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Origin of the Alans
#76
The Argali Charioteers: Part 2

Thus we find a Europoid presence in 1,250 BC Anyang. Obviously, these foreigners were employed as horse tenders, chariot makers, and occasionally as drivers. They were mercenaries from afar. The Shang Chinese were totally unfamiliar with horse husbandry; horses were exotic, and chariots were strange-- and dangerous-- vehicles. In the Bronze Age, the idea of riding astraddle a horse was far-fetched. With one exception.

Her name was Fu Hao, the favored wife of King Wu Ding and a woman from "the western tribes." Her tomb contained a horse's bridle, not chariot gear. She was buried with over 100 weapons, including this knife:

   
The knife falls into the Karasuk category, and it's also a link to the Argali Clan. Fu Hao can be included in a rare breed-- she was a female general. Usually, female generals were revengeful Saka or outrageous Celts, not Chinese women. But we'll never know. Her skull was irreparably damaged, and the most skilled archaeologists couldn't put her back together again. Today, she stands proudly in Anyang, the Shang Dynasty's one-and-only horse-riding general.

   
I'll bet she didn't wear a long skirt while riding.

So, where did these Argali Clan mercenaries (and perhaps Fu Hao, herself) come from? Fortunately we have pictorial clues. One of the world's largest concentrations of petroglyphic art can be found in the western Mongolian areas of Tsagaan Salaa ("feeder river"), and Tsagaan Gol ("river"), in Baga Oigor ("valley"). By strange coincidence (or not) they're located about 50 kilometers west of the Ukok kurgans, and about 75 kilometers from Pazyryk.

   
The petroglyph complex in Baga Oigor (hundreds of artworks from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age) lies in a favored hunting ground of a seemingly proto-Scythian culture... and right next to the Altai.

   
A petroglyph of a Bronze Age chariot in Baga Oigor III. We can forgive the artist, but the chariot is the closest known example to those in the Anyang burials.

   
We're still in the Bronze Age, and here we have a hunter (dismounted from his chariot) taking aim at a nice fat argali. (He's eating well tonight!) This petroglyph, and the previous one, have been dated by Esther Jacobson-Tepfer, an authority on the subject who spent months in western Mongolia. From the curl of the argali's horns, we see the same curve found on the Anyang knives.

I place this Bronze Age hunter, and the charioteer above, as members of the Argali Clan. The argali was one of two animals worshiped and honored by the inhabitants of Pazyryk and Ukok... whom Aristeas recorded as the "Arimaspi," and potentially identified by us as the Yuezhi. All we have to do is stay where we are-- in the middle of Baga Oigor-- until we reach the Iron Age. Big Grin

   
The Altai argali, today considered one of the world's great trophies, just as it was in the Bronze and Iron Ages. A pair of argali horns can weigh up to 75 pounds. Argali are members of the goat-antelope family. The Altai subspecies is the largest, with males weighing upward to 725 pounds. The ewes also have horns, which are much smaller than the males'. It's easy to see why these magnificent animals were considered sacred by Altai peoples.
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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#77
John Carpenter's Halloween 14-- an Entire Civilization Vanishes.

We now turn to the Iron Age. In the Mongolian valley of Baga Oigor (discussed above), we find additional and rather interesting petroglyphs. Here's a great image:

   
We have riders hunting argali, and the central figure is mounted on a horse with a triple-crenellated mane. We know from past posts on this thread that trimming a horse's mane with three crenellations was characteristic of only a few tribes-- the Yuezhi, Wusun, and Aorsi. In this case, we are looking at horsemen from the Pazyryk-Ukok culture... no more than 50 to 75 kilometers from these rock drawings. (These Yuezhi riders were identified by Esther Jacobson-Tepfer as "Turkic." French historian-- Dr. Jean Clottes-- seconded her observation. This RAT thread has pictorial proof to dismiss any Turkic scenario.)

   
Here's additional proof. Wusun and early Yuezhi  warrior graves had a "log cabin" constructed around the deceased, typically built on the mortise and tenon principle. Later Yuezhi internments in the Ganzu Corridor were "podboi" catacomb graves, but this is Western Mongolia in the mid Iron Age... and the grave is not Turkic.

Warriors and lower-strata members of the Arzhan-to-Ukok culture were buried on the steppe; only leaders and high-ranking elites are found in mountain valleys of the Altai. This society revered the highest altitudes, no doubt through religion. Only in the upper reaches of this mountain chain do we find "royal" burials. The archaeological progression runs from the north (earliest) to the south (latest). Here it is simplified, using Herodotus, with approximate or specific dates:

Arzhan I: 9th to 8th Century BC. (Origin of the "Scythian Culture," includes Issedones and Arimaspi.)

