It is well known that Alexander the Great invaded the Indus river valley. Coincidentally in the mountains shadowing this region are isolated groups of tribal populations whose physical appearance is at at variance with South Asians. In particular, they are much lighter skinned, and often blonde or blue eyed. Naturally this led to 19th and early 20th century speculation that they were lost white races, perhaps descended from some of the Macedonian soldiers of Alexander. This was partly the basis of the Rudyard Kipling novel The Man Who Would Be King. Naturally over time some of these people themselves have forwarded this idea. In the case of a group such as the Kalash of Pakistan this conjecture is supported by the exotic nature of their religion, which seems to be Indo-European, and similar to Vedic Hinduism, with minimal influence from Islam.
Prompted by my posts, Dienekes, A teaser on the Kalash:
I am in the middle of a ChromoPainter/fineSTRUCTURE analysis of a broad dataset designed to explore certain mysteries that have often come up in my previous experiments. Barring the unexpected, the analysis should be completed sometime next week.
Below you can see the normalized number of “chunks” donated by various populations to the Kalash….
Here is the bar plot which Dienekes generated (left to right indicates extent of “donation” to the Kalash):
I highlighted the most significant non-South Asian donor. Dienekes states:
A recent paper on Turkish genetics has a tree which illustrates a summary of how the Kalash shake out:
I say summary because this tree takes a lot of information and tries to generate the best fit representation. It does hide some information by the nature of its aggregation of patterns. For example, the position of the Burusho, or Turks, has to do with the fact that both of these have low, but noticeable, levels of East Asian admixture on top of a different base. If you removed this eastern element both groups would come much closer to similar groups. The extreme long branches leading to the Kalash and Mozabites are almost certainly a function of endogamy and inbreeding. Their allele frequencies diverged from nearby populations because of isolation.
But notice the nearby populations of the Kalash. They’re northwest South Asian. In many ways if you removed the drift and endogamy from the Kalash I suspect you’d been left with a group very similar to their Pathan neighbors.
Finally, as many of you know I put a substantial number of comments into ‘spam’ on this weblog. Here’s one related to the Kalash which you didn’t see:
A few days ago I was listening to an interview with a reporter who was kidnapped in the tribal areas of Pakistan (he eventually escaped). Because he was a Westerner he mentioned offhand that to “pass” as a native for his own safety he had his guides claim he was Nuristani when inquiries were made. The Nuristanis are an isolated group in Afghanistan notable for having relatively fair features. His giveaway to his eventual captors was that his accent was clearly not Nuristani, and master logicians that the Taliban are, the inference was made that he was likely a European pretending to be Nuristani.
I thought about this incident when looking over the supplements yesterday of Reconstructing Indian population history. On page 19 note S2 figure 1 includes the Kalash of Pakistan. These are the unconverted cousins of the Nuristanis who were not forcibly brought into the religion of peace in the late 1800s because their region of the Hindu Kush was under British rule, who naturally imposed their late 19th century European value that populations should not be converted by force to a particular religion (Nuristan means “land of light,” whereas before Afghans called it Kafiristan, “land of the unbelievers”). Despite the fair features of the Kalash, which has given rise to rumors that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers, they cluster with Central and South Asian populations, not Europeans. Like the Ainu of Japan it seems superficial similarities to Europeans, at least in relation to the majority population around them, has resulted in an inordinate expectation of total genome exoticism, when in reality a few particular loci are producing the distinctiveness.
Figure 1 from the 2007 paper, Genetic Evidence for the Convergent Evolution of Light Skin in Europeans and East Asians, brings home the point: