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Kusunda
Topic Started: Jan 5 2007, 11:06:28 PM (893 Views)
black man
The Right Hand
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The genomes of some of the last Kusunda people are featured in the recent paper by Lazaridis et al. on autosomal markers in ancient and modern populations.

The Kusunda people or their language were already mentioned in these threads:
http://s6.zetaboards.com/man/topic/527777/1/
http://s6.zetaboards.com/man/topic/528462/1/
http://s6.zetaboards.com/man/topic/528384/1/

As far as I remember, manju once asked a question about pre-IE and non-Dravidian languages in the subcontinent. Maybe some predecessor of Kusunda was such a language. In any case, the wikipedia article mentions this idea:

Quote:
 
Watters (2005) published a mid-sized grammatical description of the language, plus vocabulary, which shows that Kusunda is indeed a language isolate, not just genealogically but also lexically, grammatically, and phonologically distinct from its neighbors. It appears that Kusunda is a remnant of the languages spoken in northern India before the influx of Tibeto-Burman- and Indo-Iranian-speaking peoples.


And the recent autosomal study doesn't exclude the possibility that one of its predecessors was such a pre-IE, non-Dravidian language even though it indicates that at least two very different language communities might have merged in the case of the ancestors of present-day Kusunda.
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Ebizur
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cf. Gyaneshwer Chaubey, Manvendra Singh, Federica Crivellaro et al., "Unravelling the distinct strains of Tharu ancestry." European Journal of Human Genetics (2014), 1–9.

Chaubey et alii have included a sample of Kusunda people in some of their analyses. The sample of Kusunda that they have used is most similar to Tibetans from Spiti, other Tibeto-Burmans in India, and Tharus from Uttarakhand, India (these last are speakers of an Aryan dialect, but seem to have experienced massive genetic influence from Tibeto-Burman-related people, or are perhaps actually a Tibeto-Burman population that has been linguistically Aryanized and also genetically modified through admixture from people genetically similar to modern Aryo-Dravidian populations of South Asia). An ADMIXTURE analysis (Figure 2c) shows that the Kusunda are very similar to the Uttarakhand Tharu, but the Kusunda have somewhat more "(North)east Asian," somewhat less "(South) Indian," slightly less of the minor "Oceanian" component, and lack the very minor "Austronesian" and "Neo-African" components that are found in the Tharu. The Spiti Tibetans on average have slightly less "(South) Indian," "Oceanian," and "Austroasiatic," slightly more "European" and "Austronesian," and substantially more "Caucasus-Gedrosian/Indus" than the Kusunda. In the PCA plot (Figure 2b), these affinities are realized as the Kusunda being somewhat spread out mainly along an East Asian-South Asian axis parallel to the Spiti Tibetans (on the genetic "north" of the Kusunda) and the Uttarakhand Tharu (on the genetic "south" of the Kusunda). Other Indian Tibeto-Burmans have much less Western Eurasian admixture (only a sliver of "Caucasus-Gedrosian/Indus" and about a third as much "(South) Indian" as the Spiti Tibetans), with the difference being made up by "(North)east Asian," "Austroasiatic," and "Austronesian," so they appear significantly shifted toward the "east" on the PCA (though it is probably the Kusunda who have been shifted toward the "WSW" in reality through admixture with Aryo-Dravidian people).

The Kusunda are also fairly similar to (but somewhat more (North)east Asian or genetically "northward-shifted" than) the Khasi. The Kusunda differ from the Khasi mainly in the Kusunda's being more "East Asian" and less "Southeast Asian" (the latter consisting of mainly the Austroasiatic-centered component but also the Austronesian-centered component) than the Khasi. In regard to their non-Eastern Eurasian components, the Khasi and Kusunda are quite similar, but the Khasi's Western Eurasian elements may tend to be slightly more "northern" (and with slightly less "Oceanic" affinity) than the Kusunda's Western Eurasian elements, which tend to be more typically South Asian (including the minor "Oceanic" element). This might be mere statistical noise, but I suppose it might also be possible that the South Asian influence on the Khasi has come from people who are of slightly higher mean varna than the South Asian influence on the Kusunda (higher varna in South Asia seems to correlate with a genetically northwesterly tendency, whereas lower varna seems to correlate with a genetically southeasterly tendency); alternatively, the Khasi might contain a very small recent European element that is lacking in the ancestry of the Kusunda. Ultimately, on the PCA plot, the southeasterly tendency of the Eastern Eurasian components in the Khasi is more than enough to cancel out any northwesterly tendency of their Western Eurasian components, and they end up basically on the "south" side of the Uttarakhand Tharu. So the populations intermediate between South Asians and East/Southeast Asians seem to go Hazara - Spiti Tibetans - Kusunda - Uttarakhand Tharu - Khasi in order from "north" to "south."

From the autosomal genetic point of view, at least, the Kusunda are most likely a Tibeto-Burman population, perhaps with a relatively great (compared to other Tibeto-Burman populations) influence from a (most likely non-Austroasiatic, i.e. Aryan- or Dravidian-related South Asian) adstratum. The modern Kusunda remnants are clearly more similar genetically to Tibeto-Burmans than they are to other South Asians, so if there has been any influence from a non-Tibeto-Burman substratum on the Kusunda population, it must have been minor or heavily diluted over time. Overall, I think this looks like a probable case of Tibeto-Burman (or some genetically similar, i.e. Northeast Asian sort of) indigenous Himalayans being assimilated by Nepali Aryans.

Of course, the above applies only to the (perhaps recent) genetic history of the remnants of the Kusunda population. The history of their language may be another matter.
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black man
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JCA
Sep 26 2014, 08:30:00 PM
The Kusunda are also fairly similar to (but somewhat more (North)east Asian or genetically "northward-shifted" than) the Khasi. The Kusunda differ from the Khasi mainly in the Kusunda's being more "East Asian" and less "Southeast Asian" (mainly the Austroasiatic-centered component but also the Austronesian-centered component) than the Khasi. In regard to their non-Eastern Eurasian components, the Khasi and Kusunda are quite similar, but the Khasi's Western Eurasian elements may tend to be slightly more "northern" (and with slightly less "Oceanic" affinity) than the Kusunda's Western Eurasian elements, which tend to be more typically South Asian (including the minor "Oceanic" element). This might be mere statistical noise, but I suppose it might also be possible that the South Asian influence on the Khasi has come from people who are of slightly higher mean varna than the South Asian influence on the Kusunda (higher varna in South Asia seems to correlate with a genetically northwesterly tendency, whereas lower varna seems to correlate with a genetically southeasterly tendency); alternatively, the Khasi might contain a very small recent European element that is lacking in the ancestry of the Kusunda. Ultimately, on the PCA plot, the southeasterly tendency of the Eastern Eurasian components in the Khasi is more than enough to cancel out any northwesterly tendency of their Western Eurasian components, and they end up basically on the "south" side of the Uttarakhand Tharu. So the populations intermediate between South Asians and East/Southeast Asians seem to go Hazara - Spiti Tibetans - Kusunda - Uttarakhand Tharu - Khasi in order from "north" to "south."

From the autosomal genetic point of view, at least, the Kusunda are most likely a Tibeto-Burman population, perhaps with a relatively great (compared to other Tibeto-Burman populations) influence from a (most likely non-Austroasiatic, i.e. Aryan- or Dravidian-related South Asian) adstratum. The modern Kusunda remnants are clearly more similar genetically to Tibeto-Burmans than they are to other South Asians, so if there has been any influence from a non-Tibeto-Burman substratum on the Kusunda population, it must have been minor or heavily diluted over time. Overall, I think this looks like a probable case of Tibeto-Burman (or some genetically similar, i.e. Northeast Asian sort of) indigenous Himalayans being assimilated by Nepali Aryans.

Of course, the above applies only to the (perhaps recent) genetic history of the remnants of the Kusunda population. The history of their language may be another matter.
Very interesting. As far as I can judge, language tends to be a matter of power accumulations in the past and present. Most people speak languages which can be associated with former conquerors, such as English, Spanish, Russian and French, languages of administration and education. Apart from that, the languages of economically powerful agglomerations might be of interest when people want to get a good job which is available only outside of isolated traditional communities.



While an extinct southern Himalayan branch of AA doesn't seem to be unlikely according to some authors, a centre of genetic continuity still needs to be found. (If there is none, one would have to ask why Tibeto-Burmese should have adopted features of a minority language. It wouldn't make any sense because there wouldn't have been any benefit for Tibeto-Burman majorities adopting features of a foreign language.)