Arzhan II: 659 to 622 BC. (Prior to 700 BC, Issedones driven southwest by Arimaspi.) 

Pazyryk: 6th to 3rd Centuries BC. (Arimaspi)

Ukok Plateau: End of 3rd Century BC. (Arimaspi)

The above sites are from a single culture-- the Arimaspi or Pazyryk People-- the oldest, most sophisticated, and most eastern confederation in the Scythian-Saka continuum. No other tribes can fit within this connective and geographic belt. (I follow Sulimirsky, who placed the Arimaspi in this location back in 1970.) But a lingering question remains, "Is there a way to prove the Pazyryk culture was actually, and undoubtedly, the Yuezhi?"

   
Here we go. Recently, an investigative team (Slusarenko, Christen, Orlova, Kuzmin, and Burr) obtained accurate C14 dates on the actual logs used to make the "cabins" in Pazyryk and Ukok graves. They studied 12 logs from different sites, using tree rings as a yearly count, then refining the data by "wiggle-matching," a very accurate method. The map (above) shows the areas where the logs were obtained.

   
The last kurgan built by this "culture" was Ulandryk-4, Kurgan 1. Prosaic barbarians like me know it as "The Ukok Priestess" Kurgan. Now here's something interesting-- After Ukok Kurgan 1 was built, the Pazyryk culture disappeared. They completely vanished, and neither archaeologists nor historians have given any kind of account for it. But we can... if we think about it. Look at the dates on the above graph, perhaps the most interesting being just below 180 BC, somewhere like 178 to 176 BC. The survey team was conservative, noting, "Thus, the end of creating the Pazyryk culture kurgans at Ukok Plateau corresponds in general to the same time [as the tree-ring dating], approximately 230 to 190 BC."

So, here's the test. You choose the correct answer, because I'm not giving it to you.

Fact: The last Pazyryk kurgan was built c. 230-190 B.C. Then the entire culture vanished. (corrected,3/11/16,perR.Vermaat)

Q. Where did the Pazyryk Culture go?

a) A terrible organism-eating plague swept through the Altai, killing all the Pazyrykians and their live-stock, which rotted to dust almost immediately.

b) A large Mothership from the planet Argonia hovered over the Altai, beaming up all the people, their horses, their cattle, and their sheep... then transporting them to Ryjel 7 as a "seed colony."

c) The Pazyrykians were the Yuechi, and they were driven from the Altai and Ganzu by the Xiongnu in the 4th year of the rein of Emperor Wen (177-176 BC.) (historical source: Sima Quang, Shiji, Chapter 110)

d) All of the above.

Big Grin Wink Angel

   
It's Nice to be King. Even when you're Totally Dead.
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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#78
If the Pazyryk were the Yuechi, were did they hole up between 230-290 BC (I think you mean 290-230 BC?) and the 4th year of Wen (177-ish BC)? You'd say that more then a century of living somewhere would leave a bit of trash, at least? Wink
Robert Vermaat
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#79
(03-11-2016, 09:30 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: If the Pazyryk were the Yuechi, were did they hole up between 230-290 BC (I think you mean 290-230 BC?) and the 4th year of Wen (177-ish BC)? You'd say that more then a century of living somewhere would leave a bit of trash, at least? Wink

Robert, thanks for catching the "clerical error." Wink
I meant-- between 230-190 BC and the 4th year of Emperor Wen (177-176 BC). Somebody once said, "Don't listen to what I say. Listen to what I'm thinking." (Or John Carpenter made me do it.)

I corrected the error, so they only left about 13 years worth of trash. I'm not sure how the average historian views these large Saka confederations. In this case (and quite typical), the Yuezhi didn't "live" in the Altai. They actually lived on the surrounding steppe. Only a select few went up to Ukok or Pazyryk, and only in the summer when they could inter the deceased. They brought along the deceased's favorite horses, relatives, and carpenters. The larch logs-- cut to make the interior "cabin"-- were de-barked, preassembled, and numbered with slash-marks.

The local inhabitants actually built the kurgans; and as a rule, after the Saka returned to the steppe, the locals robbed the graves.  In most cases, the "kings" or "queens" actually died some months earlier and were expertly mummified. The brain was removed by trepanning; the internal organs were replaced with straw and herbs, and the body was embalmed with a liquid containing mercury.

