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Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From

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Who are we Indians ? Where did we come from ? Many of us believe our ancestors have lived in South Asia since 'time immemorial'. But, as it turns out, 'time immemorial' may not have been all that long ago. To tell us the story of our ancestry, journalist Tony Joseph goes 65,000 years into the past—when a band of modern humans, or Homo sapiens, first made their way from Africa into the Indian subcontinent.

Citing recent DNA evidence, he traces the subsequent large migrations of modern humans into India—of agriculturalists from Iran between 7000 and 3000 BCE and pastoralists from the Central Asian Steppe between 2000 and 1000 BCE, among others.

As Joseph unravels our history using the results of genetic and other research, he takes head-on some of the most controversial and uncomfortable questions of Indian history: Who were the Harappans? Did the 'Aryans' really migrate to India? Are North Indians genetically different from South Indians? And are the various castes genetically distinct groups?

This book relies heavily on path-breaking DNA research of recent years. But it also presents earlier archaeological and linguistic evidence—all in an entertaining and highly readable manner. A hugely significant book, Early Indians authoritatively and bravely puts to rest several ugly debates on the ancestry of modern Indians. It not only shows us how the modern Indian population came to be composed as it is, but also reveals an undeniable and important truth about who we are: we are all migrants. And we are all mixed.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 2018

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About the author

Tony Joseph

17 books41 followers
Tony Joseph is an Indian journalist and former editor of Businessworld magazine. He is also the author of the best-selling book Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From (2018). Until 2018, he was also the chairman and co-founder of Mindworks Global Media Services. He is based in New Delhi. Joseph has been an editor and a journalist for over three decades and was, at various times, features editor of The Economic Times, associate editor of Business Standard and editor of Businessworld magazine (from 1998). His articles have appeared in Outlook India, Quartz, Live Mint and The Hindu.

Early Indians is focused on four prehistoric migrations that shaped the demography of India, including the migrations after 2000 BC.

Joseph describes himself as an atheist.

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Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,239 reviews2,227 followers
June 14, 2019
Indians are a people who are always a bit confused about their identity as “Indians” – maybe because the nation itself is a relatively recent construct (not ignoring the mythical “Bharata”) and the regional and caste identities are more strongly embedded. Ever since the West discovered the mystic East, there have been attempts to create an Indian past which is wholly spiritual – based on the mythical, Vedic “Aryan” – by the proponents of the enlightenment. In colonial times, this “Aryan” became an invading race who destroyed the mature Harappan civilisation; the same figure was taken to be the epitome of race purity and became the basis of the toxic Nazi doctrine. And later on, in a reversal of the myth, the invading Aryan became the villain who destroyed the peaceful Dravidian civilisation in the Dalit version of history.

All these are now discounted by serious historians. The widely accepted theory about Indian prehistory is that the Harappan civilisation perished because of a severe drought, and the Indo-Aryan speakers migrated to the Indian subcontinent later on from Central Asia and mixed with the indigenous population. There is, however, a vociferous fringe who staunchly oppose this: they are adamant that there have been no migrations to India at all, and that the Vedic people are the direct descendants of the Harappans. All arguments to the contrary are taken to be part of a “colonialist conspiracy” to undermine Indian culture.

So far, the (hotly disputed!) evidence for the migrations have been mostly archaeological and linguistic. But now, a new tool is available with the scientific community for the analysis of the origin, development, and spread of homo sapiens across the globe: genetics.

Tony Joseph has been writing regularly about how the recent advances in DNA research have been impacting the research into prehistory. Now, he has arranged all his arguments in the form of this highly readable book.

In the introduction, he writes:
There is a reason why this book could have been written only now, and not earlier. It is because our understanding of deep history has changed dramatically in the last five years or so. Large stretches of our prehistory are being rewritten as we speak, based on analysis of DNA extracted from individuals who lived thousands or tens of thousands of years ago. Many 'facts' that we took for granted have been proved wrong, and many questions left dangling in the air as historians, archaeologists and anthropologists argued it out among themselves have been given convincing new answers — thanks to the recently acquired ability of genetic scientists to successfully extract DNA from ancient fossils and then sequence it to understand all that bound people together, or distinguished them from each other. If technology had not matured to the level it has, scientists would not have been able to make the discoveries they are making today. And if it were not for their latest findings, our prehistory would have remained as vague and contentious as earlier and this book would not have been written.
So how exactly does DNA put paid to the debate? Well, without going into the technicalities (it is all detailed in the book), let me try to explain in plain terms how this whole thing works.

All the genetic code that makes us what we are are packed into twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that we all carry in the nuclei of our cells, plus the mitochondrial DNA or the mtDNA that stays outside. This is called a person’s genome. In the twenty-three pairs, one of each pair inherited from each parent, exactly one pair – the sex chromosomes – will differ. If the type is XX, the person will be female, and if the type is XY, the person will be male. The Y-chromosome is passed relatively unchanged from male parent to male progeny, while the mtDNA is passed on without change from the female parent to both male and female progeny: but it gets further transmitted only through the female line. Thus, the mapping of these two over the human population spread across the globe helps us to get a genetic map of the world’s population. And since there are minor mutations to both the Y-chromosome and mtDNA that get accumulated over time, it provides us with the genetic history of the changes over time, too – combined with the DNA analysis of skeletal remains.

(This is super-condensation, and hence, a bit simplistic. Detailed and reliable info is available in many places, especially on the net.)

Aided with this technology of DNA analysis, the following is the timeline of India’s population during prehistoric times.

1. 70,000 years ago – Homo Sapiens starts move out of Africa, where they originated.
2. 65,000 years ago – The “Out of Africa” (OoA) contingent reach the Indian subcontinent, where they meet other archaic human species, whom they must have subdued and subsumed in their spread all the way across South Asia to Australia.
3. 45,000 to 20,000 years ago – The First Indians, descendants of the OoA group, start using Microlithic technology and spread across India.
4. 7000 to 3000 BCE – Migration of Iranian agriculturists from the Zagros region to South Asia leads to their mixing with the descendants of the First Indians. These people create the Harappan civilisation which exists from 5500 to 1300 BCE, through the Early, Mature and Late Harappan Eras, until it dies off most probably due to a massive drought. The Harappans migrate towards the south.
5. 2100 to 1000 BCE – Pastoralists from the Kazakh Steppe, the famed “Aryans” of legend, migrate into the Indian subcontinent, mixing with the Harappans. Thus we have two main DNA mixes that is found in India today: those of the Iranian agriculturists + the First Indians, called the Ancient South Indian (ASI) group; and Iranian agriculturists + the First Indians + the Central Asian Pastoralists, called the Ancient North Indian (ANI) group. They were called Dravidians and Aryans in the past.

(There was some migration from China as well, especially in the North East.)

