June 21, 2010
The south of Asia was the homeland of bright and famous ancient civilizations, culturally and linguistically Indo-european, especially India (of the Indo-aryan linguistical family) and Iran (formerly known as Persia, of the Iranian linguistical family).
It was at the end of the 18th century, that sir William Jones realized the relation between European languages and south Asian languages such as Sanskrit, inaugurating then the existence of the now famous Indo-european language family theory.
Latin, for instance, has many similarities with Sanskrit. Indeed, how couldn’t we link words such as vox (voc-is), “voice“ in Latin and vac in Sanskrit (also “voice” ; found in many other Indo-european languages, e.g. Tocharian vak/vek or Hittite huek), candor (“bright whiteness” in Latin ) and candra, “moon” in Sanskrit, ignis (“fire” in Latin) and agnis (“fire” in Sanskrit, Agni also being the god of fire – also ugnis in Lithuanian and ogon’ in Russian, all meaning “fire“), Latin jugum (meaning “yoke“, also derived from the same proto-indo-european word) and Sanskrit yugam, giving the word “yoga“ (also in the ancient greek zugon, Tocharian yuk or Hittite yukan, among many examples), Latin nebula and Sanskrit nabhas (but also Hittite nepiš, German nebel and Russian nebo, for instance, meaning all either “cloud“, “mist” or “sky“), or pater (“father” (a word also related) in Latin) and pitar in Sanskrit (also the ancient greek pater or Tocharian pacer, and many others). Likewise, we can find some similarities between the declension suffixes in both languages (examples : -ibus at the plural dative and ablative cases in Latin and -ebhyas in Sanskrit in the same cases).
When it became obvious that most of the languages of Europe and most of the languages of south Asia were related, then started the search for an explanation to such an astonishing geographical extent. Many theories have been erected to try to solve the puzzle of the origin of the extent of this language family and to discover the original population responsible for this situation and their ancestral homeland.
The Kurgan hypothesis explains the repartition of the Indo-european languages in Eurasia by the successive migrations of pastoralist populations living north of the black sea (in what is nowadays east Ukraine and south Russia), whose arrival is visible in the archeology. In this theory, the early Indo-iranians originated in the region between Russia and north-west Kazakhstan between 2,500 BCE and 2,000 BCE (the Abashevo culture of Russia is also considered possibly a good candidate for the origin of the proto-indo-iranian language by some (The fact that it was influential in the origin of the Sintashta site (a site just east of the Ural mountains often considered as having the oldest visible expression of indo-iranian practices) could support this view as well)) and were subsequently found in the Andronovo culture of central Asia. Also, the fact that the Andronovo culture was followed by the Indo-iranian-speaking Scythians/Sakas (who clearly seem spawned from it (there is an archaeological continuity between these cultures)) seem to clearly make this theory the most logical one.
The Gandhara grave culture of the north of Pakistan is also seen as the advance of Indo-iranian populations in south Asia. The presence of proto-Indo-iranian loanwords in Finno-ugric languages (such as Estonian and Finnish) and in languages from the east of the Caucasus can be seen as supporting this theory of the Indo-iranian ethnogenesis (Interestingly, among the terms that the ancient Finno-ugric language borrowed to the ancient Indo-iranian language seems to be the “arya” word:
“Early Proto-Indo-Iranian words that were borrowed into common Finno-Ugric included Proto-Indo-Iranian *asura- ‘lord, god’ > Finno-Ugric *asera; Proto-Indo-Iranian *medhu- ‘honey’ > Finno-Ugric *mete; Proto-Indo-Iranian *čekro ‘wheel’ (pastmists: hence sanskrit cakra)) > Finno-Ugric *kekrä; and Proto-Indo-Iranian *arya- ‘Aryan’ > Finno-Ugric *orya. Proto-Indo-Iranian *arya-, the self-designation “aryan”, was borrowed into Pre-Saami as *orja-, the root of * oarji, meaning “southwest”, and of arjel, meaning “southerner”, confirming that the Proto-Aryan world lay south of the early Uralic region. The same borrowed *arya- root developped into words with the meaning “slave” in the Finnic and Permian branches (Finnish, Komi and Udmurt), a hint of the ancient hostility between the speakers of Proto-Indo-Iranian and Finno-Ugric.”
“The Horse, the wheel, and language” by David W. Anthony (source (go to page 385 of the book by typing “197″ in the page search field))).
