In July 1996 two students wading in the Columbia River at Kennewick, Washington, stumbled across the skeletal remains of a middle-aged European male. At first anthropologists presumed they had discovered a pioneer who had died in the late 1800's. But radiocarbon dating subsequently showed that the skeleton was a remarkable 9,300 years old. In fact, "Kennewick Man" is the latest in a series of ancient skeletal discoveries which are giving rise to the theory that some of the earliest inhabitants of North America were Europeans who migrated from the Eurasian continent via a land bridge in the Bering Sea near the end of the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago. Dr. Robert Bonnischen, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Oregon State University, believes that "Kennewick Man" helps cast doubt on the accuracy of the term "paleo-Indian," which is usually used to describe this period of American prehistory. "Maybe some of these guys were really just paleo-American," he admits.
Of course, such facts pose a major challenge to the Politically Correct version of history, which promotes the idea that White Americans shamefully stole their country from its supposed Indian owners. Not surprisingly, therefore, attempts have been made to prevent the facts about "Kennewick Man" from being made public. Encouraged by the Clinton government, American Indians have made a claim on the skeleton using a 1990 Federal law intended to protect their grave sites. Their declared intention is to bury it immediately in a secret location and prevent further scientific examination and DNA testing. However, eight U.S. anthropologists, who claim that the Indians and the Federal government fear the implications of the discovery, began a legal battle in October 1996 to prevent the secret burial from taking place.
In fact, "Kennewick Man" is an important
addition to the growing body of evidence which suggests that during the
period of the Upper Paleolithic, between about 10,000 and 35,000 yearsago,
Whites--i.e., men indistinguishable from modern Europeans--lived not only
in Europe, but also in a band stretching across northern Asia to the Pacific.
In Siberia and other eastern regions they were eventually displaced and
absorbed by Mongoloid peoples, although isolated pockets of European genes
have survived in northern Asia until this day. The mixed-raced Ainu people
of Japan are an
The credibility of this theory has been dramatically strengthened in recent years by the remarkable discovery of more than 100 naturally mummified European corpses, ranging from 2,400 to 4,000 years old, in the Tarim Basin region of western China. Amazingly well preserved by the arid climate in the area, the mummies give evidence of a Nordic people with an advanced culture, splendidly attired in colourful robes, trousers, boots, stockings, coats, and hats (see cloth, right). In one large tomb the corpses of three women and one man were discovered. The man, about 55 years old at death, was about six feet tall and had yellowish brown hair that was turning white. One of the better preserved women was close to six feet tall, with yellowish-brown hair dressed in braids.
Items found with the bodies included
fur coats, leather mittens, and an ornamental mirror, while the woman also
held bags containing small knives and herbs, probably for use as medicines.
At Cherchen, on the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert, the mummified
corpse of an infant was found, probably no more than three months old at
the time of death, wrapped in
brown wool and with its eyes covered with small, flat stones. Next to the head was a drinking cup made from a bovine horn and an ancient "baby bottle" made from a sheep's teat that had been cut and sewn so it could hold milk. One male mummy even had traces of a surgical operation on his neck, with the incision being sewn up with horsehair stitches.
Several European mummies had in fact already been found in the Tarim Basin area early in this century, one of which was reminiscent of a Welsh or Irish woman, and another of a Bohemian burgher. All were dressed in fine clothing, including jaunty caps with feathers stuck in them that bore a striking resemblance to alpine headgear still worn in western Europe today. But these earlier discoveries, not much more than 2,000 years old, were dismissed as the bodies of isolated Europeans who had happened to stray into the territory and so were regarded as being of no cultural or historical significance.
