalskii type of DNA, clearly indicating the arrival of the domestic horse from outside the range of the Przewalskii horse.

All the regions of Eurasia other than Mongolia, Siberia and the steppe at the Bronze Age had domestic horses which had been locally captured (Kavar 2008). Clearly Siberia, Mongolia (and North America and steppe) were the regions where ancient domestic horses had been imported from outside, and not locally domesticated.

Lindgren (2004) and Lau (2009) found (DNA study) that although wild mares had been recruited from all over Eurasia, yet on the male side there were only one or just a few stallions. It was also confirmed that none of the male progenitors was the steppe or Central Asian Przewalskii stallion (Lindgren:336). In our opinion this progenitor stallion could have been from the sivalensis stock (vide infra).

DNA studies found that some northwest European domestic ponies namely the Fjord, Icelandic and Shetland ponies have a single cluster of DNA, which originated very early just after the Late Glacial period (about 10,000 BCE; Jansen:10908). Achilli (2011) found one lineage of European horse (haplogroup L) was domesticated in Europe from where it seems to have spread to Middle East and Asia.

Study of DNA recovered from the Neolithic and Bronze Age horse bones showed that many of the extant European lineages had already been there at those times, and some even during the late Pleistocene (Achilli 2011:3-4 pdf; Cieslak 2010:3; Lira 2012). In fact at least one lineage of modern domestic horse Lusitani Group C had been domesticated quite early, possibly during the Neolithic period itself (Lira 2009). The haplogroup D lineage, which is the most prominent lineage of Iberia, arrived here only during the Bronze Age. Another study found that at least one breed of horse had been domesticated in Spain much before Indo-European linguistic arrival to the area (Achilli et al 2011:4 pdf). Solis (2005) showed many horse breeds of the Iberian Peninsula are autochthonous and have been domesticated locally in Europe itself (Solis: 677). The study by Royo noted common DNA motifs in Iberian and Barb (North African) horses, which is consistent with our view that the late Bronze Age arrivals of the domestic horse to Iberia took place through North Africa. These studies rule out the association of the European horse with the Indo-European culture.

A recent study by Devi (2013) revealed that the 59 Indian horse samples studied carried 35 haplotypes, which gives one of the highest index of genetic diversity in the word. Such figure is consistent with the oldest horse domestication event having taken place in India. A total of seven major mtDNA haplogroups (A–G) was identified in the Indian horse breeds that indicated the abundance of mtDNA diversity. The haplogroup D constituted 33% of Indian horse breeds. The Manipuri breed of horse comes from the eastern end of India and it has remained segregated from the other horse breeds of India and outside. It is presumed to be the local descendant of the Wild Asiatic Horse. However, it was noted that the Manipuri horse showed closest affinity with the various Indian horse breeds as well as the Thoroughbred horse, and not with the Chinese or Central Asian breeds (ibid).

Horse statue (three feet tall) dating 7000 BCE was found recently from Asir (Arabia Felix, near Abha, southwest Arabia; Science News, BBC News, Reuters etc). Arabia was not inhabitable by horse during the last glacial owing to cold desert like conditions. Any early Holocene presence of the horse must have been from India, where the sivalensis horse had survived the Last Glacial maximum. There is plenty of evidence of Indian migration to the East Arabian coast (human DNA, Underhill 2009:2 and 3; shrew, mice, Duplantier) during late Pleistocene and early Holocene. Evidence from the other regions indicates that the Indian sivalensis was domesticated as early as 8,000 BCE. Hence it could have been taken to the Arabian coastal region by the early Holocene migrants.


Climate change and the arrival of the Domestic Horse in Central Asia:

The archaeology of the steppe has confused the archaeologists because the steppe archaeological sites have horse bones which had been hunted for meat, or captured live then sacrificed ritually. They belong to the Przewalskii horse which was never domesticated, but lived in the wild in the steppe. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make distinction between the Przewalskii and the true-horse bones. There is no evidence to support that any non-Przewalskii type wild horse lived in the steppe about 2000 BCE or earlier.

In spite of the several horse hoaxes raised about the steppe, the recent archaeological studies serious challenge the long held view that steppe was the home of the true horse which we have today as the domestic species. The archaeological study done at Begash (Kazakhstan) confirmed in a recent study: “While pastoral herding of sheep and goats is evident from the Early Bronze Age, the horse appears only in small numbers before the end of the first millennium BC” (Frachetti and Benecke 2009: Abstract).

The paper adds the “horse use seems to commence gradually and is not highly associated with early and middle Bronze Age pastoralists.” (ibid:1025). The authors find, the “percentages of horse remains at Begash remain below 6 per cent until approximately AD 50 (Phase 3b)”, and “The domestic horse is documented at Begash by the start of the second millennium BC, but its impact on pastoralism is not clear.” In our view, such stray domestic horses as the ones documented from the second millennium BC Begash were Bronze Age imports from the further south i.e. Iran and northwest India.  Challenging the whole hypothesis, Frachetti and Benecke note: “Thus the data from Begash draw into question the general view that Eurasian pastoralism diffused eastward as a result of mounted horsemen in the Bronze Age”.

A study at Tentek-sor (northern Caspian, Kazakhstan) revealed that horse bones do not increase between 4000 BCE and 2000 BCE (Koryakova), and the samples did not contain any domestic sheep or cattle, even wild aurochs was only 5% (Frachetti 2012:7; Koryakova 2007). However, after 2000 BCE, we get a very large number of domestic cattle (60 to 90%) in the steppe and Central Asia, indicating the arrival of pastoralists with cattle into this region only after 2000 BC (Koryakova:88, 65, 146-147). This indicates that probably all the horse bones from earlier than 2000 BC dates are of the wild horses.

Koryakova (p.54) noted “but horse bones are extremely rare in the Kurgans”, and “a larger group of specialists share the idea that classical steppe nomadism appeared in the first millennium BCE” (ibid:55). This is consistent with the palaeo-climatic studies of Asia too. Earlier than this period there were forests in Central Asia and South Siberia although breaking and fast changing into open grass-lands due to human interference after 2000 BC. Yet forests dominated the region up to 1000 BC which were cleared by the farmers for agro-pastoral purposes. However, it is the total conversion into grassland and desert ecosystem which would have forced man to adopt the nomad existence. Thus nomadism was not the product of the mood or temperament of the particular nationality, but a geographic-ecological compulsion. It was a specialized niche for man.

