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The first Siberians seem to have left no descendants, but since then there have been several waves of migrants that had connections to people all around the world. First, these include the ancestors of Native Americans 25,000 years ago, as well as foragers who also pushed westward deep in the Pleistocene, eventually contributing to the diversity of modern Europeans.
More than 2,000 years ago the Daic peoples began to push south and west into mainland Southeast Asia in fits and starts, resulting in a patchwork ethno linguistic landscape that intruded as far west as the Indian state of Assam and as far east as the highlands of Vietnam. In Thailand, the newcomers culturally assimilated the indigenous Mon-Khmer civilization and gave their name and language to the nation 1,000 years ago. Further north the ancient Dai of China have been marginalized and assimilated by the Han in their native homeland, continuing a process that began during the Bronze Age before China was even a unified civilization.
Clinging to the eastern edge of Southeast Asia facing the South China Sea, the modern Vietnamese, have roots that go back to southeast China 4,000 years ago. Bringing rice agriculture into the Red River Valley during the Bronze Age, long before the rise of the Chinese Empire, the ancestors of the Vietnamese likely dominated the coastlands of southern China and northern Vietnam history. After being conquered by the Chinese 2,000 years ago, they resisted assimilation and won their independence during the Tang dynasty, eventually pushing southward to the Mekong. The fact that they speak an Austro-Asiatic language, like Khmer, as well as a few tribal dialects in highland Southeast and South Asia, indicates that the ancestral Vietnamese, the ethnic Kinh, were part of the first wave of rice farmers into the region. Here they encountered, and culturally and genetically assimilated, the indigenous Australo-Melanesian populations, distantly related to the peoples of the Andaman Islands, and dominant during the Pleistocene and the first half of the Holocene as foragers in the region. Into this initial fused population arrived later groups of ethnic Chinese, with the conquest of Vietnam 2,000 years ago. Soldiers and scholar-officials introduced Chinese culture, and in particular in the case of the latter, a bureaucratic form of Confucianism. Though the Chinese political hegemony ended 1,000 years later, many settlers remained, resulting in a Sinicized population both culturally and genetically, and breeding reciprocal ties that persisted down to the French colonial period
Clinging to the eastern edge of Southeast Asia facing the South China Sea, the modern Vietnamese, have roots that go back to southeast China 4,000 years ago. Bringing rice agriculture into the Red River Valley during the Bronze Age, long before the rise of the Chinese Empire, the ancestors of the Vietnamese likely dominated the coastlands of southern China and northern Vietnam history. After being conquered by the Chinese 2,000 years ago, they resisted assimilation and won their independence during the Tang dynasty, eventually pushing southward to the Mekong. The fact that they speak an Austro-Asiatic language, like Khmer, as well as a few tribal dialects in highland Southeast and South Asia, indicates that the ancestral Vietnamese, the ethnic Kinh, were part of the first wave of rice farmers into the region. Here they encountered, and culturally and genetically assimilated, the indigenous Australo-Melanesian populations, distantly related to the peoples of the Andaman Islands, and dominant during the Pleistocene and the first half of the Holocene as foragers in the region. Into this initial fused population arrived later groups of ethnic Chinese, with the conquest of Vietnam 2,000 years ago. Soldiers and scholar-officials introduced Chinese culture, and in particular in the case of the latter, a bureaucratic form of Confucianism. Though the Chinese political hegemony ended 1,000 years later, many settlers remained, resulting in a Sinicized population both culturally and genetically, and breeding reciprocal ties that persisted down to the French colonial period.
The origins of modern West Asians lie in the ancient tribes that settled down and occupied these highlands 50,000 years ago. A group in the north and west eventually migrated into Europe, giving rise to the Cro-Magnon societies of that continent, while others in the Caucasus or the edges of the Fertile Crescent interacted with tribes in the deserts to the south. It was a branch that eventually settled down to practice agriculture and give rise to the great farming societies of Eurasia, starting with the Natufians of the Levant more than 10,000 years ago. These West Asian tribes were distantly related to the Mesolithic foragers of Europe through Ice Age contacts, but they soon expanded west across North Africa, and pushed eastward into the highlands of Iran, creating a zone of mixed pastoralism and wheat-farming that came to define the lifestyle in this region, and across much of the temperate zone, that persisted as the dominant modality down to the present epoch.
