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- ► Saka people (3 P)
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The hoard is often known as the Bactrian gold. The ornaments include necklaces set with stones, medallions. After its discovery, the hoard went missing during the wars in Afghanistan, until it was rediscovered, a new museum in Kabul is being planned where the Bactrian gold will eventually be kept. The heavily fortified town of Yemshi-tepe, just five kilometres to the northeast of modern Sheberghan on the road to Akcha, is half a kilometre from the now-famous necropolis of Tillia-tepe. Several coins dated up to the early 1st century CE, with none dated later, a silver coin was found in one of the tombs from the reigns of the Parthian king Mithridates II, who ruled c. The coin was found in tomb III, and was held in the hand of the defunct woman. An imitation gold coin of Parthian King Gotarzes I was found in the hand of the defunct woman in tomb 6. The fact that this coin is in gold, and not silver or bronze as is usually the case for Parthian coinage, the coin is counterstamped with the frontal depiction of what might have been a local chieftain.
The counterstamp was added so as to not damage the portrait of the Parthian king, a gold coin was found in tomb III showing the bust in profile of the wreath-crowned Roman Emperor Tiberius. On the reverse is an enthroned, sumptuously draped female figure holding a spray, coins of this type were minted in the city of Lugdunum in Gaul, between 16 and 21 CE. A Buddhist gold coin from India was found in tomb IV, on the reverse, it depicts a lion with a nandipada, with the Kharoshthi legend Sih vigatabhay. On the obverse, an almost naked man wearing an Hellenistic chlamys. The legend in Kharoshthi reads Dharmacakrapravata and it has been suggested that this may be an early representation of the Buddha. Finally, a worn coin has been identified as belonging to the Yuezhi chieftain Heraios. It is thought that the site belonged to Sakas, although some suggest the Yuezhi or eastern Parthians as an alternative, several of the artifacts are highly consistent with a Scythian origin, such as the royal crown or the polylobed decorated daggers discovered in the tombs.
Several of the defuncts exhibited ritual deformation of the skull, a practice which is documented among Central Asian nomads of the period. These pieces have much in common with the famous Scythian gold artifacts recovered thousands of kilometers west on the banks of the Bosphorus, a high cultural syncretism pervades the findings, however. The artifacts were intermixed with items coming from much farther and this seems to be a testimony to the richness of cultural influences in the area of Bactria at that time
The Issyk kurgan, in south-eastern Kazakhstan, less than 20 km east from the Talgar alluvial fan, near Issyk, is a burial mound discovered in 1969. It has a height of six meters and a circumference of sixty meters and it is dated to the 4th or 3rd century BC. A notable item is a cup bearing an inscription. The finds are on display in Astana, situated in eastern Scythia just north of Sogdiana, the kurgan contained a skeleton, warriors equipment, and assorted funerary goods, including 4,000 gold ornaments. Although the sex of the skeleton is uncertain, it may have been an 18-year-old Saka prince or princess. The richness of the burial items led the skeleton to be dubbed the man or golden princess. A likeness crowns the Independence Monument on the square of Almaty. Its depiction may be found on the Presidential Standard of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Issyk inscription is not yet certainly deciphered, and is probably in a Scythian dialect, constituting one of very few autochthonous epigraphic traces of that language.
Harmatta, using the Kharoṣṭhī script, identifies the language as Khotanese Saka dialect spoken by the Kushans, towards an absolute chronology for the Iron Age of Inner Asia. History of Civilization of Central Asia, volume 2, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-1408-8, p.421 Archaeology magazine - Chieftain or Warrior Priestess
The Iranian peoples or Iranic peoples are a diverse Indo-European ethno-linguistic group that comprise the speakers of the Iranian languages. Proto-Iranians are believed to have emerged as a branch of the Indo-Iranians in Central Asia in the mid 2nd millennium BC. In the 1st millennium AD, their area of settlement was reduced as a result of Slavic, Germanic and Mongol expansions and many being subjected to Slavicisation. The Iranian peoples include Balochs, Gilaks, Mazanderanis, Pashtuns, Persians, Talysh people, the term Iran derives directly from Middle Persian Ērān and Parthian Aryān. The Middle Iranian terms ērān and aryān are oblique plural forms of gentilic ēr- and ary-, there have been many attempts to qualify the verbal root of ar- in Old Iranian arya-. The following are according to 1957 and linguists, Emmanuel Laroche, Old Iranian arya- being descended from Proto-Indo-European ar-yo-, meaning assembler. Harold Walter Bailey, ar- to beget, unlike the Sanskrit ā́rya-, the Old Iranian term has solely an ethnic meaning.
Today, the Old Iranian arya- remains in ethno-linguistic names such as Iran, Alan, Ir, in the Iranian languages, the gentilic is attested as a self-identifier included in ancient inscriptions and the literature of Avesta. The earliest epigraphically attested reference to the word occurs in the Bistun Inscription of the 6th century BC. The inscription of Bistun describes itself to have composed in Arya. As is the case for all other Old Iranian language usage, in royal Old Persian inscriptions, the term arya- appears in three different contexts, As the name of the language of the Old Persian version of the inscription of Darius I in the Bistun Inscription. As the ethnic background of Darius the Great in inscriptions at Rustam Relief and Susa, as the definition of the God of Iranians, Ohrmazd, in the Elamite version of the Bistun Inscription. In the Dna and Dse and Xerxes describe themselves as an Achaemenid, a Persian, son of a Persian, although Darius the Great called his language arya-, modern scholars refer to it as Old Persian because it is the ancestor of the modern Persian language.
The trilingual inscription erected by the command of Shapur I gives a clear description. The languages used are Parthian, Middle Persian, and Greek, tou Arianon ethnous despotes eimi, which translates to I am the king of the kingdom of the Iranians. In Middle Persian, Shapur says ērānšahr xwadāy hēm and in Parthian he says aryānšahr xwadāy ahēm, the Avesta clearly uses airiia- as an ethnic name, where it appears in expressions such as airyāfi daiŋˊhāvō, airyō šayanəm, and airyanəm vaējō vaŋhuyāfi dāityayāfi. In the late part of the Avesta, one of the homelands was referred to as Airyanəm Vaējah which approximately means expanse of the Iranians. The homeland varied in its range, the area around Herat
The Eurasian Steppe, called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia in the temperate grasslands and shrublands biome. It stretches from Romania, Moldova through Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to Manchuria, with one major exclave located mostly in Hungary, the Eurasian Steppe extends thousands of miles from near the mouth of the Danube River almost to the Pacific Ocean. It is bounded on the north by the forests of Russia and Siberia, there is no clear southern boundary although the land becomes increasingly dry as one moves south. The steppe narrows at two points, dividing it into three major parts, the Western Steppe begins near the mouth of the Danube and extends northeast almost to Kazan and southeast to the southern tip of the Ural Mountains. Its northern edge was a band of forest-steppe which has now been obliterated by the conversion of the whole area to agricultural land. In the southeast the Black Sea-Caspian Steppe extends between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea to the Caucasus Mountains, in the west, the Great Hungarian Plain is an island of steppe separated from the main steppe by the mountains of Transylvania.
On the north shore of the Black Sea, the Crimean Peninsula has some interior steppe, the Ural Mountains extend south to a point about 650 km northeast of the Caspian Sea. This is not a barrier to movement, but the area near the Caspian is quite dry. The Central Steppe or Kazakh Steppe extends from the Urals to Dzungaria, in the southeast is the densely populated Fergana Valley and west of it the great oasis cities of Tashkent and Bukhara along the Zarafshan River. The southern area has a history, while in the north. On the east side of the former Sino-Soviet border mountains extend north almost to the forest zone with only limited grassland in Dzungaria, Xinjiang is the northwestern province of China. The east-west Tien Shan Mountains divide it into Dzungaria in the north, Dzungaria is bounded by the Tarbagatai Mountains on the west and the Mongolian Altai Mountains on the east, neither of which is a significant barrier. Dzungaria has good grassland around the edges and a central desert and it often behaved as a westward extension of Mongolia and connected Mongolia to the Kazakh steppe.