I'm very impressed by this particular society, as well as the Wusun who (at this time) lived on the opposite side of the lower Altai along the River Irtish. They, too, play an important role in the formation of the Alans. Both tribes seem more sophisticated than the famous western Scythians of the steppes north of the Black Sea.

Sorry that it took 2 months to finalize the "Yuezhi question." In my next post (or two), I'll locate the original Wusun territory before the Xiongnu invasion. If anyone has any questions or comments, please post them. Thank you.  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
#80
   Hi Alan interesting about the carbon dating, science giving us a helping hand. Rudenko is not really sure about age of tombs, he does state that through examinations of tree rings he estimated that the timespan of the construction of the barrows spanned a period of 48 years. Barrows 1 and 2 were constructed in the first year, Barrow 4, 7 years later, Barrow 3 was next 30 years later and Barrow 5 next 11 years after that, ( about 8 years out from your estimate, 230-190 BC) although these 5 were the big graves built for important and extremely wealthy chiefs or tribal leaders as you alluded to in an earlier post. We know so little of the religions and beliefs of steppe and Central Asian tribes but here we see mummification of bodies, heads and faces shaved but then bodies interred with false wigs and beards. There were a lot more smaller barrows with not much in grave goods & some medium sized ones with possibly 1 or 2 horses buried with their owners? Of the bigger ones Barrows 1 and 2 contained no Chinese goods at all but the others did. He does mention though that some of the mirrors date to late 4th century due to similar designs to mirrors found in China. However he noted that the last barrow constructed Barrow 5 had different designed shabracks (saddle cloths) much better quality silks & of course the wagon so possibly a slow change of leadership of the remaining Pazyryk people as a lot of the goods found in Barrow 5 were similar to the goods found at Noin-Ula which was considered a burial ground for Hsiung-nu kings. The tombs were robbed not long after burial which probably indicates that the chiefs were extremely rich while a lot of the other residents were not and took the opportunity to rob their masters graves. Rudenko is not even sure if people lived at Pazyryk all year round as it would have been hard not to notice grave-robbers helping themselves unless the residents themseves did the robbing or they were ransacked in winter. Maybe Pazyryk contained the summer camps but bad terrain & lack of wagons for transport indicates they might not have moved far between seasons, again making horse transport extremely important, possibly to lower valley areas in winter.

 He does think that the residents of Pazyryk ( or their leading families) were rich middlemen as the area they lived in was not really suitable for farming so they would have had to buy and ship grains and cereals there for themselves and their prized horses which in turn could have been sold to other middlemen and then traded for silk with China, until the Hsiung-nu upset the apple cart, they loved their gold & by a lot of their everyday goods were extremely skilled in leathercraft. The Altai region was rich in game for exporting to other peoples. Even grazing would have been hard around Pazyryk as bad terrain & freezing winters would have been harsh for livestock, but excellent for hunting. Rudenko thinks that they would have had a good lifestyle and besides drinking and smoking hemp, horse breeding was their major occupation.

 Larch would have been plentiful & cut locally and there would have been a mixture of wooden housing and stabling for livestock in winter as only the rich would have had large enough herds of sheep for felt in these climates. Other timbers like birch & cedar for carving the intricate bits of ornaments found,would have had to be brought in from other regions or areas where specific woods survived. The local landscape was not suitable for wagons and the wagon found at Pazyryk was probably a ceremonial gift and possibly an indication of one of the chiefs having a Chinese bride or maybe for a funeral. Trolley systems were used to bring items and materials to the barrows.

 Besides the Turkomen (Akhal-teke) horses found there were smaller breeds of horses there which were probably the Altai breed which was very hardy and could dig through snow to find grass unlike the Akhal-tekes which would have required stabling and cereal grasses. (They were so well preserved because of the ice they still had grains in their stomach contents). The Altai ponies would have been purchased or traded with the people occupying the Ulagan mountains and Ursul valley which would have had a milder climate than Pazyryk. These horses were mainly used as pack animals and working horses, in the mountain areas as they were tough, hardy horses, all the big barrows contained a lot of leather bags and leather flasks which were thrown over saddles of horses for transport as terrain was too harsh for wagons and carts. ( Just out of interest Alan, the Altai ponies although only about 13 hands often produced leopard spotted horses which I think you mentioned were considered sacred amongst the later Goths so maybe that spread through the Sarmatians and Alans originating in the Altai as well). Except for a few broken arrow shafts, shields & daggers the robbers picked the barrows clean of weaponry which might have helped give an indication of who the Pazyryk people were.

