Confronted to the obvious resemblances of many words from many different languages from Europe and Asia, scholars had came to surmise a common origin to explain this phenomenon. It soon became clear that this conjecture was correct.
This language family was named the Indo-european languages and their theoretical ancestor, the Proto-indo-european language.

It is indeed accurate to say that English is akin to Persian, Latin, Ancient Greek, Pashtun, French, Russian or Hindi and many others. These languages are related and linked by an ancient common origin, a common core.
The link is not confined to linguistics. A cultural link is also observable among the antique cultures of Europe and Asian cultures sharing this linguistic link.
For instance, the major antique Hindu god Dyaus Pita is recognizable in Jupiter and Zeus (Sometimes named Zeus Pater), all derived from an antique Father-Sky deity.
Sometimes, despite the difference in names, Indo-european gods are easily recognized by their personification. This is the case with Indra, the Hindu God of war and weather, a mace-wielding thundering god (whose mace is named Vajra and is a symbol of thunder and lightning) who crushes evil beings, like Vritra a giant snake, and that we can find back in Thor, the Germanic hammer-wielding god of thunder (whose hammer is named Mjöllnir and is a symbol of thunder and lightning (Mjöllnir likely comes from an ancient Indo-european root that gave malleus, the Latin word for hammer)) fighting Jörmungandr, a giant evil snake. This major archetypal god is found throughout the Indo-european continuum (the Slavic Perun, the Baltic Perkunas, the Hittite Tarhun/teshub, the Gallic Taranis and others).

This constatation of a common language family (with an hypothetical but extremely likely proto-indo-european language as the source) and tracks of common cultural elements spanning over basically all of Europe up to the east of India leads us to wonder how it is possible for a language family to extend on such a distance across Eurasia. Who were its original speakers? Where was its place of origin?

Some people, Like Colin Renfrew, allege that the proto-indo-europan language appeared in Anatolia (Present day Turkey) and was imported in Europe with the spread of agriculture during neolithic, Indian nationalists allege that their Indo-european languages are autochthonous to their country and that some of their ancestors spread this language family all over Eurasia up to Europe.
The more likely explanation is, in my opinion, the Kurgan theory. I will show in these pages that archeology, linguistics and even genetics seem to support it, so far.

The Kurgan hypothesis postulate that, north of the black sea, in what are modern Ukraine and south of Russia, an Europoid pastoralist population migrated both east and west imposing its culture and languages on local populations through the centuries and milleniums, mixing again and again as a minority with the locals in this process (and indeed the presence of early Indo-european loanwords in Finno-ugric languages at the stage of proto-Uralic (few examples: proto-indo-european *wed-er/en (water, river), *h₁nḗh₃mn̥- (name), *wosa (merchadise, to buy), *sneH(u)- (sinew)) have their matches in proto-Uralic: *wete, *wosa, *nime- ,*sone ) gives a strong basis for this theory, especially if we add that there are also several clear tracks of early Indo-iranian loanwords in these northern languages (more will be said later about it)).

Hypothetical Indo-european migrations roughly up to 1,000 BCE, according to the Kurgan Hypothesis

Hypothetical Indo-european migrations roughly up to 1,000 BCE, according to the Kurgan Hypothesis

The culture supposed to be ancestral to the Indo-european languages and cultures are the Sredny Stog culture, from 4,500 BCE to 3,500 BCE, followed by the Yamna culture (also named Pit grave culture or Yamnaya culture) from 3,600 BCE to 2,200 BCE.
From there we can follow the archeological trail of their movements in the south-east of Europe during the late 5th millenium BCE-4th millenium BCE (e.g. destruction of Karanovo VI in Bulgaria; the earliest movement in south-east Europe (before 4,000 BCE, being very likely at the origin of the Indo-european Anatolian laguage family which is apparently from an earlier stage than Proto-indo-european and that might have arrived in Anatolia around 2,600 BCE (the date of the arrival of the Anatolian-speaking populations in Asia minor and the path they took to arrive there is purely theoritical)) or in the north of Europe (Globular amphora culture and Corded ware culture, appearing roughly around 3,500-3,000 BCE) and in Asia with the Afanasevo culture (appearing around 3,500 BCE, in Kazakhstan, south Siberia, west Mongolia and even apparently in Xinjiang) then by the Andronovo culture horizon (around 2,300 BCE to 1,000 BCE) in central Asia, then in south Asia with the Gandhara graves culture (appearing in the Swat valley of north Pakistan around 1,800 BCE).

In the perspective of the Kurgan hypothesis, the Proto-indo-european stage existed during the 3,600 BCE-3,000 BCE time frame (more or less). Archeology and linguistics can apparently allow to pinpoint the proto-indo-european dates to the Chalcolithic time (e.g. The proto-indo-europeans had (their own) words for wheel, wool, horse, metal, etc… which wouldn’t fit with earlier dates (like a fully neolithic time)).

Genetics could very well confirm the Kurgan theory. Genetic testing have indentified an haplogroup (wikipedia article on the haplogroups) that could be the genetic signature of the population that was once the vector of indo-europeanization.

From Iceland to North-east india or to China or south Siberia, Haplogroup Y-DNA R1a1a is present, where we would expect it to be found if it was the mark of the spreading of Indo-european movements at the origin of the archeological ancestral Indo-european cultures. While hypothetical, many elements support the idea that early Indo-european populations were caucasoid R1a1a individuals spreading from the north of the black sea as early as 6,500 or 5,500 years ago.


Haplogroups can be understood as genetic signatures allowing to identify ancestral human lineages. Two sets of haplogroups are existing : the mtDNA haplogroups identifying the female lineages (transmitted from mother to daughter, exclusively matrilinearly (men also inherit it from their mother but they don’t transmit it to their offsprings)) and the Y-DNA haplogroups that identify male lineages (transmitted from father to son, exclusively patrilinearly).

Map of the Y-DNA haplogroups determined by the DNA of the human Y chromosome.

Map of the Y-DNA haplogroups determined by the DNA of the human Y chromosome.

These haplogroups, that are mutations in the DNA that are unique to a particuliar lineage, can help to identify the early human migrations and the origin and composition of the populations of a given country or region.

The European populations are mainly bearers of the R1b (more exactly from the R1b1a2 sublineages (ex-R1b1b2 sublineages)), R1a (more exactly the R1a1a sublineages) and I (I1, I2a and I2b) – other haplogroups are present but are less specific to Europe, such as Y-DNA J2, G2a, E1b1b1, N1c and other lineages – as for their male haplogroups, and bearers of many mtDNA haplogroups whose most frequent and typical are mtDNA haplogroup H (whose most subgroups are typically Europoid) and some mtDNA haplogroup U subgroups (a mtDNA haplogroup such as U5 is typical of Europe for instance and is thought to be representative of early paleolithical hunter-gatherers of Europe ; a mtDNA haplogroup such as K who is an offshoot of haplogroup U8 is also rather frequent in Europe, even if also found in west Asia).

Map of the approximative Y-DNA haplogroups repartition in Europe.

Map of the approximative Y-DNA haplogroups repartition in Europe.

In the European male lineages, the subgroups of R1 (R1a and R1b (R1b is currently typical of western Europe while R1a is much more frequent in the east and in a least quantity in the north of Europe)) are the most frequent haplogroups in Europe, and in the female European lineages, H subgroups are the most frequent haplogroups.


The archeological findings and the testing of ancient DNA seems to confirm the presence of caucasoid populations deep into Asia, up to south Siberia, during bronze age, apparently almost always associated with haplogroup R1a1a, seemingly supporting the Kurgan theory. The east Asian flow of populations apparently starting to be important only from early iron age, in south Siberia and central Asia, as described in several studies provided below.

According to paleoanthropological data, the Caucasoid (in respect of its morphological features) population predominated in the steppes of the Altai–Sayan region [Pastmists : located in south Siberia]  during the Neolithic [Pastmists : here, apparently at least starting with the chalcolithic], Bronze, and partly early Iron Ages [1–3]. At that time the Mongoloid component was observed only in few cases. However, beginning from the early Iron Age, the presence of this component has been increasing, and becoming prevalent in modern times. Thus, dynamics of the anthropological composition of the Altai–Sayan populations can be characterized by definitely directed replacement of the Caucasoid component by the Mongoloid one.” (excerpt from « Origin of Caucasoid-Specific Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Ethnic Groups of the Altai–Sayan Region » (Derenko et al, 2002 | source))

Other major studies of reference (more informations from these studies will be given in the next articles) :

“Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people” (source)

“Unravelling migrations in the steppe: mitochondrial DNA sequences from ancient central Asians” (source)

“Pigment phenotype and biogeographical ancestry from ancient skeletal remains: inferences from multiplexed autosomal SNP analysis” (source)

“Evidence that a West-East admixed population lived in the Tarim Basin as early as the early Bronze Age” (source)

The presence of caucasoid haplogroups, both in ancient and recent DNA testing in south Siberia, Siberia, Mongolia, China and south Asia is attested by the recent genetic studies and Mummies from the Altai (for instance, see this wikipedia article on the Pazyryk burials) and the Xinjiang (wikipedia article on the tarim mummies) regions only seem to corroborate this fact.

Cherchen man, a Tarim basin (Xinjiang) mummy dated 1,000 BCE.

The Cherchen man, a Tarim basin (Xinjiang) mummy dated 1,000 BCE.

The conjunction of the archeological data (the source of the south Siberian Europoid population arriving in south Sibera around 3,500 BC during the Chalcolithic seems to be clearly originally coming from the north-east of the black sea (many archeological similarities in the sepultures, potteries, cultual elements, economy, social organisation, and so on, between the Afanasevo culture and the cultures north of the black sea)), the linguistical data (the nature of the Tocharian languages (attested in western China (Xinjiang) around 500 A.D.) supports its separation early from the Indo-european group – which fits well with the Afanasevo culture origin and dates) and the genetic data (the Haplogroups (both the male  and female lineages) confirm an European origin of this population and de facto confirm haplogroup Y-DNA R1a1a as an Indo-european marker. Both of the Europoid and Asian lineages found in the earliest Tarim basin (Xinjiang) mummies (The people of Xiaohe (pastmists : see the Xinjiang page for more details)) fits an origin in south Siberia (a few other facts in archeology and linguistics (e.g. it seems some sort of proto-altaic (or proto-Turkic and proto-Tungusic stems anyway) is found in Tocharian) could also support this view. The fact that the archeological sites are found first in the east of the Xinjiang and in north-west Gansu seem to also confirm that this population didn’t arrive directly from the west but rather from south Siberia (from the Afanasevo culture)) and tend to confirm the association of the Tocharian language with the chalcolithic Afanasevo culture) seem to validate the Kurgan theory in terms of pattern and chronology. At the moment, no other theory on the subject knows such a seemingly blatant confirmation in the available data.

Ancient mummy of a tall woman discovered in north-western China with europoid features.

Ancient mummy of a tall woman with europoid features discovered in north-western China (Xinjiang).


As previously mentionned, some common cultural and mythological background can also be perceived in the antique Indo-european peoples (despite the huge geographical distance and the long time separation: for instance, the three Kalasha people of south Asia designated by robe colors (white robes (safed posh), red robes (surkh posh) and black robes (siah posh)) remind of the three colors representing the Indo-european social organisation elsewhere (e.g. in the Scandinavian Rigsthula, the Jarl (noble) is blond, the Karl (freeman, churl) is redheaded and the thrael (slave, serf) is black-haired (white, red and black are symbolic and representing a different layer of the indo-european social order (originally possibly as a reference to the colors of the sky (daylight/twilight/night))).

