Skip to comments.Tocharians
Posted on 07/26/2006 1:11:31 PM PDT by blam
The Tocharians were the easternmost speakers of an Indo-European language in antiquity, inhabiting the Tarim basin in what is now Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, northwestern People's Republic of China. Their unique culture spanned from the 1st millennium BCE to the end of the 1st millennium CE. Their language is called Tocharian.
The Tarim mummies suggest that precursors of these easternmost speakers of an Indo-European language may have lived in the region of the Tarim Basin from around 1800 BCE until finally they were assimilated by Uyghur Turks in the 9th century CE.
"Tocharian donors", possibly the "Knights with Long Swords" of Chinese accounts, depicted with light hair and light eye color and dressed in Sassanian style. 6th century CE fresco, Qizil, Tarim Basin. Graphical analysis reveals that the third donor from left is performing a Buddhist vitarka mudra. These frescoes are associated with annotations in Tocharian and Sanskrit made by their painters.There is evidence both from the mummies and Chinese writings that many of them had blonde or red hair and blue eyes, characteristics also found in present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Central Asia, due to the populations' high genetic diversity. This suggests the possibility that they were part of an early migration of speakers of Indo-European languages that ended in what is now the Tarim Basin in western China. According to a controversial theory, early invasions by Turkic speakers may have pushed Tocharian speakers out of the Tarim Basin and into modern Afghanistan, India, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan."
The Tarim Basin mummies (1800 BCE) and the Tocharian texts and frescoes from the Tarim Basin (800 CE) have been found in the same general geographical area, and are both connected to an Indo-European origin. The faces on these frescos were usually vandalized in the past due to their "European" features. The mummies and the frescoes both point to Caucasian types with light eyes and hair color. There is no evidence that directly connects them however, as no texts were recovered from the grave sites.
A recent article (Hemphill and Mallory, 2004) reaches the following conclusions:
This study confirms the assertion of Han  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. Affinities are especially close between Krorän, the latest of the Xinjiang samples, and Sapalli, the earliest of the Bactrian samples, while Alwighul and later samples from Bactria exhibit more distant phenetic affinities. This pattern may reflect a possible major shift in interregional contacts in Central Asia in the early centuries of the second millennium BC. However, another theory states that the earliest Bronze Age settlers of the Tarim and Turpan basins originated from the steppelands and highlands immediately north of East Central Asia. These colonists were related to the Afanasievo culture which exploited both open steppelands and upland environments employing a mixed agricultural economy. The Afanasievo culture formed the eastern linguistic periphery of the Indo-European continuum of languages whose centre of expansion lay much farther to the west, north of the Black and Caspian seas. This periphery was ancestral to the historical Tocharian languages. See J. P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair, The Tarim Mummies 2000 Thames and Hudson Ltd ISBN 0-500-05101-1.
Textile analysis has shown some similarities to the Iron Age civilizations of Europe dating from 800BC, including woven twill and tartan patterns strikingly similar to Celtic tartans from Northwest Europe. One of the unusual finds with one of the mummies was a classical pointy hat, worn by some European cultures in Ancient and Medieval times, suggesting very ancient Indo-European roots for this tradition. The female mummies also wore the same kind of skirts as have been found preserved in graves from the Nordic Bronze Age.
Main article: Tocharian languages
Wooden plate with inscriptions in the Tocharian language. Kucha, China, 5th-8th century. Tokyo National Museum.
The Tocharians appear to have originally spoken two distinct languages of the Indo-European Tocharian family, an Eastern ("A") form and a Western ("B") form. According to some, only the Eastern ("A") form can be properly called "Tocharian", as the native name for the Western form is referred to as Kuchean (see below). Commonalities between the Tocharian languages and various other Indo-European language families (as with Germanic, Balto-Slavic, even Italic or Greek) have been suggested, but the evidence does not support any close relationship with any other family. The only consensus is that Tocharian was already far enough removed, at an early date, from the other eastern I-E proto-languages (Proto-Balto-Slavic and Proto-Indo-Iranian), not to share some of the common changes that PBS and PII share, such as early palatalization of velars.
Tocharian A of the eastern regions seems to have declined in use as a popular language or mother tongue faster than did Tocharian B of the west. Tocharian A speakers probably yielded their original language to Turkic languages of immigrating Turkic peoples, while Tocharian B speakers were more insulated from outside linguistic influences. It appears that Tocharian A ultimately became a liturgical language, no longer a living one, at the same time that Tocharian B was still widely spoken in daily life. Among the monasteries of the lands inhabited by Tocharian B speakers, Tocharian A seems to have been used in ritual alongside the Tocharian B of daily life.
Besides the religious Tocharian texts, the texts include monastery correspondence and accounts, commercial documents, caravan permits, medical and magical texts, and a love poem. Their manuscript fragments, of the 8th centuries, suggest that they were no longer either as nomadic or "barbaric" as the Chinese had considered them.
Blue-eyed Central Asian (Tocharian?) and East-Asian Buddhist monks, Bezaklik, Eastern Tarim Basin, 9th-10th century.
The Tocharians, living along the Silk Road, had contacts with the Chinese and Persians, and Turkic, Indian and Iranian tribes. They might be the same as, or were related to, the Indo-European Yuezhi who fled from their settlements in Gansu under attacks from the Xiongnu in the 2nd century BCE (Shiji Chinese historical Chronicles, Chap. 123) and expanded south to Bactria and northern India to form the Kushan Empire.
The Tocharians who remained in the Tarim Bassin adopted Buddhism, which, like their alphabet, came from northern India in the first century of the 1st millennium, through the proselytism of Kushan monks. The Kushans and the Tocharians seem to have played a part in the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to China. Many apparently also practised some variant of Manichaeanism.
Protected by the Taklamakan desert from steppe nomads, the Tocharian culture survived past the 7th century. The Kingdom of Khotan was one of the centers of this ancient civilization.
The term Tocharians has a somewhat complicated history. It is based on the ethnonym Tokharoi (Greek Τόχαροι) used by Greek historians (e.g. Ptolemy VI, 11, 6). The first mention of the Tocharians appeared in the 1st century BCE, when Strabo presented them as a Scythian tribe, and explained that the Tokharians together with the Assianis, Passianis and Sakaraulis took part in the destruction of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom in the second half of the 2nd century BCE:
"Most of the Scythians, beginning from the Caspian Sea, are called Dahae Scythae, and those situated more towards the east Massagetae and Sacae; the rest have the common appellation of Scythians, but each separate tribe has its peculiar name. All, or the greatest part of them, are nomads. The best known tribes are those who deprived the Greeks of Bactriana, the Asii, Pasiani, Tochari, and Sacarauli, who came from the country on the other side of the Jaxartes, opposite the Sacae and Sogdiani." (Strabo, 11-8-1) These Tochari are identified with the Yuezhi and one of their major tribes, the Kushans. The geographical term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria (Chinese Daxia 大夏).
Today, the term is associated with the Indo-European languages known as "Tocharian". Based on a Turkic reference to Tocharian A as twqry, these languages were associated with the Kushan ruling class, but the exact relation of the speakers of these languages and the Kushan Tokharoi is uncertain, and some consider "Tocharian languages" a misnomer. Tocharian A is also known as East Tocharian, or Turfanian (of the city of Turfan), and Tocharian B is also known as West Tocharian, or Kuchean (of the city of Kucha)
The term is so widely used, however, that this question is somewhat academic. Tocharians in the modern sense are, then, defined as the speakers of the Tocharian languages. These were originally nomads, and lived in today's Xinjiang (Tarim basin). The native name of the historical Tocharians of the 6th to 8th centuries was, according to J. P. Mallory, possibly kuśiññe "Kuchean" (Tocharian B), "of the kingdom of Kucha and Agni", and ārśi (Tocharian A); one of the Tocharian A texts has ārśi-käntwā, "In the tongue of Arsi" (ārśi is probably cognate to argenteus, i.e. "shining, brilliant"). According to Douglas Q. Adams, the Tocharians may have called themselves ākñi, meaning "borderers, marchers".
Tocharians in Indian Literature
The Ancient Sanskrit literature refers to Tocharians as Tusharas, Tukharas, Tokharas and Tuharas etc. There are numerous references to this people in the ancient Sanskrit texts. E.g:
Atharavaveda Parisista (Ed Bolling & Negelein, 41.3.3) associates the Tusharas with the Sakas,Yavanas and the Bahilkas. (Saka. Yavana.Tushara.Bahlikashcha). Atharvaveda-Parisia also juxtaposes the Kambojas with the Bahlikas (Kamboja-Bahlika..., AV-Par, 57.2.5; cf Persica-9, 1980, p 106, Dr Michael Witzel). This shows the Tusharas probably were neighbors to the Shakas, Bahlikas, Yavanas and the Kambojas in Transoxian region.
The Santi Parva of Mahabharata associates the Tusharas with the Yavanas, Kiratas, Gandharas, Chinas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Kankas, Sabaras, Barbaras, Ramathas etc. and brands them all as Barbaric tribes of Uttarapatha, leading lives of Dasyus (MBH 12.65.13-15).
Sabha Parva of Mahabharata (Chapters 48-50) states that kings of the Kambojas, Sakas , Tukharas, Kankas and Romakas etc had brought with them as tribute camels, horses, elephants and gold on the occasion of Rajasuya Yajna performed by Yudhisthira at Hastinapura. Later the Tusharas, Sakas and Yavanas had joined the military division of the Kambojas and had participated in the Mahabharata war on Kauravas' side (MBH 6.66.17-21; MBH 8.88.17). Karna Parva of Mahabharata describes the Tusharas as very ferocious and wrathful warriors.
At one place in Mahabharata, the Tusharas find mention with the Shakas and the Kankas (Shakas.Tusharah.Kankascha). At another place they come with the Shakas, Kankas and Pahlavas (Shakas Tusharah Kankashch.Pahlavashcha). And at other places they come with the Shakas, Yavanas and the Kambojas (Shaka.Tushara.Yavanashcha sadinah sahaiva.Kambojavaraijidhansavah) OR (Kritavarma tu sahitah Kambojarvarai.Bahlikaih...Tushara.Yavanashchaiva.Shakashcha saha Chulikaih) etc.
Puranic texts like Vayu Purana, Brahamanda Purana and Vamana Purana etc associates the Tusharas with the Shakas, Barbaras, Kambojas, Daradas, Viprendras, Anglaukas, Yavanas, Pahlavas etc and refer to them all as the tribes of Udichya i.e. north or north-west (Brahmanda Purana 27.46-48).
Puranic literature further states that the Tusharas and other tribes like Gandharas, Shakas, Pahlavas, Kambojas, Paradas, Yavanas, Barbaras, Khasa, Lampakas etc would be invaded and annhilated by King Kaliki at the end of Kaliyuga. And they were annhilated by king Pramiti at the end of Kaliyga (Vayu I.58.78-83; cf: Matsya 144.51-58).
According to Vayu Purana and Matsya Purana, river Chakshu (Oxus or Amu Darya) flowed through the countries of Tusharas, Lampakas, Pahlavas, Paradas and the Shakas etc (Vayu Purana I.58.78-83).
The Brihat-Katha-Manjari (10/1/285-86) of Pt Kshmendra relates that around 400 AD, Gupta king Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) had "unburdened the sacred earth by destroying the barbarians" like the Tusharas, Shakas, Mlecchas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Parasikas, Hunas etc.
Rajatrangini of Kalhana attests that king Laliditya Muktapida, the eighth century ruler of Kashmir had invaded the tribes of the north and after defeating the Kambojas, he immediately faced the Tusharas. The Tusharas did not give a fight but fled to the mountain ranges leaving their horses in the battle field (RT IV.165-166). This shows that during 8th century AD, a section of the Tusharas were living as neighbors of the Kambojas near the Oxus valley.
But sixth century AD Brhatsamhita of Vrahamihira also locates the Tusharas with Barukachcha (Bhroach) and Barbaricum (on the Indus Delta) near sea in western India (bharukaccha.samudra.romaka.tushrah.. :Brhatsamhita XVI.6). The Romakas was a colony of the Romans near the port of Barbaricum in Sindhu Delta (see comments: Dr M. R Singh in The Geographical Data of Early Purana, 1972, p 26). This shows that a section of the Tusharas had also moved to western India and was living there around Vrahamihira's time.
Going out of the Iron Pass, seventh century AD Chinese pilgrim Hiun Tsang had entered Tu-huo-lo (Tushara) country which lied to the north of the great snow mountains (Hindukush), to the south of Iron Pass and to the east of Persia. During Hiun Tsangs times, country of Tushara was divided into 27 administrative units, each having its separate chieftain. The Kumitos of Hiun Tsang's accounts (or the Kumijis of Al-Maqidisi) appear to be Kambojas who were living neigbors to the Tusharas across the Hindukush in the Oxus valley.
The tenth century AD Kavyamimamsa of Rajsheikher lists the Tusharas with several other tribes of the Uttarapatha viz: the Shakas, Kekeyas, Vokkanas, Hunas, Kambojas, Bahlikas, Pahlavas, Limpakas, Kulutas, Tanganas, Turushakas, Barbaras, Ramathas etc. (See: Kavyamimamsa, Chaper 17). This attests that the Tusharas were different from the Turushakas with whom they are often confused by some writers.
There is also a mention of Tushara-Giri (Tushara mountain) in the Mahabharata, Harshacharita of Bana Bhata and Kavyamimansa of Rajshekhar.
The Rishikas are said to be same people as the Yuezhis (Dr V. S. Aggarwala, K. D. Sethna). The Kushanas or Kanishkas are also the same people (Dr J. C. Vidyalnkara). Prof Stein says that the Tukharas (Tokharois/Tokarais) were a branch of the Yue-chi or Yuezhi. Thus, the Rishikas (q.v.), Tusharas/Tukharas (Tokharoi/Tokaroi) and the Yuezhis probably were either same or an allied people.
The oldest paper ever found has the Tocharian language written on it.
Professor Victor Mair believes these people (The Curse Of The Red-Headed Mummy) are descendents of the Tocharian speaking people.
Also. in his book,The Tarim Mummies, he says that the Tocharian language is most closely related to an ancient Celtic language.
The red haired mummies with Celtic style dresses found in Tarim Basin of Western China are generally considered Tokarians or their ancestors.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'Lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. I! I! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn!
Err I think that's Klingon, not Tocharian.
A Tarim Basin mummy photographed by Aurel Stein circa 1910.
I can't read you "BCE" time periods. What are those in B.C. and A.D.?
Say that again? The Tocharians didn't indulge in the early palatization of their velars?
Truly shocking beyond belief!
The migrations of the Yuezhi through Central Asia, from around 176 to 30 BCE.
from the planet Tochis?
Exactly; well said.
>>>I can't read you "BCE" time periods. What are those in B.C. and A.D.?
Keep in mind that archaeology is an international discipline. For many of the people doing this research, Jesus is not the Christ and not their Lord. Would you expect the Jews working with Israeli antiquities to use such terminology? Do you object to physicists and chemists using the metric system?
Then the Jews should use their historical calendar, which dates back over 5,700 years. "BCE" and "CE" are PC terms used by liberals and other assorted haters of Western civilization to denigrate the Christian roots of that civilization. Like other PC terms, they are used as part of a long term strategy to change the English language to reflect the beliefs of the Left. The model is the Newspeak described by George Orwell in his prophetic novel, 1984.
It may be that it was common for Scythians to live in wagons rather than houses, i.e., to be nomadic. If the Tocharians were of this group there might be drawings of these ancient winnebagos.
"In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming. Yet He shall rise and His kingdom shall cover the Earth."
Could be. One of the oldest wheels (of unexpected high quality for its age) was found in this area. The deep steppes were unaccessable to these people without the horse and wagon...the world's oldest pair of pants was also discovered in this area because pants were needed when riding horses.
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