Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

  • Sjur C Papazian

  • FB: Sjur Papazian

  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Armenian Eternal Symbol

  • Forget-me-not

  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

  • Archives

Central Asia II

Central Asia II

Afanasievo Culture

The Tarim mummies

Tocharians

Seima-Turbino Phenomenon

Karasuk Culture

Karasuk Language

The Burushaski

Tagar Culture

Tashtyk culture

Wusun

Ordos culture

China

The Huns

The Xiongnu

Xiaohe culture

The Ashina

Turkic speakers and R1a

Turkish People

Afanasievo Culture

The Afanasievo culture, or Afanasevo culture, is the earliest known archaeological culture of south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains during the eneolithic era, c. 3300 to 2500 BC. It is named after a nearby mountain, Gora Afanasieva (lit. ‘Afanasiev’s mountain’) in what is now Bogradsky District, Khakassia, Russia.

David W. Anthony believes that the Afanasevans were descended from people who migrated c. 3700–3300 BCE across the Eurasian Steppe from the Repin culture of the Don-Volga region (and possibly members of the neighbouring Yamnaya culture).

Because of its geographical location and dating, Anthony and earlier scholars such as Leo Klejn, J. P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair have linked the Afanasevans to the Proto-Tocharian language.

Conventional archaeological understanding tended to date at around 2000–2500 BC. However radiocarbon gave dates as early as 3705 BC on wooden tools and 2874 BC on human remains. The earliest of these dates have now been rejected, giving a date of around 3300 BC for the start of the culture.

Mass graves were not usual for this culture.[10] Afanasevo cemeteries include both single and small collective burials with the deceased usually flexed on his back in a pit. The burial pits are arranged in rectangular, sometimes circular, enclosures marked by stone walls. It has been argued that the burials represent family burial plots with four or five enclosures constituting the local social group.

The Afanasevo economy included cattle, sheep, and goat. Horse remains, either wild or domestic, have also been found. The Afanasevo people became the first food-producers in the area. Tools were manufactured from stone (axes, arrowheads), bone (fish-hooks, points) and antler. Among the antler pieces are objects that have been identified as possible cheek-pieces for horses. Artistic representations of wheeled vehicles found in the area has been attributed to the Afanasevo culture. Ornaments of copper, silver and gold have also been found.

At Afanasevo Gora, two strains of Yersinia pestis have been extracted from human teeth. One is dated 2909–2679 BCE; the other, 2887–2677 BCE. Both are from the same (mass) grave of seven people, and are presumed near-contemporary. This strain’s genes express flagellin, which triggers the human immune response; so it was not a bubonic plague.

A June 2015 genetic study published in Nature included an analysis of four females from the Afanasievo culture. Two individuals carried haplogroup J2a2a, one carried T2c1a2, and one carried U5a1a1. The authors of the study found that the Afanasievo were “genetically indistinguishable” from the Yamnaya culture.

The results indicated that the expansion of the ancestors of the Afanasievo people into the Altai was carried out through “large-scale migrations and population displacements”, without admixture with local populations.

The Afanasievo people were also found to be closely related to the Poltavka culture. According to the authors of the study, the study underpinned the theory that the Afansievo people were Indo-Europeans, perhaps ancestors of the Tocharians.

In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains of 24 individuals ascribed to the Afanasievo culture were analyzed. Of the 14 samples of Y-DNA extracted, 10 belonged to R1b1a1a2a2, 3 belonged to Q1a2, and 1 belonged to R1b1a1a2a.

With respect to mtDNA, most samples belonged to subclades of U (particularly subclades of U5), although T, J, H and K was also detected. The authors of the study cited the results as evidence that the culture emerged as a result of a migration from the Pontic-Caspian steppe.

Because of its numerous traits attributed to the early Indo-Europeans, like metal-use, horses and wheeled vehicles, and cultural relations with Kurgan steppe cultures, the Afanasevans are believed to have been Indo-European-speaking.

However, state of the art bio-archaeological studies have demonstrated that Afansievo was replaced by the Siberian-originating Okunevo culture, becoming locally extinct. Thus, there is no link between Afansievo and Tocharians which emerged thousands of years later. Numerous scholars have suggested that the Afanasevo culture was responsible for the introduction of metallurgy to China.

The Afanasevo culture was succeeded by the Okunev culture, which is considered as an extension of the local non-Indo-European forest culture into the region. The Okunev culture nevertheless displays influences from the earlier Afanasievo culture. The region was subsequently occupied by the Andronovo, Karasuk, Tagar and Tashtyk cultures, respectively.

Allentoft et al. (2015) study also confirms that the Afanasevo culture was replaced by the second wave of Indo-European migrations from the Andronovo culture during late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Tarim mummies were also found to be genetically closer to the Andronovo culture than to the Yamnaya culture or Afanasevo culture.

The Afanasievo culture

The Afanasievo culture, or Afanasevo culture, is the earliest known archaeological culture of south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains during the eneolithic era, c. 3300 to 2500 BC. It is named after a nearby mountain, Gora Afanasieva (lit. ‘Afanasiev’s mountain’) in what is now Bogradsky District, Khakassia, Russia.

 

Because of its geographical location and dating, Anthony and earlier scholars such as Leo Klejn, J. P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair have linked the Afanasevans to the Proto-Tocharian language.

Conventional archaeological understanding tended to date at around 2000–2500 BC. However radiocarbon gave dates as early as 3705 BC on wooden tools and 2874 BC on human remains. The earliest of these dates have now been rejected, giving a date of around 3300 BC for the start of the culture.

The Afanasevo economy included cattle, sheep, and goat. Horse remains, either wild or domestic, have also been found. The Afanasevo people became the first food-producers in the area. Tools were manufactured from stone (axes, arrowheads), bone (fish-hooks, points) and antler.

Among the antler pieces are objects that have been identified as possible cheek-pieces for horses. Artistic representations of wheeled vehicles found in the area has been attributed to the Afanasevo culture. Ornaments of copper, silver and gold have also been found.

At Afanasevo Gora, two strains of Yersinia pestis have been extracted from human teeth. One is dated 2909–2679 BCE; the other, 2887–2677 BCE. Both are from the same (mass) grave of seven people, and are presumed near-contemporary. This strain’s genes express flagellin, which triggers the human immune response; so it was not a bubonic plague.

A June 2015 genetic study published in Nature included an analysis of four females from the Afanasievo culture. Two individuals carried haplogroup J2a2a, one carried T2c1a2, and one carried U5a1a1. The authors of the study found that the Afanasievo were “genetically indistinguishable” from the Yamnaya culture.

The results indicated that the expansion of the ancestors of the Afanasievo people into the Altai was carried out through “large-scale migrations and population displacements”, without admixture with local populations.

The Afanasievo people were also found to be closely related to the Poltavka culture. According to the authors of the study, the study underpinned the theory that the Afansievo people were Indo-Europeans, perhaps ancestors of the Tocharians.

Afanasevo

Among late Repin settlers migrating to the east, one Trans-Uralian group was especially successful, developing the Afanasevo culture in the Altai region from ca. 3300 BC. The first to propose a common origin of Yamna and Afanasevo based on their shared material culture was I. N. Khlopin, and this hypothesis has been refined to a more archaic cultural phase (the Repin culture), based on archaeological remains, radiocarbon dates, and recently also ancient DNA.

Before the emergence of Afanasevo, the region’s most characteristic Eneolithic remains (ca. 4000–3250 BC) were geometrically ornamented pottery found in Botai, Kozhai I, Razboinichij Ostrov, etc. These remains are synchronous with the Repin culture, hence Eneolithisation of the west Siberian region lagged behind that of the Pontic–Caspian steppe, demonstrated also in the absolute lack of copperworking, and scarce, isolated finds of copper goods (such as an adze, and a knife with leaf-shaped blade), which show typological similarities with those of the Pontic–Caspian steppes.

The appearance of Eneolithisation, including domestic animals, and metalworking in the Trans-Urals regions of western Altai and Tian Shan shows a close relationship of the whole process—typology, metal origin, and metalworking—to the early Yamna metallurgy in the Cis-Urals region.

The appearance of intermediate materials in the territory of eastern and north-eastern Kazakhstan, showing syncretic decoration of Yamna and local Eneolithic cultures of comb-geometric pottery, strengthens the direct connection of the Volga–Cis-Urals area to the Altai precisely during this period.

Burial similarities include the pose of the skeletons, the presence of organic bedding, the sprinkling of ochre, and the forms of the burial pits; differences include the use of stone constructions, and predominance of the south-western and western orientation of the dead (orientation to the east is exceptional).

The deposition of pottery increases  in relation to early Yamna, and it is marked by its heterogeneity, including its shape (tappered, ovoid, tall body, etc.), ornamental composition showing comb-like stamps, which was no longer typical of the steppe zone, but was common in the late Neolithic in the Urals (Morgunova 2014). Another strong parallel includes the earliest pictorial tradition of petroglyphs, the Yamna–Afanasevo tradition, characterised by the symbolic depiction of sun-headed men and animals.

Noteworthy features of the material culture are the pottery with swollen body and narrowed neck, which make it possible to assume its relation to late Repin ceramics. Also interesting is the technology used, including moulds, typical of Yamna dishes in the Urals. On the other hand, pottery is marked by considerable syncretism and heterogeneity. Metal is still rarely encountered, but those found show an origin in the Circum-Pontic and Maikop horizon, like those of the Don–Volga–Ural region.

The predominant nutrition of buried skeletons is meat, and the main economic occupation of Afanasevo population is sheep and cattle breeding, not known previously in this territory. The presence of sheep, cattle, and horses, now predominant in the region, is typical of the Pontic–Caspian steppes (although the Botai also knew horse-riding before the appearance of Afanasevo).

The appearance of Afanasevo must therefore be linked to an early, demographically strong migration wave of late Repin/early Yamna settlers from the Volga–Ural region, following steppe and forest-steppe environments favourable to cattle- and horse-breeding, and possibly in search for new metal deposits.

Paradoxically, though, neighbouring Trans-Urals forest regions including the Botai culture of northern Kazakhstan received practically no influence from Yamna, in contrast to the neighbouring Volosovo–Garino Bor society, adopting metallurgy, productive farming, which suggests that migrants by-passed powerful cultures of combed geometric pottery.

Nevertheless, the appearance of censers or ‘incense burners’ in the Altai ca. 2600–2000 BC, typical of the Catacomb and Poltavka cultures, suggests contacts of late Yamna groups with the region, possibly triggered by later waves of expansion into the Urals.

Afanasevo coexisted with the Okunevo culture for ca. 100 years (ca. 2600–2500 BC), before being fully replaced by it. Okunevo developed for ca. 800 years, until about the 17th–15th centuries BC, when they were replaced by the expanding Fëdorovo culture.

The different stages of the Okunevo culture have been radiocarbon dated, the Ujbat stage to the 26th–23rd c. BC, the Chernovaya stage to the 22nd–20th c., and the beginning of the Razliv period is dated ca. 19th–18th c. BC.

Pre-Tocharians

Tocharian shows peculiar archaisms and innovations compatible with a development isolated from other Late Indo-European dialects. Its strong differences with neighbouring Indo-Iranian and with other Late Proto-Indo-European dialects in general indicates an extensive period of linguistic separation from the common trunk.

The early spread of a group from the late Repin culture into the Altai–Sayan region, emerging as the Afanasevo culture ca. 3300–3100 BC, is compatible with the described early isolation of the Pre-Tocharian group from a Late Indo-European-speaking Yamna community in contact in the Pontic–Caspian steppes.

Afanasevo individuals shows full Steppe-like ancestry, coincident with Steppe Eneolithic samples, without sizeable EEF contributions as found later in Yamna (Wang et al. 2019), which is compatible with its origin as an early offshoot from the Don–Volga region[13]. Most published samples from Afanasevo (ca. 3300–2500 BC), the supposed community of Pre-Tocharian speakers, are of haplogroup R1b1a1b1-L23, most probably R1b1a1b1b-Z2103 (Hollard et al. 2018), and many among them possibly of R1b1a1b1b3-Z2106 lineage (Narasimhan et al. 2018). Only three samples are of haplogroup Q-M242, all with a mean radiocarbon date later than 3000 BC, which implies their potential association with emerging Bronze Age cultures from Mongolia, or a resurge of previous populations.

Importantly, no Afanasevo-related ancestry is found in south Asia in the 3rd millennium BC, which discards any important migration through the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor in this period (Narasimhan et al.

The Tarim mummies

In 1934 Swedish archaeologist Folke Bergman discovered some 200 mummies of fair-haired Caucasian people in the Tarim Basin in Northwest China (a region known as Xinjiang, East Turkestan or Uyghurstan). The oldest of these mummies date back to 2000 BCE and all 7 male remains tested by Li et al. (2010), were positive for the R1a1 mutations. The modern inhabitants of the Tarim Basin, the Uyghurs, belong both to this R1b-M73 subclade (about 20%) and to R1a1 (about 30%).

The first theory about the origins of the Tarim mummies is that a group of early horse riders from the Repin culture (3700-3300 BCE) migrated from the Don-Volga region to the Altai mountain, founding the Afanasevo culture (c. 3600-2400 BCE), whence they moved south to the Tarim Basin.

Another possibility is that the Tarim mummies descend from the Proto-Indo-Iranian people who expanded all over Central Asia around 2000 BCE from the Sintashta-Petrovka culture. An offshoot would have crossed the Tian Shan mountains, ending up in the Tarim Basin.

This theory has the merit of matching the dating of the Tarim mummies. Either way, most of the mummies tested for mtDNA belonged to the Mongoloid haplogroup C4, and only a few to European or Middle Eastern haplogroups (H, K and R).

There is some controversy regarding the possible link between the Tarim mummies and the Tocharian languages, a Centum branch of the Indo-European family which were spoken in the Tarim Basin from the 3rd to 9th centuries CE. It is easy to assume that the Tarim mummies were Proto-Tocharian speakers due to the corresponding location and the Indo-European connection.

However, the Tarim mummies predate the appearance of Tocharian by over two millennia, and Tocharian is a Centum language that cannot be descended from the Satem Proto-Indo-Iranian branch. Other Centum branches being all related to haplogroup R1b, and Tocharian being the only eastern Centum language, it is possible that the Tocharian speakers is instead associated to the Central Asian R1b1b1 (M73) subclade, also found among the modern Uyghurs inhabiting the Tarim basin.

Tocharians

The Tocharians, or Tokharians were an Indo-European people who inhabited the medieval oasis city-states on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin (modern Xinjiang, China) in ancient times.

The Tocharian languages, a branch of the Indo-European family, are known from manuscripts from the 6th to 8th centuries AD. The name “Tocharian” was given to them by modern scholars, who identified their speakers with a people who inhabited Bactria from the 2nd century BC, and were known in ancient Greek sources as the Tókharoi (Latin Tochari). This identification is generally considered erroneous, but the name “Tocharian” remains the most common term for the languages and their speakers.

Agricultural communities first appeared in the oases of the northern Tarim circa 2000 BC. (The earliest Tarim mummies, which may not be connected to the Tocharians, date from c. 1800 BC.) Some scholars have linked these communities to the Afanasievo culture found earlier (c. 3500–2500 BC) in Siberia, north of the Tarim or Central Asian BMAC culture.

By the 2nd century BC, these settlements had developed into city-states, overshadowed by nomadic peoples to the north and Chinese empires to the east. These cities, the largest of which was Kucha, also served as way stations on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan desert.

From the 8th century AD, the Uyghurs – speakers of a Turkic language from the Kingdom of Qocho – settled in the region. The peoples of the Tarim city-states intermixed with the Uyghurs, whose Old Uyghur language spread through the region. The Tocharian languages are believed to have become extinct during the 9th century.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, archaeologists recovered a number of manuscripts from oases in the Tarim Basin written in two closely related but previously unknown Indo-European languages. Another text recovered from the same area, a Buddhist work in Old Turkic, included a colophon stating that the text had been translated from Sanskrit via a toxrï language, which Friedrich W. K. Müller guessed was one of the newly discovered languages.

Müller called the languages “Tocharian” (German Tocharisch), linking this toxrï with the ethnonym Tókharoi (Ancient Greek: Τόχαροι, Ptolemy VI, 11, 6, 2nd century AD) applied by Strabo to one of the Scythian tribes that overran the Greco-Bactrian kingdom (present day Afghanistan-Pakistan) in the second half of the 2nd century BC.

This term was itself derived from Indo-Iranian (cf. Old Persian tuxāri-, Khotanese ttahvāra, and Sanskrit tukhāra), the source of the term “Tokharistan” usually referring to 1st millennium Bactria, as well as the Takhar province of Afghanistan. The Tókharoi are often identified by modern scholars with the Yuezhi of Chinese historical accounts, who founded the Kushan Empire.

These people are now known to have spoken Bactrian, an Eastern Iranian language that is quite distinct from the Tocharian languages, and Müller’s identification is now a minority position among scholars. Nevertheless, “Tocharian” remains the standard term for the languages of the Tarim Basin manuscripts and for the people who produced them.

The name of Kucha in Tocharian B was Kuśi, with adjectival form kuśiññe. The word may be derived from Proto-Indo-European *keuk “shining, white”. The Tocharian B word akeññe may have referred to people of Agni, with a derivation meaning “borderers, marchers”. One of the Tocharian A texts has ārśi-käntwā as a name for their own language, so that ārśi may have meant “Agnean”, though “monk” is also possible.

The Tocharian languages are known from around 7600 documents dating from about 400 to 1200 AD, found at 30 sites in the northeast Tarim area. The manuscripts are written in two distinct, but closely related, Indo-European languages, conventionally known as Tocharian A and Tocharian B.

Tocharian A (Agnean or East Tocharian) was found in the northeastern oases known to the Tocharians as Ārśi, later Agni (i.e. Chinese Yanqi; modern Karasahr) and Turpan (including Khocho or Qočo; known in Chinese as Gaochang).

Some 500 manuscripts have been studied in detail, mostly coming from Buddhist monasteries. Many authors take this to imply that Tocharian A had become a purely literary and liturgical language by the time of the manuscripts, but it may be that the surviving documents are unrepresentative.

Tocharian B (Kuchean or West Tocharian) was found at all the Tocharian A sites and also in several sites further west, including Kuchi (later Kucha). It appears to have still been in use in daily life at that time. Over 3200 manuscripts have been studied in detail.

The languages had significant differences in phonology, morphology and vocabulary, making them mutually unintelligible. Tocharian A shows innovations in the vowels and nominal inflection, whereas Tocharian B has changes in the consonants and verbal inflection. Many of the differences in vocabulary between the languages concern Buddhist concepts, which may suggest that they were associated with different Buddhist traditions.

The differences indicate that they diverged from a common ancestor between 500 and 1000 years before the earliest documents, that is, some time in the 1st millennium BC.[16] Common Indo-European vocabulary retained in Tocharian includes words for herding, cattle, sheep, pigs, dogs, horses, textiles, farming, wheat, gold, silver, and wheeled vehicles.

Prakrit documents from 3rd century Krorän, Andir and Niya on the southeast edge of the Tarim Basin contain around 100 loanwords and 1000 proper names that cannot be traced to an Indic or Iranian source.

Thomas Burrow suggested that they come from a variety of Tocharian, dubbed Tocharian C or Kroränian, which may have been spoken by at least some of the local populace. Burrow’s theory is widely accepted, but the evidence is meagre and inconclusive, and some scholars favour alternative explanations.

The Taklamakan Desert is roughly oval in shape, about 1,000 km long and 400 km wide, surrounded on three sides by high mountains. The main part of the desert is sandy, surrounded by a belt of gravel desert.

The desert is completely barren, but in the late spring the melting snows of the surrounding mountains feed streams, which have been altered by human activity to create oases with mild microclimates and supporting intensive agriculture.

On the northern edge of the basin, these oases occur in small valleys before the gravels. On the southern edge, they occur in alluvial fans on the edge of the sand zone. Isolated alluvial fan oases also occur in the gravel deserts of the Turpan Depression to the east of the Taklamakan. From around 2000 BC, these oases supported Bronze Age settled agricultural communities of steadily increasing sophistication.

The necessary irrigation technology was first developed during the 3rd millennium BC in the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) to the west of the Pamir mountains, but it is unclear how it reached the Tarim. The staple crops, wheat and barley, also originated in the west.

J. P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair argue that the Tarim was first settled by Tocharian-speakers from the Afanasevo culture to the north, who occupied the northern and eastern edges of the basin. The Afanasevo culture (c. 3500–2500 BC) displays cultural and genetic connections with the Indo-European-associated cultures of the Central Asian steppe yet predates the specifically Indo-Iranian-associated Andronovo culture (c. 2000–900 BC) enough to account for the isolation of the Tocharian languages from Indo-Iranian linguistic innovations like satemization.

The oldest of the Tarim mummies, bodies preserved by the desert conditions, date from 2000 BC and were found on the eastern edge of the Tarim basin. They seem to be Caucasoid types with light-colored hair.

A genetic study of remains from the oldest layer of the Xiaohe Cemetery found that the maternal lineages were a mixture of east and west Eurasian types, while all the paternal lineages were of west Eurasian type. It is unknown whether they are connected with the frescoes painted at Tocharian sites more than two millennia later, which also depict light eyes and hair color.

Later, groups of nomadic pastoralists moved from the steppe into the grasslands to the north and northeast of the Tarim. They were the ancestors of peoples later known to Chinese authors as the Wusun and Yuezhi. At least some of them spoke Iranian languages, but a minority of scholars suggest that the Yuezhi were Tocharian speakers.

During the 1st millennium BC, a further wave of immigrants, the Saka speaking Iranian languages, arrived from the west and settled along the southern rim of the Tarim. They are believed to be the source of Iranian loanwords in Tocharian languages, particularly related to commerce and warfare.

Most Tocharian inscriptions are from Buddhist monastical texts, suggesting that Tocharians largely embraced this religion. Pre-Buddhist beliefs are largely unknown, but several Chinese goddesses are similar to those of the speculated Proto-Indo-European sun goddess and the dawn goddess, implying influence from them through trade routes in Tocharian territories and therefore their worship there.

Tocharian B has a noun swāñco derived from the name of the Proto-Indo-European sun goddess, while Tocharian A has koṃ, a loanword etymologically connected to the Turkic sun goddess Gun Ana. Besides this, they might have also worshipped a lunar deity (meñ-) and an earth one (keṃ-).

The first record of the oasis states is found in Chinese histories. The Book of Han lists 36 statelets in the Tarim basin in the last two centuries BC. These oases served as waystations on the trade routes forming part of the Silk Road passing along the northern and southern edges of the Taklamakan desert. The largest were Kucha with 81,000 inhabitants and Agni (Yanqi or Karashar) with 32,000.

Chinese histories give no evidence of ethnic changes in these cities between that time and the period of the Tocharian manuscripts from these sites. Situated on the northern edge of the Tarim, these small urban societies were overshadowed by nomadic peoples to the north and Chinese empires to the east. They conceded tributary relations with the larger powers when required, and acted independently when they could.

In 177 BC, the Xiongnu drove the Yuezhi from western Gansu, causing most of them to flee west to the Ili Valley and then to Bactria. The Xiongnu then overcame the Tarim statelets, which became a vital part of their empire. The Chinese Han dynasty was determined to weaken their Xiongnu enemies by depriving them of this area.

This was achieved in a series of campaigns beginning in 108 BC and culminating in the establishment of the Protectorate of the Western Regions in 60 BC under Zheng Ji.

The Han government used a range of tactics, including plots to assassinate local rulers, direct attacks on a few states (e.g. Kucha in 65 BC) to cow the rest, and the massacre of the entire population of Luntai (80 km east of Kucha) when they resisted. The Han controlled the Tarim states intermittently until their final withdrawal in 150 AD.

Kucha, the largest of the oasis cities, was ruled by the Bai family, sometimes autonomously and sometimes as vassals of outside powers. The government included some 30 named posts below the king, with all but the highest-ranking titles occurring in pairs of left and right. Other states had similar structures, though on a smaller scale.

The Book of Jin says of the city: They have a walled city and suburbs. The walls are threefold. Within are Buddhist temples and stupas numbering a thousand. The people are engaged in agriculture and husbandry. The men and women cut their hair and wear it at the neck. The prince’s palace is grand and imposing, glittering like an abode of the gods.

— Book of Jin, Chapter 97 The inhabitants grew red millet, wheat, rice, legumes, hemp, grapes and pomegranates, and reared horses, cattle, sheep and camels. They also extracted a wide range of metals and minerals from the surrounding mountains. Handicrafts included leather goods, fine felts and rugs.

The Kushan Empire expanded into the Tarim during the 2nd century, bringing Buddhism, Kushan art, Sanskrit as a liturgical language and Prakrit as an administrative language (in the southern Tarim states). With these Indic languages came scripts, including the Brahmi script (later adapted to write Tocharian) and the Kharosthi script.

From the 3rd century, Kucha became a centre of Buddhist studies. Buddhist texts were translated into Chinese by Kuchean monks, the most famous of whom was Kumārajīva (344–412/5).

Captured by Lü Guang of the Later Liang in an attack on Kucha in 384, Kumārajīva learned Chinese during his years of captivity in Gansu. In 401, he was brought to the Later Qin capital of Chang’an, where he remained as head of a translation bureau until his death in 413.

The Kizil Caves lie 65 km west of Kucha, and contain over 236 Buddhist temples. Their murals date from the 3rd to the 8th century. Many of these murals were removed by Albert von Le Coq and other European archaeologists in the early 20th century, and are now held in European museums, but others remain in their original locations.

