The story of Gypsy ethnogenesis and migration, and a review of the historical context at the time helps one shatter the illusion that the human cultural and genetic makeup into deep prehistory are fundamentally static. While some of the details of the Gypsy story are still being worked out, multiple wanderings of whole peoples in this era over long distances, and major demographic and linguistic shifts that are historically documented, are both important in their own right, and illustrate how new peoples can materially shift the demographic makeup of territories. The fact that this process could have happened casts doubts on inferrences about past populations based on current ones. It also helps to put flesh onto the question of what kind of events drive migrations of whole peoples, sometimes over great distances, which provides guidance in efforts to attach plausible narratives to prehistoric events where more fragmentary evidence prohibit a definitive conclusion from being reached with direct historical accounts. This era, which wasn't particularly advanced technologically in ways relevant to a capacity to participate in mass migrations, relative to Bronze Age and Chalcolithic or even earlier populations. So, these historical accounts serve to caution us against underestimating what early Neolithic peoples could accomplish.
The latest new piece of information on the question comes in a study to be published in the upcoming issue of the journal Gene (hat top to Dienkes). Regueiro M, Rivera L, Chennakrishnaiah S, Popovic B, Andjus S, Milasin J, Herrera RJ., "Y-STR haplotype shared between Roma and South Indians: Ancestral modal Y-STR haplotype shared among Romani and South Indian populations." Gene (May 17, 2012). The abstract to the article is as follows:
One of the primary unanswered questions regarding the dispersal of Romani populations concerns the geographical region and/or the Indian caste/tribe that gave rise to the proto-Romani group. To shed light on this matter, 161 Y-chromosomes from Roma, residing in two different provinces of Serbian, were analyzed.
Our results indicate that the paternal gene pool of both groups is shaped by several strata, the most prominent of which, H1-M52, comprises almost half of each collection's patrilineages. The high frequency of M52 chromosomes in the two Roma populations examined may suggest that they descend from a single founder that has its origins in the Indian subcontinent. Moreover, when the Y-STR profiles of haplogroup H derived individuals in our Roma populations were compared to those typed in the South Indian emigrants from Malaysia and groups from Madras, Karnataka (Lingayat and Vokkaliga castes) and tribal Soligas, sharing of the two most common haplotypes was observed. These similarities suggest that South India may have been one of the contributors to the proto-Romanis.
European genetic signatures (i.e., haplogroups E1b1b1a1b-V13, G2a-P15, I-M258, J2-M172 and R1-M173), on the other hand, were also detected in both groups, but at varying frequencies. The divergent European genetic signals in each collection are likely the result of differential gene flow and/or admixture with the European host populations but may also be attributed to dissimilar endogamous practices following the initial founder effect. Our data also supports the notion that a number of haplogroups including G2a-P15, J2a3b-M67(xM92), I-M258 and E1b1b1-M35 were incorporated into the proto-Romani paternal lineages as migrants moved from northern India through Southwestern Asia, the Middle East and/or Anatolia into the Balkans.
This study of Romani Y-DNA confirms prior Y-DNA studies suggesting a possible gypsy link to South India as an at least partial Gyspy urheimat, despite linguistic ties to the province of Punjab in Northwest India, and mtDNA evidence that could be places other than Punjab as well.
Since the mtDNA and linguistic evidence does not show the same kind of strong Southern Indian affinity, this suggests a possible male dominated migration from South India to Northwest India (probably Punjab) who marry local woman and then continue their migration through West Asia to Europe. This would also make this case remarkable for being one in which language of women rather than men in a culturally hybrid group prevails.
Best estimates from linguistic data support a migration from Punjab ca. 1000 CE-1030 CE (with reliable attestations not found constitently until the 1300s and the interim probably spent somewhere in the greatly reduced Byzantine empire of that era), with some wiggle room up to perhaps a couple of centuries sooner. I have yet to see any real convincing evidence concerning the "why" behind this quite exceptional long distance migration of an entire people, something that neither genetic evidence nor language can tell us. The most likely dates would coincide with the Little Ice Age, however, and this period was disruptive in many historically documented societies.