The origin of the Turks is in the heart of Eurasia, Mongolia and the high mountains to their west, and Siberia to their north. A fusion of Siberian people and agriculturalists percolating northward out of East Asia proper, the Turks began on the margins of history before becoming its drivers. The stimulative impact of the Indo-European migrations out of the west transformed them into mounted warriors that would go on to terrorize Europe, conquering much of China and becoming the ruling military elite of the Middle East and South Asia. Before their arrival in Anatolia after their defeat of the Byzantine army in 1071 AD, the Turkic people had conquered Central Asia and Persia, radically transforming those previously Iranian-dominated regions. Today most of Central Asia is covered by Turkic-language speakers, whereas 1,200 years ago it was predominantly Iranian, with the natives speaking languages related to Persian. Within Iran proper, Persia, Turkic dynasties ruled for nearly the whole 900 years between 1000 AD and 1900 AD (with the Mongol interlude). Wherever they went the Turks intermarried with locals, so the citizens of the modern Republic of Turkey have a heritage that takes them back to Greeks and Armenians, while the farmers of Uzbekistan harken back to the Iranians that once inhabited the region. Far to the north, in European Russia, Tatars are a genetic fusion between native Scythian pastoralists, Slavic farmers, and invading Turkic nomads. The Turks came, they conquered, and they assimilated, wherever they went, from one end of Eurasia to the other.
Though the Chinese like to boast of a 5,000-year history, the reality is that the ancestors of the modern Han Chinese can be proud of a 50,000-year history in and around the environs of what is today the People’s Republic of China. The easternmost branch of modern humans pushed through the Indian subcontinent, into mainland Southeast Asia, and then northward to the southern fringe of Siberia. Here, the migrants from Africa mixed with indigenous Asian hominins, the Denisovans, so that all the peoples of East Asia have small trace amounts of this ancestry. Whereas Europe, South Asia, and Southeast Asia have been marked by intrusions from outside of the peninsulas, East Asia beyond the Tibetan plateau was relatively insulated from newcomers.
The people of the Indian subcontinent share a common heritage that emerged out of the fusion of distinct western and eastern Eurasian populations more than 5,000 years ago. After the initial out of Africa migration 50,000 years ago a continuum of tropical foragers ranged between the Arabian Sea and the South China Sea, serving as the connection between the expanding people of Northeast Asia, and those that pushed southeast beyond Eurasia, to Oceania. Today the last relics of these populations are the Negritos of the Andamans, interior Malaya, and the Philippines, but their heritage is mixed into those of the Indian subcontinent in the west and those of Southeast Asia in the east. But with the emergence of agriculture, human populations began to move after the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago. In Southeast Asia, rice farmers arrived from the north, but in the Indian subcontinent foragers in the northwest, whose ultimate Ice Age origins lay in the uplands of West Asia, took up pastoralism and larger wheat cultivation, and began to push eastward into the tropical zone. Here they mixed with the indigenous populations, whose affinities were with hunter-gatherers further east and south, and produced a new synthetic society that eventually gave rise to the Indus Valley Civilization.
Located between west and east Eurasia, the Indian subcontinent has long been at a nexus, and modern South Indians have connections to people to their west and east. Some of the deepest maternal lineages in eastern Eurasia are found in the Indian subcontinent, pointing to the sojourn of east Eurasian people in the subcontinent.
South Indian Pastoralist
4,000 years ago as subcontinental populations from the north and west were pushing deeper into South Asia an outrider group of pastoralists took advantage of the high and open territory of the western Deccan, extending from the edges of the Thar desert southmost to the Nigrili hills that thrust upward from the tip of the Indian subcontinent. While wheat and rice farmers dominate most of South Asia demographically, a minority remain pure pastoralists, depending on dairy. While in northern India this is found across the population to various degrees, in the southern reaches of the subcontinent is more constrained to particular populations of pastoralists.
