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EARLY INDIANS : The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From – Tony Joseph

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Who are we Indians? Where did we come from? To tell us the story of our ancestry, journalist Tony Joseph goes 65,000 years into the past – when a band of Homo sapiens first made their way from Africa into the Indian subcontinent. These were the First Indians. Citing recent DNA evidence, he traces the subsequent large migrations of modern humans into India – of a people related to early farmers of Iran who mixed with the First Indians at the latest between 5400 BCE and 3700 BCE and of the ‘Arya’ between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE, among others. As Joseph unravels our past, he takes head-on some of the most controversial and uncomfortable questions of Indian history: Who were the Harappans? Are north Indians genetically different from south Indians? When did the caste system emerge? A hugely significant book, Early Indians bravely puts to rest several fierce debates on the ancestry of modern Indians.

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Review
‘If you really want to know who we are, and how we got here, this is the book for you. A thrilling account of our extraordinary past – I couldn’t put it down.’ – Gurcharan Das

‘An amazing book, written in an engaging style . . . It grabs your interest from the first sentence.’ – Bibek Debroy

‘At a time when the issue of the peopling of the planet by anatomically modern humans is becoming hotter and hotter, Tony Joseph has admirably cooled it down. He goes deep into recent developments in ancient DNA studies on human remains and delves into the issue of the “Aryan Migration”. This is a vexing issue and not so easy to conclude. However, Joseph has marshalled multidisciplinary data from archaeology, linguistics, genetics and literature to support his stand on the issue. This is perhaps the most scientific way of presenting the Aryan debate. Lucidity is the hallmark of this book.’ – Ravi Korisettar

‘Intellectual omnivore Tony Joseph offers an enjoyable meander through a minefield of how our ancestors got here.’ -Pranay Lal

‘Masterful and unbiased reconstruction of human presence in India using evidence from archaeology, ancient and modern history, linguistics, geography and genetics, with a tilt on genetic evidence.’ – Partha P. Majumder

‘Joseph deftly and brilliantly summarizes new findings of genetics that definitively solve old problems in South Asian history, and show we are all migrants and, ultimately, kin. A timely, fascinating and courageous book.’- Sheldon Pollock

‘There has been a lot of controversy about the origins of various populations, and in India, much of this is driven by a quasi-religious ideology. It is therefore refreshing to see how recent advances in DNA sequencing from people of various ethnicities as well as remains of ancient people is shedding light on the origins, migration and intermixing of people throughout history. In this very readable account, Tony Joseph has distilled the results of recent research and his book should be of interest to anyone curious about the waves of migration and intermixing that resulted in the rich tapestry that makes up the people of today’s India.’- Venki Ramakrishnan

‘DNA studies of Indians dating to the millennia BCE confirm that they were a mixed population, and at a particular time included migrants from Central Asia. Given that these are initial studies their readings require circumspection when equating DNA identities with those from other sources. Tony Joseph’s perceptive summary suggests how this new information might help clarify some of our understanding of the early past.’ – Romila Thapar

‘Tony Joseph’s book provides a remarkably accessible overview of the early stages of ancient Indian history, starting with the immigration from Africa of current humans to the age of the Vedas. He provides evidence from several fields of scientific enquiry, notably archaeology, linguistics, ancient texts and the very recent study of ancient genes (aDNA). The latter is currently revolutionizing ancient history not just of India but also of Europe, Africa and South America. Accordingly, T. Joseph lays to rest the question about the origins of the so-called (Indo-)Aryans and their settlement in ancient India – which has basically been politically motivated, especially for the past 40 years. As common in scholarship, not all individual scholars may agree on all questions and conclusions (such as the nature of the Indus civilization and its relation with the origin of the Dravidian speakers). However, finally, a firm basis for writing the history of ancient India is laid. The various sciences, in the end, lead us from darkness to the light of insight.’- Michael Witzel

‘Joseph has told an extremely complex tale very lucidly. It’s quite remarkable . . . India could have faced a drought of accessible writing on academic questions after the generation represented by Jayant Narlikar, Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar, but new arrivals like . . . Joseph’s exploration of the humanscape, offer considerable promise. Read Early Indians soon.’ – Pratik Kanjilal, Indian Express

‘A lucid and enthralling narrative that combines forensic examination with the compelling twists and turns of an unfolding mystery.’ – Sunil Sethi, Business Standard

‘An astonishing tale, difficult to put down . . . This book is excellent science journalism, the kind that we need more of in other disciplines.’ – Sujatha Byravan, The Hindu

‘A book of such national importance . . . Joseph deserves our gratitude for writing a masterpiece with such clarity and lucidity, despite numerous opportunities for confusion, and a flair that renders the stories of our roots exciting . . . every Indian should read the book.’- Jay Desai, Wire

‘The question “Who are we?” has been answered brilliantly.’ – Swaminathan A. Aiyar, Economic Times

‘Tony Joseph has given us a book that, with its racy style, is easy to read. By proposing puzzles, he makes dull evidence lively for the reader. He simultaneously maintains a level of academic accuracy that adds weight to his hypotheses and conclusions. This is a book which all who are interested in both history and historical method should read – and enjoy.’ – Irfan Habib, Studies in People’s History

‘Remarkably accessible to the reader, dense as it is with evidence from multiple branches of knowledge such as archaeology, linguistics, ancient texts and, most notably, the recent study of ancient genes (aDNA) . . . here is a firm basis on which the study of Indian history can begin.’ – Kesavan Veluthat, Frontline

‘Joseph has presented new findings from the fields of archaeology, anthropology, linguistics and genetics (including ancient DNA) and very precisely describes the complete story in four chapters.’ – K. Thangaraj and L. Kumar, Current Science

‘[A] fascinating history of Indians as a people . . . Joseph writes with an infectious enthusiasm . . . a readable overview of India’s early history as well as how advances in human genetics – but also linguistics and other sciences – have revolutionized our understanding of pre-history.’ – Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books

‘There is so much going on in DNA studies . . . that having a solid guide to stitch it all together, including papers that landed with a giant thud in 2018, would be so very, very nice . . . Tony Joseph’s Early Indians fits the bill mightily. It brings together many lines of research centering around ancient and modern DNA studies in a lucid, engaging way that makes complex concepts easier to understand . . . Tony Joseph has provided a wonderfully engaging and sophisticated lens to start understanding and absorbing all this information through.’ – Harappa.com

‘Does an excellent job presenting a clear and concise narrative of the origins of early Indians.’ – Razib Khan, India Today

‘Important, accessible and thought-provoking . . . Joseph has done an excellent job . . . opens the doorways of prehistory to whole new audiences . . . groundbreaking.’ Anirudh Kanisetti, Pragati

‘Brilliantly sums up the recent genetic research and rightly characterizes the Indian Civilization as a “multi-source civilization”.’ Ashish Kumar, Telegraph

About the Author
Tony Joseph, former editor of Businessworld, has been a columnist and contributor to leading newspapers and magazines. He has written many impactful articles on Indian prehistory.

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