A spreading of the Indo-european languages in Eurasia from neolithic agriculturalist populations seems very unlikely as the proto-indo-european language had words for the wheel (examples : Latin rota, Sanskrit rathas, Irish roth and Lithuanian ratas (a root also meaning sometimes “chariot” in a few languages, like in sanskrit)) and a metal (examples: Latin aes (bronze), Sanskrit ayas (iron), Gothic aiz (brass; coin) and old Norse eir (bronze), among others), which seems to exclude, de facto, the oldest typical neolithic time. The fact that the stem for “horse” (*ekwos ; the satem version of it in Sanskrit is ‘asva‘) is also present in the original language, the proto-indo-european language (a root visible in these few examples : Latin equus, Mycenian iqo, Gaulish epos, Tokharian B yakwe or old Irish ech), also excludes both south Asia and neolithic as the geographical origin and the time of the proto-indo-europeans, as the horse was apparently absent of south Asia until the last part of bronze age (this animal (as domesticated one) was apparently also absent of south-west Asia and in a big part of Asia minor until the same historical time (informations about the horse domestication)).
The study of ancient Indo-iranian languages also seems to support an origin of this language family from outside of India (source).
The Gandhara grave culture, located in the north of Pakistan in the Swat valley, sees the arrival of the horse in south Asia during bronze age and a few points allows for a (still controversial and hypothetical) link with the early Indo-aryans. The funerary practices, for instance, show several similarities with other supposedly Indo-european practices and there are many similarities with the Andronovo culture traditions. They also could fit quite well with the RigVedic descriptions. These traditions are clearly the mark of a change in this region, at this time.
In the Kurgan theory, the first Indo-iranian-speaking populations supposedly arrived around 1,800 BC-1,600 BC in south Asia from central Asia. These populations were apparently in large part of Europoid type as hinted by several studies (see the central Asia article), which seems confirmed by the admixture estimates of south Asian populations that do have an european component even if in low quantity (examples here or here (both from dienekes.blogspot.com), or also this, from this 2011 study (“Population structure in South Asia”, metspalu et al. 2011)).
Supporting the theory of migrations from central Asia into south Asia, the presence of the very mutation (mutation T-13910 of the lactase phlorizin hydrolase (LCT) gene) providing the lactose tolerance (here more precisely the lactase persistence) among European populations is also found in south Asia, especially in the north-west of India and in south-east Pakistan (source). This clearly shows that south Asians and Europeans share a specific mutation and as such as specific relation of which west Asians are excluded (this allele is obviously only very marginal and residual among west Asians and likely the result of Indo-european migrations of little demographic impact).
A 2009 study (Kallur N. Saraswathy et al., Brief communication: Allelic and haplotypic structure at the DRD2 locus among five North Indian caste populations) also emphasized the genetic flow inherited from populations extraneous to India within the upper castes populations of north India.
The dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) gene, with its known human-specific derived alleles that can facilitate haplotype reconstruction, presents an important locus for anthropological studies. The three sites (TaqIA, TaqIB, and TaqID) of the DRD2 gene are widely studied in various world populations. However, no work has been previously published on DRD2 gene polymorphisms among North Indian populations. Thus, the present study attempts to understand the genetic structure of North Indian upper caste populations using the allele and haplotype frequencies and distribution patterns of the three TaqI sites of the DRD2 gene. Two hundred forty-six blood samples were collected from five upper caste populations of Himachal Pradesh (Brahmin, Rajput and Jat) and Delhi (Aggarwal and Sindhi), and analysis was performed using standard protocols. All three sites were found to be polymorphic in all five of the studied populations. Uniform allele frequency distribution patterns, low heterozygosity values, the sharing of five common haplotypes, and the absence of two of the eight possible haplotypes observed in this study suggest a genetic proximity among the selected populations. The results also indicate a major genetic contribution from Eurasia to North Indian upper castes, apart from the common genetic unity of Indian populations. The study also demonstrates a greater genetic inflow among North Indian caste populations than is observed among South Indian caste and tribal populations.
[pastmists : interestingly, among the populations being the closest of the north Indian upper castes, in this specific study, we find the Chuvash people (a Turkic-speaking people of Russia whose haplogroups and autosomal profile reveal they are still largely from the ancient "Europoid" autochthonous non-Turkic substrate) [the Finns and even the Russians are close too, seemingly confirming this view] living west of the Ural mountains, where was located the already mentionned Abashevo culture, during bronze age. Is this a sign that the Aryas had come from populations in this general region (and of this historical culture), or maybe more generally from a region close to the Ural mountains?]
Asko Parpola, a Finnish scholar, evokes a few points supporting the migration of Indo-iranian populations in India during bronze age in this excerpt of an interview:
Hindu.com : “Some Indian scholars feel that the Indus Civilisation is Aryan [i.e. Indo-iranian] and connected with the Rig Veda. You are a Vedic scholar and you specialise in the Indus script too. So what is your reaction to this standpoint?”