Indeed, modern scholars, attuned to
Politically Correct historical fashion, have tended to downplay evidence
of any early trade or contact between China and the West during this period,
regarding the development of Chinese civilization as an essentially homegrown
affair sealed off from outside
influences. Any diffusion of people and culture, moreover, was held to have been from east to west, with the Europeans being civilized by the Chinese. The very eminent prehistorian Gordon Childe, for example, in 1958 summed up European prehistory as being the story of "the irradiation of European
barbarism by Oriental civilization. "1
But the latest mummy finds in the Tarim
Basin region are too numerous, too ancient, and too revealing to dismiss
in this way. Most important, they have helped to reopen the debate about
the role which Europeans played in the origins of civilization in China,
with some archeologists again beginning to argue that Europeans might have
been responsible for introducing into China such basic items as the wheel
and the first metal objects. This is actually reaffirming theories that
were advocated at the beginning of the century, but which were subsequently
buried in an avalanche of Political Correctness. In 1912, for example,
the distinguished Cambridge scholar A.C. Haddon noted
in The Wanderings of Peoples the possibility that the progressive element of the old Chinese civilization was due to the migration of a semi-cultured people from the west.
Now, according to Dr. Han Kangxin, a physical anthropologist at the Institute of Archeology in Beijing, the skeletal and mummified evidence clearly points to the fact that the earliest inhabitants of the Tarim Basin region were White people related to the Cro-Magnons of Paleolithic Europe. This theory is supported by Dr. Victor Mair, a specialist in ancient Asian languages and cultures at the University of Pennsylvania, who stimulated the major search which found the mummies. He has emerged as the main advocate of the theory that large groups of Europeans were present in the Tarim Basin long before the area's present inhabitants, suggesting that Turkic speakers did not move into the area until about the eighth century B.C. Subsequently, he believes, the newcomers displaced the Europeans, although the major ethnic group in the area today, the Uygur, includes people with unusually fair hair and complexions.
Actually, evidence of a now-extinct
Indo-European people who lived in central Asia has long existed. Known
as Tocharians, they are described more accurately as Arsi, which is cognate
with Sanskrit arya and Old Persian ariya, meaning "Aryan": "that which
is noble or worthy." Their language,
which has similarities to the Celtic and Germanic branches of the Indo-European tree, is recorded in manuscripts dated between the sixth and eighth centuries A.D., and solid evidence for its existence can be found as far back as the third century.
Despite the fact that Tocharian manuscripts are found only for the later period, linguists have isolated occasional Tocharian words embedded in manuscripts written in Gandhari Prakrit, a northwest Indian vernacular that served as the administrative language for large parts of the Tarim Basin during the third through the fifth centuries. Also, the Tocharians were earlier known as the Yuezhi (or Ruzhi), to whom references occur in Chinese texts as early as the fifth century B.C., within the time frame of the Tarim Basin mummies.
The Tocharians are vividly displayed
in ancient wall paintings at Kizil and Kumtura (near the modern Chinese
city K'u-ch'e, in the Tien Shan Mountains north of the Tarim Basin) as
aristocratic Europeans, with red or blond hair parted neatly in the middle,
long noses, blue or green eyes set in narrow faces, and tall bodies. The
Yuezhi from the first century B.C. also are depicted in striking painted
statues at Khalchayan (west of the Surkhan River in ancient Bactria). They
too are shown to be Europeans with long noses, thin faces, blond hair,
pink skin, and bright blue eyes. It is known
from historical sources that during the second century B.C. the Greater Yuezhi moved from northwest China to Ferghana and Bactria, which lie on the far side of the Pamirs. From there they moved south across the Hindu Kush into Afghanistan and the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, where they founded the mighty Kushan empire. The latter, in turn, extended its
power back into the Tarim Basin and with it spread Buddhism, which eventually reached China.
One hypothesis gaining increasing support
is that the migration of these Indo-Europeans began with their invention
of wheeled wagons. Working with Russian archeologists, Dr. David W. Anthony,
an anthropologist at Hartwick College in New York, has discovered traces
of wagon wheels in 5,000-year-old burial mounds on the steppes of southern
Russia and Kazakhstan. This line of
investigation has a direct bearing on the question of the European mummies in China because tripartite disk wheels similar in construction to those found in western Asia and Europe during the third and second millennium B.C. have been found in the Gobi Desert, northeast of the Tarim Basin. Similarly, spoked wheels dating to the early second millennium B.C. have been unearthed at a site nearby.
