Sunday, December 20, 2009

India the ancestral home of most Asians

India is 'thailand' to Asia, say scientists
Asia Times Online: Since 'thai' means 'mother' in classical Tamil, the language of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu and said to be the oldest living language in the world, 'thailand' means motherland. However, India could be an ancient 'motherland' of Thailand and Asia in a more literal sense, according to a new investigative study, 'Mapping Human Genetic Diversity in Asia.'

The findings, from an unprecedented collaboration of over 80 researchers and 40 scientific institutions across Asia, reveal a twist in the history of human migration. It points to India, then Thailand and Southeast Asia, being the ancestral home to most Asians.

The paper is the first of its kind on Asian populations. Undertaken by the Singapore-based Human Genome Organization (HUGO), the study follows earlier multiple genetic studies on European populations.

THe HUGO Pan-Asian SNP Consortium, as the project is called, overturns accepted knowledge that multiple migrations of populations directly went to East Asian countries from Africa, nearly a hundred thousand years ago.

According to the new study, Dravidians -- the race of people who inhabit south India, including Tamils -- could be a common ancestral link to most modern-day Asians... Historically, Dravidians are considered India's original settlers... Aryan invaders from Europe pushed them south of the Vindhaya Mountains into the Deccan Plateau in southern India, over 3,500 years ago...

Previously it was thought -- because of archaeological, anthropological, and limited genetic data -- that Asia was populated by two waves of migration. One wave was from Southeast Asia, called the Southern route, and the second from Central Asia, called the Northern route... Findings now point to a single wave of migration from Southeast Asia...

Caucasians and Asians were then divided, with the Caucasians moving to the Levant, or the Asian side of the Mediterranean Sea. The people wave continued to India, and then to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines. From Southeast Asia, settlers migrated to other parts of Asia, including China.

If the study is accurate, the Han Chinese -- the single-largest ethnic group in Asia and in the world -- have ancestral links to southern China, northern Thailand and earlier in India.
Image: Neighbor-joining tree; source here.