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12_01_2016_Alice_headshot The new Alice Roberts documentary is going viral. Or at least its spin is.

E.g., Western contact with China began long before Marco Polo, experts say:

However, Chinese historians recorded much earlier visits by people thought by some to have been emissaries from the Roman Empire during the Second and Third Centuries AD.

“We now have evidence that close contact existed between the First Emperor’s China and the West before the formal opening of the Silk Road. This is far earlier than we formerly thought,” said Senior Archaeologist Li Xiuzhen, from the Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.

A separate study shows European-specific mitochondrial DNA has been found at sites in China’s western-most Xinjiang Province, suggesting that Westerners may have settled, lived and died there before and during the time of the First Emperor.

Let’s go with the easy part first: there were no “Western” people when the Afanasevo culture was pushing into the fringes of what is today Xinjiang.

There are two extreme polarities of definition of what Western is. One is cultural.

516C6LMzGTL As outlined in David Gress’ From Plato To NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents, the West did not emerge fully grown like Athena from the head of Zeus in the 6th century BCE along the Aegean. Rather, the West evolved organically as a synthesis over time of Classical Greco-Roman elements, Christianity, and later the post-Roman societies, often dominated by barbarian martial elites. By this definition it is clear that a blue-eyed Sogdian merchant who was resident in Xian in the 7th century was not Western. Their only affiliation with the West would be adherence to Christian Church derived from Persia, and even here this stream of Christianity was relatively marginal that of the Western variety (most Sogdians were probably Zoroastrians of course).

A second definition of being Western is racial, whether explicit or implicit. That is, there is an association with being Western and white. This is certainly true, but the problem with this formulation is that though Western people were invariably white, white people were not invariably Western. To give a concrete example, Buddhist Tocharians who had light hair and eyes, and flourished as late as 1000 A.D, were white people by any definition, but they were not Western in anything but the most reductive and biologistic sense. The cultural valence of what it means to be Western is clear on the southeastern fringes of Europe, where Muslim populations are often considered non-Western, even when they are genetically similar to their Christian neighbors.

The mtDNA they found is probably of haplogroup U, or perhaps H. Its presence in Eastern Asians is unsurprising, as skeins of migration seem to have laced themselves across the landscape of Eurasia across the whole Holocene, and earlier.

Finally, I think the media is misleading its depiction of Greek influence. Greco-Bactrians were culturally influential for several centuries in Asia. The Greek influence then did not come from the Mediterranean, but from the furthest outputs of Hellenistic society. Still noteworthy, but not so spectacularly surprising.

 
• Category: History • Tags: History 
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  1. Where does the 3000 year figure come from? Your link mentions two points dated to the First Emperor.

    If Greek sculptural styles reached China 100 years after Alexander’s death, that sounds very fast to me. It sounds like the movement of people, not just ideas.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Where does the 3000 year figure come from? Your link mentions two points dated to the First Emperor.



    contacts with western looking people can be gleaned as early as 1000 BCE depending on how you interpret references to certain barbarians.

    If Greek sculptural styles reached China 100 years after Alexander’s death, that sounds very fast to me. It sounds like the movement of people, not just ideas.



    as noted by others, probably includes people who arrived via persia. chariots probably came from middle east via central asia, so this is not new.
  2. Maybe the documentary should have specified “West Eurasians” or something along those lines. Most likely they just didn’t want to say “white people” because it would invariably offend someone. Only 25 years ago people wouldn’t have made this mistake, but now you have to in order to broadcast material.

    Of course what we know as the “West” today didn’t exist until the Middle Ages. You can’t really separate it from (Roman) Christendom.

    As for the Tocharians, didn’t they speak a Centum language? If so, maybe they did come all the way from Europe proper. Perhaps the Pannonian Basin or thereabouts, from where it would be a straight shot across the steppe to the Tarim Basin.

    I’m kind of curious about the Greco Bactrians as well. I know they were mostly indigenous Afghans by ancestry, but it’s pretty clear that they absorbed an impressive amount of Greek classical culture. Their statues pretty much set the standard throughout East Asia. So I wonder how many Greeks actually did set up shop there.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    <iAs for the Tocharians, didn’t they speak a Centum language? If so, maybe they did come all the way from Europe proper. Perhaps the Pannonian Basin or thereabouts, from where it would be a straight shot across the steppe to the Tarim Basin.



    no one thinks the centum/satem distinction means what you think. also, my understanding is that they don't have haplogroup I. that's a tell for a european group.
    , @Jack Highlands
    Current Indo-Europeanist thinking is that there is nothing supreme about the centum/satem isogloss, ie it has no particular phylogenetic significance. IOW, it's not clear that there were centum and satem descendants of PIE from which all subsequent members of each group descended. If that were the case, it might favor the kind of Central European origin of the Tocharians that you hypothesize. Indeed, since Tocharian is the only isolated exception to the centum-in-the-west and satem-in-the-east distribution of the two groups, that possibility has been hypothesized in the past.

    However, Tocharian has led to another way of thinking about the centum-satem distribution: not east-west but center-periphery. So the main theory now is that centum was probably the primordial state of PIE, and the early migrants from the steppe brought that with them to Europe and what was once Tocharia. After that, there occurred a satem change in the central zone, which stayed in and around the steppe in the case of what eventually became Slavic and was exported southeast in the case of the Indo-Iranian languages.

    The situation is complicated by the fact that there are degrees and variations of centumization and satemization, and that partial change backward can occur - think of the way an Englishman, speaker of a centum language, pronounces the name of Cicero, also a speaker of a centum language, who would have pronounced the name quite differently.