Most researchers now agree that the
birthplace of horse-drawn vehicles and horse riding was in the steppes
of Ukraine, rather than in China or the Near East. As Dr. Anthony and his
colleagues have shown through microscopic study of ancient horse teeth,
horses already were being harnessed in Ukraine 6,000 years ago. Also, wooden
chariots with elaborate, spoked wheels have been shown to date to around
2,000 B.C. in the same area. In comparison, chariots do not appear in China
until some 800 years later. Ritual horse burials similar to those in ancient
Ukraine also have been excavated in the Tarim Basin, as well as remains
of wagon wheels made by doweling together three
carved, parallel wooden planks. Wagons with nearly identical wheels are known from the grassy plains of Ukraine as far back as 3,000 B.C.
A number of artifacts recovered from
the Tarim Basin mummy burials have provided important evidence for early
horse riding. These include a wooden bit and leather reins, a horse whip
consisting of a single strip of leather attached to a wooden handle, a
wooden cheek piece with leather straps, and a padded leather saddle of
exquisite workmanship. This seems to confirm that
the mummies belonged to a mobile, horse-riding culture that spread from the plains of eastern Europe. It also supports the growing belief of archeologists that the spread of Indo-European genes, culture, and language may be linked to the gradual spread of horse riding and the technology of
horse-drawn vehicles from their origins in Europe 6,000 years ago.
These discoveries have extremely important
consequences for understanding the origins of Chinese civilization, since
the chariot has now been demonstrated to have entered China only around
the middle of the second millennium B.C., at roughly the same time that
bronze metallurgy and writing
developed there. The evidence suggests, therefore, that wagons and chariots were introduced into China from the west by Indo-Europeans. It also shows that the European penetration of China did not begin with the opening of the transcontinental Silk Road trade route that history books usually place in the second century B.C., but at least 2,000 years earlier at the turn of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, when the whole of Eurasia became culturally and technologically interconnected by migrating Europeans.
Actually, as early as 1951 the German archeologist Robert Heine-Geldern sought to show a series of similarities between the metalwork of Europe and China around 800 B.C. His evidence included horse gear, two-edged swords, socketed axes, and spearheads, which he believed originated in the Hallstatt and Caucasus metallurgical centers. Arguing that a "Pontic Migration" had taken place from Europe across Asia, he suggested that the Dongson culture of south China could best be explained as the result of influences carried directly from Europe during the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. 2
Two years later the well known Russian archeologist S. I. Rudenko noted the existence of mummies with European features in the royal tombs of Pazyryk in the Altai mountains, dated to the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. This evidence was subsequently added to by John Haskins of the University of Pittsburgh, who argued that the Yueh-chih (an ancient Chinese name for the Tocharians) of the Pazyryk region of the Altai might have been related to the Celts of continental Europe.
Significantly, the Tarim Basin mummies have provided further evidence which supports Heine-Geldern's theory. Some of the grave goods found with the mummies strongly suggest a connection with the "socketed celt horizon," typified by socketed bronze celts (axes which have bent wooden handles inserted at the end opposite the blade) and other distinctive bronze objects, such as knives with zoomorphic handles. The "socketed celt horizon" is dated roughly 1,800 to 1,000 B.C. stretching across Europe and correlates well with certain facets of a horse-riding and chariot/cart culture which emphasized hunting with composite bows and perhaps crossbows.