The subject is too dense to be treated here but let’s give a famous example of a potential culural marker: In the material culture, a symbol such as the Swastika is often thought to be of Indo-european origin by many as it is found in many antique Indo-european populations (but it is also possible, that its origin was actually non-indo-european, probably from the middle-east (the oldest swastika found so far was in Iraq at Samarra, dated around 5,000 BCE (the second oldest found swastikas are apparently among the Vinca signs of the Balkans around 4,000-3,000 BCE. (It’s also in the Vinča culture, specifically in the east of Serbia, that were found the oldest evidences of extractive metallurgy in the world, thus far [source : On the origins of extractive metallurgy: new evidence from Europe]))) and then gained some significance in the ancient Indo-european populations (sometimes changed as a triskellion, like among the Celts)).

Swastika on the head of a Asian monk.

Swastika on the head of an Asian monk. In Asia, the Swastika is a widely spread positive symbol. It is a major symbol of the religion appearing in India (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism)

Here, a Swedish bracteate roughly from 400 AD (historiska museet, Sweden).

Here, a Swedish bracteate roughly from 400 AD (historiska museet, Sweden). The Swastika is a symbol found throughout Eurasia.

This Swastika (dated 500 BCE) was found on ancient artefacts during archeological digging in Bulgaria.

This Swastika (dated 500 BCE) was found on an  ancient artefact during archaeological digs in Bulgaria. The oldest found Svastika in the Balkans are from the Vinca signs, around 4,000-3,000 BCE.

Persian necklace with three swastikas from the first millenium BCE found at Kularaz, in the Gilan region of Iran (National Museum of Iran). The number three was an important number in the Indo-european tradition.

Persian necklace with three swastikas from the first millenium BCE found at Kularaz, in the Gilan region of Iran (National Museum of Iran). The number 3 was an important number in the Indo-european tradition.

Let’s also mention another recurrent point. Some people have alleged that the ancient Indo-europeans were calling themselves “Aryas” (Aryans) or more exactly *Aryos as an ethnonym, but this is of course unproved, even though the presence of the Indo-european root ar- (supposed to mean “noble” or maybe “freeman” – but of course, it could also as easily have been used as a word to designate a member of the community, maybe on cultural and linguistical criteria (maybe even ethnical), for the first Indo-europeans) in many ancient Indo-european languages could indeed be a hint of such thing (ancient Greek Aristos (still visible in the english word “aristocrat“), the Aryas of south Asia (Alan is also possibly related to it), the Arsi of Xinjiang, the arawa term in Hittite, the Ario- prefix in the names of prominent Celtic and Germanic individuals of the antiquity (e.g. Germanic Ariovistus and Ariaric (a son of a Goth king), Gaulish Ariomanos (Irish Eremon), etc…), or also the old Irish aire (nobleman“, “freeman”), could possibly support this hypothesis).


Map of Asia.

Map of a part of Asia (Afghanistan is lighter, here). According to the Kurgan hypothesis, starting with the chalcolithic and/or the early bronze age, migrations originating north of the black sea spread the Indo-european languages and a partially common cultural background throughout Eurasia.

Despite the very ancient time of these surmised migrations (apparently as early as the copper age (chalcolithic) ), visible lingering tracks are apparently still seen in the phenotypes of Asian populations of these regions, even if uncommon. the following articles will give examples of such phenotypes and a few basic informations related to the matter, about these regions and their populations :


Scythian warriors from the Eurasian steppes

Indo-iranian-speaking Scythian warriors of the Eurasian steppes (from a gold vase of the Kul Oba kurgan in Crimea, Ukraine)

One of the brightest civilization of south Asia, Persia (note that Iran is also often considered as located in west Asia), was Indo-european – from the Indo-iranian branch. Most of south Asia is nowadays speaking Indo-european languages from the Indo-iranian branch (comprising three branches : Indo-aryan, Nuristani and Iranian).

The name “Iran” itself is etymologically derived from “Aryanam” meaning “(land) of the Aryans” (source), “Aryan” being generally the name associated with the people thought to be the original Indo-iranian speakers (the term is also used as an ethnic designation in several inscriptions and Darius I, the famous Persian emperor was referring to his Aryan lineage in a well-known inscription at Naqsh-e rustam :

I am Darius the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage.” (source)).

Achaemenid Empire during Darius I

Achaemenid Empire during Darius the great

It is quite likely that this language family was brought from central Asia in south Asia by nomadic pastotalist populations that later became the Scythian peoples, for the ones that remained in central Asia (and Sakas, Alans (which left an Indo-iranian language in the Caucasus, the Ossetic language) and Sarmatians, all nomadic warriors speaking Indo-iranian languages related to the Old Persian language (and indeed, old Indo-iranian roots are found up to Finland, and also in the languages of the east of Caucasus or in Slavic as well (like in Russian, in words such as bog (“god”, related to old Persian baga and Sanskrit bhag (-as)), sobaka (“dog”, probably from Iranic spaka), budit’ – a Russian verb meaning “to wake up”, “to awake” – that is related to the Indo-aryan word Buddha (“the awakened one”), and other words))).

Scythia and Parthia around 100 BCE

Scythia and Parthia around 100 BCE

As we have seen, all the area of central Asia, Afghanistan and the north-east of Iran (and probably south Siberia when this region became part of the Andronovo archaeological horizon, during bronze age, or when the Sakas ruled this region) was speaking Indo-iranian languages * during bronze age **, a group of languages that quite likely spread further in south Asia also during this time period of bronze and then Iron age.

The ethnogenesis of the Indo-iranian branch of the Indo-european family is surmised to have probably occured in the Andronovo culture, an antique culture of Central Asia [pastmists : specifically close to the Urals; some scholars believe that the proto-Indo-iranian language can be tracked up to Russia (generally, specifically the Abashevo culture), thus explaining the early Indo-iranian words in Finno-Ugric languages (such as Finnish) [a few examples of old Indo-iranian roots in Finno-ugric languages]], during bronze age. The Andronovo archaeological horizon is an ensemble of cultures whose traits match well what we could expect to find in early Indo-iranian cultures (as an example of this, the Sintashta site)), according to many specialists. It seems that this population was largely of Europoid type ***  (something apparently confirmed by the DNA tests on the ancient human remains of this region, as we will see in the article about Central Asia).

* also known as the Aryan languages (a famous Kushan King was indeed referring to the local language of Bactria (basically, what is now south Tajikistan and east and north Afghanistan) as the “Aryan language”, in one of his writings (source)). In this context it is also interesting to remind that during the Achaemenid rule, the Arya or Aryana satrapy (a region of the Persian empire) was located mostly in Afghanistan.

** the time of origin of the Indo-iranian language family can probably be tracked back roughly to the 2,500 BCE – 2,000 BCE period at most. Earlier dates seem unlikely given how close were Avestan (early Iranian language) and Sanskrit (early Indo-aryan language) to each other (Vedic Sanskrit is often thought to have been maybe in use in the 1,700 BC-1,100 BC period and Avestan maybe around 1,000 BC, more or less).

Old Iranian hymn translated in Sanskrit

This translation of an old Avestan hymn in Sanskrit (in italics) shows how close these ancient languages were.

*** references about the Andronovo morphological type : “The origin of the indo-iranians, vol. 3″ by Elena E. Kuz’mina – Chapter 11 : Verification of the hypothesis – Anthropological evidence.

Here are a few significative phenotypes found in these regions :

Iran :

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Mayor of Tehran

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf (Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf), Mayor of Tehran

Ayatollah Yazdi (Iran)

Ayatollah Yazdi, former minister of justice of Iran

Ali Larijani, chairman of the Iranian parliament

Ali Larijani, chairman of the Iranian parliament

Mohammad Reza Golzar, Iranian actor and musician

Mohammad Reza Golzar, Iranian actor and musician

Iranian woman

Iranian woman

Old Iranian man

Old Iranian man

Little iranian girl

Little Iranian girl

Little peasant girl from Khorasan (Iran)

Little peasant girl from Khorasan (Iran)

Little Qashaqii girl from Iran

Little Qashaqii girl from Iran

Young Iranian girl from Ar-panah

Young Iranian girl from Ar-panah

Young Iranian schoolgirl

Young Iranian schoolgirl

Afghanistan :

Afghan child from the Uzbek community

Afghan child from the Uzbek community

Little girl from Herat, Afghanistan, not far from the Iranian border

Little girl from Herat, Afghanistan, not too far from the Iranian border

Little child from Afghanistan

Little child from Afghanistan

Afghan man with very blue eyes

Blue-eyed Afghan man from Herat, a city not far from the north-east Iran border

Young Afghan from a refugee camp in Iran

Young Afghan from a refugee camp in Iran

Little Afghan girl

Little Afghan girl

Picture of an Afghan boy from a refugee camp in Semnan, Iran

Picture of an Afghan boy from a refugee camp in Semnan, Iran

Hazara girl from Central Afghanistan

Hazara girl from Central Afghanistan

Hazara children, Afghanistan

Hazara children, Afghanistan

Young Hazara boy

Young Hazara boy (Afghanistan)

Young Afghans

Young Afghans

The words of Zoroaster (a.k.a. Zarathustra), the famous Persian sage, described the place of origin of the Aryans (Aryanam Vaejah) in terms that led some historians to believe he was maybe referring to a place in central Asia (excerpt from “The Cambridge ancient history by John Boardman).

Individuals with Europoids features, though rather rare, are findable in these regions as well, like in all the regions where Indo-european languages have been spoken or are currently spoken. It can probably be seen as a legacy of bronze age migrations from central Asia, (and originally from the north-east of the black sea, according to the Kurgan theory). The admixture estimates of these populations (such as for instance the Pathans/Pashtuns or even the Sindhis) do have indeed a non-negligible amount of genetic sequences apparently identified as “European” (even if it is of course clearly minoritary in their overall genotype (Example of such estimates (look at the dark blue component | source: metspalu et al. 2011))).

Little Pashtun girl from the Tribal area

Little Pashtun girl from the Tribal area

Pashtun man from Afghanistan

Pashtun man from Afghanistan. It seems that the term “Pakhta” in the RigVeda is a reference to the ancestors of the Pashtuns (a.k.a. Pakhtuns or Pathans), hinting to the ancient existence of this ethnical group in this region.

In the eastern part of Afghanistan, in a region named Nuristan (formerly known as Kafiristan), Europoid phenotypes are not that rare. The Nuristani (previously known as Kalasha before their conversion to Islam in 1895) are a people living in a very remote and isolated mountainous region of east Afghanistan, in the Hindu-Kush mountains. They maintained their very old pre-islamic traditions, believed to be derived from the antique Indo-iranian traditions of yore, and were polytheistic before being conquered and islamized in the end of the 19th century. They are speaking in a specific branch of Indo-iranian language family (sometimes perceived as having evolved from an archaic branch of the family (i.e. spawned from a different branch than proto-iranian or proto-indo-aryan within the indo-iranian family, even if some see a bigger proximity and more similitudes of this language family with Indo-aryan languages (interestingly some expressions have a direct link with rigvedic terms: e.g. in the Kati language, “earthquake” is said indriç (to be compared with indra-iṣṭi (“strike” from Indra)) and dewutr “fairy” is related to vedic Sanskrit deva-putrī “daughter of god”)).

Little Kalasha girl (Afghanistan)

Little Nuristani girl (Afghanistan)

Kalasha boy from eastern Afghanistan

Nuristani boy from eastern Afghanistan

Little Nuristani girl (Afghanistan)

Little Nuristani girl (1971)

Nursitani girl (notice the tattoo reminding of the Hindu Tilak/bindi)

Nuristani girl (notice the tattoo reminescent of the Hindu Tilak/bindi)

Nuristani schoolgirl (Afghanistan)

Nuristani schoolgirl (eastern Afghanistan)

Nuristani Girl of Afghanistan

Nuristani Girl of Afghanistan (the tattoo resembles the Hindu bindi (or tilaka))

Little girls from Nuristan

Little girls from Nuristan

It is interesting to note that the regions where the Europoid phenotypes are the most frequent are also the most isolated places where population movements and mixing was much rarer.

Some people believe these Europoid phenotypes are actually the results of rapes by the USSR army during the invasion of Afghanistan that took place from 1979 to 1989. It is very unlikely for several reasons : a/ It’s already difficult to imagine the Russian army changing the face of Nuristan (especially such an isolated and difficult to access mountainous region), in 10 years – especially since it was a region it didn’t control – but b/ there are photographs of Nuristani from before the Russian invasion such as this one from 1971 (8 years before the invasion) , c/ Europoid phenotypes are found way further in Asia (north-west China, India, north Pakistan, etc…) that in the area the USSR troopers operated, even though they are not frequent, d/ We know by archeological findings and ancient DNA that individuals with such characteristics existed deep into Asia (and it seems confirmed by a few Mummies as well) not so far from these regions (more will be said about this in the next articles), and e/ We have ancient writings that confirms that such features are found in these regions for a long time. For instance, a Chinese buddhist monk from the 7th century AD describes the population of a kingdom in what is probably nowadays either south Tajikistan or north-eastern Afghanistan where most of the people had blue eyes (source : Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World | the excerpt can be found there in searching “Ta-mo-si-tie-ti“)

Kurdistan : The Kurds are a people located partly in Turkey, north Syria, north of Iraq and north-western Iran and speaking an Iranic language. They are generally associated with the antique Medes, an ancient “Persian” people having likely brought the ancestor of the Kurdish language in this region. Haplogroup Y-DNA R1a1a is found at a low frequency in west Asia, except among the Kurds where this male lineage reaches apparently between 10-25% of the local male population, obviously in accordance with the theory presented on this blog.

Here are a few examples of europoid phenotypes found among the Kurdish population :

Kurdish boys from northern Syria

Two Kurdish boys from northern Syria

Little Kurdish boy

Little Kurdish boy

Little Kurdish child

Little Kurdish child



The south of Asia was the homeland of bright and famous ancient civilizations, culturally and linguistically Indo-european, especially India (of the Indo-aryan linguistical family) and Iran (formerly known as Persia, of the Iranian linguistical family).

It was at the end of the 18th century, that sir William Jones realized the relation between European languages and south Asian languages such as Sanskrit, inaugurating then the existence of the now famous Indo-european language family theory.

Latin, for instance, has many similarities with Sanskrit. Indeed, how couldn’t we link words such as vox (voc-is), “voice”  in Latin and vac in Sanskrit (also “voice” ; found in many other Indo-european languages, e.g. Tocharian vak/vek or Hittite huek), candor (“bright whiteness” in Latin ) and candra, “moon” in Sanskrit, ignis (“fire” in Latin) and agnis (“fire” in Sanskrit, Agni also being the god of fire – also ugnis in Lithuanian and ogon’ in Russian, all meaning “fire“), Latin jugum (meaning “yoke“, also derived from the same proto-indo-european word) and Sanskrit yugam, giving the word yoga (also in the ancient greek zugon, Tocharian yuk or Hittite yukan, among many examples), Latin nebula and Sanskrit nabhas (but also Hittite nepiš, German nebel and Russian nebo, for instance, meaning all either “cloud“, “mist” or “sky“), or pater (“father” (a word also related) in Latin) and pitar in Sanskrit (also the ancient greek pater or Tocharian pacer, and many others). Likewise, we can find some similarities between the declension suffixes in both languages (examples : -ibus at the plural dative and ablative cases in Latin and -ebhyas in Sanskrit in the same cases).

When it became obvious that most of the languages of Europe and most of the languages of south Asia were related, then started the search for an explanation to such an astonishing geographical extent. Many theories have been erected to try to solve the puzzle of the origin of the extent of this language family and to discover the original population responsible for this situation and their ancestral homeland.

The Kurgan hypothesis explains the repartition of the Indo-european languages in Eurasia by the successive migrations of pastoralist populations living north of the black sea (in what is nowadays east Ukraine and south Russia), whose arrival is visible in the archeology. In this theory, the early Indo-iranians originated in the region between Russia and north-west Kazakhstan between 2,500 BCE and 2,000 BCE (the Abashevo culture of Russia is also considered possibly a good candidate for the origin of the proto-indo-iranian language by some (The fact that it was influential in the origin of the Sintashta site (a site just east of the Ural mountains often considered as having the oldest visible expression of indo-iranian practices) could support this view as well)) and were subsequently found in the Andronovo culture of central Asia. Also, the fact that the Andronovo culture was followed by the Indo-iranian-speaking Scythians/Sakas (who clearly seem spawned from it (there is an archaeological continuity between these cultures)) seem to clearly make this theory the most logical one.

The Gandhara grave culture of the north of Pakistan is also seen as the advance of Indo-iranian populations in south Asia. The presence of proto-Indo-iranian loanwords in Finno-ugric languages (such as Estonian and Finnish) and in languages from the east of the Caucasus can be seen as supporting this theory of the Indo-iranian ethnogenesis (Interestingly, among the terms that the ancient Finno-ugric language borrowed to the ancient Indo-iranian language seems to be the “arya” word:

“Early Proto-Indo-Iranian words that were borrowed  into common Finno-Ugric included Proto-Indo-Iranian *asura- ‘lord, god’ > Finno-Ugric *asera; Proto-Indo-Iranian *medhu- ‘honey’ > Finno-Ugric *mete; Proto-Indo-Iranian *čekro ‘wheel’ (pastmists: hence sanskrit cakra)) > Finno-Ugric *kekrä; and Proto-Indo-Iranian *arya- ‘Aryan’ > Finno-Ugric *orya. Proto-Indo-Iranian *arya-, the self-designation “aryan”, was borrowed into Pre-Saami as *orja-, the root of * oarji, meaning “southwest”, and of arjel, meaning “southerner”, confirming that the Proto-Aryan world lay south of the early Uralic region. The same borrowed *arya- root developped into words with the meaning “slave” in the Finnic and Permian branches (Finnish, Komi and Udmurt), a hint of the ancient hostility between the speakers of Proto-Indo-Iranian and Finno-Ugric.”

“The Horse, the wheel, and language” by David W. Anthony (source (go to page 385 of the book by typing “197” in the page search field))).

A spreading of the Indo-european languages in Eurasia from neolithic agriculturalist populations seems very unlikely as the proto-indo-european language had words for the wheel (examples : Latin rota, Sanskrit rathas, Irish roth and Lithuanian ratas (a root also meaning sometimes “chariot” in a few languages, like in sanskrit)) and a metal (examples: Latin aes (bronze), Sanskrit ayas (iron), Gothic aiz (brass; coin) and old Norse eir (bronze), among others), which seems to exclude, de facto, the oldest typical neolithic time. The fact that the stem for “horse” (*ekwos ; the satem version of it in Sanskrit is ‘asva) is also present in the original language, the proto-indo-european language (a root visible in these few examples : Latin equus, Mycenian iqo, Gaulish epos, Tokharian B yakwe or old Irish ech), also excludes both south Asia and neolithic as the geographical origin and the time of the proto-indo-europeans, as the horse was apparently absent of south Asia until the last part of bronze age (this animal (as domesticated one) was apparently also absent of south-west Asia and in a big part of Asia minor until the same historical time (informations about the horse domestication)).

The study of ancient Indo-iranian languages also seems to support an origin of this language family from outside of India (source).

Girl from south Asia

An Indo-iranian ethnogenesis in the steppes of central Asia is still currently the most popular theory among the specialists.

The Gandhara grave culture, located in the north of Pakistan in the Swat valley, sees the arrival of the horse in south Asia during bronze age and a few points allows for a (still controversial and hypothetical) link with the early Indo-aryans. The funerary practices, for instance, show several similarities with other supposedly Indo-european practices and there are many similarities with the Andronovo culture traditions. They also could fit quite well with the RigVedic descriptions. These traditions are clearly the mark of a change in this region, at this time.

In the Kurgan theory, the first Indo-iranian-speaking populations supposedly arrived around 1,800 BC-1,600 BC in south Asia from central Asia. These populations were apparently in large part of Europoid type as hinted by several studies (see the central Asia article), which seems confirmed by the admixture estimates of south Asian populations that do have an european component even if in low quantity (examples here or here (both from, or also this,  from this 2011 study (“Population structure in South Asia”, metspalu et al. 2011)).

Young man from the eastern Afghanistan or the north of Pakistan

Within a geographic continuum going from the south-east of Tajikistan, eastern Afghanistan (especially Nuristan) down to the north of Pakistan, the Europoid phenotypes are more frequent. The area is also apparently the place of a (slightly) higher frequency of the haplogroup Y-DNA R1a1a than in the neighboring areas.

Chitral kid (Pakistan)

Little child from the Chitral district of north Pakistan

Supporting the theory of migrations from central Asia into south Asia, the presence of the very mutation (mutation T-13910 of the lactase phlorizin hydrolase (LCT) gene) providing the lactose tolerance (here more precisely the lactase persistence) among European populations is also found in south Asia, especially in the north-west of India and in south-east Pakistan (source). This clearly shows that south Asians and Europeans share a specific mutation and as such as specific relation of which west Asians are excluded (this allele is obviously only very marginal and residual among west Asians and likely the result of Indo-european migrations of little demographic impact).

The lactase persistence T-13910 alleles frequency in the world

Approximative frequency and spread of the lactase persistence T-13910 allele of the LCT gene. We can see that South Asians and Europeans share a specific mutation for lactase persistence. A correlation of that allele with Y-DNA haplogroups R1a1a, R1b1a2 (ex-R1b1b2), R1b1c (ex-R1b1a; a.k.a. R1b-V88) and at least haplogroup mtDNA H (quite visible in north Africa on the map) seems obvious (the very few discrepancies can be explained). (click to see bigger)

A 2009 study (Kallur N. Saraswathy et al., Brief communication: Allelic and haplotypic structure at the DRD2 locus among five North Indian caste populations) also emphasized the genetic flow inherited from populations extraneous to India within the upper castes populations of north India.

The dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) gene, with its known human-specific derived alleles that can facilitate haplotype reconstruction, presents an important locus for anthropological studies. The three sites (TaqIA, TaqIB, and TaqID) of the DRD2 gene are widely studied in various world populations. However, no work has been previously published on DRD2 gene polymorphisms among North Indian populations. Thus, the present study attempts to understand the genetic structure of North Indian upper caste populations using the allele and haplotype frequencies and distribution patterns of the three TaqI sites of the DRD2 gene. Two hundred forty-six blood samples were collected from five upper caste populations of Himachal Pradesh (Brahmin, Rajput and Jat) and Delhi (Aggarwal and Sindhi), and analysis was performed using standard protocols. All three sites were found to be polymorphic in all five of the studied populations. Uniform allele frequency distribution patterns, low heterozygosity values, the sharing of five common haplotypes, and the absence of two of the eight possible haplotypes observed in this study suggest a genetic proximity among the selected populations. The results also indicate a major genetic contribution from Eurasia to North Indian upper castes, apart from the common genetic unity of Indian populations. The study also demonstrates a greater genetic inflow among North Indian caste populations than is observed among South Indian caste and tribal populations.

[pastmists : interestingly, among the populations being the closest of the north Indian upper castes, in this specific study, we find  the Chuvash people (a Turkic-speaking people of Russia whose haplogroups and autosomal profile  reveal they are still largely from the ancient “Europoid” autochthonous non-Turkic substrate) [the Finns and even the Russians are close too, seemingly confirming this view] living west of the Ural mountains, where was located the already mentionned Abashevo culture, during bronze age. Is this a sign that the Aryas had come from  populations in this general region (and of this historical culture), or maybe more generally from a region close to the Ural mountains?]

Aishwarya Rai without make-up

Aishwarya Rai, famous Indian actress

Asko Parpola, a Finnish scholar, evokes a few points supporting the migration of Indo-iranian populations in India during bronze age in this excerpt of an interview: : “Some Indian scholars feel that the Indus Civilisation is Aryan [i.e. Indo-iranian] and connected with the Rig Veda. You are a Vedic scholar and you specialise in the Indus script too. So what is your reaction to this standpoint?”

Asko Parpola : “Rigvedic hymns often speak of horses and horse-drawn chariots, and the horse sacrifice, ashvamedha, is among the most prestigious Vedic rites. The only wild equid native to the Indian subcontinent is the wild ass, which is known from the bone finds of the Indus Civilisation and depicted (though rarely) in its art and script. The domesticated horse is absent from South Asia until the second millennium BCE. Finds from Pirak and Swat from 1600 BCE show it was introduced from Central Asia after the Indus Civilisation. The earliest archaeological finds of horse-drawn chariot come from graves dated to around 2000 BCE in the Eurasian steppes, the natural habitat of the horse. There are also ancient Aryan loanwords in Finno-Ugric languages spoken in northeastern Europe (for example, the word for ‘hundred‘ in my own language Finnish is ‘sata’ [i.e. the same word than in Indo-iranian]). Some of these Aryan loanwords represent a more archaic stage of development (that is, are phonetically closer to the older Proto-Indo-European language) than Rigvedic Sanskrit. It is very likely that these words came to Finno-Ugric languages from Proto-Aryan spoken in the Volga steppes [i.e. in Russia].”


Indian man fom the north of India

Indian man from Haryana (north of India)

North Indian woman

Woman from North india

Indian woman from Rajathan

Woman from Rajathan (north-west of India)

Although often contested, some sentences from the RigVeda, the oldest holy book of Hinduism, are interpretable through an ethnic lense. In this text, the enemies of the Arya, the Dasa, are often associated with the darkness and blackness and sometimes the literal words of black (or dark) skin are written.

Example from the Mandala IX, hymn 73 :

5. “Blowing away with supernatural might from earth and from the heavens the swarthy skin which Indra hates.”

which can be opposed to the following sentence from the Mandala I, hymn 100 :

18. “The mighty Thunderer [i.e. Indra] with his fair-complexioned friends won the land, the sunlight, and the waters.”

[From the Ralph T.H. Griffith translation]

A few of such instances can be found in the RigVeda.

Young Indian boy

Young Indian boy from Rajasthan

Young orphan girl from Northewest India

Young orphan girl from rajasthan

Young Indian girl from Rajasthan

Young orphan girl from Rajasthan, a region of north-west India, who's the sister of the girl above

Young Indian girl from Kashmir, northwest of India

Young Indian girl from Kashmir, northwest of India

Although rare, blue or green eyes are findable in India. The Buddha, a prince of the north of the Indian sub-continent living in the 6th century BCE and whose real name was Siddhartha Gautama, is said, in the oldest written source of Buddhism, the Pali canon, to have had very blue eyes (“abhi nila netto” literally meaning “very blue eyes“). Similarly, Bodhidharma, an Indian monk of the 6th century AD, founder of the Zen Buddhism, also credited with the martial arts tradition of the Shaolin temple, was nicknamed “the blue-eyed barbarian” by the Chinese.

Little Indian schoolgirl

Little Indian schoolgirl from Uttaranchal, a region of the north of India

Young men from Heam, in the north of India

Young men from the north of India

Indian Girl from the north of India

Girl from the north of India

Indian girl

Indian girl

Sikh girl from Bangalore (India)

Sikh girl from Bangalore (India)

Indian woman from the Madhya Pradesh

Indian woman from the Madhya Pradesh (India)

Little Indian toddler

Little Indian girl

In the north of Pakistan, some individuals also frequently show a strikingly europoid appearance. The most well-known of these populations where these caractheristics are visible are the Burushos of the Hunza valley (speaking a non-indo-european language, Burushaski) and the Kalash (or Kalashas, like the former name of the Nuristanis of eastern Afghanistan) a population of the Hindu-kush speaking an Indo-iranian language. The Kalash, the Burusho and the Nuristani claim to be descendants of the Alexander‘s army (another legend of the Kalash also claim a link with the Kushans) but so far the genetic tests have not found any link with Greek or Macedonian populations (Very few tracks have been found among the Pathans (a.k.a. Pashtun) of Pakistan though). It is quite possible that these south Asian populations are actually partly the visible remains of the ancient Indo-iranian populations that probably came from central Asia during bronze age and mixed with the local populations, as the DNA tests have revealed that populations of bronze age south Siberia, strongly supposed to have been early Indo-europeans, had such characteristics.

Pakistanese children from the Hunza valley

Pakistanese children of Karimabad, Hunza Valley (Pakistan)

Burusho girl of Hunza, Pakistan

Young Burusho girl (left) of the Hunza Valley (north Pakistan)

Young Hunza girl (north Pakistan)

Young girl from Hunza (north Pakistan)

Isolated people of the Hindu Kush mountains in the north of Pakistan (in the Chitral district), the Kalash are a polytheistic ethnic group speaking the Kalash language, a Dardic language (a language group considered as a subgroup of the Indo-aryan language family) of the Indo-iranian language family. Their traditions are said to be close to the ancient pre-Zoroastrian Iranian and ancient Indian Vedic traditions.

Little Kalasha girl from the North pakistan

Little Kalash girl from the Hindu-kush (North pakistan)

Little Kalash girl of the chitral district

Little Kalasha girl of the chitral district of North Pakistan

Little Kalasha girl from Chitral (North-west Pakistan)

Little Kalash girl from Chitral (North Pakistan)

Kalash children (Chitral, North Pakistan)

Kalasha children (North Pakistan)

Young Kalash girl (Chitral)

Young Kalash woman (North pakistan)

Young Kalash man

Young Kalash man (Chitral, north-west of Pakistan)

Kalash baby from Romboor, Chitral district in North Pakistan

Kalash baby from Romboor, Chitral district

Kalasha kids, Chitral

Kalash kids, Chitral

Kalasha child, Chitral, North Pakistan

Kalash child, Pakistan

Kalash woman from Chitral (Pakistan)

Kalash woman from the north of Pakistan

Kalash woman and her baby (Chitral)

Kalasha woman and her baby (Pakistan)

Little Kalasha girl with red hair from north Pakistan

Little Kalash girl with red hair from Chitral, Pakistan

Central Asia

June 21, 2010

There was a time, well before the Turkic population movements, when central Asia was speaking Indo-european languages. During antiquity, Indo-iranian languages were once spoken by populations from the east of Europe up to the Altai mountains of south Siberia (Scythians, Sakas and Sarmatians were such peoples) and down to south Asia.
Nevertheless, prior to this situation, another kind of Indo-european language was apparently present in Asia.

Girl from Kazakhstan

In central Asia, blue eyes can also sometimes be found in the population.

The first (supposedly) Indo-european migration eastwards (from its ancestral home of Ukraine and south Russia) we find tracks of, occured right before 3,500 BC and gave birth to the Afanasevo culture, whose extent was from Kazakhstan to south Siberia and Mongolia. It is likely that the population of the Afanasevo culture was speaking a language that was the ancestor of the Tocharian language (see the Xinjiang article for more details).

Turkmen Girl

Young woman from Turkmenistan

Woman from Central Asia

Woman from Central Asia with Europoid characteristics.

The ancient DNA and the archeology reveal hints of this ancient past. A 2004 study expose the nature of the bronze age population (in this study the samples are precisely from 1,300 BC to 400 AD) of Kazakhstan :

“Unravelling migrations in the steppe: mitochondrial DNA sequences from ancient central Asians” (Lalueza-fox et al, 2004 – source)

“The distribution of east and west Eurasian lineages through time in the region is concordant with the available archaeological information: prior to the (…) seventh century BC, all Kazakh samples belong to European lineages; while later an arrival of east Eurasian sequences that coexisted with the previous west Eurasian genetic substratum can be detected. The presence of an ancient genetic substratum of European origin in West Asia may be related to the discovery of ancient mummies with European features in Xinjiang and to the existence of an extinct Indo-European language, Tocharian”


Most of the retrieved sequences (n = 21, 78%) belong to European (or west Eurasian) mtDNA haplogroups (HV, H, T, I, U and W haplogroups).”


Haplogroups present in modern Kazakhs, such as B, F, C, Z, D, R, J and Y [Pastmists : almost all typically east-Asian], were not observed in the prehistoric Kazakhs [Pastmists : here, the earliest samples are from the bronze age]. By contrast, two haplogroups observed among the ancient samples, W and I, have not yet been found among modern Kazakhs. The results also indicate that there is an excess of west Eurasian haplogroups in comparison with those currently found (notably haplogroups H and U). However, this may be attributed to the overrepresentation of the earlier temporal period with only west Eurasian haplogroups. The observed absence of east Eurasian sequences prior to the eighth to seventh century BC suggests an earlier prehistoric expansion of peoples containing west Eurasian sequences into Asia, that probably went further east, into present-day China. This expansion may be related to the discovery of mummies that contain European features and west Eurasian mtDNA sequences in the Tarim basin, China, as well as the relict Indo-European Tocharian.”

Kyrgyz man

Kyrgyz man with very blue eyes.

South Siberia was also once populated mostly by Europoid populations, likely speaking the ancestor of the Tocharian language, in what is known as the Afanasevo culture, appearing as early as 3,500 BC roughly mirroring the supposed Indo-european population movements into the north of Europe at the same time (the similar dates of these population movements, both east and west, probably explain the resemblances between Tocharian, the easternmost Indo-european language, and the westernmost Indo-european languages, found in Europe - Indo-iranian language being likely spread by a later population movement spreading the satem innovation (see below) now overwhelmingly present in Asia but not in the tocharian language). Both these migrations have their origin in the north of the black sea, in the srednij stog and yamnaya cultures of Ukraine and south Russia, a relation hinted in archeology, even more clearly in Asia. In its easternmost known extent, the Afanasevo culture reached the west of Mongolia.
Tracks of these ancient (supposedly) Indo-european migrations can be found in archeology but also in the ancient DNA.

“Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people” (Keyser et al, 2009 – source)

“To help unravel some of the early Eurasian steppe migration movements, we determined the Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial haplotypes and haplogroups of 26 ancient human specimens from the Krasnoyarsk area dated from between the middle of the second millennium BC. to the fourth century AD. In order to go further in the search of the geographic origin and physical traits of these south Siberian specimens, we also typed phenotype-informative single nucleotide polymorphisms. Our autosomal, Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA analyses reveal that whereas few specimens seem to be related matrilineally or patrilineally, nearly all subjects belong to haplogroup R1a1-M17 which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans. Our results also confirm that at the Bronze and Iron Ages, south Siberia was a region of overwhelmingly predominant European settlement, suggesting an eastward migration of Kurgan people across the Russo-Kazakh steppe. Finally, our data indicate that at the Bronze and Iron Age timeframe, south Siberians were blue (or green)-eyed, fair-skinned and light-haired people and that they might have played a role in the early development of the Tarim Basin civilization [i.e. in Xinjiang, northwest China]. To the best of our knowledge, no equivalent molecular analysis has been undertaken so far. “

The study also reveals that during bronze age,90% ofthe mtDNA haplogroups (female lineages) – such as U2, U4, U5a1, T1, T3, T4, H5a, H6, HV, K and I – were west Eurasian/Europoid (and 67% during iron age).

Several of these mtDNA genetic signatures have an exact match in Europe (like for instance mtDNA haplogroup I4 and T1 who are frequently found in the north and north-east of Europe (in the case of T1, the Baltic area is apparently where its frequency is the highest; this very haplotype was also found in ancient DNA from the ancient remains of Kazakhstan (Lalueza-fox et al. 2004) and Xinjiang (Gao et al. 2008)), the U5a1 haplotype is found in north-west Europe, the specific U2e haplotype was found nowadays in an east European individual and in only one Uyghur, the K2b haplotype was found in only two individuals, two Europeans (one Austrian and one Hungarian) and the precise U4 haplotypes of the study were found mostly in the north, the east, the north-east and the south-east of Europe and in the Volga-Ural area  as well (but also a few in the Altai region up to the Baikal area), etc…).