The fossil pollen studies from Central Asia, South Siberia, Northern and Western China and other steppe zones have shown that the steppes converted into forests in the early Holocene (8000-6000 BC). Jiang (2006) found that the inner Mongolian steppe changed into birch-pine (Betula/Pinus) forest at 10,500 BC-7,200 BC period, and evolved into woodland with these trees dominating at 7,200-4,700 BC period, but reverted back to the steppe after 4,700 BC. It is at this very time, i.e. at 8,500 BC that the North American horses became extinct, a latest report based on ancient DNA says (Haile 2009). Earlier such extinction was stated to have taken place about 12,000 BC on the basis of fossil studies (Buck and Bard 2007). Clearly extinction of the North American horse occurred owing to the same climatic reasons which were operative in Central Asia and India. In Asia too horse became extinct from the region which we call the steppe.

Conversion back to the steppe and desert ecosystems took place at different times in different areas. Many areas remained forest as late as 2000 BC. At Yolin Am steppe (Southern Mongolia), it was found that it was a forest between c. 3600 BC and 2000 BC, and Betula (birch) and Salix (willow) trees dominated (Miehe 2007:156, Table 1). In general, however, after 3000 BC, more and more of Central Asia converted into steppe and desert (Zhao 2009; Zhao 2008: cited in F. Chen Editorial 2009:1). There was an abrupt change to arid climate at 2500 BC in many regions of China (Zhao 2009: Abstract; Chen, W. 2009). Miehe et al noted in their study of the succession of ecologies in the Gobi desert, that birch and willow pollens and charcoal were present in the soil layers up to 3000 BC (calibrated radiocarbon date), however birch became extinct from that site after that time (Miehe 2007:163; 156 Table 1).

Dense forest and desert are the places where horses die. In the dense forest, that harbours tiger, panther etc, horse can be easily predated because it cannot run fast enough in there to escape from the carnivores. Hence in all likelihood, hardly any horse may have lived before 4000 BC in the regions which we know today as the Eurasian steppe.

On the other hand, northwest India became a semi-arid region in about 33,000 BC and continued to be so until the end of the Glacial period (Petraglia 2009). Semi-arid ecosystems consist of deserts and grasslands like savannah, steppe, Sahel etc, but no dense forests. The Sivalensis horse must have found the northwest Indian grasslands as the ideal habitat. This situation lasted up to 6,000 BC, after which the region became moist leading to the growth of dense forests in Northwest India, which was not a friendly ecosystem for the horse. But then, the former Thar Desert evolved into grasslands (Deotare 2004a:Abstract), which stayed so until 2200 BC. Thus horses could have lived conveniently in the Thar between 6,000 BC and 2200 BC.

On the basis of the recent archaeological and palaeo-environmental studies, we are in a position to say that the horse domestication could have been possible in Central Asia and the north Pontic-Caspian steppe only after 2000 BC, if at all it took place in any of the two regions. The Bronze Age economy of this region remained mainly cattle and goat dominated and the classical horse based nomadism appeared only in the first millennium BCE after the aridity of the region increased enough to eliminate the possibility of farming-pastoralism.

[1] Number of private alleles: Whole of Europe 3; Whole of Kazakhstan 2; Kyrgyzstan 5; Xinjiang 5; India (only Jammu district) 4; Altai 2; Mongolia 2; Yunnan (Southeast Asia, politically part of Republic of China) 3.

And

Mice Migration and Human Migration: Two Linked Journeys

Dispersal of Mice and Rats with agricultural Migration From India


 Fig. Source:

Over the last thirty years, we have known a lot about prehistory of mice from DNA studies. Domestic mice (Mus) lived on human stored food and food debris for ages. Thus they could be called a commensal as well as a pest.  Mus lived only in north India since 900,000 years back, (1) as a commensal of Homo erectus and later of Homo sapiens sapiens (Ferris, 1983).(2) This commensal relation between Homo erectus and Mus is indirect evidence that Homo erectus had India as his predominant habitat.

Mus diverged into three principal species, viz. Mus musculus domesticus, M. musculus musculus and M. castaneus by 500,000 years back (Geraldis, 2008; Din, 1996), and all the species continued to live in India.(3) In India, Homo erectus lived then. When Homo sapiens sapiens inhabited India in about 100,000 ybp or earlier, these species became adapted to live in and around human dwellings (Boursot, 1993).(4) Mice probably felt safer there. Tsutim et al (2008) found that human environment gives protection to sparrows from being predated by carnivorous birds and animals.(5) The same applies to mice. It is generally accepted that existence of these mice was so much dependant on human food, that they migrated with man as a passive migrant. “One of the most characteristic features of house mice life history is probably its commensalism in relation to humans. The worldwide colonization by this species is mainly due to passive transport by humans and is a consequence of its ecological dependence on humans.”(6) If not all, most of the Mus species can be found in India. Prager et al identified samples from Afghanistan as Mus musculus musculus and castaneus and samples from Pakistan, North India and Nepal as castaneus.(7) “Genetic data indicated that ranges of musculus, custaneous and domesticus likely correspond to three distinct paths of expansion from the Indian cradle.”(8) In fact later discovery of migration routes and distribution ranges of human male lineages (Y-DNA) R1a1a (Underhill, 2009); O2a (Kumar, Vikrant, 2007) and J2b (Sengupta, 2006; Priyadarshi, 2011) exactly overlap those of the three main Mus species.

Groves(1984) surveyed a large number of murid rodents (mice) and found that they were introduced into Island Southeast Asia together with rice agriculture.(9) Mus caroli, Mus cervicolor and Rattus argentiventer are widely distributed in Mainland Southeast Asia north of the Malay Peninsula; their distributions are spotty in the archipelago and invariably restricted to wet rice growing areas. Mus dunni, a small mice, native of northeast India and Rattus nitidus, a native of Nepal, are ricefield pests of Indonesia. These all species originated in India. (10) Bandicoot-rat, Bandicota bengalensis, a noted rice-field pest inIndonesia originated inMahanadi delta in association with buffalo.(11)


 Distriution of Mus cervicolor in Southeast Asia

Fig.  . Showing distribution of Mus cervicolor in rice fields in the Southeast Asia. From Groves, Colin P., Of mice and men and pigs in the Indo-Australian archipelago, Canberra Anthropology 1984, 7:1-19.


