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Origin of the Alans
#16
Persians controlled Bactria around the time of Alexander the Great & Saka/Scythian cavalry supposedly fought at Marathon. Although Persian sculptures depict Darius defeating the Saka maybe the reality was that he came to some arrangement with them for access to Bactria. Maybe the Sogdians got some alfalfa plants from the Persians and grew it themselves in the Ferghana Valley. Central Asian nomads used to buy their carpets off the Persians until they mastered the art themselves so there was definitely some interraction. I think the people of Tajikstan today are Indo-Iranian speakers.
Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#17
Good to catch me on this, Michael. Wink

Certainly, if Emperor Wu-di imported alfalfa seeds from Ferghana, the Saka could have done likewise with seeds from a Persian origin. Below is a stone frieze of two slow-witted Saka presenting tribute to the Persians. They gave two gold torques and a midget horse in exchange for 3 alfalfa seeds.
   


I need a break. Someone help me out. Exactly who were the Kang-ju, anyway? (nuk, nuk, nuk.) Oh, and here's a diagram of the entire Wusun, Yuezhi, Xiongnu Mess that led Shang Qian to these interesting Kang-ju people.
   
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#18
No worries mate, I was not trying to catch you out but when you think about it the Central Asians whether Saka, Sogdians and Yuechi or even later Turks were pretty canny businessmen. I think they spread the so called peach or as the Greeks called them the "Persian apples" west as they were originally cultivated in China, so there was a two way street in commerce. I think the Persians and not the Greeks encouraged the cultivation of the grape in Central Asia as well which like Alfalfa spread to China through conquest and trade.

 Just on the Yuehzhi/Kushans and their appearance below is an image from a relief panel from the Grey Schist in Gandharan, Pakistan from 2nd-3rd centuries AD of armed men who look decidedly Aryan.  Smile

   

Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#19
(01-08-2016, 05:49 AM)Alanus Wrote:  [Image: attachment.php?thumbnail=12160] 
Here we have portrait of a Saka or Yuezhi male from the western Tarim Basin. Whether he is typical or atypical is open to debate, considering the 20th century historians' "Aryan bias" for all people blue-eyed.

This head comes from the excavations at Kalchayan in southern Uzbekistan. This seems to me to be rather too far west to be described as the western Tarim Basin but your knowledge of the geography of the region will be much greater than mine. Below is a picture of the object itself. I suppose that the eyes are blue; it is difficult to tell.

   
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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#20
There are a few pieces of evidence of Europoid/Caucasian occupation of Tarim Basin, the most famous being the Tarim mummies. I think there were the knights of Tarim painting as well from 6th century. I have forgotten about Khalchayan, I think we had an earlier thread on it about a year back. Part of the later Kushan empire.

   

   

Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#21
Well, Michael King of Macedonia, thanks for this; and we can switch the origin of the find to Khalchayan, Uzbekistan... which coincidentally (or not) was the capital of ancient Ferghana (the "Dayuan" of the Chinese). This placement makes our exceedingly-blue-eyed character a Yuezhi. I humorously used the augmented version because it shows extreme 20th century reconstructionism portraying everyone as "Aryan." Your un-retouched version opens the possibility that our Yuezhi individual might have had gray eyes or maybe brown eyes.

In deja vu all over again, we have a second head found in the exact location-- Khalchayan. This time, we deal with plain black and white, and our so-called "Yuezhi Prince" has a sketched "black eye" (probably from being punched in the face by a Xiongnu).
   

Notice the two Yuezhi portraits lack full beards. However, after the Yuezhi crossed down into India and established the Kushan state, they adopted fashionable Greek beards. These are shown in the illustration posted by Michael Kerr. At this point in history, the Yuezhi were recorded as the "Kushans." Some modern historians even refer to them as "Tocharian-speaking Kushans." WRONG! The Yuezhi/Kushans never spoke Tocharian, the language isolated to the eastern Takla Makan in Xingiang Province. The illustrations just posted above by Michael Kerr show these Tocharian speaking people, quite Europoid, a very early splinter group arriving in China from the bronze age Afanasievo Culture. (See Mallory and Mair, also Elizabeth Barber)