Asko Parpola : “Rigvedic hymns often speak of horses and horse-drawn chariots, and the horse sacrifice, ashvamedha, is among the most prestigious Vedic rites. The only wild equid native to the Indian subcontinent is the wild ass, which is known from the bone finds of the Indus Civilisation and depicted (though rarely) in its art and script. The domesticated horse is absent from South Asia until the second millennium BCE. Finds from Pirak and Swat from 1600 BCE show it was introduced from Central Asia after the Indus Civilisation. The earliest archaeological finds of horse-drawn chariot come from graves dated to around 2000 BCE in the Eurasian steppes, the natural habitat of the horse. There are also ancient Aryan loanwords in Finno-Ugric languages spoken in northeastern Europe (for example, the word for ‘hundred‘ in my own language Finnish is ‘sata’ [i.e. the same word than in Indo-iranian]). Some of these Aryan loanwords represent a more archaic stage of development (that is, are phonetically closer to the older Proto-Indo-European language) than Rigvedic Sanskrit. It is very likely that these words came to Finno-Ugric languages from Proto-Aryan spoken in the Volga steppes [i.e. in Russia].”
Although often contested, some sentences from the RigVeda, the oldest holy book of Hinduism, are interpretable through an ethnic lense. In this text, the enemies of the Arya, the Dasa, are often associated with the darkness and blackness and sometimes the literal words of black (or dark) skin are written.
Example from the Mandala IX, hymn 73 :
5. “Blowing away with supernatural might from earth and from the heavens the swarthy skin which Indra hates.”
which can be opposed to the following sentence from the Mandala I, hymn 100 :
18. “The mighty Thunderer [i.e. Indra] with his fair-complexioned friends won the land, the sunlight, and the waters.”
[From the Ralph T.H. Griffith translation]
A few of such instances can be found in the RigVeda.
Although rare, blue or green eyes are findable in India. The Buddha, a prince of the north of the Indian sub-continent living in the 6th century BCE and whose real name was Siddhartha Gautama, is said, in the oldest written source of Buddhism, the Pali canon, to have had very blue eyes (“abhi nila netto” literally meaning “very blue eyes“). Similarly, Bodhidharma, an Indian monk of the 6th century AD, founder of the Zen Buddhism, also credited with the martial arts tradition of the Shaolin temple, was nicknamed “the blue-eyed barbarian” by the Chinese.
In the north of Pakistan, some individuals also frequently show a strikingly europoid appearance. The most well-known of these populations where these caractheristics are visible are the Burushos of the Hunza valley (speaking a non-indo-european language, Burushaski) and the Kalash (or Kalashas, like the former name of the Nuristanis of eastern Afghanistan) a population of the Hindu-kush speaking an Indo-iranian language. The Kalash, the Burusho and the Nuristani claim to be descendants of the Alexander‘s army (another legend of the Kalash also claim a link with the Kushans) but so far the genetic tests have not found any link with Greek or Macedonian populations (Very few tracks have been found among the Pathans (a.k.a. Pashtun) of Pakistan though). It is quite possible that these south Asian populations are actually partly the visible remains of the ancient Indo-iranian populations that probably came from central Asia during bronze age and mixed with the local populations, as the DNA tests have revealed that populations of bronze age south Siberia, strongly supposed to have been early Indo-europeans, had such characteristics.
Isolated people of the Hindu Kush mountains in the north of Pakistan (in the Chitral district), the Kalash are a polytheistic ethnic group speaking the Kalash language, a Dardic language (a language group considered as a subgroup of the Indo-aryan language family) of the Indo-iranian language family. Their traditions are said to be close to the ancient pre-Zoroastrian Iranian and ancient Indian Vedic traditions.
May 12, 2010
Xinjiang is the north-western region of China, north of Tibet and at the same longitude than India. It is a very arid and desertic land.
This region, also called Chinese Turkestan, is mostly inhabited by the Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking population. This region is turcophone since the 9th century AD, but Indo-european populations (i.e. the so-called “Tocharians” and Indo-iranian Sakas (leaving tracks of their language in Xinjiang (the Khotanese language)) have inhabited this place long before which explains that many words have still indo-european roots, in the local vocabulary.
This is the place of discovery of the Tarim Basin mummies whose some are about 4,000 years old. Many of them have Europoid phenotypes (and indeed, it is worthy of mention that some old Chinese texts described some populations of these general regions, like the Wusun, as redhead individuals with blue eyes, which is also in accordance with some Tarim basin frescoes that also show the Tocharians as individuals with light hair and eyes).
Evidences of west Eurasian/Europoid populations, deep in Asia, in an ancient past (at least as old as the chalcolithic time), have been established. These tracks cover central Asia, south Siberia and apparently as far as the Shandong region in north-east China (see further below in this page).
At the moment, it seems quite likely that the ancestor of the Tocharian language was spoken in the Afanasevo culture that appeared around 3,500 BCE and that spread from the center of Kazakhstan, south Siberia and up to the west of Mongolia and whose most of the skeletal remains are considered Europoid (it is said that they have the more resemblances with the populations of the Sredny Stog and Yamnaya cultures in Ukraine and Russia). This culture has many similarities with the Pontic steppes’ cultures of that time (the sepultures or the potteries, for instance (among several other things), are quite similar to the ones of the Yamnaya culture (also known as the pit grave culture)).
