View Full Version : The Bhil-Nihali paper

10-13-2017, 01:18 AM
You might be aware of the paper by Gyaneshwer Chaubey et al., "The Genome-Wide Analysis of the Bhils: The Second Largest Tribal Population of India". The abstract says

The name of the Bhil population was mentioned in early literature of the Subcontinent, which suggests their presence in India since prehistoric times. Studies based on classical and genetic markers suggest a unique identity of the Bhil, who currently live in western and central Indian states. Our previous studies on two Bhil groups living in central and western Indian regions drew different conclusions on their origin. However, the first study on the Bhil of central India was based on haploid DNA and a few autosomal markers, whereas the second study on the western Bhil explored large number of autosomal SNPs. Therefore, in this study we have reconnoitered the inter-population and intra-population relationships of Bhil groups at four different geographical locations by using >95,000 autosomal SNPs. A combination of statistical analysis revealed that all Bhil populations are likely to have had a common source sharing a pan-Bhil ancestry. This common ancestry is clearly seen amongst the Bhil of Gujarat who turned out to show the lowest degree of admixture with their neighbours, whereas the Bhil of Rajasthan showed the highest diversity with extensive admixture with the surrounding populations. Both inter-population and intra-population comparison suggest a shared Bhil genome followed by chunks sharing with the Nihali population, a language community speaking a so-called language isolate.

They also write in their "Results and Discussion" section,

The fineSTRUCTURE analysis revealed a most recent common ancestry of the Bhil with the Nihali population of central India. It is likely that the excessive number of chunks from Nihali to Bhil1 might have been lost secondarily due to a high level of admixture with local Rajasthani and Gujarati populations.

The Nihali language, which is a threatened (only 2000 people reportedly speak it :( ) linguistic isolate spoken in west-central India, is generally thought of as a pre-Indo-Aryan, pre-Dravidian and a pre-Austroasiatic language in India. If I understood the conclusions of the paper correctly (just the sociological-related end conclusion and no genetics whatsoever, pardon me), then the significantly more numerous Indo-Aryan-speaking Bhils appear to share a recent (such as just before and during the northwestern Neolithic and not any more remote connection ---please correct me if I am wrong in thinking of it that way) common ancestry with the Nihali speakers. The Bhils majorly reside in the western Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and also in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Perhaps the ancestors of the language-shifted Bhils and the Nihalis were some of the mesolithic communities in the northern Gujarat and Rajasthan area seen till as recently as 2550-2150 BC at Langhnaj and in their original form may have represented one of the ASI population groups of northern, western and perhaps even northwestern India; with respect to language too (partially because of the survival of Nihali language), in addition to the genetic nature.