Let's continue the Origin story. By the latter half of the last century BC, the Wusun and Yuezhi split into several factions, and a majority of the Yuezhi had crossed the Hindu Kush. According to Shang Qian, the Kangju now had the most powerful state west of China. Their country was rich, traded with the Kushans, and kept a certain peace by swapping brides with the Xiongnu (Huns) plus exhibiting heavy cavalry. We also know certain elements (disenfranchised?) of the Wusun had gone over to the Kanju, who also had a huge "vassal" tribe-- the Yancai-- located 2,000 li to the northwest and "bordering a great shoreless lake." (the Shiji, p. 234, Columbia, 1994) Later texts in the Shiji refer to the former Yancai as the Alaniano. As Michael Kerr noted, we are looking at power through diplomatic trade... and a cultural root of the Alans.

We now hit a 50-year void between Chinese and Roman sources. At this point, I can only offer a scenario based on everything we've previously discussed... especially through the helpful aid of pictorial artifacts shown on previous posts. This is what we might envision:

Pazyryk/Ukok/cultures = Arimaspi/Yuezhi
Wusun = Essedene/Issidones

Massagetae/Chorasmi = Kangju = Rhoxalani/Roxolani
Saka/Sakarouri/Sogdians = Yancai/Alaniano = Aorsi/Alanorsi

Obviously this is simplified and not totally refined. There had to be a formative overlap, yet undiscovered, and this proposed connection is certainly open to debate and modification. (I may have even forgotten somebody) Thank you for reading this thread. Wink

This is a PS. Of the various tribes recorded by the Chinese, the origin of "Wusun" has been heavily debated. Torday claims the name might come from Turkic. Far more likely, it was borrowed into the Turkic language at an early date. The name has a clear provenance, associated with their historical position as horsemen, aka horse breeders (much like their cousins the Yuezhi) The name stems from the same root as the ancient Indo-European Asvins or Aswin. In Indo-Aryan, we have the perfect clue. The Rig Veda records the Ashvins aiding Vishpala in fighting the Kela. The Ashvins were known as the "twin horsemen." Here's an illustration:
   
Big Grin
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
Reply
#22
(01-08-2016, 04:27 PM)mkerrilm Wrote: I have forgotten about Khalchayan, I think we had an earlier thread on it about a year back.

This is probably the thread that you have in mind:

http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/thread-...khalchayan
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
Reply
#23
Thanks for the link, Renatus

The Khalchayan palace and frieze is supposedly dated between 50 BC and AD 50, which falls in the early Kushan era before the Yuechi "went Greek." Good thing, since the frieze illustrates a hold-over of the "barbarian element" we're looking for. The Yuezhi head illustration posted earlier is actually that of a catphract, and here we have a reconstruction showing more the cataphract (first figure in the background).
   

Another reconstruction shows the Khalchayan archer:
   

And here is another Yuezhi head from the same frieze:
   

At some point, perhaps within this time period, either two factions of Yuezhi fought against each other, or the participants were Yuezhi and Wusun. This brings us to the Orlat belt buckle, extant as two ivory plates once attached by leather ties. The Orlat belt plaques give us a complete picture, one plate having a battle scene, the other showing a hunting scene. I'll save it for a new post on that subject alone, rather than extending this one. Thanks to everyone for making this an interesting thread. Big Grin
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
Reply
#24
Hi Alan, yes there are many different views on the origins of the Wusun. Turkish, Tocharian or Indo-Iranian. Torday does mention that Wusun could come from Turkish as it literally means “Grandson of the Wolf”  but it could also be taken  from the Sogdian word for tent wδ’n or literally  “people of the tents” pronounced wiðān to the Chinese.
 The Wusun seemed to be the enemies of the Kangju federation so the Chinese could have got their information from the mostly urban dwelling Sogdians who would probably dismissively call them that term I guess. Torday also thinks that the Alans were part of the Kangju Federation,or even the leading clan. At around the same time that the Alans had supposedly absorbed the Aorsi as they seem to have disappeared from the record around 49BC the Chinese sources mention that Kangju absorbed the Yancai who many think was the Chinese term for Aorsi or "spreaders of hay" at approximately the same time. Either way it seems that Kangju started going into severe decline in the 1st century AD and broken up into the various oasis city towns either due to civil wars, overpopulation, invasion or even the effects of climate change on its complex but delicate irrigation systems putting pressure on the intricate tribal relationships between the population groups. Maybe the nomadic elements of the confederation moved west to escape constant wars or droughts or maybe both. Smile

Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
Reply
#25
Hi, Michael

Yes, Torday claims "Wusun" comes from Turkish, which would seem he regarded them as a Turkic tribe. If we use logic and geography, Torday's argument fails. The Yuezhi were the easternmost Indo-Iranian tribe next to the Xiongnu, a proto-Turkic tribe. When the Xiongnu attacked the Yuezhi, they fled west and conversely attacked the Wusun. To me, this pinpoints the Wusun as living in Indo-Iranian territory, thus the western neighbors of the Yuezhi.

