July 27, 2010
Confronted to the obvious resemblances of many words from many different languages from Europe and Asia, scholars had came to surmise a common origin to explain this phenomenon. It soon became clear that this conjecture was correct.
This language family was named the Indo-european languages and their theoretical ancestor, the Proto-indo-european language.
It is indeed accurate to say that English is akin to Persian, Latin, Ancient Greek, Pashtun, French, Russian or Hindi and many others. These languages are related and linked by an ancient common origin, a common core.
The link is not confined to linguistics. A cultural link is also observable among the antique cultures of Europe and Asian cultures sharing this linguistic link.
For instance, the major antique Hindu god Dyaus Pita is recognizable in Jupiter and Zeus (Sometimes named Zeus Pater), all derived from an antique Father-Sky deity.
Sometimes, despite the difference in names, Indo-european gods are easily recognized by their personification. This is the case with Indra, the Hindu God of war and weather, a mace-wielding thundering god (whose mace is named Vajra and is a symbol of thunder and lightning) who crushes evil beings, like Vritra a giant snake, and that we can find back in Thor, the Germanic hammer-wielding god of thunder (whose hammer is named Mjöllnir and is a symbol of thunder and lightning (Mjöllnir likely comes from an ancient Indo-european root that gave malleus, the Latin word for hammer)) fighting Jörmungandr, a giant evil snake. This major archetypal god is found throughout the Indo-european continuum (the Slavic Perun, the Baltic Perkunas, the Hittite Tarhun/teshub, the Gallic Taranis and others).
This constatation of a common language family (with an hypothetical but extremely likely proto-indo-european language as the source) and tracks of common cultural elements spanning over basically all of Europe up to the east of India leads us to wonder how it is possible for a language family to extend on such a distance across Eurasia. Who were its original speakers? Where was its place of origin?
Some people, Like Colin Renfrew, allege that the proto-indo-europan language appeared in Anatolia (Present day Turkey) and was imported in Europe with the spread of agriculture during neolithic, Indian nationalists allege that their Indo-european languages are autochthonous to their country and that some of their ancestors spread this language family all over Eurasia up to Europe.
The more likely explanation is, in my opinion, the Kurgan theory. I will show in these pages that archeology, linguistics and even genetics seem to support it, so far.
The Kurgan hypothesis postulate that, north of the black sea, in what are modern Ukraine and south of Russia, an Europoid pastoralist population migrated both east and west imposing its culture and languages on local populations through the centuries and milleniums, mixing again and again as a minority with the locals in this process (and indeed the presence of early Indo-european loanwords in Finno-ugric languages at the stage of proto-Uralic (few examples: proto-indo-european *wed-er/en (water, river), *h₁nḗh₃mn̥- (name), *wosa (merchadise, to buy), *sneH(u)- (sinew)) have their matches in proto-Uralic: *wete, *wosa, *nime- ,*sone ) gives a strong basis for this theory, especially if we add that there are also several clear tracks of early Indo-iranian loanwords in these northern languages (more will be said later about it)).
The culture supposed to be ancestral to the Indo-european languages and cultures are the Sredny Stog culture, from 4,500 BCE to 3,500 BCE, followed by the Yamna culture (also named Pit grave culture or Yamnaya culture) from 3,600 BCE to 2,200 BCE.
From there we can follow the archeological trail of their movements in the south-east of Europe during the late 5th millenium BCE-4th millenium BCE (e.g. destruction of Karanovo VI in Bulgaria; the earliest movement in south-east Europe (before 4,000 BCE, being very likely at the origin of the Indo-european Anatolian laguage family which is apparently from an earlier stage than Proto-indo-european and that might have arrived in Anatolia around 2,600 BCE (the date of the arrival of the Anatolian-speaking populations in Asia minor and the path they took to arrive there is purely theoritical)) or in the north of Europe (Globular amphora culture and Corded ware culture, appearing roughly around 3,500-3,000 BCE) and in Asia with the Afanasevo culture (appearing around 3,500 BCE, in Kazakhstan, south Siberia, west Mongolia and even apparently in Xinjiang) then by the Andronovo culture horizon (around 2,300 BCE to 1,000 BCE) in central Asia, then in south Asia with the Gandhara graves culture (appearing in the Swat valley of north Pakistan around 1,800 BCE).
In the perspective of the Kurgan hypothesis, the Proto-indo-european stage existed during the 3,600 BCE-3,000 BCE time frame (more or less). Archeology and linguistics can apparently allow to pinpoint the proto-indo-european dates to the Chalcolithic time (e.g. The proto-indo-europeans had (their own) words for wheel, wool, horse, metal, etc… which wouldn’t fit with earlier dates (like a fully neolithic time)).
Genetics could very well confirm the Kurgan theory. Genetic testing have indentified an haplogroup (wikipedia article on the haplogroups) that could be the genetic signature of the population that was once the vector of indo-europeanization.
From Iceland to North-east india or to China or south Siberia, Haplogroup Y-DNA R1a1a is present, where we would expect it to be found if it was the mark of the spreading of Indo-european movements at the origin of the archeological ancestral Indo-european cultures. While hypothetical, many elements support the idea that early Indo-european populations were caucasoid R1a1a individuals spreading from the north of the black sea as early as 6,500 or 5,500 years ago.
Haplogroups can be understood as genetic signatures allowing to identify ancestral human lineages. Two sets of haplogroups are existing : the mtDNA haplogroups identifying the female lineages (transmitted from mother to daughter, exclusively matrilinearly (men also inherit it from their mother but they don’t transmit it to their offsprings)) and the Y-DNA haplogroups that identify male lineages (transmitted from father to son, exclusively patrilinearly).
These haplogroups, that are mutations in the DNA that are unique to a particuliar lineage, can help to identify the early human migrations and the origin and composition of the populations of a given country or region.
The European populations are mainly bearers of the R1b (more exactly from the R1b1a2 sublineages (ex-R1b1b2 sublineages)), R1a (more exactly the R1a1a sublineages) and I (I1, I2a and I2b) – other haplogroups are present but are less specific to Europe, such as Y-DNA J2, G2a, E1b1b1, N1c and other lineages – as for their male haplogroups, and bearers of many mtDNA haplogroups whose most frequent and typical are mtDNA haplogroup H (whose most subgroups are typically Europoid) and some mtDNA haplogroup U subgroups (a mtDNA haplogroup such as U5 is typical of Europe for instance and is thought to be representative of early paleolithical hunter-gatherers of Europe ; a mtDNA haplogroup such as K who is an offshoot of haplogroup U8 is also rather frequent in Europe, even if also found in west Asia).
In the European male lineages, the subgroups of R1 (R1a and R1b (R1b is currently typical of western Europe while R1a is much more frequent in the east and in a least quantity in the north of Europe)) are the most frequent haplogroups in Europe, and in the female European lineages, H subgroups are the most frequent haplogroups.
The archeological findings and the testing of ancient DNA seems to confirm the presence of caucasoid populations deep into Asia, up to south Siberia, during bronze age, apparently almost always associated with haplogroup R1a1a, seemingly supporting the Kurgan theory. The east Asian flow of populations apparently starting to be important only from early iron age, in south Siberia and central Asia, as described in several studies provided below.
“According to paleoanthropological data, the Caucasoid (in respect of its morphological features) population predominated in the steppes of the Altai–Sayan region [Pastmists : located in south Siberia] during the Neolithic [Pastmists : here, apparently at least starting with the chalcolithic], 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))
Other major studies of reference (more informations from these studies will be given in the next articles) :
“Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people” (source)
“Unravelling migrations in the steppe: mitochondrial DNA sequences from ancient central Asians” (source)
“Pigment phenotype and biogeographical ancestry from ancient skeletal remains: inferences from multiplexed autosomal SNP analysis” (source)
“Evidence that a West-East admixed population lived in the Tarim Basin as early as the early Bronze Age” (source)
The presence of caucasoid haplogroups, both in ancient and recent DNA testing in south Siberia, Siberia, Mongolia, China and south Asia is attested by the recent genetic studies and Mummies from the Altai (for instance, see this wikipedia article on the Pazyryk burials) and the Xinjiang (wikipedia article on the tarim mummies) regions only seem to corroborate this fact.
