Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pamirs Yield More Fascinating Burials

For whatever reason, some Chinese authorities and academics feel very uncomfortable in admitting that non-Asian people - gasp - once settled and lived for thousands of years in an area that China claims for itself today, until those people (1) left (2) died off (or were killed off by the Han Chinese invaders) (3) were absorbed into some of the other Asian populations living around and in the area, which today continue to exhibit the genetic residue of their intermingling with these non-Asian people in the occasional blue-eyed, freckled child, the occasional blonde, the occasional redhead. 

You have no doubt heard or read about the Tarim Basin mummies, the Beauty of Loulan, etc.  These were fair-skinned, sometimes tall lanky people who wore tall pointed hats crafted from felt (think of a witch's hat), pointy-toed felt shoes soled in leather, and colorful, intricately and expertly woven plaid garments.  They sometimes had blue eyes, sometimes had fair hair, sometimes had red hair. The women held powerful positions within the society, but it would be unfair to say it was matriarchal, as not enough is known about the people and their society to form a reasonable opinion.  They often buried their dead in elaborately contructed tombs covered in wood, which as the years went by and climate change dessicated the areas they lived in, must have been nearly impossible to find.  Access to the "mummies" of Urumchi and other remains of these distinctly non-Asian people discovered in the area over the years, is restricted.  Seems the Chinese authorities don't want them to really be seen or closely studied.  I do not believe any such restrictions are placed upon examination of much later dated Asian mummies discovered in and about the region.

Here's a general map of the Tarim Basin.  You can see how it fits into western Asia and the far northwest of today's China.  That same area of northwest China that is the home to a great deal of "ethnic" unrest and repression of the local populations by the regional Communist authorities with the blessing of the Central Government.  In addition to mass purges of the locals, the Central Government  has undertaken a continuing policy of flooding the area with Han Chinese settlers along with wholesale disposession of the locals of their property and land.

The Tarim Basin, showing ancient river beds.  These rivers are almost always dry today.  The change in the local climate started probably 5,000 - 4,500 years ago, and by 2000 BCE the area had grown increasingly hostile to supporting the people who had settled there. If I recall my history correctly, gradually the climate changes forced people further toward the east, toward the area around Lop Nor (Lop Nur on this map),  and there they stayed for at least another 2000 years as the waters of the lake gradually shrunk until there was nearly nothing left.  I understand (but could be mistaken about this) that it can flood seasonally and expand over quite an area, but one never knows if there will be water from year to year.
The far western Tien Shan, an extremely rugged, inhospitable mountainous region, was reputed to be the home of the fierce tiger-woman-goddess Xiang-mu, who over the years was "gentled down" to become the Queen Mother of the West, where the worthy dead went to spend their eternity in a Paradise of blue skies, mild weather, and abundant fruit and greenery.  Does this remind you of another - a fierce lioness-woman-goddess who ruled over the Land of the Dead in the far western desert of ancient Egypt? Hathor (Hat-hert) was her name and she was also gentled down over thousands of years; eventually her attributes were absorbed into the Mother Goddess Isis.
It is with this background in mind that I read the following story.  Note the location of the Pamirs on the map above and the reference in the article to a pass into the Pamir Mountains along the northern route of the Silk Road.
From The Indian Express
Beijing, Fri Feb 01 2013, 21:33 hrs
A 1,300-year-old [circa 700 CE] unidentified cluster of 102 tombs, 40 per cent of which were made for infants, have been unearthed in China's restive westernmost province.

The tombs, found on the Pamirs Plateau in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, contain wooden caskets with desiccated corpses, as well as stoneware, pottery and copper ware believed to have been buried as sacrificial items, said Ai Tao from the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.

"The cluster covers an area of 1,500 square meters on a 20-meter-high cliff, an unusual location for tombs," Ai told state-run Xinhua news agency. [Having no idea how large an area 1,500 square meters is, I checked the math and did a conversion.  1 square meter = approximately 10.76 square feet; 1,500 square meters therefore = 16,140 square feet (10.76 x 1500).]

