November 09, 2009

Population affinities of Parsis

International Journal of Osteoarchaeology doi:10.1002/oa.1123

Population affinities of Parsis in the Indian subcontinent

Manjari Jonnalagadda et al.


The present study was an attempt to document changes in frequencies of dental morphology traits and understand phenetic affinities of Parsis, who migrated to the Indian subcontinent around the 8th century. Despite successfully integrating themselves into the Indian society, they have retained their ethnicity and distinct cultural practices. This study was conceived as a result of an excavation at the site of Sanjan, Gujarat which, as per historical records, is believed to be the first town in the Indian subcontinent with a large Parsi settlement thereby facilitating a diachronic comparison between the ancestral and extant Parsi groups. We compared and analysed dental traits between the two groups expecting a very close relationship between them owing to their ancestor-descendent relationship. Eleven discrete dental traits were selected and scored using the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System (ASUDAS). Frequency changes were assessed by comparing trait frequencies; whereas phenetic affinity between Parsis was assessed by statistically comparing them with 13 populations using Smith's mean measure of divergence (MMD) statistic. Comparison of dental trait frequencies between Sanjan and extant Parsi samples show significant differences in incisor morphology, Carabelli cusp and Hypocone development. Trait frequencies, MMD values and 2D multidimensional scaling (MDS) plot indicate that extant Parsis and Sanjan samples are distantly separated from each other. Extant Parsis show closer affinity to low caste Mahars and tribal Madia Gonds than South and Central Asian groups. Sanjan is distant from all other groups including extant Parsis. It is likely that genetic drift accentuated by their small numbers and strict endogamy has resulted in divergence of Parsi groups. Similarly, their convergence with Maharashtran groups indicates admixture of Parsis with local groups, which supports earlier conducted mtDNA studies.


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