An increasingly dry climate in the 4th and 5th centuries led to the abandonment of several of the southern cities, including Niya and Krorän, with a consequent shift of trade from the southern route to the northern one.

Confederations of nomadic tribes also began to jostle for supremacy. The northern oasis states were conquered by Rouran in the late 5th century, leaving the local leaders in place. The Rouran were replaced in the mid-6th century by the Turks, who then split into western and eastern khaganates. The Bai family continued to rule Kucha, as vassals of the Western Turks.

The oldest surviving texts in Tocharian date from this period, and deal with a wide variety of administrative, religious and everyday topics.[60] They also include travel passes, small slips of poplar wood giving the size of the permitted caravans for officials at the next station along the road.

In the 7th century, Emperor Taizong of Tang China, having overcome the Eastern Turks, sent his armies west to attack the Western Turks and the oasis states. The first oasis to fall was Turfan, which was captured in 630 and annexed as part of China.

Next to the west lay the city of Agni, which had been a tributary of the Tang since 632. Alarmed by the nearby Chinese armies, Agni stopped sending Tribute to China and formed an alliance with the Western Turks. They were aided by Kucha, who also stopped sending tribute.

The Tang captured Agni in 644, defeating a Western Turk relief force, and made the king resume tribute. When that king was deposed by a relative in 648, the Tang sent an army under the Turk general Ashina She’er to install a compliant member of the local royal family.

Ashina She’er continued to capture Kucha, and made it the headquarters of the Tang Protectorate General to Pacify the West. Kuchean forces recaptured the city and killed protector-general, Guo Xiaoke, but it fell again to Ashina She’er, who had 11,000 of the inhabitants executed in reprisal for the killing of Guo. The Tocharian cities never recovered from the Tang conquest.

The Tang lost the Tarim basin to the Tibetan Empire in 670, but regained it in 692, and continued to rule there until it was recaptured by the Tibetans in 792. The ruling Bai family of Kucha are last mentioned in Chinese sources in 787. There is little mention of the region in Chinese sources for the 9th and 10th centuries.

The Uyghur Khaganate took control of the northern Tarim in 803. After their capital in Mongolia was sacked by the Yenisei Kyrgyz in 840, they established a new state, the Kingdom of Qocho with its capital at Gaochang (near Turfan) in 866.

Over centuries of contact and intermarriage, the cultures and populations of the pastoralist rulers and their agriculturalist subjects blended together. The Uighurs abandoned their state religion of Manichaeism in favour of Buddhism, and adopted the agricultural lifestyle and many of the customs of the oasis-dwellers. The Tocharian language gradually disappeared as the urban population switched to the Old Uyghur language.

The Tocharians

The Tocharians, or Tokharians were an Indo-European people who inhabited the medieval oasis city-states on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin (modern Xinjiang, China) in ancient times. The Tocharian languages, a branch of the Indo-European family, are known from manuscripts from the 6th to 8th centuries AD.

The name “Tocharian” was given to them by modern scholars, who identified their speakers with a people who inhabited Bactria from the 2nd century BC, and were known in ancient Greek sources as the Tókharoi (Latin Tochari). This identification is generally considered erroneous, but the name “Tocharian” remains the most common term for the languages and their speakers.

Agricultural communities first appeared in the oases of the northern Tarim circa 2000 BC. (The earliest Tarim mummies, which may not be connected to the Tocharians, date from c. 1800 BC.) Some scholars have linked these communities to the Afanasievo culture found earlier (c. 3500–2500 BC) in Siberia, north of the Tarim or Central Asian BMAC culture.

Allentoft et al. (2015) study also confirms that the Afanasevo culture was replaced by the second wave of Indo-European migrations from the Andronovo culture during late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Tarim mummies were also found to be genetically closer to the Andronovo culture than to the Yamnaya culture or Afanasevo culture.

In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains of 24 individuals ascribed to the Afanasievo culture were analyzed. Of the 14 samples of Y-DNA extracted, 10 belonged to R1b1a1a2a2, 3 belonged to Q1a2, and 1 belonged to R1b1a1a2a.

With respect to mtDNA, most samples belonged to subclades of U (particularly subclades of U5), although T, J, H and K was also detected. The authors of the study cited the results as evidence that the culture emerged as a result of a migration from the Pontic-Caspian steppe.

Because of its numerous traits attributed to the early Indo-Europeans, like metal-use, horses and wheeled vehicles, and cultural relations with Kurgan steppe cultures, the Afanasevans are believed to have been Indo-European-speaking.

Numerous scholars have suggested that the Afanasevo culture was responsible for the introduction of metallurgy to China. The region was subsequently occupied by the Andronovo, Karasuk, Tagar and Tashtyk cultures, respectively.

The Tocharians

The Tocharians, or Tokharians, were an Indo-European people who inhabited the medieval oasis city-states on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin (modern Xinjiang, China) in ancient times.

The Tocharian languages, a branch of the Indo-European family, are known from manuscripts from the 6th to 8th centuries AD. The name “Tocharian” was given to them by modern scholars, who identified their speakers with a people who inhabited Bactria from the 2nd century BC, and were known in ancient Greek sources as the Tókharoi (Latin Tochari). This identification is generally considered erroneous, but the name “Tocharian” remains the most common term for the languages and their speakers.

Agricultural communities first appeared in the oases of the northern Tarim circa 2000 BC. (The earliest Tarim mummies, which may not be connected to the Tocharians, date from c. 1800 BC.) Some scholars have linked these communities to the Afanasievo culture found earlier (c. 3500–2500 BC) in Siberia, north of the Tarim or Central Asian BMAC culture.

By the 2nd century BC, these settlements had developed into city-states, overshadowed by nomadic peoples to the north and Chinese empires to the east. These cities, the largest of which was Kucha, also served as way stations on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan desert.

From the 8th century AD, the Uyghurs – speakers of a Turkic language from the Kingdom of Qocho – settled in the region. The peoples of the Tarim city-states intermixed with the Uyghurs, whose Old Uyghur language spread through the region. The Tocharian languages are believed to have become extinct during the 9th century.

Okunevo culture

The Afansievo culture was succeeded by the Siberian-originating Okunevo culture, a Bronze Age culture dated to the first half of the 2nd millennium BC in Minusinsk Hollow of southern Siberia, which is considered as an extension of the local non-Indo-European forest culture into the region, nevertheless displays influences from the Afanasievo culture.

The similarity between some of the objects from the Okunev burial grounds and objects found in sites in the vicinity of the middle Ob River and the Lake Baikal region indicates that the bearers of the Okunev culture came to southern Siberia from the northern taiga regions, although genetic evidence suggests bearears of the Afanasevo culture were partly ancestral to those of the Okunev culture, particularly among the more westerly subgroups of this culture.

The Okunev culture is represented by burial structures, which were composed of small, rectangular surface enclosures made of stone slabs placed vertically in the ground. Within these enclosures were graves that were also lined with stone slabs. The skeletons were of the Mongoloid physical type, and were buried on their backs with legs bent at the knees.

Finds from the Okunev culture include lavishly decorated jug-like and conical vessels; copper and bronze articles, including leaf-shaped knives, fishhooks, and temporal rings; and works of art, which included stone statues with human faces and images of birds and beasts engraved on bone plaques or hammered out on stone slabs.

The chief occupation of the population was stock raising (cattle, sheep, and goats), supplemented by hunting and fishing. There were no significant indications of property and social stratification. The Okunev culture was succeeded by the Andronovo culture.

The Taklamakan Desert is roughly oval in shape, about 1,000 km long and 400 km wide, surrounded on three sides by high mountains. The main part of the desert is sandy, surrounded by a belt of gravel desert.

The desert is completely barren, but in the late spring the melting snows of the surrounding mountains feed streams, which have been altered by human activity to create oases with mild microclimates and supporting intensive agriculture.

On the northern edge of the basin, these oases occur in small valleys before the gravels. On the southern edge, they occur in alluvial fans on the edge of the sand zone. Isolated alluvial fan oases also occur in the gravel deserts of the Turpan Depression to the east of the Taklamakan. From around 2000 BC, these oases supported Bronze Age settled agricultural communities of steadily increasing sophistication.

The necessary irrigation technology was first developed during the 3rd millennium BC in the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) to the west of the Pamir mountains, but it is unclear how it reached the Tarim.

The staple crops, wheat and barley, also originated in the west. J. P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair argue that the Tarim was first settled by Tocharian-speakers from the Afanasevo culture to the north, who occupied the northern and eastern edges of the basin.

The Afanasevo culture (c. 3500–2500 BC) displays cultural and genetic connections with the Indo-European-associated cultures of the Central Asian steppe yet predates the specifically Indo-Iranian-associated Andronovo culture (c. 2000–900 BC) enough to account for the isolation of the Tocharian languages from Indo-Iranian linguistic innovations like satemization.

The oldest of the Tarim mummies, bodies preserved by the desert conditions, date from 2000 BC and were found on the eastern edge of the Tarim basin. They seem to be Caucasoid types with light-colored hair.

A genetic study of remains from the oldest layer of the Xiaohe Cemetery found that the maternal lineages were a mixture of east and west Eurasian types, while all the paternal lineages were of west Eurasian type. It is unknown whether they are connected with the frescoes painted at Tocharian sites more than two millennia later, which also depict light eyes and hair color.

Later, groups of nomadic pastoralists moved from the steppe into the grasslands to the north and northeast of the Tarim. They were the ancestors of peoples later known to Chinese authors as the Wusun and Yuezhi. At least some of them spoke Iranian languages, but a minority of scholars suggest that the Yuezhi were Tocharian speakers.

During the 1st millennium BC, a further wave of immigrants, the Saka speaking Iranian languages, arrived from the west and settled along the southern rim of the Tarim. They are believed to be the source of Iranian loanwords in Tocharian languages, particularly related to commerce and warfare.

Seima-Turbino Phenomenon

The Altai Mountains in what is now southern Russia and central Mongolia have been identified as the point of origin of a cultural enigma termed the Seima-Turbino Phenomenon. It is conjectured that changes in climate in this region around 2000 BC and the ensuing ecological, economic and political changes triggered a rapid and massive migration westward into northeast Europe, eastward into China and southward into Vietnam and Thailand across a frontier of some 4,000 miles.

This migration took place in just five to six generations and led to peoples from Finland in the west to Thailand in the east employing the same metal working technology and, in some areas, horse breeding and riding.

It is further conjectured that the same migrations spread the Uralic group of languages across Europe and Asia: some 39 languages of this group are still extant, including Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and Lappish.

However, recent genetic testings of sites in south Siberia and Kazakhstan (Andronovo horizon) would rather support a spreading of the bronze technology via Indo-European migrations eastwards, as this technology was well known for quite a while in western regions.

Seima-Turbino refers to burial sites dating around 1500 BC found across northern Eurasia, from Finland to Mongolia. The buried were nomadic warriors and metal-workers, travelling on horseback or two-wheeled chariots. These nomads originated from the Altai Mountains. The culture spread from these mountains to the west. Although they were the precursor to the much later Mongol invasions, these groups were not yet strong enough to attack the important social sites of the Bronze Age.

These cultures are noted for being nomadic forest and steppe societies with metal working, sometimes without having first developed agricultural methods. The development of this metalworking ability appears to have taken place quite quickly.

Bronze metallurgy in China originated in what is referred to as the Erlitou (Wade–Giles: Erh-li-t’ou) period, which some historians argue places it within the range of dates controlled by the Shang dynasty. Others believe the Erlitou sites belong to the preceding Xia (Wade–Giles: Hsia) dynasty.

The U.S. National Gallery of Art defines the Chinese Bronze Age as the “period between about 2000 BC and 771 BC,” a period that begins with Erlitou culture and ends abruptly with the disintegration of Western Zhou rule. Though this provides a concise frame of reference, it overlooks the continued importance of bronze in Chinese metallurgy and culture.

Little is known about the arrival of Proto-Greek speakers from the steppes. The Mycenaean culture commenced circa 1650 BCE and is clearly an imported steppe culture. The close relationship between Mycenaean and Proto-Indo-Iranian languages suggest that they split fairly late, some time between 2500 and 2000 BCE.

Archeologically, Mycenaean chariots, spearheads, daggers and other bronze objects show striking similarities with the Seima-Turbino culture (c. 1900-1600 BCE) of the northern Russian forest-steppes, known for the great mobility of its nomadic warriors (Seima-Turbino sites were found as far away as Mongolia). It is therefore likely that the Mycenaean descended from Russia to Greece between 1900 and 1650 BCE, where they intermingled with the locals to create a new unique Greek culture.

The Qijia culture

The Qijia culture (2400 BC – 1900 BC) was an early Bronze Age culture distributed around the upper Yellow River region of Gansu (centered in Lanzhou) and eastern Qinghai, China, it is regarded as one of the earliest bronze cultures. Johan Gunnar Andersson discovered the initial site at Qijiaping in 1923. Qijia culture was a sedentary culture, based on agriculture, and breeding pigs, which were also used in sacrifices.