The fact that the male lineage, the haplogroup Y-DNA R1a1a, was associated almost exclusively with such west Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups in the female lineages, in the oldest analyzed period, clearly points to a migration from eastern Europe, especially considering archeology which support this view, as the Afanasevo culture had several similarities with the Yamna culture of the north of the black sea. It is also mentionned that at least 60% of the tested ancient individuals had light hair and blue or green eyes.

Most ancient south Siberian remains tested in 2008 study match  those of european individuals

On this picture, one can see that most of the ancient remains of south Siberian individuals whose DNA have been tested in 2008 can be classified among the Europeans, as for pigmentation-related loci (a locus is a location in the DNA).

Interestingly, the oldest mummies from the Tarim basin of Xinjiang (north-western China), among the 2,000 BCE Xiaohe people, were also all R1a1a (and with a few mtDNA lineages having matches in modern Europe, as far as Iceland and Great Britain) (source).

The Europoid haplogroups, though rather rare in Mongolia, are findable there (sources here and here). This is also illustrated by the ancient DNA.

“A western Eurasian male is found in 2000-year-old elite Xiongnu cemetery in Northeast Mongolia” (source)

“We analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome single nucleotide polymorphisms (Y-SNP), and autosomal short tandem repeats (STR) of three skeletons found in a 2,000-year-old Xiongnu elite cemetery in Duurlig Nars of Northeast Mongolia.

“The DNA analyses revealed that one subject was an ancient male skeleton with maternal U2e1 [pastmists: U2e is the European subgroup of U2, an ancient Eurasian mtDNA haplogroup (An haplogroup whose ultimate paleolithical origin is probably India). A more than 30,000 years old man found at Kostenki, south Russia, was found to be U2] and paternal R1a1 haplogroups. This is the first genetic evidence that a male of distinctive Indo-European lineages (R1a1) was present in the Xiongnu of Mongolia

Oirat Mongol man

Oirat Mongol, an ethnical group found in Mongolia, China and Russia. Blue eyes and light hair are sometimes found in these Asian lands even if rarely.

Mongol girl

Little blue-eyed blond Mongol girl

Oirat Mongol girl

Oirat Mongolian girl from the west of Mongolia

The human remains also reveal the change in the population of the Altai :

According to paleoanthropological data, the Caucasoid (in respect of its morphological features) population predominated in the steppes of the Altai–Sayan region during the Neolithic [Pastmists : here, apparently at least starting with the Chalcolithic time], Bronze, and partly early Iron Ages [1–3]. At that time the Mongoloid component was observed only in few cases. However, beginning from the early Iron Age, the presence of this component has been increasing, and becoming prevalent in modern times. Thus, dynamics of the anthropological composition of the Altai–Sayan populations can be characterized by definitely directed replacement of the Caucasoid component by the Mongoloid one.” (excerpt from « Origin of Caucasoid-Specific Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Ethnic Groups of the Altai–Sayan Region » (Derenko et al. 2002) | source )

The study « Moleculargenetic analysis of Wanggu remains, inner Mongolia, China » (Yuqin Fu et al. 2006) [source] also reveals a “Caucasoid” input in the ancient Wanggu tribe :

“Recently, we discovered human remains of the Wanggu tribe in the Chengbozi cemetery in the Siziwang Banner of Inner Mongolia, China. [...] Our results show that the genetic structure of the Wanggu tribe in the Jin-Yuan period is a complex matriline, containing admixture from both Asian and European populations.”

In 2004, the study “Different Matrilineal Contributions to Genetic Structure of Ethnic Groups in the Silk Road Region in China” (Yao et al, 2004) estimated the west eurasian input among the Mongolian maternal lineages to 14.3 % (source in PDF format).

It’s also interesting to note that a study on the Eurasian cattle revealed that the Mongolian cattle is partially derived from the European cattle (source : “Genetic diversity and structure in Bos Taurus and bos Indicus populations analyzed by SNP markers”), which reminds of similar conclusions found about the Japanese cattle (see the Xinjiang article for more details). In this context it is also interesting to mention that the Turkic öküz (meaning ox in English (same ancestral root), a word also akin to Sanskrit ukṣán) resembles Tocharian B okso.

Let’s add, to seal the case, a  new study ( “Brief Communication: Two-Rooted Lower Canines—A European Trait and Sensitive Indicator of Admixture Across Eurasia”, Christine Lee and G. Richard Scott, American Journal of Physical Anthropology (2011), DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.21585 | source ) showing a basically European-specific dental trait, absent in east Asia, but particularly present among Afanasevo, Scythian, Uyghur populations and even in the Ordos (*) region in northern China, as a marker of ancient bronze age (presumed Indo-european) migrations :

The presence of the two-rooted canines in East Asia may provide some clue as to the eastward migration of new populations into China and Mongolia. The largest numbers of individuals with this trait are concentrated along the western and northern frontiers of China and Mongolia. Archaeological excavations support the large scale movement of people into this area during the Bronze age (ca. 2200 BCE–400 BCE). Burial artifacts and settlement patterns suggest cultural and technological ties to the Afanasevo culture in Siberia, which in turn is linked archaeologically, linguistically, and genetically with the Indo-European Tocharian populations that appear to have migrated to the Tarim Basin ca. 4,000 years ago (Ma and Sun, 1992; Ma and Wang, 1992; Mallory and Mair, 2000; Romgard, 2008; Keyser et al., 2009; Li et al., 2010).”

(*) This seems to be confirmed by archaeology (source): According to Lebedynsky, the people represented in archaeological finds tend to display Europoïd features, and are thought to be of Scythian affinity. The weapons, found in tombs throughout the steppes of the Ordos, are very close to those of the Scythians, especially the Sakas.

As for the main Indo-european group of the Indo-european language family in Asia, the Indo-iranians, their ancestors supposedly migrated from the north of the black sea probably becoming the proto-indo-iranians in the region going from Russia up to the north west of Kazakhstan roughly between 2,500 BC to 2,000 BC (explaining the presence of very early Indo-iranian loanwords in Finno-ugric languages (such as Finnish) and east Caucasian languages), spreading progressively up to south Siberia and south of central Asia leaving their tracks in an archaeological horizon named the Andronovo culture, supposedly giving ultimately birth to the Scythian/Saka population.

Ukok mummy

Mummy of a scytho-siberian individual from Tuva, a Russian republic located north of the west of Mongolia.

It must be noted that the oldest written tracks of Indo-iranian language are not found in south Asia but in northern Syria, in a kingdom named Mitanni, in inscriptions dated around 1,400 BC. All the kings of this realm had Indo-aryan throne names, even when they had Hurrian names before being crowned and their capital was named Waššukanni which derives from old Indic vasu-khani (literally “wealth mine”).

The Mitanni inscriptions are in Hurrian, a non-indo-european language (whose ultimate origin is thought to be either Caucasus or Armenia), but indo-iranian terms linked to horses and chariots (and Indo-Aryan divinities as well) are found in these texts.
Given the fact that the oldest found tracks of chariot and horse-riding are found near the south of the Urals (examples about early chariots : Sintashta site (also here) | Saratov site) and in the north of central Asia, it can be surmised that their use was spread by Indo-iranians in Anatolia, west Asia and south Asia.

The current location of Indo-aryan languages (India) and the bronze age tracks of it — Mitanni kingdom in north Syria, or also for instance the Indo-aryan name of a governor of Qiltu near Jerusalem, in Palestine, named suardata (apparently from Indo-aryan svàr-data: “gift from the sun” [svàr in Sanskrit, and its Indo-european cousins; a word having quite likely an etymological relation with the name of the Slavic deity Svarog (father of a solar deity) or for instance the Russian verb svarit' ("to burn", "to cook")]) during roughly the same time (there are also possibly some tracks of borrowed Indo-aryan words in the Kassite dynasty in Babylonia —  could spontaneously lead us to see the source of Indo-aryan languages in west Asia but as previously stated,  many words from the Indo-iranian language family – sometimes from the proto-indo-iranian or at least at a very early stage of Indo-iranian – can be found in the Finno-ugric languages (languages such as Finnish, Estonian or Saami) and languages from the eastern Caucasus rather supports a different place of origin (the fact that these loanwords have been entering these Finno-ugric languages * at diverse stages of evolution of the Indo-iranian language confirm that the Finno-ugric populations have been in close  contact with Indo-iranian-speaking populations for many centuries, and the fact that some of these loanwords seem to pertain to the proto-Indo-iranian stage supports the idea that these loanwords aren’t just a legacy of the Scythian and Sarmatian populations. It does support the theory of a homeland of the original Indo-iranians actually in the Russia **-northwest Kazakhstan region). Even in Ugric languages, some words are clearly closer to the Indo-aryan language family than to the Iranic one (e.g. Hungarian tehén (cow) is closer to Sanskrit dhenu- (see Punjabi dhen) than to Avestan dainu (Vedic Sanskrit (earliest known Indo-aryan language) and Avestan (earliest known Iranic language) were still quite close from each others (it is said that these two languages were definitely closer than Italian and Spanish are to each others)). Interestingly, Hungarian szekér (“chariot”) would be derived from an Indo-aryan *śaka-ra.)

* A few examples (among many others) of Indo-iranian roots in Finno-ugric languages that can be found in “The indo-aryan controversy” by Edwin Bryant and Laurie Patton: 

Mordvin sazor (younger sister), Udmurt sazer (younger sister) — Sanskrit svasar (sister)

Komi sur, Udmurt sura (beer) — Sanskrit surā- (intoxicating drink)

Finnish and Ostya udar (udder) — Sanskrit udhar (udder)

Finnish marras (dead) — Sanskrit mṛtas (dead)

Finnish muru (crumb), Mansi mur, mor- (crumble) — Sanskrit mur (crumble), Saka murr (crumble), Ossetian mur- (crumb)

Hungarian tei (milk) — Hindi dhai (actually dahi), Kashmiri dai (soured milk)

Finnish sarvi (horn), Mordvin suro, Komi and Udmurt sur, Mari sur — Ossetian sarv, Avestan sru, srva (and sanskrit śṛṇga-)

Mansi mant (bucket) — Sanskrit mantha, manthana, Pali mantha

Finnish vasa, Ostya vasik, Mansi vasir, Hungarian üszo (bull) — Old Iranian vasa, Ossetian waes, Sanskrit vatsa (calf) (and Sanskrit vṛṣa (bull))

and so on.

** It should be mentionned that the Abashevo culture in Russia, is seen as a possible source for the proto-indo-iranian language and indeed the Abashevo culture was influential in the Sintashta site where are seen the oldest known expression of Indo-iranian-like rituals, according to many specialists.


“In 1370 BC a treaty between the king of Mitanni, Mattiwaza (old reading Kurtiwaza), and the Hittite king, Suppiluliumas, was concluded and there is an oath guaranteed by a series of gods including such Indo-aryan divinities as Indra, Mithra, Varuna and Nasatya. In the 14th century BC in the hittite city of Bogazkoy (pastmists: in this time named Hattusa) a trainer from the land of the Mitanni named Kikkuli composed a treatise on horse training where he employed numerous Indo-Aryan terms (Thieme 1960; Mayhofer 1966; 1974; Kemmenhuber 1968). The first time the Indo-aryans appeared in the Near East dates, however, from the 17th century BC when the Hurrians (non-Indo-European) came from north-east Anatolia and founded the Mitanni kingdom. It was dominated by Indo-Aryans who had brought chariots, blood-horses, and the skills of horse-training. The names of Mitanni kings known from documents of the Tel-Amarna [Tell el-amarna] archive in Egypt and from the cuneiform texts and seals of the Near East are Indo-Aryan. The Indo-Aryans formed elite charioteer squadrons (Yankoska 1979; 1981; 1987). Judging by the descriptions of their dress and weapons, which included a hood, a bow, and a quiver with shaft-hole arrows (Zaccani 1978), the Aryans had come to Mitanni from the steppes. None of those features were known in the near East but had analogues only in the steppes. This is an elite dominance migration pattern: The dominance is secured by the introduction of new chariot battle tactics. The dominant group was presumably small and soon assimilated.”

