Human Population Histories: Prospects of Palaeogenomics in South Asia
Human palaeogenomics is a fast-growing and complex field. A key objective of this field is to better understand the evolutionary history of humans using genome-scale data from ancient and present-day humans, including dissecting patterns of past human movements and genetic admixture and how these ancient demographic processes have shaped the genetic diversity and health landscapes of populations today. This line of research is inherently multi-disciplinary.
A primary objective of this meeting is to encourage multidisciplinary investigations in archaeological sciences in the country by considering challenges and unanswered questions unique to the region. This is also an opportune time to consider novel scientific tools used in other regional contexts that may add new dimensions to ongoing debates and facilitate the development of new research questions and frameworks in Indian archaeology. By bringing together ~40 experts in complementary fields from India and abroad - including archaeology, anthropology, genetics, computational biology, geosciences, archaeobotany, and zooarchaeology - we hope that this platform will foster an exchange of ideas and networking between researchers with shared goals and interests in human, animal, and plant histories as well as past environments, using established and new scientific methods.
More recently, research in this area, primarily conducted in Europe and North America, has seen fruitful collaborations between archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, geneticists and evolutionary biologists, computational biologists, and even physicists and chemists. Together, they have provided comprehensive insights into the cultural and biological evolution of our species.
South Asia is heavily underrepresented in such studies. It is known to have a complex human history, long-standing population structure and high disease burden, resulting from ancient and historical migrations as well as social practices such as endogamy and consanguinity. Since archaeological science, especially ancient DNA, is a relatively new field of research in South Asia, there are currently limited conversations on how scientific methods can aid in our interpretation of the human past. The proposed conference will aim to bring international and national researchers of repute in the fields of paleogenomics, population genetics, archaeology, and anthropology to discuss the current and future potential of such multi-disciplinary initiatives in the Indian context.
Up to 10 international and 40 national researchers will be invited to present their ongoing work on human population histories and archaeology in the global and Indian contexts. A call for abstracts will be launched, based on which up to 10 graduate and postdoctoral scholars will be selected to attend, network with eminent scholars, and present their research in the form of posters. There will be opportunities to discuss both formally and informally the expansion of this in India as well as related topics such as engaging on this topic with the lay public and media. The format will be a mix of invited talks and moderated panel events.
The outcome of this conference will be an enriching set of talks and discussion sessions to better flush out the future of palaeogenomics research in India. In particular, a white paper will be drafted by the three organizers in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture that will outline the major takeaways from this conference.
Timeline AND LOCATION
The conference in proposed from 7th to 9th June 2023 in Srinagar, Kashmir. Local hosts, Prof. Tabasum Firdous, Prof. Tareak A. Rather, Dr. Asif Mohi Ud Din and Dr. Mumtaz Yatoo from the University of Kashmir, will organize the venue and other logistics.
The conference will be held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The scientific organizing team consists of: Dr. Niraj Rai (BSIP, Lucknow), Dr. Maanasa Raghavan (University of Chicago) and Dr. Ajmal Shah (University of Kashmir, Srinagar).