The Wusun as "the tents" hypothesis for the origin of the name is more of a failure. It obvious reflects a derogatory expression coined two generations after the Chinese recorded them as the "Wusun." I'll stick with my own analysis based on an expression so old it might hark back to proto-Indo-European. The Aswin or Asvin (the "Horsemen") arrive in the Veda's oldest books, straight from the steppe in roughly 1,600 BC.

When Torday mentions the possibility that the Alans may have been the Kangju's leading clan, he might be correct. If so, the Kangju state during the last decades before the Common Era were apparently ruled by steppe people. If we use the Orlat plaques as a guide, we are looking at the handiwork of a talented steppe craftsman, not a cosmopolitan ivory worker. The work shows a raw energy, a steppe style always lost by a "civilized" copyist. The Orlat plaques were unearthed in prime Kangju territory and are stylistically related to our Pazyryk (Yuezhi?) horseman approaching his bald-headed priestess. The art-style shows the horse's distinctive hind legs, only seen on these two examples:

   

I've mirror-imaged the horse to place its hind legs to the left. Note the shape of the legs and the stance of both legs. Now here is the Orlat version:

   
   

The Pazyryk horse and the two Orlat horses were rendered in the same artistic style, much the same as two Picasso paintings. To me, these illustrations point to a particular culture, not Chinese or Sogdian but a master craftsman of either the Yuezhi or Wusun yet found in the heart of Kangju territory. (This compliments Torday's hypothesis. And perhaps Kangju was a Yuezhi state.)

At this point, we need to date the Orlat belt plaques. They exhibit armor and weapons which also correspond within a specific period of Chinese history-- the Western Han Dynasty, 200BC to 100AD. Here is a reconstructionist's painting of a Western Han cavalryman.

   
The likeness of this Han cavalryman to the warriors on the Orlat plaques is striking. Also, note the horse's tail sheath which harks back to the Pazyryk image.

A 200BC to 100AD timeframe is perhaps longer than we might like. Can we narrow the period down? Is that possible? Again, I need help. Confused
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
Reply
#26
Just on the Wusun, there seems to be a few differences between the 2 main sources, The Shih Chi of Sima Qian and the Han Shu about the Wusun. Whether there was new information or some information from the original Shih Chi book 123 was missing I don't know. I think both were written on strips of bamboo or wood. So assuming Sima Qian was a methodical historian maybe there were later scribal errors as well. Hope it is not too long winded but there were quite a few differences in the two versions.

 The Shih Chi says the king of the Wusun was called K’un-mo and his father ruled over a small country on the western borders of the Hsiung-nu. The Hsiung-nu attacked and killed his father and K’un-mo was abandoned alive in the wilderness. A crow brought meat in its bill and a wolf came and suckled him. The Shan-yü marvelled thinking him divine, and received him and brought him up. When he was full grown the Shan-yü put him in charge of troops. He frequently won distinction. The Shan-yü gave K’un-mo back to his father’s people and ordered him to defend forever the western regions. K’un-mo gathered together and fostered his people and attacked small countries round about. He had several tens of thousands of bowmen practised in warfare.

 When the Shan-yü died, K’un-mo led his people and moved far away. He made himself independent and was no longer willing to go to the Hsiung-nu court. The Hsiung-nu sent crack troops to attack him but they were not victorious. They regarded him as divine and avoided him. So they treated him as a vassal but did not make major attacks on him.

The Han Shu seemed to have a few extra details including the K’un-mo’s father’s name, Nan-tou-mi as well as a different location for the original home of the Wusun as it states the Wusun shared pastures with the Yuehchi between Ch’i-lien and Tun-huang (roughly the north-western part of Kansu leading to the Tarim Basin.

