South Asia--comprising India, Pakistan, countries in the sub-Himalayan region and Myanmar--was one of the first geographical regions to have been peopled by modern humans. This region has served as a major route of dispersal to other geographical regions, including southeast Asia. The Indian society comprises tribal, ranked caste, and other populations that are largely endogamous. As a result of evolutionary antiquity and endogamy, populations of India show high genetic differentiation and extensive structuring. Linguistic differences of populations provide the best explanation of genetic differences observed in this region of the world. Within India, consistent with social history, extant populations inhabiting northern regions show closer affinities with Indo-European speaking populations of central Asia that those inhabiting southern regions. Extant southern Indian populations may have been derived from early colonizers arriving from Africa along the southern exit route. The higher-ranked caste populations, who were the torch-bearers of Hindu rituals, show closer affinities with central Asian, Indo-European speaking, populations.
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