Now the million-dollar question: how does one say that the migration happened in one direction, that is, towards India? Why can’t it be the other way round, as the Out of India adherents claim? The author presents the following arguments against this:

1. The Indo-Aryan languages which spread across most of Europe and Asia could conceivably have gone from India. However, if such a thing happened, the genetic footprints of the First Indians – the people who came originally out of Africa and settled in the subcontinent 65,000 years ago – should be seen across the populations of Europe. This is conspicuous by its absence.
2. The horse, which is the prime animal in the Vedic religion, is absent in the Harappan culture – which is strange if the Vedic culture directly follows from it. Also, there are no vestiges of the Vedic deities anywhere in Harappa. (There are a multitude of other factors that the author points out – I am only highlighting a few prominent ones.)
3. The Dravidian languages, the roots of which are markedly different from the Indo-Aryan ones, has strong connections to Elamite, the language of the Iranian agriculturists, at its roots. It has borrowings from Sanskrit too and vice versa – this points to the intermixing of language at later stages.

(Once again, I am over-simplifying for brevity. There are a lot many other arguments quoted by the author, many of them raised by more than one historian/ archaeologist/ linguist from across the world. “Out of India” theory holds sway, it seems, with very few reputed scholars.)

In conclusion, the author says:
The best way we can define ourselves is as a multi-source civilization, not a single-source one, drawing its cultural impulses, its traditions and its practices from a variety of heredities and migration histories. The Out of Africa migrants, the fearless pioneering explorers who reached this land around sixty-five millennia ago and whose lineages still form the bedrock of our population; those who arrived from west Asia and contributed to the agricultural revolution and the building of the Harappan Civilization which then became the crucible for new practices, concepts and the Dravidian languages that enrich much of our culture today; those who came from east Asia, bringing with them new languages and plants and farming techniques; and those who migrated here from central Asia, carrying an early version of what would become a great language, Sanskrit, and all its associated beliefs and practices that have reshaped our society in fundamental ways; and those who came even later seeking refuge or for conquest or for trade, and then chose to stay — all have mingled and contributed to this civilization we call Indian. We are all Indians. And we are all migrants.
This, I like.

This is an extremely readable book on a fascinating subject, and will whet your appetite for more research. I recommend it to all of my friends who love food for the intellect.
Profile Image for Abhinav Gupta.
15 reviews6 followers
December 30, 2018
India has had a weird relationship with its history prior to Mauryan empire. History by its nature is imprecise but, in this case, confusion is compounded by the fact that Harappan script remains undeciphered and there are very few archaeological remains of Vedic society. The confusion has only been furthered by ideologically motivated or imaginative thinkers who have colored this phase of history with their own agendas. Top example remains forcibly trying to conflate Harrapans with Vedic society by force fitting Harrapan civilization as Sarasvati civilization. Other examples include myths of Aryan purity, artificial divide between Dravidians & North Indians and nature and scale of Vedic society itself. What remains underappreciated in this mess is that Harappan Civilisation was the largest and most widespread of its time with large population and huge cities – which ideally should make us proud. We somehow have failed to relate to our Harrapan ancestors (yes ancestors) in our cultural consciousness.

This book masterfully breaks through all this confusion and provides clarity and perspective to answer all such questions. The modern science of genetics, linguistics, paleo-geology, anthropology, and archaeology are now beginning to provide a clearer picture and this book translates the latest ideas for laymen.

The narrative that emerges only makes us prouder as Indians and brings us closer to our own heritage. The message of unity in diversity is not only a slogan but is integral part of our own genetic makeup and our rich historical story.

P.S. I am further excited to pay a visit to scores of Harappan sites after reading this book.
Profile Image for Jayaprakash Satyamurthy.
Author 34 books462 followers
February 28, 2019
Everyone in our subcontinent - Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis - please read EARLY INDIANS by Tony Joseph. Understand where we're coming from, how rich and diverse our roots are and how superficial our divisions are. And it's all based on scientific evidence, not ideological wishful thinking.
Profile Image for Apoorva.
163 reviews678 followers
January 27, 2022
Are you an Indian, and are you curious about where you came from? Then this is the book for you! I stumbled upon it while watching a YouTube video, and since the topic was interesting, I decided to get it. This informative book is going to answer all the highly debatable questions regarding who actual Indians are and where they came from, who Harappa's were, Aryan migration, genetic differences between North and South Indians, and when the caste system began.

As the author puts it, this book is about prehistory- the time when there were no historical records. However, to understand what life was like back then, we need to look at other evidence from archaeological excavations, fossils, the objects and tools made by ancient humans, and most importantly, comparing the DNA of both ancient and present-day humans.

To trace the origins of early Indians, the author takes us back to about 70,000 years ago when the earliest successful Out of Africa migration happened; these migrants are the ancestors of today's non-African population. From then on, the author examines the DNA and other evidence to figure out how things turned out for them. Many important questions have been answered because scientists were able to extract DNA from fossils and sequence it to gather how people are related.

I won't go into much detail about how DNA evidence was examined and a particular conclusion was reached, but the author has explained everything they found from research and studies in simple terms. Moreover, the author also looks at other factors such as genetics, linguistics, and anthropology to back his claims. The book is filled with pictures and maps to better describe the points, which was helpful.

The book feels like a fascinating history textbook which I might have loved to read in school; it reminds me of another excellent book called "Sapiens." This book will give you a better understanding of your ancestors and encourage you to look at history from genetic and cultural rather than ideological perspectives. In conclusion, Indians are a multi-source civilization that took beliefs, traditions, and practices from various heredities and migration histories. This diversity makes us Indians.

Profile Image for Raghu.
385 reviews77 followers
January 3, 2020
As India enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, one would presume that modern science would form the focus of an emerging nation of young people, like India. But, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and advanced medical research do not dominate the conversations. Instead, India is bogged down by questions such as 'who is acceptable as an Indian citizen,' and 'how to build a very tall temple in Ayodhya', etc. The ruling elite is busy pushing the idea of 'one nation, one language, one culture' with the North Indian, Hindi-speaking, upper-caste Hindu as the quintessential Indian. Naturally, the hundreds of millions of Indians who do not belong in this narrow category recoil instinctively against such a fabrication of the truth. That is why it is of great importance that every educated person in India must read this seminal work by Tony Joseph. The book provides a gripping account of the pre-history of India, going back 65000 years. It combines recent advances in the studies of the human genome with philology, archaeology, and anthropology, to make a compelling case. I found the book difficult to put down, even though the sections on genetics needed careful reading to understand their import on the story of the early Indians. I should hasten to add that the book is eminently accessible to everyone, without having to be well-versed in genetics or archaeology or linguistics. When I finished the book, I was in wonderment and awe of the insights of modern science and how it can stitch together and decode events that took place more than 65000 years ago. The precision and detail with which science can elucidate India's pre-history leaves me proud and humbled at the same time. Let us get into this fascinating story.