To the north of Dzungaria are mountains and the Siberian forest, to the south and west of Dzungaria, and separated from it by the Tianshan Mountains, is an area about twice the size of Dzungaria, the oval Tarim Basin. The Tarim Basin formed an island of civilization in the center of the steppe. The Northern Silk Road went along the north and south sides of the Tarim Basin, at the west end of the basin the Pamir Mountains connect the Tien Shan Mountains to the Himalaya Mountains. To the south, the Kunlun Mountains separate the Tarim Basin from the thinly peopled Tibetan Plateau, the Mongol Steppe includes both Mongolia and the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. The two are separated by a dry area marked by the Gobi Desert
Numerous comparable burials have been found in neighboring western Mongolia. The tombs are Scythian-type kurgans, barrow-like tomb mounds containing wooden chambers covered over by large cairns of boulders and stones, the spectacular burials at Pazyryk are responsible for the introduction of the term kurgan, a Russian word of Turkic origin, into general usage to describe these tombs. The region of the Pazyryk kurgans is considered the site of the wider Pazyryk culture. The site is included in the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site, the bearers of the Pazyryk culture were horse-riding pastoral nomads of the steppe, and some may have accumulated great wealth through horse trading with merchants in Persia and China. These finds were preserved when water seeped into the tombs in antiquity and froze, encasing the burial goods in ice, certain geometric designs and sun symbols, such as the circle and rosette, recur at Pazyryk but are completely outnumbered by animal motifs. Such specifically Scythian features as zoomorphic junctures—i.
e, the addition of a part of one animal to the body of another—are rarer in the Altaic region than in southern Russia. The stag and its relatives, figure as prominently in Altaic as in Scythian art, at Pazyryk too are found bearded mascarons of well-defined Greco-Roman origin, which were doubtless inspired by the Hellenistic kingdoms of the Cimmerian Bosporus. The first tomb at Pazyryk, barrow 1, was excavated by the archaeologist M. P. Gryaznov in 1929 and these finds are now exhibited at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Craniological studies of samples from the Pazyryk burials determined that skulls were generally of Europoid type, rudenkos most striking discovery was the body of a tattooed Pazyryk chief, a thick-set, powerfully built man who had died when he was about 50. Parts of the body had deteriorated, but much of the tattooing was still clearly visible, subsequent investigation using reflected infrared photography revealed that all five bodies discovered in the Pazyryk kurgans were tattooed.
No instruments specifically designed for tattooing were found, but the Pazyryks had extremely fine needles with which they did miniature embroidery, the chief was elaborately decorated with an interlocking series of striking designs representing a variety of fantastic beasts. The best preserved tattoos were images of a donkey, a mountain ram, two monsters resembling griffins decorate the chest, and on the left arm are three partially obliterated images which seem to represent two deer and a mountain goat. On the front of the leg a fish extends from the foot to the knee. A monster crawls over the foot, and on the inside of the shin is a series of four running rams which touch each other to form a single design. The left leg bears tattoos, but these designs could not be clearly distinguished, in addition, the chiefs back is tattooed with a series of small circles in line with the vertebral column. This tattooing was probably done for therapeutic reasons, contemporary Siberian tribesmen still practice tattooing of this kind to relieve back pain.