As modern humans pushed eastward 50,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Melanesians eventually faced the Pacific, occupying the southeastern fringe of modern human habitation. Cut off from other modern populations they encountered earlier human species, the Denisovans, and carry the most ancestry from this group of any population. Pushing into Australia, and westward and eastward into the territories of the Austronesians, modern Melanesians have a far wider distribution than their Pleistocene ancestors
East Indian Tribal
The tribes of Northeast India are best understood as a beachead into the subcontinent of Southeast Asia, and reflect the reality that for tens of thousands of years biogeographically South and Southeast Asia were truly not distinctive. The differences have only emerged in the last 10,000 years with the migration of West Eurasians into the subcontinent, and their cultural and demographic dominance.
South Indian Tribal
Though all Indians thread together diverse lineages and heritages, the numerous tribes of the south are unique in attributing the greatest fraction of their ancestry to the tropical foragers of South and Southeast Asia, the remnants of a vast Diaspora that once stretched from the Arabian Sea eastward to the edges of Melanesia. Though geneticists sometimes assert that this ancestry is like that of the Andamanese tribes, the reality is that ancient South Asian foragers diverged from their cousins to the east more than 30,000 years ago, most migration occurred through eastward expansion into zones previously unoccupied by their lineage.
The origins of the Austronesians seems to lay in the group of late Ice Age foragers that occupied the seashores of southeast China, facing the ocean and relying on marine resources for sustenance. With the rise of seal levels 10,000 years ago, the island of Taiwan became separated from the mainland, and incubated its own indigenous populations. These were the ancestors of the Austronesians, who eventually moved south to the Philippines, and then eventually spread west and east, eventually ending with the people of Madagascar and Eastern island at the two antipodes. While their cousins on the mainland were assimilated by the expanding Han Chinese, Taiwan eventually settled by Han from Fujian in the 19th century, the Austronesian Diaspora in Southeast Asia maintains cultural and genetic continuity with indigenous peoples of Ice Age southeast China.
The islands of Japan call themselves the land of the rising sun because they serve as the eastern fringe of the Eurasian supercontinent. Today, separated from mainland Asia by about 100 km, during the peak of the Ice Age 20,000 years ago Japan was likely connected to Korea. Across this sunken isthmus migrated a Paleo-Siberian people distantly related to some of the ancestors of Native Americans, who migrated north and east. These people carried a unique Y chromosomal lineage, haplogroup D, found in 25% of modern Japanese, including the royal family, and only present in some Tibetans and Andamanese. As the ice sheets retreated, and the Pleistocene gave way to the Holocene, the Paleo-Siberians developed their own unique culture indigenous to the islands, termed Jomon. These foragers flourished for 15,000 years in the isolation of the Japanese archipelago, utilizing marine resources and hunting on the mainland. In the north their descendents became the Ainu of Hokkaido, the indigenous people of that northern island.
Tribes like the Aeta that occupy the margins of Filipino today descend from a side branch of the migration that took humans south and east during the Pleistocene, to the continent of Sahul, today Australia and New Guinea. 50,000 years ago modern humans pushed beyond the biogeographic limits of Eurasia, past the Wallace line into a landscape where marsupials were dominant over placentals. As part of this migration a northern side branch pushed in the Philippines, likely marginalizing the indigeous hominins, though already carrying ancestry from our Denisovan cousins. Though bracketed under the term Negritos, the dark-skinned people of the Philippines are genetically more similar to the Melanesians than they are to the similarly named peoples of Malaya or the Andamans, pointing to the deep divergences that have been erased by the spread of agriculturalists in the last 10,000 years.
Despite the fact that mainland Southeast Asia is dominated by people with origins among the rice-farming cultures of southern China, a minority of the ancestry of the people to their east on the Bay of Bengal descend from the Ice Age cousins of the Andamanese. Similarly, the indigenous tropical foragers of the Indian subcontinent to the west no longer remain in “pure form,” but they were also mainland cousins of the Andamanese, who represent a small intact fragment of the cultural zone that once encompassed both South and Southeast Asia.
Many Himalayan populations carry a high altitude adaptation that is almost certainly inherited from an extinct ancient branch of our human family, the Denisovans, who separated from the primary modern human line more than 500,000 years ago. Little of these Denisovans remains in the indigenous people of the Himalayas except this unique and useful adaptation, but it illustrates the ancient roots of human occupation.
Modern Korea’s homogeneity is built upon this dual origin, connecting the people of the peninsula to China, but maintaining some ethnic and cultural distance.