Conclusive DNA evidence now shows that modern humans outside of Africa are all descendants of a single population of Out of Africa (OoA) migrants. They moved into Asia around 70000 years ago. They then spread around the world, replacing their genetic cousins like the Homo Neanderthalensis, reaching India about 65000 years ago. They are called the First Indians. Because they got to India early, India had the largest human population even 20000 years ago.
Around 7000 BCE, migrants from the Zagros mountains (in today's Iran) arrived and mixed with the First Indians. These people helped spread the agriculture that was the catalyst for the creation of the great urban civilization called the Harappan (the author prefers this term instead of the Indus valley civilization) today. It developed over five thousand years, reaching its peak between 2600 BCE and 1900 BCE. However, centuries of drought caused its decline, destroying its irrigation systems and agriculture. The Harappans had no option but to migrate elsewhere into India, towards the south and the east.
Around 2000 BCE, migrants from east Asia arrived in India, bringing with them their rice variety and their languages. Mundari and Khasi, spoken in the eastern and central parts of India, even today, are examples of these Austro-Asiatic languages. India owes them the hybridization of the indica and japonica rice subspecies. Finally, the last migrants to India came between 2000 and 1000 BCE from Central Asia and the Eurasian Steppe. They were pastoral people who spoke Indo-European languages and called themselves Aryan. They were rural people, spoke proto-Sanskrit, emphasized pastoralism and cattle breeding over the urban settlement. They were a warrior-like people, and their influx was largely male-driven. Consequently, they created a patriarchal, patrilocal, and patrilineal Vedic culture. They mixed with the Austro-Asiatics and the Harappans in various proportions resulting in the Indians of today.

Where does all this research leave the many modern-day myths in Indian history today? The book gives scientific data to establish the following conclusions:
1) The closest direct living descendants of the First Indians today are found in the Little Andaman Island. They are the Onge people who number barely a hundred, down from 670 in the year 1900.
2) We now know who the most authentic Indians are. They are the Adivasis(tribals), who form about 8% of India's population. The tribal woman today is most likely to be carrying the deepest-rooted and widest-spread mtDNA lineage M2, in India. Genetically, she represents all of our histories, with little left out. The tribals are 'THE Indians'.
3) It is ridiculous to say that Indian culture is synonymous with Aryan/Sanskrit/Vedic culture. Instead, it is the result of interaction, adoption, and adaptation among those who brought Indo-European languages (proto-Sanskrit speaking Aryans) to India and those who were already well-settled inhabitants (proto-Dravidian speaking Harappans).
4) Many popular practices in India today are examples of cultural continuity from the Harappan civilization rather than from the Vedic corpus.
Some of are the many Harappan traditions we carry on today are:
a) Houses built around courtyards
b) Bullock carts
c) the way women wear bangles
d) the manner of tree-worship
e) Sanctity of the peepul tree
f) the kulladh(handleless clay cup)
g) the ubiquitous Indian cooking pot
h) designs, and motifs in jewelry, pottery, and seals
i) games of dice
j) an early form of chess
k) the humble 'lota' Indians use to wash up even today
l) the practice of applying sindoor (vermilion)
m) and some measurement systems.
5) The Aryans were NOT a Harappan Civilization people.
6) The absence of genetic signatures proves that NO Out-of-India migration spread Indo-European languages around the world. Had it been so anytime before or after the Harappan Civilization, we would see genetic footprints of the First Indians all over from Central Asia to Western Europe. But, there are no close relatives of the First Indians anywhere else in the world.

The chapter on the Harappans has fascinating details about the civilization. Some of them are:
1) One striking feature is the lack of representation of violence between humans. The seals which depict violence involve either supernatural beings and humans or animals and humans.
2) Almost every house had a toilet!
3) At its height, the Harappan Civilization covered a million square kilometers, about a third of today's India. Still, it was knit together through common standards of weights, seals, script, and city design. It seems to have been less conflict-prone than the Egyptian and Mesopotamian counterparts.
4) Lavish palaces, temples and burial sites are conspicuous by their absence. It was probably held together by an 'elite group' who shared power rather than through a powerful king.
5) The Harappans used a script which is called Proto-Elamite but has not yet been deciphered. It is an early form of the Dravidian languages of today's South India. McAlpin lists eighty-one words with close correspondence between the Harappan language and south India's Dravidian languages like Tamil.

The author goes on to correct other false conceptions about India. The Marxian view of India is that of an 'unchanging India.' Whereas the Hindu-nationalist view of India is that it has degraded over time from the Vedic perfection of 'time immemorial.' The author argues that both are wrong and based on misconceptions. India has been ever-changing and dynamic. Its history has been full of energy as any lively society's history would be. All this, in spite of the dead weight of casteism that it has carried now for two thousand years.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru described the essence of India with the phrase 'Unity in Diversity.' This book shows that it is not an empty phrase but an eminently appropriate one. Tony Joseph quotes Dr. David Reich that, genetically, it is wrong to view India as having a tremendously large population. The Han Chinese are genetically a genuinely large population because they have been mixing freely for thousands of years. In contrast, the degree of genetic differentiation among Indian jati groups living side by side in the same village is typically two or three times higher than the genetic divergence between even northern and southern Europeans. So, few, if any, Indian groups are demographically large. The truth is that India is composed of a large number of small populations. Nehru was spot-on in describing India as embodying 'Unity in Diversity.'

The book spans multiple disciplines, covering genetics, philology, and archaeology. It is an outstanding example of writing with clarity. It also shows the marvelous way the scientific method works. I hope textbooks on India's pre-history would be updated to include these recent findings.

A book that every Indian, interested in his or her origins, must read.
1 review1 follower
March 23, 2019
Tony Joseph’s new book “Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From” attempts to sell the colonial Aryan Invasion Theory's insidious 21st-century version - the Aryan Migration Myth - on the basis of racist, Hinduphobic Harvard geneticist David Reich’s thoroughly discredited research.

The legendary Russian archaeologist Leo Klejn has thoroughly debunked Reich’s pro-AIT research.

The New York Times has exposed Reich’s dubious, deeply flawed research methodology, alleged unethical practices, and unprecedented preferential treatment by scientific journals, thereby obliterating the basic premise behind the book’s conclusions.

This effectively consigns Joseph's book to the trash heap.

Joseph’s book is a calculated, calibrated neo-colonial enterprise that was conceived, designed, and launched with a singular purpose in mind: to revive the discredited Aryan Invasion Theory and thereby mislead Indians and alienate them from the truth about their history.

Be warned, dear reader. Do not allow yourself to be misled.
Profile Image for Ajay.
241 reviews3 followers
October 3, 2019
After Rakhigarhi study, this book is very outdated now. In his book. he claimed there is decisive proof that Vedic Aryas were foreigners who entered India from Central Asia around 1500 BC and brought Vedic Sanskrit and Vedic religion with them. In twitter after Rakhigarhi study He says "Harappan genome lacks ancestry from Iranian farmers". But in his book published a few months ago, Tony completely contradicts himself and claims Harappan Genome is a "mixture of Iranian farmers and First Indians". In twitter , Tony claims he "strongly" made a point in his book that "farming began Independently in India". However, he does no such thing in his book. Instead, he posits Iranian farmers migrated into India and most possibly introduced Agricultural practices before mixing with "first Indians".