Thus, new credence has been given to
previously ignored and ridiculed theories for the origins and development
of civilization in China. In light of the new evidence, Edwin Pulleyblank
of the University of British Columbia recently argued that European influence
may have been an important factor in
the unification of the Chinese states and the establishment of the first centralized Chinese empire by Ch'in Shih Huang Ti in the year 221 B.C. He points to the external arrival on the Chinese steppe frontier of the military technique of mounted archery, first explicitly mentioned in Chinese sources in the year 307 B.C. In the west mounted archery appears with the Scythians, closely related to the Celts, who are first mentioned in Near Eastern sources around 800 B.C. and whose way of life is described at length by the Greek historian Herodotus. Ironically, it was the technique of mounted archery that defined the classic nomadism that dominated the European steppe and made possible the great steppe empires of the Xiongnu, the Turks, and the Mongols that later terrorized Europe.
Pulleyblank effectively suggests that European technology was copied by the Chinese and turned against its original inventors. Indeed, a suggestive analogy to the spread of mounted archery eastward to the borders of China can be seen in the way in which the acquisition of horses by the Indians from the Spaniards in Mexico and their use in warfare transformed the Great Plains of North America from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. This theory of Mongoloid imitation is also reflected in the many words of Indo-European origin in the earliest known layers of Sinitic languages. These include words for "horse," "track," "cart," "wheel," and "cow" and suggest further that it was Europeans who brought these things into China.
Textile samples from the late second millennium B.C. found in the Tarim Basin graves also provide evidence of the diffusion of European technological sophistication to China. One fragment was a wool twill woven with a plaid design which required looms that have never before been associated with China or eastern Central Asia at such an early date. Irene Good, a specialist in textile archeology at the University of Pennsylvania, has confirmed that the plaid fabric was virtually identical stylistically and technically to textile fragments found in Austria and Germany at sites from a somewhat later period.
Dr. Elizabeth J.W. Barber, a linguist
and archeologist at Occidental College in Los Angeles and the author of
Prehistoric Textiles (Princeton University Press, 1991), confirms that
the Chinese did not use and did not even know twill, but obtained knowledge
of the weave from the West, and only after the Han period. Significantly,
there appear to be many connections between the Tarim Basin mummies and
the 5,000 year old "Ice Man" found in the Austrian Alps in 1991. These
include the type and style of clothing, personal artifacts, solar-religious
symbolism, and tattoos for healing and
decoration--as well, of course, as the distinct racial commonality.
The evidence, therefore, increasingly
seems to confirm a Celtic culture extending across Eurasia at least 4,000
years ago. As one academic, James Opie, an expert on design motifs in ancient
rugs and bronze implements, has pointed out, it is highly significant that
Celtic endless-knot motifs,
swastikas, and animal-style decorations have been discovered from Europe, through Iran, to China. The religion of the Celts--including the Scythians--was solar, and three- and four-armed swastikas as solar symbols are an omnipresent element in Celtic art. Likewise, the Tarim Basin Europeans displayed a definite penchant for spiral solar symbols, painting them on their faces and engraving them on the bridles of their horses. This in itself suggests that they were Nordics who were and always have been worshippers of the sun and sky, and more generally of Nature. As Dr. Michael
Puett, a historian of East Asian civilization at Harvard University, has argued, the Tarim Basin mummies reveal clear processes of a cultural diffusion from Europe outward.
All of this supports the thesis of the pioneering archeologist Colin Renfrew, who challenged the previously accepted idea that prehistoric culture began in the Near East or Central Asia and was only later "diffused" into "barbarian" Europe. It confirms that the cultural prerequisites for civilization are much, much older in Europe than has been acknowledged, and suggests that far from Europe being civilized from outside, it was rather the rest of the world, including Asia, which was civilized by colonizing Europeans. 3
Below: The 4,000 year old mummy known as the Beauty of Loulan. Her auburn hair was braided into two plaits.
1 V. Gordon Childe, Antiquity , 32 (1958), p. 70
2 J. P. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans , p. 59, London (1989).
Colin Renfrew, Before Civilization , New York (1974).