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The Curse Of The Red-Headed Mummy
The Birdman.com ^ | 12-01-2002 | Heather Pringle

Posted on 12/01/2002 5:11:08 PM PST by blam

THE CURSE OF THE RED-HEADED MUMMY

by Heather Pringle

Until he first encountered the mummies of Xinjiang, Victor Mair was known mainly as a brilliant, if eccentric, translator of obscure Chinese texts, a fine sinologist with a few controversial ideas about the origins of Chinese culture, and a scathing critic prone to penning stern reviews of sloppy scholarship. Mair's pronouncements on the striking resemblance between some characters inscribed on the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Chinese symbols were intensely debated by researchers. His magnum opus on the origins of Chinese writing, a work he had been toiling away at for years in his office at the University of Pennsylvania, was eagerly anticipated. But in 1988, something profound happened to Mair, something that would touch a nerve in both the East and the West, raising troubling questions about race, racism, and the nature of history itself.

That year, Mair had led a group of American travellers through a small museum in Ürümchi, the capital of China's remote northwesternmost province, Xinjiang. Mair had visited the museum several times before, but on this occasion a new sign pointed to a back room. "It said something like 'Mummy Exhibition,' " recalled Mair, "and I had the strangest kind of weird feeling because it was very dark. There were curtains, I think. Going in, you felt like you were entering another world."

In a glass display case so poorly lit that visitors needed to use flashlights to look at its contents, Mair spied a bizarre sight. It was the outstretched body of a man just under six feet tall, dressed in an elegantly tailored wool tunic and matching pants, the colour of red wine. Covering the man's legs were striped leggings in riotous shades of yellow, red, and blue, attire so outrageous it could have come straight from the pages of Dr. Seuss. But it was not so much the man's clothing that first riveted Mair's attention. It was the face. It was narrow and pale ivory in colour, with high cheekbones, full lips, and a long nose. Locks of ginger-coloured hair and a greying beard framed the parchment-like skin. He looked very Caucasian: indeed he resembled someone Mair knew intimately. "He looked like my brother Dave sleeping there, and that's what really got me. I just kept looking at him, looking at his closed eyes. I couldn't tear myself away, and I went around his glass case again and again and again. I stayed in there for several hours. I was supposed to be leading our group. I just forgot about them for two or three hours."

Local archaeologists had come across the body a few years earlier while excavating in the Tarim Basin, an immense barren of sand and rock in southern Xinjiang. The region was not the kind of place that generally attracted well-dressed strangers. At the height of summer, temperatures in the basin soared to a scorching 125 degrees Fahrenheit, without so much as a whisper of humidity, and in winter, they frequently plunged far below freezing. The desert at the basin's heart was one of the most parched places on Earth, and its very name, the Taklamakhan, was popularly said to mean "go in and you won't come out." Over the years, the Chinese government had found various uses for all this bleakness. It had set aside part of it as a nuclear testing range, conducting its blasts far from prying eyes. It had also built labour camps there, certain that no prisoner in his right mind would try to escape.

The Taklamakhan's merciless climate had one advantage, however. It tended to preserve human bodies. The archaeologists who discovered the stranger in the striped leggings marvelled at the state of his cadaver. He looked almost alive. They named him Cherchen Man, after the county in which he was found, and when they set about carbon dating his body, they discovered that he was very, very old. Indeed, the tests showed that he had probably roamed the Tarim Basin as early as the eleventh century bc. When Mair learned this, he was astonished. If the mummy was indeed European in origin, this would undermine one of the keystones of Chinese history.

Scholars had long believed that the first contacts between China and Europe occurred relatively late in world history -- sometime shortly after the mid-second century bc, when the Chinese emperor Wudi sent an emissary west. According to contemporary texts, Wudi had grown tired of the marauding Huns, a nomadic people whose homeland lay in what is now southwest Mongolia. The Huns were continually raiding the richest villages of his empire, stealing its grain and making off with its women. So Wudi decided to propose a military alliance with a kingdom far to the west, beyond Mongolia, in order to crush a common foe. In 139 bc, the emperor sent one of his attendants, Zhang Qian, on the long trek across Asia. Zhang Qian failed to obtain the alliance his master coveted, but the route he took became part of the legendary Silk Road to Europe. In the years that followed, hundreds of trading caravans and Caucasians plied this route, carrying bundles of ivory, gold, pomegranates, safflowers, jade, furs, porcelain, and silk between Rome and the ancient Chinese capital of Xi'an.

Nationalists in China were very fond of this version of history. It strongly suggested that Chinese civilization, which had flowered long before Zhang Qian headed west, must have blossomed in isolation, free of European influence, and it cast early Chinese achievements in a particularly glorious light. In one popular book, The Cradle of the East, Chinese historian Ping-ti Ho proudly claimed that the hallmarks of early Chinese civilization -- including the chariot, bronze metallurgy, and a system of writing -- were all products of Chinese genius alone. According to Ping-ti Ho, those living in the ancient Celestial Kingdom had never stooped to borrowing the ideas of others and their inventive genius surpassed that of the West.

Mair, a professor of Chinese in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, had long doubted this version of history. He suspected that the Chinese had encountered Westerners from Europe long before the emperor Wudi dreamed up his military alliance. Several early Chinese books, for example, described tall men with green eyes and red hair that resembled the fur of rhesus monkeys. Most scholars dismissed these accounts as legendary, but Mair wasn't so sure. He thought they were descriptions of Caucasian men. During his studies of Chinese mythology, he had found stories strikingly similar to those in early Greek and Roman tales. The parallels were too frequent to be mere coincidences. And he kept stumbling across words in early Chinese texts that seemed to have been borrowed from ancient languages far to the west. Among these were the words for dog, cow, goose, grape, and wheel. But though Mair repeatedly argued the case for early trade and contact between China and the West, he had no hard archaeological evidence of contact, and no one took him very seriously. "People would laugh at me. I said that East and West were communicating back in the Bronze Age and people just said, 'Oh yeah? Interesting, but prove it.' "

Never for a moment did Mair expect to find the kind of flesh-and-blood vindication that Cherchen Man promised. Still, he was wary of a hoax. The man's tailored woollen clothing, with all the complex textile technology it implied, was unlike anything Mair had ever seen from ancient Asia, let alone a remote outpost like Xinjiang. The mummy itself seemed almost too perfectly preserved to be true. "I thought it was part of a wax museum or something, a ploy to get more tourists. How could they have such advanced textile technology three thousand years ago? I couldn't put it into any historical context. It didn't make any sense whatsoever."

Mair began asking his Chinese colleagues about Cherchen Man. He learned that European scholars had unearthed several similar bodies in the Tarim Basin almost a century before but had regarded them as little more than oddities. In 1895, for example, the British-Hungarian scholar Marc Aurel Stein exhumed a few Caucasian bodies while searching for antiquities and old Central Asian texts in the Tarim Basin. "It was a strange sensation," noted Stein in his later writings, "to look down on figures which but for the parched skin seemed like those of men asleep." However, Stein and the Europeans who followed him were far more interested in classical-era ruins than in mummified bodies, and failed to investigate further.