Black rat (Rattus rattus) is another species which originated in India and then migrated to other parts of the world. From India it migrated to West Asia and then to Europe. Rattus reached West Asia by 20,000 years before present, a date which is earlier than domestic mouse migration.(12) Other migration of this species was from India to Madagascar and Western Indian Ocean.(13) This was possibly because some Indian farmers migrated to Western Indian Ocean shores (at 20,000 ybp), earlier than the supposed date of agriculture in West Asia. 


Fig.  . Migration route of domestic black rat and domestic cattle as suggested by Dorian Fuller and Boivin Nicole. (14) The Indo-African migration suggested by them are much later than those suggested by large number of available genetic studies. Source:

A large number of scientists have been studying domestic mice migration for the last three decades. Domestic mouse migration out of Indiadid not take place until migration of farming started after the glacial ice melted. The migration of mouse out of Indiaaccompanied migration of cultivation (Macholan et al, 2007).(15)  Munro (2003), on the basis of archeological evidence found that during the Natufian period, West Asian people hunted fast-running small games. (16) Such practices probably existed at other places outsideIndia too. Similar aggressive small game hunting was practiced in Europe too, where from a single site inPortugal dating 12,000 ybp, 9000 rabbit bones have been recovered.(17)

Bourshot 1996

Source: Boursot et al 1996, URL:


Source:Darvish, J, Bonhomme, F. and Orth, A., Genetic transition in the house mouse, Mus musculus of Eastern Iranian Plateau, Folia Zool. 2006, 55(4): 349-357; URL

Hence in pre-Neolithic Iran, West Asia, Central Asia and Chinaboth man and carnivores alike possible hunted any mice leaving Indiaand reaching those countries. Domestic mouse is the only animal which has stayed in Indiafor over 900,000 years without leaving this country until dispersal of farming started. We have noted that Pre-Pottery Neolithic agriculture started in Indiaroughly about 13,000 ybp to 14,000 ybp. Mus domesticus reached theEastern Mediterranean basin in about 10,000 ybp. (18) We can corroborate these two findings and say that 3000 years was the time required for migration of mice from India to West Asia, the time which actually lapsed in migration of Pre-Pottery Neolithic fromIndia toWest Asia. Logical inference is that agriculture began first inIndia, possibly much earlier than we can imagine, which kept mice bound within Indian land for ages until finally agriculture itself migrated out ofIndia.(19) The route map of mice migration as mapped by the geneticists is exactly the same as that of human migration.



Fig. 7.7. Route map of dispersal of domestic mice. The Mus musculus domesticus migration which occurred about 15,000 to 10,000 ybp, exactly mimics the distribution map of haplogroup J and distribution of beta thalassemia to the west of India. Source: Figure from Bonhomme et al. Genome Biology 2007 8:R80   doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-5-r80  (20)

Route Map of Human R1a (M17) male (Y-chromosoal) lineage as drawn by Underhill 2009:

The Aryan Migration Origination from India to East Iran to Central Asia to East EuropeIt is obvious by comparing the above picture with route and range of musculus that distribution of Mus musculus and R1a overlap.
Below: Enlarged Inset showing origin of the lineage 16,000 years back from Gujarat-Sind region in India:

Source: Underhill, P. et al, Separating the post-glacial coancestry of European and Asian Y chromosomes within haplogroup R1a, European Journal of Human Genetics, 2010, April 18(4): 178-184


Route Map of J2b corresponds with migration and distribution of Mus domesticus:

Fig Source: Priyadarshi, P., The First Civilization of the World, Siddhartha Publications, Delhi, 2011.

Source: Distribution of J2b. Family tree DNA: History Unearthed Daily, M102 Project; URL 

Pooled data from Sengupta (2006), Cinnioglu (2004), Battaglia (2009) show that J2b originated in India (14,000 years back) then migrated to West Asia  (by 7000 years back) then to Europe, principally by sea to Balkans, Greece and Italy. For discussion see Priyadarshi 2010 : 

Table showing age of J2b in India, West Asia and Europe

Rajabi-Maham et al (2008) found that after reaching the Fertile Crescent mice expansion toward Europe and Asia Minor took at least two routes, tentatively termed the Mediterranean and the Bosphorus/Black Sea routes. This scenario resembles that of another domesticated species, the goat, and fits with the known progression of Neolithic culture, they note. Migration of both the goat and the domestic mouse took exactly the same routes, at the same time around 12,000 years ago. This cannot be a mere coincidence and is an evidence of Neolithic human migration from India with goat and Mus domesticus.(21)


Protracted commensality of Mus m. domesticus in India indicates that  Homo sapiens sapiens was doing some primitive farming or foraging and storing food since much before actual onset of Neolithic migration. Indians of that era had possibly a settled life and home and they depended on cereal, fruit and tuber diet. Initially, population was small, and land abundant. Hence cultivation was not needed. Man used to harvest ripe grains (rice, barley, millets) from wild fields and store them. This stored food kept Mus domesticus tied to the Indian households. Pestering of human households by mice forced man to use more and more burnt clay pottery, and it must have prompted him to invent and use metal pottery much later in history.

The other sub-species of mice which migrated out of Indiato Southeast Asiais Mus castaneus. This species seems to have migrated a bit earlier, and it had been adept at digging holes in soil over hundreds of thousand years. Probably they learned to do this in a bid to eat tubers which grew in plenty under Indian and Southeast Asian soil. Mus caroli is another species of Southeast Asian mice which dwells in rice fields. It seems to have migrated much earlier than other species.

Cognate words for ‘mouse’ are found exclusively within the Indo-European family of languages (English ‘mouse’, Latin mus, Sanskrit mUSaka, muSika, mUs, muSka, (22) Pahlavi musk), indicating expansion of domestic mouse out of India with migrating Neolithic culture of the Indo-European speakers of north India.


1.  Boursot, P., et al, Origin and radiation of the house mouse: mitochondrial DNA phylogeny, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 1996, 9: 391-415.