   

  Under pressure from the Hsiung-nu they probably quit the Altai and moved either south-west through Kyrgyzstan or west into Kazakhstan.  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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#81
Maral Imanbayeva describes Arimaspian Technology

Thank you, Michael

It's heartening to discover Rudenko's estimate was only 8 years off from the new tree-ring survey at Pazyryk-Ukok. He was among the significant authors, and we must also include Sulimirski, Jettmar, and Maenchen-Helfen. They were knowledgeable and not afraid to mention probabilities-- not always correct but usually close. Today's authors never connect a "culture" to a specific historical "people," perhaps fearing being wrong would hinder advancement.

Yes, it appears that even a low-ranking warrior was buried with his horse (and sufficient food), which he needed to reach his ultimate destination beyond the stars. Here's an early Yuezhi grave with two warriors:

   
The grave was found in Western Mongolia, the surrounding timbers just barely noticeable, and each warrior was provided with a mount... most likely, the same horses they used in life.

There seems to be great respect for the dead; and the "kings" and "queens" appear to be more than just respected, they must have been loved. The time, effort, and intense care taken in these burials shows dedication. (We don't bury a deceased President in this fashion.) In many instances the labor involved in building a large kurgan exceeded the effort to create Stonehenge.

As you mentioned, the Yuezhi apparently lived in log cabins throughout most of the year. Another observation, particularly since the 1990s, is the incredibly advanced technology developed by this easternmost Saka group. In the late 20th century, the famous Pazyryk rug was considered Persian-made. Since then, the rug's material, style, and colors have been analyzed. The dye colors have been located to plants from the Mediterranean to China, showing (once again) the extensive trade conducted by the Yuezhi.

   
The Pazyryk rug (oldest in the world) incorporated dyes obtained through "international" trade.

Then we have Yuezhi metallurgy, perhaps the most advanced in the ancient world. A few years ago, newspaper reporter Maral Imanbayeva interviewed arcaeologists and wrote a "pop" article for The Astana Times (10 Dec., 2012). Her article was obviously translated, yet very informative, "The Greek poet Homer called the Arimaspians the gryphons guarding gold; the Chinese called them Yuezhi. Indeed, the technological masters of the Arimaspians produced gold jewelry through a sophisticated manufacturing process that was lost through the millennia. They could produce a white gold when gold falls on a silver base. Today, we do this through electrolysis."

   
Imanbayeva was referring to this figurine, seamlessly flowing from gold to a white gold base, found at Berel. (3rd to 2nd Century BC)

"The melallurgists could also carry out micro-soldering. Today it can be done only with a magnifying glass and a special device [?]. But 2,400 to 2,300 years ago, the Arimaspians didn't use them, yet still mastered the art of micro-soldering to perfection."

   
The hand-guard and upper blade section of a 4th Century BC akinakes, constructed by welding multiple-- and hand-carved-- iron pieces into its final form. It was then gold-filled.

These are not just "artifacts," they are singular and highly-refined works of art. How advanced was Graeco-Roman metal-working technology at this time? How artistic were they? I don't know. If anyone has information, I'd welcome comments.
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
#82
Where would You Live-- If You Were a Yuezhi?

Personally, I believe we've identified the eastern Pazyryk-Ukok Culture as the Yuezhi. Additional propositions by Sulimirski (The Sarmatians, p.67, 76) and Jettmar (Art of The Steppes, p. 212) identify the Arimaspians/Yuezhi as the Pazyryk "Scythians." Additionally, we know current Kazakh archaeologists take the same position-- that the Arimaspians of Greek literature and the Yuezhi of Chinese chronicles are the same people. Then we have the tree-ring studies, first by Rudenko, and recently by Slusarenko and associates.

That's a preponderance of connectivity beyond speculation. From this point on, I consider the Arimaspi/Pazyryk-Ukok Culture/Yuezhi/Kushans/Arsi/Aorsi-- and the Alans-- as a connective "culture" finally arriving in Europe and the Roman Empire.

However, Jettmar (1967) and Sulimirski (1970) also place the Yuezhi kingly burials in Chiliktin, Kazakhstan, a little too far to the east. These eastern burials at Chiliktin can be attributed to the Wusun, a confederation so close in culture to the Yuezhi that we see few differences in burial practice and art style. I'll discuss the Wusun problem in my next post. And I'll finish this one by illustrating regional locations where the Yuezhi elite lived. As a horse owner, accustomed to wide-open space (perhaps with a grand view), what landscape would you consider ideal?-- the Perfect Place to settle? Here are a few choices... if you were a Yuezhi. Don't short-change yourself-- click on these photos to view them correctly. Wink

   
How about Koton Nuur, maybe with a cabin facing north so you can view the Altai-- the resting place of your deceased chieftain... perhaps your ancestor.