Early Chinese archaeologists in the region also came across some of the bodies, but they were no more interested than the Europeans. They thought it likely that a few ancient foreigners had strayed into this outlying territory of ancient China by chance. But in the 1970s, while surveying along proposed routes for pipelines and rail lines in Xinjiang, Chinese archaeologists happened upon scores of the parched cadavers, so many that they couldn't excavate them all. Most of the bodies were very Caucasian-looking -- a major discovery that went unreported outside a small circle of archaeologists in China. The mummies had blond, red, or auburn hair. They had deep-set eyes, long noses, thick beards, and tall, often gangly, frames. Some wore woollens of what looked like Celtic plaid and sported strangely familiar forms of Western haberdashery: conical black witches' hats, tam-o'-shanters, and Robin Hood caps. Others were dressed only in fur moccasins, woollen wraps, and feathered caps, and buried with small baskets of grain. This last group, it transpired, contained the oldest of the Caucasians. According to radiocarbon-dating tests, they roamed the northwestern corner of China in the twenty-first century bc, the height of the Bronze Age, just as Mair had long been suggesting.

Not only had they wandered the Tarim Basin, they had also settled there for a very long time. Cherchen Man had walked the Tarim deserts in the eleventh century bc, a millennium after the earliest Caucasians. Moreover, murals from the region depict people with fair hair and long noses in the seventh century ad, while some local texts of the same era are inscribed in a lost European language known as Tocharian. If the writers were descendants of the Caucasian-looking people who arrived in Xinjiang nearly 2,800 years earlier, one can only conclude that this was a very successful colony.

Convinced now of the authenticity of the mummies, Mair began puzzling over their meaning. Who were these ancient invaders, he wondered, and where exactly had they come from?

Victor Mair is a big, rugged- looking man in his mid-fifties, a shade over six foot one, with size-fourteen feet and the clean-cut good looks that one often sees in former pro-football players. The American-born son of an Austrian immigrant, he stands nearly a head taller than most of his colleagues in China, a physical advantage that he often tries to minimize in group photographs by stepping down off a curb or onto a lower step. He has short, neatly combed grey hair, a large aquiline nose, observant blue eyes, and a jesting wit he uses to particularly good effect, laughter being the best way of bridging any awkward cultural gap. He neither smokes nor drinks, and never did, and is, by his own admission, a born leader. Possessed of an uncommon self-confidence, which sometimes comes across as arrogance, he is also a man of many surprising quirks.

I got my first glimpse of this quirkiness in a downpour in Shanghai, in June of 1999. I had arranged to meet Mair in the Chinese city, where, eleven years after first seeing the mummies, he was hoping to begin a new round of dna testing on them. In our early phone conversations, Mair had told me that he would be travelling with a geneticist who hoped to take tissue samples from the Tarim Basin mummies stored at the Natural History Museum in Shanghai.

It sounded as if everything had been arranged. But as I quickly discovered upon my arrival in Shanghai, Mair was still a long way from gathering the samples. Housed in a small guest house for foreign lecturers at Fudan University, he strode the hallways like a weary giant. He had just spent two full days in meetings with his Chinese colleagues, trying to hammer out a deal. But the talks were stalling. To clear his head, Mair invited me to join him for a walk. In the downpour, I struggled to keep up with him, dodging flocks of cyclists in their shiny yellow rain slickers, and black pools of nearly invisible potholes. Mair wove around them absently. Instead of a raincoat, he wore two long-sleeved plaid shirts, one inside the other. He didn't seem to care that he was getting soaked.

Nothing, he explained as we walked in the rain, was ever simple when it came to the Xinjiang mummies. Dead as they had been for thousands of years, they still managed to stir strong feelings among the living. In China, a restive ethnic minority known as the Uyghurs had stepped forward to claim the mummies as their own. Numbering nearly seven million, the Uyghurs viewed the Tarim Basin as their homeland. Largely Muslim, they had become a subjugated people in the late nineteenth century. During the 1930s and 1940s, their leaders managed to found two brief republics that later fell under Chinese control. But Uyghur guerillas continued fighting stubbornly, until their last leader was executed in 1961. Since then, the Chinese government has dealt harshly with any sign of separatist sentiment. Amnesty International's 1999 report for Xinjiang made grim reading. "Scores of Uyghurs, many of them political prisoners, have been sentenced to death and executed in the past two years," it noted. "Others, including women, are alleged to have been killed by the security forces in circumstances which appear to constitute extra-judicial executions."

Still the Uyghurs refused to give up, and when they caught wind of mummies being excavated in the Tarim Basin, they were keenly interested. Historians had long suggested that the Uyghurs were relative latecomers to the region, migrating from the plains of Mongolia less than two thousand years ago. But Uyghur leaders were skeptical. They believed that their farmer ancestors had always lived along the thin but fertile river valleys of the Tarim, and as such they embraced the mummies as their kin -- even though many scholars, Mair included, suspected that Uyghur invaders had slaughtered or driven out most of the mummies' true descendants and assimilated the few that remained. Still, in Xinjiang, Uyghur leaders picked one of the oldest mummies as an emblem of their cause. They named her, with some poetic licence, the Beauty of Loulan and began printing posters with her picture. That she was so Caucasian-looking was not a problem in Uyghur eyes: some Uyghurs had Caucasian features. People in Ürümchi, the province's capital, were captivated. Musicians began writing songs about her that subtly alluded to the separatist cause.

This sudden outburst of mummy nationalism alarmed the Chinese government. Before long, everything related to the Xinjiang mummies was considered a matter of state security. No one in government was in any hurry to authorize a genetic test on them. If the mummies' dna revealed even a partial link to the Uyghurs -- a not unlikely prospect, given the Uyghurs' mixed heritage -- it would further strengthen the separatists' claims to the region in the eyes of the world. This was something the Chinese wished to avoid, especially after the international condemnation of their treatment of another ethnic minority, in Tibet. Adding to the problem was the Chinese sensitivity to any matter touching on the Tarim Basin. Beyond the wispy river valleys and beneath the Tarim's bleak desert plains lay immense oil fields. According to Chinese geologists, they contained nearly 18 billion tons of crude, six times more than the known reserves of the United States.

Chinese officials were not the only ones worried about genetic testing. Western scholars fretted, too. Some hated the thought that Europeans could have succeeded in planting settlements so far into Asia thousands of years ago. Not only did such a migration threaten the Chinese version of history; it seemed vaguely to smack of ancient colonialism, a notion that many historians abhor. "There's a lot of Western guilt about imperialism and sensitivity about dominating other people," said Mair. "It's a really deep subconscious thing, and there are a lot of people in the West who are hypersensitive about saying our culture is superior in any way, or that our culture gets around or extends itself. So there are people who want to make sure that we don't make mistakes in our interpretation of the past."

Certainly, the presence of ancient Europeans in China -- even in its outer reaches -- could be twisted and distorted to political ends: people with racial agendas had long been searching for just such evidence. During the 1930s, for example, Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler had taken an unhealthy interest in Genghis Khan, the most famous leader of the Mongols, who in the thirteenth century had conquered vast stretches of Central Asia, from southern Siberia to Tibet, and from Korea to the Aral Sea. "Our strength," observed Hitler in a thundering speech to the commanders of Germany's armed forces in 1939, "is in our quickness and brutality. Genghis Khan had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees in him only a great state builder. . . ."