The conjunction of the archeological data (the source of the south Siberian Europoid population arriving in south Sibera around 3,500 BC during the Chalcolithic seems to be clearly originally coming from the north-east of the black sea (many archeological similarities in the sepultures, potteries, cultual elements, economy, social organisation, and so on, between the Afanasevo culture and the cultures north of the black sea)), the linguistical data (the nature of the Tocharian languages (attested in western China (Xinjiang) around 500 A.D.) supports its separation early from the Indo-european group – which fits well with the Afanasevo culture origin and dates) and the genetic data (the Haplogroups (both the male and female lineages) confirm an European origin of this population and de facto confirm haplogroup Y-DNA R1a1a as an Indo-european marker. Both of the Europoid and Asian lineages found in the earliest Tarim basin (Xinjiang) mummies (The people of Xiaohe (pastmists : see the Xinjiang page for more details)) fits an origin in south Siberia (a few other facts in archeology and linguistics (e.g. it seems some sort of proto-altaic (or proto-Turkic and proto-Tungusic stems anyway) is found in Tocharian) could also support this view. The fact that the archeological sites are found first in the east of the Xinjiang and in north-west Gansu seem to also confirm that this population didn’t arrive directly from the west but rather from south Siberia (from the Afanasevo culture)) and tend to confirm the association of the Tocharian language with the chalcolithic Afanasevo culture) seem to validate the Kurgan theory in terms of pattern and chronology. At the moment, no other theory on the subject knows such a seemingly blatant confirmation in the available data.
As previously mentionned, some common cultural and mythological background can also be perceived in the antique Indo-european peoples (despite the huge geographical distance and the long time separation: for instance, the three Kalasha people of south Asia designated by robe colors (white robes (safed posh), red robes (surkh posh) and black robes (siah posh)) remind of the three colors representing the Indo-european social organisation elsewhere (e.g. in the Scandinavian Rigsthula, the Jarl (noble) is blond, the Karl (freeman, churl) is redheaded and the thrael (slave, serf) is black-haired (white, red and black are symbolic and representing a different layer of the indo-european social order (originally possibly as a reference to the colors of the sky (daylight/twilight/night))).
The subject is too dense to be treated here but let’s give a famous example of a potential culural marker: In the material culture, a symbol such as the Swastika is often thought to be of Indo-european origin by many as it is found in many antique Indo-european populations (but it is also possible, that its origin was actually non-indo-european, probably from the middle-east (the oldest swastika found so far was in Iraq at Samarra, dated around 5,000 BCE (the second oldest found swastikas are apparently among the Vinca signs of the Balkans around 4,000-3,000 BCE. (It’s also in the Vinča culture, specifically in the east of Serbia, that were found the oldest evidences of extractive metallurgy in the world, thus far [source : On the origins of extractive metallurgy: new evidence from Europe]))) and then gained some significance in the ancient Indo-european populations (sometimes changed as a triskellion, like among the Celts)).
Let’s also mention another recurrent point. Some people have alleged that the ancient Indo-europeans were calling themselves “Aryas” (Aryans) or more exactly *Aryos as an ethnonym, but this is of course unproved, even though the presence of the Indo-european root ar- (supposed to mean “noble” or maybe “freeman” – but of course, it could also as easily have been used as a word to designate a member of the community, maybe on cultural and linguistical criteria (maybe even ethnical), for the first Indo-europeans) in many ancient Indo-european languages could indeed be a hint of such thing (ancient Greek Aristos (still visible in the english word “aristocrat“), the Aryas of south Asia (Alan is also possibly related to it), the Arsi of Xinjiang, the arawa term in Hittite, the Ario- prefix in the names of prominent Celtic and Germanic individuals of the antiquity (e.g. Germanic Ariovistus and Ariaric (a son of a Goth king), Gaulish Ariomanos (Irish Eremon), etc…), or also the old Irish aire (“nobleman“, “freeman”), could possibly support this hypothesis).
Despite the very ancient time of these surmised migrations (apparently as early as the copper age (chalcolithic) ), visible lingering tracks are apparently still seen in the phenotypes of Asian populations of these regions, even if uncommon. the following articles will give examples of such phenotypes and a few basic informations related to the matter, about these regions and their populations :
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 :