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Genographic Project Research in India Looks to Add Deep Branches to Our Human Family Tree

The path along India’s coast is thought to be the original human migratory route from Africa. Today India is home to many distinct languages and cultures. Genographic research extends to the Jammu and Kashmir state where present day and ancient history combine.

Genographic Project grantee Dr. Swarkar Sharma wants to share a story – the rich and ancient history of the people of northern India. The story he wants to tell is hidden in the foothills of the world’s tallest mountains in the landlocked Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, but also locked in the DNA of the residents of this majestic region. Through the analysis of the DNA, Dr. Sharma is looking to unlock the stories of the region by collaborating with the local people and revealing their fascinating ancient history.

Jammu region of Northern India. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.
Jammu region of Northern India. Photo courtesy of W.E. Garrett/National Geographic Creative

Dr. Sharma explains that Jammu and Kashmir state is one of the most fascinating places to study ancient ancestry. Just back from the field, he recounts, “within India, Jammu and Kashmir has the distinction of possessing modern, medieval and ancient history, as well as rich archaeological data.”

As the world’s second-most populous nation, India has been a region of interest for the project since Genographic’s inception. Its history holds a key to our understanding of the world’s genetic diversity. Not only is India’s coast thought to be the original human migratory path out of Africa, but India is also home to hundreds of languages including the large families of the Dravidian in the south and Indo-European in the north. Given its size, linguistic diversity, and key geographic location in South-Central Asia, India remains one of the most important places to study genetic diversity.

Kid from Jammu and Kashmir state. Photo courtesy of Swarkar Sharma
Kid from Jammu and Kashmir state. Photo courtesy of Swarkar Sharma

“These areas have human signatures that date back to the late Pleistocene,” explains Dr. Sharma. “And the Jammu and Kashmir region specifically has difficult mountainous terrain, but also valleys that may have acted as doorways to Central Asia from the Indian Subcontinent plains.”

Previous genetic research in India has revealed very deep branches, or haplogroups, of the human family tree. India is home to maternal macro-haplogroups M and N, among others, the presumed grandmothers to all non-African maternal lineages. With regards to paternal haplogroups, India is the birthplace of haplogroup R1, the most common group in Europe; haplogroup Q, the grandfather of most Native American lineages; and even haplogroups C and D, the oldest paternal branches outside of Africa. India is also home to its own unique haplogroups – such as H and L – found almost nowhere else in the world. The diversity and history of the region are both rich and complex, and we are just now starting to piece them together.

The Team during field work. Photo courtesy of Swarkar Sharma.
The team during field work. Photo courtesy of Swarkar Sharma.

“We may discover some untold evolutionary stories and most likely discover some novel maternal and paternal lineages, isolated and restricted to these regions,” explains Dr. Sharma excitedly. Stay tuned to future Genographic Project updates to learn more about what Dr. Sharma and his team are discovering.

Read more about the Genographic Project’s scientific grants and how you can become involved by visiting us at www.genographic.com.

Comments

  1. CKG
    March 24, 9:44 am

    Various studies have showcased R1 having originated from India. This ventured to Europe and Central Asia. The same is with the case with Haplogroup H having first emerged in South India and having then ventured into Europe. This remained the most prominant haplogroup in Europe and parts of the northern Middle-east and in the Caucasus region until 4500BC. R1a was in this regard quite a late commer into Europe and parts of the Middle-east in this respect. Whereas the oldest clades for both H and R, R* and R1 have been preserved in India showcasing the greatest diversity of these haplogroups and more compared to anywhere else.

  2. CKG
    March 24, 9:38 am

    It is going to needless to say require more effort and attention regarding haplogroups such as R1a especially in India which needs more delving into and more research in various areas (a wider area), especially in the far northern regions consisting of population groups which have been grossly under represented till yet. By investigating these regions, due to their isolation, it would be revealed that these seem to have acted as developers and incubators of many ancient lineages (especially R1a) which would provide a much clearer perspective as to the peopling of India and Eurasia. It would also severely challenge the fundamentals of human origins itself. With M17 being so old (predating even other assumed to be parent subclades), it is only a matter of time before far older versions of the same parental lineages far predating that of the Middle-east, Central Asia and Europe will be found. Various subclades already predate that which has been found in the South of the Caucasus in India. It is only a matter of gathering more data from the various regions which is bound to provide new findings

  3. CKG
    March 24, 9:28 am

    The Modern studies for R-M17 suggest that it could have originated in South Asia. It could have found its way initially from Western India (Gujarat) through Pakistan and Kashmir, then via Central Asia and Russia, before finally coming to Europe”…”as part of an archaeologically dated Paleolithic movement from east to west 30,000 years ago (Underhill 2009).

