Thursday, 8 July 2010

A dialog on rice in Indian cultural history

I received the following queries about rice, posted on the Indo-Eurasian discussion list. Which I will endeavour to answer here. This queries arise from a colleague having read my recent “consilience” review article on rice.
- Does this new evidence (of proto-Indica and japonica entering fromChina via a precursor of the silk road) conclusively rule out the association of rice cultivation with a hypothetical 'Austric' package(I mean, dispersal of Munda-speakers INTO India)?
No. These processes are not mutually exclusively. The genetics of rice is complex and implies many episodes of hybridization between indica and japonica lineages, and with the aus and tropical japonica groups which are now increasingly seen of distinct subgroups of indica and japonica, respectively. Just have a look at the genomic data published by McNallay et al last year, and you will see how recurrent and extensive hybridization has been. A single entry of japonica into South Asia is inandequate, and we tried to reflect this in our ‘Thrust 10’, but there is also presumably some mixing between thrusts 6 and 8 in the Assam region. Indeed it is the aus-rices of Assam and Bangladesh that shows that highest levels of hybirdization in McNally’s study.
- Does this lend credence to the theories of South Asian homeland forAustroasiatic languages (including perhaps pre-proto-Munda and ancestral language of Mon-Khmer languages)?
No. The current archaeobotanical evidence can fit with Austroasiatic origins either to the East to the West. In my own writings I have gone back and forth from supporting the immigration ofMunda (my 2003 paper on Dravidian [pdf]) or emigration from pre-Proto-Munda (my 2007 paper in the Petraglia/Allchin volume). I have actually shifted back more towards seeing the Munda coming into India from the Northeast.  In either case Proto-Munda agriculture was not particularly rice focused, indeed reconstructible rice vocabulary is meagre, but focused on tubers (including taro), millets (and it is unlcear if these are the Chinese or Indian millets originially), and pulses, water buffalo and maybe pig. It seems clear that Proto-Munda is heavily influenced by Dravidian and pre-existing Indian agriculture through the adoptions of sheep/goat, zebu, and Indian pulses. The archaeological and archaeobotanical evidence, however, is strongly against an “Austric” hypothesis (sensu Blust) that see one origin of rice driving all the major language expansions of SE Asia.
- With this new evidence, could we say anything about the familial affiliations of Language X and Harappan languages (Kubha-vipas and Melluha -- let's call them Language Y and Language Z; I personally don't like the terms like Para-Dravidian, Para-Munda, Para-IA etc.)?
No. I increasingly think that Para-Munda is highly misleading. Kubha-vipas seems to have as uch in common (in not more) with Mon-Khmer and even Austronesian as it does with Munda (this is clear from vocabulary comparisons used by Kuiper, which as Osada has pointed out often include Austronesian words; and from the “rising” versus “falling” order of the language (sensu Donegan and Stampe 2004). These might all be labelled as broadly “Austricoid” but I can not see how these can be connected with agriculture and presume that shared ancestry must be much older than that…. But this is probably a discussion for another time….

has a different history than that of rice, and agriculture predates the introduction of rice in all regions of civilization viz., Indus Valley, Gangetic plains, eastern India and Neolithic southern region of Andhra-Karnataka- Is it correct to assume that the dispersal of agriculture in India
The patterns are different in different regions: there is neither one story of agriculture in India (e.g. my Journal of World Prehistory paper of 2006 [pdf]), nor one story of rice in India. Agriculture clearly precedes rice in the northwest (the Indus), in the west (Gujarat and Rajasthan), in the northern and southern Deccan. Through most of the Indian savannahs (Gujarat through the South Deccan) early farming was based on indigenous millets and pulses, rice came late (mainly after 500 BC) and even in historic times rice was a relatively minor component of overall agriculture: I take this for example from my recent research on the archaeobotany at Paithan in Maharashtra—in the early Early Historic and Early Medieval period rice is presence but millets are dominant, and wheat and barley are also more frequent than rice. Of interest is that kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum) is hand down the most dominant crop on the site, with the African millets including sorghum, which are so prominent today, making only a minor show. Agriculture and diet has been dynamic, and we do a dis-service to that variety by obsessing about rice. As explored in an interesting paper by Monica Smith (The Archaeology of Food Preference), rice does appear to have been a preferred crop of higher status and for culinary reasons, and probably also by states as it is highly productive and is therefore a favoured by state taxation. A similar point has been made compellingly in a recent history of political ecology and shifting cultivation in southeast Asia, James Scott’s book The Art of Not Being Governedin which he explores how the lowland states of mainland Southeast Asia have always been built on fairly intensive, and easily taxable rice agriculture, while the unruly and difficult to govern peripheries have been the realm of shifting cultivators and those fleeing oppressive states.

