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Thread: The Origin of the Kalash People of Pakistan

  1. #1

    Default The Origin of the Kalash People of Pakistan

    I was recently reminded of the mystery regarding the origin of the Kalash people of Pakistan. Phenotypically, they range from looking like typical North Indians and Pakistanis to looking quite European. These Kalash girls being representative of the latter:

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    It has been suggested that the Kalash are partially descended from Alexander's soldiers.

    Based on DNA samples from modern Kalash people, Hellenthal et al 2014 detected a major admixture event in their genomes between a European-like population and a local population dated 990-210 BCE. In contrast, Ayub et al 2015 using a different methodology claimed to have determined that the Kalash were a population isolate who have received "no detectable gene flow from their geographic neighbors in Pakistan or from other extant Eurasian populations" since they split from those populations over 8,000 years ago. However, there was an error in their analyses. A reanalysis of their data indicated that an admixture had occurred between a local and a European-like population 92 to 125 generations back, which is consistent with the timeframe proposed by Hellenthal et al 2014.

    While this date overlaps Alexander's conquest of the region, it's midpoint is earlier, and even then, ancient DNA has shown that these methodologies using modern DNA have a tendency to err on the side of being too recent. Ancient DNA from the region appears to support that being the case here as well. The Kalash can be modelled as a two way admixture between Neolithic Zagros farmer related ancestry (~70%) similar to the Indus Valley Civilization and Yamnaya related ancestry (~30%) similar to the Sintashta Culture. Furthermore, none of the modern Kalash people's uniparental markers suggest a particularly Greek association. Which was always an unnecessary hypothesis in my opinion, since the Kalash speak an Indo-Aryan language.

    If there ever was a mystery, I believe it's been solved. I wrote this partially as a reference since I'm often asked about the Kalash, but I'm also wondering if there was ever any historical reason to have entertained the Greek/Macedonian origin hypothesis. Is there any further evidence or negative evidence (as we say in archaeology) with which to flesh this conclusion out?
    Quote Originally Posted by Enros View Post
    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


  2. #2
    Abdülmecid I's Avatar ¡Ay Carmela!
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    Default Re: The Origin of the Kalash People of Pakistan

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    If there ever was a mystery, I believe it's been solved. I wrote this partially as a reference since I'm often asked about the Kalash, but I'm also wondering if there was ever any historical reason to have entertained the Greek/Macedonian origin hypothesis. Is there any further evidence or negative evidence (as we say in archaeology) with which to flesh this conclusion out?
    Yes, of course there was, it's called the Macedonian naming dispute. The legend of the descendants of Macedonian soldiers living somewhere near Hindu Kush is as old as Kipling's "The man who would be king". There have reportedly been local legends about the tribes' eponymous ancestors being Alexander of his companions. I guess there is a possibility that the mythic figure of Iskander plays a role in their folklore, but I also suspect what added fuel to the fire was colonial romantic fantasies about long lost Europeans getting discovered in the depths of unexplored Asia. It's still trendy, because Macedonian genetics have gained tremendous importance following the discovery of the Vergina tombs and the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Developing ties with the Kalash is an important step towards establishing any sense of continuity with Alexander. The natives play along, because it means free trips for their tribal elite to the Cyclades and also a generous increase in humanitarian supplies (paid usually by the Macedonian and Greek diaspora in Australia, Canada and the United States). The Greeks were apparently more successful with the Kalash, but North Macedonia counter-attacked by approaching the Burusho people:
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    In the article I linked, Danforth cites a few claims, made by "researchers" that visited the Kalash and the Burusho peoples, like that they speak a combination of Greek and Sanskrit or that the symbol known as the Vergina Star or Sun is prominent in the culture. The irony is that the association of the Vergina Star with the Macedonian kingdom is disputed in academic circles. Anyway, now that the quarrel has been diplomatically solved, I guess that the interest in the Kalash will gradually subside.

    The impact of the controversy upon the noble field of archaeology includes some very juicy details. When Eugene Borza suggested, based on iconographic evidence, that the person buried in the tomb of Vergina, originally identified with Philip II, is actually Philip III, he was denounced as an insidious agent and the Ministry of Culture officially announced that the tomb belongs to Philip II and whoever disagrees with the dogma is simply wrong and probably acts in bad faith as well.

  3. #3

    Default Re: The Origin of the Kalash People of Pakistan

    Ah, I suspected as much regarding the colonial romantic fantasies, but I was unaware of the Greek/Best Macedonia angle. Due to geography, I assume the ancestors of the Kalash were probably less influenced by the Macedonians than many other cultures who had fallen under Macedonian rule. I don't doubt that some of the cultural parallels are due to common heritage, but most likely date back to common steppe heritage, possibly as far back as 1900–1500 BCE, when people with ancestry from the Pontic Steppe first start appearing in the archaeological record of the region. Which is not to discount the fact that there has been continuous cultural exchange across the steppe and through the Near East. My point being that it wouldn't be difficult to make any particular Balkans culture and eastern Indo-Iranian culture look connected if you compare them in isolation, since it's only the particularity of the proposed connection that falls apart when each are placed in a broader context. My ruminations here really being about why some relatively educated people without any apparent agenda seem to have fallen for this one.

    As far as the Kalash today, perhaps they will have the opportunity to connect with new nationalist patrons:

    This was something that was suggested on Twitter (or emerged out of a discussion on Twitter): why can’t the Kalash have the option of relocating to Ladakh? It’s not that different of an ecosystem, and there would be less cultural pressure to change and/or threat of assimilation.

    The Indian government imposes a no-contact policy for the Sentinelese for the sake of their cultural and biological integrity (they would probably die of disease). I’m not proposing this for the Kalash, but at least bringing them to Ladakh would prevent the imminent threat of assimilation, though the individual appeal of Delhi would still be there.

    There’s a lot of anger from Hindu nationalists online. Often toward Muslims. I get the reasons. But this is something that is constructive and positive. The Kalash are not a fossil race. But they preserve something that is unique and soon to be lost to the world.
    Quote Originally Posted by Enros View Post
    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


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    Default Re: The Origin of the Kalash People of Pakistan

    My experience living here for many years now has been that few ethnic groups in Afghnistan and border areas od Afghanistan-Pakistan do look very much European and even lighter than myself.
    Not only Kalash people in Pakistan but also Nuristani and Kunari people in Afghanistan, a lot of Panjshiri people from the famous Panjshir valley look pure European.
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    Default Re: The Origin of the Kalash People of Pakistan

    NO!!! KALASH IS GREEKLAND MACEDONIAN! KALASH GOOD! SUMSKILZ BAD!!!!! /s

    Thanks for sharing this, Sumskilz, +1 rep to you. I didn't think they looked particularly Greek anyway, more typically Central Asiatic Iranian, which as you've stated already involves a great deal of Pontic Steppe Indo-European ancestry going back to the Bronze Age. I will say this, though, the Pakistanis and Afghans more generally have retained a surprising little artifact of Alexander's conquests: the pakol hat that seems to be derived from the ancient late Classical and Hellenistic kausia cap worn by Macedonians.

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