But Hitler's admiration of the ancient Mongol presented a serious problem for a party that placed great stock in racial purity. Genghis Khan, after all, was not Caucasian. He belonged to an Asian race that the Nazis heartily despised as inferior. Himmler, who fancied himself a historian, finally came up with a solution based on pure whimsy. He told one anthropologist that Genghis Khan and his elite Mongol followers were actually Caucasians, descended from the citizens of Atlantis who had decamped from their mythical island home before it sank, cataclysmically, beneath the waves. These Mongol Caucasians, Himmler claimed, were a special kind of Caucasian: German blood flowed through their veins.

One recent book suggests that Himmler went so far as to request a collection of mummies from Central Asia. But Mair doubted it. "In all of my reading of works emanating from these expeditions," he said, "I have never come across any indication that they brought such corpses back to Europe."

Even so, the bizarre racial ideas of the Nazis troubled Western scholars. They worried about where genetic testing of the Xinjiang mummies might lead, and worse still, about who might ultimately try to profit from the research. Testing the mummies was like taking a stroll through a minefield: there was no telling what might explode in the traveller's face.

"It would be especially bad news if any of the mummies were German," observed Mair later, in the guest house where he was staying. "They've had two world wars in which they were the perpetrators and if any of these mummies were even remotely Germanic, forget it. People just wouldn't want to talk about it."

As amazed as Mair had been by the mummies back in 1988, he hadn't had the time to study them. In September, 1991, however, he picked up a newspaper and read about the discovery of a frozen, partially preserved corpse of a 5,300-year-old man in a glacier along the Austrian-Italian border. This became Europe's famous iceman, known as Ötzi.

The news startled Mair. His own father had grown up in Pfaffenhoffen, a small Austrian village just a short distance away from where scientists had dug the iceman from a glacier. His father's family had grazed their herds in the same alpine meadows where Ötzi had probably wandered. The iceman, he realized, might well be a distant relative. Might he also have had some connection to the ancestors of Cherchen Man, who looked so much like Mair's own brother? "I saw the headlines and I jerked," Mair recalls. "I looked at that iceman and I said, 'These guys out in the Tarim are just like him.' One's in ice and the others are in sand. It didn't take half a second."

Austrian scientists planned on performing sophisticated scientific tests, including dna analysis, on the iceman. It occurred to Mair that similar tests on Cherchen Man and his kin could do much to trace the ancestry of the mummies. He immediately wrote to Wang Binghua, one of the foremost archaeologists in Xinjiang, outlining the project that was forming in his mind. He also called Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, a distinguished geneticist at Stanford University who was an expert on ancient dna. Cavalli-Sforza instantly saw the possibilities. He recommended that Mair contact one of his former students, Paolo Francalacci, at the University of Sassari, in Italy. Mair did just that, and working closely with Wang over the next months he managed to hammer out a deal with the Chinese goverment. Beijing finally gave the team a green light in 1993.

Francalacci thought it best to collect samples from mummies left in the ground, as opposed to bodies already stored in museums. This would reduce the possibility of contamination with modern dna. So in Ürümchi, he set off, along with Mair and Wang Binghua, for the well-documented grave sites found during the Chinese pipeline and railway surveys of the 1970s and in archaeological studies since. Dozens of these mummies, many lying in relatively shallow underground tombs, had been left alone because of the enormous cost of curating them.

At each chosen grave, the young geneticist donned a face mask and a pair of latex gloves, and docked tiny pieces of muscle, skin, and bone from the mummies, often choosing tissue along the inside of the thighs or under the armpits because these regions had been less exposed to the excavators. He sealed each sample in a plastic vial. After several days, he had collected twenty-five specimens from eleven individuals, enough for a modest study. But there was little time for celebration. In a stunning about-face, Chinese authorities suddenly demanded Francalacci's samples, refusing to allow them out of the country.

Then a mysterious thing happened. Just shortly before Mair departed for home, a Chinese colleague turned up with a surreptitious gift. He slipped five of the confiscated, sealed samples into Mair's pocket. These had come from two mummies. The grateful Mair passed the samples on to Francalacci, who began toiling in Italy to amplify the dna.

For months, the Italian geneticist laboured on the mummy samples, trying to extract enough dna for sequencing. The nucleic acids had badly degraded, but still, Francalacci kept trying various methods, and in 1995 he called Mair with a piece of good news. He had finally retrieved enough dna to sequence, and his preliminary results were intriguing. The two Xinjiang mummies belonged to the same genetic lineage as most modern-day Swedes, Finns, Tuscans, Corsicans, and Sardinians.

the genetic studies were promising, but they only whetted Mair's curiosity. It was not just that Cherchen Man bore an uncanny resemblance to his own brother Dave (whom he had taken to calling Ur-David), it also had to do with Mair's own deeply rooted beliefs. "Everything that I've done," he explained, "even though it's been running all over the map, it's all been tied into making things accessible to the everyday guy, the worker. That's what it's all about and that's why I looked at these mummies. They were just everyday guys, not famous people."

Mair had acquired this outlook at an early age. His immigrant father, whom he adored and deeply admired, was a lathe operator for a ball-bearing company in Canton, Ohio. His mother was a poet and songwriter. Growing up in a working-class family, Mair was continually reminded of the importance of ordinary people, who sweated on the assembly lines or who bent over mops and brooms at night. These were the kinds of people history tended to ignore.

Now, with this same instinct for the common man, Mair redoubled his efforts to trace the mummies' ancestry. In Xinjiang, a Chinese colleague had slipped him another parting gift: a swatch of blue, brown, and white cloth taken from a twelfth-century-bc mummy. The fabric looked like a piece of Celtic plaid. Mair passed it over to Irene Good, a textile expert at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Good examined it under an electron microscope. The style of weave, known as a "two over two" diagonal twill, bore little resemblance to anything woven by Asian weavers of the day. (Indeed, it would be almost another two millennia before women in central China turned out twill cloth on their looms.) But the weave exactly matched cloth found with the bodies of thirteenth-century-bc salt miners in Austria. Like the dna samples, the mysterious plaid pointed straight towards a European homeland.

Excited by the textile connection, Mair organized a new expedition to Xinjiang with Good, her fellow textile expert Elizabeth Barber, and her cultural anthropologist husband, Paul Barber. As the two women pored over the mummies' clothing, Barber examined the bodies themselves, studying their mummification. Mair hoped this might offer clues to the origins of the people themselves. But the ancient desert dwellers, he discovered, had not taken any of the elaborate measures favoured by the Egyptians or other skilled morticians. Instead, they had relied on nature for a few simple tricks. In some cases, family members had buried their dead in salt fields, whose chemistry preserved human flesh like a salted ham. Often, they had arranged the cadaver so that dry air flowed around the extremities, swiftly desiccating the flesh. Cherchen Man, for example, had benefited from both techniques.