ariki, arici (tamil), brinj (persian) etc. [as discussed in Witzel 2006.  South Asian agricultural terms in Indo-Aryan, and Southworth 2005]?- What about the rice related terms like vrihi (vedic), vari (telugu),
Many of these terms probably are related, although I am less then convinced that all of them are. Some of the Dravidian terms look like they may be semantic shift from words that originally names of millet.  But whatever the case the spread of rise and its rise in importance in economic and prestige terms means that names of rice would have been widely borrowed. Clearly the spread of rice into the Persian world came from India (although the preferred fragrant rice varieties of Persian had their ultimate genetic origins in Southeast Asia—as did most fragrant rices, as indicated by genetics of the most-common BADH2 mutation-- but must have moved via cultivation India). This could have been as much a process of elite dominance, in regions like much of South India where rice was initially a fairly minor crop, and have little to do with population movements as such. I would look to parallels in things like the spread, borrowing and diversification of terms of pepper in European and Western Indian Ocean languages—which testified to the long importance of this plant product in trade—it appears broadly related from Thai Phrikthiy, Swahili Pilipili (hence Brazilian periperi), Portuguese pimento, Turkish biber, Greek piperi, all ultimately from Sanskrit. Oddly from Sanskrit and not Tamil as black pepper is clearly indigenous to Southwest India. A similar pattern holds for names of coconut, far more prominent as a crop in Southern India than in the Sanskrit north. But these patterns must have some reflection of trade routes and social valuation. On the other hand most of the world has taken its names for Mango from Dravidian, yet the mango is not originally native there, but most cultivated mangos have their origins in Assam or thereabouts, but I know of no linguistic trail. Instead it was Tamil and/or Malay sailors who had borrowed from Tamil who did the most to spread knowledge of this fruit around the Indian Ocean. …I would note that putting together histories such as these and anchoring them in archaeobotanical evidence and genetics is a major focus of the Oxford based SEALINKS project, in which we have started new archaeobotanica sampling in Kerala, Sri Lanka, and coastal Kenya and Tanzania…

- Is it still correct to assume that the South Dravidian form 'arici' has been transmitted westwards, probably by maritime trade to result in Greek oryza, oryzon and Arab. ruz, English rice? You see, 'arici' is one of those words that compels people like Karunanidhi, the current CM of Tamil Nadu, to bombastically claim that "Tamil is the mother of all languages in the world!" (tamizh ulaga mozhigaḷukkellaam taay mozhi ennum perumai peRukiRatu)!
Certainly the term for rice has been translated Westward from Tamil, but as  the examples of pepper and mango indicate this has much to do with patterns of early historic trade, and which middlemen give commodities their name, than anything else, and perhaps little to do with ultimate ‘origins’ or Linguistic superiority. South India played a major role in Indian ocean trade throughout the 1st Millennium AD and upto the European colonial era, and thus many Tamil names have become attached to things; so too Portuguese and Spanish played the major role in transmitting the names of New World crops throughout Eurasia. 

(These queries come from Suresh Kolichala, who is researching ancient Indian recipes and cookbooks, which I very much look forward to learning more about!)


Suresh Kolichala said...

Thanks Dorian for your detailed response.

But you do agree that the cultivation of rice in India cannot singularly be associated with Austric influx, right? From your own paper, Thrust 10 happens very late; whether rice was cultivated or gathered wild in Lahuradewa in 7500 BCE, we do have evidence for cultivated rice by 2500-2000 BCE in the upper Ganga region. Even if there is some hybridization with Japonica, it could not possibly through Mundan influx, as there is no linguistic or archaelogical evidence of Astroasiatic languages prior to 2000 BCE, right? [See your discussion on 'Thrust 7']. Are you suggesting that some mixing between thrust 6 and 8 in the Assam region, which might be attributable to Munda speakers, has somehow influenced the rice cultivation in the upper Ganges?

Reg. Para-Munda: To Witzel's credit, he always claimed Para-Munda is not ancestral to Munda languages, but a related prefixing language. So, if we can show that these languages have much in common with Mon-Khmer languages, then the term Para-Munda still may not so totally inappropriate. However, do we know enough about these Harappan languages to label them Para-Munda or Austricoid?

It might be interesting for someone to explore the factors that contributed to rice's ascendency in India in such a short span. Is it much like how potato brought from the new world gained popularity in Europe during the famines of 18th century?

I agree with you about the terms used for rice being original terms for millets. I recently found out that Telugu has a millet named 'varige'(Panicum miliaceum), which has no botanical relationship to rice ('vari'). Southworth also argues with different examples on how the original meaning for var- could be 'grain' or 'seed' [Proto-Dravidian Agriculture, 2005]. The question is whether this word is native to Dravidian or a borrowal from Austroasiatic languages or Language X/Y/Z?


Suresh Kolichala said...
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Dorian Fuller said...

Early rice agriculture in India has nothing to do with Munda, and was probably already well-underway when Proto-Speakers arrived. As I indicated, the most logical point of arrival for japonica rice into South Asia is via Central Asia trade, which gets going in a big way around 2000 BC, or shortly before. See also the evidence for the arrival of wheat in China:

Suresh Kolichala said...

Thanks Dorian for your detailed post on the import of wheat and barley into China. I believe your research is revolutionary, and has the potential of providing outstanding solutions to many outstanding problems of South Asian prehistory (I am a bit surprised by a lukewarm response to your announcement in IER though). I look forward to reading your future publications, which I hope would combine the evidence from multiple fields like linguistics, archaeology, archaeobotany and even population genetics to successfully untangle the mysteries of Eurasian history. Best wishes, Suresh.

P Priyadarshi said...

A large number of DNA studies have categorically ruled out any possibility of Munda people’s arrival into India from outside. Veerraju found that the Austro-Asiatic speaking tribes of India are of Indian origin [Veerraju, P. et al, Insertion / Deletion DNA Polymorphism in two south Indian Tribal Populations, International Journal of Human Genetics 2001, 1(2):129-132.

Maji et al (2008) found that the Indian mtDNA haplogroups N, R and U are distributed in all the castes, tribes, linguistic and geographical groups indicating that all of them share an indigenous and common ancestry. [Maji, S. et al; “Distribution of Mitochondrial DNA Macrohaplogroup N in India with Special Reference to Haplogroup R and its Sub-Haplogroup U”, in Int J Hum Genet 2008, 8(1-2): 85-96]

Chaubey et al (2008) showed that the Austro-Asiatic speakers of India are indigenous and there is no evidence to suggest their immigration from any outside area. [Chaubey, G. et al; Phylogeography of mtDNA haplogroup R7 in the Indian peninsula, BMC Evol Biol, 2008 Aug, 8: 227]

Kivisild, Metspalu, Cavalli-Sforza, Underhill, Villems et al (2003) showed by haplogroup analysis that the Indian tribes and castes are indigenous of India and share considerable Pleistocene heritage, with limited recent gene flow between them. Chenchu and Koya tribes of south India showed deep rooted M and N mtDNA haplogroup lineages. The Y haplogroup R1a which is frequent in Punjab was earlier claimed by some to be evidence of male Aryan invasion on India. But this particular haplogroup was found in a very high frequency among the Chenchus in Kivisild’s study. This proved that the north as well as the south, caste as well as the tribe populations share same genes. There has been little gene flow into India from outside over the last 10,000 years they concluded. They also concluded that genetic features of Indian castes and tribes of all the various linguistic families have not changed in India since the earliest days. [Kivisild, T. et al; “The genetic heritage of the earliest settlers persists both in Indian tribal and caste populations”, in Am J Hum Genet, 2003 Feb, 72 (2) : 313-32, p. 313.]

P Priyadarshi said...

Kivisild et al (2003) also discussed how the genetic evidence shows that there is no genetic difference between the tribal and the caste populations of India. The latter conclusion was further supported by Ramana et al (2001), who after comparative genetic study of the tribal and caste populations of Andhra Pradesh in India demonstrated that no phylogenic genetic difference existed between the tribal and the caste population. [Ramana, G. V. et al, “Y-Chromosome SNP haplotypes suggest evidence of gene flow among caste, tribe and the migrant Siddi populations of Andhra Pradesh, South India.” Eur. J. Hum. Genetics 2001, 9: 695-700]

Kashyap et al (2006) in a large and extensive genetic study comprising 54 castes and tribes spread all over India concluded that their analyses failed to reveal any genetic groups that correlate to language, geography, ethnicity or socio-cultural affiliation of populations. The existence of sub-structuring in populations from northeastern and southern India also cautions against broad grouping of populations based on geographic, ethnic or linguistic affiliation that are frequently employed in population genetic studies, they remarked.[ Kashyap, V. K. et al.; “Genetic structure of Indian populations based on fifteen autosomal microsatellite loci”, in BMC Genet. 2006; 7: 28. doi: 10.1186/1471-2156-7-28.]

Sawarkar Sharma and others (2005) found that Indo-European speakers and Dravidian speakers of India were both descendants of a deep rooted very old Indian mtDNA lineage. [Sharma, S. et al; “Human mtDNA hypervariable regions, HVR I and II, hint at deep common maternal founder and subsequent maternal gene flow in Indian population groups”, Journal of Human Genetics 2005, 50:497–506]
Same authors (2009) in another genetic study found that Brahmin upper castes and Dravidian speakers as well as the tribal people all share the R1a1 haplogroup which was earlier thought to represent Aryan invasion and a marker of Brahmana males. The study proved that such assumptions like Aryan invasion cannot be sustained on the basis of genetic findings; and the Brahmanas as well as the south Indian tribals belong to the same Indian genetic stock. [Sharma, S. et al; “The Indian origin of paternal haplogroup R1a1* substantiates the autochthonous origin of Brahmins and the caste system”, in Journal of Human Genetics 2009, 54: 47–55.]

Chaubey et al (2008) studied, by high-resolution phylogeography, diverse linguistic groups in India. They found that mtDNA haplogroup R7 among Munda speaking populations of India can be explained best by gene flow from linguistically different populations of Indian subcontinent. The conclusion is based on the observation that among Indo-Europeans, and particularly in Dravidians, the haplogroup is, despite its lower frequency, phylogenetically more divergent, while among the Munda speakers only one sub-clade of R7, i.e. R7a1, can be observed. It is noteworthy that though R7 is autochthonous to India, and arises from the root of haplogroup R, its distribution and phylogeography in India is not uniform. This suggests the more ancient establishment of an autochthonous matrilineal genetic structure, and that isolation in the Pleistocene, lineage loss through drift, and endogamy of prehistoric and historic groups have greatly inhibited genetic homogenization and geographical uniformity.” [Chaubey, G. et al; “Phylogeography of mtDNA haplogroup R7 in the Indian peninsula”, in BMC Evol. Biol. 2008 Aug 4, 8:227.]

Similarly Sahoo et al, 2006 and Sengupta et al 2006 showed that the Austro-Asiatic tribes share R1a Y-DNA and J and J2 almost at same frequency as the Indo-Europeans. Another work showed that Y-DNA hg O3, the hallmark of Austro-Asiac speakers of SE Asia originated in India.

Such views that Austro-Asiatic speakers came to India from SEAsia is a legacy of Haeckelian racist prehistory of mankind and ignores the recent DNA findings which indicates central role of India in peopling of world.

P Priyadarshi said...
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P Priyadarshi said...

Fuller’s dating of Zebu migration out of India is also based on a very degree of subjectivity, bias and prejudice. The DNA studies of African cows’ DNAs suggest a 25,000 years old arrival into Africa.

The DNA of goats reflects 45,000 years old domestication in India. All goats of the world are descendants of the Indian goats. (Joshi, Manjunath B. et al; Phylogenography and Origin of Indian Domestic Goats, Mol. Biol. Evol. 2004, 21 (3): 454-462.)Joshi suffered from lack of confidence in his own findings, because it did not match the popular naïve belief of the Aryan invasion theory and arrival of Dravidians from West Asia. Hence he did not take as conclusion his own findings mentioned in the text.

P Priyadarshi said...

Sahoo, Kivisild, Metspalu, Villems et al, once out of disgust to anti-truth and biased attitude of many authors, commented: "“The perennial concept of people, language, and agriculture arriving to India together through the northwest corridor does not hold up to close scrutiny. Recent claims for a linkage of haplogroups J2, L, R1a, and R2 with a contemporaneous origin for the majority of the Indian castes’ paternal lineages from outside the subcontinent are rejected, although our findings do support a local origin of haplogroups F* and H.” (p. 847)

The comment is true for Austro-Asiatics too whose arrival into India is a free for all business. Some authors claimed they came to India from Africa, some other said from China and a third group claimed they came from SEAsia. Some authors claim they were the first to have arrived in India.

[Majumder, P.P., The human genetic history of South Asia, Current Biol. 2010, Feb. 23 online published, R184-R187.
Basu, A. et al; Ethnic India: A Genomic view, with special reference to peopling and structure, Genome Research, 2003.] All these conjectures have been solidly ruled out by stout DNA studies.

When man came to India 100,000 years back, he found the the delicious wild rice as a staple food. Wild rice grew in abundance then. Man had not even gone to China by that time. Man named this grass vrihi or whatever, evolved relics of which are found in most of the languages of world (rice, oryza, birinj, etc.)

Therefore any word for rice from this list is originally Indian and not imported from outside.

P Priyadarshi said...

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