And how can we forget Sinauli from Uttar Pradesh and Keeladi from Tamil Nadu. Those study also need to be updated.
Profile Image for Vivek Kulanthaivelpandian.
161 reviews24 followers
January 19, 2021
Scientific Fact: We (Indians) are all Immigrants and we are all mutts and not pure. Now that out of my chest, on to the book review.
Book moves in a chronological order of important events in the great human migration (Both Archaic and Modern) such as
1. Out of Africa
2. Migratory path
3. Arrival in the Indian subcontinent
4. Settlement and Establishment
5. Later wave of immigration
It all depends on which part of the journey you are interested in and you can zoom in. Personally, I wanted to learn more about the first 3 as there are not much information available about early prehistory about peopling of India. But 4 and 5 are also intriguing as those chapters try to shine some light in the age-old socio, political and religious discussions.

Author has relied on the following fields to back his claims
1. Genetics
2. Archeological Evidence
3. Climate Data
4. Linguistics
5. Early Written history

Out of the five above, only genetics can provide an objective& Impartial evidence to some extent and rest of them can be subjective in my opinion. That is why we were not able triangulate the facts and truth until the advent of genetics in several areas. I think this book closes the argument in some of those controversial areas.

Author starts with a good primer on Genetics 101 and explains the fundamentals of genome, genetic coding, mutation, Haplogroup etc. Important: Take your time and get yourself familiarized with these terminologies and its meanings. These are the building blocks and back bone of the evidence-based story reconstruction. Tony is very transparent in letting us know the short coming of this science in certain areas.

Next he goes into establishing the situation pre-arrival to modern humans in India and how that interaction went. The important message for some Indian people who think and claim that they are the first and the rightful residents of this land , “Science shows that there were Archaic humans way before you arrived and they had to nudge them out of the equation slowly but surely”. So,the Mayflower mentality is unjustified and unfounded.

He also makes an interesting point about what motivated the migration at all. Fear (Lack of resources) and Greed (Promise of plenty) propelled them to venture further. How true and sad it is true even today that we still share that intuition in this modern world.

The chapters that follow are about early Agriculturists in Mehrgarh in Baluchistan and in Zagros region of Iran . Domestication of animals and plants get talked about extensively in this chapter.
This eventually leads to the discussion about Harappan civilization which most Indians are very familiar with. I don’t want to go into that detail, but would like to list few new things I learned.
1. No archeological evidence of grand temples in Harappan sites. But there is evidence for phallus worship
2. The connection between Akkadian, Elamite and Proto-Dravidian Language Tamil. (Some of the words mentioned are still used by us Tamil speakers)
3. The example about the constellations in the Harappan seal (Aaru-Meen and Yelu-Meen) WOW.

I am guessing the arguments in the last chapter and the Epilogue some might find controversial, but it sounded logical for me.
What I understood based from the author’s argument is , definitely there is genetic evidence to support the hypothesis on late arrival and mixing of Steppe people . They brought their culture with them and adapted to the new culture they arrived to as well.
But did the mix happen slowly or fast, collaboratively or forcefully is the million-dollar question? There are so many coincidences here similar to the disappearance of Megafauna in the Americas post arrival of Humans. This debate will never end until there is an archeological break through like discovery of Rosetta stone to decode the Harappan symbols. Until then I will side with what science has to offer for the time being and not in to blind speculations about our glorious past based on mythology and politics stuffed Jingoism.
Things I didn’t know and came in as a surprise are
1. Absence of horse all together in the Harappan civilization
2. No mentioning of Jaati in Rig Veda (Oldest Veda) originally but later addition in hymns
3. No Dravidian words in Rig Veda but in other Vedas
4. Timeline of Manusmiriti’s creation
5. End of Intermixing (Varnasankalana) post Mauryan Empire
There might be an accusation that the author has relied heavily on other’s work to build his case and there is room for misinterpretation and misrepresentation. But it I didn’t feel that there is a hidden agenda here to distort history. Science has the guts to correct itself when disproved.
There is a saying “In God we trust, everybody else bring data” , but I say “Even to prove god, bring data”. 😊
A comprehensible and easily readable book with indisputable evidence-based logic and arguments. A must read for anybody interested in knowing about our past.
Profile Image for Manu.
353 reviews48 followers
April 18, 2021
Before I get to how wonderfully interesting this book is, I have to say I am surprised it hasn't been banned yet! It easily, and scientifically I would add, dismantles all of the Indigenous Aryans and Out of India Aryan migration theories that have been doing its rounds on not just WhatsApp but larger forms of media, and encouraged by the current powers that be!
Tony Joseph starts right from the beginning to answer the questions, "Who are we Indians? Where did we come from?" The beginning is about 65ooo years ago, when Homo sapiens decided to venture out of Africa, and subsequently entered the Indian subcontinent. Although if you ask an archaeologist, the answer would be 120000 years! They are referring to the first group of modern humans who left behind archaeological evidence. The 65000 comes from the geneticists who are talking of humans who left behind a lineage that is still around.
The author uses the metaphor of a pizza to show how we got here. The First Indians, from the previous paragraph, forms the base. The story of the next layer - the sauce- begins in the Levant (West Asia), where approximately 20000 years ago, hunter-gatherers were being stressed by the glacial period that turned many areas uninhabitable. Many centuries of experiments on gathering and processing food later, when plant and animal domestication began to see success, some Zagrosian (region of Iran) herders reached Balochistan, around 7000 BCE, mixed with First Indians and formed the basis of the Harappan Civilisation.
I don't think we appreciate the Harappans enough. They were really advanced for their time, in their unique practices and outlook, across multiple facets of what we call civilisation. Public infrastructure, weight standardisation, jewellery and pottery, they excelled at many things. They were around for over 6000 years, created the Dravidian languages and were the ancestors of all Indians. There are some word examples that show the connection between Elamite - an extinct language spoken in a region that is part of present day Iran - and Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu. The occurrence of places ending with vali/oli in Western and Southern India is because of the Proto-Dravidian language connection as (some of) the Harappans started moving southwards when their civilisation collapsed. Fascinating stuff!
Back to the pizza. The Aryans were the "cheese" who arrived from the Steppe around 2000 BCE. It was the Aryans who brought in the Indo-European languages. They originated in the Kazakh Steppe and moved across Southern Central Asia and then South Asia. And yes, the earliest Vedas postdates the Harappan civilisation. So it's not as if the Harappans were the Aryans! The present day Indian population is a product of the intermingling of two sets. ANI [Ancestral North Indians - made up of Harappans (First Indians + Zagros agriculturalists) + Steppe pastoralists] and ASI [Ancestral South Indians - Harappans + First Indians (south)] In addition we have toppings in the form of Austroasiatic and Tibeto-Burman language speakers as well as Greeks, Huns, Sakas, Parsis, Mughals etc.
There are three distinct areas of science that have contributed to our understanding (even if it is not complete) of the answers to the two questions. Archaeology, genetics and linguistics. They have their "little" differences, but collectively, they have provided substantial scientific proof.
And now, after everything that happened from then until the present day, if we ask who is the best representation of Indians at this point, the answer is a tribal woman, because she carries the deepest rooted lineage. Adivasi (first inhabitant). How ironical given the way we treat them! Civilisation and progress!
A must-read if you are even remotely interested in history.
Profile Image for Sravan Devathi.
32 reviews7 followers
November 20, 2019
The whole book was based on the Aryan Invasion theory. It is good to note that there is some evidence which debunks this theory-Rakhigarhi DNA study questions Aryan invasion theory, claims the author
The findings are based on the study of the ancient genome in the skeletons excavated from Rakhigarhi.