* According to an informed commenter at one of my previous posts: "Not all Gypsies (Romanies) are Roma. Gitanos, Romanichals, and Sinti are not considered to be Roma, but are Romanies and speak variations of Romany. Roma are Romanies that are specifically from Eastern Europe but the Sinti made it to Germany centuries before the Roma did. In fact, in Germany they usually make it a point to use the phrase "Sinti and Roma" to include both groups."
The Gypsies would have arrived in West Asia around the time that most of the Byzantine empire (the continuous successor to the eastern part of the Roman Empire) had been overrun by a succession of Islamic empires that began their expansion in the 7th century CE, but before the much diminished Byzantine Empire had entirely fallen in its last redoubt in the vicinity of its Anatolian capital at Constantinople. In the end, pretty much the entire area came to be ruled by the Ottoman Empire, whose final collapse and post-World War I division is the prelude to almost all of the countries in the Near East today.
Far less progress has been made in determining the historical circumstances that caused this remarkable migration to take place, despite the fact that written languages where in use in India and everyplace along the route that the Gypsies took to Europe. The first definitive historical records of the Gypsies come from the general vicinity of Romania. There are several historical records of South Asian populations in West Asia in the relevant couple of centuries, but none are very detailed or definitive linked to the European Romani people.
The most plausible candidate as a cause of the Gypsy exodus from South Asia would be the circumstances surrounding the fall of the Gujara-Praihara empire ca. 1018 CE when the capital city was sacked by Muslim invaders (a second pillaging of the city following its capture by another Indian dynasty in 916 that was short lived). It dynastic leaders ruled under the title "Protectors" in substantial part for their role, somewhat parallel to that of Charlamagne in France, of preventing the Islamic empire from expanding into their territory.
Islamic invaders controlled Persia (i.e. Iran) by the early 700s and from their continued to expand the Umayyad empire into Sindh Province, Pakistan with a capital in what is now Hyderabad in a campaign from 712 CE to 720 CE. But, "[a]fter several wars including the Battle of Rajasthan, where the Hindu Rajput clans defeated the Umayyad Arabs, their expansion was checked and contained to Sindh in Pakistan." The Guraja Pratihara Empire was on the winning side of the Battle of Rajasthan, and had some semblance of sovereignty until about 1018 CE when Mahmud of Ghazni, the Sunni Islamic Caliph of what is now Eastern Iran and Sindh, Pakistan (and ultimately Afghanistan and parts of India) sacked its capital city of Kannauj. But, in the 900s, the empire started to decline:
Bhoja II (910–912) was overthrown by Mahipala I (912–914). Several feudatories of the empire took advantage of the temporary weakness of the Gurjar Pratiharas to declare their independence, notably the Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandelas of Bundelkhand, and the Kalachuris of Mahakoshal. The Rashtrakuta emperor Indra III (c.914–928) briefly captured Kannauj in 916, and although the Pratiharas regained the city, their position continued to weaken in the 10th century, partly as a result of the drain of simultaneously fighting off Turkic attacks from the west and the Pala advances in the east. The Gurjar-Pratiharas lost control of Rajasthan to their feudatories, and the Chandelas captured the strategic fortress of Gwalior in central India, c. 950. By the end of the tenth century the Gurjar Pratihara domains had dwindled to a small state centered on Kannauj. Mahmud of Ghazni sacked Kannauj in 1018, and the Pratihara ruler Rajapala fled. The Chandela ruler Gauda captured and killed Rajapala, placing Rajapala's son Trilochanpala on the throne as a proxy. Jasapala, the last Gurjar ruler of Kanauj, died in 1036.Parallel Dispersals, Migrations and Conquests in the early Current Era
The Gypsy migration came in an era of considerable tumult, demographic shifts, and long range migrations around the world, several of which may have been fundamentally driven by climatic phenomena. Many, but not all, of these events have left clear marks that still have an impact today.