   
Koton Nuur lies amid several rivers and lakes upon the steppe of southwestern Mongolia. The map shows a number of prime living areas for your summer residence. You're actually living in a future National Park.

   
Maybe you like fishing. Evidently, Koton Nuur would be the right place for you.

   
Or you could live at Tavan Bogd and enjoy the spectacular north-western view of the Altai. Of course, I'm a barbarian... but you wouldn't have to twist my arm to live here. And my horse likes the sweet-grass. Big Grin

   
The locations above are in Tavan Bogd National Park. It's situated at the western corner of Mongolia and abuts the Chinese province of Xinjiang, about a thousand kilometers north of Gansu, Tarim, and the Ordos trading mart at the hump of the Yellow River.

   
Tavan Bogd looking up to the Ukok Plateau. Now this is prime steppe country!

   
You're standing in prime Yuezhi territory. This would be where the high king lived, along with the artisans needed to make life comfortable. Other portions of Yuezhi territory were assigned to the Left-hand and Right-hand generals, the sub-kings. These photographs illustrate a prime connection to higher altitudes, considered sacred, and pleasurable to gaze upon.

Thank you for following this thread. We're finding answers to questions dating back to the earliest archaeologists, and to the pioneering historians like Rudenko and Sulimirski. 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
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#83
Well, now I not only have lots to read about, but I also have a yen to see the Altai region. How beautiful! Thanks!
Cheryl Boeckmann
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#84
Me, too, Athena,

I'm almost in shock when I  look at the original Yuezhi county. It's magnificent! There are several differing horse-back tours for the Altai. I want to do one of these trips... but I don't know whether to bring my bow or a fishing rod. 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
#85
(03-14-2016, 06:55 PM)Alanus Wrote: Me, too, Athena,

I'm almost in shock when I  look at the original Yuezhi county. It's magnificent! There are several differing horse-back tours for the Altai. I want to do one of these trips... but I don't know whether to bring my bow or a fishing rod. Big Grin


Take your bow and fire some shoots. This was one of the most enjoyable threads to read, very interesting.

Cheers.
Reply
#86
Thank you, Rennie

This thread does seem to have a following. For the first time, we can view a "barbarian" culture in all of its aspects. We already knew about the Alans' martial capabilities through Herodotus, Tacitus, and Ammianus. But we had no clue of how they lived, of their daily life, and religion. Their ancestors, the Yuezhi, took the High Ground-- the Altai-- and controlled it for half a millennium, pushing the Wusun to the east. This follows Herodotus exactly.

Recently things have changed. We now have DNA and metallurgy testing, plus forensic investigation. We see a predilection for cross-cultural marriage, a chieftain taking the daughter of a Xiongnu shanyu or Chinese trader, all through DNA results. Forensics clarify the picture-- the King of Arzhan II dying from prostate cancer, the Ukok Priestess from breast cancer and a fatal fall. The permafrost and "ice lens" over these graves is giving us an unparalleled glimpse into a lost civilization that Roman history books never achieved. And we see the Yuezhi as trade middlemen within a network running from the Mediterranean to China, at least a thousand years before the established Silk Road.

Through positive response, we'll try to keep this thread going. Michael Kerr will post when possible, I'm sure. I was going to discuss the Wusun next, but maybe I should give some info on Yuezhi kurgans like the "Kingly Grave" at Berel, a location not yet mentioned. Here's a photo of one of the King's horses.   Shy

   
I like that bow! This reconstruction was done by Krym Altynbekov, very knowledgeable in historical detail.
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
#87
  Just digressing back to the earlier comment on a previous post about the Yuezhi and Buddhism even if not affecting the Alans directly. One of the coastal trading cities of north-western India, Barygaza (Baruch) was ruled by a dynasty of Saka kings who were probably driven south into India by the Yuezhi or possibly  the Parthians who were expanding east. These Saka kings established various kingdoms known as the Western Satraps. One of these kings sent envoys to Augustus in 26 BC while he was campaigning in Spain. They had a shared enemy in the Parthians. The delegation was probably sent by Azes who was the last Saka king to rule in Indo-Scythia.