Interestingly, Mr. Han Kangxin from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences of Beijing examined 302 Tarim mummies skulls (Han Kangxin 1994; 1998) and concluded that the closest ancient populations were the populations from the Afanasevo culture and the Andronovo culture (surmised to be early Indo-iranian populations). The physical type of the Afanasevo and Andronovo cultures are also similar to the physical type of the Yamna (also known as Yamnaya or th Pit grave culture) culture and all are classified as Europoid.
The human remains of the Afanasevo and Andronovo cultures are indeed easily recognizable as Europoid :
“During this period [i. e. in the chalcolithic period] the Altay-Sayan Plateau was settled by Europeoids; the anthropological type of the population, which left behind relics of the Afanas’yevo and Andronovian cultures, need give rise to no doubt.”
“The Europeoid groups occupied the steppes of the Altay and Minusinskiy Kray, while the forest belt both in eastern and western Siberia continued to be extensively occupied by Mongoloid types. The boundary between them was by no means permanent. From the Altay-Sayan steppes the Europeoid groups seem to have moved fairly far east; the neolithic population west of Lake Baykal, in particular, shows a Europeoid admixture. In their turn, the Mongoloid elements penetrated into the steppe regions.”
“From then on the proportion of the various Mongoloid types among the population of southwest Siberia kept increasing. This was particularly the case during the Tashtyk period. At the end of the first and beginning of the second millennia A.D., in the Altay-Sayan Plateau, too, Mongoloid-type groups almost completely ousted the ancient Europeoid population.”
(M. G. Levin, “The Anthropological Types of Siberia,” in The Peoples of Siberia, ed. M. G. Levin and L. P. Potapov, The University of Chicago Press, 1964 - Page 99)
Or also :
According to paleoanthropological data, the Caucasoid (in respect of its morphological features) population predominated in the steppes of the Altai–Sayan region during the Neolithic [Pastmists : here, apparently at least starting with the Chalcolithic time], Bronze, and partly early Iron Ages [1–3]. At that time the Mongoloid component was observed only in few cases. However, beginning from the early Iron Age, the presence of this component has been increasing, and becoming prevalent in modern times. Thus, dynamics of the anthropological composition of the Altai–Sayan populations can be characterized by definitely directed replacement of the Caucasoid component by the Mongoloid one.” (excerpt from « Origin of Caucasoid-Specific Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Ethnic Groups of the Altai–Sayan Region » (Derenko et al. 2002) | source)
A recent study (“Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people“, Keyser et al., 2009 – (source)) determined that the bronze and iron age populations of south Siberia (formerly place of the Afanasevo culture and by then, being part of the Andronovo horizon) were largely Europoid (pretty revealing is the fact that during bronze age, the female lineages (mtDNA haplogroups) were 90% west Eurasians/Europoid) :
“To help unravel some of the early Eurasian steppe migration movements, we determined the Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial haplotypes and haplogroups of 26 ancient human specimens from the Krasnoyarsk area dated from between the middle of the second millennium BC. to the fourth century AD.
In order to go further in the search of the geographic origin and physical traits of these south Siberian specimens, we also typed phenotype-informative single nucleotide polymorphisms. Our autosomal, Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA analyses reveal that whereas few specimens seem to be related matrilineally or patrilineally, nearly all subjects belong to haplogroup R1a1-M17 which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans. Our results also confirm that at the Bronze and Iron Ages, south Siberia was a region of overwhelmingly predominant European settlement, suggesting an eastward migration of Kurgan people across the Russo-Kazakh steppe. Finally, our data indicate that at the Bronze and Iron Age timeframe, south Siberians were blue (or green)-eyed, fair-skinned and light-haired people and that they might have played a role in the early development of the Tarim Basin civilization [i.e. in Xinjiang, north-western China]. To the best of our knowledge, no equivalent molecular analysis has been undertaken so far.”
The study also shows that the matches in the databases, of the antique south Siberian mtDNA lineages and R1a1a haplotypes, in the modern populations, are mostly found in Europe (and of course also in south Siberia) confirming the origin deduced from both their physical type and archeology.
This is completely in accordance with the Kurgan hypothesis and allows an easy and satisfying explanation as to why the Tocharian language bears so much more similarities with the westernmost Indo-european languages (Germanic, Celtic, Latin and others (including Hittite)) rather than with the geographically much closer Indo-iranian languages.