Mair, too, assisted in the work. In his spare time, he translated key Chinese reports on the mummies and published them in his own journal, The Sino-Platonic Papers. This gave Western archaeologists access to the scientific findings for the first time. He wanted to make the mummies the focus of a lively scientific and scholarly investigation. So he set about organizing a major international scientific conference on the mummies, bringing leading archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, geneticists, geographers, sinologists, historians, ethnologists, climatologists, and metallurgists to the University of Pennsylvania to discuss their ideas. After everyone left, Mair dutifully edited and translated two large volumes of their papers, clarifying their arcane prose until everyone interested in the field could understand it. "If I have grey hair," he joked, "it was because I was sitting there slaving over this stuff."

When he had finally finished, he sat down in his office with a pad of paper and a pen. He sifted through hundreds of studies on matters as diverse as linguistics, pottery styles, methods of tomb construction, and metallurgy across Eurasia over the past seven thousand years, searching for cultures whose core technologies and languages bore clear similarities to those of the ancient Caucasian cultures of Xinjiang. These he recognized as ancestral societies. Slowly, patiently, he worked his way back through time and space, tracing the territories of these ancestral groups. Eventually, after months of work, he sketched a map of what he concluded was their homeland. The territory stretched in a wide swath across central Europe, from northern Denmark to the northwestern shore of the Black Sea. But its heart, some six thousand years ago, lay in what is now southern Germany, northeastern Austria, and a portion of the Czech Republic. "I really felt that that fit the archaeological evidence best," Mair later told me.

When he finally showed his map to some of his colleagues, though, they were deeply dismayed. Elizabeth Barber, one of his closest collaborators, angrily demanded that he redraw it, insisting that linguistic evidence, particularly the ancestry of ancient words for looms, pointed to a homeland much farther east. Realizing that he had gone too far for the comfort of his colleagues, and that he had yet to find the proof he needed, he bowed to their pressure. He redrew the map, placing the homeland in a broad arc stretching from eastern Ukraine and southern Russia to western Kazakhstan. Then he published it in the conference proceedings. "I thought, for this book, it wouldn't be too bad," he confessed, shaking his head. "I decided I wouldn't go against the flow that much, because that is a big flow with some really smart people." Then he looked down at the map in front of him. "But in my own integrity and honesty, I'd want to put it in here." He sketched a narrow oval. Its centre fell near the Austrian city of Salzburg.

All of which brought us to Shanghai, and the rain, and the final arbiter, hopefully, of more dna testing. Convinced he was right, and desperately wanting to find the proof that would dispel all doubt, Mair believed genetics still offered the best hope of vindication. If dna testing was sufficient to convict or exonerate men in a court of law, it would surely be strong enough to persuade even the most skeptical of his colleagues. He needed samples for another, more powerful type of dna testing, but as he had just discovered, the Chinese officials had upped the ante again. Japanese researchers had recently paid $100,000 to acquire samples of the ancient matter for dna testing, and officials at Shanghai's Museum of Natural History now wanted a similar sum from Mair.

Mair didn't have it, and he was running out of time. Still, he remained surprisingly upbeat. During a break in the negotiations one afternoon, he invited me to follow Xu Yongqing, the head of the Shanghai Museum of Natural History's anthropology department, down the stairs to a basement room in the museum. Unlocking the door to a small room behind the employees' bicycle racks, Xu led the way inside. Along three of the walls, mummies in glass cases reclined luxuriously on red velvet cloth. Stacked three high in spots, they looked much like train passengers bedded down for the night in their berths. Mair stood quietly, scanning the room. Then he saw what he wanted to show me. In one of the lower glass cases, a young woman lay stretched out on her back, stripped of her fine woollens. Her knees were pressed demurely together, her arms rested comfortably at her sides, and her breasts lay round and full, as if she had perished in the midst of nursing a child.

But it was the hair that caught my attention. A long wavy golden-brown mane twisted down her back. Standing in that room, I felt an unexpected sense of kinship with her, surrounded as she was by strangers. And I wondered just what had prodded her ancestors to exchange the cool greenness of Europe for the scorching barrens of the Tarim Basin.

as always, mair had some ideas. He believed a new invention had spurred this woman's forebears to embark on this eastern exodus: horseback riding. Some 5,700 years ago, he explained, Eurasians had begun rounding up wild horses, and sometime later they started sliding bits into their mouths and swinging their bodies onto their backs. These seemingly simple acts led them to conquer terrestrial space. For the first time ever, human beings were able to travel swiftly over immense distances, an accomplishment so exhilarating and adrenalin-charged that they suddenly gave full rein to their wanderlust.

So equipped, Mair went on with growing enthusiasm, early Europeans had easily spread out across Eurasia, their brisk progress recorded in the ancient campsites they left behind. Some of the invaders swept northward, becoming the Germanic tribes; others journeyed west to become the Celts of the British Isles. But the ancestors of the Xinjiang people had headed east across the grassy steppes of Asia, repelling any who tried to bar their path, and four thousand years ago, a small group of latecomers rode into the vacant river valleys of the Tarim Basin. Finding sufficient land to make a life there, they stayed, passing on their love and knowledge of fine horses to their descendants. When mourners buried Cherchen Man, they arranged a dead horse and a saddle atop his grave, two essential things he would need in the next life.

In all likelihood, observed Mair, some of these European invaders rode even further to the east and north, beyond the reach of desiccating deserts. And there they brought with them such new Western inventions as the chariot, a high-performance vehicle designed for warfare and sport, and bronze metallurgy, which made strong weapons that retained their killing edge. Very possibly, a few of these invaders carried with them the secret of writing. While examining the hand of an ancient woman exhumed near Cherchen Man, Mair had noticed row upon row of a strange tattoo along her hand. Shaped like a backward S, it clearly resembled the early Phoenician consonant that gave us our modern S. Mair has also found the identical form of S -- which resembles an ancient Chinese character -- along with other alphabetiform signs, on artifacts of this era from western China.

Chinese scholars, it occurred to me, were unlikely to take much comfort in the thought of these invaders. And they were unlikely to be pleased by the pivotal role these intruders may have played in ancient Chinese life. Western inventions, after all, shaped the course of history. Fleet chariots enabled Chinese armies to vanquish their enemies, and sturdy bronze swords reinforced dreams of empire. And a secret system of writing bequeathed Chinese officials the means to govern the conquered lands effortlessly.

But invention is only one small part of the story. What societies make of technological leaps forward is as important as the act of creation itself. It was the genius of others, after all, who unwittingly made the West strong. It gave Europeans the compasses that guided mariners overseas to Asia and America. It provided the printing presses that disseminated knowledge of these new lands to the masses. It bestowed the gunpowder that fuelled conquest. Indeed, all these came from Chinese inventors.

There are many ironies joining East and West in the inseparable embrace of history. Mair savours them. His trip to Shanghai in the rain ended in disappointment. He left China empty-handed. But he is now raising funds and fervently seeking permission to conduct further dna tests on the mummies of Xinjiang. Until that day, Ur-David waits in a museum storage room in China, unclaimed as a long- lost brother.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: archaeology; bactria; curse; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; margiana; mummy; oxus; redheaded; victorsariyiannidis; viktorsarianidi; viktorsarigiannidis
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Mair has written a fascinating book about this titled The Tarim Mummies, I highly recommend it. (I've read it twice)
1 posted on 12/01/2002 5:11:09 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
This was covered by either the History or Discovery Channel not long ago and was quite interesting.