Measurements by Field (1970), Bhasin (1974) and Teschke (1954) confirmed that the Limbu must be among the most short-headed people in Nepal. Further, the Rai and the Newar are relatively short-headed. By contrast, the Sherpa have rather long heads (like Tibetans). (I'm referring to absolute head lengths which cause the Sherpa to have a relatively low head index despite of having relatively broad heads.)

Now, one might already exclude the Newar until further notice because their y hg distribution seems to imply standard Sino-Tibetan and standard South Asian ancestries. But these others are genetically less known. MtDNA hg profiles already revealed something unusual in eastern peripheral South Asia, though. So I wonder whether certain autosomal genes classified as "South Asian" according to those bars could be originally from eastern Asia.

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Ebizur
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Here is a video of an elderly woman who is claimed to be one of the last speakers of the Kusunda language and her family:

"The Last Kusunda Speaker"

She and her family do look very "East Asian," though they have intermediate skin colors (not so light as typical East Asians, nor so dark as typical South Asians). Khasi people tend to have a more ambiguous look that is somewhere between "Southeast Asian" and "European" (but of course much closer to the former) IMHO.

Of course, the Kusunda as a linguistic community are practically extinct, which is probably correlated to some extent with an increase in gene flow between the Kusunda and other populations in their vicinity. Therefore, it is difficult to know how much the looks of this lady and her family reflect those of ancient (or "original") Kusunda people, and how much they reflect the looks of Chepangs or those of lower class Nepalis in general (who would be the most likely to have mixed with Kusundas in recent generations).
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black man
The Right Hand
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Btw, as far as I can judge after a short glimpse, the bars (fig. 2c) are notoriously misleading as for the recent paper. (E.g., the Japanese bar is very much orange as if the Japanese had very significant level of "Austronesian" admixture. Also, if I'm not mistaken, there is a lack of Han regional samples.) AFAIK, the bars in the paper by the pan-Asian consortium are more in accordance with linguistic and non-autosomal genetic data than this one.

However, the interpretation of fig. 2b seems to be easy: if the turquoise triangles represent Kusunda samples, Kusundas might simply be dropouts from three (or more) different source populations who chose to speak a language adapted to premodern life in a forest. (One of the videos on Kusunda actually refers to their language as something like that.) In that case, there would have been a "Kusunda lifestyle" but no "Kusunda ethnic group" (when "ethnic group" means something primordial based on ancestry first of all).

Interestingly, some of the "Kusunda" samples are close to the "Indian TB" cluster (which probably consists of Naga, Garo and Nyishi according to supporting table 11), another "Kusunda" sample even being inside of the latter and very close to several "SEA-AA" samples. So I'd say that there are possibly significant traces of AA ancestry in the genomes of certain Nepalese people.

Concerning Kusunda, one could suppose that the language was originally spoken by some meanwhile no longer identifiable people, people whose phenotypes were very different from present-day Nepalese phenotypes. Then the ancestors of people related to the Nyishi etc and others might have been pushed into the forests by Tibetans. (Historically, Tibetans expanded from a landscape of sparse vegetation and notoriously looked down on people who lived in forest regions.) The first group of these people possibly bullied by Tibetans might have been small in number and could have adopted proto-Kusunda language in order to learn from natives how to survive in the forests. But later on, multiple groups of Tibeto-Burman migrants into the forests might have gradually outnumbered those proto-Kusunda-speakers. So, in short, the original speakers of proto-Kusunda might have died out some time ago although a derivative of their language was still in use as a lingua franca until recently. (Strangely, those scattered triangles do seem to point to such a lingua franca in their case. It would be different if the triangles were close to each other.)
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Ebizur
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black man
Sep 27 2014, 02:31:43 PM
Btw, as far as I can judge after a short glimpse, the bars (fig. 2c) are notoriously misleading as for the recent paper. (E.g., the Japanese bar is very much orange as if the Japanese had very significant level of "Austronesian" admixture. Also, if I'm not mistaken, there is a lack of Han regional samples.) AFAIK, the bars in the paper by the pan-Asian consortium are more in accordance with linguistic and non-autosomal genetic data than this one.
I think that they are no more misleading than the bar graphs produced in any other populationwise ADMIXTURE analysis. I have seen this same pattern in many other studies in which a similar group of samples has been analyzed; if Oroqen had been included, they should have appeared with an even higher yellow ("Northeast Asian") / orange ("Austronesian") ratio than the Mongol, Daur, and Hezhen samples. Japanese regularly appear as approximately 75% "Northeast Asian" and approximately 25% "Southeast Asian" (in this case, "Austronesian" rather than "Austroasiatic") in ADMIXTURE analyses in which East/Southeast Asians are limited to those within East and Southeast Asia proper (i.e. excluding North Asians). When North Asians are included, Japanese usually appear as something closer to 25% "North Asian" and 75% "East/Southeast Asian." The results do seem to vary significantly depending on what number of which samples of which ethnic groups are included in the analysis.

