The Harappa Storm: How a 4500-Year-Old Woman Started a Twitter War

Who are we, really? A 4500-year-old skeleton is staring us in the face.

3 min read

In case you missed it, the previous few days have seen quite a battle on Twitter. What’s new, you ask? Possibly the fact that it erupted over a 4,500-year-old woman! While one section was ecstatic, another butt in to counter and protest the claims.

Here’s a sample:

Who are we, really? A 4500-year-old skeleton is staring us in the face.
Screenshots of the tweets of the many who believe the Aryan Theory has now been debunked.
(Photo: The Quint)

However, it turns out the ‘Hindutva-Twitterati’ got it as wrong as that daft Hrithik Roshan movie on the same subject (‘Mohenjo Daro’)

And here’s why:

Over the weekend, a new DNA study came up on the scene – titled ‘An ancient Harappan genome lacks ancestry from Steppe pastoralists or Iranian farmers’. This study was based on the DNA of a Harappan woman’s skeleton from 2,500 BC in Rakhigarhi, Haryana. The said skeleton revealed no traces of the R1a1 gene which is often loosely called the ‘Aryan gene’.

Somehow this managed to give rise to the misconception that the study totally debunked the Aryan invasion theory, that the Aryans never invaded India after all, and that Indians were born of a native group indigenous to the country.

Not really. Sample these:

What the Study Really Says:

It said that there was a migration of central Asian Steppe pastoralists into India in the first half of the second millennium – that is, between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE – who brought Indo-European languages to India. Thus, although there is no indication of a Steppe ancestry in the skeleton’s DNA, which goes to show that the Arya had not come to India at that time – there is no proof to say that they didn’t, in fact, come AFTER 2500 BC.

The study also focuses on how farming actually began in India, by local foragers – rather than having been brought by invaders. Since no Steppe gene was found in the skeleton’s DNA, researchers concluded that farming had been started by locals.

All of these – interesting findings.

Yet, Here’s What Happened:

Newspapers and websites ran with the headline that ‘The Aryan Theory’ had officially been debunked.

Which is false.

And proponents of the Hindutva school of thought celebrated – they said they knew Indians had always originated from native people, that they had not come from ‘foreigners’ and that the ancestors had, therefore, invented Vedic Hinduism.

So, three things:

One: Does this actually prove we haven’t descended from the Aryans? NO. On the contrary, as Tony Joseph puts it, we now know, rather, that we have descended from four people – the Out of Africa migrants, the West Asians who mixed with them and later resulted in the Harappan Civilisation, the East Asians, who came after, bringing Austro-Asiatic languages to India – and finally, the Central Asian Steppe pastoralists who brought Indo-European languages with them.

Two: Can one skeleton conclusively prove a theory for an entire civilisation? No, that would be unscientific.

And three: Does believing we have descended from Aryans – as the British had told us – actually demean us in any way? NO! On the contrary, as Tony Joseph puts it in an interview to HT,

“The Arya arrived at the end of the Harappan Civilisation. In other words, India had the world’s largest civilisation of its time (it was as large as the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisations put together!) BEFORE the Arya arrived!! So to suggest that the British invented the Arya migration to ‘demean’ India is perverse.”

Maybe that’ll teach us to hold our horses and let science figure out the way.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More