2. Ferris, S. D. et al, Mitochondrial DNA evolution in mice, Genetics 1983, 105(3):681-721.

3. Geraldis, Armando, et al, Inferring the history of speciation in house mice from autosomal, X-linked, Y-linked and mitochondrial genes, Molecular Ecology 2008, 17(24):5349-5363. Also, Din, W. et al, Origin and radiation of the house mouse: clues from nuclear genes, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 1996, 9(5):519-539.

4. Boursot, P. et al, Evolution of House Mice, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 1993, 24:119-152.

5. Tsutim, Ido, et al., Foraging Behavior of Urban Birds: Are Human Commensals Less Sensitive to Predation Risk than their Non-urban Counterparts, The Condor 2008, 110(4):772-776. 

6. Wilson, D. E. and Reeder, D. M., Mammal species of the world: A taxonomic and geographic reference, JHU Press, 2005, p. 1401.

7. Mentioned by Wilson and Reeder (ibid), p. 1401.

8. Ibid., p. 1401. Quoted by Wilson and Reed, and originally said by Boursot et al, The Evolution of House Mice, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 1993, 24: 119-152; see page 128.

9. Groves, Colin P., “Domesticated and Commensal Mammals of Austronesia and Their Histories”, in Bellwood, P., Fox, J. and Tryon, D., The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, 1995. Also, Groves, C. P., Of mice and men and pigs in the Indo-Australian archipelago, Canberra Anthropology 1984, 7:1-19.

10. Groves in Bellwood, P. et al, 1995.

11. Ibid.

12. Alpin, Ken in Science News, Science Daily, Feb. 6, 2008.

13. Tollenaere, C. et al, Phylogenpgraphy of the introduced species Rattus rattus in the western Indian Ocean, with special emphasis on the colonization history of Madagascar, Journal of Biogeography 2010, 37 (3): 398-410.

14. Fuller, D. and Boivin, Nicole, Crops, cattle and commensals across the Indian Ocean: current and potential archaeobiological evidence, Etudes Ocean Indie 2009, 42-43:13-46.

15. Macholan, M., Bonhomme, F. et al; “Genetic variation and phylogeography of free-living mouse species (genus Mus) in the Balkans and the Middle East”, in Mol Ecol 2007, 16 (22):4774-4788.

16. Munro, Natalie D., Small game, the younger dryas, and the transition to agriculture in the southern Levant, Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Urgeschichte 2003, 12: 47-71. p. 53.

17. Hockett, Bryan Scott and Bicho, Nuno Ferraria, The Rabbits of Picareiro Cave: Small Mammal Hunting During the Late Upper Palaeolithic in the Portuguese Estremadura, Journal of Archeological Science 2000, 27(8):715-723.

18. Cucchi, Thomas, Vigne J. D. and Auffray, J. C., First occurrence of the house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus Schwarz & Schwarz, 1943) in the Western Mediterranean: Western Mediterranean: a zooarchaeological revision of subfossil occurrences, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 2005, 84: 429-445. 

19 Rajabi-Maham, H., Orth A and Bonhomme F., Phylogeography and post-glacial expansion of Mus musculus domesticus inferred from mitochondrial DNA coalescent, from Iran to Europe, Mol Ecol 2007, 17(2): 627-641. Also, Cucchi, T. and Vigne, J., Origin and Diffusion of the House Mice in the Mediterranean, Human Evolution 2006, 21(2):95-106.

20 Bonhomme, F., Species-wide distribution of highly polymorphic minisatellite markers suggests past and present genetic exchanges among house mouse subspecies, Genome Biology 2007, 8:R80.

21. Rajabi-Maham, H. et al, Phylogeography and postglacial expansion of Mus musculus domesticus inferred from mitochondrial DNA coalescent, from Iran to Europe, Mol. Ecol. 2008, 17 (2): 627-41.

22. Monier Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary, Cologne Scanned copy on the net, pp. 824, 827.

Linguistic Evidence for Indian Origin of Indo-European Languages

Linguistic Evidence for Indian Origin of Indo-European Languages

[Extract from paper: Priyadarshi,P, “Recent Studies in Indian Archaeo-linguistics and Archaeo-genetics having bearing on Indian Prehistory”, presented at seminar Recent Achievements of Indian Archaeology, held at Department of Ancient Indian History and Archaeology, Lucknow University, Lucknow, India, 28-30 December 2010, during Joint Annual Conference of Indian Archaeology Society (44th Conference), Indian Society for Prehistoric and Quaternary Studies (38th Conference), Indian History and Culture Society (34th Conference)]

Recent linguistic research by Bernard Comrie (1) and by Dorian Fuller (2) point out that the Indio-European languages evolved at a place which had a developed agriculture. This conclusion they have derived from presence of agriculture related cognate words in the languages of this family separated widely by geography, but all having had their origin from one common ancestral language at a common place.

It has also been noted that often such ancient agricultural words of Indo-European family are shared by languages of Munda (Austro-Asiatic) as well as Dravidian families (see Fuller, 2003, p. 201; Fuller 2006, pp. 4, 15, 18, 35, 39, 40, 55; Fuller, 2007; Fuller, 2008). Whether these words entered from ancestors of Munda and Dravidian families into Indo-European or vice-versa, such examples indicate that the early Indo-European people lived with the Munda and Dravidian speakers before dispersal to Iran and Europe. By this time genetic studies have ruled out ancient presence of both Munda family and Dravidian family in the West Asia. Only place where the three could have come into contact with each other was India.

In fact Fuller is the first author to have said, on linguistic grounds, that India was an independent centre of framing. Moreover he notes that origins of Indian farming was different qualitatively from West Asian farming and was similar in many ways to African and Eastern North American origins of farming. It is not irrelevant to mention here that Indian origin of many DNA lineages currently found in Sub-Saharan Africa (male Y-chromosomal, F*, R1b, R1a, H, K2-M70, L; and female mtDNA, M1) have been found in Sub-Saharan Africa exhibiting a peri-LGM migration from India to East Africa via sea.

Fuller finds that “evidence based on both archaeo-botanical material and colloquial agricultural terms more parsimoniously postulates that early Dravidian had an epipaleolithic pre-agricultural heritage” and that it “originated near a South Asian core region”. This should be read with the fact that recently Indian epipalaeolithic (microlithic) has been dated 35,000 B.P. to 12,000 B.P. (3). Fuller’s assertion is an acceptance of India as the oldest place of farming culture. Fuller (2006) claims that there were several independent centres of plant domestication within the Indian peninsula by indigenous peoples. Fuller concedes an earlier and independent rice-Neolithic in Ganga Valley and western Orissa. He accepts that indigenous Indian plants, trees and vegetables have contributed words to Sanskrit (and other Indo-European languages). (4).