They have included a Minnan sample in addition to a "Han" sample, by the way. The Minnan sample appears to be roughly intermediate between their "Han" sample and their "Hmong" and "Hmong_Miao" samples, with less "(North)east Asian" (and, surprisingly, about the same or slightly less "Austroasiatic") than the "Han" sample, with the difference being taken up by "Austronesian," whereas the Hmong/Miao samples have somewhat more "Austroasiatic" than the Han or the Minnan but approximately the same amount of "Austronesian" as the Minnan.

black man
Sep 27 2014, 02:31:43 PM
However, the interpretation of fig. 2b seems to be easy: if the turquoise triangles represent Kusunda samples, Kusundas might simply be dropouts from three (or more) different source populations who chose to speak a language adapted to premodern life in a forest. (One of the videos on Kusunda actually refers to their language as something like that.) In that case, there would have been a "Kusunda lifestyle" but no "Kusunda ethnic group" (when "ethnic group" means something primordial based on ancestry first of all).


Interestingly, some of the "Kusunda" samples are close to the "Indian TB" cluster (which probably consists of Naga, Garo and Nyishi according to supporting table 11), another "Kusunda" sample even being inside of the latter and very close to several "SEA-AA" samples. So I'd say that there are possibly significant traces of AA ancestry in the genomes of certain Nepalese people.
As I mentioned in my original post in this thread, the Kusunda individuals in Figure 2b are somewhat spread out between East Asians and South Asians; the qualifier "somewhat" indicating that the Kusunda are not so spread out as the Spiti Tibetans, who range from fully "Chinese" to fully "Pakistani," but the Kusunda are more spread out than the Uttarakhand Tharu, who appear to be quite homogeneous/thoroughly homogenized (except one outlier who deviates strongly toward mainstream Indians). Only one of the Kusunda individuals appears to have a strong probability of "southern" (Indian AA?) admixture; the others all fall into a narrow band between mainstream North Indians ("Indian IE") and Chinese ("Altaic", "EA_TB," and "Hmong-Mien"), though one other Kusunda individual does deviate a bit "northward" from the majority of the Kusunda group, and falls squarely among the Spiti Tibetans as a result, and there is that one individual you have pointed out who deviates slightly toward SEA-AA and Tai-Kadai and falls among the Indian_TB.

black man
Sep 27 2014, 02:31:43 PM
Concerning Kusunda, one could suppose that the language was originally spoken by some meanwhile no longer identifiable people, people whose phenotypes were very different from present-day Nepalese phenotypes. Then the ancestors of people related to the Nyishi etc and others might have been pushed into the forests by Tibetans. (Historically, Tibetans expanded from a landscape of sparse vegetation and notoriously looked down on people who lived in forest regions.) The first group of these people possibly bullied by Tibetans might have been small in number and could have adopted proto-Kusunda language in order to learn from natives how to survive in the forests. But later on, multiple groups of Tibeto-Burman migrants into the forests might have gradually outnumbered those proto-Kusunda-speakers. So, in short, the original speakers of proto-Kusunda might have died out some time ago although a derivative of their language was still in use as a lingua franca until recently. (Strangely, those scattered triangles do seem to point to such a lingua franca in their case. It would be different if the triangles were close to each other.)
However, the Chepang, who are precisely one of those non-Tibetan Tibeto-Burman peoples who may have fled into the forest to avoid Tibetans or the like, supposedly dreaded the Kusunda as extremely primitive savages (like the Formosan headhunters were despised and dreaded by Han settlers, etc.), so it seems very unlikely that they would have adopted the Kusunda language for any reason.

I see a paradox here. The sampled Kusunda are clearly recently admixed because they have a fairly broad spread (mostly) along a vector between North Indians on one side and various populations of China on the other side despite the very small census population size and small geographic spread of the Kusunda ethnic group (i.e. it is implausible that they could have sustained such great genetic diversity over time within their small population). However, the Kusunda appear to have been viewed as extremely primitive and noxious folk by their closest neighbors in recent times. Why would anyone admix into the Kusunda ethnic group and bother to learn their language? I suppose what we might be seeing in the PCA plot and the ADMIXTURE analysis is very recent admixture that has affected the genetic composition of the Kusunda people subsequent to or concomitant with the decline of the Kusunda language into its current moribund state. In other words, the oddly low homogeneity of the Kusunda sample is probably directly related to the decline of the Kusunda as a distinct ethnolinguistic group, so the genetic spread probably has been caused by admixture from whichever population(s) has/have been assimilating the Kusunda people. According to Wikipedia, "Nepali is now their language of everyday communication," and they seem to have been in contact mostly with Chepang and mainstream Nepali people, so the most likely sources of recent admixture in the Kusundas should be Nepali Aryans (probably similar to North Indians but with some Sino-Tibetan admixture) and early (sub-)Himalayan Tibeto-Burman peoples (Chepang, Magar, Limbu, etc.). Unfortunately, the position that should have been occupied on that PCA plot by the "original" Kusundas cannot be deduced without quantifying the amount of admixture from every population that has influenced the Kusundas recently (probably lower class members of the mainstream Nepali population, and maybe also some nearby tribal peoples, such as Chepangs, though it may be difficult to explain why descendants of Kusunda-Chepang intermarriage would choose to identify as Kusunda barring some sort of social rule regarding such cases, i.e. a requirement that one identify with one's mother's ethnic group or a requirement that one identify with one's father's ethnic group).
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black man
The Right Hand
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Anyway, if Kusunda language came from East Asia, that will mean that East Asia lost some linguistic diversity. it should be clear from where to enter the Himalayan plateau when one isn't specialised economically on living in an extreme landscape like that of northern Xizang etc. But the ethnically hyper-diverse region to the southeast of it is a potential refuge area to which many different kinds of people might have fled. There isn't just TB but also HM, TK and MK. And even Sinitic-speakers might have arrived as political refugees in premodern times. On the other hand, eastern China is conspicuously homogeneous with (Japanese and Austronesian) polysyllabic languages being spread in the islands to the east of mainland coastal China only.

In this sense, Kusunda y-chromosomes might of particular interest when one considers van Driem's idea of people speaking "father tongues" to be valid.

Btw, you'll find some more Kusunda pictures when you use "कुसुण्डा" as a keyword.
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Ebizur
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It's nice to hear from you again, black man. Thanks for the Indic text.

This looks like another photo of Gyani Maya Sen's family, but with two additional family members who have not been featured in the video clip to which I have linked previously:
Posted Image

This individual seems to be another elderly Kusunda:
Posted Image
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black man
The Right Hand
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Possibly of interest:
van Driem 2017: "Converging views on Asian prehistory", p. 7:

Quote:
 
As some of us know, haplogroup Q is found in parts of the Balkan as well as in a small but noteworthy subset of Brahmin septs of the sub-Himalayan highlands of Nepal, not to mention in some of the Kusunda. (...) It may soon be made known that the subclade of haplogroup Q found in the Kusunda population of Nepal may reflect a far greater time depth than the slice of time which connects the Dalmatian coast with certain septs of high caste in Nepal’s mid hills, for example. There are many slices of time in the past which we must carefully keep distinct. Pending the publication of these fascinating population genetic data, historical linguists will have their work cut out for them, and there is much left to be done.





addendum:

Rasmussen et al. 2011 seemed to have been the first ones who wrote on Kusunda autosomal samples. But the first ones who addressed the mtDNA and y hg categories of Kusunda individual samples seem to be Mallick et al. 2016. Both of the two samples the latter mention in their supplementary table are in y hg "H2b". Moreover, "Kusunda02" is in mtDNA hg "U2c", while "Kusunda15" in mtDNA hg M5c2.

Source:
Mallick et al. 2016: "The Simons Genome Diversity Project: 300 genomes from 142 diverse populations"; doi: 10.1038/nature18964
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