May 16, 2011

Before Silk: Unsolved Mysteries of the Silk Road by Colin Renfrew



A great talk by Colin Renfrew at the Penn Museum, a must view for anyone interested in Eurasian prehistory. It's good to know that Renfrew holds that the Tocharians originated in West Asia and spread along the Silk Road (south of the Caspian) and not along the steppes. That is also my opinion, and I would perhaps associate them with the J2a/R1b-rich population of eastern Anatolia, Trascaucasia and North Iran, and, perhaps, even related to the Gutians from the Zagros (after Gamkrelidze and Ivanov). That would explain quite well, I believe the anomaly that is the high J2a/R1b frequency in the region.

Also, I would disagree with long-term persistence of Tocharian in Xingiang; it's more likely that this was due to a late migration from somewhere to the west that was eventually swamped by the much more successful wave of the Indo-Iranians that must've involved a J2a/G2a/R1a1 combination. I've made the point before that the vast majority of the territory of Europe and West Asia has shifted language (if not language family) over a span of 2-3 thousand years, so I see no real reason to imagine 2-3 thousand years of linguistic continuity in Xinjiang until the 8th c. AD when Tocharian is first attested.

UPDATE:

Here are various abstracts from the Symposium Reconfiguring the Silk Road: New Research on East-West Exchange in Antiquity; hopefully more videos will be uploaded.


UPDATE II:

James Mallory's talk is also uploaded:



He spends a great deal of his time establishing the (not controversial) idea that Tripolye cultures cannot explain the Yamna phenomenon east of the Dnieper. I will not argue with this, but it is rather a defensive stance of arguing against the spread of Indo-Europeans from the Balkans to the steppe-lands. Positive evidence for the spread of Yamna in the opposite direction is what is needed for the steppe model, and that is what is lacking: with the exception of some clearly Yamna-derived sites in the northern Balkans and Hungary, the links to the rest of the European Indo-Europeans are weak to non-existent.

Moreover, I would argue that the assumption that 3-4,000 years BC there were Indo-European speakers east of the Dnieper is itself suspect. There is no great necessity of explaining how Yamna was Indo-Europeanized from the Balkans, because there is no evidence that it was Indo-European. The first clearly attested Indo-European groups in the European steppe are the Scythians, and they appear in the 1st millennium BC, with both craniology and ancient sources agreeing that they were of eastern origin. So, the inability of the Balkan Tripolye Indo-Europeans of Indo-Europeanizing the Pontic steppe east of the Dnieper is really a non-sequitur, since one must first demonstrate that populations east of the Dnieper spoke Indo-European languages 3,000 years before a single branch of IE (the Iranic) appears in the region from the east.

Mallory also highlights some other substantial problems of the steppe model. Tocharian has IE words for cereals and pigs, and the evidence such as it is suggests that east of the Dnieper there were no domesticated cereals and no evidence of pigs. All this, of course, disappears once we accept that the Tocharians did not move across the steppe lands north of the Caspian, but south of it, from Iran and ultimately the Near East.

Mallory also points out that while he suspects Afanasievo to be linked to the Proto-Tocharians, the sum total of the evidence linking Xinjiang with Afanasievo is meagre. I would also add that, as I've explained above, if one were to establish links between Bronze Age Tarim and Afanasievo, that still leaves a couple of millennia until the first attestation of the Tocharian languages.

Another point of interest is the claim that Indo-Iranians and Tocharians must've been separated in space and time to evolve into so distinctive languages. But, that too is a non-sequitur. We only have to look at the Near East or the Caucasus to witness the co-existence of a handful of language families and dozens of distinct languages. You don't need a large separation to create a new language subfamily, but only a few rivers or high mountains, and Transcaucasia provides both in abundance. I would see Tocharians as the last remnant of the eastern Indo-Europeans, perhaps refugees from further west into Xinjiang itself, with Indo-Iranians pushing them eastward. As for the later steppe cultures that were unquestionably Iranic, these were probably formed after the collapse of the BMAC which sent off Indo-Aryan offshoots south in the 2nd millennium BC, and Iranic ones north, east, and west soon thereafter.