It sems as thought eastern integration of sorts was beginning from the western part of the Caucasus areas, but ended abruptly.

Not much info on my post, but it was a real "EYE OPENER", if you get my drift...
2 posted on 12/01/2002 5:19:56 PM PST by Vidalia
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To: Vidalia
It sems as thought eastern integration of sorts was beginning from the western part of the Caucasus areas, but ended abruptly.

That should read "...from the eastern areas of the Caucasus...", but then again, Westerners were also known to be quite adventurous...
3 posted on 12/01/2002 5:23:14 PM PST by Vidalia
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To: Vidalia
"This was covered by either the History or Discovery Channel not long ago and was quite interesting."

Yup. It was on the Discover Channel.

4 posted on 12/01/2002 5:24:59 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

"The Beauty Of Loulan"

The Ughars have proclaimed her as the 'mother' of their country.

5 posted on 12/01/2002 5:33:56 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

"Cherchen Man" (Ur-David)

Notice the spiral tatto on the side of his head.

6 posted on 12/01/2002 5:37:41 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

7 posted on 12/01/2002 5:42:34 PM PST by governsleastgovernsbest
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To: blam
Fascinating read. I've made a hard copy for my family to look at.
8 posted on 12/01/2002 5:42:37 PM PST by Cicero
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To: blam
Good post.

Looking at the Replogle globe, the distance these people travelled isn't really so huge, comparable to the distance from Alaska to Texas.

9 posted on 12/01/2002 5:44:32 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: governsleastgovernsbest
"Mummy", not "Mommy"!

;-)

10 posted on 12/01/2002 5:48:34 PM PST by Jonah Hex
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To: blam
They will most likely be found to be the forbearers of the oriental race.
No doubt a portion of them rebelled against god and were cursed. They were given a darker complexion and features to distinguish them from the righteous.
11 posted on 12/01/2002 5:52:42 PM PST by freedom9
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To: Jonah Hex
Uh, sorry, my mistake. Although Desi did say he found her rather stiff.
12 posted on 12/01/2002 5:54:43 PM PST by governsleastgovernsbest
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To: Mr. Mulliner
I thought you would be interested in this. Buied in this article is another statement that some characters in Chinese have western sources.
13 posted on 12/01/2002 5:54:48 PM PST by Miss Marple
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To: freedom9
Get Real
14 posted on 12/01/2002 6:00:52 PM PST by Little Bill
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To: blam
Fascinating. Long, but well worth the read. It's surprising that there hasn't been more made of this in the media. PC problem?
15 posted on 12/01/2002 6:00:54 PM PST by expatpat
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To: blam
Well, lots of people have said that the southern region between the Rhine and Oder was where the Garden Of Eden was located. Perhaps Mair is correct in his first map of what some call the proto-celts and others call the Indo-Europeans and others called the Scythians.
16 posted on 12/01/2002 6:02:40 PM PST by jimtorr
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To: RightWhale; LostTribe; #3Fan
(This was posted on another thread almost two years ago by a FReeper named "genealogy_prober" and is the only thing he ever posted. I agree with what he posted and suspect that he is Chinese)

I detected there was an essay concerning the ethnic consist of "Wu Hu" which invaded China during the Jin Dynasty. The author's view was that the Turk which raided China later was a Caucasian tribe (there Khan described as with green eyes and red cheek, more evidance available) , "Wu Hu" (Xiongnu, Jie, Qiang, Di, Xianbei) were not.
But according to the Chinese ancient historical annual, the Xiongnu are such Nordic tribe with red hair and blue eyes like "Wushun". And, Jie, which was a branch of Xiongnu, also described as with high Nose Bridge, and "deep" eyes.

After the collapse of their ruling to Han, the Jie people was distinguished easily because of their Caucasian feature and slaughtered (more than 200,000 victims). The historical work of the later dynasties also described the remained Xiongnu people as "Long nose" and "yellow hair". Until Tang dynasty, the "Qi Hu" which is the offspring of the royal Xiongnu people, still called "Hu tou Han se" which mean's they adopt the Chinese tongue, but still "foreign" feature.
Much other evidence can support the standpoint that Xiongnu are Caucasion,I don't want to illustrate any more. Some people believe the Xiongnu are Mongolian race, because the Roman historian said the Hun people who invaded were"brown skin, stocky body, slanting eyes" which are typical Mongolian trait.
But, actually, the Hun who invaded Europe 5th century was not the descendant of Xiongnu. The contemporary scholars affirm they are the identical tribe just because the pronunciation of "Hun" and "Xiongnu" are approximately the same. And there is some relationship between their languege.

I also want to point out that around the 5th and 6th century, there's another branch of "Hun" ruined the Persia and Northwest India, that Branch was called "White Hun" The Persian historian said that thier feature were different from "Hun", with white body.
Hence, it seemed that, they were also Caucasian. Now, let's come to Xianbei, many people noticed that, in the historical book, the Xianbei people were called "Bai Lu" means white invader (thief). And in the Great Work <>, I found the following story--The Emperor Of Eastern Jin, Jin Ming Di (Shima Shao), was with yellow beard and hair, because his mother was a Xianbei female.
Once he went to inspect his troop without notice, And the warriors all considered him as Xianbei people, then chased him as enemy. The folk songs at that time said, "Huang tou Xianbei jin Luoyang"--Xianbei is with "yellow head", it is quite possible that "yellow head" referred to their yellow hair and beard.

Xianbei is an alliance of tribes; there might also be some Mongolian tribes in it, but the Caucasian consist was more obvious, which all Hans paid attention to it. I'm inclined to be in approval of what Mr. Peng elaborated yesterday.
The contemporary Chinese people don't dwell on the ethnic origin of the nation, most of them believe they are simply Mongolian race. That's not a correct concept. The racial intermix in china began before any dynasty, but the Neolithic time.

The skulls unearthed in the relics of Banpo Xi'an reveal the trait of Caucasian, exactly, the Nordish Caucasian. The Banpo civilian used to be the hybrid of Nordish and Mongolian (like the Finn today).
We all know, the Banpo is the representative civilization of the Northern China Neolithic civilizations, we can infer, many other Chinese civilizations in that time were created by Caucasian or mingled people.

The Hemudu in Zhejiang is the representative Neolithic civilization in Southern China.
But after measuring the skulls detected there, it was extremely amazed that, they're of Negro characteristics!

One renowned Chinese anthropologist stated in his work that "According to the numerous skeletons of Indo-Europe people unearthed in China and the feature of the Southern Chinese people today, the Chinese nation can't be classified into the Mongolian race simply.

At an earlier time, many Chinese anthropologists also clarify that it's completely wrong to say the ancient skeletons discovered in China belong to the same race. The Mongolian couldn't be regarded as the only "Local Chinese".

The Caucasian also had been inhabited in Eastern Asia since very early time. In Japan, the aboriginal Ainu people was finally confessed as the ancestor of current Japanese nation.
The Ainu was the Caucasian tribe moved to the Japanese islands more than 20,000 years ago, while the Mongolian just reached Japan around 10,000 years ago. They intermixed and yielded the Japanese people now.
The same procedure of intermixing also took place in Korea.