Qijia culture is distinguished by a presence of numerous domesticated horses, and practice of oracle divination, the metal knives and axes recovered apparently point to some interactions with Siberian and Central Asian cultures, in particular with the Seima-Turbino complex. Archeological evidence points to a plausible early contacts between the Qijia culture and Central Asia.

During the late stages of the culture, the Qijia culture retreated from the west and suffered a reduction in population size. Qijia culture produced some of the earliest bronze and copper mirrors found in China. Extensive domestication of horses are found at many Qijia sites. The archaeological site at Lajia, Huangniangniangtai, Qinweijia, and Dahezhuang are associated with the Qijia culture.

Since this is significantly later than the discovery of bronze in Mesopotamia, bronze technology could have been imported rather than discovered independently in China. While there may be reason to believe that bronzework developed inside China separately from outside influence, the discovery of European mummies in Xinjiang suggests a possible route of transmission from the West.

Karasuk culture

Many Neolithic sites were discovered in what was formerly Soviet Central Asia, and the number of Bronze Age sites is even higher. The majority were found on the middle reaches of the Yenisey River, especially in the Minusinsk Basin, where metallurgy developed early. They testify to the existence of three main, basically successive, yet often overlapping cultures: the Afanasyevskaya, Andronovo, and Karasuk, so called after the villages near which each culture was identified.

A cemetery to the southwest of Krasnoyarsk, on the slopes of the Afanasyevskaya Mountains, contained 80 burials dating from the 2nd millennium BC. The earlier ones were flat and marked by stone circles symbolizing the Sun god; the later ones took the form of barrows, or large mounds of earth, but were also encircled by similar stone slabs.

The earlier graves contained elongated, spherical pottery vessels with pointed bases decorated with herringbone patterns. In the later graves this type of ware was superseded by flat-bottomed pots usually associated with sedentary pastoralist cultures. The graves also contained numerous stone and bone objects. Although copper objects were rare, they heralded the dawn of a new cultural period, the Metal Age.

The Andronovo culture succeeded the Afanasyevskaya in the 2nd and 1st millennia BC. Although found to the southwest of Krasnoyarsk, it is more frequently encountered in western Siberia and Kazakhstan. The settlement and cemetery of Alekseevskoe (present Tenlyk), some 400 miles (600 kilometres) south of Yekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk), is especially important, because its earth houses were designed for permanent habitation.

Their roofs rested on logs, and each dwelling had a central hearth used for heating purposes with side hearths intended for cooking. Bronze objects were numerous, and workshops existed for working copper. The metal probably came from mines in the Minusinsk Basin, Kazakhstan, and the western Altai Mountains, the latter having been worked as early as the 14th century BC.

The Karasuk culture describes a group of Bronze Age societies who ranged from the Aral Sea to the upper Yenisei in the east and south to the Altai Mountains and the Tian Shan in ca. 1500–800 BC. Dating from about 1200 to about 70 BC—the dawn of the Iron and historical age—the Karasuk culture was located in the Minusinsk Basin, on the Yenisey River and on the upper reaches of the Ob River.

It was preceded by the Afanasevo culture, the earliest Eneolithic archaeological culture found until now in south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin, Altay and Eastern Kazakhstan, and covers the eastern parts of the Andronovo culture, which it appears to replace. Its creators must have been in touch with East Asia, for certain bronze objects, notably elbow-shaped knives, are related to those used between the 14th and 11th centuries BC in China during the Shang period.

Vital trade contact is traced from northern China and the Baikal region to the Black Sea and the Urals, influencing the uniformity of the culture. The Karasuk was succeeded by the Tagar culture. The remains from the Karasuk culture are minimal and entirely of the mortuary variety. At least 2000 burials are known.

The economy was mixed agriculture and stockbreeding. Its culture appears to have been more mobile than the Andronovo. The Karasuk were farmers who practiced metallurgy on a large scale. Arsenical bronze artefacts are present. Their settlements were of pit houses and they buried their dead in stone cists covered by kurgans and surrounded by square stone enclosures.

Industrially, they were skilled metalworkers, the diagnostic artifacts of the culture being a bronze knife with curving profiles and a decorated handle and horse bridles. The pottery has been compared to that discovered in Inner Mongolia and the interior of China, with bronze knives similar to those from northeastern China.

Stone pillars topped either with ram’s heads, stylized animal forms, or human figures have also been discovered. Their realistic animal art probably contributed to the development of the Scytho-Siberian animal art style.

It is generally believed that the culture has its origin in Mongolia, Northern China and Korea, characterized by Altaic idioms. Other scholars have suggested a connection with the Yeniseian and Burushaski people, even suggesting a Karasuk languages group.

The origins of the Karasuk culture are complex, but it is generally accepted that its origins lie both with the Andronovo culture and local cultures of the Yenisei. The ethnic identity of the Karasuk is problematic, as the Andronovo culture has been associated with the Indo-Iranians while the local cultures have been considered as unconnected to the steppe. Nevertheless, a specifically Proto-Iranian identity has been proposed for the Karasuk culture.

The Karasuk tribes have been described by archaeologists as exhibiting pronounced Europid features. Ancient DNA extracted from the remains of two males who dated back to the Karasuk culture were determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a.

Extracted mtDNA from two female remains from this cultural horizon revealed they possessed the Haplogroup U5a1 and U4 lineages. The study determined that the individuals had light hair and blue or green eyes.

In 2009, a genetic study of ancient Siberian cultures, the Andronovo culture, the Karasuk culture, the Tagar culture and the Tashtyk culture, was published in the journal Human Genetics. Four individuals of the Karasuk culture of four different sites from 1400 BC to 800 BC were surveyed. Extractions of mtDNA from two individuals were determined to possess the Western Eurasian U5a1 and U4 lineages.

Extractions of Y-DNA from two individuals were both determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1, which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans. The individuals surveyed were all determined to be Europoid and light-eyed.

Karasuk Language Family

The Karasuk language family is a proposed language family that links the Yeniseian languages, sometimes known as Yeniseic or Yenisei-Ostyak, a language family whose languages are and were spoken by the Yeniseian people in the Yenisei River region of central Siberia, with the Burushaski language of northern Pakistan.

It is named after the Karasuk culture (ca. 1500–800 BC), a group of Bronze Age societies which existed in Central Asia during the Bronze Age (from the Aral Sea or the Volga River to the upper Yenisei catchment) in second millennium BCE.

The evidence for Karasuk is mostly morphological. For example, the second-person singular prefixes on intransitive verbs are [ɡu-, ɡó-] in Burushaski and [ku-, ɡu-] in Ket, the only surviving language of the Yeniseian language family today.

The Karasuk hypothesis, linking Yeniseian to Burushaski, has been proposed by several scholars. It is postulated that the Burusho people were part of the migration out of Central Asia, that resulted in the Indo-European conquest of the Indus Valley.

It is postulated that the Burusho people took part in the Indo-Aryan migration out of Central Asia that resulted in the Indo-European conquest of the Indus Valley and the Indo-European conquest of the Indian sub-continent, while other Karasuk peoples migrated northwards to become the Yenisei.

As part of the proposed Dené–Yeniseian language family, the Yeniseian languages have been part of the first demonstration of a genealogical link between Old World and New World language families that meets the standards of traditional comparative-historical linguistics.

From hydronymic and genetic data, it is suggested that the Yeniseian languages were spoken in a much greater area in ancient times, including parts of northern China and Mongolia. It has been further proposed that the recorded distribution of Yeniseian languages from the 17th century onward represents a relatively recent northward migration, and that the Yeniseian urheimat lies to the south of Lake Baikal.

Yeniseian languages are thought to have contributed many ubiquitous loanwords to Turkic and Mongolic vocabulary, such as Khan, Khagan, Tarqan, and the word for “god” and “sky”, Tengri. This conclusion has primarily been drawn from the analysis of preserved Xiongnu texts in the form of Chinese characters.

The Yeniseians have been connected to the Xiongnu, whose ruling elite are thought to have spoken a southern Yeniseian language similar to Pumpokol, one of the Yeniseian languages. Pumpokol has been extinct since the 18th century. Along with Arin, it shares many features with the ancient Xiongnu and Jie languages.

Yeniseian-derived hydronyms in northern Mongolia (the southernmost known extent of Yeniseian influence) are exclusively Pumpokolic. Since the Jie, as a tribe of the Xiongnu, are likely to have come from the same area, rather than further north, this finding lends credence to the possibility that Jie is a Pumpokolic language.

The Jie, who ruled the Later Zhao state of northern China, are likewise believed to have spoken a Pumpokolic language based on linguistic and ethnogeographic data. The Jié were members of a tribe who invaded Northern China in the 4th century.

During the period of the Sixteen Kingdoms, they were known by the Chinese as one of the Five Barbarians. Under Shi Le, they established the Later Zhao state. The Jie were allegedly “completely exterminated” by Ran Min in the Wei–Jie war following the fall of the Later Zhao; however, Chinese historians continued to document Jie people and an account of their people’s activities after the Wei-Jie war in North China in 350 CE.

According to a 2016 study, Yeniseian people and their language originated likely somewhere near the Altai Mountains or near Lake Baikal. According to this study, the Yeniseians are linked to Paleo-Eskimo groups.

In Siberia, it has been observed that Yeniseian hydronyms in the circumpolar region (the recent area of distribution of Yeniseian languages) clearly overlay earlier systems, with the layering of morphemes onto Ugric, Samoyedic, Turkic, and Tungusic place names.

It is therefore proposed that the homeland, or dispersal point, of the Yeniseian languages lies in the boreal region between Lake Baikal, northern Mongolia, and the Upper Yenisei basin, referred to as a territory “abandoned” by the original Yeniseian speakers.

The modern populations of Yeniseians in central and northern Siberia are thus not indigenous, and represents a more recent migration northward. This was noted by Russian explorers during the conquest of Siberia.

The Ket language, or more specifically Imbak and formerly known as Yenisei Ostyak, is spoken along the middle Yenisei basin by the Ket people. but are recorded to have been expanding northwards along the Yenisei, from the river Yeloguy to the Kureyka, from the 17th century onward.

Based on these records, the modern Ket-speaking area appears to represent the very northernmost reaches of Yeniseian migration. It is spoken along the middle Yenisei basin by the Ket people. Another Yeniseian language, Yugh, is believed to have recently become extinct.

Until 2008, few linguists had accepted connections between Yeniseian and any other language family, though distant connections have been proposed with most of the ergative languages of Eurasia. In 2008, Edward Vajda of Western Washington University presented evidence for a genealogical relation between the Yeneisian languages of Siberia and the Na–Dené languages of North America.

The Yeniseian languages share many contact-induced similarities with the South Siberian Turkic languages, Samoyedic languages, and Evenki. Several linguists proposed a link between Ket, other Yeniseian languages and the Na-Dene language group of North America in his final study about Eurasian languages. It is a broad consensus has formed in support of this connection.

While Yeniseian has been demonstrated to be related to the Na-Dene languages of North America, as part of a newly named Dene–Yeniseian family, the relevant morphological correspondences between Na-Dene and Yeniseian have not been found in Burushaski.

Attempts have been made by Soviet scholars to establish a relationship with either Burushaski or the Sino-Tibetan languages, and it frequently forms part of the Dene–Caucasian hypothesis. None of these attempts has been conclusive. Some experts on Yeniseian remain extremely skeptical and reject the hypothesis.

The origin of this northward migration from the Mongolian steppe has been connected to the fall of the Xiongnu confederation. Xiongnu raids continued periodically in the subsequent period, but all references to the tribe disappear after the 500. The dominant nomad people in the Mongolian steppe in the 700, the Tujue, were identified with the Turks and claimed to be descended from the Xiongnu.

It appears from Chinese sources that a Yeniseian group might have been a major part of the heterogeneous Xiongnu tribal confederation, who have traditionally been considered the ancestors of the Huns and other Northern Asian groups. However, these suggestions are difficult to substantiate due to the paucity of data.

Despite this, it is a strong possibility that at least parts of the Xiongnu, possibly its core or ruling class, spoke a Yeniseian language. There are a higher degree of similarity of Xiongnu to Yeniseian as compared to Turkic.

The Xiongnu language gave to the later Turkic and Mongolian empires a number of important culture words including Turkish tängri (the Turkic and Mongolic word for “sky” and later “god”), Mongolian tenggeri, was originally the Xiongnu word for “heaven”. Titles such as tarqan, tegin and kaghan were also inherited from the Xiongnu language and probably of Yeniseian origin.

It has been further suggested that the Yeniseian-speaking Xiongnu elite underwent a language shift to Oghur Turkic while migrating westward, eventually becoming the Huns. The Oghuric languages (also known as Bulgar, Pre-Proto-Bulgaric, or Lir-Turkic and r-Turkic), are a branch of the Turkic language family.