There are at least three other pre-modern periods that were so widely turbulent in the historic era, which are the book end arid periods at the dawn and collapse of the Bronze Age and the fall of Rome which marks the end of the Iron Age. The first and more severe of the two Bronze Age arid periods took place at roughly 2000 BCE leading to an "intermediary period" in Egypt, the fall of the Akkadian empire in Mesopotamia, and quite possibly the collapse of the Harappan civilizan in the Indus River Valley. Bronze Age collapse, which wasn't quite as severe but was much bettter documented, took place around 1200 BCE. It led to the settlement of the Philistines (who were Mycenian Greeks) in the Levant, the conditions that made it possible for a Hebrew state to emerge in the Levant, an intermediary period in Egypt, the fall of the Hittite empire in Anatolia, Syria and Northern Mesopotamia, the Trojan War, and the demise of the religious-cultural complex associated with the Atlantic megalithic culture. The impact of the collapse of the Roman empire led to the Middle Ages in Europe and created the conditions that made it possible for the Islamic empire to expand from a few tribes in the Arab desert to a transcontinental force as expansive as Rome was if not moreso whose legacy is palpable today.
It is worth observing that the Romani diaspora in Europe arose almost a millennium after Europe's Jewish diaspora (traditionally dated to the fall of the Temple, ca. 70 CE), a dispersal that was exacerbated further by the fall of the Western Roman empire in the 6th century CE, followed by the emigration of most surviving European Jews to Israel and the United States in the 20th century.
Another far less well known and much smaller probably migration from South Asia to Europe (which genetic, linguistic and cultural evidence establish was distinct from the Romani migration), in the same general historical era as the Romani migration, was the migration of the ancestors of the people of Cres Island, Croatia. I have proposed that they probably made their way their from a population of Havids of South India, probably leaving for the Near East around the 5th century CE, probably on a religious missionary mission of some sort, with a relocation in the context of Byzantine-Islamic wars to Cres Island in or shortly after 841 CE, following the sack of the island in those wars. Their relocation to Cres Island and subsequent ability to maintain a distinct identity parallels the experiences of the better known Maronite Church.
The Norman Conquest
While not always remembered as a migration, the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 CE was arguably the most significant demographic and culturally transformative event in the United Kingdom since the Celts arrived there. It is the source from which the Anglo-American common law tradition has its origin and is the reason that English is a Germanic rather than a Celtic language. While the Normans are mostly remembered for their conquest of England, they were also pivotal in expelling the Moors from Southern Italy. A newspaper article that the discusses this impact, but overstates the genetic impact (which never the less was real and is discernable), is discussed and commented upon here.
The Maltese language, the only Afro-Asiatic language of Europe, arrived with Arab recolonizers in 1048 CE. Per Wikipedia:
Malta was involved in the Byzantine-Arab Wars, and the conquest of Malta is closely linked with that of Sicily due to admiral Euphemius' betrayal of his fellow Byzantines, requesting that the Aghlabid dynasty invade the area. The Arab chronicler and geographer Al-Himyari recounts that in 870 AD, following a violent struggle against the occupying Byzantines, the Arab invaders, first led by Halaf Al-Hadim, and later by Sawada Ibn Muhammed, looted and pillaged the island, destroying the most important buildings, and leaving it practically uninhabited until it was recolonised by the Arabs from Sicily in 1048-49 AD. It is uncertain whether this new settlement took place as a consequence of demographic expansion in Sicily, as a result of a higher standard of living in Sicily (in which case the recolonisation may have taken place a few decades earlier), or as a result of civil war which broke out among Arab rulers of Sicily in 1038. The Arabs introduced new irrigation, some fruits and cotton and the Siculo-Arabic language was adopted on the island from Sicily: it would eventually evolve into the Maltese language. The native Christians were allowed freedom of religion but had to pay jizya, a tax for non-Muslims, but were exempt from the tax that Muslims had to pay (Zakaat). The Normans in 1091, as part of their conquest of Sicily, expelled all the Moors from southern Italy, and their leader Roger I of Sicily was welcomed by the native Christians.Hungary
The tribe of Uralic language speakers who brought the Hungarian language to Hungary, with warring neighbors at their heels, crossed into the Carpathian basin in 896 CE and mounted raids that reached as far as Denmark, Iberia and the Balkans through about 1001 CE, when their King converted to Christianity and reached a peace brokered by the Pope. Their presence after their long flight grave rise to the only notable Uralic language in Central Europe. The settlement reached in 1001 CE, in turn, was a pivotal factor is preventing Turkish and Mongol tribes from entering Europe.
The First Crusade and Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula
From about 1000 CE to 1099 CE, European Christians recaptured the Northern half of the Iberian Penninsula (as far as Toledo, 1985 CE) from the Moors in a process known as the Reconquista. Norman forces expelled the Moors from Southern Italy in the same time period. The Levant had been in Muslim hands for some time:
In 636 CE, the rising Muslim faith led by the Arab Rashidun Caliphs defeated the Eastern Roman/Byzantines at the Battle of Yarmouk, conquering Palestine. The Umayyad Dynasty was inaugurated when Muawiyah I was crowned in Jerusalem, but they made their capital in Damascus. In 750 CE they were overthrown by the Abbasid Dynasty of Baghdad and from 878 CE Palestine was ruled by semi-autonomous governors in Egypt until the Fatimids conquered it in 969. The Fatimids, whose empire stretched to Morocco and centered on Egypt, were tolerant for the times and had many trade and political relationships with the Christian states of Europe. In 1073 the Fatimids lost control of Palestine to the rapidly expanding Great Seljuq Empire. They wrested it back less than a year before the arrival of the First Crusade.
In 1095 CE, the First Crusade was launched with the coordination of the Papacy, and by 1099 CE, five new Crusader states ruled by European Christian invaders, mostly from France and Italy, had been established in the Levant. (Of course, as I've set forth at greater length in a little footnote to this discussion, history tells us that the Crusader states ultimately collapsed in face of pressure from Muslim neighbors, despite centuries of several more Crusades that followed. Immediately after the First Crusade, some of the Crusaders had travelled all of the way from Norway to do battle.
A Footnote On The Fate Of The Crusader States, the Latin Empire and the Later Crusades
It turns out that Crusader states lasted for less than two centuries and contracted territorially before then. In between, a "Latin Empire" briefly established during the Fourth Crusade from Byzantine territory was also established only to collapse in short order.
The first Crusader state established, the County of Edessa, established in 1098 CE, had fallen by 1144 CE. This precipated the Second Crusade from 1145-1149 CE, which was a failure despite the efforts of a "combined force of 13,000 Flemish, Frisian, Norman, English, Scottish, and German cruaders."
After the Crusaders from the failed Second Crusade went home, in "1171, Saladin, nephew of one of Nur ad-Din's generals, was proclaimed Sultan of Egypt, uniting Egypt and Syria and completely surrounding the crusader kingdom. Meanwhile the Byzantine alliance ended with the death of emperor Manuel I in 1180, and in 1187, Jerusalem capitulated to Saladin. His forces then spread north to capture all but the capital cities of the [then remaining] Crusader States[.]"
The only remaining Crusader states in 1187 were Armenian Cilicia, a city-state at Antioch, and a city-state at Tripoli.
The Third Crusade (1189 CE–1192 CE) was a military success but did not manage to retake control of the City of Jerusalem, instead reinstating a Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem that extended along the Levantine coast including coastal cities from Beruit (the capital of Acre was near the modern Israel-Lebanon border in Northern Israel) to Jaffa abutting the County of Tripoli (Cyprus also gained a status as a state independent of the Byzantine empire), and a "normal" set of international relations with treaty rights, limited protections for foreigners in Islamic lands, and trade relations (not really so different than the modern status quo) were put in place.
Europe rallied for a Fourth Crusade (1202 CE to 1204 CE) to finish the business of the Third Crusade by attempting to regain control of Jerusalem from its Muslim rulers, but instead ended up invading and sacking the Eastern Orthodox city of Constantinople and other Byzantine territory establishing a "Latin Empire", in the process starting a war between the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom that made the divide impossible to bridge for centuries thereafter. The last of the "Latin" states fell in 1261 (less than sixty years later) to the Orthodox Christian Byzantines.
Ultimately all of the remaining Levantine Crusader States fell: Antioch in 1268 CE, Tripoli in 1289 CE, and Jerusalem (a Crusader state which had ceased to have the actual city of Jersalem in it since 1187 CE and coincided roughly with modern Lebanon and Northwest Israel) in 1291 CE.
The rump Byzantine empire ultimately fell with its last remnants becoming the initial seed for the Ottoman Empire founded 1300 CE, which had acquired most of Western Anatolia, Greece and the Balkans by 1451. In this account, due to limits of space and focus, I've not comprehensively described the unfamiliar (to Westerner historians) succession of Islamic rulers in place in the non-Christian territories of the region between the initial Rashidun Caliphate through 661 CE and the Ottoman Empire that ultimately acquired all of these territories by 1571, and I have also omitted the post-Ottoman states other than Israel from the discussion. Suffice it to say that there were several intermediate Islamic regimes, some of which were quite long lasting, in those nine hundred years.
Armenian Cilicia had completely fallen to the Rashidun Caliphate (which expanded from Muhammad's death in 632 CE when his sect ruled a mere city-state in Medina to almost the entire core of the Islamic empire by 661 CE) by 656 CE. But, the Byzantines restored it to their rule in 965 CE, a generation before the First Crusade was commenced, so while it was a Christian country in the Levant, it was never truly a Crusader state. Alliances with the Byzantines, the Crusaders, and until they converted to Islam, the Mongols, permitted it to prevent itself from being conquered by its Islamic neighbors until 1375 CE when it finally fell after becoming mired with internal religious strife. It is now part of the Republic of Turkey.
The territories of the former Crusader states (including Edesse), and some of Armenian Cilicia were acquired by the Ottoman Empire from prior Islamic states during the reign of Selim the First (1512 CE to 1520 CE) (some of Armenian Cilicia was acquired by the Ottoman Empire in the late 1400s).
Cyprus, which had been an integral part of the Byzantine empire until it attained its independence during the Third Crusade, remained in the hands of European Western Christians until 1571 CE when the Ottoman empire finally wrested it from the Venetians, an event Shakespear memorialized in the play Othello. In the wake of the fall of the Ottoman empire, Cyprus has become a state internally divided between a Greek mini-state and a Turkish one.
All of these territories were still at least nominally part of the Ottoman Empire in 1914 when World War I began, but the empire had been fully dissolved into successor states by 1922, four years after World War I had concluded.
The early modern migrations of Jews to what is now Israel as part of an organized Zionist movement (called the First Aliyah and Second Aliyah) began during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire from 1881 to 1914. Before this point, there were Jews in what is now Israel, but they were a tiny percentage of the total population. The Ottoman era Zionist migrants organized to help the British to secure effective colonial control of the territory in 1917 (during World War I).
Five hundred and ninety years elapsed between the fall of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the First Aliyah (and this Kingdom itself lasted less than two hundred years and was interrupted for several years between its fall and the Third Crusade). Jersusalem itself and the non-coastal parts of the Kingdom fell to Saladin six hundred and ninety-four years before the First Aliyah. The area that became the Crusader State of Jerusalem had been under Muslim rule for about three hundred and thirty years before it was established during the First Crusade. All told, Israel had been under the rule of Muslim nations for more than a thousand years before the First Aliyah, and another couple hundred years in part and less than a hundred years in others (including the City of Jersusalem). Of course, the area had before that been under the rule of the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine empire, and before that the unified Roman Empire (which was pagan before it was Christian) for centuries before it was under Muslim rule.
The British were given a formal mandate to run the territory, called Palestine, on a receivership basis, by the League of Nations in the wake of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 (at a time when the territory was 11% Jewish). By 1945, migration of mostly European Jews fleeing to the territory from the Nazis had made it 33% Jewish. An independent secular but ethnically Jewish state of Israel was declared in 1948.
The ethnogenesis of the Druze people, which may have involved a major migration as the Druze are quite genetically distinct from their neighbors, (despite a community accepted tradition that the sects origins are not ethnic and drew adherents from many ethnicities) took place from 1014 CE to 1043 CE (when evangelism to gain new members was prohibited), a half a century before the First Crusade, with a origins in Shia Islam together with synecretic borrowings. Its adherents are now found mostly in Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
Prior to Turkic expansion, essentially all of Central Asia was ruled by the Indo-Iranian pastrolist Scythians. But, as the first millenium expanded, a different group of pastoralists from the area North of China rapidly expanded into the previously Scythian held territory:
Certainly identified Turkic tribes were known by the 6th century and by the 10th century most of Central Asia was settled by Turkic tribes. The Seljuk Turks from the 11th century invaded Anatolia, ultimately resulting in permanent Turkic settlement there and the establishment of the nation of Turkey. Meanwhile the other Turkic tribes either ultimately formed independent nations, such as Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan or formed enclaves within other nations, such as Chuvashia. Turkics also survived on the original range as the Uyghur people in China and the Sakha Republic of Siberia, as well as in other scattered places of the Far East and Central Asia.Today, something on the order of 8% of the gene pool of Turkey is Turkic in origin and the percentage grows as one goes East across Central Asia. The pressure placed by Turkic invasions on the Gujara-Praihara empire contributed to its fall around the time of the Gypsy exodus, and it was also at around this time that the Near Eastern and West Asian ruling class of this part of the successors to the original Islamic empire in this area were replaced by a Seljuk Turk ruling class that had converted to Islam and kept a ruling dynasty in place for 270 years (in much the way that the pacified Hungarian ruling class gained peace by converting to Christianity at almost the same time).
Madagascar, Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand
A completely independent, but somewhat comparable, event was the mass migration of Austronesian peoples from Borneo, Indonesia who admixed with Africans (probably near the East African coast) at a roughly 50-50 ratio and then migrated to Madagascar, sometime in the 1st millenium C.E., adopting an Austronesian language.
The most distant additions to the Austronesian cultural sphere in the Pacific (e.g. Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand), which were among the last places on earth to have first contact with humans, were also conducted in this era.
Na-Dene and Inuits
Another very notable mass migration which also occured at around 1000 C.E. was the mass migration of the Na-Dene people from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to the American Southwest, possibly in the wake of a power vacuum that arose when the Anasazi irrigated agricultural society of the American Southwest collapsed due to climate change, or driven by increasingly unfavorable climate conditions in their homeland.
There was a Thule (i.e. proto-Inuit) wave of migration from Siberia to circumpolar North America, that was possibly an outgrowth of a culture that was also the source of the Uralic language family around 500 CE to 1000 CE.
Another notable long distance migration that occured around 1000 C.E. was the arrival of Vikings from Iceland led by Lief Erickson to establish a colony in the maritime islands of North America establishing a Vinland settlement that due to bad timing associated with climate collapsed and was never restored. The settlement was documented in Icelandic historical records and is supported by archaeological evidence in Canada.