19 comments:

Jean said...

Not Colin Renfrew again! Linguists do not agree with him. The archaeological evidence does not stack up in his favour. The genetic evidence from ancient DNA has now proved the case for the spread of R1a1a from Andronovo to Iran and India, and R1a1a was also found in Tarim Basin mummies. But he keeps wending his idiosyncratic way. Of course it does no harm to keep the debate lively.

I realise that his ideas have a powerful appeal for those from Anatolia, but that region has plenty to take a pride in without claiming to be the source of PIE. That theory is a dead duck.

Dienekes said...

Jean, I'm sorry that you have some major rewriting to do in the quite informative site you have, but I'm afraid you are absolutely wrong..

Linguists do not agree with him

Time and again (I must have pointed to about a dozen articles by now), it has been shown that language time depth estimated quantitatively (and not by linguist "opinion") is concordant with archaeology around the world. The Indo-European language family is no exception and its time depth precedes the Kurgan phenomenon.

The archaeological evidence does not stack up in his favour.

What archaeological evidence is that?

he genetic evidence from ancient DNA has now proved the case for the spread of R1a1a from Andronovo to Iran and India

The genetic evidence has shown the presence of R1a1a from Central Europe to South Siberia and Xinjiang, it has certainly not shown that it spread from there to Iran and India. R1a1a is much more diverse in Pakistan/India, and I would love to hear how it became so frequent/diverse in either region if it was imposed by elite dominance ~3,500 years ago.

I realise that his ideas have a powerful appeal for those from Anatolia, but that region has plenty to take a pride in without claiming to be the source of PIE. That theory is a dead duck.

Oh, right, I forgot that Colin Renfrew, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Tamaz Gamkrelidze, Robert Drews, Dolgolpolsky, and so many others who've entertained quite varied West Asian IE origins' models are all Anatolians...

lars said...

"but that region has plenty to take a pride in without claiming to be the source of PIE. That theory is a dead duck."

ms jean, are you serious!!!
how can a normal person feels pride for such an ordinary and trivial thing as "language source"!!!!
how can a normal man feels pride for a "non accomplishment" like the place where a language developped!!!
how can a normal person feels pride for a thing he has nothing to do with!!!
how can a normal person feels pride with such "surrealistic and unrealistic" thing as "indo-europeans"!!!

lars said...

"The genetic evidence from ancient DNA has now proved the case for the spread of R1a1a from Andronovo to Iran and India, and R1a1a was also found in Tarim Basin mummies."

1/the mainstream theory(based on emprical findings)speaks for a south asian origin of R1a1
2/autosomal studies are more relevant than sex chromosome studies when dealing with language/folk affiliations and such studies show that indo-europeans in south asia were west asians.

armenia/anatolia as the "homeland" of pie is backed on pure linguisitic studies(please see the recent bayesian study)

according to your logic it's south africans who should "take pride" since south africa is the "homeland" of humans as well as human language!
human should feel pride from the whole humanity and it's rich&diverse culture as well as interhuman peaceful,brotherful and symbiotic relations

Jean said...

Thanks for putting Jim Mallory's talk up. I will listen later with pleasure. Yes - he is always cautious, like the good scientist that he is.

PS I am rewriting my online stuff constantly. It is not a chore but a pleasure. I love to see the boundaries of knowledge pushed back. This is an exciting time. :) I don't expect to reverse engines on this particular topic though.

DagoRed said...

Scientific theories need to be discussed on an objective evidences not on nationalist prejudices.
No one should be proud of being born in a place, he can only feel himself honored to have had that fate, because he has done anything to be proud of.

simon said...

Steppe cultures could be to the neolithic cultures in the same way what the cowboy was to eastern cities in America.

batman said...

"Jean, I'm sorry that you have some major rewriting to do in the quite informative site you have, but I'm afraid you are absolutely wrong..."