  He was probably responsible for a second embassy sent in 22 BC and on this occasion the Sakas sailed to a port on the Persian Gulf and made their way overland to Roman Syria and Antioch. He feared that his Indian possessions were about to be taken over by the Parthians. Barygaza was one of the few natural harbours on the north-western coast of India but it was still dangerous as the town lay a few miles upstream on the Narmada River from the ocean and the tides and sandbanks were treacherous. By the time of Ptolemy the Romans stopped trading there as the Sakas were losing control to the neighbouring Satavahanas and had changed their trading routes.

 With the monsoon winds, there was a brisk trade with the Romans, they exported rice, sesame oil, cotton, gemstones, dyes and possibly silk. Gemstones of many assorted colours and properties, especially were in high demand by the Romans for rings, necklaces and earrings and Pliny identified India as the most prolific source of these. Pliny also mentions that the Romans imported new varieties of millet from India which produced greater crop yields in Italy. The Romans in turn exported wine, glass, copper, tin, lead and Mediterranean dried red coral which could be polished and cut. The Sakas gave the Romans favourable exchange rates for denarii which by the time of Augustus had a high silver content, these could be melted down to produce their own currency and this also attracted Roman bankers who could make rich profits with these favourable rates.
 Many Roman traders lived in Barygaza and adopted local customs including Buddhism. Some of these early converts continued to practice their eastern beliefs when they returned west. Apparently there are several busts from the Imperial period which depict Roman men with their hair fashioned in Indian styles, long hair styled into a cranial knot worn by Buddhist holy men to signify the attainment of spiritual knowledge. Later on one of these portrait heads (see attachment below) has been fitted onto a torso depicting the chest and shoulders of a general in Roman armour. Two distinct cultures in one. 

Information obtained from the book "The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean, The Ancient World Economy and the Kingdoms of Africa, Arabia and India" by Raoul McLaughlin. Smile 

   

Bust from National Museum of Rome around about 2nd century AD.

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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#88
Thanks, Michael Smile

Your post helps fill the gaps in the trade routes. We are looking at a vast network. Anything from Saka India that went north reached the Kushans as middlemen. In Yuezhi graves, we find all sorts of goods from the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas, and from Persia.

   
Here's a Persian figurine from Berel mound 36, just one of several items missed by ancient grave robbers. Looks like bronze to me; and maybe the robbers were more interested in gold.

In Art of the Steppes, Karl Jettmar illustrated a Chinese helmet, also found in the Altai. I can't reproduce the helmet, but it's really early... either Qin or Warring States, and made from bronze. We find cowrie shells in Yuezhi graves, and they arrived from the Indian Ocean. So, the coastal port routes you mentioned might have been the source. Anyway, I love all the info we're digging out. It really broadens the picture. 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
#89
The Incredible Shrinking Yuezhi Homeland-- Cramming into Gansu!

For the past week, I've read so many "recent" PDFs my eyes are watering. And I'm shocked. According to present scholarship, the original territory of the Yuezhi has diminished to a ghost of its former self. How this happened, I'm not sure. Possibly, or probably, good old-fashioned authorities like Sulimirski have been dismissed in favor of newer interpretations... such as those by Dr. Craig Benjamin. Sulimirski wrote about the "Arimaspians" forty-six years ago, academically back in the ice-age. He described the Arimaspian homeland precisely where the Yuezhi were located according to recent studies by Taishan Yu. Evidently, Yu's accurate work has also been passed over in favor of Benjamin. Here's a broad synopsis of the modern view of the Yuezhi (Mark A. Riddle, Sino-Platonic Papers, 214, Sept. 2011):

"The Yuezhi had lived since time immemorial on the periphery of China proper, astride the Gansu Corridor and in the Tarim Basin. They were for centuries the source of Chinese jade and were very likely involved in the transmission to China from Central and Western Asia of metallurgy, the horse-drawn chariot, wheat and barley cultivation, etc., while trading Chinese silk to the West. When the Chinese reluctantly abandoned the war chariot and adopted cavalry tactics in 307 BC., they also adopted the Yuezhi costume: trousers with leather belt, buckle and hook, and a scabbard slide."

Riddle certainly gives the Yuezhi credit, more or less claiming they brought China out of the stone age. I can partially agree with most of Riddle's claim, but not with their location-- "astride the Gansu Corridor and in the Tarim Basin." You couldn't find enough water in the Tarim Basin to keep a hundred horses alive, not to mention thousands. The basin was a near desert, inhabited by a modest, Tocharian-speaking, sedentary group now known as the "Tarim Mummies." This "contracted" view is all too common; and from it we hear the Yuezhi were also "Tocharian speakers" (guilt by mistaken association). With this scenario, the Yuezhi tossed out their Tocharian tongue when they switched to Bactrian as the official court language of the Kushan Kingdom, and then continued speaking Northeastern Indo-Iranian as the Alans, finally recorded as such in Ossetic. What a crock; but this is what we see in goofy interpretations of a Yuezhi "Tocharian" ethnos.

Where are modern scholars getting this stuff from? I'm not sure but it seems like Tadeusz Sulimirski and Taishan Yu take a far back seat to Professor Benjamin. In 2003, Craig Benjamin wrote The Yuezhi: Origin, Migration and the Conquest of Northern Bactria as his doctorial thesis. Then in 2007, it was published in paperback. I don't have a copy since the price is $65 plus shipping, a lot to shell out for a paperback that sounds flawed. Here are some examples from the Table of Contents:

Chap. 1: Identification of the Yuezhi as Tocharian Speakers
Chap. 2: The Yuezhi in the Gansu: 220-162 BCE
V. Evidence for the Yuezhi: the "Podboy" Tomb
VI. Conclusion: The Yuezhi in the Gansu

Wow! The Yuezhi were Tocharian Speakers. Dr. Benjamin must have contacted the spirit of a Yuezhi chieftain through a Ouija board. Then, we have the "The Yuezhi in the Gansu: 220-162 BCE," or roughly 15 years after they migrated west toward Saka territory. Finally, Dr. Benjamin nails home the Yuezhi in the Gansu. This hypothesis has been constructed from excavations in Haladun cemetery in the Gansu. Out of 18 graves, 15 were podboi styled... and these have been inflated to an entire culture under the assumption the Yuezhi population strictly used podboi burials and nothing else.

I'll tell you, the Gansu must have been crowded by low-end paupers. Originally, the Yuezhi had their own population plus 36 additional tribal states in their confederation. That's a lot of people... and where did they fit their hundreds of thousands of horses, cattle, and sheep? All in the Gansu Corridor?

What was the original population of the Yuezhi confederation? We have a clue, but only after they migrated to Sogdiana. The envoy Zhang Qian arrived back in China with a few disparate figures, depending on the source. According to the Shiji (Chap. 123), in 129 BC the Yuezhi had "100,00 persons able to bear arms." In the Hanshu, the number was "100,000 or 200,000 trained bowmen." Obviously, the Chinese were unsure of the Yuezhi population; and these numbers reflect the Yuezhi when they were 1/37th of their former self.

So, the modern "Benjaminic Theory" of Yuezhi crammed into the Gansu would look similar to New York City at rush hour-- people and horses nose-to-nose.

What happened to common sense?-- and the sane observations by Sulimirski and Yu?  The territorial extent of the Yuezhi shrank from a well-known pre-Qin record of "from Gansu to as far as the north of Hetao in the east and the eastern end of the Altai mountains in the west." (Yu, p. 48, Sino-Platonic Papers, No. 80, July 1998) And while Taishan Yu was almost on the money, we find archaeological evidence of elite Yuezhi graves in the Altai, but they also occupied both sides of the mountain chain, not just in Mongolia and China but in the extreme eastern corner of Kazakhstan. This massive geographical range-- recorded in 645 BC as "the vast plains of the Yuezhi"-- is 10 times larger than Dr. Benjamin's Gansu. Most important, it fits a steppe population of one-half million to a million people... and five livestock for every individual.

   
A map of the Altai kurgans from Sulimirski, 1970. We've looked at Pazyryk, then Ukok (just southeast of Pazyryk but not shown because the necropolis wasn't yet discovered). But glance at the west side-- more areas, all excavated in the formative years of Soviet archaeology, all Yuezhi elite-- Katanda, Bashadar, Shibe, Tuekta, and Bilsk. The mounds at Berel have recently been "rediscovered" by the Kazakhs.

I'll end this post by mentioning podboi graves. They were simple warrior inhumations of the catacomb type, also favored below the Urals by a contemporaneous Sarmatian culture. However, podbois are one of three styles of tombs used by the Yuezhi condederation, and we can't dismiss the "log-cabin" pit graves as not being Yuezhi. Also, I wonder, where did Dr. Benjamin perceive the "royal" Yuezhi tombs were? Or maybe the Yuezhi royalties were just "ordinary folks" tossed into convenient catacombs, no horse, no fineries, and no gold buckles. Maybe, Yuezhi leaders were Democrats or Socialists and wanted "no frills" graves.

I don't get current popular thinking; and I wonder how the present crop of Western historians and archaeologists could explain the Total Absence of royal burials in the Gansu... and why nobody has considered looking elsewhere in the broad expanse of Yuezhi territory of Chinese-documented Reality.

And lastly, am I too critical of a scenario I haven't actually read? Is there sound reason for Professor Benjamin's  "Gansu" proposition arriving in current PDFs like a plague? You tell me.
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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#90
Rediscovering the Argippaeans-- the Original Tomb Raiders.

Working westward in my search for the edge of Issedone territory, I made an amazing discovery-- the "Argippaeans," as recorded by Herodotus. They were the most eastern people actually contacted by western Scythians and Greeks, so it appears Aristeas never met the Issedones. He stopped short at the very edge of the Altai.

Even Scythians required translators to converse with the Argippaeai, the "bald-headed men with flat noses." They spoke an Altaic language and still do today. According to Herodotus, these presumably strange men shaved their heads, leaving a patch in the back that was braided in a long pigtail (also a hairstyle of proto-Mongols and Manchurians). Today, we know this culture as the Tuvans. They were one of the original 37 tribes of the Yuezhi confederation. And they never left their homeland, still remaining in the Altai.

   
An Argippaean village in Burqin County near Kanas Lake, Altay Prefecture, China. During the summer, Tuvans live in log cabins-- constructed in identical fashion to the containments found in Arimaspi/Yuezhi kurgans-- and in the winter they live in yurts. We see a preponderance of mortised log-work, even in Tuvan fences. (Please click on this photo and the following ones; it's worth the effort to see important details. Thank you.)

Sulimirski (1970) believed the Argippaeai were skilled gold miners and foundrymen. They were also horsemen and stock-raisers, but not nomadic, remaining in small towns. As a sedentary part of today's Altai, they appear to be exactly as Sulimirski proposed. Also, they have been linked to the multi-cultural complex at Arzhan 1 & 2, plus they best explain the high Asiatic admixture within the Yuezhi and Wusun.

   
Tuvan women in traditional Altaic costume. The amazing craftsmanship of embroidering, of vivid colors, reflects what we find in the Pazyryk kurgans. We also have the uniquely tall female hat. And only a blind man could miss the majestic beauty of Tuvan women-- nothing changes in 2,000 years. From the flat graves in the valleys of the upper Ob and Irtysh (east side of the Altai, flowing to Russia and China respectively), Sulimirski notes, "the Mongoloid character of the cranial material is also consistant with Herodotus' description."

   
Despite Soviet pressure to conform to "modern" society, the Tuvans retained their shamanistic and Buddhist religions. Here we see an echo of "Scythian animal style" on the head of an argali affixed to a shaman's post. The strange, otherworldly, curl of an argali horn variation transforms the animal into a strange "being" from another world.

   
Savy archaeologists realize the initial log-cabin construction prior to burial was created by "locals," not the Yuezhi or Wusun. The deceased-- plus his or her favored gold objects-- were then placed in the tomb by the elite family. The Yuezhi went back down to the steppe for the winter, often leaving the grave unattended prior to building a kurgan over the grave during the following summer. During this winter period, the Argippaean locals robbed the graves, stripping all the weapons and valuables. They were experts, even knowing how to reach the inner grave precisely... because they designed it. The Yuezhi and Wusun were unaware of these robberies; and the Tuvans became the original Tomb Raiders of antiquity.


Many original gold objects were then traded to western Scythian and Greek merchants who traveled 4,000 kilometers from the Black Sea littoral to reach these flat-nosed people. The Tuvans were considered sacred, an unwarlike people comprised of artisans, miners, and carpenters.

   
Today, the Argippaei remain consummate artists-- a living vestige of the Yuezhi-Wusun culture. Here we have master throat-singer Aikhan Orzhak and model Choigana Kertek dressed in traditional Tuvan clothing.

Rarely do we have this kind of "window," still viewing part of the Yuezhi culture as it existed prior to the major migration in 176 BC. I have no idea why historians haven't seen this connection, it's so obvious in Tuvan art, costume, location, genetics, and lifestyle. (A good historian should have an "eye" for connecting artistic clues.) As such, the Tuvans are living examples of Herodotus' "sacred" Argippaeans. They also were, and remain, expert eagle hunters for small game.

   
Important Note:
Local Tuvans of the Altai consider the Pazyryk, Ukok, and Berel mounds as "tombs of their ancestors." According to Derenko (2005), a genetic study of 137 Altaic Tuvans resulted in 17.7 % registering R1a1 positive... the major genetic haplogroup of the Yuezhi. Wink 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
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