 According to the Han Shu it was the Yuehchi who attacked the Wusun and not the Hsiung-nu, they killed Nan-tou-mi and took away his territory. The son, K’un-mo, was newly born. His guardian Pu-chiu Hsi-hou (Hsi-hou seems to be a title for a minor chief or king of the clan) carried him away and set him down on the grass to look for food for the child. When he returned he saw a wolf suckling him; and a crow carrying meat in his beak, hovering by his side. (Very symbolic a crow feeding meat to a new born child.) He thought him divine and took the child to the Hsiung-nu. The Shan-yu loved him and brought him up. When he was full grown, the Shan-yü gave K’un-mo his father’s people and put him in command of troops where he frequently won distinction.

 At the time the Yuehchi had already been defeated by the Hsiung-nu and gone west and attacked the Sai king. The Sai king fled south and moved far away and the Yuehchi occupied his territory. Having become strong, K’un-mo asked the Shan-yü to be allowed to take vengeance for his father. So he went west and attacked and defeated the Ta-Yuehchi as they were called since they split into two groups and were sent packing by the Hsiung-nu, and they fled west and south and moved to the land of the Ta Hsia. K’un-mo captured some of their people and kept them in his new lands. His army became somewhat stronger. The story continues but is the same as he earlier Shi Chi. Smile 

Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#27
Thanks for additional details, Michael

As the Han Shu noted, the Wusun lived west of the Yuezhi... at least before the migration of both tribes began; and as I noted in post #15, when fleeing from the Huns the Yuezhi ran through Wusun territory, killing Kun'-mo's father (the Wusun chieftain). One reason I prefer the Han Shu over the Shiji is its additional material not mentioned by Sima Qian. The writer of Han Shu used records on bamboo going back to the Qin dynasty. You probably noticed the birth legend of Kun'-mo is remarkably similar to the Romulus & Remus tale, except the Roman version has a wolf and woodpecker. Supposedly, the Wusun were thereafter known informally as "People of the Crow." The Roman version seems to be modified and the bird disappears; Romans really didn't want to be known as "People of the Woodpecker." Wink

The birth and success story of Kun'-mo punctuates the origin of "bad blood" between two tribes once living side by side. This brings us back to the Orlat belt plaques, which still have not been dated yet found in the heart of Sogdiana. Perhaps, in our case, a precise date is unimportant. Judging from the costumes, armor, bows, and swords, we can place our combatants around 100 BC to the turn of the Common Era. Considering the precise artistic style, and comparing the horses to an identical counterpart on the Pazyryk wall hanging, we are looking at the work of either a Yuezhi or Wusun craftsman, a "scrimshander." This is not the product of a native Sogdian (aka, Kanju).

Among weapons, the sword style is unique and accurately rendered. I don't want this post to become too long. But here is the full view of the Orlat battle scene, in all probability the Yuezhi and Wusun-- or Yuezhi and Sakarauli-- in one of several conflicts. Check the swords out. Where did they come from? And where, geographically, would they appear next?  Rolleyes

   
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
Reply
#28
Would not the longer cavalry swords be a steppe invention suitable for cavalry that was probably adopted and improved by the sedentary Han? Maenchen-Heffen alluded that the Yeuchi may have invented the scabbard slide.

 Like the Romans would the Han, rather than train their own combatants in cavalry warfare not just hire other nomadic horsemen to fight the Hsiung-nu. I think the 30 top quality Ferghana horses they gained seemed a mediocre gain for the cost of 2 campaigns & thousands of Chinese lives (I think quite a few horses died on the return journey crossing the desert" to restock their cavalry stock to battle the Hsiung-nu. More likely that the emperor wanted to have these finicky "heavenly horses", which needed special diets of alfalfa & grooming, to accompany him on his journey to the afterlife. I think they got better value out of the thousands of Wusun horses which more than likely had Ferghana bloodlines but mixed with hardier stock, suitable for the steppes & which could survive harsh winters by breaking through the snow to get to the grass with their hooves, they purchased to restock their cavalry to make their cavalry more than a match for the hardier Hsiung-nu horses. Maybe these horses as well as the horses of the nomadic elements of the Kangju & Yancai, were ancestors of the later Alan horses who travelled with their owners across the Russian steppes, through Gaul and Spain and onto North Africa leaving their genetic stamp on a lot of later European horse breeds.

 I must admit I would be much happier if one of the combatants on the Orlat plaque was handling his sword with 2 hands to back up Tacitus in his description of the Roxolani cavalry in 69 AD.The handles seem long enough for holding with 2 hands. Great detail in the Orlat plaque.  Smile
Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
Reply
#29
The Orlat plaque is an amazing artistic accomplishment. It is PRECISE!-- not only the exact style of depicting a horse found on the Pazyrk wall hanging, but even the bows-- asymmetrical and with siyahs-- portray the longer bow found at Niya and then shown on Bosphorus catacomb paintings. The Orlat plaque is at the midpoint of our journey, linking back to the Altai and presaging the Alans in the Pontic steppe.

We actually know a great deal about the swords... and the scabbard slide. Wuling, king of Yue, hired the "Hu" to improve his army in 307 BC-- a switch to "barbarian" clothing, then the basics of riding, and finally intensive mounted archery training. No surprise that the Kingdom of Yue was located near the Yuezhi. We can actually ad an important postscript. Among things "new" and "barbarian" were the Yuezhi's swords, new because they were made from iron while the Chinese were still using bronze swords. The Chinese learned barbarian forging techniques and combined the process with their traditional bronze technology, thus arriving with a blade that was "hard on the outside" (steel) and "soft on the inside" (iron). They also changed the grip guard, inverting the Middle Sarmatian guard into this:

   
This is a late Zhou Dynasty guard carved from orange nephrite. It has a single "chilong" (baby dragon) crawling out of the water. The style wouldn't change until the late Han period, and this guard is precisely what we see on the Orlat swords.

The swords have been found upwards to 1.5 meters, a very long sword. The grips averaged about 30 cm, in other words they were two-handed yet balanced so perfectly a warrior could fight one-handed until he began to fatigue. The swords had disk pommels, also shown on the Orlat scene, and the scabbard hung from a neprite scabbard slide, the history of which has been given by Trusdale.

So, the steppe longsword was improved by the Chinese; and the Yuezhi, Wusun, and later the Alans all prized the Chinese product, as mentioned by Treister and Simonenko. Long swords with Chinese scabbard slides have been found throughout the Pontic region. Pictured below is an AD 1st century sword and slide (which I believe was owned by a Roxolani king). It was unearthed at Chatalka, Bulgaria, along with body and leg armor. The sword is Alanic, but the slide was carved in China and shows 2 "chilongs" instead of one, a Han art style. The disk pommel has a series of tamgas.
   
   
   

Although the initial Chinese trade for horses resulted in the survival of only 30, later trades added to the Emperor's stable. As you mentioned, lesser Yuezhi and Wusun horses, hardier and cheaper, found their way into the Wudi's cavalry, just as they did 200 years earlier for King Wuling. I'm sure a good many mounts were traded for excellent Chinese swords. Smile
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
Reply
#30
I'm not sure how popular this thread has been. It hasn't been high on the agenda, maybe because it's not "Roman," or possibly because RAT activity (on the whole) has dwindled. Here are a few additional observations, the first being the strange "collars" depicted in the Orlat plaque. We don't see them when the Alans reach Europe, and some members might wonder where they came from. I'd venture to guess they were originally Yuezhi. They appear in the films, The Last Supper and Red Cliff. The former takes place during the transition from the Qin to Han Dynasty.

Even later, we see the same armor with lamellar collars. Han Piao Ji, a serious student of early armor, has made a reproduction of Emperor Wu-di's personal outfit. Here Mr. Han is shown wearing the emperor's armor.

   

The Yuezhi/Wusun contribution to the Chinese, in both swords and armor, was significant. In its modified form, the Alans introduced this style to the Sassanian and Roman armies. For you enjoyment, I recommend The Last Supper for its faith to history, taken straight from the pen of Sima Qian. This heavy drama relates the intertwined lives of Lord Yu, General Xin, and Liu Bang... the first Han emperor. It's not a sword-n-slash flick, so may not fit the interests of RATers looking for info on Roman gladii. (Check out Liu Bang's accurate sword, complete with its scabbard covered with white ray-skin... exactly as described in the Shi-ji.)
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
Reply


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