The most famous undisturbed Pazyryk burial so far recovered is the Ice Maiden or Altai Lady found by archaeologist Natalia Polosmak in 1993 at Ukok, near the Chinese border. The find was a example of a single woman given a full ceremonial burial in a wooden chamber tomb in the fifth century BC
The Saka or Saca was the term used in Persian and Sanskrit sources for the Scythians, a large group of Eastern Iranian nomadic tribes on the Eurasian Steppe. Modern scholars usually use the term Saka to refer to Iranians of the Eastern Steppe, rené Grousset wrote that they formed a particular branch of the Scytho-Sarmatian family originating from nomadic Iranian peoples of the northwestern steppe in Eurasia. They migrated into Sogdiana and Bactria in Central Asia and to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent where they were known as the Indo-Scythians, modern debate about the identity of the Saka is partly from ambiguous usage of the word by ancient, non-Saka authorities. According to Herodotus, the Persians gave the name Saka to all Scythians, Pliny the Elder claims that the Persians gave the name Sakai only to the Scythian tribes nearest to them. The Scythians to the far north of Assyria were called the Saka suni by the Persians, the Assyrians, of the time of Esarhaddon, record campaigning against a people they called in the Akkadian the Ashkuza or Ishhuza.
However, modern consensus is that the Saka language, ancestor to the Pamir languages in northern India and Khotanese in Xinjiang. Another people, the Gimirrai, who were known to the ancient Greeks as the Cimmerians, were associated with the Sakas. In ancient Hebrew texts, the Ashkuz are considered to be an offshoot from the Gimirri. The Saka were regarded by the Babylonians as synonymous with the Gimirrai, the Sakā paradraya were the western Scythians or Sarmatians. Both the Sakā tigraxaudā and Sakā haumavargā are thought to be located in Central Asia east of the Caspian Sea, Sakā haumavargā is considered to be the same as Amyrgians, the Saka tribe in closest proximity to Bactria and Sogdiana. In the modern era, the archaeologist Hugo Winckler was the first to associate the Sakas with the Scyths, J. M. Sakā and Skuthai evidently constituted a generic name for the nomads on the northern frontiers. Persian sources often treat them as a tribe called the Saka. Modern scholars usually use the term Saka to refer to Iranian-speaking tribes who inhabited the Eastern Steppe, the Saka people were an Iranian people who spoke a language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages.
They are known to the ancient Greeks as Scythians and are attested in historical and archaeological records dating to around the 8th century BC. In the Achaemenid-era Old Persian inscriptions found at Persepolis, dated to the reign of Darius I, likewise an inscription dated to the reign of Xerxes I has them coupled with the Dahae people of Central Asia. The contemporary Greek historian Herodotus noted that the Achaemenid Persians called all of the Iranian Scythian peoples as the Saka. According to Herodotus, Cyrus the Great confronted the Massagetae, a related to the Saka. Darius the Great waged wars against the eastern Sakas, who fought him with three armies led by three kings according to Polyaenus, in 520–519 BC, Darius I defeated the Sakā tigraxaudā tribe and captured their king Skunkha
The Ordos culture was a culture occupying a region centered on the Ordos Loop during the Bronze and early Iron Age from the 6th to 2nd centuries BCE. The Ordos culture is known for significant finds of Scythian art and is thought to represent the easternmost extension of Indo-European Eurasian nomads, under the Qin and Han dynasties, from the 6th to 2nd centuries BCE, the area came under at least nominal control of contemporaneous Chinese states. Equestrian nomads occupied the previously settled by the Zhukaigou culture from the 6th to the 2nd century BCE before being driven away by the Xiongnu. The Ordos Plateau was covered by grass and trees and was sufficiently watered by numerous rivers, at the time, it contained the best pasture lands on the Asian Steppe. However, it has now turned to the Ordos Desert through a combination of overgrazing and climatic change. The Ordos are mainly known from their remains and artifacts. Its relationship with the Xiongnu is controversial, for some scholars they are the same, many buried metal artefacts have emerged on the surface of the land as a result of the progressive desertification of the region.