Sorry D, but the simpel facts says that Jean is rigth. Moreover, this time you present comments that gives the impression that you are confused. Not a good basis for getting ironic, I'm afraid.

"The genetic evidence has shown the presence of R1a1a from Central Europe to South Siberia and Xinjiang, it has certainly not shown that it spread from there to Iran and India."

Where is the natural centre of that area - in plain geographics? (Don't forget your still under Occams razor in this issue.)

"R1a1a is much more diverse in Pakistan/India, and I would love to hear how it became so frequent/diverse in either region if it was imposed by elite dominance ~3,500 years ago."

Are you sure you couldn't come up with a possible solution to that?
What about a pyramidal spread-sheet, where the Maharajas R1a1a were to make all the Rajas, who in turn made all the Gars, who then had to make all the men of the comming Gati-cast?!

In the next generation a new Maharaja, with a sligthly different R1a1b would have to the next generation - all the way down. Then consider that - after a number of generations - the system get changed, into a closed class-system, where everyone can have kids - but have to mix only within their own cast. Roll that for a milolennia or two, before you finally make it 'demokratic' - in the sense that everybody can start to fuck around, indiscriminately an at random, to fit the statistical models of bananafly-genetics...

Dienekes said...

batman, the steppe model holds that Indo-European languages were spread by elite dominance and/or adoption of the Indo-European ideological package. Neither of these processes would result in 50%+ of certain Indian/Pakistani groups being R1a1.

Since you invoke Occam's razor, can you explain why R1a1 made barely a dent in the agricultural populations of Europe, Anatolia, and the Near East (very close to its supposed Black Sea origin), while growing to huge numbers in the agricultural populations of South Asia?

Not to mention that there is no archaeological evidence for even a small steppe presence in Indian sites.

Even if we disregard all of the above, a "pyramid scheme" might explain the high frequency of R1a1 in India-Pakistan but it would not explain its high diversity there.

As to the "center" of R1a1, it is clear (see the Underhill paper) that R1a1 does not really have a center, but is actually bimodal, with one mode in eastern Europe, and another one in Pakistan. But, if you insist on being geometrical, the midpoint between, say, Samara and the Punjab is somewhere east of the Caspian, on the territory of the BMAC, not in the steppe north of it.

AdygheChabadi said...

The Gutians were perhaps the same as the Udi people of ancient Albania...not the European one, the Caucasian one. I think I saw Igor Diakonov mention that somewhere...

pconroy said...

I've seen the Gutians linked to the Kurds previously

lars said...

ms jean
The kurgan hypothesis is not anatagonistic to the farmer/herder one,indeed the kurgan sites are merely an archeological legacy of the farmers/herders expanding into Europe(beginning as early as ice sheets retreated)this is even the opinion of Maria Gimbutas herself, you could learn about that issue if you read "indo-europeans and indo-european languages" of Ivanonv/Gamkrelidze
please read the below
"Thus, the majority of scholars see the introduction of Indo-European languages to western Europe as coming after the spread of agriculture in a piecemeal process starting before 3000 BCE and continuing until the present. An eclectic hypothesis I see no reason why the hypotheses of Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, Renfrew and Gimbutas cannot be reconciled or fruitfully combined. We all accept the origin of Indo-Hittite in Anatolia"
And also
"Another difference between Renfrew and Gamkrelidze and Ivanov is that while Renfrew sets the Urheimat of Indo-Hittite in the major Neolithic cluster in central Anatolia around Çatal Hüyük, Gamkrelidze and Ivanov see it as having been in eastern region of the peninsula.15 They then propose that the Anatolian (Hittite) family moved west to the center of the region.16 Armenians stayed in the homeland, while the Indo-Aryans and eastern Iranians moved east and south. The main body of Indo- Europeans, according to Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, moved east and then north, swinging east of the Caspian Sea to what the authors describe as a “secondary homeland” west of the Volga and north of the Black Sea (see Map 4). They correlate this secondary homeland with the KURGAN MATERIAL CULTURE of the steppe in the Fourth and Third Millennia BCE"

a said...

mt DNA x can be found closer to the oldest archeological/agricultural areas around Anatolia, Caucasus, Levant. Oddly, Orkenys, Tarim Basin and Druze have mtDNA x.