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In the later parts of the book, the author claimed there was a shred of archaeological evidence that the native people of Indus valley worshipped a tall pillar-like structure probably Lingam- which is considered as phallus worship then Aryans dismantled the indigenous beliefs and points out the denouncing of SHISHNA-DEVA- literally phallus worship. I was fortunate enough to be doing a course on Vedas and Upanishads in Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies Online and asked a scholar about the above claim.
Daniel Simpson who is one of the teachers replied to me:
As far as I am aware, the Rig Veda only makes a couple of references to shishnadeva (a compound formed from śiśna, meaning "tail" or "penis", and deva, a term for a "deity", related to the English word "divine"). It can be understood as "one whose god is the phallus", but might just mean "lustful".

One of these references (in a hymn to Indra - Rig Veda 7.21.5) was translated in the 19th century as "let not the lewd approach our holy worship." A more recent translation by the scholars Joel Brereton and Stephanie Jamison says: "Sorcerers do not incite us, Indra, nor sycophants with their knowing wiles, o most powerful one. He [=Indra?] will vaunt himself over the stranger, over the race contrary (to our ways). Let the phallus-worshipers not penetrate our truth."

They explain this as follows: "Here various threats to the 'truth' of our people are rendered helpless by our resistance and Indra’s power: threats internal to the community, namely sorcerers and flatterers, and the 'stranger' (an Ārya but an enemy), people who deviate from our ways, and phallus-worshipers (presumably non-Āryas) outside it."

It is not at all clear what this means. There is no mention of lingam worship in the Rig Veda as it is understood today (i.e. involving a symbol linked to Shiva). It seems more likely that this line just distinguishes the Vedic religion from pre-existing folk traditions, perhaps including what scholars call "fertility cults".

The other reference (again in a hymn to Indra - Rig Veda 10.99.3) is even more obscure. It includes a line about someone, perhaps Indra, "smashing the phallus-worshipers" (in the latest translation), or saying he "slew the lustful demons" (in the 19th century version). However, there is plenty of war-like language in the text, and it's not reserved for shishnadeva. The nomadic tribes of early Vedic times were apparently asking gods for help in battles.

We know very little about earlier traditions because they left few records. The free-standing columns found in the Indus Valley don't really tell us much about the place of what Tony Joseph calls "phallus worship", so it seems a bit far-fetched to conclude that the Vedas sought to stamp it out based on these verses and some damaged archeological relics.
Profile Image for Sajith Kumar.
580 reviews92 followers
May 26, 2020
Two terms that refer to linguistic groups are widely misunderstood in India and taken to be racial denominators that split the country into two demographic zones in the north and the south. We know them as ‘Aryan’ and ‘Dravidian’. The former is broadly associated with the north and the latter with the south, more commonly in the state of Tamil Nadu. Scholars are divided on the issue of paternity of the Harappan Civilization (2500 – 1900 BCE) that marked the foundation of later socio-religious development in India. A few scholars argue that Harappa was made possible by Aryan effort and the Vedic literature was composed there. Dravidian scholars indignantly claim that the Harappan culture was a Dravidian one which was destroyed by the Aryans who then set the inhabitants on an exodus to the south. Literary, archeological and epigraphic evidence could not break the stalemate even now. This book comes up with genetic data to finally decide what is what. Tony Joseph is a columnist and contributor to leading newspapers and magazines. He is also a former editor of Businessworld’.No formal training in history or archeology is mentioned in any of the personal introductions of the author found online.

Joseph banks on the recently acquired ability of scientific establishment to successfully extract and analyse DNA from ancient fossils and map its genome. This helps to compare it with modern DNA and find out the era in which they diverged genetically. It has also produced some truly astounding conclusions. It is gratifying to learn that DNA evidence is conclusive that humans originated in Africa and all of them now living outside that continent are descendants of a single population of migrants who moved out of Africa to Asia around 70,000 years ago. A group among them reached India too and the author calls them ‘First Indians’. They mixed with later entrants but serve as bedrock of genetic ancestry to all modern Indians. But there are closer direct descendants to them, with little mixing with later societies. The Onge tribe in Little Andamans, numbering about 100 souls, is the closest relative of the First Indians. However, the author suggests to Indians a simple method to physically view the other descendants of the First Indians – look at a mirror. Genetic data brings to light more interesting facts about the ancestry of modern Indians. 70-90 per cent of people in the current Indian population originated from a single woman among the First Indians who arrived 65,000 years ago, while only 10-40 per cent can trace their descent to a single man in that society. This means that most of the later migrations were sexually biased towards the male.

India witnessed further migrations, but the author identifies the influx of Iranian agriculturists from the Zagros Mountains in 7000-3000 BCE as the first notable wave after the event that happened 65,000 years ago. These people (Joseph calls them Dravidians) introduced the art of agriculture in India. The earliest agricultural experiment took place in a 200-hectare area in the remote village of Mehrgarh in Balochistan around 7000-2600 BCE. The next wave occurred in the interval 2000-1000 BCE. Multiple waves of steppe pastoralists calling themselves Aryans from central Asia brought Indo-European languages and new cultural practices to south Asia. If the author is to be believed, these two migrations account for the ancestry of 95 per cent of the modern Indian population. Scientific studies repeatedly show that the genetic imprint of the First Indians is carried by all castes and tribes of the country in all regions and all linguistic groups. This is unique to India in the world. The author is careful not to antagonize powerful public opinion. Instead of using misnomers like Aryan and Dravidian, he uses expressions such as Ancestral North Indians (ANI) and Ancestral South Indians (ASI) where in fact he should have plainly stated that we are the result of the admixture of the First Indians and West Eurasians seen in varying percentages among the two groups.

This book upholds the scholarly consensus that Aryans did not destroy the Harappan Civilization. During 1900-1300 BCE, in the Late Harappan period, the civilization declined and eventually disappeared. This was primarily due to unusually long spells of drought probably caused by changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulations. This severely affected other civilizations in Egypt, West Asia and China as well. The prolonged drought ultimately made monsoonal rivers go dry or become seasonal, affecting habitability along their courses. There is no archeological evidence that the Aryans destroyed the Harappan Civilization. On the other hand, there are ample indicators that they merged into it. This is clear from the reducing discrepancy between the Vedic texts and Harappan Civilization over time. The later the Vedic text, there is more likelihood of finding connections to Harappan cultural heritage. The author also lists out a few examples. In another section, he argues that after 2000 BCE, when the Late Harappan Civilization was already in decline, steppe pastoralists who took Indo-European languages to Europe reached India bringing with them an early version of Sanskrit and related cultural concepts and practices such as ritual sacrifices. These newly arrived Indo-European language speakers called themselves Aryans (p.142).