A few examples of Tocharian words and some of their closest matches in the Indo-european languages :
Tocharian A laks (fish) : Danish laks (salmon), Latvian lasis *, etc…
Tocharian B yakwe (horse) : archaic Latin equ (-os) (pronounced roughly ekw (-os)), old Irish ech, etc…
Tocharian A áñme (soul) : Latin anim (-us) (soul), ancient Greek anem (-os) (breath), etc…
Tocharian A känt (100) : Latin cent (-um) (Latin “cent-” is pronounced “kent”), Breton kant, etc…
Tocharian A árki (white) : Hittite harki (white; light-colored), Latin argent (-um) (silver), ancient Greek arg (-os), etc…
Tocharian A luks (to illuminate) : Latin lux (light), Russian luch (light ray), Danish lys (light), etc…
Tocharian A knán (to know) : ancient Greek gnosis, Latin cognosc (-ere), Russian znanie *, etc…
Tocharian A tkaṃ (earth) : Hittite tekam, ancient Greek khthốn, Sanskrit kṣam, etc…
Tocharian A wär (water) : Hittite watar, ancient Greek hydor, Umbrian utur, etc…
* In satem indo-european languages (like in Russian or Latvian in these examples), the indo-european “k” becomes a “s” and the “g” becomes a “z” (e.g. Latin cord- and ancient Greek kardi- but Russian serdtse (meaning all “heart” (also from the same root but in the Germanic languages family, the proto-indo-european initial “k” becomes a “h”)) and for instance Germanic gold and zolot (-o) in Russian or ancient Greek geront- (elder) and Ossetic zärond (old) or Hittite gima and Russian zima (both meaning “winter“))
** The proto-indo-european initial “p” becomes a “f” in Germanic languages (e.g. Latin pisc- (fish) and Danish fisk)
In the Kurgan hypothesis, the Indo-iranian languages are a later stage of the Indo-european language evolution that probably appeared between 2,500 BC and 2,200 BC (2,000 BC at most) in south Russia and north-west Kazakhstan, or possibly in the Abashevo culture of Russia (as hinted by tracks of a very old stage words of Indo-iranian in Finno-ugric languages and in east Caucasian languages). The Afanasevo culture appeared around 3,500 BC, roughly at the time the Globular amphora culture and the Corded ware culture appeared in the north of Europe between 3,500 BC-3,000 BC (and that we can think are the ancestral origin of language families such as Germanic and Celtic, and likely others), hence we can surmise that the resemblances between Tocharian and the western Indo-european languages are because they separated from their general common location of origin (supposed to be Ukraine/south Russia) roughly at the same time ((roughly?) the proto-indo-european stage).
Several DNA tests have been done on ancient mummies of the Tarim and many did have west Eurasian genetic signatures :
- An ancient Xinjiang mummy was found to be of the mtDNA haplogroup H (the most frequent European mtDNA haplogroup) : DNA analysis of ancient desiccated corpses from Xinjiang (Francalacci, P., 1995), Journal of Indoeuropean Studies, vol. 23 (1995), pp. 385–389.
- Several 2,000 years old Tarim mummies were found to be from the haplogroups mtDNA U3, H, I, T2 and T, which are west Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups : “Mitochondrial DNA analysis of ancient Sampula population in Xinjiang (Xie, C.Z., et al), Progress in Natural Science, vol. 17, no. 8 (Aug 2007), pp. 927-933(7)” and “Mitochondrial DNA analysis of human remains from the Yuansha site in Xinjiang (Gao, S. et al), Science in China Series C: Life Sciences, vol. 51 (2008), no. 3, pp. 205-213“.
- a 2010 study found out that the remains of all the males of the tested Xiaohe population (an ancient Bronze age population of Xinjiang) living around 2,000 BCE were R1a1a and while a large majority of the mtDNA haplogroups (female lineages) were east Asian, two of them were west Eurasian (mtDNA haplogroup K and H. For the latter, modern day individuals who matched this very genetical signature in the databases, were found, all in Europe (1 German, 1 Icelander, 1 Hungarian, 1 Portuguese, 1 Italian and 4 English)) : “Evidence that a West-East admixed population lived in the Tarim Basin as early as the early Bronze Age” (Chunxiang Li et al, 2010) (source | PDF ).
The east Asian mtDNA C4 haplogroup was also found which strengthen the idea that this population came from south Siberia (and thus were derived from the Afanasevo culture), since this haplogroup is found in a certain number there.
The R1a1a continuum in the antique south Siberia and the Xinjiang region (coupled with west eurasian/europoid female lineages) also obviously present north of the black sea (Pastmists : Haplogroup R1a1a was also present deep in Germany at least by 2,600 BCE (source) – and very probably centuries earlier), the similar Europoid morphological type from the Sredny stog/Yamnaya cultures, north of the black sea, to the pastoralist populations of the Afanasevo culture of south Siberia (and in the Xinjiang as well (Han kangxin 1994, 1998)), the clear relation between the cultures of the north of the black sea and the Afanasevo culture, clearly support the Kurgan theory. In this context, associate the ancestor of the Tocharian language to south Siberia is the logical thing to do. Given the nature of the Tocharian language (i.e. much closer to the Anatolian and the western Indo-european languages of Europe than to the Indo-iranian languages, yet geographically closer), we can assume that it left the Indo-european homeland roughly at the time of the proto-Indo-european language (more or less). The Afanasevo culture appearing at 3,500 BCE, we can thus approximately know the date of the proto-Indo-european language, which fits some of the common proto-Indo-european vocabulary allowing to favor an origin around the Chalcolithic.