He added that his team was also very surprised to find such a large number of infant corpses.

Image from the Indian Express article. Interesting -- look at what appears to be brick structures surrounding the
graves.  Why no mention of these in the article?  What are they? 

But further research is needed to determine why so many people from that tribe died young.

Archaeologists said they have also unearthed a large number of well-preserved utensils made from gourds, some of which were placed inside the caskets.

"The burial custom is the first of its kind to be found in Xinjiang," said Ai. [Poor  - I mean, materially poor - people -- in the olden days they could afford to bury their dead with copper, brass and iron artifacts, as well as other precious objects, such as carved stone goods, semi-precious stones, herbs, even horses and saddles. Here, they buried their dead with things made from gourds.  Geez.  Of course today, at least in the West, we don't even send our dead to their graves with jewelry such as a wedding ring, and often even their gold fillings are removed, due to greed! I have read that even burial dresses and suits can now be rented, and after the funeral the deceased is stripped of the fine clothes and buried covered in a cheap sheet. Yeah, the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinnochel in your mouth...]

It is believed that the cluster dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

At that time, economic and cultural exchanges between China and the West flourished via the ancient Silk Road.

"The shape of the felt-covered caskets show that sinic culture had a great influence on the lives of local people's some 1,300 years ago," said Yu Zhiyong, head of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.  [What a bunch of bunkum, FELT-COVERED CASKETS are western in origin -- just check out the burials from the Tarim Basin. Ha!] The tomb cluster was discovered amid the construction of a local hydropower project last year.

Kezilesu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture was an important pass on the ancient Silk Road.

My guess is that these are Tocharian graves, but who knows?  As the Chinese authorities evidently have "infant corpses", they may be able to extract DNA and do an analysis.  A body only 1300 years old could potentially yield good DNA to analyze.  Now, will they do it?  Who the hell knows?  And if they do, will we ever hear of the results? 

The Chinese authorities have a much more difficult problem trying to deny the existence of the Tocharians who occupied northwest China for several hundreds of years (500 years?) because their existence -- and written languages (Tocharian A and Tocharian B) are so well attested in historical accounts and archaeological remains, including many Chinese images of these white-skinned, round-eyed, large-nosed people in Chinese historical accounts. 

The Tang Dynasty was a time of flowering in ancient China, a time of the rulers reaching out to other lands and peoples and inviting exchange.  Today's China is, however, an altogether different creature than the Tang Dynasty.  These graves might be considered an inconvenient discovery.  The authorities could just let the evidence moulder away in an unprotected storeroom somewhere and hope looters take it all away; or perhaps encourage local looters (under cover, of course) to just take it all away with little to no questions asked.

Regarding what seems an unusually high number of infant coffins, well, look at the area they were buried in.  On a mountainside cliff approximately 656 feet high.  Now why would people put their dead up there?  Maybe because they, ah, like -- you know, lived near by?  Geez!  Not exactly "hospitable" surroundings,  heh?  Perhaps 40% mortality seems high compared to the Chinese infant mortality rate today (but who actually knows what that is, as you can't trust the Chinese government to give factual figures).  And, I have to wonder what the infant mortality rate is among the Uygur population in the so-called "Autonomous Region" today. I would be shocked if it is lower than 40%, as a genocide is actively being carried out by the Chinese Central Government to eliminate the Uygurs from "Chinese" territory once and for all time. The same thing is taking place in Tibet, too.  And we all just turn a blind eye.  Must keep those U.S. dollars flowing into China after all.  We all want those cheap Walmart goods, don't we.  The CEOs of American companies who have outsourced production of consumer goods to China pocket the difference, of course; no such thing as "trickle down to shareholders" anymore, and anyone who thinks otherwise is either extremely naive or extremely stupid, or both. Ha! 

Anyway, all we have to do is look right here to the early days of the settling of North America by colonists. Entire colonies were wiped out by starvation and disease.  Bet the infant mortality rate in thoe colonies was a lot higher than 40%.  The ancient peoples in some ways were much more civilized than we were, then, and we are, today.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...