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Thread: Were the Tocharians related to the Tarim mummies ?

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    Post Were the Tocharians related to the Tarim mummies ?



    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    Sorry Maciamo, I'm afraid that really makes no sense. Where would the Tocharians come from if they only arrived in the 3rd century AD? No matter which hypothesis you prefer in regard for the affiliation of the Tocharian language, it's clear that the language must be pretty ancient, and 2000 BC is indeed a likely date for the arrival. In my opinion, the Tocharians were indeed R1a, and M73 is a Haplogroup of the Uighurs/Turkic peoples.
    Tocharian speakers could have arrived from somewhere else in Central Asia (Turkmenistan seems to have a lot of unexplained R1b-M73) or even from Siberia, as descendants of the Afanasevo culture which was founded by immigrants from the Don-Volga region circa 3600 BCE according to David Anthony (old enough to still be Centum).

    I also don't think that there were Indo-Iranic peoples in the Tarim basin. Mind you, before the discovery of the Tocharian inscriptions, nobody even suspected Indo-Europeans to have lived there.
    There is so much we don't know and may never know. However it is pretty clear that the only Indo-European expansion in Central Asia was that of the (Proto-)Indo-Iranian of the Andronovo horizon. It spread all along the western edge of the Tian Shan, so it's not a big step to cross it to the Tarim basin. There is a passage in the Tian Shan east of Kashgar leading right into Tajikistan, a tremendous R1a hotspot. The passage was used by the Silk Road in the Middle Ages. I am pretty sure that the R1a people of the Tarim mummies came through that road from Tajikistan, as part of the Indo-Iranian expansion. That's pretty much the only way you can access the Tarim basin from Central Asia. The only other possible entry road for R1a is from the north along the Altai, through modern Karamay and Urumqi. But why would they go all this way to settle in a forsaken, mountain-locked desert oasis when they could just as well stay around Urumqi and Turpan, the population centres of modern Xinjiang ?

    Note that the Tocharian script were found only in the north of the Tarim basin, while the mummies were found all along the desert, even the remote southern edge, which is best accessed from Tajikistan rather than from the Urumqi region.

    Secondly, the red-haired Tarim mummies wearing tartan clothes similar to those of Hallstatt only dated from 1000 BCE, and were not tested for DNA. They might have been a later arrival to the region (who knows perhaps a very far offshoot of Hallstatt, as incredible as it sounds ? But the presence of red hair and tartan and a Centum language, all associated with Celtic people, in the Tarim basin is all incredible enough in itself, so why not ?)

    It seems likely to me that the Tarim mummies were not a long continuous genetic line, but that each period had its own fresh arrivals from outside.


    EDIT : from Wikipedia

    "It is the Afanasevo culture to which Mallory & Mair (2000:294–296, 314–318) trace the earliest Bronze Age settlers of the Tarim and Turpan basins. The Afanasevo culture (c. 3500–2500 BCE) displays cultural and genetic connections with the Indo-European-associated cultures of the Eurasian Steppe yet predates the specifically Indo-Iranian-associated Andronovo culture (c. 2000–900 BCE) enough to isolate the Tocharian languages from Indo-Iranian linguistic innovations like satemization."

    "Hemphill & Mallory (2004) confirm a second Caucasoid physical type at Alwighul (700–1 BCE) and Krorän (200 CE) different from the earlier one found at Qäwrighul (1800 BCE) and Yanbulaq (1100–500 BCE). This study confirms the assertion of Han [1998] that the occupants of Alwighul and Krorän are not derived from proto-European steppe populations, but share closest affinities with Eastern Mediterranean populations. Further, the results demonstrate that such Eastern Mediterraneans may also be found at the urban centers of the Oxus civilization located in the north Bactrian oasis to the west."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    I personally think that the Tarim mummies were Indo-Iranian speakers, because they appeared just at the time of the Indo-Iranian expansion in Central Asia.
    One thing that makes me think that they were not Indo Iranian is that they wore Tartan like the Celts

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    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    One thing that makes me think that they were not Indo Iranian is that they wore Tartan like the Celts
    Only those from 1000 BCE, not the R1a individuals from 2000-1800 BCE.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Only those from 1000 BCE, not the R1a individuals from 2000-1800 BCE.
    Yes but I'm not sure that a new culture is recorded by Archeology in 1000 BCE. Also we have to take into account that Tocharian is a very archaic language that have similarity with Hittite. I don't see when such a archaic IE people could have come in the Tarm desert if not very early, before the Indo Iranian.

