Sunday, 3 October 2010

Tarim Mummies- Indo-Europeans in China

As a teaser Part one of this documentary by National Geographic

At the beginning of the 20th century European explorers such as Sven Hedin and Sir Aurel Stein recounted their discoveries of desiccated bodies in their search for antiquities in Central Asia. Since then many other mummies have been found on the eastern and southern edge of the Tarim Basin. The earliest Tarim mummies, found at Qäwrighul and dated to 1800 BCE, are of a Europoid physical type.

Many of the mummies have been found in very good condition, owing to the dryness of the desert and the desiccation of the corpses it induced. The mummies share many typical Europoid body features (elongated bodies, angular faces, recessed eyes), and many of them have their hair physically intact, ranging in color from blond to red to deep brown, and generally long, curly and braided. The textiles found with the mummies are of an early European textile and weave type and are similar to textiles found on the bodies of salt miners in Austria of around 1300 BCE.
According to the Chinese physical anthropologist, Han Kangxin, there are four physical types found in the Tarim region: "Proto-Europoid", "Pamir-Ferghana", "Indo-Afghan" and, later on, "Mongoloid".
Mallory & Mair (2000) comment: "The three physical types employed by Han Kangxin - Proto-Europoids, Indo-Afghans and Pamir-Ferghanans - are largely relabeled Nordics, Mediterraneans and Alpines."
Kroran is shown to have about 80% Mediterranids with the remainder being Mongoloid at around 200 CE. Alwighul is shown to be pretty evenly divided between the four types between 700-100 BCE. Also, in the far western part of the basin, there are two grave sites, Shambabay (900-400 BCE) and Sampul-Lop (300 BCE-100 CE) which are shown to be nearly 100% Mediterranid.
Interestingly, Qawrighul, which is one of the older sites (2000-1500 BCE) is shown to be 100% Nordid and another old site at Miran (3100 BCE-300 CE) has a considerable Nordid component showing at around 30%.
The cemetery at Yanbulaq contained 29 mummies which date from 1100-500 BCE, 21 of which are Mongoloid - the earliest Mongoloid mummies found in the Tarim basin - and 8 of which are of the same Nordid physical type found at Qäwrighul.
Notable mummies are the tall, red-haired "Chärchän man" (1000 BCE); his son (1000 BCE), a small 1-year-old baby with blond hair protruding from under a red and blue felt cap, and blue stones in place of the eyes; the "Hami Mummy" (c. 1400-800 BCE), a red-headed beauty found in Qizilchoqa; and the "Witches of Subeshi" (4th or 3rd century BCE), who wore two foot long black felt conical hats with a flat brim. Also found at Subeshi was a man with traces of a surgical operation on his neck; the incision is sewn up with sutures made of horsehair. Surgery was considered heretical in ancient Chinese medical tradition.
Mair concluded (Mair et al, 2006):
"From the evidence available, we have found that during the first 1,000 years after the Loulan Beauty, the only settlers in the Tarim Basin were Europoid. East Asian peoples only began showing up in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, largely based in modern day Mongolia, around the year 842."
The presence of Indo-European speakers in the Tarim Basin in the third or early second millennium BCE suggests that cultural exchanges occurred among Indo-European and Chinese populations at a very early date. It has been suggested that such activities as chariot warfare and bronze-making may have been transmitted to the east by these Indo-Europeans.
The supply of Tarim Basin jade to China from ancient times is well established, according to Liu (2001): "It is well known that ancient Chinese rulers had a strong attachment to jade. All of the jade items excavated from the tomb of Fuhao of the Shang dynasty, more than 750 pieces, were from Khotan in modern Xinjiang. As early as the mid-first millennium BCE the Yuezhi (presumably Tocharians) engaged in the jade trade, of which the major consumers were the rulers of agricultural China."

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