  4. CKG
    March 24, 9:27 am

    This may seem to the dismay of pseudo-scholars and Eurocentrists but it is high time to get abrest with the facts regarding India. The migration of most haplotypes, (especially of that of R1a) emanate from India. R1a-z93 is one of the youngest, not oldest found in India. R1a and M17 lineages have been proven to be as old as 30000 years (if not up to 51000 years). Most findings as of current posit an age of 30000 years. This made its way to Europe. R1a M17, M173 (R1) and M207/R* (M173 and M207 being parent clades of M420) all stem from India. Yet the oldest found in Siberia is M420 and does not go further back any further. This being only 27000 years old. The Indian R1a-M17 has been found to be older. However, parts of the far northern reaches may yield newer as well as familiar subclades which may be much older than anything found in Siberia thus far (that too when this could have been a migration out from India and into Siberia and surpassing the Altai mountains). Also, over emphasis must also not be overlooked considering the confirmation bias and the cognitive dissonance at work which simply takes a Pontic Steppes Urheimet for granted. It is a successful theory. That is all. Language and human movements are never symmetrical (thus even with such putative theories being misused to coerce geneticists or theorists into falsified arguments about the origins of certain groups). India is by far the home to considerable haplogroups. Also, with every single major study showcasing that there has been negligible input into the region over tens of thousands of years with multiple extrications emanating from the region it only goes to shows how such considerable facts are still overlooked. India yielding not only high frequencies but most of all, the most diversity of haplogroup lineages (far before the over emphasised 5800 years of diversification in Europe which is still not as much as India and that too with multiple emigrations from India into the region) even amidst the lack of genetic study in comparison to the Western Europe and Eurasia, it is only a matter of time before far older subclades as well as the older facets of current subclades and thus lineages will be found in India. Especially in the much neglected regions where some of the most important data will be found regarding many lineages. Especially some of the oldest regarding haplogroup R1a.

  5. Adrian
    Indonesia
    June 24, 2016, 4:51 pm

    It seems when South Asians like Indian people are the most heterogeneous people outside Africa with the fact when almost all of Non African Y Chromosome from Y Hg C, D, H, K, L, NO, P, R, R1a and R2 and Mitochondrial DNA Macrohaplogroup M*, M2-M6, perhaps R* (N Type), etc can be found in India Subcontinent. I really don’t understand with an Indian People and their Uniparental DNA.

  6. Makhno
    Russia
    November 16, 2014, 12:39 pm

    In India, only young L657 and Z2123. Older R1a Z93 in India there is no.

  7. shreknangst
    Maine, USA
    October 19, 2014, 1:27 am

    A few years ago (?2011), THE BOOK GRANDPA WAS A DEITY, used research papers, and the rare markers of the author, to trace back from America, through Europe, to the ancient Chenchu of India.
    This seems to be reporting the ability to go further back, but is it — like the book — connected to history and cultural developments along the path of the people identified?
    The book was able to like the idea of a divine father claim, science, technology, and other elements which now define modern culture. Is anything like that emerging in this study?

  8. Sally Jacobs
    South Africa
    October 11, 2014, 3:19 am

    I would love to trace my roots through your fascinating project. Is there any way I can do this from this tip of Africa?

  9. La
    ca
    October 6, 2014, 7:55 pm

    As mtdna haplotype D1 I am very interested in the paths my ancestors travelled. I was interested to read “Dr. Sharma. “And the Jammu and Kashmir region specifically has difficult mountainous terrain, but also valleys that may have acted as doorways to Central Asia from the Indian Subcontinent plains.”

    As just the other day I was thinking about valley travel vs ridge travel. Time of year for travel? Perhaps winter.

  10. La
    ca
    October 6, 2014, 7:52 pm

    As mtdna haplotype D1 I am very interested in the paths my ancestors travelled. I was interested to read “Dr. Sharma. “And the Jammu and Kashmir region specifically has difficult mountainous terrain, but also valleys that may have acted as doorways to Central Asia from the Indian Subcontinent plains.”

    As just the other day I was thinking about valley travel vs ridge travel. Time of year for travel?

  11. La
    ca
    October 6, 2014, 7:47 pm

    As mtdna haplotype mtdna D1 I am very interested in the paths my ancestors travelled.

  12. Joachim Berner
    Oslo, Norway
    October 4, 2014, 4:10 pm

    Great idea!

    The only cure for boredom is curiosity. But for curiosity there is no cure.

    I want to find my history through The GENO 2.0 Project.

  13. Joachim Berner
    Oslo, Norway
    October 4, 2014, 4:09 pm

    Great idea!

    The only cure for boredom is curiosity. But for curiosity there is no cure.

    I want to find my history through GENO 2.0 Project.

  14. Tejesh Agrawal
    India
    September 27, 2014, 2:39 am

    Great work Dr. Sharma, first step in J&K is good and in future, other parts of India.

  15. Muhammad Faisal
    Pakistan
    September 25, 2014, 12:10 pm

    I thought the Y Haplo R1 had its origin south of Caucasus.

  16. Hall Hately
    Puerto Rico
    September 25, 2014, 8:15 am

    Your work as well as that of other’s in your field have added and will continue to add great knowledge to the question ” Where are we from”? I look forward to reading more articles by you as well as others in this field of study.

  17. Dan E
    Virginia, USA
    September 24, 2014, 8:36 pm

    Jammu and Kashmir are very interesting indeed but most of India combines modern, medieval, and ancient. That is not a distinctive element of any single region.