Case Study 04

Haplogroup L

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M168 > P143 > M89 > M9 > M20
TCA SHARAD RAGHAVAN | FATHER: Tamil Brahmin | Haplogroup L is found in greater percentage among Dravidian language- (such as Tamil and Telugu) speaking non-tribal populations

The genetic markers that define this ancestral history go back roughly 60,000 years to the first common marker of all non-African men, M168, and follow this lineage to present day, ending with M20, the defining marker of haplogroup L (M61).

Today, more than 50 per cent of the men living in southern India are of haplogroup L (M61). Marker M20 is rarely found outside India, in frequencies of one to two per cent in some Middle Eastern populations.

M168

TIME OF EMERGENCE: Roughly 50,000 years ago

PLACE OF ORIGIN: Africa

CLIMATE: Temporary retreat of Ice Age; Africa moves from drought to warmer temperatures and moister conditions

ESTIMATED NUMBER OF HOMO SAPIENS: approx. 10,000 TOOLS/SKILLS: Stone tools; earliest evidence of art and advanced conceptual skills

Skeletal and archaeological evidence suggests that anatomically modern humans evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago, and began moving out of Africa to colonise the the world around 60,000 years ago.

The man who gave rise to the first genetic marker in this line probably lived in northeast Africa some 31,000 to 79,000 years ago. Scientists put the most likely date for when he lived at around 50,000 years ago.

His descendants became the only lineage to survive outside of Africa, making him the common ancestor of every non-African man living today.

(The map is based on the National Geographic version of the migration of the Haplogroup. The text updates this version based on recent research and offers a differing version.)

M89

TIME OF EMERGENCE: 45,000 years ago

ESTIMATED NUMBER OF HOMO SAPIENS: Tens of thousands

TOOLS/SKILLS: Stone, ivory, wood tools

The next male ancestor in this line is the man who gave rise to M89, a marker found in 90-95% of all non-Africans. This man was born around 45,000 years ago in northern Africa.

The National Geographic Project hypothesis on the origins of M89 is based on proposing a second migration out of Africa that heads inland to the Middle East. But there is reason to differ with this hypothesis.

The presence of the three markers M168 > P143 > M89 defines the F Haplogroup, which is found with some frequency in South Asia but is absent in the Middle East, suggesting at least the possibility of a South Asian origin.

Thus, rather than two different migrations into India, this Haplogroup could conceivably be even the result of the same migration that brought the maternal line M into South Asia.  

M9: The Eurasian Clan Spreads Wide and Far

TIME OF EMERGENCE: 40,000 years ago

ESTIMATED NUMBER OF HOMO SAPIENS: Tens of thousands

TOOLS AND SKILLS: Upper Paleolithic

The branch of the F Haplogroup defined by M9 is known as the K haplogroup, now found in small numbers in the Subcontinent, Oceania and Australia. Again the National Geographic Project interprets this as evidence of yet another migration from Central Asia, but once again there is nothing to suggest that it did not originate in the Subcontinent.

M20: THE INDIAN CLAN

TIME OF EMERGENCE: 30,000 years ago

CLIMATE: Ice Age

ESTIMATED NUMBER OF HOMO SAPIENS: Hundreds of thousands

TOOLS AND SKILLS: Upper Paleolithic

This branch of the K Haplogroup,  known as L Haplogroup, is found mostly in South Asia reaching a significant proportion among speakers of Dravidian languages; it is not so frequent in tribal populations.

Says Pitchappan: “Sharad Raghavan, a Tamil Brahmin, possesses the commonest South Indian NRY HG L that originated 30,000 years ago, and successfully expanded in Tamil Nadu. Many other ancient, widespread, plains Tamil Nadu populations possess this NRY marker. Brahminism in Tamil Nadu is a story of conversion / mixing / miscegenation [interbreeding].”