Aryan Invasion Theory Busted, 5000-year Old Harappan Genome Sequenced


Professor Vasant Shinde has revealed on Friday that DNA samples from 5000-year old Harappan remains were proven to be similar to modern Indian people's DNA.

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:
Aryan Invasion

In a major revelation regarding India and by extension South-Asia's origins, Professor Vasant Shinde- Head of Department of Archaeology in Pune's Deccan College, has revealed on Friday that DNA samples from 5000-year old Harappan remains were proven to be similar to modern Indians' DNA, in an interview with news-aggregator 'Ritam'. Shinde has now dismissed the 'Aryan Invasion Theory'. He has said that the remains were not from Iranian or Steppe region but were found to be from the same Baloch-region in Harappa. Shinda and his team which conducted the Rakhigarhi Project that the genome combined with the archeological studies, proved that modern civilization had imbibed traits from Harappa. This was based on the pottery, art, architecture, agriculture, town planning and cultural similarities found between Harappans and modern South-Asians.

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Similarities between Harappa and modern-India

"The data revealed from our study were different from our expectations. We always thought the Iranians or people from Steppe region had some role in the development of Agriculture in this region. But surprisingly we do not have a gene from either regions in the DNA from South Asian people. Hence, as we have DNA of indigenous people it is proof that Harappan people have continued to modern times. DNA of Harappan matches with South-Asian people. So we believe entire South Asia is descended from the Harappans," he said.

Talking about the similarities between modern-day Rajasthan and Harappa, he said, "In Rakhigarhi, where we have been excavating for some months, we feel like we have been moving along the Harappan civilization. The houses, road, and pots used today are similar to the Harappan pots. Even the food habits and agricultural methods are similar to the Harappan civilisation. In Kalibanga we have found furlough marks in North-South direction where Wheat and Barley was grown. This is similar to the system followed in modern Rajasthan and Haryana."

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Dismissal of Aryan Invasion theory

Dismissing the Aryan Invasion theory based on his findings, he said, "As there has been continuity found in the genome and the structures, we do not find any need to believe in the Aryan Migration/Invasion Theory. This theory can be put on hold and we can move along with scientific data. Moreover, the urbanisation in the local people and the Vedic people suggest that they are not outsiders and part of the South-Asian people. Hence the description in the Rig Veda texts is similar to Harappan times. Finally, Sir Mortimer Wheeler - the original excavator of Harappa, had mentioned that in 2000 BC Aryans invaded Harappa and destroyed the people who were believed to be Dravidians. But this theory was made based on scattered remains on Mohenjedaro streets without detailed analysis. This was later found to be remains lying in flood deposits, dismissing the Aryan invasion hypothesis." 

Watch his interview with Ritam here:

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What did earlier studies reveal?

Shinde revealed that earlier the beginning of agriculture was thought to have originated outside and that people from outside came and settled here. But when French archeologist Jean-François Jarrige studied a site named Mehrgarh in the Balochistan region of Pakistan in 1975, he found origins of agriculture and crafts developed by the Harappans. The site showed levels in pottery created by the Harappans - the first level had rudimentary pottery to the sixth level which shows classic Harappan pottery. Similarly, in structures from 2500 BC, the gradual progress had been discovered proving Urbanisation was not sudden. He added that if ideas had come from outside middle east and the people had come from outside, it would have been reflected in the material culture in the civilisation. 

What has Shinde and his team studied?

The archeologist and his team have done DNA research by retrieving DNA samples from 5000-year old remains was impossible due to prevalent climatic conditions. While excavating the largest cemetery in Rakhigarhi, they procured the DNA samples. Ensuring there was no contamination of the samples and they transported the remains carefully to their lab in Pune. The samples were then sent to Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (Hyderbad) for extracting DNA from the sample. After extracting DNA from 40 different individual remains, a strong DNA sample from one of the remains was found to be gamechanger.

He added, "We also involved Harvard experts for advanced analysis as we did not have adequate facilities. David Reich, the world's leading geneticist was interested and carried out experiments in his lab. We then compared the basic analysis done in India with Reich's results. Once we were convinced that the data was similar we decided to publish."

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What is the Aryan Invasion Theory?

This was first propounded when linguistic similarities between Sanskrit and the major European languages were discovered by European scholars during the colonial era. The theory hypothesizes that during 2000BC Aryans from Europe invaded or migrated into the Asian subcontinent. It states these 'invaders' killed the original Dravidians and set up the Aryan race in the South-Asian subcontinent. The Aryan Invasion Theory claimed that these 'invaders' were the root of modern Indian civilisation, not the Harappan civilization. This tool was used by the colonisers to legitimise their rule in India.

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