By Jim Logan
Thursday, September 5, 2019 – 11:00
Santa Barbara, CA
India, farmer, South Asia
An Indian farmer cultivates rice using oxen. New research reveals that the ancestry
of modern South Asians is a prehistoric blend of hunter-gatherers of Iran and
Southeast Asia and, later, descendants of the Steppe pastoralists who spread from
Analysis of ancient DNA is revolutionizing our understanding of the deep past. Now new work is illuminating the paths of Central and South Asian populations — and revealing the origins of Indo-European languages.
In “The formation of human populations in South and Central Asia” in the journal Science, researchers including Douglas J. Kennett, a UC Santa Barbara professor of anthropology, report sequencing the DNA of 523 never-before-studied ancient humans.
“It’s an amazing and massive undertaking that addresses a number of important questions,” said Kennett, whose lab at Penn State University, his previous appointment, directly radiocarbon dated over 250 individuals in the study to establish the chronological framework for the spread of Central and South Asian populations. “There are only about 2,000 complete ancient genomes that have been sequenced in the world, and over 500 of them come from this study.”
The interdisciplinary work — which included archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, linguists, and geneticists from around the world — was able to tease out the details of the migratory history of disparate peoples in Central and South Asia beginning from the Mesolithic Era (roughly 12,000 years ago) up to the Iron Age (about 2,000 years ago).