The origin of the indo-iranians, volume 3 p. 322, by Elena E. Kuz’mina

Seemingly confirming this theory, many of the words meaning “horse” throughout west Asia during antiquity seem derived from the satem form of the Indo-european root designating the horse (*ekwos), pointing again towards the Indo-iranians (speaking a satem Indo-european language in which horse was said asva) as the spreaders of mounted horses and chariotry in this region during bronze age (like for instance: Hurrianessi“, Akkadiansissu” and several others. Among them, quite revealing are the Hittite word “azu(wa)“, the Luwian assuwa and the Ugariticssw” which are extremely close to the Indo-iranian word and seem to clearly be a loanword from this language family. The rise of the Hittites (an Indo-european Anatolian people (i.e. from modern day Turkey) whose language isn’t a satem language), that was posterior to the rise of the Mitanni (that were also their direct neighbors), owed much to an efficient use of chariotry.

The specialists generally consider satem a later innovation well after the proto-indo-european language which was centum-like. This conforts the idea that the horse was introduced and domesticated late in west Asia and the Near East, apparently disproving the theory that the Indo-european languages appeared in either Asia minor or the Middle-East, as the stem for “horse” was omnipresent in basically all the Indo-european languages and, as such, obviously already part of the proto-indo-european language from which almost all the known Indo-european languages are derived (with maybe the exception of the Anatolian languages that could be derived from an earlier stage) while the horse was basically absent until the last part of bronze age in most of west Asia (regions such as the middle or near-East and most of Asia minor).

Cultures supposedly at the origin of the Indo-iranians witin the Kurgan theory context.

Cultures supposedly at the origin of the spread of the Indo-iranian language family within the Kurgan theory context.

In south Asia, the Gandhara graves culture of Swat Valley in northern Pakistan seems to represent the advance of these Indo-iranians in south Asia, also importing the horse in these lands.

A comparison between the burial rites of the bronze age Andronovo culture and the bronze age Swat culture (a.k.a. Gandhara grave culture)

A comparison between the burial rites of the bronze age Andronovo culture (central Asia and south Siberia) and the bronze age Swat culture (north Pakistan). In the latter case, the Swat culture, also known as the Gandhara grave culture, it is a change in the local tradition. (picture from “The origins of the Indo-iranians” by Elena E. Kuz’mina)

Some phenotypes of current south Asia seem to keep the track of this ancient migration from Central Asia occuring during bronze age (more of such pictures to be found on this blog here and here) :

Kalasha woman from north pakistan

Young Kalash woman from the Chitral district of north-western Pakistan

The famous Afghan girl with piercing green eyes.

Sharbat Gula, the famous Afghan girl whose picture was on the cover of the National Geographic.

Little girl from Afghanistan

Little girl from Afghanistan

Afghan father and his son

Afghans from the village of Deh-e Hazara

Wakhi girl (Afghanistan)

Wakhi girl from the extreme east of Afghanistan, a region located between the south of Tajikistan, the west of China and the north of Pakistan

Afghan kids

Afghan kids in Jalalabad (Afghanistan)

Afghan children

Afghan children from Panjshir

Little Afghan girl from the Hazarajat region of Afghanistan

Little Hazara girl (Afghanistan)

North Pakistanese girl (maybe Nuristani)

Young girl from the north of Pakistan

South Asian man from north Pakistan with an Europoid appearance.

Man from the north of Pakistan

Paksitanese little boy

Pashtun boy from Pakistan

Man from Chitral (north of Pakistan)

Man from the Chitral district (North Pakistan)

Young teen from northern Pakistan, south Asia

A teenager from northern Pakistan

Little Indian girl from the north of India

Little Indian girl (India)

Indian boy from the north of India

Indian boy from the Himachal Pradesh, north of India

Nowadays, the west Eurasian haplogroups are still found in the central Asian (and south Siberian, like the Altaians) populations even though they are mixed with numerous east Asian haplogroups.

This map from a september 2010 study, In the heartland of Eurasia: the multilocus genetic landscape of Central Asian populations (Martinez-Cruz et al. 2010 ; European Journal of Human Genetics , (8 September 2010) | doi:10.1038/ejhg.2010.153), describe the origin of the populations having contributed to the Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan modern populations (also showing the differences within the different linguistic families, Turkic or Indo-iranian) :

Origin of the populations having contributed to the Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan gene pool.

Origin of the populations having contributed to the Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan modern populations

Like in the east of Afghanistan and the north of Pakistan, Tajikistan, a region speaking an Indo-iranian language related to Persian, is known to harbor a certain number of Europoid individuals in its autochthonous population.

Young Tajik boys in Tajikistan

Young Tajik boys

Tajik boy

Tajik boy

Two little Tajik boys

Two Tajik boys, in south Tajikistan

“In fact, it’s in the more eastern variants of the Andronovo civilization – notably in the Bishkent culture, in the south of Tajikistan – that a probable expression of indo-iranian rituals is visible in the archeological clues. In the Tulkhar cemetery, the sepultures of the males have a little rectangular hearths that quite remind of the altar-hearth (ahavaniya) of the first indo-aryan priests while the tombs of the females have got little circular hearths that evoke the garha-patya (always associated with women) in the indo-aryan home.

Even if a few points are still quite controversial, the fundamentally indo-iranian identity of the bronze age steppic cultures is seen as almost certain.”

From “In search of the Indo-europeans. Language, archeology and myth”, J. P. Mallory

Tajik children in Pamir

Two little children in the Vanj region, Tajikistan

Young Tajik girls

Young Tajik girls from the Vanj district in the Pamir mountains

Tajik women

Tajik women

It must be noted that the oldest tracks of Indo-iranian language are not found in south Asia butin northern Syria, in a kingdom named Mitanni, in inscriptions dated around 1,400 BC.
The Mitanni inscriptions are in Hurrian, a non-indo-european language (whose origin is thought tobe Armenia or Caucasus – verif), but indo-iranian terms linked to horses and chariots (and Indo-Aryan divinities as well) are found in these texts.
Given that the oldest found tracks of chariot and horse-riding are found near south of the Urals(Sintashta site | Saratov site) and in the north of central Asia, it can be surmised that theiruse was spread by Indo-iranians in Anatolia, west Asia and south Asia. Such a location for theorigin of Indo-iranian is supported by the fact that many words from the Indo-iranian languagefamily, sometimes from a very early stage of Indo-iranian can be found in Finno-ugric languagesand languages from the eastern Caucasus.


May 12, 2010

Xinjiang is the north-western region of China, north of Tibet and at the same longitude than India. It is a very arid and desertic land.
This region, also called Chinese Turkestan, is mostly inhabited by the Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking  population. This region is turcophone since the 9th century AD, but Indo-european populations (i.e. the so-called “Tocharians” and Indo-iranian Sakas (leaving tracks of their language in Xinjiang (the Khotanese language)) have inhabited this place long before which explains that many words have still indo-european roots, in the local vocabulary.

This is the place of discovery of the Tarim Basin mummies whose some are about 4,000 years old. Many of them have Europoid phenotypes (and indeed, it is worthy of mention that some old Chinese texts described some populations of these general regions, like the Wusun, as redhead individuals with blue eyes, which is also in accordance with some Tarim basin frescoes that also show the Tocharians as individuals with light hair and eyes).

Loulan beauty mummy

The famous Loulan beauty is from about 1,800 BCE (The “dark skin” is caused by the skin becoming “leathery” due to the natural mummification)

Evidences of west Eurasian/Europoid populations, deep in Asia, in an ancient past (at least as old as the chalcolithic time), have been established. These tracks cover central Asia, south Siberia and apparently as far as the Shandong region in north-east China (see further below in this page).

At the moment, it seems quite likely that the ancestor of the Tocharian language was spoken in the Afanasevo culture that appeared around 3,500 BCE and that spread from the center of Kazakhstan, south Siberia and up to the west of Mongolia and whose most of the skeletal remains are considered Europoid (it is said that they have the more resemblances with the populations of the Sredny Stog and Yamnaya cultures in Ukraine and Russia). This culture has many similarities with the Pontic steppes’ cultures of that time (the sepultures or the potteries, for instance (among several other things), are quite similar to the ones of the Yamnaya culture (also known as the pit grave culture)).

Interestingly, Mr. Han Kangxin from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences of Beijing examined 302 Tarim mummies skulls (Han Kangxin 1994; 1998) and concluded that the closest ancient populations were  the populations from the Afanasevo culture and the Andronovo culture (surmised to be early Indo-iranian populations). The physical type of the Afanasevo and Andronovo cultures are also similar to the physical type of the Yamna (also known as Yamnaya or th Pit grave culture) culture and all are classified as Europoid.

The human remains of the Afanasevo and Andronovo cultures are indeed easily recognizable as Europoid :

“During this period [i. e. in the chalcolithic period] the Altay-Sayan Plateau was settled by Europeoids; the anthropological type of the population, which left behind relics of the Afanas’yevo and Andronovian cultures, need give rise to no doubt.”

“The Europeoid groups occupied the steppes of the Altay and Minusinskiy Kray, while the forest belt both in eastern and western Siberia continued to be extensively occupied by Mongoloid types. The boundary between them was by no means permanent. From the Altay-Sayan steppes the Europeoid groups seem to have moved fairly far east; the neolithic population west of Lake Baykal, in particular, shows a Europeoid admixture. In their turn, the Mongoloid elements penetrated into the steppe regions.”

“From then on the proportion of the various Mongoloid types among the population of southwest Siberia kept increasing. This was particularly the case during the Tashtyk period. At the end of the first and beginning of the second millennia A.D., in the Altay-Sayan Plateau, too, Mongoloid-type groups almost completely ousted the ancient Europeoid population.”

(M. G. Levin, “The Anthropological Types of Siberia,” in The Peoples of Siberia, ed. M. G. Levin and L. P. Potapov, The University of Chicago Press, 1964  –  Page 99)

Or also :

According to paleoanthropological data, the Caucasoid (in respect of its morphological features) population predominated in the steppes of the Altai–Sayan region during the Neolithic [Pastmists : here, apparently at least starting with the Chalcolithic time], Bronze, and partly early Iron Ages [1–3]. At that time the Mongoloid component was observed only in few cases. However, beginning from the early Iron Age, the presence of this component has been increasing, and becoming prevalent in modern times. Thus, dynamics of the anthropological composition of the Altai–Sayan populations can be characterized by definitely directed replacement of the Caucasoid component by the Mongoloid one.” (excerpt from « Origin of Caucasoid-Specific Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Ethnic Groups of the Altai–Sayan Region » (Derenko et al. 2002) | source)

Europoid man in ancient China

Europoid man on an ancient painting from Turpan (Xinjiang)

A recent study (Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people“, Keyser et al., 2009 – (source)) determined that the bronze and iron age populations of south Siberia (formerly place of the Afanasevo culture and by then, being part of the Andronovo horizon) were largely Europoid (pretty revealing is the fact that during bronze age, the female lineages (mtDNA haplogroups) were 90% west Eurasians/Europoid) :

“To help unravel some of the early Eurasian steppe migration movements, we determined the Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial haplotypes and haplogroups of 26 ancient human specimens from the Krasnoyarsk area dated from between the middle of the second millennium BC. to the fourth century AD.

In order to go further in the search of the geographic origin and physical traits of these south Siberian specimens, we also typed phenotype-informative single nucleotide polymorphisms. Our autosomal, Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA analyses reveal that whereas few specimens seem to be related matrilineally or patrilineally, nearly all subjects belong to haplogroup R1a1-M17 which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans. Our results also confirm that at the Bronze and Iron Ages, south Siberia was a region of overwhelmingly predominant European settlement, suggesting an eastward migration of Kurgan people across the Russo-Kazakh steppe. Finally, our data indicate that at the Bronze and Iron Age timeframe, south Siberians were blue (or green)-eyed, fair-skinned and light-haired people and that they might have played a role in the early development of the Tarim Basin civilization [i.e. in Xinjiang, north-western China]. To the best of our knowledge, no equivalent molecular analysis has been undertaken so far.”