The fact that Turkish öküz (ox) seems apparently directly related to (proto-?)Tocharian okso (an indo-european root found for instance in the Danish word okse, the Sanskrit word ukṣán or, of course, in the English word ox) rather than to an equivalent Indo-iranian word (later Indo-iranian presence in south Siberia seems a sure fact. The indo-iranian language family probably became prominent in this region when it switched from the ancient Afanasevo culture to the Andronovo horizon) and the fact that the Mongolian cattle is partly derived from west Eurasian cattle (source) definitely support this hypothesis as well.
Interestingly, the tracks of these ancient western migrations seems to go even as far as the Shandong region, in eastern China :
“Inconsistent with the geographical distribution,the 2,500-year-old Linzi population showed greater genetic similarityto present-day European populations than to present-day east Asian populations. The 2,000-year-old Linzi population had features that were intermediate between the present-day European/2,500-year-old Linzi populations and the present-day east Asian populations. These relationships suggest the occurrence of drastic spatiotemporal changes in the genetic structure of Chinese people during thepast 2,500 years.”
“The results suggest that there are definite differences in the genetic affinities between the ancient populations of Linzi in northern China and Egyin Gol in Mongolia. The Linzi material seems to bear a stronger affinity with Near Easterners and Europeans rather than with the present-day populations of northern China, although there is a definite component of East and/or Southeast Asians within Linzi as well (as evidenced by haplogrouping; see later discussion). We would suggest that rather than a “European-like population” in the ancient Linzi region, the Linzi material may be at least partially related to Indo-Iranians (a branch of Indo-Europeans, although more precisely just “Iranian” by this time period), who were, during that period or at least shortly before it, probably inhabiting areas across Central Eurasia. More precisely, the Linzi population was quite possibly related to the Karsuk or Saka (putative Iranian groups who fit temporally and spatially) or also more distantly to the Andronovo, Afanasievo, Scythians, Sarmatians, or even the Sogdians.
The Karsuk and Saka are the most likely, given their existence in the first millennium B.C. in the central and possibly eastern parts of Central Eurasia, although these ethonyms are a little ambiguous and precise connections are not really possible. However, Harmatta (1992) argued that early Iranian groups were spread across Central Eurasia from Eastern Europe to north China in the first millennium B.C., and Askarov (1992) pointed out the existence of cist kurgan burials (with “Europoid” remains bearing some “Mongoloid” admixture, they suggest) in northwestern Mongolia in the same millennium. Although speculative, this line of reasoning fits in with other lines of evidence from archeology and linguistics for the aforementioned changes in Chinese Bronze Age culture-the loan words in Old Chinese (Pulleyblank 1996; Kuzmina 1998; Beckwith 2002; Di Cosmo 2002) and possibly sites such as Zhukaigou and the Qijia culture (Linduff 1995)-as well as evidence of Iranians on the steppe and possibly the Altai region at that time.
The suggestion that actual European populations may have been in northern China at that time conflicts with general evidence of population movement on the steppe, which sees gradual movement of putative IndoIranians and Indo-Aryans throughout the steppe and associated areas in the second and first millennia B.C. around Central Eurasia from the Indo-Aryans in India, the western Iranians on the Iranian plateau, and the Scythians and Sarmatians (and related groups) on the south Russian steppe and Eastern Europe [Pastmists : we have seen earlier that it's actually not contradictory at all]. There is some evidence of them being on the Mongolie steppe [see Askarov (1992)], as well as evidence of their inhabitance of Xinjiang (such as Khotan) and possibly the Altai region (also the Tokharians, although they were not Indo-Iranian).”
To these elements can be added the following words from the study “Unravelling migrations in the steppe: mitochondrial DNA sequences from ancient central Asians” (Lalueza-fox et al, 2004) [Link] :
“Analyses of present-day Han mtDNA sequences from different regions in China detect a very residual presence (less than 5%) of “European” haplotypes in a few regions.
These include Qinghai (east to Xinjiang and Tibet) and Yunnan [south of China], as well as some coastal regions.” (Yao et al. 2002).
Even a west Eurasian origin of acupuncture is now thinkable (*). The first really attested tracks of it are found in the “Huangdi Neijing” (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon) around 300 BC but tracks of this practice could have been found on Oetzi the ice man, a 5,300 years old mummy found at the border between Italy and Austria [Pastmists : On a side note, we now know that Ötzi was from the haplogroups Y-DNA G2a2b and mtDNA K1f ].
“The determination supports prior research that the tattoos were associated with acupuncture treatments for chronic ailments suffered by the iceman, whose frozen body was found remarkably well preserved in the Similaun Glacier of the Alps in 1991.
