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Geneticists identify first Indians

india Updated: Apr 02, 2008 02:18 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
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Who were the first Indians? And where did they come from?

Geneticists from the Madurai Kamaraj University claim they have found the answers in a small village called Jyothimanickam on the fringes of the Western Ghats, some 50 km from Madurai.

Thirteen people in this hamlet carry the gene ‘M130’ in their DNAs and researchers from the university claim their ancestors were the first ‘Indians’.

The investigations were carried out as part of research collaboration with the University of Oxford.

“Gene M130 is the marker of the first human migration that took place in India some 70,000 years ago,” Ramsamy Pitchappan — professor emeritus in the department of immunology of the university — told HT.

Gene mutations are key to tracing human history because with the help of mutations that has built up on the one surviving copy, geneticists can arrange people in lineages and estimate the time of origin of each lineage.

They normally use two well-known benchmark programmes — “Dau Statistics” and the “Arlequin” software — to calculate the age of a mutated gene.

“There is no other marker older than M130 in India. This way we have been able to identify the first human settlers in India, who obviously came out of Africa. Because all later migrations do not have his marker, it is evident that they were the first ‘Indians,’” he said.

His findings are being presented on Discovery Channel’s new six-part series The Story of India starting April 16, he added.

Pitchappan and his team first found the gene marker ‘M130’ in a person called Virumandi when they tested the DNA of some tribal villagers to get clues about human migrational history.

The findings also serve as strong evidence that the rest of the world may have been populated from India. There is already a growing view among geneticists that South Asians populated the rest of world.

Central Asia is said to be the most important reservoir of genetic diversity, and the source of at least three major waves of migration leading into Europe, the Americas and India.