Another famous event happened last year also support the idea--some researchers of biochemistry analyzed the DNA refined from the mummies in some ancient tombs in Shangdong province, and made a conclusion that these DNA correspond that of the European people. Another research discovered that the gene of Northern Chinese is more close to the Caucasian, rather than the Southern Chinese.

The origin of Zhou, The third Dynasty of ancient China, is also doubtful.
The time of the establishment of that dynasty is not far from the time of Aryan Expansion. The chariot used by the soldiers of Zhou just resembles the chariot used by Aryan invaders to India!

More critical, the ancient Chinese work written by Mengzi said that, Zhou Wen Wang (the emperor of Zhou) is the people of "western barbarians" It's quite possible that a branch of Aryan intruded china at the moving of Aryan.

Someone even suspect the origin of the Qin Dynasty, which was the subsequent dynasty of Zhou. At least, there was some independent Aryan tribes which didn't integrated with local Chinese or absorbed by local Chinese still existed in Western and central China at the time of late Zhou dynasty.
It was recorded that the king of Qin attack the ruler of Zhou with some barbarous tribes but failed. That event happened a few hundred years BC, at that very time, the Bactoria in Central Asia was conquered by 4 Nomadic Aryan tribes, the origins of 3 of these tribes were definite.
Now, some historians reckon the 4th tribe might be the failed Aryan tribe that moved back to Central Asia.

Until Han dynasty, the "Yue zhi" (pronounced as 'rou zhi, an Aryan Tribe) still live in Ganshu province, and sometimes also find the track of their activity in Northern China. And the region east to Tianshan Mountain (in the center of Eastern Turkeystan) was distributed by Saka (A branch of Aryan, whose language belongs to the Iranian Group, known as Scythian by Westerners and 'Sai Zhong' by Chinese).

Now, many scholars believe that many "Yi" and "Di" (the diverse barbarian tribes) recorded in early Chinese dynasties are Caucasian. I'm afraid the origin Xiongnu can be traced back to Scythian. Because the record revealed that their custom were exactly the same.
Thus, the Chinese people nowadays contain abundant of Caucasian blood. But currently, they all belong to the same nation, that's because the ancient Chinese culture was so great that it could absorb any other races, it was a furnace to integrate all races.
And the Caucasian, Mongolian created the grand Chinese civilization together.

17 posted on 12/01/2002 6:03:30 PM PST by blam
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To: jimtorr; VadeRetro
" Perhaps Mair is correct in his first map of what some call the proto-celts and others call the Indo-Europeans and others called the Scythians."

I've read the book,"The Mummies Of Urumchi, written by Elizabeth Barber after her work was complete on these mummies.
She said that the 2,000BC fabrics discovered on these mummies were just like those discovered in Hallstadt, including, style, materials and production method. There has to be some very close relationship.

18 posted on 12/01/2002 6:10:18 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
"Laid out as if sleeping, Cherchen Man had his hands tied before burial to prevent the body from rolling."

19 posted on 12/01/2002 6:11:46 PM PST by Asmodeus
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To: blam
"A mummified infant boy was found wrapped in wool leading researchers to believe that the Cherchen mummies were of European descent. Sheep were not indigenous to that region of China."

20 posted on 12/01/2002 6:14:48 PM PST by Asmodeus
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To: Asmodeus
Thanks, I was going looking for these.

The baby was buried in the same grave a short time after the two adults. The baby is believed to have been their baby and was buried with a sheeps nipple that was used to keep it alive after they died of some disease.

21 posted on 12/01/2002 6:19:21 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Who Are The Hakkas?

I believe the Hakka are descendents of the Xiongnu and the Han, both a combination of Chinese and Caucasians....I also believe the Picts may have come from some combination of the above.

22 posted on 12/01/2002 6:29:45 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
>it could have come straight from the pages of Dr. Seuss.

Looks like you found another one, Blam.

23 posted on 12/01/2002 6:31:04 PM PST by LostTribe
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To: blam
She said that the 2,000BC fabrics discovered on these mummies were just like those discovered in Hallstadt, including, style, materials and production method. There has to be some very close relationship.

Hallstadt is later and identified with the Celts, but there's no real problem with that. The weaving technology can be older.

24 posted on 12/01/2002 6:32:05 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: blam
Now I've recalled that when I was studying Chinese-Mandarin many years ago, the instructors at that time in that school all had earned at least masters degrees in the Chinese language and a few in Chinese history. One of them was one of the foremost calligraphers outside of China.

They all of them studied in Chinese universities on the mainland and escaped China before 1949. They mostly came from old scholarly families.

This is significant because they each of them said that in the old educated families it was common knowledge that the center of the majority Han tribal peoples had slowly drifted east over the millenia. Xi-an, in central China, had been their capital until the Mongols conqured China and made Beijing their capital. Before that, they said, the capital was even further east.
25 posted on 12/01/2002 6:40:10 PM PST by jimtorr
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To: Little Bill
I'm trying
26 posted on 12/01/2002 6:41:17 PM PST by freedom9
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To: blam; nopardons
Excellent post!

Oh dearest nopardons! A red-headed Tocharian ping to you! Thought you might find this an interesting read. Enjoy!

27 posted on 12/01/2002 6:42:09 PM PST by Hermann the Cherusker
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To: blam
Some have theorized that the nearby Pamir Plateau is the real origin of the Indo-Europeans, and not the Caucausus Mountains. I believe this was a relatively especially popular theory among late 1800's scholars.
28 posted on 12/01/2002 6:44:37 PM PST by Hermann the Cherusker
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To: LostTribe
(It's pretty clear to me that the Xiongnu are Chinese speaking Caucasians)

"....The wars between the xiongnu "Han" kingdom and Jie, and the downfall of West Jin caused the southward migration of the Han tribe. And this was thought to be the first major maigration of Hakka (Lo Hsiang Lin). Jie ½~ tribe have high nose bridge and deep eye sockets, easily recognized. When Shi Le's nephew became the emperor, a Han general Ran Min ¥T ¶{ overthrew Hou Zhao and slaughtered all people with high nose bridge. This indicates an extreme ethnic conflict existed between the Han and non-Han at that time, close to the ethnic cleansing we see today in Bosnia.

It is likely that to avoid genocide, some Xiongnu disguised as Han and move to the south with the Han. Many Han aristocrats also had hundreds to thousands of Xiongnu servants and soldiers. However, Jin dynasty is a period with highly distinct class difference. It is difficult for someone with a clearly distinct physical feature to infiltrate Han even as a civilian unless there was some inter-ethnic marriage or affiliation with the Han aristocrats. It was almost impossible for a xiongnu to become a nobility among Han. The number of Xiongnu who could mingle with Han and fled to the south could not be in great number. Culturally speaking, although Liu Yuan was totally Sinicized (Hanized), most of the Xiongnu inhabitants in central China could not have received the kind of education. It would be quite amazing if the Xiongnu decendents could upbring so many famous names like Han YuÁú ·U , Wang YangMing ¤ý ¶§ ©ú , Zhu Xi¦¶ ¿Q ...."