The Oghuric languages are a distinct group of the Turkic languages, standing in contrast to Common Turkic. Today they are represented only by Chuvash. Extinct Oghuric languages include Bulgar and Khazar.

The only extant member of the group is the Chuvash language. The first to branch off from the Turkic family, the Oghur languages show significant divergence from other Turkic languages, which all share a later common ancestor.

Languages from this family were spoken in some nomadic tribal confederations, such as those of the Onogurs or Ogurs, Bulgars, and Khazars. Some scholars consider Hunnic a similar language and refer to this extended grouping as Hunno-Proto-Bulgarian.

The decline of the southern Yeniseian languages during and after the Russian conquest of Siberia has been attributed to language shifts of the Arin and Pumpokol to Khakas or Chulym Tatar, and the Kott and Assan to Khakas.

The Burushaski

The Burusho, also known as the Hunza people or Botraj, are an ethnic group indigenous to the Hunza and Yasin valleys of Gilgit Baltistan in northern Pakistan. Their language, Burushaski, has not been shown to be related to any other.

They live in Hunza, Nagar, Chitral, and in valleys of Gilgit–Baltistan in northern Pakistan, as well as in Jammu and Kashmir, India. Their language, Burushaski, has been classified as a language isolate.

Although their origins are unknown, it is likely that the Burusho people “were indigenous to northwestern India (current day Pakistan) and were pushed into their present homeland by the movements of the Indo-Aryans who migrated to the subcontinent in 1800 BC.

The Burusho claim to be descendants of the soldiers who came to the region with Alexander the Great’s army in the 4th century BC. In 2008 the Macedonian Institute for Strategic Researches “16.9” organized a visit by Hunza Prince Ghazanfar Ali Khan and Princess Rani Atiqa as descendants of the Alexandran army.

The Hunza delegation was welcomed at the Skopje Airport by the country’s prime minister Nikola Gruevski, the head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church Archbishop Stephen and the then-mayor of Skopje Trifun Kostovski. Academics dismiss the idea as pseudoscience and doubts exist that party leaders actually believe the claims either.

Burusho legend maintains that they descend from the village of Baltir, which had been founded by a soldier left behind from the army of Alexander the Great—a legend common to much of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. However, genetic evidence supports only a very small, 2% Greek genetic component among the Pashtun ethnic group of Pakistan and Afghanistan, not the Burusho.

DNA research groups the male ancestry of the Hunza with speakers of Pamir languages (Afghans) and other mountain communities of various ethnicites, like the Sinti Romani (Gypsies), due primarily to the M124 marker (defining Y-DNA haplogroup R2a), which is present at high frequency in all three populations.

However, they have also an East Asian genetic contribution, suggesting that at least some of their ancestry originates north of the Himalayas. No Greek genetic component among the Burusho have been detected in tests.

The Hunzakuts and the region of Hunza has one of the highest literacy rates as compared to other similar districts in Pakistan. Hunza is a major tourist attraction in Pakistan, and many Pakistani as well as foreign tourists travel to the region to enjoy the picturesque landscape and stunning mountains of the area.

The district has many modern amenities and is quite advanced by Asian standards. Local legend states that Hunza may have been associated with the lost kingdom of Shangri La. The people of Hunza are by some noted for their exceptionally long life expectancy, others describe this as a longevity narrative and cite a life expectancy of 53 years for men and 52 for women, although with a high standard deviation.

A variety of haplogroups are seen among certain random samples of people in Hunza. Most frequent among these are R1a1 – a lineage associated with Central/Southern Eurasians and likely related to the Bronze Age migration from either South Asia, Central Asia, Iran or Caucasus into South Asia 3000 BCE; and R2a, probably originating in South/Central Asia during the Upper Paleolithic. R2a, unlike its extremely rare parent R2, R1a1 and other clades of haplogroup R, is now virtually restricted to South Asia.

Two other typically South Asian lineages, haplogroup H1 and haplogroup L3 (defined by SNP mutation M20), have also been observed from few samples, although haplogroup L, defined by SNP mutation M20, reaches a maximum of diversity in Pakistan.

Other haplogroups reaching considerable frequency among the Burusho are J2, associated with the spread of agriculture from the neolithic Near East, and haplogroup C3, which is of Siberian origin and possibly representing the patrilineage of Ghenghis Khan. Present at lower frequency are the East Eurasian haplogroup O3, Q, P, F, and G.

The Hunza live alongside the Wakhi and the Shina. The Wakhi reside in the upper part of Hunza locally called Gojal. Wakhis also inhabit the bordering regions of China, Tajikstan and Afghanistan and also live in Gizar and Chitral district of Pakistan. The Shina-speaking people live in the southern part of Hunza. They have come from Chilas, Gilgit, and other Shina language speaking areas of Pakistan.

Shina is a language from the Dardic sub-group of the Indo-Aryan languages, while Wakhi is an Indo-European language in the branch of Eastern Iranian language family and is intimately related to other Southeastern Iranian languages in the Pamir languages group.

Wakhi is one of several languages that belong to the Pamir language group. A reflection of this is the fact that the Wakhi people are occasionally called Pamiris. The origin of this language is Wakhan in Afghanistan and it is, according to sources, more than four thousand years old. It is spoken by the inhabitants of the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan, parts of Gilgit–Baltistan (the former NAs) of Pakistan, Gorno-Badkhshan (mountainous-Badakhshan, in Russian) region of Tajakistan, and Xinjiang in western China.

The Pamiris are composed of people who speak the Pamiri languages, the indigenous language in the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous province, and adhere to the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam.

The Pamiris share close linguistic, cultural and religious ties with the people in Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan, the Sarikoli speakers in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County in Xinjiang Province in China, the Wakhi speakers in Afghanistan and the Wakhi speakers in Upper Hunza Gojal region of Northern mountainous areas of Pakistan.

In the Pamiri languages, the Pamiris refer to themselves as Pamiri or Badakhshani, a reference to the historic Badakhshan region where they live.

The Pamir languages are a group of the Eastern Iranian languages, spoken by numerous people in the Pamir Mountains, primarily along the Panj River and its tributaries. This includes the Badakhshan Province of northeastern Afghanistan and the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province of eastern Tajikistan.

Smaller communities can be found in the adjacent areas of Pakistan where many have settled in recent decades. Sarikoli, one of the languages of the Pamir group, is spoken beyond the Sarikol Range on the Afghanistan-China border, and thus qualifies as the easternmost of the extant Iranian languages.

The Ethnologue lists Pamir languages along with Pashto as Southeastern Iranian, however, according to Encyclopedia Iranica, Pamir languages and Pashto belong to the North-Eastern Iranian branch. The only other living member of the Southeastern Iranian languages is Pashto. Members of the Pamir language group include Shughni, Sarikoli, Yazgulyam, Munji, Ishkashimi language, Wakhi, and Yidgha. They have the subject–object–verb syntactic typology.

The vast majority of Pamir languages speakers in Tajikistan and Afghanistan also use Tajik (Persian) as literary language, which is—unlike the languages of the Pamir group—a Southwestern Iranian tongue. The language group is endangered, with total number of speakers roughly around 100,000 (as of 1990).

Ossetic is among the remnants of the Scytho-Sarmatian dialect group which was once spoken across Central Asia. Other surviving languages closely related to Ossetic are Yaghnobi, Pashto and Pamiri languages, all spoken more than 2,000 km to the east in Afghanistan, northwestern Pakistan and some parts of Tajikistan.

Tagar Culture

The Tagar culture was a Bronze Age archeological culture which flourished between the 8th and 2nd centuries BC in South Siberia (Republic of Khakassia, southern part of Krasnoyarsk Territory, eastern part of Kemerovo Province). The culture was named after an island in the Yenisei River opposite Minusinsk. The civilization was one of the largest centres of bronze-smelting in ancient Eurasia.

The Tagar culture was preceded by the Karasuk culture. The Tagars have been described by researchers Europoid features. They lived in timber dwellings heated by clay ovens and large hearths. Some settlements were surrounded by fortifications.

They made a living by raising livestock, predominantly large horned livestock and horses, goats and sheep. Harvest was collected with bronze sickles and reaping knives. The Tagar produced animal art motifs (Scythian art) very similar to the Scythians of southern European Russia.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the culture are huge royal kurgans fenced by stone plaques, with four vertical stelae marking the corners. The Tagar culture was succeeded by the Tashtyk culture.

In 2009, a genetic study of ancient Siberian cultures, the Andronovo culture, tha Karasuk culture, the Tagar culture and the Tashtyk culture, was published in Human Genetics. Twelve indiduals of the Tagar culture from 800 BC to 100 AD were surveyed.

Extractions of mtDNA from ten individuals were determined to represent three samples of haplogroup T3, one sample of I4, one sample G2a, one sample of C, one sample of F1b and three samples of H (including one sample of H5).

Extractions of Y-DNA from six individuals were all determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1, which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans.[2] All individuals except from one mixed race individual were determined to be Europoid, with the majority being light-eyed and light haired.

In 2018, a study of mtDNA from remains of the Tagar culture was published in PLOS One. Remains from the early years of the Tagar culture were found to be closely related to those of contemporary Scythians on the Pontic steppe.

The authors of the study suggested that the source of this genetic similarity was an eastwards migration of West Eurasians during the Bronze Age, which probably played a role in the formation of the Tagar culture.

Tashtyk culture

The Tashtyk culture was an archaeological culture that flourished in the Yenisei valley in Siberia from the first to the fourth century CE. Located in the Minusinsk Depression, environs of modern Krasnoyarsk, eastern part of Kemerovo Oblast, it was preceded by the Tagar culture.

The Tashtyk culture was first surveyed by the Russian archaeologist Sergei Teploukhov.[3] Teploukhov suggested that it had been initially Indo-European dominated, only to become overcome by the Yenisei Kirghiz around the 3rd century AD.[3] The Yenisei Kirghiz are often associated with the Tashtyk culture.[4]
Tashtyk settlements and hill-forts have been unearthed throughout the Yenisei region, particularly the Sayan canyon area. Their most imposing monuments were immense barrows-crypt structures; these have yielded large quantities of clay and metal vessels and ornaments. In addition, numerous petrographic carvings have been found. Some of the graves contained leather models of human bodies with their heads wrapped in tissue and brightly painted. Inside the models there were small leather bags probably symbolising the stomach and containing burned human bones. Scaled-down replicas of swords, arrows and quivers were placed nearby. The animal motis of the Tashtyk belonged to the Scytho-Altaic style, while they were also under significant Chinese influence.[1]
During his excavations of the Oglahty cemetery south of Minusinsk, Leonid Kyzlasov discovered a number of mummies with richly decorated plaster funerary masks showing Western Eurasian features, though this would not rule out some East Asian admixture, as revealed by ancient DNA (see below). There were also intact fur hats, silk clothes, and footwear (now in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg).
In 2009, a genetic study of ancient Siberian cultures, the Andronovo culture, tha Karasuk culture, the Tagar culture and the Tashtyk culture, was published in Human Genetics.[2] Six Tashtyk remains of 100–400 AD from Bogratsky region, Abakano-Pérévoz I, Khakassia were surveyed.[2] Extractions of mtDNA from three individuals was determined to belong to the Western Eurasian HV, H, and T1, while the others carried the North Asian haplogroup C and East Asian N9a.[2] Extractions of Y-DNA from the remains of one individual was determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup Western Eurasian R1a1, which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans.[2] All individuals surveyed were determined to be Caucasoid, and were, except for one individual, light-eyed and light-haired.[2]

Wusun

The Wusun originally lived between the Qilian Mountains and Dunhuang (Gansu) near the Yuezhi. Around 176 BCE the Yuezhi were raided by the Xiongnu, who subsequently attacked the Wusun, killing their king and seizing their land. The Xiongnu adopted the surviving Wusun prince and made him one of their generals and leader of the Wusun.

Around 162 BCE the Yuezhi were driven into the Ili River valley in Zhetysu, Dzungaria, and Tian Shan, which had formerly been inhabited by the Saka (Scythians). The Wusun then resettled in Gansu as vassals of the Xiongnu. In 133–132 BCE, the Wusun drove the Yuezhi out of the Ili Valley and settled the area.

The Wusun then became close allies of the Han dynasty and remained a powerful force in the region for several centuries. The Wusun are last mentioned by the Chinese as having settled in the Pamir Mountains in the 5th century CE due to pressure from the Rouran. They possibly became subsumed into the later Hephthalites.

The Ordos culture

The Ordos culture was a culture occupying a region centered on the Ordos Loop (modern Inner Mongolia, China) during the Bronze and early Iron Age from the 6th to 2nd centuries BCE. Its relationship with the Xiongnu is controversial; for some scholars they are the same and for others different. Many buried metal artefacts have emerged on the surface of the land as a result of the progressive desertification of the region.

