Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Continuing Mis-Identification of the Altai Culture
#31
Sean,

I gather you're in favor of the homogeneous term "Scythian" as a fine all-encompassing way of defining all the cultures across the Asian continent. In the same fashion, perhaps we should also lump the Goths into this broad category, since they were also called Scythians (at least by Roman authors such as Themistius). My point is narrowing down generalities. That way, when a student attempts to gather information on specifics within the eastern tribes (let's say Pazyryk or Ukok arrowheads) he/she wouldn't have to scan every paper of PDF on the internet labeled as "Scythian Arrowheads." I really don't give a damn what the Greeks or Persians called these people. We have the ability to redefine generalities to a narrower search; in this case by using "Saka" as it could be used by today's archaeologists. Actually I believe the worst and most ambiguous usage comes from museum (assistant) curators who label eastern artifacts as Scythian... when the artistic style of the artifact absolutely screams "I'm not Scythian."

It's all about style. Here are two examples of "Scythian" hats, one Western and the other Eastern.

   
The Western (Scythian) hats are consistent in shape, whether worn by a man or woman. They are not particularly tall and even have similarities to Thracian ones. Perhaps the genders were equal, or maybe the (real) Scythians were patriarchal.

   
Saka hats are taller and "pointy-er." These are examples worn by the men.

   
Saka women's are REALLY tall, so tall the women actually had to shave their heads bald to accommodate them without slippage.

Your hat defined who you were.
All I'm saying is this-- The Scythians and the Saka were not the Same people... and they should not be lumped together by using an outdated term.
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
#32
I think that ethnic titles overlap and have varying scope (consider human, Western, Germanophone, Austrian, Tiroler, Haller, ... or an ex-room-mate of mine born in Austria to parents from India and raised in Switzerland) and that we need something to call the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes in the middle of the first millennium BCE, just like we need more specific terms like "Royal Scythians" and "Altai culture" and "Tuekta barrow 5." Since I am a nominalist, I don't care what that something is, but Scythian is traditional.

Herodotus' account of the Massegetae living opposite the Issedones does support your idea that Herodotus' Issedones lived somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Altai. I can't speak to the Gryphons <- Triceratops thing, other than that it provides the MacGuffin for a fun historical novel.
Nullis in verba

I left this forum around the beginning of 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value
Reply
#33
Thanks for the reply, Sean

I don't suppose things will change; and for the sake of simplicity, the Altai people will be called Scythian ad infinitum.  Actually, there are a lot of theories concerning the location of the Issedones and many "guesstimates" place them further south in the Seven Rivers area. However, if you read Herodotus explicitly, you wind up in the Altai. Some historians take "mountains that nobody passes over" as the Altai, when he's referring to the Urals. The Northern Trade Road actually passed below the higher mountains of the Urals, then continued to the Altai and down into China. shown here:

   
The tan-colored line follows the Northern Trade Route. Notice where it "peaks" in Mongolia, the exact spot where "gryphon skulls" are found. This route is far older than the southern one, the so-called Silk Road. It goes back to the amazing exchanges between the Karasuk Culture (in Minuminsk, just west of the Altai) and the Shang Dynasty during the 2nd millennium BC.

Besides the Issedones, my hypothesis also considers Herodotus'  "Arimaspoi" (Arimaspi) perhaps a confusing name to him. This was his eastern-most tribe, which I believe would be on the Mongolian reaches of the Altai, where we now find the Ukok artifacts. This location fits the Yuezhi and Wusun recorded in the Han Shu which contained old info going back to the Qin Dynasty and earlier. The key is "asp"-- "horse" in Northeastern Indo-Iranian. The Arimaspi fit an expression such as "the horse-breeding people." We don't have written records beyond Herodotus, but the Issedones and Arimaspi coincide (exactly) with the Yuezhi and Wusun of the Han Shu, being the singular two tribes famous for breeding horses and supplying them to the Chinese. This is documented right back to the Spring and Autumn Period, contemporaneous with the Altai cultures' peak. 