Bellwood, Higham and many such authors had suggested in the past that Austro-Asiatic speakers originated in South China, and from there they came to Southeast Asia, and from SE Asia to India with rice farming (5). This has not been supported by DNA studies, which suggests that eastern India was the source of the Austro-Asiatic speaking population, from where they migrated to Southeast Asia with haplogroup O2a (Y). (6) Other DNA studies have also confirmed Indigenous origin of Austro-Asiatic speaking tribes of India. (7). Figure [] DNA studies of rice, cattle, buffalo and mice too support an Indian origin of rice farming with subsequent migration to Southeast Asia.

Jerold Edmondson of Department of Linguistics, University of Texas, has done a large number of detailed studies based on linguistics as well as DNA, on Neolithic and human migrations towards east of India. He found that the Tai speakers of the Kradai branch of Austro-Asiatic language family migrated from India, and first settled in Southeast Asia long back. They were master cultivators and they took agriculture from India to Thailand and then from the latter to the Yunnan province of southwest China, and to South China by 10,000 ybp during Neolithic expansion. (8).

On the other hand Harvard scholar Michael Witzel has been struggling hard to prove that the agriculture related words in the Indo-European languages entered Sanskrit during the hypothetical stay of Indo-Aryans in Iran and then their contact with the Dravidian speakers in the Indus Valley area and Munda family tribes in the Ganga Valley. (9). Yet the presence of the same word in Indo-Aryan as well as European languages indicates that these words, even if had entered from some other languages, had entered Proto-Indo-European language in India before migration to Europe and Iran had started. This places origin of the family within India.

Thus Aryans, which is primarily speakers of a particular language family, can no longer be considered ‘pastoralists’. Moreover it is wrong to assume that pastorals are independent of agriculture. Renfrew (1990) pointed out that pastoral life is a part of agricultural society. He wrote: “The pastoral economy is usually symbiotic with the agricultural one as it has been shown that a major component of the diet of these pastoralists was bread. The practice of agriculture is thus a precondition of a pastoral economy.” (10). Added to this fact, the recently noted linguistic evidence as discussed above shows that the Aryans were farmers from the very beginning.

Earlier, Renfrew had claimed that Indo-Europeans were farmers from the very beginning, and that the Mehrgarh people and the Indus Valley people were Aryans i.e. speakers of Indo-European languages from the very onset of farming culture in these areas. (11). He had further claimed that an early Indo-European language had been in place in the north India stretching from the Ganga Valley to Mehrgarh when Mehrgarh civilization was emerging. (12). He wrote, “Certainly the assumption that the Aryas were recent ‘immigrants’ to India and their enemies were ‘aborigines’, has done much to distort our understanding of the archaeology of India and Pakistan.” (13).

Renfrew wrote, “We should in other words, consider seriously the possibility that the new religious and cultural synthesis which is represented by the Rigveda was essentially a product of soil of India and Pakistan, and that it was not imported, ready-made, on the back of steeds of Indo-Aryans. Of course it evolved while in contact with the developing cultures of other lands, most notably Iran, so that by a process of peer polity interaction, cultures and ideologies emerged which in many ways resembled each other. It is not necessary to suggest that one was borrowed, as it were, directly from the other.

“This hypothesis that early Indo-European languages were spoken with India and Pakistan and on the Iranian plateau at the sixth millennium BC has the merit of harmonising symmetrically with the theory for the origin of Indo-European languages of Europe. It also emphasises the continuity in the Indus valley and adjacent areas from the early Neolithic through to the foruit of the Indus Valley Civilization—a point which Jarrige has recently stressed. Moreover the continuity is seen to follow unbroken from that time across the Dark Age succeeding the collapse of the urban centres of the Indus Valley, so that features of that urban civilization persists, across a series of transformations, to form the basis of later Indian civilization. A number of scholars have previously developed these ideas of continuity.” (14).

Having said this, the new evidence changes some of Renfrew’s assumptions. While Renfrew thought Anatolia was the original home of the Indo-Europeans where they had developed the first farming culture, and from where they had migrated to Europe and North India by 6,000 B.C., present evidence indicates that India was the place of origin of the Indo-Europeans and an independently evolved centre of farming. Otherwise it is impossible to explain presence of farming related words of Austro-Asiatic and Dravidian origins in the European branch of Indo-European languages. Renfrew’s views about Anatolia may have proved wrong, yet his views on South Asia hold true in light of recent genetic evidence.

Genetic evidence as well as linguistic evidence has made it clear that both the Dravidian and the Austro-Asiatic languages and their speakers have evolved in India—the Dravidians in the southernmost part and Austro-Asiatic in the eastern part of the South Asia. The current findings about early Dravidian languages contradict Renfrew and many other authors who had suggested in past that the place of origin of Dravidian was in West Asia from Proto-Elamite after 10,000 B.P., originally proposed by McAlpin. (15).

We can now have a look at some of the farming related words in the Indo-European languages:

We can now have a look at some of the farming related words in the Indo-European languages:

  1. Harvest (English), karbitas (to harvest, Proto-Germanic), kerpu (Lithuanian), kerp (PIE), kripANa (knife, Sanskrit).
  2. Sow (E.), sawan (Old English), sero and sevi (Latin, to sow), semen (Latin, seed), seju and seti (Lithuanian, to sow), *se and seh (PIE, to sow), Santhal, Ho and Munda si, siu (to plow), and Munda Kharia silo (‘to plow’), sA- (Sanskrit, to sow), sita (Sk. a furrow of a ploughshare), sulh (Old English, a furrow or ploughshare), sira (Sk., plough, a plough ox). Related to this group of words are *sehm (PIE, grain), sasa (Sanskrit; sasam in Rig-Veda), sasya (Sanskrit, food, seed, grain, herb), sas (Kashmiri, beans, peas, lentils), sas (Bangla, grain, fruit), sasa (Oriya, kernel, nutritious part), sabz (Iranian, green vegetable), sem (Hindi, beans), *sito- and *sitya- (PIE, ‘corn’), sitiyam (Sanskrit, corn, ploughed), siri and siri (Khowar, barley), and sili (Kalasha of Hindukush, millet) are all related. Munda family language Sora has saro, sar (paddy) and Munda and Kharia have –sro and –srA (rice, as compound words in ko-soro and ko-sra) are also related. Words sro, sre and sru meaning ‘rice’ in some Khmer (Cambodia) dialects are obvious cognates of Munda –sro, Sora saro etc meaning rice. On the other hand the root is also found in Caucasian—Chechen sos ‘oats’, Eastern Caucasian susV ‘rye’ which are millets. Witzel thinks that these non-IE languages borrowed these words while Indo-European was passing across their territories. This is only partly correct–the direction of migration was from India to West Asia, not from Central Asia to India, as DNAs reveal.
  3. Plough (E.), *plogo (Proto-Germanic), plugas (Lithuanian) and langala (Sanskrit) are cognates. The ultimate origin of the words is from Munda family (Witzel).[1] Fuller writes, “Of interest in this regard is historical linguistic analysis for widespread cognate terms for plough in Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Munda languages which may derive from early borrowing between these groups or from a common substrate, perhaps from the Harappan zone (Southworth, 2005, p. 80; Witzel, 1999, pp. 29–30).”[2]
  4. Pita (English, bread), petta (Greek, bread), peptos (Greek, cooked), pita (bread, Modern Hibrew), pizza (Italian, a cooked food), pastry, pasta (Italian), pittha (Bihari, a cake made of rice flour), paiSHTa (Sanskrit, meaning cake; derivative of Sanskrit piSHTa meaning ground or flour, and pis meaning ‘to grind’). English ‘paste’ (dough) is related. ‘Pastry’ may be related.
  5. Pestle (E.) related to Old French pestel from Latin pistillum (to pounder, to pestle) from PIE *pis-to-, to grind; Sanskrit pish- (HK piS “to grind”), pishta (HK piSTa grinded), pIs (Hindi to grind). 
  6. Mill (E.) from Old English mylen; Latin mola, millstone and molere to grind; PIE mel / mol / ml  to grind; German muhle and Sanskrit musala (grinder) are from the same root. In Thai language “mill-stone” is called moh. In Thai language mo:h is the word for ‘mill-stone’ which also means ‘to grind’.
  7. ‘Grind’ (E.), O. E. grindan, P. Germanic grindanan, PIE *ghren, *ghreu-, *ghen,  (?*grendh-) all have same meaning i.e. to grind. PIE *gher and *gherzdh mean ‘barley’. The Sanskrit word godhuma, Persian gandum and Tamil godhumai all meaning ‘wheat’ seem to have originated from the same root. This implies use of grinding by PIE speakers. Munda guru, Santhal and Kherwa guRgu (both meaning ‘grinding stone’), Thai gruaam (to grind), gro:hng (mortar), gra deuuang (stamp-mill, mortar) are all related with the roots meaning ‘grinding’.
  8. Acre> agri- from P. Germanic akraz, PIE agros field, Sk. ajra, ajras field. It is likely that Sanskrit kriS to pull, to cultivate, may have some relation with PIE agros.

9. Sanskrit sUpa and English ‘soup’ have same meaning, pronunciation and etymology. They are from PIE *sub- derived from another PIE base seue, ‘to take liquid food’. Proto-Germanic base *supp- and English ‘supper’ are cognates to these. Tamil sappara may be a cognate. Iranian sabzi meaning ‘vegetable curry or soup’ is a cognate. Witzel correlates Iranian sabz- (vegetable) with Old Sanskrit sapa- (drifted reed), Old Iranian sapar-ku, Rosani (Pamir language) sabec ‘beans’, Lithuanian sapas ‘stalk’ and English dialect haver ‘stalk’, which all are possibly cognates of Sanskrit supa.

10.  Bread (English), bhrajj (Sanskrit, pan cake), bhrijj (Sanskrit, the act of baking, roasting or frying). Other cognates are Old Irish bruth ‘to heat’, French braser ‘to burn’, Germanic brese ‘hot coal’, Old English beorma ‘yeast’, Old High German brato ‘to roast meat’, English brew,  PIE *bhreu- ‘to brew’ etc.

11.  Sanskrit KshIra meaning ‘milk’ and ‘a porridge made of rice or millets in milk’ (derived from Sanskrit root-word ghas : Monier Williams), its Hindi form khir, and Hindi ghee (from Sanskrit ghrita, purified butter) are derived from PIE ghwer. From PIE ghwer are also derived English burn, brandy, therm- etc. It shows some form of cooking process during PIE stage.

12.  Cook, coc (Old English), cocus (Vulgar Latin), coquus (Latin), from PIE pekw- (cooking). Related to this PIE root is Sanskrit pach- and pak-, Hindi pakAnA and pakwan.  

13.  Candy/ candid (English), qand (Persian), khanda (Sanskrit, sugar). These all are possibly from Tamil kantu (candy), kattu (to harden).

14.  Meter (E.), measure (E.), matra (Sk.), metre (Fr.), metron (Gk.), Old English mete, PIE *mat/*met. Many food items, which were measured are from this root, and they include: Sanskrit masura, masUrikA, mas*, mishta etc, English meat, Hindi mItha (lump sugar) etc. Sanskrit mASa (a small unit of weight used by jwellers), which means a pulse (oorad) too, is from the same root.   

15.  English ‘cotton’, Sanskrit kartta-na (weaving), Hindi kata-na (weaving), Munda koTNe (pillow) and Santhal kotre (pillow) are most likely from the same root. Persian kurta (upper garment), Proto-Germanic kalithas (cloth) and English ‘cloth’ are also related. Another set of related words is kapara (Hindi, cloth), kappaTam (Tamil, cloth), karpAsa (Sanskrit, cotton).

16.  Pot (E.), potus (L. drinking vessel), pAtra (Sk. pAtra, drinking vessel, MW, p. 612). In sanskrit patra means leaf (Greek pter). Large leaves were earlier used as dish plates in India. Presence of this word widely in IE languages clearly indicates that the Proto-Indo-Europeans had pottery before they migrated.

17.  Wheel (E.), cycle (E.), chakra (Sanskrit), charkha (Persian) and PIE k(w)el probably pertain to pottery-wheel.

18.  We get cognate words for cow, pig, goat, sheep and mouse in almost all of the Indo-European languages.

19.  Fuller (2008) gives a list of cognates for cotton, spindle and weaving in Indo-European and Austro-Asiatic languages, indicating that Proto-Indo-European as well as Proto-Austro-Asiatic languages had enough contact for exchange of words. This place could only have been in India, and not West Asia or Central Asia. Words which are related with weaving but are found in Indo-Aryan, European, Dravidian and Austro-Asiatic languages are: tantu (Sk., fiber), tantra (Sk., loom), tAna (Sk., fiber, tone, tension), tanti and tatamA (Hindi, weaver), tendon (E.), tentacle (E.) tendril (E.), tent (E.), tenter (E., loom), tenet (E.), tonti (Juang, weaver), dendra (Telgu, a weaver caste); tay (Bonda, to weave), tor (Thai, to weave), tan (Kharia, to weave), thai:n (Khasi, to weave), tan (Alak, Lave and Niahon, to weave);

20.  tUla (Sk., cotton), tUlika (Sk., brush), tula (Munda-Juang; cotton, feather, hair), tol (Old Mon; cotton, hair, feather), tuy (Tamil, cotton).

Having proved that the Indo-Europeans were farmers, we need to settle their place of evolution. There were only two places where farming evolved the earliest. Both can be claimed to be the place of origin of Indo-Europeans. One is Anatolia (Turkey, West Asia) and the second is India. Central Asia being a cold desert and grassland combination can hardly harbor pastoralist populations but not farming. Nor can it have large growth of population to force migration. All the prehistoric migrations have taken place from tropical to temperate region (genetic studies).

Conclusion: We note a large number of words from Austro-Asiatic (Munda family) and Dravidian families in the Indo-European languages located as far away as West Europe. This is a big list. Some of them have been mentioned above. This could be only possible if the Indo-European journey started in India, having evolved over ages in neighborhood of these languages. Hence we can conclude, on the basis of linguistic analysis that the Indo-European languages evolved in India from where they migrated out to various regions of the world.

[1] Witzel, Michael, The linguistic history of some Indian domestic plants, J Biosciences 2009, 34(6): 829-833. “Fulltext” of this article is available at We shall refer that article as Witzel, Fulltext, 2009.

[2] Fuller, 2006, p. 15.

19. Fuller (2008) gives a list of cognates for cotton, spindle and weaving in Indo-European and Austro-Asiatic languages, indicating that Proto-Indo-European as well as Proto-Austro-Asiatic languages had enough contact for exchange of words. This place could only have been in India, and not West Asia or Central Asia. Words which are related with weaving but are found in Indo-Aryan, European, Dravidian and Austro-Asiatic languages are: tantu (Sk., fiber), tantra (Sk., loom), tAna (Sk., fiber, tone, tension), tanti and tatamA (Hindi, weaver), tendon (E.), tentacle (E.) tendril (E.), tent (E.), tenter (E., loom), tenet (E.), tonti (Juang, weaver), dendra (Telgu, a weaver caste); tay (Bonda, to weave), tor (Thai, to weave), tan (Kharia, to weave), thai:n (Khasi, to weave), tan (Alak, Lave and Niahon, to weave).

20. tUla (Sk., cotton), tUlika (Sk., brush), tula (Munda-Juang; cotton, feather, hair), tol (Old Mon; cotton, hair, feather), tuy (Tamil, cotton).

Having proved that the Indo-Europeans were farmers, we need to settle their place of evolution. There were only two places where farming evolved the earliest. Both can be claimed to be the place of origin of Indo-Europeans. One is Anatolia (Turkey, West Asia) and the second is India. Central Asia being a cold desert and grassland combination can hardly harbor pastoralist populations but not farming. Nor can it have large growth of population to force migration. All the prehistoric migrations have taken place from tropical to temperate region (genetic studies).

Conclusion: We note a large number of words from Austro-Asiatic (Munda family) and Dravidian families in the Indo-European languages located as far away as West Europe. This is a big list. Some of them have been mentioned above. This could be only possible if the Indo-European journey started in India, having evolved over ages in neighborhood of these languages. Hence we can conclude, on the basis of linguistic analysis that the Indo-European languages evolved in India from where they migrated out to various regions of the world.


(1) Comrie, Bernard, “Farming dispersal in Europe and the spread of the Indo-European language family”, in Bellwood, Peter and Renfrew, Colin (Eds.); Examining The Farming/language Dispersal Hypothesis, CUP Archives, Cambridge, 2003.

(2) Fuller, D. Q., Agricultural Origins and Frontiers in South Asia: A Working Synthesis, J World Prehist 2006,  20:1–86. []Also see ———-, “An agricultural perspective on Dravidian historical linguistics: archaeological crop packages, livestock and Dravidian crop vocabulary”, in Bellwood, Peter and Renfrew, Colin (Eds.); Examining The Farming/language Dispersal Hypothesis: (191-213), 2003, p. 204.

(3) Petraglia, M. et al, Population increase and environmental deterioration correspond with microlithic innovations in South Asia ca. 35,000 years ago, PNAS 2009 Aug., cgi doi 10.1073, pnas.0810842106. Population expansion in 35,000 years back India is an evidence of possible proto-farming life.  []

(4) Fuller, D. Q.; Agricultural Origins and Frontiers in South Asia: A Working Synthesis, J World Prehist 2006, 20:1–86.

(5) Higham, C., Languages and Farming Dispersals: Austroasiatic Languages and Rice Cultivation, Bellwood, P. and Renfrew, C. (Eds.), Examining the farming/language dispersal hypothesis, Cambridge: The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2003.

(6)Kumar, V. et al, Y-chromosome evidence suggests a common paternal heritage of Austro-Asiatic populations, BMC Evol Biol. 2007; 7: 47.

(7) Chaubey, G. et al; Phylogeography of mtDNA haplogroup R7 in the Indian peninsula, BMC Evol Biol 2008, 8: 227. Maji, S. et al, Distribution of Mitochondrial DNA Macrohaplogroup N in India with Special Reference to Haplogroup R and its Sub-Haplogroup U, Int J Hum Jenet 2008, 8(1-2): 85-96.  Kivisild, T. et al, The genetic heritage of the earliest settlers persists both in Indian tribal and caste populations, Am J Hum Genet 2003 Feb, 72 (2) : 313-32, p. 313.


(9) Witzel, Michael, The linguistic history of some Indian domestic plants, J Biosciences 2009, 34(6): 829-833. “Fulltext” of this article is available at We shall refer that article as Witzel, Fulltext, 2009.

(10) Renfrew, Colin, Archaeology and Language. The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins,  CUP Archive,  Cambridge, 1990, p. 198.

(11) Renfrew, Colin, Archaeology and Language. The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins,  CUP Archive,  Cambridge, 1990, pp. 190, 192, 195-6.

(12) Ibid, p. 190.

(13) Renfrew, Colin, Archaeology and Language. The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins,  CUP Archive, Cambridge, 1990, p. 195.

(14) Ibid. p. 196.

(15) McAlpin, David W., Elamite and Dravidian: Further Evidence of Relationship, Current Anthropology 1975, 16(1): 105-115. ———, Proto-Elamo-Dravidian: The Evidence and its Implications, The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1981.

(16) Witzel, Michael, The linguistic history of some Indian domestic plants, J Biosciences 2009, 34(6): 829-833. “Fulltext” of this article is available at We shall refer that article as Witzel, Fulltext, 2009

(17) Fuller, 2006, p. 15

The First Civilization of the World

The First Civilization of the World, Siddhartha Publishers, Delhi, email
written by
Dr P. Priyadarshi, MBBS, MD, MRCP (UK)

Human DNA studies tell us about origins and migration routes of our species as well as our pets, pests and cattle. Fitting well into the DNA stories, large number of archaeological sites dating back to 10,000 years before present showing evidence of farming has been unearthed in the Ganga Valley and other parts of India.

Barring a few geneticists, like Kivisild, Endicott, Metspalu, Sahoo, Sengupta etc. the geneticists at large believe even today that there was an Aryan invasion on India. Traditionally, the Aryan languages have been believed to have originated in the Central Asia whereas the farming culture in the West Asia. Current study, mainly based on study of Y-chromosomal DNA haplogroups, and also to some extent mitochondrial DNA haplogroups, finds that the Aryans as well as the farming culture originated in India. The Aryan language and farming dispersal took place from India to Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey and finally South Europe after 15,000 years before present (B.P.). The Mesolithic culture too originated in India at 35,000 B.P. and it was from India that Mesolithic cultural practices spread to the rest of Asia, and East Africa. Evidence from DNA studies of man, animals and crops, from linguistics and from recent archaeology have been examined to reach conclusions.

When Cann, Stoneking and Wilson (1987), and the next year Stringer and Andrews (1988), gave their theory of African origin of Homo sapiens sapiens based on genomic studies, Renfrew suggested that Anatolia (Turkey) was the place of origin of farming as well as the Aryan languages, and both migrated together into Europe.But this was found wrong later by DNA studies. (Chapter 6)

It was appreciated that man did not enter North Africa (from East Africa) at all until quite late, and actually man came to India about 100,000 years before present (B.P.) from where he migrated to the rest of the world including West Asia or even North Africa. It was actually India which played a central role in populating the world, and it was by back migration from India to East Africa that much of language and culture arrived into East Africa later.

It was recognised by increasingly larger number of authors, like Metspalu, Michael Petraglia, Toomas Kivisild etc. that India was central in the prehistory of mankind. (Chapter 2) Yet senior authors are still assume the West Asian route of exit out of Africa to be true (Renfrew, 2010; Majumder, 2010). The book is intended to clear confusion prevailing in this matter. As genetic study of man (R1a, J2, O2a), cow, mouse, pig, goat, rice and barley all gravitate towards India, there should be no doubt now that farming and Aryan languages originated and spread from India.

Findings of world’s oldest farming sites from Ganga Valley (India) have only supplied the missing link in the story of evolution of farming. Ganga Valley, Mehrgarh, Darestan (Baluchistan of East Iran), Zagros (West Iran), the Fertile Crescent (Iraq) and Turkey are like footsteps in the march of farming culture starting from India to Europe (Chapter 1). On the other hand, re-examination of lexicon of different languages only correlates well to the conclusions derived from the DNA studies.

DNA studies of Y-chromosomes of man from Europe and Asia confirmed that the marker DNA of farming and pottery migration (J2) originated in India. Hence the obvious conclusion is that there was a human migration starting from India to West Asia with which there was also a migration of farming culture, art of pottery-making and ceramic figurine to West Asia and South Europe. Incidentally this whole area from Ganga Valley to South Europe is inhabited today by people speaking Indo-Aryan language (Chapter 9).

At 35,000 B.P. there was a population expansion in India associated with onset of Microlithic/Mesolithic cultural revolution. At this very time, DNA studies indicate, there was domestication of cow, pig and goat in India. It is supposed that wild cereals, fruits, berries, tubers were harvested and exploited well. Some sort of housing, sedentary life, dress and social systems existed during this period. It was during this population expansion that man was forced to move out of India due to saturation of carrying capacity (Chapter 3).

Y chromosomal haplogroup R and its branches migrated out from India to Central Asia and East Africa during this period. In the East, it was Y-chromosomal haplogroup O2a which migrated to Southeast Asia and thereafter to China. Our study suggests that cow, weaving, some form of measuring system and barter trade etc went out from India to Central Asia, southeast Asia and Africa during this migration. Goat also migrated to Central Asia at this time (Chaptre 3).

West Asia and Western Iran were not habitable between 35,000 B.P. and 14,000 B.P. and hence Indian migrations did not take place to that part of Asia then. There was a climatic barrier in Iran. Earlier it was suggested that R1a is a marker of Central Asian Aryan invasion on India. But now it has been shown conclusively that this DNA originated in India. It migrated out from India at about 14,000-15,000 years back to reach Central Asia and finally Europe. R1a was blocked at the East Iran and not allowed to proceed into West Iran due to climatic barrier. It is likely that some elements of Neolithic, like pottery, reached Central Asia and then Europe with this migration. (Chapter 8).

I have also summarized recent DNA studies of plant and animal genome like cow, goat, buffalo, rice, barley and mice, domestic/domesticated breeds of them originated in India, not in West Asia or China. (Chapter 7). Domestic mouse evolved and lived in India exclusively until recently and migrated to out of India when Indians migrated to other parts of world. (Chapter 10).