The Ordos are thought to be the easternmost of the Iranian peoples of the Eurasian Steppe, just to the east of the better-known Yuezhi, also an Indo-European people. Because the people represented in archaeological finds tend to display Europoid features it has been suggested the Ordos culture had a Scythian affinity. Other scholars have associated it with the Yuezhi. The weapons found in tombs throughout the steppes of the Ordos are very close to those of the Scythians and Saka.

The Ordos culture is known for significant finds of Scythian art and is thought to represent the easternmost extension of Indo-European Eurasian nomads, such as the Saka. Under the Qin and Han dynasties, from the 6th to 2nd centuries BCE, the area came under at least nominal control of contemporaneous Chinese states.

The Ordos are mainly known from their skeletal remains and artifacts. The Ordos culture of about 500 BCE to 100 CE is known for its “Ordos bronzes”, blade weapons, finials for tent-poles, horse gear, and small plaques and fittings for clothes and horse harness, using animal style decoration with relationships both with the Scythian art of regions much further west, and also Chinese art.

Equestrian nomads from the north-west occupied the area previously settled by the Zhukaigou culture from the 6th to the 2nd century BCE before being driven away by the Xiongnu. The Ordos Plateau was covered by grass, bushes, and trees and was sufficiently watered by numerous rivers and streams to produce rich grazing lands. At the time, it contained the best pasture lands on the Asian Steppe. However, it has now mostly turned to the Ordos Desert through a combination of overgrazing and climatic change.

To the west of the Ordos culture was another Indo-European people, the Yuezhi, although nothing is known of relations between the two. (The Yuezhi were later vanquished by the Xiongnu and Wusun, who reportedly drove them westward, out of China; a subgroup of the Yuezhi is widely believed to have migrated to South Central Asia, where it constituted the ruling elite of the Kushan Empire.)

China

Historically, areas to the north of China including Manchuria, Mongolia and Xinjiang were inhabited by nomadic tribes. Early periods in Chinese history involved conflict with the nomadic peoples to the west of the Wei valley. Texts from the Zhou dynasty (c.1050-256 BC) compare the Rong, Di and Qin dynasty to wolves, describing them as cruel and greedy. Iron and bronze were supplied from China.

An early theory proposed by Owen Lattimore suggesting that the nomadic tribes could have been self-sufficient was criticized by later scholars, who questioned whether their raids may have been motivated by necessity rather than greed. Subsequent studies noted that nomadic demand for grain, cereals, textiles and ironware exceeded China’s demand for Steppe goods.

Anatoly Khazanov identified this imbalance in production as the cause of instability in the Steppe nomadic cultures. Later scholars argued that peace along China’s northern border largely depended on whether the nomads could obtain the essential grains and textiles they needed through peaceful means such as trade or intermarriage.

The Huns

The Huns were a nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe, between the 4th and 6th century AD. According to European tradition, they were first reported living east of the Volga River, in an area that was part of Scythia at the time; the Huns’ arrival is associated with the migration westward of an Iranian people, the Alans.

By 370 AD, the Huns had arrived on the Volga, and by 430 the Huns had established a vast, if short-lived, dominion in Europe, conquering the Goths and many other Germanic peoples living outside of Roman borders, and causing many others to flee into Roman territory. The Huns, especially under their King Attila, made frequent and devastating raids into the Eastern Roman Empire.

In 451, the Huns invaded the Western Roman province of Gaul, where they fought a combined army of Romans and Visigoths at the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, and in 452 they invaded Italy. After Attila’s death in 453, the Huns ceased to be a major threat to Rome and lost much of their empire following the Battle of Nedao (454?).

Descendants of the Huns, or successors with similar names, are recorded by neighbouring populations to the south, east, and west as having occupied parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia from about the 4th to 6th centuries. Variants of the Hun name are recorded in the Caucasus until the early 8th century.

In the 18th century, the French scholar Joseph de Guignes became the first to propose a link between the Huns and the Xiongnu people, who were northern neighbours of China in the 3rd century BC. Since Guignes’ time, considerable scholarly effort has been devoted to investigating such a connection. The issue remains controversial. Their relationships to other peoples known collectively as the Iranian Huns are also disputed.

Very little is known about Hunnic culture and very few archaeological remains have been conclusively associated with the Huns. They are believed to have used bronze cauldrons and to have performed artificial cranial deformation.

No description exists of the Hunnic religion of the time of Attila, but practices such as divination are attested, and the existence of shamans likely. It is also known that the Huns had a language of their own, however only three words and personal names attest to it.

Economically, they are known to have practiced a form of nomadic pastoralism; as their contact with the Roman world grew, their economy became increasingly tied with Rome through tribute, raiding, and trade.

They do not seem to have had a unified government when they entered Europe, but rather to have developed a unified tribal leadership in the course of their wars with the Romans. The Huns ruled over a variety of peoples who spoke various languages and some of whom maintained their own rulers.

Their main military technique was mounted archery.  The Huns may have stimulated the Great Migration, a contributing factor in the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The memory of the Huns also lived on in various Christian saints’ lives, where the Huns play the roles of antagonists, as well as in Germanic heroic legend, where the Huns are variously antagonists or allies to the Germanic main figures.

In Hungary, a legend developed based on medieval chronicles that the Hungarians, and the Székely ethnic group in particular, are descended from the Huns. However, mainstream scholarship dismisses a close connection between the Hungarians and Huns. Modern culture generally associates the Huns with extreme cruelty and barbarism.

The Hunnic language, or Hunnish, was the language spoken by Huns in the Hunnic Empire, a heterogeneous, multi-ethnic tribal confederation which ruled much of Eastern Europe and invaded the West during the 4th and 5th centuries.

A variety of languages were spoken within the Hun Empire. A contemporary report by Priscus has that Hunnish was spoken alongside Gothic and the languages of other tribes subjugated by the Huns. Many of the waves of nomadic peoples who swept into Eastern Europe, are known to have spoken languages from a variety of families. Several proposals for the affinities of Hunnic have been made.

As no inscriptions or whole sentences in the Hunnic language have been preserved, written evidence for the language is very limited, consisting almost entirely of proper names in Greek and Latin sources.

The Hunnic language cannot be classified at present, but due to the origin of these proper names it has been compared mainly with Turkic, Mongolic and Yeniseian languages. Many scholars consider the available evidence inconclusive.

The Xiongnu

Several tribes organized to form the Xiongnu, a tribal confederation that gave the nomadic tribes the upper hand in their dealings with the settled agricultural Chinese people.

The Xiongnu were a tribal confederation of nomadic peoples who, according to ancient Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern Eurasian Steppe from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD. Chinese sources report that Modu Chanyu, the supreme leader after 209 BC, founded the Xiongnu Empire.

After their previous rivals, the Yuezhi, migrated into Central Asia during the 2nd century BC, the Xiongnu became a dominant power on the steppes of north-east Central Asia, centered on an area known later as Mongolia.

The Xiongnu were also active in areas now part of Siberia, Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Xinjiang. Their relations with adjacent Chinese dynasties to the south east were complex, with repeated periods of conflict and intrigue, alternating with exchanges of tribute, trade, and marriage treaties (heqin).

During the Sixteen Kingdoms era, they were also known as one of the Five Barbarians who took part in an uprising against Chinese rule known as the Uprising of the Five Barbarians.

Attempts to identify the Xiongnu with later groups of the western Eurasian Steppe remain controversial. Scythians and Sarmatians were concurrently to the west. The identity of the ethnic core of Xiongnu has been a subject of varied hypotheses, because only a few words, mainly titles and personal names, were preserved in the Chinese sources.

The name Xiongnu may be cognate with that of the Huns or the Huna, although this is disputed. Other linguistic links – all of them also controversial – proposed by scholars include Iranian, Mongolic, Turkic, Uralic, Yeniseian, Tibeto-Burman or multi-ethnic.

In the 1920s, excavations of the royal tombs at the Noin-Ula burial site in northern Mongolia that date to around the first century CE provided a glimpse into the lost world of the Xiongnu. Other archaeological sites have been unearthed in Inner Mongolia.

Those include the Ordos culture of Inner Mongolia, which has been identified as a Xiongnu culture. Depictions of the Xiongnu of Transbaikalia and the Ordos show individuals with “Europoid” features. Europoid depictions in the Ordos region should be attributed to a “Scythian affinity”.

Portraits found in the Noin-Ula excavations demonstrate other cultural evidences and influences, showing that Chinese and Xiongnu art have influenced each other mutually. Some of these embroidered portraits in the Noin-Ula kurgans also depict the Xiongnu with long braided hair with wide ribbons, which is seen to be identical with the Ashina clan hair-style. Well-preserved bodies in Xiongnu and pre-Xiongnu tombs in the Mongolian Republic and southern Siberia show both Mongoloid and Caucasian features.

Analysis of skeletal remains from some sites attributed to the Xiongnu provides an identification of dolichocephalic Mongoloid, ethnically distinct from neighboring populations in present-day Mongolia.

Russian and Chinese anthropological and craniofacial studies show that the Xiongnu were physically very heterogenous, with six different population clusters showing different degrees of Mongoloid and Caucasoid physical traits.

The Xiongnu

The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation located north of China. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources. What little is known of their titles and names comes from Chinese transliterations of their language.

The identity of the ethnic core of Xiongnu has been a subject of varied hypotheses, because only a few words, mainly titles and personal names, were preserved in the Chinese sources. Proposals by scholars include Turkic, Mongolic, Yeniseian, Tocharian, Iranian, and Uralic. They also possibly practiced Tengriism. The name Xiongnu may be cognate to the name Huns, but the evidence for this is controversial.

Chinese sources from the 3rd century BC report them as having created an empire under Modu Chanyu, the supreme leader after 209 BC. This empire stretched beyond the borders of modern-day Mongolia. After defeating the previously dominant Yuezhi in the 2nd century BC, Xiongnu became a dominant power on the steppes of central and eastern Asia. They were active in regions of what is now southern Siberia, Mongolia, Southern Mongolia, Gansu and Xinjiang. Relations between early Chinese dynasties and the Xiongnu were complex, with repeated periods of military conflict and intrigue alternating with exchanges of tribute, trade, and marriage treaties.

From 209 BC Modu Chanyu united the steppe tribes of Mongolia into the first large Steppe empire. Soon the new Han Dynasty was paying them tribute. From 133 BC Emperor Wu adopted an aggressive policy and pushed Chinese power west and north. Around 50 AD, following the second Xiongnu civil war, the southern Xiongnu submitted to China while the Northern Xiongnu remained independent. By around 100 AD the Xiongnu had been replaced by the Xianbe. Xiongnu remnants and descendents remained on the northern frontier and in the period around 250-450 AD they formed several short-lived dynasties in North China.

The original geographic location of the Xiongnu is disputed among steppe archaeologists. Since the 1960s, the geographic origin of the Xiongnu has attempted to be traced through an analysis of Early Iron Age burial constructions. No region has been proven to have mortuary practices that clearly match that of the Xiongnu.

The sound of the first Chinese character has been reconstructed as /hoŋ/ in Old Chinese. The Chinese name for the Xiongnu was a pejorative term in itself, as the characters have the meaning of “fierce slave”. The Chinese characters are pronounced as Xiōngnú in modern Mandarin Chinese.

The supposed Old Chinese sound of the first character has a possible similarity with the name “Hun” in European languages. The second character appears to have no parallel in Western terminology. Whether the similarity is evidence of kinship or mere coincidence is hard to tell. It could lend credence to the theory that the Huns were in fact descendants of the Northern Xiongnu who migrated westward, or that the Huns were using a name borrowed from the Northern Xiongnu, or that these Xiongnu made up part of the Hun confederation.

As in the case of the Rouran with the Avars, oversimplifications have led to the Xiongnu often being identified with the Huns, who populated the frontiers of Europe. The connection started with the writings of the 18th-century French historian Joseph de Guignes, who noticed that a few of the barbarian tribes north of China associated with the Xiongnu had been named “Hun” with varying Chinese characters. This theory remains at the level of speculation, although it is accepted by some scholars, including Chinese ones, the majority of Anglophone scholars flatly reject it. DNA testing of Hun remains has not proven conclusive in determining the origin of the Huns.

Ancient DNA tests have revealed that the Xiongnu were already a hybrid Eurasian people 2,000 years ago, with mixed European and North-East Asian Y-DNA and mtDNA. Modern inhabitants of the Xiongnu homeland have approximately 90% of Mongolian lineages against 10% of European ones.

Autosomal, Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA analyses from the Krasnoyarsk area, South Siberia, dated from between the middle of the second millennium BC. to the fourth century AD. 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.

In 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. The south Siberians were blue (or green)-eyed, fair-skinned and light-haired people and might have played a role in the early development of the Tarim Basin civilization.

It is likely that some mtDNA lineages were carried to southern Siberia from the Volga–Ural region. Incidentally, in the fifth century BC, Herodotus mentioned transit trade occurring in Central Asia along a route that stretched from the Urals in the west to the Altai and the Minusinsk Basin in the east (Hemphill and Mallory 2004).

In Altai, the presence of the R1a1 haplogroup in the middle of the fifth century BC is confirmed by the sample SEB 96K2 of Ricaut et al. (2004) which was found to belong to this Y-haplogroup. The boundary of the eastern European influence seems to be fixed at the peri-Baikal area since no R1a1 haplogroup was found in the Xiongnu specimens of the Northern border of Mongolia.

Analysis performed on Xiongnu specimens revealed that whereas none of the specimens from the Egyin Gol valley bore this haplogroup, the Scytho-Siberian skeleton from the Sebÿstei site exhibited R1a1 haplogroup.

The finding that the Bronze Age population, like that of Krasnoyarsk Siberians belonged exclusively -as far as sampling allows- to Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1 raises the issue of when and how exactly the diverse extant Y-chromosome gene pool of Central Asia came about.

We can now confidently say that even at the early age of ~4ky BP an R1a1-bearing population of presumably western Eurasian origin had acquired a mixed mtDNA gene pool consisting of both west- and east-Eurasian mtDNA, which agrees with what was presented in the aforementioned documentary, in which many of the seemingly Caucasoid mummies had East Eurasian mtDNA.

The boundary of the Europeoid movement is clearly fixed at Lake Baikal. To the east of Baikal no palaeoanthropological find bears any traces of Europeoid admixture.

Virtually all R1a today seems to trace back to the founding lineage of 5,000 ya. That means that before the most succesful clade of R1a arose, haplogroup R1a must have been very limited, in geography and/or frequency, such that today we can hardly find any traces of members of R1a who might belong to a clade ancestral to the super-succesful R1a clade that was born 5,000 years ago.

Haplogroup R1a1a is widely distributed inEurasia: it is mainly found in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South Asia, Siberia,ancient Siberia, but rare in East Asia.

In the 1920s, Pyotr Kozlov’s excavations of the royal tombs at Noin-Ula in northern Mongolia that date to around the 1st century CE, provided a glimpse into the lost world of the Xiongnu. Other archaeological sites have been unearthed in Inner Mongolia and elsewhere; they represent the Neolithic and historical periods of the Xiongnu’s history.

Those included the Ordos culture, many of them had been identified as the Xiongnu cultures. The region was occupied predominantly by peoples showing Mongoloid features, known from their skeletal remains and artifacts. Portraits found in the Noin-Ula excavations demonstrate other cultural evidences and influences, showing that Chinese and Xiongnu art have influenced each other mutually. Some of these embroidered portraits in the Noin-Ula kurgans also depict the Xiongnu with long braided hair with wide ribbons, which are seen to be identical with the Turkic Ashina clan hair-style.

Well-preserved bodies in Xiongnu and pre-Xiongnu tombs in the Mongolian Republic and southern Siberia show both ‘Mongoloid’ and ‘Caucasian’ features but are predominantly Mongoloid with some admixture of European physical stock, nonetheless the Xiongnu shared many cultural traits with their Indo-European neighbors, such as horse racing, sword worship. Analysis of skeletal remains from sites attributed to the Xiongnu provides an identification of dolichocephalic Mongoloid, ethnically distinct from neighboring populations in present-day Mongolia.

Russian and Chinese anthropological and craniofacial studies show that the Xiongnu were physically very heterogenous, with six different population clusters showing different degrees of Mongoloid and Caucasoid physical traits. These clusters point to significant cross-regional migrations (both east to west and west to east) that likely started in the Neolithic period and continued to the medieval/Mongolian period.

Presently, there exist four fully excavated and well documented cemeteries: Ivolga, Dyrestui, Burkhan Tolgoi, and Daodunzi. Additionally thousands of tombs have been recorded in Transbaikalia and Mongolia. In addition to these, the Tamir 1 excavation site from a 2005 Silkroad Arkanghai Excavation Project is the only Xiongnu cemetery in Mongolia to be fully mapped in scale. Tamir 1 was located on Tamiryn Ulaan Khoshuu, a prominent granitic outcrop near other cemeteries of the Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Mongol periods. Important finds at the site included a lacquer bowl, glass beads, and three TLV mirrors. Archaeologists from this project believe that these artifacts paired with the general richness and size of the graves suggests that this cemetery was for more important or wealthy Xiongnu individuals.

The TLV mirrors are of particular interest. Three mirrors were acquired from three different graves at the site. The mirror found at feature 160 is believed to be a low-quality, local imitation of a Han mirror, while the whole mirror found at feature 100 and fragments of a mirror found at feature 109 are believed to belong to the classical TLV mirrors and date back to the Xin Dynasty or the early to middle Eastern Han period.

The archaeologists have chosen to, for the most part, refrain from positing anything about Han-Xiongnu relations based on these particular mirrors. However, they were willing to mention the following: “There is no clear indication of the ethnicity of this tomb occupant, but in a similar brick-chambered tomb of late Eastern Han period at the same cemetery, archaeologists discovered a bronze seal with the official title that the Han government bestowed upon the leader of the Xiongnu. The excavators suggested that these brick chamber tombs all belong to the Xiongnu (Qinghai 1993).”

Classifications of these burial sites make distinction between two prevailing type of burials: “(1). monumental ramped terrace tombs which are often flanked by smaller “satellite” burials and (2) ‘circular’ or ‘ring’ burials.” Some scholars consider this a division between “elite” graves and “commoner” graves. Other scholars, find this division too simplistic and not evocative of a true distinction because it shows “ignorance of the nature of the mortuary investments and typically luxuriant burial assemblages [and does not account for] the discovery of other lesser interments that do not qualify as either of these types.”

A study based on mitochondrial DNA analysis of human remains interred in the Egyin Gol Valley of Mongolia concluded that the Turkic peoples originated from the same area and therefore are possibly related.

A majority (89%) of the Xiongnu mtDNA sequences can be classified as belonging to Asian haplogroups, and nearly 11% belong to European haplogroups. This finding indicates that the contacts between European and Asian populations were anterior to the Xiongnu culture, and it confirms results reported for two samples from an early 3rd century BC. Scytho–Siberian population (Clisson et al. 2002).

Another study from 2004 screened ancient samples from the Egyin Gol necropolis for the Y-DNA haplogroup N-Tat. The Egyin Gol necropolis, located in northern Mongolia, is ~2300 years old and belongs to the Xiongnu culture. This Tat-polymorphism is a biallelic marker – that defines the N1c (N3-Tat) Y-DNA haplogroup – what has so far been observed only in populations from Asia and northern Europe. It reaches its highest frequency in Yakuts and northern Uralic peoples, with significant parts also in Buryats and northeastern Siberian populations. Opinions differ about whether the geographic origin of the T-C mutation lies in Asia or northern Eurasia. Zerjal et al. suggested that this mutation first arose in the populations of Central Asia; they proposed Mongolia as a candidate location for the origin of the T-C polymorphism. In contrast, for Lahermo et al. the wide distribution of the mutation in north Eurasian populations suggests that it arose in northern Eurasia. According to them, the estimated time of the C mutation is ~2400–4440 years ago. (According to some more recent researches of the Y-DNA Hg N the presence of N1c and N1b in modern Siberian and other Eurasian populations is considered to reflect an ancient substratum, probably speaking Uralic languages.) Concerning the Xiongnu people, two of them from the oldest section harboured the mutation, confirming that the Tat polymorphism already existed in Mongolia 2300 years ago. The next archaeogenetical occurrence of this N-Tat ancient DNA was found in Hungary among the so-called Homeconqueror Hungarians. Also three Yakuts’ aDNA from the 15th century, and of two from the late 18th century were this haplogroup.

Additionally two mtDNA sequence matches revealed in this work suggest that the Xiongnu tribe under study may have been composed of some of the ancestors of the present-day Yakut population.

Another study of 2006, using genetic and archeological data from a Siberian grave of Pokrovsk recently discovered near the Lena River and dated from 2,400 to 2,200 years B.P., as well as modern Buryats, Khanty, Mansi, Evenk, and Yakuts, provided evidence for the existence of early contact between autochthonous hunters of the Siberian taiga and nomadic horse breeders from the Altai-Baikal area (Mongolia and Buryatia). The similarity of the mitochondrial haplotype of the Pokrovsk subject with a woman of the Egyin Gol necropolis of the 2nd/3rd century AD ( mtDNA D haplogroup) shows that this contact would have occurred by the end of the Xiongnu period, and possibly prior to the 3rd century BC.. This contact could have been through either the expansion of the Xiongnu and other steppe peoples westwards to new areas of Siberia, or northwards along riverways. The Yenisei (Ienissei) river in particular contributed to extensive east-west gene flow. The combined evidence demonstrates the close relationship between the Xiongnu and the Siberian populations.

Another 2006 study observed genetic similarity among Mongolian samples from different periods and geographic areas including 2,300-year-old Xiongnu population of the Egyin Gol Valley. This results supports the hypothesis that the succession over time of different Turkic and Mongolian tribes in the current territory of Mongolia resulted in cultural rather than genetic changes. Furthermore, it appears that the Yakuts probably did not find their origin among the Xiongnu tribes as previously hypothesised.

A research study of 2006 focused on Y-DNAs of the Egyin Gol site, and besides the confirmation of the above mentioned two N3-Tats, it also identified a Q-M242 haplogroup from the middle period and a C-M130 haplogroup from the later (2nd century AD).

The Q-M242 is one of the haplogroups of the indigenous peoples of the Americas (though this is not this subclade), and minor across Eurasia. Only two groups in the Old World are high majority Q-M242 groups. These are the Samoyedic Selkups (however, only 1 study made) and the Yeniseian Kets. They live in western and middle Siberia, together with the Ugric Khantys. The Kets originally lived in southern Siberia. The Uralic-Samoyedics were an old people of the Sayan-Baikal region, migrated northwest around the 1st/2nd century AD. According to the Uralistic literature the swift migration and disjunction of the Samoyedic peoples might be connected to a heavy warring in the region, probably due to the dissolution of the Xiongnu Empire in the period of the Battle of Ikh Bayan. The mutation defining haplogroup C-M130, is restrained in North and Eastern-Asia and in America (Bergen et al. 1998. 1999.) (Lell et al. 2002.). The highest frequencies of Haplogroup C3 are found among the populations of Mongolia and the Russian Far East, where it is generally the modal haplogroup. Haplogroup C3 is the only variety of Haplogroup C-M130 to be found among Native Americans, among whom it reaches its highest frequency in Na-Dené populations.

A research project of 2007 (Yi Chuan, 2007) was aimed at the genetic affinities between Tuoba Xianbei and Xiongnu populations. Some mtDNA sequences from Tuoba Xianbei remains in Dong Han period were analyzed. Comparing with the published data of Xiongnu, the results indicated that the Tuoba Xianbei presented some close affinities to the Xiongnu, which implied that there was a gene flow between Tuoba Xianbei and Xiongnu during the two southward migrations.

A recent examination in a Xiongnu cemetery in Duurlig Nars revealed a Western Eurasian male with maternal U2e1 and paternal R1a1 haplogroups and two other DNAs: a female with mtDNA haplogroup D4 and a male with Y-haplogroup C3 and mtDNA haplogroup D4.

A study of 2010 analysed six human remains of a nomadic group, excavated from Pengyang, Northern China. From the mtDNA, six haplotypes were identified as three haplogroups: C, D4 and M10. The analyses revealed that these individuals were closely associated with the ancient Xiongnu and modern northern Asians. The analysis of Y chromosomes from four male samples that were typed as haplogroup Q-M242 indicated that these people had originated in Siberia.

Xiaohe culture

The Tarim Basin, located on the ancient Silk Road, played a very important role in the history of human migration and cultural communications between the West and the East. However, both the exact period at which the relevant events occurred and the origins of the people in the area remain very obscure, but analyses of both Y chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) derived from human remains excavated from the Xiaohe cemetery, the oldest archeological site with human remains discovered in the Tarim Basin thus far, has been done.

Besides the East Eurasian lineage, two West Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups H and K were found among the Xiaohe people. H lineage is the most common mtDNAhaplogroup in West Eurasia, but haplogroup H with a 16260T was shared by only nine modern people in Genbank, including one Italian, one German, one Hungarian,one Portuguese, one Icelander and four English people.

Mitochondrial DNA analysis showed that the Xiaohe people carried both the East Eurasian haplogroup (C) and the West Eurasian haplogroups (H and K), whereas Y chromosomal DNA analysis revealed only the West Eurasian haplogroup R1a1a in the male individuals.

Haplogroup K, a western Eurasian–specific haplogroup, is mainly distributed in Europe, central Asia, and Iran. However, haplogroup K with 16134T, found in the Xiaohe people, has not been found in modern people to our knowledge.