The cross-shaped tattoo on his knee, and another one on his left ankle, also lay over Chinese acupuncture “trigger points,” the researchers believe. Strengthening their argument is the fact that the soot-made markings are located on parts of the iceman’s body not typical for tattoo displays, diminishing the notion that they served a more ornamental, aesthetic function.
Prior research shows Oetzi did suffer from a variety of ailments that might have benefited from acupuncture. These included a bad back, degeneration of the hip, knee and ankle, and “severe abdominal disorders,” primarily caused by whip worm, an intestinal parasite that can cause diarrhea.
Frank Bahr, president of the German Academy of Acupuncture, first made the tattoo-acupuncture connection on the iceman after studying a drawing of the tattoos and their placement on Oetzi’s body.
Bahr told Discovery News, “The most interesting thing about the whole iceman story is that even today I would treat a patient with about 90 percent of the same points as the tattoos on the iceman, if this patient were to have the same diseases.”
(*) Of course, caution is advised in such a situation, for beside East Asian haplogroups found among the Finno-ugric populations (in this case, Y-DNA haplogroup N1c and mtDNA haplogroups Z1 and D5), originally coming from north-east Siberia, a few (very rare) east Asian haplogroups can be found in Europe (for instance, some (rare) instances of the haplogroup mtDNA C5 are found in Poland, in Belarus or in Romania). Nevertheless, recent findings might hint that this flow was more important than once thought as several east Asian mtDNA haplotypes were found (mtDNA haplogroups such as N9a, C5, D1/G1a, M/R24) in neolithic human remains of Hungary (source) hinting to some east Asian input in ancient Europe, which imposes a very cautious approach, especially since Hungary is not too far from Tyrol, the location of discovery of Ötzi’s mummy (however, the dates of these Hungarian sepultures are now contested (see there and there)). A few instances of mtDNA C were apparently also recently found in neolithic and bronze age human remains from Ukraine (Nikitin et al, 2012).
Another surprising element discovered with very ancient mummies of the Tarim was a tartan (plaid) dated from 1,200 BC to 700 BC. This is generally associated with the Indo-european Celts (while probably a coincidence, the place of origin of the Celts is supposedly near Austria which is quite close from the place Otzi was found).
It is actually surmised that at least horse-riding, chariot and bronze might have been brought in China from the west (article about ancient north-west China’s early bronze : “China had bronze early on” (an article also apparently confirming the settlement of Tocharian populations a bit before 2,000 BC in the east of the Tarim basin and north-west Gansu, seemingly confirming that this partly west Eurasian population didn’t directly come from the west, but at this time, more likely arrived from the north (south Siberia) and thus was largely derived from the Afanasevo population (the apparent presence of ancestral forms of what seems to be some sort of ancient Altaic(?) stems (some sort of proto-Turkic and proto-Tungusic stems) in Tocharian languages might also confort this view (see “Turkic and Chinese loan words in Tocharian” by Starostin & Lubotsky)). The Tocharian vocabulary also seems to match their use of cereals (such as wheat which was also found in a basket burried with the “Loulan beauty” (a 1,800 BCE west-eurasian-looking mummy of the eastern Tarim basin)), already in use in their likely ancestral culture of Srednij stog in the Pontic steppes, and their use of sheep (Tocharian B a(u)w (“ewe”), cognate of English ewe, Luwian hawi, Latin ovis, Sanskrit avis, Lithuanian avis, etc… ) and horse (see below), both also among the most frequent domesticated animals in the Afanasevo culture)).
The name of the horse in Chinese (ma), Mongol (morin), Tungusic (murin) and Korean (mal ) – and maybe Japanese as well (uma) – have indeed a certain resemblance with an Indo-european root for “horse” (beside *ekw- (e.g. Latin equus, old Irish ech, Gaulish epos, Tocharian B yakwe, Tocharian A yuk (very likely at the origin of the Turkish word jük meaning “horse-load”), etc…)), *mark- (Irish marc/marcach, old Norse marr, English mare, etc…). Likewise, a few Chinese words shows a strong similarity with well-kown indo-european roots: such are honey (Chinese mi, pronounced *mjit or *mit in old Chinese can be linked to Tocharian B mit (having many cognates in the other Indo-european languages : i.e. english mead, sanskrit madhu, old church slavonic meda, lithuanian med(-us), ancient Greek methu, old Irish mid, etc…)), dog (two Chinese words, Quan or Kou, both very similar to Indo-european words for dog : Quan resembles the proto-Indo-european *Kwon- (not surprising if the oldest proto-tocharian stage was in (or very close to) the proto-indo-european stage) and Kou resembles the Tocharian word Ku), and a few others such as ox/bovine (chinese nyu / indo-european *gwou-), sheep/goat (yang from an older [g]riang that could be linked with Tokharien yriye (“lamb”)) or wheel (a dialectal Chinese word gulu from an ancient form *kolo that reminds of Slavic kolo and old Prussian (a now extinct ancient Baltic language) kelan) and maybe also a word for bronze (Chinese qiaotao / ancient Greek khalkos), but unproven.