29 posted on 12/01/2002 6:44:41 PM PST by blam
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Comment #30 Removed by Moderator

To: blam
Bump for later reading.
31 posted on 12/01/2002 7:07:15 PM PST by BlackVeil
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To: Hermann the Cherusker
Thanks for the ping ; even though you meant it snidely.

As a matter of fact, I know all about these mummies ; have done, for years. There are two documentaries, about this site, that I know of, and are very interesting. Do try to see one of the many repeats, the next time it's shown. You'll learn quite a lot more, about these people, than is contained in the posted article. ENJOY ! ;^ )

32 posted on 12/01/2002 7:55:26 PM PST by nopardons
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To: blam
Have you seen the documentaries, about these mummies ? Isn't this the one, where the red headed, high priestess with the " witches hat " , was also found ? Or is that the companion film ?
33 posted on 12/01/2002 8:05:46 PM PST by nopardons
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To: Amelia
bump to read later...
34 posted on 12/01/2002 8:15:08 PM PST by Amelia
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To: nopardons
"Have you seen the documentaries, about these mummies ? Isn't this the one, where the red headed, high priestess with the " witches hat " , was also found ? Or is that the companion film ?"

I've seen most of these. I think there are three 'witches' with these tall 'hats'. Mair (and company) can't figure out how they got the 'hats' to stand up straight, they're made of felt.

35 posted on 12/01/2002 8:16:22 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
The connections Mair draws remind me of the theory of L.A. Waddell regarding the direct interconnections between the Sumerians, Indo-Aryans, Hittites, Phoenicians, Trojans, Britons, Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Scots, Goths, and Norsemen.

One of Waddell's evidences is the similarity of dress, and the similarity relies upon items that reappear her in Mair's work - conical hats and woven cross-patterned garb. Waddell's conclusions were that the Hittites and Phoenicians were one and the same, that the Trojans were also the same group, and that Brutus the Trojan, the founder of the Britons and their first King in Britan around 1100 BC had journeyed there because of knowledge of pre-existing Phoenician mining settlements in Cornwall and elsewhere.

Of course, Waddell's works are now consigned to the Memory Hole, and the official histories of Britain begin with Julius Caesar "discovering" them in 55 BC, thus ignoring the ancient king lists going back to Brutus and antiquity. This state of historical destruction makes it difficult to understand some Shakespearian works like King Lear (a pre-Roman Briton King), the pre-Roman origins of London and other cities, and certainly obscures the history of the female figure Britannia and the name Albion.

36 posted on 12/01/2002 8:18:26 PM PST by Hermann the Cherusker
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To: blam
A long read but I read every word. I love this stuff. Thanks for posting it, blam.
37 posted on 12/01/2002 9:02:18 PM PST by gcruse
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To: gcruse
"A long read but I read every word. I love this stuff. Thanks for posting it, blam."

You're welcome.

38 posted on 12/01/2002 9:07:19 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Yes, I've seen these shows, many, many times; read the books as well.

Felt will stand, when stiffened, I bet they use a flour paste, back then.

39 posted on 12/01/2002 9:09:23 PM PST by nopardons
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To: Hermann the Cherusker
The whole " Britan was founded by Brutus " theory, was connieved, by the chronicolers, to make the Normans think that even though they took over, in 1066, the Anglo-Saxons had a better liniage. Do read more than Waddell, dear. :-)

Oh, and there you go again ! What's with the garbage, that Julius Caesar " discovered " Britain ?

Have you ever actually studied the Hittites ? They didn't dress anything at all like Celts and had a completely different culture; not to mention phsiognomy!

40 posted on 12/01/2002 9:13:44 PM PST by nopardons
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To: blam
> famous names like Han YuÁú ·U , Wang YangMing ¤ý ¶§ ©ú , Zhu Xi¦¶ ¿Q ...."

Are you sending Chinese or is that just static on the line?

41 posted on 12/01/2002 10:25:33 PM PST by LostTribe
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To: nopardons
But what is history but the Chronicles and written record of memory? Discount that and you are left with the shifting sands of archaelogical digs and interpretations of human society from ancient stone walls, pottery shards and charcoal/bone mixtures. The suppositions of archaeology rely upon many subjective points that seem to me based more on the fashions of the moment then a certain foundation. I'm much more trusting of the record of hundreds of clay tablets in Babylon than the conclusions of hundreds of archeaologists digging up Babylons other remnants.

Oh, and there you go again ! What's with the garbage, that Julius Caesar " discovered " Britain ?

Well, if you pick up a modern history of Britain, Chapter 1 starts off with, there were ignorant savages of unknown origins attempting to create a civilization, when in sailed Caesar and the Legions. Thousands of years of "pre-history" covered in two paragraphs. I just saw one at B&N the other day - one of those 700 page tomes - though I don't recall the title, while picking up "The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China" (I think that was the title - great book, Sun Tzu and six other lesser known lights of the east on "strategery" - you'd probably like it).

There are some excellent and bloody debates on the chronicles of Central Europe between the Germans and Poles and Czechs, each side aiming for promotion of its view of the matter, especially since there is little "history" per se prior to the "baptism of Poland" in AD 966. I like my German History atlas which transmorgrifies the Silingi tribed (Silesians) from Germanic to Slavic between Roman times and those of Charlamagne, then has the Germans resettling Silesia and intermarrying with the now supposedly Slavic Silingi. The Germans had the upper hand in this argument, claiming these tribes were really Germanic (the Chronicles are all Latin and German, as are early Polish governmental documents), until they made the dumb mistake of starting WWII.

Is there any real evidence that Brutus the Trojan and company did NOT exist as related and that Nennius' Chronicles are a complete fraud? Who did found the Briton civilization and London? Don't forget the example of Schliemann!

The whole " Britan was founded by Brutus " theory, was connieved, by the chronicolers, to make the Normans think that even though they took over, in 1066, the Anglo-Saxons had a better liniage.

Hmmm ... Nennius was a Briton ("Here begins the apology of Nennius, the historiographer of the Britons, of the race of the Britons."), not an Anglo-Saxon, and was writing against the Anglo-Saxons, not the Normans. I think you are transmorgrifying the parties here, or have I missed something?

Do read more than Waddell

Okay, does Flinders Petrie count and his work on Geoffrey of Monmouth's accounts?

I'm aware of the difficulties of linking Phoenicia and the Hittites. Waddell's attempt is interesting. Have you read it?

42 posted on 12/02/2002 11:38:07 AM PST by Hermann the Cherusker
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To: blam
No kidding, this is the most interesting thread since the general election in Nov.
43 posted on 12/02/2002 1:00:08 PM PST by RightWhale
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To: Hermann the Cherusker
Herm said "Well, if you pick up a modern history of Britain, Chapter 1 starts off with, there were ignorant savages of unknown origins attempting to create a civilization, when in sailed Caesar and the Legions. Thousands of years of "pre-history" covered in two paragraphs"
Dude, you seem to have missed the point in your own post; in scholarly discourse history and pre-history are two different things, one being written and the other not (obviously this is a fairly arbitrary division). Therefore, the "history" of Britain does start with J. Caesar (or perhaps with the Roman (or Greek/Phonecian even?) records of contact with Britain in the first century BC when coins, amphorae of wine, olive oil etc started making their way across the channel from Gaul and these transactions were recorded in the accounting files of the day. OTOH British prehistory, the happenings of Britains pre-literate societies, IS revealed in thousands of popular and scholar books and articles and hardly goes unremarked as you seem to imply. And to suggest that scholars see these people as "ignorant savages" is complete balderdash - you only have to read some of the almost fawning descriptions of iron-age and bronze-age craftsmanship and metallurgy to know this is untrue.
44 posted on 12/02/2002 1:14:48 PM PST by Blunderfromdownunder
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To: Blunderfromdownunder
I said "pre-History" in quotes for a reason.

There are written sources from before Caesar, but they are discounted now. Like Geoffrey of Monmouth. And Nennius. Some people have various theories about this discounting being anti-Christian. I'll refrain from comment, not having an opinion formed one way or another.

I agree entirely with you about the skills of the Britons, and that they were not illiterate blue-skinned savages. This is merely what is put out in many popular histories - no writing, running around in animal skins and blue paint, etc. It is a bunch of nonesense, since there was western civilization, at least as I understand it, in western and central Europe before Rome.

45 posted on 12/02/2002 1:30:06 PM PST by Hermann the Cherusker
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To: blam
Separated at birth?


46 posted on 12/02/2002 1:42:30 PM PST by Xenalyte
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To: rintense
Ancestress ping!
47 posted on 12/02/2002 1:52:11 PM PST by Xenalyte
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To: Xenalyte
DAMN that's scary!!!!
48 posted on 12/02/2002 1:54:58 PM PST by rintense
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To: RightWhale; carenot
>In Ruin Symbols on Stone Hint at a Lost Culture

Culture/Society News
Published: May 13, 2001 Author: John Nobile Wilford
Posted on 05/15/2001 17:54:31 PDT by carenot

In an unexpected benefit of the cold war's end, Russian and American archaeologists say they have discovered an ancient civilization that thrived in Central Asia more than 4,000 years ago, before being lost in the sweep of history.

The people of that area, the archaeologists say, built oasis settlements with imposing mud-brick buildings and fortifications. They herded sheep and goats and grew wheat and barley in irrigated fields. They had bronze axes, fine ceramics, alabaster and bone carvings and jewelry of gold and semiprecious stones. They left luxury goods in the graves of an elite class.

The accomplishments of those unknown people in what are now the republics of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan began to emerge over several decades of excavations by archaeologists of the Soviet Union, who worked diligently but in academic silence behind closed borders. The surprising scope of society suggested a stage of social and economic development generally regarded as civilization. All that seemed lacking was evidence of number or writing systems.

With the end of the cold war, American archaeologists have joined the Russians in exploring the region, and now they are reporting that they have found inscriptions showing that these people may have indeed had writing, or at least were experimenting with a form of proto- writing around 2300 B.C.

"We are rewriting all the history books about the ancient world because of the new political order in our own time," Dr. Fredrik T. Hiebert, a University of Pennsylvania archaeologist involved in the excavation, said in an interview last week.

In the most recent and provocative discovery, Dr. Hiebert uncovered a small stone object engraved with four or five red-colored symbols or letters that apparently bear no resemblance to any other writing system of the time. Other scholars agreed that the symbols seemed to be unlike contemporary scripts in Mesopotamia, Iran or the Indus River valley.

Dr. Hiebert made the discovery last summer in ruins at Annau, a site near the border with Iran and only eight miles from the Turkmenistan capital, Ashgabat. He described the findings a week ago at a symposium at Penn and yesterday at a conference on language and archaeology at Harvard.

"You can say we have discovered a new ancient civilization," Dr. Hiebert said. At the same time, the pyramids of Egypt had been standing for three centuries, power in the Tigris and Euphrates valley was shifting from Sumer to Babylon and the Chinese had yet to develop writing.

Dr. Victor H. Mair, a specialist in ancient Asian languages and cultures at Penn, who was not on the research team, said of the inscription, "I definitely think that's writing."

Dr. Mair added that the discovery of ruins of an advanced culture in a region "where there was thought to be just space and emptiness fills an enormous gap" in terms of trade and cultural exchange across Asia in antiquity. It suggested that people in Asia more than 4,000 years ago were not as isolated as once supposed, he said, but probably had continentwide connections.

The dozens of settlement ruins of the newfound civilization stretch east from Annau across the Kara- Kum desert into Uzbekistan and perhaps the northern part of Afghanistan. It is an area 300 to 400 miles long and 50 miles wide. Since no one knows who the people were or what they called themselves, archaeologists have given the culture the prosaic name of the Bactria Margiana Archaeology Complex, or BMAC (pronounced BEE-mack), after the ancient Greek names of two regions it encompasses.

Long after the ruins were buried in sand, the area was traversed by the legendary Silk Road, the caravan route linking China and the Mediterranean lands from the second century B.C. to the 16th century A.D. The oases that served as way stations for rest and resupply on the Silk Road also supported the BMAC civilization, which presumably was trading far and wide over some kind of ancestral Bronze Age Silk Road.

Dr. Carl Lamberg-Karlovsky, a Harvard archaeologist, questioned whether the symbols on the artifact represented true writing. But he said that Dr. Hiebert's discovery "falls into place with other research showing that this culture was working out some sort of communication system, though it never reached the level of complexity in writing as its neighbors did."

Until the waning days of the Soviet Union, foreign scholars knew almost nothing of the nature and extent of the BMAC culture. Reports of findings were confined to Soviet journals.

In the post-cold-war openness, Russian archaeologists are eagerly sharing their knowledge and inviting collaboration with Westerners. Dr. Hiebert plans to return to Annau, possibly next month, for further excavations to be financed in part by the National Geographic Society.

Dr. Victor Sarianidi of the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow found a distinctive architectural pattern in many of the ruins. The buildings at each site appeared to be erected in one burst of construction according to the design of a single architect. The largest buildings were like huge apartment complexes, each bigger than a football field and divided into dozens and dozens of rooms. They were surrounded by multiple mud- brick walls, some as much as 10 feet thick. Beyond lay traces of agricultural fields.

In the 1990's, Dr. Hiebert began digging slowly to deeper, and therefore earlier, levels of occupation. He was rewarded last June while excavating beneath a room in what appeared to be an administrative building at Annau. That was where he found the carved symbols on a piece of shiny black jet stone, a type of coal, less than one inch to a side.

Archaeologists believe that it was a stamp seal, commonly used in ancient commerce to mark containers by their contents and ownership. The site also contained many lumps of clay that were used to seal vessels or parcels.

Scientists analyzing charcoal found with the artifacts dated the material at 2300 B.C., before the larger settlements were built. American radiocarbon dates have established that the BMAC culture was present in Central Asia from 2200 B.C. to 1800 or 1700 B.C. Russian research generally underestimated the culture's antiquity by about 500 years.

49 posted on 12/02/2002 2:38:10 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Of course they knew of Asia, all the way from present-day Turkey to China. Alexander was on his way to China but stopped in present-day Pakistan intending to head next to Spain.
50 posted on 12/02/2002 2:44:59 PM PST by RightWhale
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