The Indian subcontinent was one of the centers of irradiation in the evolution of the Hominoidea, as evidenced by the numerous fossil remains of Ramapitecine unearthed, so far, in northern India (Haritalyngar, Siwalik mountains) dated to 12-8 million years ago. The lack of systematic searches, and therefore the scarcity of finds, nevertheless prevents a precise reconstruction of the most remote population, although India constitutes a sort of “bridge” between Africa and the rest of Asia as regards the spread of human species. The only find certainly attributable to Homo erectus is that of Hatnora, in the Narmada valley, dated to about 1 million years ago, brought to light in 1982; the most ancient remains of Homo sapiens sapiens, despite the discovery of various Paleolithic sites throughout the Indian peninsula. Starting from the fourth millennium a. C. India appears to be inhabited by people dedicated to itinerant agriculture: various plants were domesticated here, including cotton and mountain rice. Even before the spread of the Indo-Europeans there were anthropologically and culturally different populations, as evidenced by the multiplicity of ethnic groups still existing, only partially fused together.
According to localtimezone, the most ancient peoples are considered to be those of the southwestern widow (area of the Carmadon and Nilghiri mountains), designated by some scholars with the collective name of Malidi; these have a mixture of Australoid-Negroid-Europoid characters (the most significant tribes are: Mala Vedar, Kanikkar, Kadar, Kuruba, Malasar, Paman, Jeravà); similar, but with more marked Australoid characters, are the residual groups of the eastern edge of the Deccan (Sholiga, Chenghu, Irula, Yamadi and others); all these people, nomads, are still dedicated to gathering and hunting. Another group of people of very ancient origin, designated by some scholars with the collective name of Gondidi, is widespread in small isolated entities over a vast area between the lower Ganges and the Narmada basin up to the north-western regions and the basin of the Mahānadi: they have negroid -australoid characters although their skin is decidedly light; the most numerous groups are the Gond, Juang, Santal, Oraon, Khond, Bhuiya, Male, Mardia, Korku, Bhil, Katkari, Thakur, Kandesh, Mewak, almost all still nomadic hunter-gatherers, practicing simple hoe farming. Once nomadic farmers, probable remnants of the first Neolithicpopulation, are the numerous populations of the Munda language, now sedentary, settled mainly in the region between the lower Ganges and the Narmada up to the upper course of the Mahānadi (Munda, Korwa, Asur, Kha, Horo, Ho, Bhumi, Kharvar, Kharia). Their somatic characters show traits europoids with some negroid aspects in the cut of the face, nose and hair; they are the people who have the darkest skin color of all India so that various scholars collectively designate them with the name of Indomelanids or Paleoindids. Brown or dark brown-skinned are the Dravidian-speaking populations that at the time of the Indo-European invasion were widespread throughout India, where they had formed large communities of sedentary farmers who probably created the first urban states., especially in the Ganges basin.
Today the Dravids mainly populate southern India, constitute strong homogeneous minorities and represent the physical type known with the name of “South Indian”; the most numerous ethnic groups are the Tamils, based in the southeastern Deccan with a strong presence also in Sri Lanka, the telegu of the eastern Deccan, the Canarians of the western Deccan and the Malayalam of the southwestern coastal strip of the Indian peninsula. In historical times, India was affected by a progressive penetration of Sino-Tibetan people of which purighi, lahuli, kranti, limbu, lepcia, chutià, kuć, ladaki, ahudi, chang-pà and newari they are the current representatives; the expansion of these shepherds-peasants was blocked in the northern regions by the arrival, starting from the third millennium BC. C., of people devoted to the migratory sheep of Indo-Iranian origin (or Preari Paleoari), still present in the northwest of India (Pahari, brokpa, Garhwali, khasmiri, darts, kho, machnopa, Kafiri). This was followed, around 1500 BC. C., the massive invasion of the Indo-Europeans (constituting today the physical type known as “South Indian”) coming from NW: shepherds and breeders organized in highly hierarchical and militarized patriarchal tribes, which have gone down in history with the generic name of Hindu or Indoari. Today they constitute numerous ethnic groups, the most important of which are the marāthas, Hindi, puñjābī, rajastani, sindhi, bihari and gujarathi; some of these gave rise to powerful states that subdued the pre-existing nomadic peoples and drove the dravids and mundas back to their current locations. Having become sedentary farmers, they merged only to a small extent with the natives on whom they imposed their social organization, customs and often even religion.