    The main reason centum-satem attained such prominence was simply that it was the first major IE isogloss to be described and theorized about.

  3. Persian Kings and pretenders to the throne had used Greek mercenaries extensively from before 400 BC. Many of these had formed settlements in virgin lands on retirement, especially in what is now Afghanistan and Central Asia. The numbers of Greek soldiers and other settlers increased in the reign of Alexander the Great and the Seleucid period.
    China had trade and other contacts with Bactria at this period and it is then that they came into contact with Greek towns and settlements. Greeks are not western Europeans, but eastern Europeans. The difference between Roman and Greek was pronounced even in classical times.
    It’s fair to say that by the 4th Century BC, the Chinese were coming into contact with a number of Greeks and other eastern Europeans. Over the succeeding centuries, they merged with the existing populations and ceased to exist as separate peoples.

  4. “As for the Tocharians, didn’t they speak a Centum language? If so, maybe they did come all the way from Europe proper. Perhaps the Pannonian Basin or thereabouts, from where it would be a straight shot across the steppe to the Tarim Basin.”

    Centum and Satem aren’t generally thought nowadays to be genetic groups which share a common descent, and a fairly large number of other isoglosses which crosscut Centum-Satem have been found within Indo-European. Most other linguistic comparative methods place Tocharian more alongside Armenian (Satem), and to a lesser extent, Greek (Centum) and Albanian (Satem).

  5. But how did they get there?
    Alice is a good television science presenter.
    Hearsay, from Korea, “white people were in these tombs.” i.e. Korean hill tombs. so they reburied them.
    Ban me!

  6. Great article Razib, lots to think about. Just a note – did you mean ‘Bactrian’ as in the famous two humped camel of the Persian/Central Asian area?

    Peace

    • Replies: @Roger Sweeny
    Bactria is a region in central Asia. Around the second century BCE, there was a Greco-Bactrian kingdom there. The Bactrian Camel is native to the area.
    , @Vijay
    The Greco-Bactrian kingdom, 250 BC- may be 160 BC, is an outpost of Hellenistic rulers in the four corner region of Afghanistan, Fergana, northwest corner of Iran and bounded by Amu darya. The people themselves may have the origins from the BMAC civilization, may be the Indo-Iranian tribes (that stayed enroute from Europe to India), but ruled by far eastern satraps of Alexander. This kingdom is not more than 2300 years ago. I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.

    The Bactrian camel, in spite of the name, a wild version of the BC originated in Mongolia; but the domesticated version diverged from the wild version a million years ago. It is not even clear if the Bactrian camel was used in Bactria, but definitely along the silk road, and over the Pamir.
  7. @Douglas Knight
    Where does the 3000 year figure come from? Your link mentions two points dated to the First Emperor.

    If Greek sculptural styles reached China 100 years after Alexander's death, that sounds very fast to me. It sounds like the movement of people, not just ideas.

    Where does the 3000 year figure come from? Your link mentions two points dated to the First Emperor.

    contacts with western looking people can be gleaned as early as 1000 BCE depending on how you interpret references to certain barbarians.

    If Greek sculptural styles reached China 100 years after Alexander’s death, that sounds very fast to me. It sounds like the movement of people, not just ideas.

    as noted by others, probably includes people who arrived via persia. chariots probably came from middle east via central asia, so this is not new.

  8. @Bill P
    Maybe the documentary should have specified "West Eurasians" or something along those lines. Most likely they just didn't want to say "white people" because it would invariably offend someone. Only 25 years ago people wouldn't have made this mistake, but now you have to in order to broadcast material.

    Of course what we know as the "West" today didn't exist until the Middle Ages. You can't really separate it from (Roman) Christendom.

    As for the Tocharians, didn't they speak a Centum language? If so, maybe they did come all the way from Europe proper. Perhaps the Pannonian Basin or thereabouts, from where it would be a straight shot across the steppe to the Tarim Basin.

    I'm kind of curious about the Greco Bactrians as well. I know they were mostly indigenous Afghans by ancestry, but it's pretty clear that they absorbed an impressive amount of Greek classical culture. Their statues pretty much set the standard throughout East Asia. So I wonder how many Greeks actually did set up shop there.

    <iAs for the Tocharians, didn’t they speak a Centum language? If so, maybe they did come all the way from Europe proper. Perhaps the Pannonian Basin or thereabouts, from where it would be a straight shot across the steppe to the Tarim Basin.

    no one thinks the centum/satem distinction means what you think. also, my understanding is that they don’t have haplogroup I. that’s a tell for a european group.

    • Replies: @Rick
    Probably the satem shift occurred around the Sintashta times, and their language greatly influenced (but didn't totally replace) local Indo-European languages in a few locations. Some of those influenced groups later had great success and expanded widely (the Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranians).

    As for the Tarim Basin mummy DNA and the Tocharian language... there is basically zero real evidence linking the two, other than location (but not time). I would be very skeptical about connecting them without more data. This area was a hot spot for turnover.
    , @jtgw
    That's certainly what I learned about the centum/satem distinction. Since the *k,*g,*gh series is original in Proto-Indo-European, languages that retain those sounds only necessarily share a PIE ancestor, not necessarily a more recent one. It's only the satem languages that can be said to be an identifiable subgroup, i.e. Indo-Iranians may have something special in common with Balto-Slavs, but Tocharians don't have anything special in common with Italo-Celts.
  9. I guess they just didn’t want to say “white,” and I don’t think “Caucasian” is used in this context outside of the US. FWIW some WN types claim the Tarim Basin mummies “prove” that Nords founded the Chinese civilization (and presumably packed up left in a New York minute after doing so).