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    1 out of 2 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    Yes but I'm not sure that a new culture is recorded by Archeology in 1000 BCE. Also we have to take into account that Tocharian is a very archaic language that have similarity with Hittite. I don't see when such a archaic IE people could have come in the Tarm desert if not very early, before the Indo Iranian.
    How about this chronology :

    1) Indo-Iranian R1a people moved from Tajikistan to the Tarim basin circa 2000 BCE (first mummies)
    2) R1b Celts from the Hallstatt Culture start expanding all over Europe around 1200 BCE (also the time of the Sea Peoples, among whose ranks they may have counted), and produce offshoots as far as Central Asia, who eventually end up in the Tarim basin around 1000 BCE following Indo-European trade routes (red-haired, tartan mummies). Their small number means that they do not create a new culture but are absorbed by the existing one.
    3) East Mediterranean people expand to Bactria then to the Tarim basin (late mummies, from 700 BCE to 200 CE).
    4) Tocharian speakers who had lived secluded in South Siberia for nearly 4000 years since they founded the Afanasevo Culture, moved to the Tarim basin (maybe because of a colder global climate from 300 to 700 CE, which has also been blamed for the decline of the Roman and Han empires and the Völkerwanderung).
    5) The Turkic-speaking Uyghurs resettled from Mongolia to the Tarim basin in the 9th century, putting an end to the Tocharian language and culture.

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    Sorry Maciamo, but no, you're really on the wrong track here. Tocharian definitely isn't a Celtic language, even though it has some parallels with the Celtic languages. Let me put it this way: if we consider the Italo-Celtic branch to be a valid concept, Tocharian diverged from it before the distinct Italo-Celtic features developed.

    Alternatively, as spongetaro pointed out, we may consider Tocharian closer to the Anatolian languages, or generally consider it to be simply one of the earliest branches of IE to separate.

    Any of the scenarios I described above regarding the origin of the Tocharians requires that they arrived in the Tarim basin relatively ancient.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    Sorry Maciamo, but no, you're really on the wrong track here. Tocharian definitely isn't a Celtic language, even though it has some parallels with the Celtic languages. Let me put it this way: if we consider the Italo-Celtic branch to be a valid concept, Tocharian diverged from it before the distinct Italo-Celtic features developed.

    Alternatively, as spongetaro pointed out, we may consider Tocharian closer to the Anatolian languages, or generally consider it to be simply one of the earliest branches of IE to separate.

    Any of the scenarios I described above regarding the origin of the Tocharians requires that they arrived in the Tarim basin relatively ancient.

    Why isn't it possible to make a greater branch within the IE family with Anatolian, Tocharian and Italo-Celtic languages?

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    Why isn't it possible to make a greater branch within the IE family with Anatolian, Tocharian and Italo-Celtic languages?
    The idea of Tocharian being closer with Italo-Celtic was Watkins' idea, and from what I have read on Tocharian, the case can be definitely made from the vowel system. For the rest, I'm not sure if it holds up. Anatolian is otherwise considered the first branch of Indo-European to have diverged, and indeed, it has significantly modified some aspects (e.g. gender) while at the same time containing a number of archaic features (e.g. laryngeals). I don't think you find the commonalities there to back up the group you propose. You also have to consider that the Anatolians technically are neither Centum nor Satem, and that development of the palatovelars occured individually inside branches of Anatolian, whereas you have to assume the palatovelars to have merged in all the proto-stages of the other branches of IE.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    The idea of Tocharian being closer with Italo-Celtic was Watkins' idea, and from what I have read on Tocharian, the case can be definitely made from the vowel system. For the rest, I'm not sure if it holds up. Anatolian is otherwise considered the first branch of Indo-European to have diverged, and indeed, it has significantly modified some aspects (e.g. gender) while at the same time containing a number of archaic features (e.g. laryngeals). I don't think you find the commonalities there to back up the group you propose. You also have to consider that the Anatolians technically are neither Centum nor Satem, and that development of the palatovelars occured individually inside branches of Anatolian, whereas you have to assume the palatovelars to have merged in all the proto-stages of the other branches of IE.
    Thank you. Anatolian is so archaic that IE languages could have originated there. Do you agree with French historian Faucouneau that Etruscan and Lycian are Proto IE language?

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    In my opinion, Tocharian folk can be equated with the Afanasevo archaeological culture, and split c. 2500 or a bit earlier from the main PIE stock.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    Sorry Maciamo, but no, you're really on the wrong track here. Tocharian definitely isn't a Celtic language, even though it has some parallels with the Celtic languages. Let me put it this way: if we consider the Italo-Celtic branch to be a valid concept, Tocharian diverged from it before the distinct Italo-Celtic features developed.
    What part of the chronology I posted made you think that I classified Tocharian as Celtic ? You are still thinking that Tarim mummies were Tocharian speakers, while I don't. I just mentioned that the red-haired and tartan-wearing mummies might have been Celts (actually Celtic people speaking a Celtic language, not Tocharian at all).

    Alternatively, as spongetaro pointed out, we may consider Tocharian closer to the Anatolian languages, or generally consider it to be simply one of the earliest branches of IE to separate.
    This is exactly why I always sustained that Tocharian speakers were R1b1b1 (M73) people, which is the first PIE branch of R1b to have split from the mainstream, presumably soon after R1b ventured into the Pontic-Caspian steppes (c4000 BCE). R1b-M73 seems to have head to the Don-Volga region (where it is still found at high frequency among the Bashkirs). The oldest known offshoot from this area in Asia is the Afanasevo culture in South Siberia (starting from 3600 BCE). Everything fits. The early west-east split among PIE R1b (the western branch being R1b1b2 (M269) and the eastern one being R1b1b1 (M73)) in the steppes correspond to the early split of the Tocharian branch from the rest of the Centum branch. Note that 3600 BCE was 700 years earlier than the start of the Corded Ware Culture, so the Afanasevo people were probably not R1a people, since bronze technology hadn't been imported in the northern forest-steppe yet.

    Any of the scenarios I described above regarding the origin of the Tocharians requires that they arrived in the Tarim basin relatively ancient.
    No, it only requires the Tocharian branch to migrate early away from the Pontic-Caspian steppes. It doesn't require it to reach the Tarim basin any time before the actual appearance of Tocharian in the 3rd century. As I have explained, there was a shift in culture in the Tarim basin when Tocharian language appeared (including the sudden disappearance of mummies burials, after 2300 years of continuity among different-looking people). I believe that Tocharian was spoken in South Siberia, and that the migration of some of these people to Xinjiang brought them into contact with the Chinese of the late Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), which extended all the way to the confines of Xinjiang. This allowed Tocharian speakers to start writing down their language, inspired by their Chinese neighbours (who developed papermaking circa 100 CE incidentally). The Chinese developed their first pictograms 8000 years ago and have standardised their characters approximately 3000 years ago. If Tocharian speakers lived in Xinjiang since 3000 years ago, why did it take them so long to copy the Chinese and why would they suddenly change their burial practices when they started using writing ? It seems to be that the Tocharians were a late arrival from Siberia, and that they were R1b-M73 because R1a just wouldn't make sense for an early Centum language nor for a bronze age culture in Siberia starting 5600 years ago.


    There is a way to know who is right. If they test ancient Y-DNA from the Afanasevo culture and it turns out to have R1b-M73, it will add weight to my hypothesis (there may be some R1a, Q and even C folks assimilated on the way from the Volga to Siberia alongside R1b-M73, but there must be some R1b). So far we know that the early Tarim mummies were R1a1 and that modern Uyghurs have both R1a1 and R1b-M73. If later mummies are tested, I expect that they will belong to R1a1, perhaps R1b1b2a1 (L11 or downstream) for the red-haired tartan mummies, and probably some Middle-Eastern haplogroups like J2 and G for the late East Mediterranean-looking mummies. However I don't expect to find R1b-M73 until the Tocharian period (approximately from the 3rd century CE). I am ready to bet 20€ on it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Asturrulumbo View Post
    In my opinion, Tocharian folk can be equated with the Afanasevo archaeological culture, and split c. 2500 or a bit earlier from the main PIE stock.
    Wikipedia says that Afanasevo dates from 2500 BCE, but David Anthony gives a date of 3600 BCE and Jim Mallory 3500 BCE.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    What part of the chronology I posted made you think that I classified Tocharian as Celtic ? You are still thinking that Tarim mummies were Tocharian speakers, while I don't. I just mentioned that the red-haired and tartan-wearing mummies might have been Celts (actually Celtic people speaking a Celtic language, not Tocharian at all).
    Celts in the Tarim Basin! That's something you don't hear everyday... Interesting, but I highly doubt it. Any Hallstatt metalurgy in the Tarim Basin? Any Celtic toponyms, personal names or vocabulary in the Tocharian world?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Asturrulumbo View Post
    Celts in the Tarim Basin! That's something you don't hear everyday... Interesting, but I highly doubt it. Any Hallstatt metalurgy in the Tarim Basin? Any Celtic toponyms, personal names or vocabulary in the Tocharian world?
    Why would there be Celtic names in Tocharian since Tarim mummies are not related to Tocharian speakers at all. Then, as I said above, the Tarim basin culture from 2000 BCE was probably Indo-Iranian, and the Hallstatt Celts dated from 1000 BCE were just a minority of immigrants, maybe just merchants following trade routes. The Celts has an immense trade network in Europe, from Ireland to central Anatolia. It wouldn't be that surprising that some of them traded with the other Indo-European cultures in the Eurasian steppes and Central Asia. Bronze age societies were much more mobile than Iron Age or subsequent societies, principally because copper and tin often needed to be traded from far away (only a few lucky regions had both, including the Caucasus, the Alps, West Iberia and Cornwall).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Why would there be Celtic names in Tocharian since Tarim mummies are not related to Tocharian speakers at all. Then, as I said above, the Tarim basin culture from 2000 BCE was probably Indo-Iranian, and the Hallstatt Celts dated from 1000 BCE were just a minority of immigrants, maybe just merchants following trade routes. The Celts has an immense trade network in Europe, from Ireland to central Anatolia. It wouldn't be that surprising that some of them traded with the other Indo-European cultures in the Eurasian steppes and Central Asia. Bronze age societies were much more mobile than Iron Age or subsequent societies, principally because copper and tin often needed to be traded from far away (only a few lucky regions had both, including the Caucasus, the Alps, West Iberia and Cornwall).