Annie Mouse said...

IMO

(1) A convincing argument is made for Indo-European languages being farming or post-farming era. In that, why have words for farming items/animals if there is no farming?

(2) The Indo-European language dating fits temporarily with farming expansion. Too early for the Kurgans. (although I am nervous about the dating as I am not sure of the basic assumptions).

(3) Indo-European languages are clearly linked to R1a. The only possible candidate haplogroup in the Tarim basin is R1a. Tocharian is one of the earliest splits so most likely to be associated with the original genetics. Immigrant Indo-European language in North India is associated with immigrant R1a. R1a is common in the likely region for the origin of agriculture.

(4)R1a does not dominate Europe. In the bread baskets of Italy, France and Spain it runs at about 2%. It is higher in countries like Poland, Belarus etc, notable for NOT being associated with the arrival of the neolithic in Europe. I think they got their R1a from a later expansion, possibly the fabled horsemen.

In Summary:
IndoEuropean is a farming language which for the bulk of Europe was NOT accompanied by the genes of the original Indo-European farming people.

Dienekes said...

Indo-European languages are clearly linked to R1a. The only possible candidate haplogroup in the Tarim basin is R1a.

That is not true. We don't have actual ancient DNA from 8th c. AD Tocharians, so we don't know what they were like.

If we judge by the DNA of modern Uyghurs, whose Caucasoid components should encompass both Tocharian and Iranian speakers, there is a plethora of West Asian haplogroups, including J2, G2, and R1b. A steppe model that sees both Indo-Iranians and Tocharians coming across the steppe at different times has its work cut out to explain the occurrence of these haplogroups at substantial frequencies.

iglebor said...

"east of the Dnieper there were ... no evidence of pigs" - ???
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sus_scrofa_range_map.jpg

Dienekes said...

First, what's the source of this? Second, what's the time frame? Third, I was speaking of domesticated pigs, not wild boars. Fourth, at what steppe sites between the European part of Russia and Afanasevo or the Tarim can you find bones of wild hunted pigs?

iglebor said...

1&2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boar#Reconstructed_range :
"The reconstructed northern boundary of the range in Asia ran from Lake Ladoga (at 60°N) through the area of Novgorod and Moscow into the southern Ural, where it reached 52°N. From there the boundary passed Ishim and farther east the Irtysh at 56°N. In the eastern Baraba steppe (near Novosibirsk) the boundary turned steep south, encircled the Altai Mountains, and went again eastward including the Tannu-Ola Mountains and Lake Baikal. From here the boundary went slightly north of the Amur River eastward to its lower reaches at the China Sea. At Sachalin there are only fossil reports of wild boar. The southern boundaries in Europe and Asia were almost everywhere identical to the sea shores of these continents. In dry deserts and high mountain ranges, the wild boar is naturally absent. So it is absent in the dry regions of Mongolia from 44–46°N southward, in China westward of Sichuan and in India north of the Himalaya. In high altitudes of Pamir and Tien Shan they are also absent; however, at Tarim basin and on the lower slopes of the Tien Shan they do occur."[6] - V. G. Heptner and A. A. Sludskii: Mammals of the Soviet Union Vol. II, Part 2 Carnivora (Hyaenas and Cats). Leiden, New York, 1989
3. Tocharian word for pig could mean the wild pig
4. If wild boars occur at Tarim basin, then tocharians hunted on them. Tocharians were not muslims.

Dienekes said...

4. If wild boars occur at Tarim basin, then tocharians hunted on them. Tocharians were not muslims.

The question was not for the Tarim basin; we know that there were pigs in the Tarim basin because the Tocharians had a word for it.