    • Replies: @Talha
    Yeah because Chinese couldn't possibly have figured anything out for themselves - LOL! These people seriously sound as desperate as some of the stuff I remember hearing from NOI. Is it trying to compensate for feelings of inferiority or something - I don't get it.

    Peace.
    , @RaceRealist88
    Nordicists are seriously averse to facts. I was arguing with one who said white Europeans are 50k (then he said 100k) years old. I cited Razib's Magnificent Bastard Race post. This idiot links to a YouTube video on the multiregional model. People still believe the multiregional model. Hilarious.

    W-we didn't come from Africa!!!

    And the alt right is supposedly 'based on facts and not feelings'. Ha. Haha. OK.
    This guy literally used his feelings to shield himself from the truth of the matter.

    People are literally so damn stupid when their ideology gets in the way of facts.

    That was an outstanding post Razib. I loved it.

  10. sep issues

    1) people we’d define as ‘white’ started to have contact with people we’d define as proto-chinese 4,000 years ago

    2) people we’d define as ‘greek’ probably did have contact with han ~2,000 years ago or earlier

    3) these people probably did influence culture in various ways

    4) people we’d define as ‘western’ probably didn’t show up until 1000 AD or so, in part because ‘western’ makes sense as a term only around that period

    5) i’d bet the greeks who arrived didn’t come from greece proper, but the diaspora to the east in the persian empire, and bractro and indo-greeks

  11. @Talha
    Great article Razib, lots to think about. Just a note - did you mean 'Bactrian' as in the famous two humped camel of the Persian/Central Asian area?

    Peace

    Bactria is a region in central Asia. Around the second century BCE, there was a Greco-Bactrian kingdom there. The Bactrian Camel is native to the area.

  12. @Marcus
    I guess they just didn't want to say "white," and I don't think "Caucasian" is used in this context outside of the US. FWIW some WN types claim the Tarim Basin mummies "prove" that Nords founded the Chinese civilization (and presumably packed up left in a New York minute after doing so).

    Yeah because Chinese couldn’t possibly have figured anything out for themselves – LOL! These people seriously sound as desperate as some of the stuff I remember hearing from NOI. Is it trying to compensate for feelings of inferiority or something – I don’t get it.

    Peace.

    • LOL: Marcus
  13. @Talha
    Great article Razib, lots to think about. Just a note - did you mean 'Bactrian' as in the famous two humped camel of the Persian/Central Asian area?

    Peace

    The Greco-Bactrian kingdom, 250 BC- may be 160 BC, is an outpost of Hellenistic rulers in the four corner region of Afghanistan, Fergana, northwest corner of Iran and bounded by Amu darya. The people themselves may have the origins from the BMAC civilization, may be the Indo-Iranian tribes (that stayed enroute from Europe to India), but ruled by far eastern satraps of Alexander. This kingdom is not more than 2300 years ago. I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.

    The Bactrian camel, in spite of the name, a wild version of the BC originated in Mongolia; but the domesticated version diverged from the wild version a million years ago. It is not even clear if the Bactrian camel was used in Bactria, but definitely along the silk road, and over the Pamir.

    • Replies: @Talha
    Thanks Vijay (and Roger),

    I figured as much, I guess I was thrown off by the spelling (possibly a typo) that Razib used - "Bacterian". But he knows so many obscure names of ancient people that I thought maybe it was something I had never come across and distinct from "Bactrian" - so I thought I would ask.

    And thanks for the extra details on the subject - helps round everything out.

    Peace.

    , @syonredux

    I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.
     
    That's not a distinction that the Greeks would have made, as the Greek colonies in Anatolia were an integral part of the Greek world.

    One of the sadder events in recent history was the eradication of the Greek presence in Asia Minor. Communities that went back nearly 3,000 years were wiped out.And the cost in human lives was quite high. Estimates on the numbers of Greeks who died are in the 300,000 + range.
    , @Marcus
    Yes it was a hotbed of Greco-Buddhism. I remember hearing that the Chinese terracotta army was inspired by Greek art probably encountered there
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandhara
    , @AnotherGuessModel
    I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.


    The Greek colonies in Anatolia have always been considered an integral part of Greek society. (In fact, because Anatolian Greeks were generally more cultured and educated, they often looked down on Greece (or its land under Ottoman rule) as being deficient or backwards, and also did not view all its natives as Greeks, as many Greek mainlanders and islanders were Albanian, Slavic, etc.) In short, the Greek diaspora was every bit as Greek as Greece; the distinction you assume does not exist.
  14. @Razib Khan
    <iAs for the Tocharians, didn’t they speak a Centum language? If so, maybe they did come all the way from Europe proper. Perhaps the Pannonian Basin or thereabouts, from where it would be a straight shot across the steppe to the Tarim Basin.



    no one thinks the centum/satem distinction means what you think. also, my understanding is that they don't have haplogroup I. that's a tell for a european group.

    Probably the satem shift occurred around the Sintashta times, and their language greatly influenced (but didn’t totally replace) local Indo-European languages in a few locations. Some of those influenced groups later had great success and expanded widely (the Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranians).

    As for the Tarim Basin mummy DNA and the Tocharian language… there is basically zero real evidence linking the two, other than location (but not time). I would be very skeptical about connecting them without more data. This area was a hot spot for turnover.