According to Iaroslav Lebedynsky, they are thought to be the easternmost people of Scythian affinity to have settled here, just to the east of the better-known Yuezhi. Because the people represented in archaeological finds tend to display Europoid features, noted by Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen. Other scholars have associated it with the Yuezhi, the weapons found in tombs throughout the steppes of the Ordos are very close to those of the Scythians, who known on the Asian Steppes as the Saka. While the ethnolinguistic origins and character of the Ordos culture are unknown, the art of the Ordos culture appears to have influenced that of the Donghu people, a Mongolic-speaking nomadic tribe located to the east, suggesting that the two had close ties. The Ordos population was in contact – and reportedly often at war – with the pre-Han and Han peoples. The Ordos culture covered, regions occupied by the Han, including areas just north of the Great Wall of China, to the west of the Ordos culture was another Indo-European people, the Yuezhi, although nothing is known of relations between the two.
In Chinese accounts, the Xiongnu first appear at Ordos in the Yi Zhou Shu and Classic of Mountains and Seas during the Warring States period before it was occupied by the states of Qin and Zhao. As the Xiongnu expanded southward into Yuezhi territory around 160 BCE under Modun and it is thought the Xiongnu occupied the Ordos area during the same period, when they came in direct contact with the Chinese. From there, the Xiongnu conducted numerous devastating raids into Chinese territory, the Han–Xiongnu War began with Emperor Wu of Han, and the Han colonized the area of the Ordos as the commandery of Shuofang in 127 BCE. Prior to this campaign, there were already earlier established by Qin. Ordos bronzes from the British Museum, Christopher I, empires of the Silk Road, A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present
The Tarim Basin is an endorheic basin in northwest China occupying an area of about 1,020,000 km2. Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its boundary is the Kunlun Mountains on the edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The Taklamakan Desert dominates much of the basin, the historical Uyghur name for the Tarim Basin is Altishahr, which means six cities in Uyghur. They were governed separately until 1884, north side, The Chinese called this the Tien Shan Nan Lu or Tien Shan South Road, as opposed to the Bei Lu north of the mountains. Along it runs the modern highway and railroad while the middle Tarim River is about 100 km south, Kashgar was where the caravans met before crossing the mountains. Center, Most of the basin is occupied by the Taklamakan Desert which is too dry for permanent habitation, the Yarkand and Aksu Rivers join to form the Tarim River which runs along the north side of the basin. Formerly it continued to Loulan, but some time after 330AD it turned southeast near Korla toward Charkilik, the Tarim ended at the now-dry Lop Nur which occupied a changing position east of Loulan.
Eastward is the fabled Jade Gate which the Chinese considered the gateway to the Western Regions, beyond that is Dunhuang with its ancient manuscripts and Anxi at the west end of the Gansu Corridor. The modern road continues east to Tibet, there is no current road east across the Kumtag Desert to Dunhuang, but caravans somehow made the crossing thru the Yangguan pass south of the Jade Gate. Roads and passes and caravan routes, The Southern Xinjiang Railway branches from the Lanxin Railway near Turpan, follows the side of the basin to Kashgar. Roads, The main road from eastern China reaches Urumchi and continues as highway 314 along the side to Kashgar. Highway 315 follows the side from Kashgar to Charkilik and continues east to Tibet. There are currently four north-south roads across the desert,218 runs from Charkilik to Korla along the former course of the Tarim forming an oval whose other end is Kashgar. The Tarim Desert Highway, an engineering achievement, crosses the center from Niya to Luntai.
The new Highway 217 follows the Khotan River from Khotan to near Aksu, a road follows the Yarkand River from Yarkand to Baqu. East of the Korla-Charkilik road travel continues to be very difficult, Rivers coming south from the Tien Shan join the Tarim, the largest being the Aksu. Rivers flowing north from the Kunlun are usually named for the town or oasis they pass through, Most dry up in the desert, only the Hotan River reaching the Tarim in good years. An exception is the Qiemo River which flowed northeast into Lop Nor, ruins in the desert imply that these rivers were once larger