By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra singh
Robertson Chongtham writes: “I find all your articles quite informative and interesting … I also find your article on Origin of Meiteis quite informative though confusing because of contradictions… I appreciate on your contribution to enlighten young minds even though you are seven seas apart from Manipur and I hope all your hard works get paid off.”
Thanks Robertson. The Meitei origin is contradictory. That means no body knows the truth.
My article is also just a hypothesis albeit; nearer to the truth as it is based on scientific methods of rational thought.
A scientific method is the process of proposing a hypothesis, and then testing its accuracy by collecting data on events the hypothesis predicts.
Every article I write in the Sangai Express is available on the internet all over the world, and I have to be fact orientated.
OUR COUSIN APES still live in Africa. Very few science-oriented people will now disagree that early human ancestors (hominids) separated from apes. That is, men (Homo sapiens) share a common ancestry with modern African apes like gorillas and chimpanzees. A combination of fossil records and DNA ‘fingerprints’, is there for you to see.
There are fossils (though no genetic fingerprints) that can tell us, if not the exact date, when early humans split from the apes in the African Rift Valley region – a very rich source of fossils that allow study of human evolution
Though we share 98.6 per cent of our DNA with chimpanzees (with gorilla 75%) there are still many differences outwardly between humans and chimpanzees. These changes in the DNA and superficial appearances have accumulated through mutations over the millennia.
As the human brain grew bigger it acquired more intelligence and that brain size correlates with intelligence, though not always. Many women are more intelligent than men though their brain size is about 100g less (equivalent to a tea spoonful) than men (1,134g). The brain has now reached its evolutionary maturity.
We know that the Meitei have no fossil evidence of having arrived from the so called Tibeto-Burman regions, nor have any genetically proven evidence.
The Meitei language is not Tibeto-Burman (as was considered by Grierson). The world’s top linguistic authorities do not know its exact family position at the moment and it remains unclassified in the phylogenetic tree of evolutionary taxonomy.
The Meitei however, have empirical and some genetic evidence that during the human ancestral expansion from west India to East Asia, through the Northeast India, the Meitei ancestors separated and settled in Manipur, as the Australoid Khasi (genetically proven) did in Meghalaya.
The hypothesis is reinforced by the finding of Palaeolithic and Neolithic tools and artefacts in the surrounding hill caves and open areas in the plains of Manipur, which point to the arrival of Meitei ancestors from Northeast Africa.
The Meitei race, and their language though developed regionally during their evolution, are now and have been for a few thousand years, a fusion of proto-Australoid, Negrito, Sino-
Tibeto-Burman, Aryan and Dravidian races.
When I went to college in Bombay, doing Inter Science, I was captivated when the Professor of zoology drew a big diagram of an earthworm on the black board. Its internal anatomy and
physiology are quite similar to those of a human being, except that it has male and female organs (hermaphrodite).
Human beings are not special creations though we have many things that mark us out. We are simply a species of African ape that have serendipitously evolved, survived and expanded.
Scientists have made studies by DNA analysis of ‘archaic humans’ known as Homo neanderthal who populated Europe and parts of the Near East (Israel, Saudi Arabia); and Homo erectus who settled in parts of East Asia. In due course they became extinct.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, 14 human remains were discovered in a cave near Nazareth in Israel, showing the earliest evidence anywhere of modern human burial about 50,000 years ago.
During a severe draught, 4 million years ago, in which Africa’s forest diminished further (a similar draught 5 million years ago), a species called Homo habilis (handy man) emerged. They were the first ancestors who were able to make tools. It retained its ape-like body form.
They began to eat meat as fruits were scarce. Meat eating allowed smaller gut to grow bigger and provided extra nutrition to develop a bigger brain. The brain requires high quality nutrition that meat but not vegetarian food can provide.
The first Homo sapiens came out of Africa and dispersed across the world 50,000 years ago, at a time when the northern latitudes of Europe and Asia were covered by sheets of ice (Pleistocene Age).
Following the ‘Out Of Africa model’ of human expansion, which is accepted by the majority of scientists, there is genetic evidence that the descendants of those, fewer than one thousand ancestors, spread out on foot all over the world.
From Northeast Africa they crossed the Red Sea to Israel, Arabia and travelled until they reached India where they split into two groups, each going separate ways.
One group expanded along the coastlines of southern Asia until they reached Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania (a single land mass) some 46 thousand years ago.
The other walked across India and through Manipur to the East. And when they reached Europe they slowly evicted the Neanderthals. They even walked across the Bering Straits from Siberia to Alaska and all the way down to South America and settled (present Native Americans).
‘Modern humans’ in the past 20,000 years since their ancestors left Africa had occupied most of the world and were dependant on hunting and gathering food for their existence.
The evolutionary changes continued due to many environmental factors. The ‘anatomically modern humans’ were bereft of modern human behaviour and lacked the faculty of speech.
Human evolution is characterised by a number of changes such as morphological, developmental, physiological and behavioural, which have taken place since the split
between the human ancestors and the chimpanzees.
The study of recent human genome has enabled geneticists to trace the journey of the first emigrants from Africa by studying the male-producing Y chromosome and the maternal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of the human population.
The lineage M is of particular interest in tracking the exodus of humans from Africa to India and Manipur.
The genes change in human evolution. Genes are strings of DNA molecules that embody the information to make proteins. Proteins are working parts of the living cell. Each gene comes in a variety of different versions known as “alleles” that pass at random onto the next generation and the next and so on until it becomes ‘fixed’ or ‘universal’.
When that happens the population is said to have gone through evolutionary change. Thus evolution is the change in allele frequency over time in a population of organisms.
Everyone carries about half of their father’s genes and half of their mother’s. The other halves are discarded along with the genes they contain.
All genes look alike but differ only in their effects on the embryo in the future generations. A “phenotype” is a term used to the effect of a modified gene for instance; the green eyes, pale skin, brown hair or snubbed nose,
The existence of different human races such as Negroid, Mongoloid and Caucasian is more phenotypic evidence of evolution due to genetic differentiation as a result of several harsh environments.
It is believed that our ancestors who reached Europe about 45,000 years ago would have retained their black skin and other African features.
Recent finding of a jaw bone in a Devon cave, south England and its carbon dating showed that it was between 40.000 and 44,000 years old.
During the Last Ice Age, about 20,000 years ago, a shift to a more European phenotype had occurred (Holiday 1997). Later changes occurred by about 11,000 years ago to European skin colour, eye colour, and hair colour through allelic changes.
Meitei developed the Mongoloid features as phenotypic evidence of evolution due to cold.
There is no definite evidence for the Mongoloid anatomical change in the Natural Selection theory. The current hypothesis is that the evolution to the Mongoloids emerged by genetic ‘drift.’ It means a random fluctuation in gene frequencies that occur between generations. It is a revolutionary change rather than evolutionary.
Biologists have long theorised that the Mongoloid features occurred during the end of the Last Glacial Maximum as an adaptation to the cold, 20,000 years ago, while the Mongoloid
skull would have developed by chance alone. The pale skin, the epicanthic folds of the eyes and
stockier body are all adaptations for survival in the cold.
According to Marta Mirazon, the physical anthropologist, “One archaeological data at least confirms that humans from the Mongoloid race resided in ‘North-East’ during the Palaeolithic
It is estimated that it was at the end of Last Glacial Maximum, 20,000 years ago that our human ancestors began to settle down in East Asia before the invention of agriculture.
It is thus possible that Meitei of Manipur changed anatomically during the late Last Ice Age, about 25,000- 20,000 years ago, from the original dark African ancestors to the Mongoloid phenotype because of ‘drift’ or by Natural selection, as adaptation to cold. The Meitei were a small population and thus favourable to the force of ‘drift’.
There are many physical variations among the Mongoloid phenotypes. The Meitei belong to the Paleo-Mongoloid (20,000 years ago) like the Naga and Thai, while the classical Mongoloid phenotype developed in Siberia in response to the Last Ice Age.
What then is a Meitei? A Meitei is a “New man” – a new phenotype from Manipur, the melting pot of Southeast Asian nations.
The writer is based in the UK