Tarim Basin Mummies

JoatSimeon at aol.com JoatSimeon at aol.com
Tue Jan 26 22:24:44 UTC 1999

>chrislord at sandonlodge.freeserve.co.uk (Chris Lord)

>Has anyone else seen the UK Daily Telegraph today, or heard from elsewhere
>about the 1,000 BC mummies found in Chinese Turkestan, who had apparently
>Celtic-ish clothes, and were of Caucasian appearance?

-- you can get a good overview of this in v.23, nos. 3&4 of the Journal of
Indo-European Studies, and also in LATE BRONZE AGE AND IRON AGE PEOPLES OF
CENTRAL ASIA,  Victor Mair, ed.

Essentially, the hyperarid and alkaline soils of the Tarim basin (what's now
Chinese Turkistan) preserve organic materials, both bodies and artifacts like

>From about 2000 BCE or so up until the 5th to 7th century CE, the Tarim Basin
was inhabited by Europoid populations -- many of them strikingly similar to
Central and Northern Europeans, both in appearance and according to DNA

Their textiles also bore strong resemblances to those much further west, using
weighted-warp loom technology, and including such things as herringbone twill
plaids. (And those goofy-looking hats with feathers that Bavarians wear.)

This is also, of course, the area where Tocharian speech prevailed prior to
the expansion of Uighur into the area.  How far back that goes, we can't
absolutely tell -- the mummies weren't buried with letters.  However, given
the historical accounts (Chinese sources from periods that _are_ definitely
Tocharian-speaking refer to big-nosed, blond and redheaded peoples in the
area) and the archaeology (no severe discontinuities after the early Bronze
Age) it seems reasonable to assume that the Europoid mummies were Tocharian
(or proto-Tocharian) speakers.

Especially as it seems definite that Tocharian broke off from PIE very early.

More information about the Indo-european mailing list