Contrary to the claims of the Dravidian political movement that they are the original inhabitants of India, this book affirms that they too have come to India as migrants, but a few millennia before the Aryans did. Dravidian languages show clear linguistic affinity to the Elamite language spoken in ancient Iran. This book makes a delightful comparison of ten common words in Proto-Elamite and modern Dravidian languages which are strikingly similar. Joseph surmises that a band of herders from southern and central Zagros region migrated to south Asia as speakers of the Proto-Elamite language sometime after 7000 BCE, mixed with the First Indians and this new, mixed population sparked an agricultural revolution in the north-western region of India and then went on to create the Harappan Civilization over the next few millennia (p.136). Hence it is definitely Dravidian.

The author makes a cursory analysis of the caste system and arrives at a year in which it solidified with an exercise that is mostly conjecture. Aryans originated in the Eurasian steppes around 2500 BCE as seen by the presence of haplogroup R1a among the ancient DNA collected from these regions. Many Indians still carry this unique variation in their DNA. This R1a group is reported to be having about twice as high an incidence rate among Brahmins than other lower castes. Genetic studies show extensive admixture between different Indian populations between 2200 BCE and 100 CE. This is indicative of exogamy and absence of endogamous castes. The mixing came to an abrupt end sometime around 100 CE. It is guessed that a new ideology, which had gained ground and power, imposed on the society new social restrictions and a new way of life, possibly in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Mauryan Empire. The caste system had arrived in this way and the author mocks that it cut the country into ‘tukdetukde’ (pieces), borrowing the vocabulary of television news channel discussions in 2018.

The book’s content is very logically argued and pleasing to read. However, it relies too much on genetics research papers that have not yet received wide acceptance. Joseph himself admits that such papers often show contradictory findings (p.11). He also concedes that even in the most professional of settings, personal preferences can play a part in how research findings are interpreted (p.11). Judging from the author’s remarks in the book, it is fairly evident that he has built an edifice that harbours his pre-existing convictions on the genetic development of Indian populations. The research that had gone into the text does not appear to be so deep, as some best seller books such as Harari’s Sapiens are listed as references and material for further reading. All in all, this book is a good effort to buttress the left-liberal outlook of Indian history. It is by no means impartial.

The book is highly recommended.
Profile Image for Madhulika Liddle.
Author 16 books401 followers
July 24, 2020
Where did the first Indians come from? Who were the Harappans, really? Who were the ‘Aryans’ who wrote the Rigveda and are supposed to have fostered the ‘Brahminical culture’ that has been so integral a part of Indian life for so many centuries?

In Early Indians, Tony Joseph sets out to explore these questions, and some more. Using inferences drawn from a combination of genetics, archaeology, and linguistics (plus some other fields of research), Joseph shows where the First Indian came from (and how much of their DNA still forms our genetic makeup here in India, many millennia later); who later migrants both into and out of the Indian subcontinent were; what they brought and what they took with them; how they affected life in the subcontinent; and so on.

I found this book fascinating. Joseph has a way of simplifying even complex subjects without making it sound as if he’s talking down to the reader, and the solid academic and scientific evidence he provides in support of his arguments is impressive. There are good maps and photographs too, to help explain points.

Very informative (it proved an eye-opener for me; there was lots of stuff here I had either not known or, if I had known, wouldn’t have been able to say why). Also very readable, and just the right length.

A must-read.
Profile Image for M.
162 reviews2 followers
December 21, 2022
DNA vs Archeology is a model that may work for dead civilizations like Egyptian, Mayan, etc., but not for living cultures like Hindu or Australian Indigenous. My total astonishment is caused by the authors' complete disregard for Hindu scriptures such as Puranas and Mahabharata for astrological/astronomical citations. Furthermore, there has been no mention of the linguistic correlations between Harappan and Pahlavi used in Zend Avesta.

The Rigveda has also been misinterpreted, e.g. page 188, v7.21.5 and v10.99.3, shishna deva actually means amorous hymn singer and demon in their relevant contexts, and nothing to do with Mahadeva/Shiva.

If you are not a gin drinking leftist or an evangelist, don't read this book.
53 reviews2 followers
July 17, 2019
First of all it’s good read and will increase your knowledge. Very good flow of the book and simplest possible explanation of complicated scientific/ Genetic terminology. As your read the book some questions generated in your mind and you will get answer very next moment or paragraph. Vey thought fully composed book and never bored you any time.
But I find few problems with book or author’s mind set or his intentions. Vey first thing he has problem identifying Yogi Mudra seal of harrappan as Pashupati Siva. Another impossible argument about ancient DNA finding. He said they find some skeletal or DNA evidence in peripheral area of harrapns which are outlier from DNA finding of same area and this outlier has fist Indian genes so they can be consider as harrapans. This argument I can’t digest. There Swastika symbols finding at harrappa which he doesn’t mentioned and swastika related to Vedic people or Aryans. There so many points when I feel, author is selective to give you some information from journal or research paper and willfully hide contrary information. He also took support of south Indian myths and tries to make it as fact to support his arguments but if he can consider south Indian myths then he has to consider north Indian Myths (Aryans Myths) too. If I consider north Indian myth then I can correlate them with lot finding he points out in the book.
He just talks about Harrapans which is western most part of subcontinent but what about peninsular and gangetic plains during that time? There has to be some kind of culture developed there as well. He just left those parts blank by saying they got early farming experiment in Lahuradewa. That means there has be some kind of farming developed which could lead to some other kind civilization but as that are never abandoned and highly occupied for centuries we can’t get any evidence. And Vedic people or people from steppe with R1a1 gene mixed with them and created parallel civilization and constantly in conflict with Harrapan people and when extensive drought followed harrapa they took it over than become dominant. There could so many possibilities with finding we got today but he just highlights what his agenda is.
At last I would like to highlight, he made joke for “Tukde Tukde” thing which is final blow to believe he has some agenda with book. And for author’s intentions behind book, I would like to show, Harrapan Symbol (Fishy).
Profile Image for Suman.
17 reviews7 followers
February 16, 2019
There is an image of the famous dancing girl of Harappa on the cover of this book as a nod perhaps to common knowledge that "Early Indians" for most of us refers to the Harappan Civilization. Then, we are told, came the Aryans who somehow settled peacefully (or not) with the Harappans.

Think of it - have you ever asked yourself where did the Harappans come from?