    There were maybe some Celts in the Ural region as the Bashkirs have some R1b U152. But that U152 could have also originated with Italian Merchants (Silk Road).

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    Quote Originally Posted by spongetaro View Post
    There were maybe some Celts in the Ural region as the Bashkirs have some R1b U152. But that U152 could have also originated with Itlaian Merchants (Silk Road).
    Yes, both are possible, although I doubt that medieval Italian merchants would have stayed in cold Russia.

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    I must say that I completely reject the Celtic interpretation, both from the linguistic perspective (mind you, Tocharian retains *p from Proto-Indo-European) and from the geographic one: the easternmost Celtic expansions, at least as can be taken from the historic sources, were at the mouth of the Danube and in Central Anatolia. Both were the result of the invasion of the southern Balkans during the early 3rd century BC. Before that, the easternmost Celtic presences in Europe were probably at the source of the Oder river and in the western Carpathians.

    Tocharian may have been related with Proto-Italo-Celtic if Watkins is right, but it was not Celtic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    I must say that I completely reject the Celtic interpretation, both from the linguistic perspective (mind you, Tocharian retains *p from Proto-Indo-European) and from the geographic one: the easternmost Celtic expansions, at least as can be taken from the historic sources, were at the mouth of the Danube and in Central Anatolia. Both were the result of the invasion of the southern Balkans during the early 3rd century BC. Before that, the easternmost Celtic presences in Europe were probably at the source of the Oder river and in the western Carpathians.

    Tocharian may have been related with Proto-Italo-Celtic if Watkins is right, but it was not Celtic.
    Well, we certainly agree about all that. I am just wondering to whom this post is addressed.

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    There is new evidence that confirms a series of population shift in the Tarim Basin from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. I have proposed above 5 major migrations to the Tarim Basin, each bringing completely different ethnic groups.

    AAPA 2012 abstracts has two ancient DNA studies from Xinjiang.

    Gao et al. tested the mtDNA os remains from the Hami site dating from the Bronze Age and early Iron Age. They identified the Eastern lineages A, C, D, F, G, Z and M7, and the Western lineages W, U2e, U4, and U5a. The Western lineages are typical of European Russia, probably the Volga-Ural region. U2e, U4 and U5 were all found in Bronze-age Andronovo sites that had exclusively R1a1 male lineages. No surprise here.

    The second study by Li et al. tested the much more recent site of Heigouliang (2000 years old). While the Eastern lineages were all identical (except for M7 missing), the West Eurasian haplogroups were all different (H, K, J, M5) and much more Middle Eastern in appearance. M5 is actually South Asian. This points at the arrival of a new group of people, perhaps from Iran via Afghanistan. This is in line with Hemphill & Mallory's morphological description of the skeletons from this period, which were described as Eastern Mediterranean, in sharp contrast to the Bronze Age Proto-European Steppe people.

    An earlier study by Zhang et al. (2010) tested 35 Xinjiang remains from 800 BCE to 100 CE and similarly found the Eastern haplogroups C, D, F alongside the Middle Eastern H, K, T, R* N, and M*. There were also one U2e and two U4, a small minority leftover from the Bronze Age Indo-Europeans.

    This explains perfectly why modern Uyghurs have a blend of Y-DNA of Indo-European (R1a and R1b), Middle Eastern (E1b1b, G, J1, J2, K/T) and East Asian (C, D, N1, O) origin.

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    I always thought the Tarim Mummies were of Tocharians but the mummies seem much more ancient than evidence of the Tocharian language, which survived into the early Middle Ages or so. Really interesting language. Some people link them due to it's Centum nature and the clothing style on some of the mummies to Celts and such, but I think that's speculative and a bit of a stretch. I think the remnants of Tocharians were absorbed into expanding Turkic peoples from the east like the Uyghurs.

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    Y-DNA haplogroup
    D2a1b
    MtDNA haplogroup
    H2a4

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    Country: Australia



    I agree with what you're saying, but there's no reason some DNA could not have been left behind. I believe that much of the DNA debate could be explained by travelling merchants, hunter gatherers and nomadic people's movements across the general Pontic Basin region to and from central/western Europe.

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