  15. @Vijay
    The Greco-Bactrian kingdom, 250 BC- may be 160 BC, is an outpost of Hellenistic rulers in the four corner region of Afghanistan, Fergana, northwest corner of Iran and bounded by Amu darya. The people themselves may have the origins from the BMAC civilization, may be the Indo-Iranian tribes (that stayed enroute from Europe to India), but ruled by far eastern satraps of Alexander. This kingdom is not more than 2300 years ago. I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.

    The Bactrian camel, in spite of the name, a wild version of the BC originated in Mongolia; but the domesticated version diverged from the wild version a million years ago. It is not even clear if the Bactrian camel was used in Bactria, but definitely along the silk road, and over the Pamir.

    Thanks Vijay (and Roger),

    I figured as much, I guess I was thrown off by the spelling (possibly a typo) that Razib used – “Bacterian”. But he knows so many obscure names of ancient people that I thought maybe it was something I had never come across and distinct from “Bactrian” – so I thought I would ask.

    And thanks for the extra details on the subject – helps round everything out.

    Peace.

  16. You said “Western Contact with China Did Not Occur 3,000 Years Ago”.
    That statement requires an omniscient observer.
    Lack of proof does not mean proof of lack.
    Just recently bones of two Asians from ~2-400AD were found near London. That’s what I would expect we will eventuality find in reverse in China

    For reasons which escape me professionals in Archeology/Anthropology keep minimizing the very human curiosity drive. In stead they want to fit human behavior into neat categories which they can then publish. Clovis-only thinking seems to be a paradigm of such thought
    I expect travelers did cross the Asian continent occasionally long before and after 3000BC . You might want to examine the genetic nature of the exploratory drive.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    are you just not very intelligent, or you don't read the posts you comment on as a matter of course?
  17. Rather, the West evolved organically as a synthesis over time of Classical Greco-Roman elements, Christianity, and later the post-Roman societies, often dominated by barbarian martial elites.

    Old joke: Western civilization is a Frankenstein’s monster. It has a Greek brain, a Roman body, and a Hebrew heart.

  18. @Vijay
    The Greco-Bactrian kingdom, 250 BC- may be 160 BC, is an outpost of Hellenistic rulers in the four corner region of Afghanistan, Fergana, northwest corner of Iran and bounded by Amu darya. The people themselves may have the origins from the BMAC civilization, may be the Indo-Iranian tribes (that stayed enroute from Europe to India), but ruled by far eastern satraps of Alexander. This kingdom is not more than 2300 years ago. I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.

    The Bactrian camel, in spite of the name, a wild version of the BC originated in Mongolia; but the domesticated version diverged from the wild version a million years ago. It is not even clear if the Bactrian camel was used in Bactria, but definitely along the silk road, and over the Pamir.

    I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.

    That’s not a distinction that the Greeks would have made, as the Greek colonies in Anatolia were an integral part of the Greek world.

    One of the sadder events in recent history was the eradication of the Greek presence in Asia Minor. Communities that went back nearly 3,000 years were wiped out.And the cost in human lives was quite high. Estimates on the numbers of Greeks who died are in the 300,000 + range.

  19. @aeolius
    You said "Western Contact with China Did Not Occur 3,000 Years Ago".
    That statement requires an omniscient observer.
    Lack of proof does not mean proof of lack.
    Just recently bones of two Asians from ~2-400AD were found near London. That's what I would expect we will eventuality find in reverse in China

    For reasons which escape me professionals in Archeology/Anthropology keep minimizing the very human curiosity drive. In stead they want to fit human behavior into neat categories which they can then publish. Clovis-only thinking seems to be a paradigm of such thought
    I expect travelers did cross the Asian continent occasionally long before and after 3000BC . You might want to examine the genetic nature of the exploratory drive.

    are you just not very intelligent, or you don’t read the posts you comment on as a matter of course?

  20. @Vijay
    The Greco-Bactrian kingdom, 250 BC- may be 160 BC, is an outpost of Hellenistic rulers in the four corner region of Afghanistan, Fergana, northwest corner of Iran and bounded by Amu darya. The people themselves may have the origins from the BMAC civilization, may be the Indo-Iranian tribes (that stayed enroute from Europe to India), but ruled by far eastern satraps of Alexander. This kingdom is not more than 2300 years ago. I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.

    The Bactrian camel, in spite of the name, a wild version of the BC originated in Mongolia; but the domesticated version diverged from the wild version a million years ago. It is not even clear if the Bactrian camel was used in Bactria, but definitely along the silk road, and over the Pamir.

    Yes it was a hotbed of Greco-Buddhism. I remember hearing that the Chinese terracotta army was inspired by Greek art probably encountered there
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandhara

    • Replies: @syonredux

    Menander I Soter (Ancient Greek: Μένανδρος Α΄ ὁ Σωτήρ, Ménandros A' ho Sōtḗr, "Menander I the Saviour"; known in Indian Pali sources as Milinda) was an Indo-Greek King of the Indo-Greek Kingdom (165/[3]/155[3] –130 BC) who established a large empire in Northwestern regions of South Asia and became a patron of Buddhism.

    Menander was initially a king of Bactria. After conquering the Punjab[2] he established an empire in South Asia stretching from the Kabul River valley in the west to the Ravi River in the east, and from the Swat River valley in the north to Arachosia (the Helmand Province). Ancient Indian writers indicate that he launched expeditions southward into Rajasthan and as far east down the Ganges River Valley as Pataliputra (Patna), and the Greek geographer Strabo wrote that he "conquered more tribes than Alexander the Great."