Even though still highly hypothetical, it should be noted that some have conjectured that Huangdi, the Yellow emperor (‘yellow’ is a reference to the earth), a legendary civilizer sovereign in Chinese mythology (credited with many things including the invention of the principles of Chinese traditional medicine), master of thunder inhabiting an abode at the top of a Kunlun mountain (Mountains found in the south of Xinjiang and thought to be at the center of the world), was originally the Tocharian god of thunder. Other Chinese mythological figures, such as Yi the archer (Houyi), Xiwangmu and the three sovereigns (Fuxi, Nüwa (depictions of both are found in Xinjiang in the time it was still a Tocharian region, and in the mythology they were also linked to the Kunlun mountains in the south of Xinjiang) and Shennong) are also considered as possibly coming originally from the Tocharian traditions. («Influences tokhariennes sur la mythologie chinoise » [in French], Philadelphia, Sino-Platonic Papers, May 2004, 136. ; “Mythologie sino-européenne“, Philadelphia, Sino-Platonic Papers, July 2005, 154)
As a side note, it is also noticeable that the Ainu (an ancient autochtonous Japanese ethnic group) and some Japanese dialect words for “cattle” and “cow” are very similar to the Proto-indo-european root *peku- (e.g. latin pecus, sanskrit pasu, gothic faihu and still visible nowadays in English in “fee” and “pecuniary” (the latter from latin pecus)) : peko (Ainu) and beko (in some Japanese dialects) [source]. This observation is particularly interesting when we add to this the genetic tests on Japanese cattle that happened to reveal that a non-negligible part of it was partly of ancient European origin :
“Unlike Africa, half of Japanese cattle sequences are topologically intermingled with the European variants. This suggests an interchange of variants that may be ancient, perhaps a legacy of the first introduction of domesticates to East Asia” (source : “Mitochondrial DNA variation and evolution of Japanese black cattle (Bos taurus)” | study available here | here as a PDF).
Difficult to draw direct conclusions from these strange facts. Maybe should this be linked to the second major wave of migration to Japan (at the origin of the Yayoi culture) possibly coming from Jiangsu, the coastal Chinese region just south of the Shandong region around 300 BC (some new dates around 900-800 BC are considered possible), even though the ancestral population of this second wave migrating in Japan more likely came, via Korea, from south-east Siberia (The geographical configuration and the fact that the Japanese language might be part of a (still hypothetical) Altaic language family (including Turkic, Mongol, Tungusic and Korean languages) seems to make it more likely. It is interesting to note that DNA tests of the Udege people, a Tungusic people from south-east Siberia, revealed several typical west eurasian/europoid haplogroups (mtDNA haplogroups H, H5, three H11a, T2 and U2e) among the 28 samples [source], and it seems very unlikely to be linked to Russian colonization. This is not totally unique, anyway, since the Yakuts from north-eastern Siberia themselves have both male and female west Eurasian lineages (in a small quantity) that don’t seem to be linked with Russian colonization either (examples here (pdf) and here)).
From these data, we can suppose that some ancient (non satem) Indo-european pastoralists migration (likely originally rattached to the Afanasevo culture) have spread the concept of animal husbandry deep in Asia, transmitting their term for “cattle” to their direct neighbors during the process (in total accordance with the fact that, as mentionned earlier, the Mongolian cattle also have been shown to have an European input (that we can correlate with the fact that the Turkish word for ox (öküz) also seems to be derived from an ancient Indo-european word (The early Turkic population are strongly supposed to have appeared in south Siberia, close to the north of Mongolia (the earliest Turkic inscriptions are found in the north of Mongolia)) )).
In western China, in the Xinjiang region, the population, while east Asian, has sometimes European characteristics. Genetic testings have corroborated the presence of west Eurasian genes in the population (for instance, subclades of the Y-DNA haplogroups R1a, R1b and J2, genetic signatures frequetly found in Europe (and west Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups as well).
Roughly 56 % of the genetical signatures of the Uyghurs (the main ethnical group of the Xinjiang region) are not east-Asian (2009 scientifical article about this finding).
A 2004 study (Yao et al. 2004 : “Different Matrilineal Contributions to Genetic Structure of Ethnic Groups in the Silk Road Region in China” | PDF source) also previously reached similar conclusions :
“Although our samples were from the same geographic location, a decreasing tendency of the western Eurasian-specific haplogroup frequency was observed, with the highest frequency present in Uygur (42.6%) and Uzbek (41.4%), followed by Kazak (30.2%), Mongolian (14.3%), and Hui (6.7%).”
Some (non representative but still meaningful) phenotypes found in Xinjiang :