The study also shows that the matches in the databases, of the antique south Siberian mtDNA lineages and R1a1a haplotypes, in the modern populations, are mostly found in Europe (and of course also in south Siberia) confirming the origin deduced from both their physical type and archeology.

This is completely in accordance with the Kurgan hypothesis and allows an easy and satisfying explanation as to why the Tocharian  language bears so much more similarities with the westernmost Indo-european languages (Germanic, Celtic, Latin and others (including Hittite)) rather than with the geographically much closer Indo-iranian languages.

A few examples of Tocharian words and some of their closest matches in the Indo-european languages :

Tocharian A  ko (cow) :  Danish ko, Armenian kov, Latvian govs, etc…

Tocharian B  mälk (to milk) :  German melk (-en), Latin mulg (-ere), ancient Greek amelg (-ein), etc…

Tocharian B  puwar (fire **) :  Hittite pahhuwar / pahhur, Umbrian pir, ancient Greek pyr, etc…

Tocharian B  wrauña (raven) :  Russian voron, Lithuanian varn (-as), etc…

Tocharian A  laks (fish) :  Danish laks (salmon), Latvian lasis *, etc…

Tocharian B  yakwe (horse) :  archaic Latin equ (-os) (pronounced roughly ekw (-os)), old Irish ech, etc…

Tocharian B  ku (dog) : old Irish cu, ancient Greek kuon, Phrygian kun (-es), etc…

Tocharian B  twere (door) : Russian dver’Dutch deur, Albanian derë, etc…

Tocharian A  áñme (soul) : Latin anim (-us) (soul), ancient Greek anem (-os) (breath), etc…

Tocharian A  känt (100) : Latin cent (-um) (Latin “cent-“ is pronounced “kent”), Breton kant, etc…

Tocharian A  árki (white) : Hittite harki (white; light-colored), Latin argent (-um) (silver), ancient Greek arg (-os), etc…

Tocharian A  luks (to illuminate) : Latin lux (light), Russian luch (light ray), Danish lys (light), etc…

Tocharian A  knán (to know) : ancient Greek gnosis, Latin cognosc (-ere), Russian znanie *, etc…

Tocharian A  tkaṃ (earth) : Hittite tekam, ancient Greek khthốn, Sanskrit kṣam, etc…

Tocharian A  wär (water) : Hittite watar, ancient Greek hydor, Umbrian utur, etc…

* In satem indo-european languages (like in Russian or Latvian in these examples), the indo-european “k” becomes a “s” and the “g” becomes a “z” (e.g. Latin cord- and ancient Greek kardi- but Russian serdtse (meaning all “heart” (also from the same root but in the Germanic languages family, the proto-indo-european initial “k” becomes a “h”)) and for instance Germanic gold and zolot (-o) in Russian or ancient Greek geront- (elder) and Ossetic zärond (old) or Hittite gima and Russian zima (both meaning “winter“))

** The proto-indo-european initial “p” becomes a “f” in Germanic languages (e.g. Latin pisc- (fish) and Danish fisk)

In the Kurgan hypothesis, the Indo-iranian languages are a later stage of the Indo-european language evolution that probably appeared between 2,500 BC and 2,200 BC (2,000 BC at most) in south Russia and north-west Kazakhstan, or possibly in the Abashevo culture of Russia (as hinted by tracks of a very old stage words of Indo-iranian in Finno-ugric languages and in east Caucasian languages). The Afanasevo culture appeared around 3,500 BC, roughly at the time the Globular amphora culture and the Corded ware culture appeared in the north of Europe between 3,500 BC-3,000 BC (and that we can think are the ancestral origin of language families such as Germanic and Celtic, and likely others), hence we can surmise that the resemblances between Tocharian and the western Indo-european languages are because they separated from their general common location of origin (supposed to be Ukraine/south Russia) roughly at the same time ((roughly?) the proto-indo-european stage).

Mummy with an europoid morphology, found in the Taklamakan desert of Xinjiang

Several DNA tests have been done on ancient mummies of the Tarim and many did have west Eurasian genetic signatures :

- An ancient Xinjiang mummy was found to be of the mtDNA haplogroup H (the most frequent European mtDNA haplogroup) : DNA analysis of ancient desiccated corpses from Xinjiang (Francalacci, P., 1995), Journal of Indoeuropean Studies, vol. 23 (1995), pp. 385–389.

- Several 2,000 years old Tarim mummies were found to be from the haplogroups mtDNA U3, H, I, T2 and T, which are west Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups : “Mitochondrial DNA analysis of ancient Sampula population in Xinjiang (Xie, C.Z., et al), Progress in Natural Science, vol. 17, no.  8 (Aug 2007), pp. 927-933(7)” and “Mitochondrial DNA analysis of human remains from the Yuansha site in Xinjiang (Gao, S. et al), Science in China Series C: Life Sciences, vol. 51 (2008), no. 3, pp. 205-213“.

- a 2010 study found out that the remains of all the males of the tested Xiaohe population (an ancient Bronze age population of Xinjiang) living around 2,000 BCE were R1a1a and while a large majority of the mtDNA haplogroups (female lineages) were east Asian, two of them were west Eurasian (mtDNA haplogroup K and H. For the latter, modern day individuals who matched this very genetical signature in the databases, were found, all in Europe (1 German, 1 Icelander, 1 Hungarian, 1 Portuguese, 1 Italian and 4 English)) : “Evidence that a West-East admixed population lived in the Tarim Basin as early as the early Bronze Age” (Chunxiang Li et al, 2010)  (source | PDF ).

The east Asian mtDNA C4 haplogroup was also found which strengthen the idea that this population came from south Siberia (and thus were derived from the Afanasevo culture), since this haplogroup is found in a certain number there.

The R1a1a continuum in the antique south Siberia and the Xinjiang region (coupled with west eurasian/europoid female lineages) also obviously present north of the black sea (Pastmists : Haplogroup R1a1a was also present deep in  Germany at least by 2,600 BCE (source) – and very probably centuries earlier), the similar Europoid morphological type from the Sredny stog/Yamnaya cultures, north of the black sea, to the pastoralist populations of the  Afanasevo culture of south Siberia (and in the Xinjiang as well (Han kangxin 1994, 1998)), the clear relation between the cultures of the north of the black sea and the Afanasevo culture, clearly support the Kurgan theory. In this context, associate the ancestor of the Tocharian language to south Siberia is the logical thing to do. Given the nature of the Tocharian language (i.e. much closer to the Anatolian and the western Indo-european languages of Europe than to the Indo-iranian languages, yet geographically closer), we can assume that it left the Indo-european homeland roughly at the time of the proto-Indo-european language (more or less). The Afanasevo culture appearing at 3,500 BCE, we can thus approximately know the date of the proto-Indo-european language, which fits some of the common proto-Indo-european vocabulary allowing to favor an origin around the Chalcolithic.

The fact that Turkish öküz (ox) seems apparently directly related to (proto-?)Tocharian okso (an indo-european root found for instance in the Danish word okse, the Sanskrit word ukṣán or, of course, in the English word ox) rather than to an equivalent Indo-iranian word (later Indo-iranian presence in south Siberia seems a sure fact. The indo-iranian language family probably became prominent in this region when it switched from the ancient Afanasevo culture to the Andronovo horizon) and the fact that the Mongolian cattle is partly derived from west Eurasian cattle (source) definitely support this hypothesis as well.

Mummy of a tall woman with an European phenotype found in the north-west of China (Xinjiang)

Interestingly, the tracks of these ancient western migrations seems to go even as far as the Shandong region, in eastern China :

Genetic Structure of a 2,500-Year-Old Human Population in China and Its Spatiotemporal Changes

“Inconsistent with the geographical distribution,the 2,500-year-old Linzi population showed greater genetic similarityto present-day European populations than to present-day east Asian populations. The 2,000-year-old Linzi population had features that were intermediate between the present-day European/2,500-year-old Linzi populations and the present-day east Asian populations. These relationships suggest the occurrence of drastic spatiotemporal changes in the genetic structure of Chinese people during thepast 2,500 years.”

Shandong region

Shandong region

Reanalysis of Eurasian Population History: Ancient DNA Evidence of Population Affinities (Bennett, Casey C., Kaestle, Frederika A. | Human Biology – Volume 78, Number 4, August 2006, pp. 413-440)

“The results suggest that there are definite differences in the genetic affinities between the ancient populations of Linzi in northern China and Egyin Gol in Mongolia. The Linzi material seems to bear a stronger affinity with Near Easterners and Europeans rather than with the present-day populations of northern China, although there is a definite component of East and/or Southeast Asians within Linzi as well (as evidenced by haplogrouping; see later discussion). We would suggest that rather than a “European-like population” in the ancient Linzi region, the Linzi material may be at least partially related to Indo-Iranians (a branch of Indo-Europeans, although more precisely just “Iranian” by this time period), who were, during that period or at least shortly before it, probably inhabiting areas across Central Eurasia. More precisely, the Linzi population was quite possibly related to the Karsuk or Saka (putative Iranian groups who fit temporally and spatially) or also more distantly to the Andronovo, Afanasievo, Scythians, Sarmatians, or even the Sogdians.

The Karsuk and Saka are the most likely, given their existence in the first millennium B.C. in the central and possibly eastern parts of Central Eurasia, although these ethonyms are a little ambiguous and precise connections are not really possible. However, Harmatta (1992) argued that early Iranian groups were spread across Central Eurasia from Eastern Europe to north China in the first millennium B.C., and Askarov (1992) pointed out the existence of cist kurgan burials (with “Europoid” remains bearing some “Mongoloid” admixture, they suggest) in northwestern Mongolia in the same millennium. Although speculative, this line of reasoning fits in with other lines of evidence from archeology and linguistics for the aforementioned changes in Chinese Bronze Age culture-the loan words in Old Chinese (Pulleyblank 1996; Kuzmina 1998; Beckwith 2002; Di Cosmo 2002) and possibly sites such as Zhukaigou and the Qijia culture (Linduff 1995)-as well as evidence of Iranians on the steppe and possibly the Altai region at that time.

The suggestion that actual European populations may have been in northern China at that time conflicts with general evidence of population movement on the steppe, which sees gradual movement of putative IndoIranians and Indo-Aryans throughout the steppe and associated areas in the second and first millennia B.C. around Central Eurasia from the Indo-Aryans in India, the western Iranians on the Iranian plateau, and the Scythians and Sarmatians (and related groups) on the south Russian steppe and Eastern Europe [Pastmists : we have seen earlier that it's actually not contradictory at all]. There is some evidence of them being on the Mongolie steppe [see Askarov (1992)], as well as evidence of their inhabitance of Xinjiang (such as Khotan) and possibly the Altai region (also the Tokharians, although they were not Indo-Iranian).”

Tocharian monk, Xinjiang

Tocharian monk, Xinjiang

To these elements can be added the following words from the study “Unravelling migrations in the steppe: mitochondrial DNA sequences from ancient central Asians” (Lalueza-fox et al, 2004) [Link] :

“Analyses of present-day Han mtDNA sequences from different regions in China detect a very residual presence (less than 5%) of “European” haplotypes in a few regions.
These include Qinghai (east to Xinjiang and Tibet) and Yunnan [south of China], as well as some coastal regions.” (Yao et al. 2002).

Three triskellions on an artefact from Sichuan

Three triskellions on an artefact from Sichuan (The number three was a very important number for the ancient Indo-europeans). Is this a visible track of an ancient migration from the west?

Evidences of an ancient Europoid input are also findable in the Ordos region of inner Mongolia of northern China (you can check the Central Asia article out for more informations).


Even a west Eurasian origin of acupuncture is now thinkable (*). The first really attested tracks of it are found in the “Huangdi Neijing” (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon) around 300 BC but tracks of this practice could have been found on Oetzi the ice man, a 5,300 years old mummy found at the border between Italy and Austria [Pastmists : On a side note, we now know that Ötzi was from the haplogroups Y-DNA G2a2b and mtDNA K1f ].

“The determination supports prior research that the tattoos were associated with acupuncture treatments for chronic ailments suffered by the iceman, whose frozen body was found remarkably well preserved in the Similaun Glacier of the Alps in 1991.


The cross-shaped tattoo on his knee, and another one on his left ankle, also lay over Chinese acupuncture “trigger points,” the researchers believe. Strengthening their argument is the fact that the soot-made markings are located on parts of the iceman’s body not typical for tattoo displays, diminishing the notion that they served a more ornamental, aesthetic function.

Prior research shows Oetzi did suffer from a variety of ailments that might have benefited from acupuncture. These included a bad back, degeneration of the hip, knee and ankle, and “severe abdominal disorders,” primarily caused by whip worm, an intestinal parasite that can cause diarrhea.


Frank Bahr, president of the German Academy of Acupuncture, first made the tattoo-acupuncture connection on the iceman after studying a drawing of the tattoos and their placement on Oetzi’s body.

Bahr told Discovery News, “The most interesting thing about the whole iceman story is that even today I would treat a patient with about 90 percent of the same points as the tattoos on the iceman, if this patient were to have the same diseases.”

Excerpt from this article of Discovery News

Otzi's tatoos

Tattoos on the skin of Otzi the iceman. We can see than these tattoos look strangely similar to the I Ching symbols, the Trigrams.

Yi Jing Trigrams

I Ching Trigrams whose earliest attested presence is around 300 BC in the Book of Changes, one of the oldest Chinese classic texts.

(*) Of course, caution is advised in such a situation, for beside East Asian haplogroups found among the Finno-ugric populations  (in this case, Y-DNA haplogroup N1c and mtDNA haplogroups Z1 and D5), originally coming from north-east Siberia, a few (very rare) east Asian haplogroups can be found in Europe (for instance, some (rare) instances of the haplogroup mtDNA C5 are found in Poland, in Belarus or in Romania). Nevertheless, recent findings might hint that this flow was more important than once thought as several east Asian mtDNA haplotypes were found (mtDNA haplogroups such as N9a, C5, D1/G1a, M/R24) in neolithic human remains of  Hungary (source) hinting to some east Asian input in ancient Europe, which imposes a very cautious approach, especially since Hungary is not too far from Tyrol, the location of discovery of Ötzi’s mummy (however, the dates of these Hungarian sepultures are now contested (see there and there)). A few  instances of mtDNA C were apparently also recently found in neolithic and bronze age human remains from Ukraine (Nikitin et al, 2012).


Another surprising element discovered with very ancient mummies of the Tarim was a tartan (plaid) dated from 1,200 BC to 700 BC. This is generally associated with the Indo-european Celts (while probably a coincidence, the place of origin of the Celts is supposedly near Austria which is quite close from the place Otzi was found).

Plaid found with a mummy from Xinjiang

Plaid from the Tarim Basin found in Qizilchoqa (Xinjiang)

Article mentionning this discovery

It is actually surmised that at least horse-riding, chariot and bronze might have been brought in China from the west (article about ancient north-west China’s early bronze : “China had bronze early on” (an article also apparently confirming the settlement of Tocharian populations a bit before 2,000 BC in the east of the Tarim basin and north-west Gansu, seemingly confirming that this partly west Eurasian population didn’t directly come from the west, but at this time, more likely arrived from the north (south Siberia) and thus was largely derived from the Afanasevo population (the apparent presence of ancestral forms of what seems to be some sort of ancient Altaic(?) stems (some sort of proto-Turkic and proto-Tungusic stems) in Tocharian languages might also confort this view (see “Turkic and Chinese loan words in Tocharian” by Starostin & Lubotsky)). The Tocharian vocabulary also seems to match their use of cereals (such as wheat which was also found in a basket burried with the “Loulan beauty” (a 1,800 BCE west-eurasian-looking mummy of the eastern Tarim basin)), already in use in their likely ancestral culture of Srednij stog in the Pontic steppes, and their use of sheep (Tocharian B a(u)w (“ewe”), cognate of  English ewe, Luwian hawi, Latin ovis, Sanskrit avis, Lithuanian avis, etc… )  and horse (see below), both also among the most frequent domesticated animals in the Afanasevo culture)).

The name of the horse in Chinese (ma), Mongol (morin), Tungusic (murin) and Korean (mal ) – and maybe Japanese as well (uma) – have indeed a certain resemblance with an Indo-european root for “horse” (beside *ekw- (e.g. Latin equus, old Irish ech, Gaulish epos, Tocharian B yakwe, Tocharian A yuk (very likely at the origin of the Turkish word jük meaning “horse-load”), etc…)), *mark- (Irish marc/marcach, old Norse marr, English mare, etc…). Likewise, a few Chinese words shows a strong similarity with well-kown indo-european roots: such are honey (Chinese mi, pronounced *mjit or *mit in old Chinese can be linked to Tocharian B mit (having many cognates in the other Indo-european languages : i.e. english mead, sanskrit madhu, old church slavonic meda, lithuanian med(-us), ancient Greek methu, old Irish mid, etc…)), dog (two Chinese words, Quan or Kou, both very similar to Indo-european words for dog : Quan resembles the proto-Indo-european *Kwon- (not surprising if the oldest proto-tocharian stage was in (or very close to) the proto-indo-european stage) and Kou resembles the Tocharian word Ku), and a few others such as ox/bovine (chinese nyu / indo-european *gwou-), sheep/goat (yang from an older [g]riang that could be linked with Tokharien yriye (“lamb”)) or wheel (a dialectal Chinese word gulu from an ancient form *kolo that reminds of Slavic kolo and old Prussian (a now extinct ancient Baltic language) kelan) and maybe also a word for bronze (Chinese qiaotao / ancient Greek khalkos), but unproven.

Even though still highly hypothetical, it should be noted that some have conjectured that Huangdi, the Yellow emperor (‘yellow’ is a reference to the earth), a legendary civilizer sovereign in Chinese mythology (credited with many things including the invention of the principles of Chinese traditional medicine), master of thunder inhabiting an abode at the top of a Kunlun mountain (Mountains found in the south of Xinjiang and thought to be at the center of the world), was originally the Tocharian god of thunder. Other Chinese mythological figures, such as Yi the archer (Houyi), Xiwangmu and the three sovereigns (Fuxi, Nüwa (depictions of both are found in Xinjiang in the time it was still a Tocharian region, and in the mythology they were also linked to the Kunlun mountains in the south of Xinjiang) and Shennong) are also considered as possibly coming originally from the Tocharian traditions. («Influences tokhariennes sur la mythologie chinoise » [in French], Philadelphia, Sino-Platonic Papers, May 2004, 136. ; “Mythologie sino-européenne“, Philadelphia, Sino-Platonic Papers, July 2005, 154)

As a side note, it is also noticeable that the Ainu (an ancient autochtonous Japanese ethnic group) and some Japanese dialect words for “cattle” and “cow” are very similar to the Proto-indo-european root *peku- (e.g. latin pecus, sanskrit pasu, gothic faihu and still visible nowadays in English in “fee” and “pecuniary” (the latter from latin pecus)) : peko (Ainu) and beko (in some Japanese dialects) [source]. This observation is particularly interesting when we add to this the genetic tests on Japanese cattle that happened to reveal that a non-negligible part of it was partly of ancient European origin :

“Unlike Africa, half of Japanese cattle sequences are topologically intermingled with the European variants. This suggests an interchange of variants that may be ancient, perhaps a legacy of the first introduction of domesticates to East Asia” (source : Mitochondrial DNA variation and evolution of Japanese black cattle (Bos taurus)” | study available here | here as a PDF).

Difficult to draw direct conclusions from these strange facts. Maybe should this be linked to the second major wave of migration to Japan (at the origin of the Yayoi culture) possibly coming from Jiangsu, the coastal Chinese region just south of the Shandong region around 300 BC (some new dates around 900-800 BC are considered possible), even though the ancestral population of this second wave migrating in Japan more likely came, via Korea, from south-east Siberia (The geographical configuration and the fact that the Japanese language might be part of a (still hypothetical) Altaic language family (including Turkic, Mongol, Tungusic and Korean languages) seems to make it more likely. It is interesting to note that DNA tests of the Udege people, a Tungusic people from south-east Siberia, revealed several typical west eurasian/europoid haplogroups (mtDNA haplogroups H, H5, three H11a, T2 and U2e) among the 28 samples [source], and it seems very unlikely to be linked to Russian colonization. This is not totally unique, anyway, since the Yakuts from north-eastern Siberia themselves have both male and female west Eurasian lineages (in a small quantity) that don’t seem to be linked with Russian colonization either (examples here (pdf) and here)).

From these data, we can suppose that some ancient (non satem) Indo-european pastoralists migration (likely originally rattached to the Afanasevo culture)  have spread the concept of animal husbandry deep in Asia, transmitting their term for “cattle” to their direct neighbors during the process (in total accordance with the fact that, as mentionned earlier, the Mongolian cattle also have been shown to have an European input (that we can correlate with the fact that the Turkish word for ox (öküz) also seems to be derived from an ancient Indo-european word (The early Turkic population are strongly supposed to have appeared in south Siberia, close to the north of Mongolia (the earliest Turkic inscriptions are found in the north of Mongolia)) )).


In western China, in the Xinjiang region, the population, while east Asian, has sometimes European characteristics. Genetic testings have corroborated the presence of west Eurasian genes in the population (for instance, subclades of the Y-DNA haplogroups R1a, R1b and J2, genetic signatures frequetly found in Europe (and west Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups as well).

Roughly 56 % of the genetical signatures of the Uyghurs (the main ethnical group of the Xinjiang region) are not east-Asian (2009 scientifical article about this finding).

A 2004 study (Yao et al. 2004 : “Different Matrilineal Contributions to Genetic Structure of Ethnic Groups in the Silk Road Region in China” | PDF source) also previously reached similar conclusions :

“Although our samples were from the same geographic location, a decreasing tendency of the western Eurasian-specific haplogroup frequency was observed, with the highest frequency present in Uygur (42.6%) and Uzbek (41.4%), followed by Kazak (30.2%), Mongolian (14.3%), and Hui (6.7%).”

Some (non representative but still meaningful) phenotypes found in Xinjiang :

Tajik woman of Xinjiang

Young woman of Xinjiang

Kyrgyzs of Xinjiang

Xinjiang woman

Uyghur girl (Xinjiang)

Little red-headed girl (Xinjiang, China)

Little Tajik girl of Xinjiang (China)

Little Kyrgyz child of Xinjiang

Little Kyrgyz child of Xinjiang

Schoolgirls of Xinjiang

Young Uyghur girl (Xinjiang)

Two young Uyghurs in Kashgar, Xinjiang

Uyghur boys of Xinjiang

young Uyghur

Young Uyghur woman (Xinjiang)

Young man of Xinjiang (north-western China)

Young woman of Xinjiang

Blue-eyed girl (Xinjiang)

Young Kyrgyz man near the Karakul Lake (Xinjiang)

Young man of Xinjiang

Boy of Xinjiang

Young Kyrgyzs of Xinjiang

Man from the west part of Xinjiang

Xinjiang boy

Young Tajik schoolgirls in the west of Xinjiang

Young Xinjiang schoolboy

Blue-eyed man in Kashi, Xinjiang

Old woman (Tajik), Xinjiang

Man of west Xinjiang

Man of western Xinjiang

Three Uyghur girls, Khotan market (Xinjiang)

Four girls, west Xinjiang

Xinjiang Tajiks


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers