West Eurasian mtDNA lineages in India: an insight into the spread of the Dravidian language and the origins of the caste system
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There is no indication from the previous mtDNA studies that west Eurasian-specific subclades have evolved within India and played a role in the spread of languages and the origins of the caste system. To address these issues, we have screened 14,198 individuals (4208 from this study) and analyzed 112 mitogenomes (41 new sequences) to trace west Eurasian maternal ancestry. This has led to the identification of two autochthonous subhaplogroups—HV14a1 and U1a1a4, which are likely to have originated in the Dravidian-speaking populations approximately 10.5–17.9 thousand years ago (kya). The carriers of these maternal lineages might have settled in South India during the time of the spread of the Dravidian language. In addition to this, we have identified several subsets of autochthonous U7 lineages, including U7a1, U7a2b, U7a3, U7a6, U7a7, and U7c, which seem to have originated particularly in the higher-ranked caste populations in relatively recent times (2.6–8.0 kya with an average of 5.7 kya). These lineages have provided crucial clues to the differentiation of the caste system that has occurred during the recent past and possibly, this might have been influenced by the Indo-Aryan migration. The remaining west Eurasian lineages observed in the higher-ranked caste groups, like the Brahmins, were found to cluster with populations who possibly arrived from west Asia during more recent times.
This work was supported by Yunnan University, the Yunnan provincial Science and Technology Department and from Grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31060156 and 31240018).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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