The author tries to answer this rather grand question in 230 pages. Starting almost 300,000 years ago with the evolution of man - this breathless book attempts to combine everything that is happening in the world of ancient DNA, archaeology and linguistics to answer the question - who were the Early Indians and where or how the hell did they get here? That the book is up-to-date is an understatement. There are references to papers from 2018 (conjuring in me the image of Tony Joseph running to the press with yet another update as the exasperated printer looks annoyed.) But happily for us readers, every scrap of development included seems important. We are just not used to history working this way and this is exciting: the field of Ancient DNA is answering important questions about history at a pace that makes historians look like astronauts. It tells us that the first humans out of Africa came to India some 65,000 years ago (This, of course makes Harappans look positively modern.) and then goes on to tell the story of Early Indians in a rather comprehensive manner for such a slim book. Constantly digressing to provide primers on subjects such as mitochondrial DNA and Linguistic archaeology this ambitious book, though not exactly a romping read, nevertheless constructs an edifice that adds to the history of sub-continent. I suspect this is not the end of the line for such books - and we will see many more that will tackle the same subject, but this is the first I've read. My only criticism of the book is just that - it isn't a romping enough read. I wish Tony Joseph had brought to the writing of this book the same ability to tell a story he so brilliantly possesses in book discussions. That gap, for a book that could be classified as popular history, might alas reduce its audience. Besides this one observation I totally recommend this book to anyone who reads Indian history.
44 reviews8 followers
January 24, 2022
The entire book is stunning but I will single out this absolute gem of linguistic reasoning which literally made my jaw drop.

Today's Dravidian languages derive from a language originally spoken in the Zagros mountains of Iran (!). Called Proto-Zagrosian by linguists, the language went on to birth other languages in the region such as Elamite, Akkadian and Semite. Through a fascinating method of study called linguistic archaeology, researchers have been able to draw conclusive connections between languages like Tamil and Elamite. When's the earliest Tamil split from Elamite? Both languages share words for things related to agriculture such as word for plough, seeds, sowing, barley, grains etc., so they could not have split before 10,000 years ago which is when agriculturists from Iran moved into northwestern India (and later to the Deccan plateau), bringing with them both agriculture and their language. But when's the latest the two languages had to have split Amazingly, we have an answer to this as well. It comes from linguistics, specifically the word tal, meaning to push in Tamil, but to write in Elamite. Writing, particularly in the cuneiform script of the Mesopotamian civilisation, was invented around 3,5000 B.C. Early writing, which was mostly on clay tablets using a stylus, involved a lot of pushing of characters onto the clay surface. Tal, then, started to mean to write in Elamite. But it retained its original meaning of to push in Tamil. The word for writing in Tamil today, ezhuththu, comes from an older word meaning to paint or to draw.
6 reviews1 follower
March 23, 2019
Seriously guys?? Giving this book 4-5 stars? Tony uses discredited claims as the base of this book. He tries to re-establish the Aryan Invasion Theory which has been a proven false theory. The Aryan Invasion Theory was a myth created to break the bond that Indians had with their land. That theory helped Britishers tighten their hold on India. What is the Author trying to do?
Profile Image for Annikky.
428 reviews226 followers
May 16, 2021
4.5 Early Indians is an absolutely fascinating book. Tony Joseph tracks the genetic history of the Indians from the first successful Out of Africa migrants about 70 000 years ago to the last big migration waves around 2000-1000 BCE. If you are interested in prehistory and population genetics (like I am) or want to improve your understanding of India (as we*all should), this is a treat. Population genetics in general is a fascinating field at the moment, as DNA is making so much new information available almost on a daily basis. Joseph makes the concepts accessible to everyone who is willing to focus for a few pages, although it obviouly helps if you know the basics of how DNA works. For me, the most difficult bit was in fact to keep track of the geography, as I don't know the region well. This book also illustrates convincingly (and rather scarily), how ancient history can be extremely relevant to today's politics. The provenance of the Harappan culture and the 'Aryan' migration are controversial topics in India because of the implications these issues have for the Vedic culture. This has lead many to deny any such migration on ideological grounds, despite compelling scientific evidence to the contrary.

This has also reminded me to read David Reich's Who We Are and How We Got Here. And if you haven't yet, please read Adam Rutherford's A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, which is fantastic.

*If you are Indian yourself, you obviously don't need me to introduce this book to you.
Profile Image for Sahil Agarwal.
22 reviews1 follower
April 13, 2022
The second book I read that's written by a Journalist and it's just as horrible.

Quoting untested and independently unconfirmed scientific research is how Joseph has chosen to "settle" the issue of Aryan Invasion.
Joseph purposely misinterprets the papers referring to the expansion of R1a- Z93, stating that there was an inflow of Indo- European language speakers from central Asia into India,even though the author of the said paper make no such claim.
Joseph fails to mention the multiple papers that state that the haplogroup R1a orignated in India, which now is the dominating Y chromosome in Europe and Asia.

This book is filled with a plethora of such ridiculous claims that the author makes based on research ( googling for some minutes) and interviews ( email conversation ), and then tries to prove by citing untested papers, and by completely ignoring papers that are confirmed by research teams because it does to support his narrative.
This is misleading, dishonest and under par Journalism.
1 review
August 18, 2019
A few things: 1) the book appeared 5-6 months before the 2019 Indian elections. 2) The author is neither an academic, nor a researcher. He is a lifelong journalist and TV reporter. 3) Look at who has praised and reviewed the book. People who were all opposed to the current government. 4) If you google the author, he led a company that produced paid content for white papers, blogs and case studies. Feel free to draw your own conclusions on the veracity of his claims and those of his sources. For instance, the Aryan Invasion theory has been conclusively refuted by scientific, astronomical and archeological-linguistic evidence. But when you have a population to influence before the elections, anything goes... Pathetic.
Profile Image for Gourab Kar.
1 review4 followers
January 7, 2021
I just read the scholarly debates, went through their papers and listened to expert linguists and read reports of Archeological Survey of India and it seems that this book is absolutely bullshit.

Dravidians and Aryans are the same Indians with the exact same genetic footprint that doesn't match with any other race.

This author is as racists as Max Muller who intend to divide India as North India and South India for Political agenda. Reads be-adviced, you will find a lot of myth spread by missionaries. All the genetic and archeological survey denies what Tony Joseph talks about
Profile Image for Manav Swami.
5 reviews1 follower
April 24, 2020
Book for those who want reading , but not understanding. Writer has failed to identify Pashupati seal and many more object as symbol of pagan Hinduism.
May 1, 2020
Stumbled upon this by chance. This is a very tedious book to read. Also trying to prove the Aryan invasion theory which after recent discoveries has become redundant, seems like a waste of time.
Profile Image for Shailja.
7 reviews1 follower
May 20, 2020
An evangelical propaganda book just to denigrate the Indian and Hindu history and civilisation.
5 reviews
December 14, 2021
Liar Liar Liar!
Tony Joseph is a lier and an mediocre writer. His thoughts are baseless and lack any archeological evidences
The DNA study and research will put all these false claims to rest forever
Profile Image for Rishab Katoch.
37 reviews29 followers
January 21, 2021
In this fascinating book Tony Joseph explores some of the most hotly debated questions about the prehistory of Indian subcontinent. Who exactly were our ancestors? Who started the Harappan civilization? How did it end? Who were the Aryans? Why do three fourth of the population of India speak a language of Indo-European family? These questions are often answered in the absence of concrete evidence by using mythical sources, which a lot of times are heavily biased to suit a particular narrative. With the latest scientific discoveries in the field of genetics, archaeology and linguistics the picture is becoming a lot more clearer.

Tony Joseph uses the metaphor of a pizza to summarize the findings mentioned in the book with substantial evidence. According to this metaphor, the base of the Indian pizza was laid by the first Indians who were the out of Africa migrants about 65,000 years ago. The Zagrosian herders reached Balochistan after 7000 years ago and mixed with the First indians, and they together went on to build the Harappan civilization. Then came the Aryans (Steppe pastoralists) after 2000 BCE. Around the same time two other migrations took place - the Austroasiatic speakers from south east asia and Tibeto-Burman speakers from east asia. All the other groups who came after them had a very small impact.

The latest research by the likes of David Reich shows that Indians today are a mix of ANI [Harappans (First Indians + Zagros agriculturists) + Steppe pastoralists] and ASI (Harappans + first indians). These two groups were formed after the migration of steppe pastoralists into the subcontinent. Eventually the ANI (ancestral north Indians) and ASI (ancestral south Indians) mixed together to make the present day population. The first Indians form 50-60 per cent of the ancestry of Indian populations in all castes, all linguistic groups and almost all regions. Thus the base is omnipresent although it thickens in some regions like the south and thins out towards north-west and north-east.

The arrival of Aryans or steppe pastoralists has been supported with multiple evidences and their arrival has been dated to around 2000 BCE, around the same time the Harappan civilization was in a decline. But the latest research rules out an "Aryan invasion" that was responsible for the fall of harappan civilization and shows that a mega drought at the beginning of meghalayan age seems to be the likely cause. The steppe pastoralists did eventually come to dominate the region imposing their culture, religion and language but simultaneously adopting cultural practices of the inhabitants of the harappan civilization who migrated towards the east and the south after the fall of the harappan civilization.

One of the most fascinating findings mentioned, is the study that shows that between 2200 BCE and 100 CE, there was extensive mixing between all the different populations with the result that all Indians had acquired First Indian, harappan and steppe ancestry, although to varying degrees. But then there's a sudden shift towards endogamy.

"What is surprising, because it is counter-intuitive, is that the mixing came to and end sometime around 100 CE. One can imagine two separate groups who had maintained their genetic distance for a long time suddenly deciding that enough was enough and starting to mix. But it is more difficult to visualize groups that had already been mixing waking up one day and deciding to put a stop to it, and creating barriers to continued intermixing. It was as if around 100 CE a new ideology, which had gained ground and power, imposed on the society new social restrictions and a new way of life. It was social engineering on a scale never attempted before or after, and it succeeded wildly, going by the results of genetic research."

On this basis it follows that caste system began much later than the arrival of the Aryans, almost two millennia later. Hence, unlike the Han Chinese who are large population (as they mixed freely for thousands of years), there are very few Indian groups, if any that can be considered very large. As David Reich puts it

"the degree of differentiation among Indian jati groups living side by side in the village is typically two or three times higher than the genetic differentiation between northern and southern Europeans. The truth is that India is composed of a large number of small populations."

The complexity is further added by later migrants who have a very small impact on the populations. But its safe to say that we're all migrants.
Profile Image for A Man Called Ove.
900 reviews217 followers
May 13, 2019
First Things First - The Aryan Invasion/Migration Theory has been controversial in India for sometime now. Originally, Max Mueller put forward this theory in the mid 19th century on basis of linguistics. Mind well that the Harappan/Indus-Saraswati valley civilisation had not been discovered till then and surprisingly no written records of that civilisation remain !
" ઇતિહાસ શું લખવાની ચીજ છે ? સાધારણ બે કોડીની રોજીંદી ઘટનાઓનું નામ ઈતિહાસ છે. જે આજ તોફાનની જેમ ઉઠે છે, પણ આવતીકાલે જેનું કોઈ નામોનિશાન રહેતું નથી. ઈતિહાસ તો ધૂળની ડમરી છે. ભારતે ઈતિહાસ નથી લખ્યો. " - Jay Vasavada
(History is not worth writing.)
The discovery of the Harappan civilisation in the 1920s added a new chapter - Who were the Harappans ? Were they also "Indians" or were they too migrants ?
And what were the links between Harappan and Aryan/Vedic civilisation ? Did the Harappan civilisation metamorph into the Aryan/Vedic civilisation or did the Aryan Invasion/Migration theory still hold ?
The author looks at genetics, archaeology and linguistics to convincingly answer all the questions. Starting with the Out-of-Africa migration 65000 years ago who he calls the "First Indians", and the subsequent waves of migration mixing with the "First Indians" to give the birth of the first farming communities, eventually leading to Harappan civilisation and he demonstrates how the Aryan migration theory is true. Each migration kept adding to our gene pool and culture.
In doing so, the author also acknowledges the The Lost River: On The Trails of Saraswati indirectly and shows how the book's thesis that the Vedic Saraswati is the same as Ghaggar-Hakra is wrong. But, he agrees that the Aryan civilisation resulted from the mingling of the Aryan migrants and the Harappans.
Moving on, a no. of topics such as the caste system, the Harappan civilisation, the science behind genetics have been discussed wonderfully well and the book is very readable compared to other pre-history books that I have read earlier. And I await the next book from the other camp that has stalwarts like Amish Tripathi and Sanjeev Sanyal that repudiates the arguments of this book :)
Profile Image for Aman Desai.
27 reviews
October 7, 2020
The book is an effort to reintroduce the largely disapproved “Aryan Invasion Theory” by repackaging and renaming it as “Aryan Migration Theory”. As an author of a non-fiction work, one should only talk about things which are proved and have widely accepted evidence across all quarters; and should refrain from talk about things that do not have any evidence or archeological or other kind of evidence. However, Mr. Joseph goes on injecting his conjectures wherever the matter lacks of evidence or is a subject of stringent criticism.

Author starts subtle injection of “Aryan Migration Theory” from p.89. Works of missionary bishop Robert Caldwell is cited in order to prove the origin and distinctiveness of Dravidian family of languages. The pages that include claims which are highly disputable and full of conjecture. They are following: p. 89-93, 136-137, 139, 142, 167-168, 170, 172-173, 177, 186, 188.
29 reviews2 followers
May 31, 2021
Had read this book as a highly recommended book to understand where we (Indians) came from. I was highly impressed by the data and reports referred in the book. It seemed to be the final answer and a chapter closed to the Aryan debate. But after reading "Genetics and the Aryan debate: "Early Indians" Tony Joseph's Latest Assault" by Shrikant G. Talageri it became evident the game tony has played.

Talageri shows how Tony has twisted facts, the reports and data shown by him are contrary to his claims, how he on one page says something then contradicts himself on another page, how he derides brahmins and sanskrit to put forward his claim. I thank Talageri for revealing the AIT apologist and a propagandist.
20 reviews26 followers
October 19, 2020
What an excellent book

Tony Joseph has taken great pains to understand a complex subject and to explain it in a most lucid, readable manner. For that alone, he deserves the highest commendation

The evidence and reasoning behind the conclusions derive from multiple fields: archaeology, linguistics, and genetics. He explains the evidence and the reasoning, and the counter-arguments too. In fact, reading this book is probably a good means to learn what you need to know before poking holes in the conclusions

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