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Book review: Which Of Us Are Aryans, essays by Romila Thapar, Michael Witzel, Jaya Menon, Kai Frieze, Razib Khan

My Wednesday review (because life must follow some kind of routine even in these terrible times):
 
WHICH OF US ARE ARYANS? Rethinking the Concept of our Origins. Romila Thapar, Michael Witzel, Jaya Menon, Kai Frieze, Razib Khan. Aleph Books.
 
This book ventures into that thorny thicket of (our) Aryan identity which, as one of the essayists says, is now enmeshed in cultural politics.
 
Romila Thapar makes it clear that the Sanskrit word arya (airiia in Old Iranian) did not denote a race but a linguistic and cultural identity. She rues that what is claimed as history is an essential requirement in legitimizing a political ideology even if the supposed historical narrative is unacceptable to most historians.
Michael Witzel presents linguistic, archaeological, genetic and mythological data to indicate that the migrants had a western Central Asian origin.
 
Jaya Menon examines data from excavations of Harappan culture and what they signify.
 
Kai Friese parses the Rakhigarhi research and states categorically that if the rewriting of Indian history was lurching on the Hindutva fringe of academia, mainstream science was steadily advancing in quite another.
 
Razib Khan states that all South Asians derive their ancestry from two groups: Ancestral North Indians and Ancestral South Indians. The former share a chromosomal lineage with various groups settled between West Asia and East Central Europe, while the latter are rooted in South Asia. He also says until more DNA results are reported from India, the temporal and spatial details of how these pastoralists spread across South Asia will continue to be highly conjectural.
 
So. Are today’s Hindus directly descended from the land’s first inhabitants many thousands of years ago? Did the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) precede the cattle-herding, horse-rearing, chariot-driving, battle axe-wielding, proto-Sanskrit-speaking migrants?
 
Ah well, continue to watch this space.
Aleph Booksbook reviewJaya MenonKai FriezeMichael WitzelRazib Khanrethinking our Aryan originsRomila ThaparWhich of us are Aryans

Sheila Kumar • April 21, 2021


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