European Gypsies (Roma) descended from the ancestors of NW Indian Adivasis

While the Indian origin of the European Roma populations is linguistically and genetically well-established, accurate identification of their South Asian source has remained a matter of debate. A new open access paper PLoS ONE 7(11): e48477. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048477 now pinpoints the ancestry of today’s Roma to the ancestors of the Adivasi (“original people)  tribes of North West India.

The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations, Niraj Rai et al.

I note , in passing, that the discrimination and “oppression” of the current Roma populations across all of Europe is not so unlike the discrimination and “oppression” being suffered by their distant cousins who are the current Adivasis in India.

Out of India Migration Rai et al

First some background from the paper:

The Roma in England are traditionally known as gypsies because it was thought that they came from Egypt and were therefore ‘gypcians’. German Zigeuner, French tzigane and names in several other European languages derive from a designation for a Manichaean sect that practiced sorcery and soothsaying in the last centuries of the Byzantine Empire.

.. The name by which Roma designate themselves is Rroma (singular Rrom), whereby the double rr in Romani orthography represents a uvular ‘r’ [R] as opposed to an apical ‘r’ [r]. The autonym Rroma is held to be cognate with oma, a collective term for the ancient aboriginal populations of the Indian subcontinent. Many oma remained outcastes or tribals, whereas some were assimilated into the lower strata of the caste system by the Indo-European speaking Indians.

Linguistic studies have indicated a northern migration route for the Roma.

The presence of Burushaski loans in Romani, the lack of Arabic loans and the presence of Dardic, Georgian, Ossetian, Armenian and mediaeval Greek loans indicate that the Roma migrated to Europe by a northerly route, beginning around Gilgit in the northernmost Hindu Kush, thence along the southern Caspian littoral, the southern flank of the Caucasus, the southern shoreline of the Black Sea, across the Bosporus, and subsequently spreading across Europe since (the) 13th century.

The new paper reports analyisis of a data-set of over 10,000 samples:

The presence of Indian-specific Y-chromosome haplogroup H1a1a-M82 and mtDNA haplogroups M5a1, M18 and M35b among Roma has corroborated that their South Asian origins and later admixture with Near Eastern and European populations. However, previous studies have left unanswered questions about the exact parental population groups in South Asia. Here we present a detailed phylogeographical study of Y-chromosomal haplogroup H1a1a-M82 in a data set of more than 10,000 global samples to discern a more precise ancestral source of European Romani populations. The phylogeographical patterns and diversity estimates indicate an early origin of this haplogroup in the Indian subcontinent and its further expansion to other regions. Tellingly, the short tandem repeat (STR) based network of H1a1a-M82 lineages displayed the closest connection of Romani haplotypes with the traditional scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population groups of northwestern India.

The paper concludes:

In conclusion, the analysis of Y-chromosome hg H1a1a-M82 variation in 214 ethnic groups from India shows that northwest Indian populations are the closest to the hg H1a1a-M82 variants observed in the present-day European Roma populations. 

…. This first genetic evidence of this nature allows us to develop a more detailed picture of the paternal genetic history of European Roma, revealing that the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of northern India, traditionally referred to collectively as the oma, are the likely ancestral populations of modern European Roma. Our findings corroborate the hypothesized cognacy of the terms Rroma and oma and resolve the controversy about the Gangetic plain and the Punjab in favour of the northwestern portion of the diffuse widespread range of the oma ancestral population of northern India.

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