    Large numbers of Menander’s coins have been unearthed, attesting to both the flourishing commerce and duration of his realm. Menander was also a patron of Buddhism, and his conversations with the Buddhist sage Nagasena are recorded in the important Buddhist work, the Milinda Panha ("The Questions of King Milinda"; panha meaning "question" in Pali). After his death in 130 BC, he was succeeded by his wife Agathokleia who ruled as regent for his son Strato I. Buddhist tradition relates that he handed over his kingdom to his son and retired from the world, but Plutarch relates that he died in camp while on a military campaign, and that his remains were divided equally between the cities to be enshrined in monuments, probably stupas, across his realm.
     
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menander_I
  21. Both definitions have been used and will be used if they are going to make people feel better. First definition to exclude someone from West, (you are not good/close enough to be affiliated with us) second is to signal superiority (although they are buddhist and shit they are (example: imagined succesful blonde conquerors of india) blonde/blue eyed so related to me genetically). Self aggrandization and search for selective advantage.

  22. Razib,

    What’s your opinion on the possibly East Asian remains found in England?

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    there are probably some.
  23. @Marcus
    Yes it was a hotbed of Greco-Buddhism. I remember hearing that the Chinese terracotta army was inspired by Greek art probably encountered there
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandhara

    Menander I Soter (Ancient Greek: Μένανδρος Α΄ ὁ Σωτήρ, Ménandros A’ ho Sōtḗr, “Menander I the Saviour”; known in Indian Pali sources as Milinda) was an Indo-Greek King of the Indo-Greek Kingdom (165/[3]/155[3] –130 BC) who established a large empire in Northwestern regions of South Asia and became a patron of Buddhism.

    Menander was initially a king of Bactria. After conquering the Punjab[2] he established an empire in South Asia stretching from the Kabul River valley in the west to the Ravi River in the east, and from the Swat River valley in the north to Arachosia (the Helmand Province). Ancient Indian writers indicate that he launched expeditions southward into Rajasthan and as far east down the Ganges River Valley as Pataliputra (Patna), and the Greek geographer Strabo wrote that he “conquered more tribes than Alexander the Great.”

    Large numbers of Menander’s coins have been unearthed, attesting to both the flourishing commerce and duration of his realm. Menander was also a patron of Buddhism, and his conversations with the Buddhist sage Nagasena are recorded in the important Buddhist work, the Milinda Panha (“The Questions of King Milinda”; panha meaning “question” in Pali). After his death in 130 BC, he was succeeded by his wife Agathokleia who ruled as regent for his son Strato I. Buddhist tradition relates that he handed over his kingdom to his son and retired from the world, but Plutarch relates that he died in camp while on a military campaign, and that his remains were divided equally between the cities to be enshrined in monuments, probably stupas, across his realm.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menander_I

  24. There is archaeological and lingustic evidence for Indo-European intrusion into Shang China – the chariots are of steppe type and the associated words ‘chariot’ and ‘horse’ look Indo-European. See Christopher Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road p. 46.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i have read that book http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2009/09/whos-barbarian-now-empires-of-silk-road.php
  25. @Verymuchalive, Bob Arctor, Razib and Vijay

    Thanks for the info. This is a good place to keep up to date on these issues. When I was in Central Asia I came across these old Buddhist statues that were very well crafted, and didn’t seem to “belong” (I mean they didn’t fit into the contemporary cultures of the area, except maybe the Tibetans). But then it occurred to me that lots of Buddhist statuary farther to the east (and probably in India, too, although I’ve never been there so I wouldn’t know for sure) was related to this style. Finally, I learned about the Greco Bactrians and it made sense, and ever since then I’ve been interested in this far-flung outpost of Greek culture. It’s really pretty fascinating that the same art that had such a huge influence on Western civilization was also highly influential as far away as Japan.

    Interesting about the Bactrian camel being native to Mongolia. People were taking rides on them when I visited the Great Wall, and it sparked my interest in camels and their origins at the time. I hadn’t thought of camels as East Asian until then, and I still wonder who first domesticated them.

    As far as I know the dromedary originally came from North America (like the horse), and was domesticated in… Arabia, I think? But as for the Bactrian camel I have no idea.

    • Replies: @John Massey
    I have ridden a Bactrian camel. They are huge animals, relatively placid, and very comfortable to ride. But there's a catch - when you sit on the natural saddle between the two humps, the front hump is right under your nose, and they stink like nothing on earth. I was torn between the physical pleasure of riding such a massive animal in such a comfortable riding position, and the overpowering stench of the animal.

    If I could get used to the smell, I could easily picture myself travelling the Silk Road, rugged up against the cold, and seated very comfortably up on my gigantic camel. It would be a great way to travel long distances, and to transport large loads of tradeable goods.
  26. @Philip Neal
    There is archaeological and lingustic evidence for Indo-European intrusion into Shang China - the chariots are of steppe type and the associated words 'chariot' and 'horse' look Indo-European. See Christopher Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road p. 46.
  27. @Chuck
    Razib,

    What's your opinion on the possibly East Asian remains found in England?

    there are probably some.

  28. @Marcus
    I guess they just didn't want to say "white," and I don't think "Caucasian" is used in this context outside of the US. FWIW some WN types claim the Tarim Basin mummies "prove" that Nords founded the Chinese civilization (and presumably packed up left in a New York minute after doing so).

    Nordicists are seriously averse to facts. I was arguing with one who said white Europeans are 50k (then he said 100k) years old. I cited Razib’s Magnificent Bastard Race post. This idiot links to a YouTube video on the multiregional model. People still believe the multiregional model. Hilarious.

    W-we didn’t come from Africa!!!

    And the alt right is supposedly ‘based on facts and not feelings’. Ha. Haha. OK.
    This guy literally used his feelings to shield himself from the truth of the matter.