Given the unique genetic haplotypes and the particular archaeological culture, the time of this admixture could be much earlier than the time at which the Xiaohe people were living at the site. This means that the time of their mingling was at least a 1000 years earlier than previously proposed. The admixture probably occurred elsewhere, before immigration into the Tarim Basin. The Xiaohe people might well have been an admixture at the time of their arrival. Afanasievo and other steppe cultures is identified as related to the Xiaohe people. This is not very surprising as the Afanasievo people were described in the anthropological literature as prominent-nosed Caucasoids of western origin, although individual skulls show Mongoloid influences.

The admixture took place in Siberia, and an already admixed population found its way to Xiaohe by ~4ky BP. Quite often we find in the northern belt from Europe to China populations with typically Western/Eastern Y-haplogroups accompanied by the “opposite” (Eastern/Western) mtDNA. This is due to the patriarchal nature of mobile Eurasian societies (whether nomads or hunters) in which the “clan” maintains its Y-chromosome gene pool but incorporates foreign females.

Thus, the absence of non-R1a1 chromosomes can be explained by the fact that non-R1a1 male individuals were not incorporated into the “western” tribe that made its way across Eurasia from Europe to China, but Eastern Eurasian-mtDNA bearing females were gradually absorbed; such would have been plentiful among the indigenous Mongoloid populations that lived east of the Urals since the Paleolithic. Thus, at the eastern end of this migration, we ended up with an R1a1-pure/East Eurasian mtDNA-heavy population.

Years later, the pendulum of Eurasian migration swung backwards, with some of the Asian R1a1-bearing individuals returning towards Europe (starting with the Scythians) to meet their distant cousins, this time shedding whatever east Eurasian mtDNA gene pool they had acquired, for the regular west Eurasian mtDNA gene pool that would have been reinforced in the return journey.

Turkic speakers and R1a

The present-day inhabitants of Central Asia, from Xinjiang to Turkey and from the Volga to the Hindu Kush, speak in overwhelming majority Turkic languages. This may be surprising as this corresponds to the region where the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European speakers expanded, the Bronze-Age Andronovo culture, and the Iron-Age Scythian territory.

So why is it that Indo-European languages only survives in Slavic Russia or in the southern part of Central Asia, in places like Tajikistan, Afghanistan or some parts of Turkmenistan? Why don’t the Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Kazakhs and Kyrgyzs, or the modern Pontic-Caspian steppe people (Crimean Tatars, Nogais, Bashkirs and Chuvashs) speak Indo-European vernaculars? Genetically these people do carry Indo-European R1a, and to a lesser extent also R1b, lineages. The explanation is that Turkic languages replaced the Iranian tongues of Central Asia between the 4th and 11th century CE.

Proto-Turkic originated in Mongolia and southern Siberia with such nomadic tribes as the Xiongnu. It belongs to the Altaic linguistic family, like Mongolian and Manchu (some also include Korean and Japanese, although they share very little vocabulary in common).

It is unknown when Proto-Turkic first emerged, but its spread started with the Hunnic migrations westward through the Eurasian steppe and all the way to Europe, only stopped by the boundaries of the Roman Empire.

The Huns were the descendants of the Xiongnu. Ancient DNA tests have revealed that the Xiongnu were already a hybrid Eurasian people 2,000 years ago, with mixed European and North-East Asian Y-DNA and mtDNA. Modern inhabitants of the Xiongnu homeland have approximately 90% of Mongolian lineages against 10% of European ones.

It appears that Turkic quickly replaced the Scythian and other Iranian dialects all over Central Asia. Other migratory waves brought more Turkic speakers to Eastern and Central Europe, like the Khazars, the Avars, the Bulgars and the Turks. All of them were in fact Central Asian nomads who had adopted Turkic language, but had little if any Mongolian blood. Turkic invasions therefore contributed more to the diffusion of Indo-European lineages (especially R1a1) than East Asian ones.

Turkic languages have not survived in Europe outside the Pontic-Caspian steppe. Bulgarian language, despite being named after a Turkic tribe, is actually a Slavic tongue with a mild Turkic influence. Hungarian, sometimes mistaken for the heir of Hunnic because of its name, is in reality an Uralic language (Magyar). the The dozens of Turkic languages spoken in the world today have a high degree of mutual intelligibility due to their fairly recent common origin and the nomadic nature of its speakers (until recently). Its two main branches Oghuz and Oghur could be seen as two languages about as distant as Spanish and Italian, and languages within each branch like regional dialects of Spanish and Italian.

Ashina

The Ashina tribe rose to prominence in the mid-6th century when the leader, Bumin Qaghan, revolted against the Rouran Khaganate. The two main branches of the family, one descended from Bumin and the other from his brother Istämi, ruled over the eastern and western parts of the Göktürk confederation, respectively.

It is believed that the origin of the Ashina is from the Saka, a group of nomadic Iranian peoples who historically inhabited the northern and eastern Eurasian Steppe and the Tarim Basin, or possibly from the Wusun, an Indo-Aryan semi-nomadic steppe people mentioned in Chinese records from the 2nd century BCE to the 5th century CE.

Based on testings on persons who identify themselves as descendants Bumin Qaghan, Ashina clan belongs to the Z93, Z94+, Z2123-, Y2632- branch of haplogroup R1a. According some researchers, Bulgar Asen dynasty might be descendants of Ashina.

Turks

During the Tang dynasty, Turks would cross the Yellow River when it was frozen to raid China. Contemporary Tang sources noted the superiority of Turkic horses. Emperor Taizong wrote that the horses were “exceptionally superior to ordinary [horses]”.

The Xiajiasi (Kyrgyz) were a tributary tribe who controlled an area abundant in resources like gold, tin and iron. The Turks used the iron tribute paid by the Kyrgyz to make weapons, armor and saddle parts.

Turks were nomadic hunters and would sometimes conceal military activities under the pretense of hunting. Their raids into China were organized by a khagan and success in these campaigns had a significant influence on a tribal leaders prestige.

In the 6th c. the Göktürk Khaganate consolidated their dominance over the northern steppe region through a series of military victories against the Shiwei, Khitan, Rouran, Tuyuhun, Karakhoja, and Yada. By the end of the 6th century, following the Göktürk civil war, the short-lived empire had split into the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates, before it was conquered by the Tang in 630 and 657, respectively.

The Turkic Khaganate (Old Turkic: 𐰃𐰓𐰃𐰆𐰴𐰽𐰔:𐰰𐰇𐰚:𐱅𐰇𐰼𐰰‎, romanized: İdi Oqsız Kök Türük, lit. ‘United Celestial Turks’; Chinese: 突厥汗國; pinyin: Tūjué hánguó) or Göktürk Khaganate was a khaganate established by the Ashina clan of the Göktürks in medieval Inner Asia.

Under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan (d. 552) and his sons, the Ashina succeeded the Rouran Khaganate as the hegemonic power of the Mongolian Plateau and rapidly expanded their territories in Central Asia.

Initially the Khaganate would use Sogdian in official and numismatic functions. It was the first Turkic state to use the name Türk politically. Old Turkic script was invented at the first half of the 6th century.

The first Turkic Khaganate collapsed in 581, after which followed a series of conflicts and civil wars which separated the polity into the Eastern Turkic Khaganate and Western Turkic Khaganate.

The Tang Empire conquered the Eastern Turkic Khaganate in 630 and the Western Turkic Khaganate in 657 in a series of military campaigns. The Second Turkic Khaganate emerged in 682 and lasted until 744 when it was overthrown by the Uyghurs, a different Turkic group.

Turkish People

In the 2nd and 1st millennia BC, a series of large and powerful states developed on the southern periphery of Central Asia (the Ancient Near East). These empires launched several attempts to conquer the steppe people but met with only mixed success. The Median Empire and Achaemenid Empire both ruled parts of Central Asia.

The Xiongnu Empire (209 BC-93 (156) AD) may be seen as the first central Asian empire which set an example for later Göktürk and Mongol empires. Xiongnu’s ancestor Xianyu tribe founded Zhongshan state (c. 6th century BC – c. 296 BC) in Hebei province, China. The title chanyu was used by the Xiongnu rulers before Modun Chanyu so it is possible that statehood history of the Xiongnu began long before Modun’s rule.

Following the success of the Han–Xiongnu War, Chinese states would also regularly strive to extend their power westwards. Despite their military might, these states found it difficult to conquer the whole region.

When faced by a stronger force, the nomads could simply retreat deep into the steppe and wait for the invaders to leave. With no cities and little wealth other than the herds they took with them, the nomads had nothing they could be forced to defend.

An example of this is given by Herodotus’s detailed account of the futile Persian campaigns against the Scythians. The Scythians, like most nomad empires, had permanent settlements of various sizes, representing various degrees of civilisation.

The vast fortified settlement of Kamenka on the Dnieper River, settled since the end of the 5th century BC, became the centre of the Scythian kingdom ruled by Ateas, who lost his life in a battle against Philip II of Macedon in 339 BC.

Some empires, such as the Persian and Macedonian empires, did make deep inroads into Central Asia by founding cities and gaining control of the trading centres. Alexander the Great’s conquests spread Hellenistic civilisation all the way to Alexandria Eschate (Lit. “Alexandria the Furthest”), established in 329 BC in modern Tajikistan. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, his Central Asian territory fell to the Seleucid Empire during the Wars of the Diadochi.

In 250 BC, the Central Asian portion of the empire (Bactria) seceded as the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, which had extensive contacts with India and China until its end in 125 BC. The Indo-Greek Kingdom, mostly based in the Punjab region but controlling a fair part of Afghanistan, pioneered the development of Greco-Buddhism.

The Kushan Kingdom thrived across a wide swath of the region from the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD, and continued Hellenistic and Buddhist traditions. These states prospered from their position on the Silk Road linking China and Europe.

Likewise, in eastern Central Asia, the Chinese Han Dynasty expanded into the region at the height of its imperial power. From roughly 115 to 60 BC, Han forces fought the Xiongnu over control of the oasis city-states in the Tarim Basin.

The Han was eventually victorious and established the Protectorate of the Western Regions in 60 BC, which dealt with the region’s defence and foreign affairs. Chinese rule in Tarim Basin was replaced successively with Kushans and Hephthalites.

Later, external powers such as the Sassanid Empire would come to dominate this trade. One of those powers, the Parthian Empire, was of Central Asian origin, but adopted Persian-Greek cultural traditions.

This is an early example of a recurring theme of Central Asian history: occasionally nomads of Central Asian origin would conquer the kingdoms and empires surrounding the region, but quickly merge into the culture of the conquered peoples.

At this time Central Asia was a heterogeneous region with a mixture of cultures and religions. Buddhism remained the largest religion, but was concentrated in the east. Around Persia, Zoroastrianism became important. Nestorian Christianity entered the area, but was never more than a minority faith. More successful was Manichaeism, which became the third largest faith.

Turkic expansion began in the 6th century; the Turkic speaking Uyghurs were one of many distinct cultural groups brought together by the trade of the Silk Route at Turfan, which was then ruled by China’s Tang Dynasty.

The Uyghurs, primarily pastoral nomads, observed a number of religions including Manichaeism, Buddhism, and Nestorian Christianity. Many of the artefacts from this period were found in the 19th century in this remote desert region.

The main migration of Turkic peoples occurred between the 5th and 10th centuries, when they spread across most of Central Asia. The Tang Chinese were defeated by the Arabs at the battle of Talas in 751, marking the end of the Tang Dynasty’s western expansion.

The Tibetan Empire would take the chance to rule portion of Central Asia along with South Asia. During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongols conquered and ruled the largest contiguous empire in recorded history. Most of Central Asia fell under the control of the Chagatai Khanate.

The dominance of the nomads ended in the 16th century, as firearms allowed settled peoples to gain control of the region. The Russian Empire, the Qing dynasty of China, and other powers expanded into the region and seized the bulk of Central Asia by the end of the 19th century.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the western Central Asian regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union. The eastern part of Central Asia, known as East Turkestan or Xinjiang, was incorporated into the People’s Republic of China. Mongolia remained independent but became a Soviet satellite state. Afghanistan remained relatively independent of major influence by the USSR until the Saur Revolution of 1978.

The Soviet areas of Central Asia saw much industrialization and construction of infrastructure, but also the suppression of local cultures, hundreds of thousands of deaths from failed collectivization programs, and a lasting legacy of ethnic tensions and environmental problems. Soviet authorities deported millions of people, including entire nationalities, from western areas of the USSR to Central Asia and Siberia.

According to Touraj Atabaki and Sanjyot Mehendale, “From 1959 to 1970, about two million people from various parts of the Soviet Union migrated to Central Asia, of which about one million moved to Kazakhstan.”

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, five countries gained independence – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. In nearly all the new states, former Communist Party officials retained power as local strongmen.

None of the new republics could be considered functional democracies in the early days of independence, although in recent years Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia have made further progress towards more open societies, unlike Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, which have maintained many Soviet-style repressive tactics.

 
%d bloggers like this: