Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Roma - ii

In my previous post on the Roma, I speculated that they were mainly from central-east Indian region. My understanding was based on two factors;
- Romas are predominantly Y-Haplogroup H people. They have negligible R1a1. Had they been north-western people this wouldn't have been the case. Considering that Y-Haplogroup H dominates among tribes (mainly Dravidian) of central-east, their origin should be from that region.
- There is an opinion that Romani language is related to Sinhalese and Sinhalese were originally from eastern India region.

Along with those two points we need to note that there is a similar community called the Domba, who majorly speak the Dravidian languages, and found in south and east India.

There is a new study[1] on mtDNA lineages of the Roma people.

Previous genetic, anthropological and linguistic studies have shown that Roma (Gypsies) constitute a founder population dispersed throughout Europe whose origins might be traced to the Indian subcontinent. Linguistic and anthropological evidence point to Indo-Aryan ethnic groups from North-western India as the ancestral parental population of Roma. Recently, a strong genetic hint supporting this theory came from a study of a private mutation causing primary congenital glaucoma. In the present study, complete mitochondrial control sequences of Iberian Roma and previously published maternal lineages of other European Roma were analyzed in order to establish the genetic affinities among Roma groups, determine the degree of admixture with neighbouring populations, infer the migration routes followed since the first arrival to Europe, and survey the origin of Roma within the Indian subcontinent. Our results show that the maternal lineage composition in the Roma groups follows a pattern of different migration routes, with several founder effects, and low effective population sizes along their dispersal. Our data allowed the confirmation of a North/West migration route shared by Polish, Lithuanian and Iberian Roma. Additionally, eleven Roma founder lineages were identified and degrees of admixture with host populations were estimated. Finally, the comparison with an extensive database of Indian sequences allowed us to identify the Punjab state, in North-western India, as the putative ancestral homeland of the European Roma, in agreement with previous linguistic and anthropological studies.
The important thing here is they found most of the Indian mtDNA (72% ) belong to north-west India. And also, around 20% belong to eastern India.

These findings certainly do not reject the origin of male Romani population in eastern India. However, their linguistic identity could be from north-western India. Or their linguistic identity is matrilineal.

The male population with overwhelming Y-Haplogroup H, was most likely a breakaway group of Dombas whose original language belonged to the Dravidian family. However, they took local women as wives during their stay in Punjab (another break away group, Domaki, is still found in Pakistan) and thus linguistically became Indo-Aryans. This identity they have retained after they left Indian borders which is now in Pakistan.

Their origin in eastern India could be detected in the mtDNA lineages too as eastern mtDNAs are the second largest among their Indian mtDNAs.

1. Reconstructing the Indian Origin and Dispersal of the European Roma: A Maternal Genetic Perspective
 - Isabel Mendizabal et al. (2011)
2. Domba people


Maju said...

I'm reading now the paper and it seems to me from mtDNA structure that the greatest most clear affinity is with SE India in fact (fig. 3).

At least that seems true for haplogroup M5a1, which is most common in that region, even if also present in NE and NW India. M35b in Roma looks derived from a node of NW/North India but it is a very small node in India, so it may well misleading in regards to geography. And then the smaller, exclusively Gitano, M18 haplogroup is nested in a node dominantly SE and East Indian. So overall it looks like the origins are more like Andrah or Orissa than Punjab, even if the probably went through this last area in their migration.

For what they say in the paper, the male lineages are from the Orissa area as well, so I'd make sense of this, against the merely statistical estimate (table 3) of greater likelihood for Punjab, followed by Orissa.

Maju said...

Another thing I have in mind about this is that the Punjabis I am familiar with do never or very rarely look like Roma, specially in their more Indian-specific fraction of phenotypes (a lot of other ancestry is obviously West Asian, what also reflects in their often "East Mediterranean" phenotype range.

So I've been looking for pics of people of Orissa and certainly the typical Austroasiatic tribals are not in the range (way too East Asian). But some Adivasi are instead and very clearly so.

These two "Paroja" boys (1, 2) look totally like they are going to speak in Roma dialect as you pass by, for instance.

manju said...

These two "Paroja" boys (1, 2) look totally like they are going to speak in Roma dialect as you pass by, for instance.

I'm sure two randomly selected Dravidian tribal boys might resemble few randomly selected Roma boys. But I'm sure with nearly 50% non-Indian patrilineages and 65% non-Indian matrilineages of Romas that look can't be generalized.

Maju said...

Of course, but for me, as European, the most characteristic of Roma looks is their non-European part, notably the South Asian one.

Anyhow, I am always referencing to the Gitanos of Spain, Balcanic Roma, who are much more mixed, often look almost European to me (but I know them mostly from films).

What I mean is that, within the wide diversity of South Asian looks, it is difficult to find any people who look like the most "Indian-looking" Roma. And I do not think this is just because of admixture only but because of their peculiar origins within India surely as well. But my opinion anyhow.

In this sense I think that M5a1 specially is a quite clear indicator of where these people ultimately sprung from. An it does not look like Punjab to me (nor to you, it seems).

manju said...

In this sense I think that M5a1 specially is a quite clear indicator of where these people ultimately sprung from. An it does not look like Punjab to me (nor to you, it seems).

Well, I can only comment on the interpretations and not much on the methodology as my understanding is limited there. So, if the authors say the Denisovans are Neanderthal cousins I accept it. Here since authors say they compared Roma mtDNA sequences with Indian mtDNA sequences and found majority matches with Punjabis, I'll accept that.

Of course, M5a is well represented among Dravidian tribals. However, its distribution is pan-South Asian.

Maju said...

You are so acritical... how can one be that way? If the authors say whatever, it is their opinion only, it is the data what matters, and data often can be interpreted in different directions.

You argued anyhow in your post that Roma Y-DNA does not look NW Indian, so why do you change your mind now?

manju said...

In my post I clearly stated that;
- male founding population was from eastern Indian region (along with few females founders)
- if as authors say that a big chunk of female founders were from Punjab then probably that was the reason for their Indo-Aryan language

The second part doesn't negate the fact the original population was from eastern Indian region.

When I said, my understanding is limited, I meant I don't have enough knowledge to question their matching methodology of mtDNA sequences and come out with conclusions that highest probability is with north-west followed by east.

This has nothing to do with general understanding of mtDNA distribution in India. If in future they say that all Y-Haplogroup H haplotypes match that of Punjab region exclusively then I would agree with their interpretation that the Roma founding population was from Punjab region.

Anonymous said...


Manhun(ಮಂಞುನ್/മഞ്ഞുന്‌) said...

You sound really agitated. Please give me references for your claims.

Anonymous said...

Your claim that Sinhalese language is related to Romani is not correct. Can you give some references for this? Sinhalese language is one of the most studied IA languages, by linguists, and nobody has found any particular relationship with Romani.

Sinhalese is very different from mainland Indo Aryan languages, and is actually an isolate among IAs. There is no consensus as to whether Sinhalese is from a western or eastern prakrit. Wilhelm Geiger made a clear case for Sinhalese language's western Indian origin.

There are many features in Sinhalese which indicates that it forked out of proto Indo-European prior to Indo-Aryan. Read for example The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis is a book by Shrikant G. Talageri. There are references to scientific linguistic studies in it.

Opinion is another word for rumours. When your blog as a nice name called "Nothing sacred nothing Innate", just make sure that you check your sources and don't spread Wikipedia type rumours, otherwise people won't take you seriously. I for one, will not take anything in your blog seriously, since you have not made the effort to give correct information.

Greetings from Sri Lanka.

Manju Edangam said...

I don't remember the original sources. Though I'm not very rigorous about giving sources, I don't make up my facts or quote people like Shrikant G Talageri.

If you have read the post carefully, it would have been clear that I initially made the argument for eastern Indian origin of Roma and eastern Indian origin of their language. I gave Sinhala as an example there. Later I quoted from another study and said, probably, their language was matrilineal and belong to north-west India. So, basically, based on that study I changed my position on their language. I said they would have been speaking a Dravidian language during their years in central-east India and picked up an Indo-Aryan language as they moved to north-western India.

If you can understand that, you may observe that your entire comment here is redundant.

It seems there were two peer reviewed studies that connect Romani to Sinhalese and Divehi(I guess related to Sinhalese) languages.

A 2003 study published in Nature suggests Romani is also related to Sinhalese,spoken in Sri Lanka. According to Oriental Society of Linguistics, Ancestral Studies and History (OSLASH), 2009 Romani is also related to the Divehi language spoken in the Maldives.