    People are literally so damn stupid when their ideology gets in the way of facts.

    That was an outstanding post Razib. I loved it.

  29. @Bill P
    @Verymuchalive, Bob Arctor, Razib and Vijay

    Thanks for the info. This is a good place to keep up to date on these issues. When I was in Central Asia I came across these old Buddhist statues that were very well crafted, and didn't seem to "belong" (I mean they didn't fit into the contemporary cultures of the area, except maybe the Tibetans). But then it occurred to me that lots of Buddhist statuary farther to the east (and probably in India, too, although I've never been there so I wouldn't know for sure) was related to this style. Finally, I learned about the Greco Bactrians and it made sense, and ever since then I've been interested in this far-flung outpost of Greek culture. It's really pretty fascinating that the same art that had such a huge influence on Western civilization was also highly influential as far away as Japan.

    Interesting about the Bactrian camel being native to Mongolia. People were taking rides on them when I visited the Great Wall, and it sparked my interest in camels and their origins at the time. I hadn't thought of camels as East Asian until then, and I still wonder who first domesticated them.

    As far as I know the dromedary originally came from North America (like the horse), and was domesticated in... Arabia, I think? But as for the Bactrian camel I have no idea.

    I have ridden a Bactrian camel. They are huge animals, relatively placid, and very comfortable to ride. But there’s a catch – when you sit on the natural saddle between the two humps, the front hump is right under your nose, and they stink like nothing on earth. I was torn between the physical pleasure of riding such a massive animal in such a comfortable riding position, and the overpowering stench of the animal.

    If I could get used to the smell, I could easily picture myself travelling the Silk Road, rugged up against the cold, and seated very comfortably up on my gigantic camel. It would be a great way to travel long distances, and to transport large loads of tradeable goods.

  30. @Vijay
    The Greco-Bactrian kingdom, 250 BC- may be 160 BC, is an outpost of Hellenistic rulers in the four corner region of Afghanistan, Fergana, northwest corner of Iran and bounded by Amu darya. The people themselves may have the origins from the BMAC civilization, may be the Indo-Iranian tribes (that stayed enroute from Europe to India), but ruled by far eastern satraps of Alexander. This kingdom is not more than 2300 years ago. I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.

    The Bactrian camel, in spite of the name, a wild version of the BC originated in Mongolia; but the domesticated version diverged from the wild version a million years ago. It is not even clear if the Bactrian camel was used in Bactria, but definitely along the silk road, and over the Pamir.

    I am not sure if the rulers were even from Greece, and may have originated from Antolia.

    The Greek colonies in Anatolia have always been considered an integral part of Greek society. (In fact, because Anatolian Greeks were generally more cultured and educated, they often looked down on Greece (or its land under Ottoman rule) as being deficient or backwards, and also did not view all its natives as Greeks, as many Greek mainlanders and islanders were Albanian, Slavic, etc.) In short, the Greek diaspora was every bit as Greek as Greece; the distinction you assume does not exist.

  31. Excellent point regarding “Bactrian camel”. What we see as the endpoint of utility/usage, we name the descriptive as such as if the endpoint refllects origin and understanding. Just as the Panama hat does not have an origin in Panama but it was the point of sale/distribution/ popularity that defined the descriptive as we see/hear today.
    I see the same descriptive in DNA analyses where version of Haplogroup U (as example) where it is present in Africa, Europe and Asia but described as a European genotype while excluding the Asian and African origin variants.

  32. @Bill P
    Maybe the documentary should have specified "West Eurasians" or something along those lines. Most likely they just didn't want to say "white people" because it would invariably offend someone. Only 25 years ago people wouldn't have made this mistake, but now you have to in order to broadcast material.

    Of course what we know as the "West" today didn't exist until the Middle Ages. You can't really separate it from (Roman) Christendom.

    As for the Tocharians, didn't they speak a Centum language? If so, maybe they did come all the way from Europe proper. Perhaps the Pannonian Basin or thereabouts, from where it would be a straight shot across the steppe to the Tarim Basin.

    I'm kind of curious about the Greco Bactrians as well. I know they were mostly indigenous Afghans by ancestry, but it's pretty clear that they absorbed an impressive amount of Greek classical culture. Their statues pretty much set the standard throughout East Asia. So I wonder how many Greeks actually did set up shop there.

    Current Indo-Europeanist thinking is that there is nothing supreme about the centum/satem isogloss, ie it has no particular phylogenetic significance. IOW, it’s not clear that there were centum and satem descendants of PIE from which all subsequent members of each group descended. If that were the case, it might favor the kind of Central European origin of the Tocharians that you hypothesize. Indeed, since Tocharian is the only isolated exception to the centum-in-the-west and satem-in-the-east distribution of the two groups, that possibility has been hypothesized in the past.

    However, Tocharian has led to another way of thinking about the centum-satem distribution: not east-west but center-periphery. So the main theory now is that centum was probably the primordial state of PIE, and the early migrants from the steppe brought that with them to Europe and what was once Tocharia. After that, there occurred a satem change in the central zone, which stayed in and around the steppe in the case of what eventually became Slavic and was exported southeast in the case of the Indo-Iranian languages.

    The situation is complicated by the fact that there are degrees and variations of centumization and satemization, and that partial change backward can occur – think of the way an Englishman, speaker of a centum language, pronounces the name of Cicero, also a speaker of a centum language, who would have pronounced the name quite differently.

    The main reason centum-satem attained such prominence was simply that it was the first major IE isogloss to be described and theorized about.

    • Replies: @jtgw
    This is generally correct. Centum languages absolutely do not share a common ancestor, since the hard dorsal series is original, while the satem sibilants are later. But as you note, branches that share the satem shift don't necessarily share other innovations; it may have been a change that spread through languages that had already diverged from the core PIE ancestor.
  33. @Razib Khan
    <iAs for the Tocharians, didn’t they speak a Centum language? If so, maybe they did come all the way from Europe proper. Perhaps the Pannonian Basin or thereabouts, from where it would be a straight shot across the steppe to the Tarim Basin.



    no one thinks the centum/satem distinction means what you think. also, my understanding is that they don't have haplogroup I. that's a tell for a european group.

    That’s certainly what I learned about the centum/satem distinction. Since the *k,*g,*gh series is original in Proto-Indo-European, languages that retain those sounds only necessarily share a PIE ancestor, not necessarily a more recent one. It’s only the satem languages that can be said to be an identifiable subgroup, i.e. Indo-Iranians may have something special in common with Balto-Slavs, but Tocharians don’t have anything special in common with Italo-Celts.

  34. @Jack Highlands
    Current Indo-Europeanist thinking is that there is nothing supreme about the centum/satem isogloss, ie it has no particular phylogenetic significance. IOW, it's not clear that there were centum and satem descendants of PIE from which all subsequent members of each group descended. If that were the case, it might favor the kind of Central European origin of the Tocharians that you hypothesize. Indeed, since Tocharian is the only isolated exception to the centum-in-the-west and satem-in-the-east distribution of the two groups, that possibility has been hypothesized in the past.

    However, Tocharian has led to another way of thinking about the centum-satem distribution: not east-west but center-periphery. So the main theory now is that centum was probably the primordial state of PIE, and the early migrants from the steppe brought that with them to Europe and what was once Tocharia. After that, there occurred a satem change in the central zone, which stayed in and around the steppe in the case of what eventually became Slavic and was exported southeast in the case of the Indo-Iranian languages.

    The situation is complicated by the fact that there are degrees and variations of centumization and satemization, and that partial change backward can occur - think of the way an Englishman, speaker of a centum language, pronounces the name of Cicero, also a speaker of a centum language, who would have pronounced the name quite differently.

    The main reason centum-satem attained such prominence was simply that it was the first major IE isogloss to be described and theorized about.

    This is generally correct. Centum languages absolutely do not share a common ancestor, since the hard dorsal series is original, while the satem sibilants are later. But as you note, branches that share the satem shift don’t necessarily share other innovations; it may have been a change that spread through languages that had already diverged from the core PIE ancestor.

  35. According to Wikipedia, the Greco-Bactrians were the first Buddhists to represent the Buddha as a man; prior to that, the Buddha was often represented as an absence, or some other allegory. As Greek sculpture is generally representational/aspirational, I’d call starting to represent the Buddha as a man (though he was a powerful, warrior type, not Fat Buddha) a very Western thing to do, and I’d consider the Greco-Bactrian kingdom to be culturally western, even if only marginally so, and even though that area didn’t stay in the Cultural West.

    • Replies: @jtgw
    I suppose again it depends what you mean by "Western". Representing Buddha as a heroic warrior may have been Hellenistic, but that is not necessarily the same thing. I think Razib follows David Gress' thesis that the "West" as a cultural unit didn't exist until about the time of Charlemagne, when the Greco-Roman, Christian and Germanic elements were finally fused into a whole new cultural entity.
    , @syonredux

    and I’d consider the Greco-Bactrian kingdom to be culturally western, even if only marginally so, and even though that area didn’t stay in the Cultural West.
     
    Best to call it culturally Greek/Hellenistic, and then note that the Greeks are one of the primary building blocks of Western Civilization.
    , @olympian
    > represent the Buddha as a man ... a very Western thing to do

    If they were really western, they would have represented Buddha as god, like the ancient Greek represented Zeus, or the ancient Roman respresented their emperors.
  36. @Anthony
    According to Wikipedia, the Greco-Bactrians were the first Buddhists to represent the Buddha as a man; prior to that, the Buddha was often represented as an absence, or some other allegory. As Greek sculpture is generally representational/aspirational, I'd call starting to represent the Buddha as a man (though he was a powerful, warrior type, not Fat Buddha) a very Western thing to do, and I'd consider the Greco-Bactrian kingdom to be culturally western, even if only marginally so, and even though that area didn't stay in the Cultural West.

    I suppose again it depends what you mean by “Western”. Representing Buddha as a heroic warrior may have been Hellenistic, but that is not necessarily the same thing. I think Razib follows David Gress’ thesis that the “West” as a cultural unit didn’t exist until about the time of Charlemagne, when the Greco-Roman, Christian and Germanic elements were finally fused into a whole new cultural entity.

  37. @Anthony
    According to Wikipedia, the Greco-Bactrians were the first Buddhists to represent the Buddha as a man; prior to that, the Buddha was often represented as an absence, or some other allegory. As Greek sculpture is generally representational/aspirational, I'd call starting to represent the Buddha as a man (though he was a powerful, warrior type, not Fat Buddha) a very Western thing to do, and I'd consider the Greco-Bactrian kingdom to be culturally western, even if only marginally so, and even though that area didn't stay in the Cultural West.

    and I’d consider the Greco-Bactrian kingdom to be culturally western, even if only marginally so, and even though that area didn’t stay in the Cultural West.

    Best to call it culturally Greek/Hellenistic, and then note that the Greeks are one of the primary building blocks of Western Civilization.

    • Agree: jtgw, Twinkie
  38. @Anthony
    According to Wikipedia, the Greco-Bactrians were the first Buddhists to represent the Buddha as a man; prior to that, the Buddha was often represented as an absence, or some other allegory. As Greek sculpture is generally representational/aspirational, I'd call starting to represent the Buddha as a man (though he was a powerful, warrior type, not Fat Buddha) a very Western thing to do, and I'd consider the Greco-Bactrian kingdom to be culturally western, even if only marginally so, and even though that area didn't stay in the Cultural West.

    > represent the Buddha as a man … a very Western thing to do

    If they were really western, they would have represented Buddha as god, like the ancient Greek represented Zeus, or the ancient Roman respresented their emperors.

    • Replies: @syonredux

    > represent the Buddha as a man … a very Western thing to do

    If they were really western, they would have represented Buddha as god, like the ancient Greek represented Zeus, or the ancient Roman respresented their emperors.
     
    I'm sure that you are aware that the Greeks did represent notable figures as mortal men, yes? For example, this rather famous bust of Pericles:


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pericles_with_the_Corinthian_helmet
  39. @olympian
    > represent the Buddha as a man ... a very Western thing to do

    If they were really western, they would have represented Buddha as god, like the ancient Greek represented Zeus, or the ancient Roman respresented their emperors.

    > represent the Buddha as a man … a very Western thing to do

    If they were really western, they would have represented Buddha as god, like the ancient Greek represented Zeus, or the ancient Roman respresented their emperors.

    I’m sure that you are aware that the Greeks did represent notable figures as mortal men, yes? For example, this rather famous bust of Pericles:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pericles_with_the_Corinthian_helmet

    • Replies: @dixie
    But how many copies were there ?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pericles_with_the_Corinthian_helmet

    "a bust of the Athenian statesman and general Pericles which survives in the form of four marble copies from the Roman Imperial period."
  40. Western people were invariably white, white people were not invariably Western.

    In grad school, I became acquainted with numerous Egyptians, Persians, Armenians, Turks, and even some Arabs who could have called themselves Italian and no one would have batted an eye. Yet all refused the label “white.” When I would ask them (subtly, of course) whether or not they simply meant they were not “Western” or “European,” they would look confused. Western and White were synonymous for most of them.

    This conflation of culture and phenotype was on display a few weeks ago when the waifish green-eyed star of Mr. Robot was celebrated as a person of color bringing diversity to the Emmy awards. Being phenotypically “white” but culturally non-Western pays great dividends these days.

  41. “… where Muslim populations are often considered non-Western, even when they are genetically similar to their Christian neighbors.”

    An example would be the so-called “Bosniaks”, living side-by-side with Serbian and Croatian Christians. All are Slavs, whose languages are Indo-European.

  42. @syonredux

    > represent the Buddha as a man … a very Western thing to do

    If they were really western, they would have represented Buddha as god, like the ancient Greek represented Zeus, or the ancient Roman respresented their emperors.
     
    I'm sure that you are aware that the Greeks did represent notable figures as mortal men, yes? For example, this rather famous bust of Pericles:


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pericles_with_the_Corinthian_helmet

    But how many copies were there ?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pericles_with_the_Corinthian_helmet

    “a bust of the Athenian statesman and general Pericles which survives in the form of four marble copies from the Roman Imperial period.”

    • Replies: @syonredux

    But how many copies were there ?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pericles_with_the_Corinthian_helmet

    “a bust of the Athenian statesman and general Pericles which survives in the form of four marble copies from the Roman Imperial period.”
     
    Who knows how many were made? Very little classical statuary has survived.

    And Pericles was far from alone.Cf the portrait busts of Plato:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silanion

    and Aristotle:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle
  43. @dixie
    But how many copies were there ?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pericles_with_the_Corinthian_helmet

    "a bust of the Athenian statesman and general Pericles which survives in the form of four marble copies from the Roman Imperial period."

    But how many copies were there ?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pericles_with_the_Corinthian_helmet

    “a bust of the Athenian statesman and general Pericles which survives in the form of four marble copies from the Roman Imperial period.”

    Who knows how many were made? Very little classical statuary has survived.

    And Pericles was far from alone.Cf the portrait busts of Plato:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silanion

    and Aristotle:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle

  44. “To give a concrete example, Buddhist Tocharians who had light hair and eyes, and flourished as late as 1000 A.D, were white people by any definition, but they were not Western in anything but the most reductive and biologistic sense. The cultural valence of what it means to be Western is clear on the southeastern fringes of Europe, where Muslim populations are often considered non-Western, even when they are genetically similar to their Christian neighbors.”

    Western? Western? So because these light-haired people didn’t worship Zeus & Jupiter they don’t count as people who are from the west? Why are we conflating Greco-Roman culture with all the ancient fair-skinned people? Not all ancient, fair-skinned people were Greek or Roman. Greece and Rome may have controlled a sizeable area of the world during their heydays, but few people were actually Greek or Roman. Wow, our American school curriculum has to stop with the repetition of Western Civ courses over and over and over again. We got it. The Greeks and Roman were everywhere. Hey, I like Greeks & Romans (well, their food anyway) as much as the next person, but can’t we find other people to study now? Seriously.

    We’re looking at these people through modern lenses. Way back then, I doubt people who inhabited these areas, whether Caucasian-looking or Asian gave 2 shits over which civilizations were Western vs. Eastern. Your average person back then just wanted to grow crops, herd cattle and hunt and gather wherever they could do it. Just because the Greeks and Romans had written language didn’t mean they were the only fair-skinned people roaming about. We have to stop with the Greco-Roman point of view.

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