At any rate, my interest in the Altai came from a search for roots of the Alans. Graphing the Pazyryk-Ukok cultures (using their distinctive art forms and clothing), we follow a "U"-shaped migration pattern. We swing down to the southeast, then west to the Ili River Valley and BMC, then northeast to the Aral delta, and finally to a recorded entry of the Alans north of the Caspian. (the catalyst arrived with the Xiongnu, the Huns)

The novel, The Gryphon Skull, sounds interesting. I believe Homer once wrote something similar where his character was blown all over the Med. Wink
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
#34
That northern route in your attachment is very similar to the one I found in the book “Traders and Raiders of China’s Northern Frontier”, the old Fur Route but it also had an extension further east following the Amur Valley into China. (Roughly following the Trans-Siberian Railway route. I remember Otto Maenchen-Heffen, in his book on the Huns wrote that there was a “Europoid”/Indo-Iranian/Tocharian presence further east than the Tamin/Gansu region in the Ordos long before the Hsiung-nu made it their home and may have become a sub-tribe of the Hsiung-nu when Modu became Shanyu after ordering the death of his father in 209 BC.

   
Drawing of a dagger pommel with round eyes and moustache found north of Beijing.

   
 Image of a plaque with Europoid looking man found in Ordos region 3rd Century BC.

   
 Another image of a plaque featuring two men settling their differences in a wrestling match while their horses look on. They have long wavy hair. 3rd Century BC.

 Of course these images could represent Yuechi people as they seemed to occupy the Tarim and shared Gansu with the Wusun at this early stage and who held Modu as a hostage. Supposedly Modu was not the favourite son and while he was a hostage of the Yuechi his father attacked the Yuechi in the hope that he would be killed. So maybe the Yeuchi did share pasture with the Hsiung-nu before the rise of Modu.

 Finds of zoomorphic ornaments and plaques featuring men who definitely look Indo-Iranian (Ordos culture) were common. So maybe Herodotus got the meaning of Arimaspi wrong and the tribes further east were meant to mean “horse lovers” instead of being “one-eyed”.  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
#35
Hi, Michael

I believe we're thinking along the same lines. Here's something to add to your above post. First of all Herodotus used information taken from Aristeus, the Greek poet who traveled the trade road to the Altai. So, quite conceivably, Aristeus interpreted the name "Arimaspi" as "One-Eyed Men." Obviously, through speakers of Northeastern Iranian, the tribe was actually described to him as "The Horse-Lovers" or "Horse-Breeders." This term fits the well-bred Akhal-teke horses found in Pazyryk and Ukok kurgans. There is also a direct geographical link between the Altai cultures and the Yuezhi described in Chinese sources.

The oldest reference comes from the Mu Tianzi Zhuan, written just prior to 500 BC. At that time, the Yuezhi lived north of Hetao and northwestward to the Altai. Hetao is located at the "Bend" of the Yellow River, the land north of it being the Ordos, the areas east occupied by a forming Xiongnu state. The Yuezhi were supplying the Chinese with horses, carnelian, and a jade-like stone, in trade for silks and the occasional bride (who, of course, arrived in a fancy carriage). How inextricably odd this record falls exactly at the height of the Pazyryk culture.

If we add this info to later locations and interactions, we have horse-breeding tribes (the Yuezhi and Wusun) trading with the Han Chinese, the two tribes also mired in a love-hate relationship with the Xiongnu, sometimes a dependent, then breaking away, etc. Your suggestion that warriors depicted on the Ordos buckles are Yuezhi actually fits perfectly; and these same mustached individuals are again shown in Kushan frescoes and on the Orlat battle plaque; the only difference, it would seem, is a slightly shorter hair style. Check this out:

   
Another piece of Ordos art, this one showing a Yuezhi-kinda-guy drawing back on an asymmetrical bow and wearing a long sword hanging from a scabbard slide. So those authors who speculated the scabbard slide was introduced to the Chinese by the Yuezhi certainly have a leg to stand on. And of course, we are also viewing a precursor to the Orlat plaque.

For an excellent PDF resource, read Sino-Platonic Paper No. 80 (July, 1998), A Study of Saka History, by Taishan Yu. Not only does Yu consider the Yuezhi as Saka, but he also discusses other Saka tribes, such as the Kanju, Yancai, and Wusun. Professor Yu uses ancient Chinese texts not found in the Shiji, many of them written in the pre-Qin era.
Ain't it odd how it all comes together. 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


Forum Jump: