WI: Indo-Iranians head to China

From Central Asia a branch of Indo-Iranians went to India where they founded the classical Indian civilization and gave us Sanskrit.

They did not have to I think. They could head east to China. What if they did that?

Say India remains majority Dravidian while Indo-Aryans in the east conquer North China plain, subjugating the Han Chinese and assimilating elements of their culture. Their language would be some Indo-Iranian one with influences from Old Chinese not Dravidian languages.
 
From Central Asia a branch of Indo-Iranians went to India where they founded the classical Indian civilization and gave us Sanskrit.

They did not have to I think. They could head east to China. What if they did that?

Say India remains majority Dravidian while Indo-Aryans in the east conquer North China plain, subjugating the Han Chinese and assimilating elements of their culture. Their language would be some Indo-Iranian one with influences from Old Chinese not Dravidian languages.

Well, we'd be speaking about the Sino-European languages in this case :)

Naturally, this is going to create some MAJOR changes, and my knowledge of the Chinese Bronze Age isn't established enough to really add a lot, sadly. And the POD is so far back in the past, obviously, that much of our knowledge of history would be radically different. Having said that, I find the idea fascinating!
 
That does not completely butterly Aryan India BTW. Some other group of Indo-Aryans may migrate to India later on a few centuries later and do the same thing.
 
The Han dynasty Chinese where familiar with the Wusun, who were Indo-European nomads. They were conquered by the Xiongnu though, who were a proto Mongolic/Turkic/etc. confederation. To conquer China, you would have to be at least as powerful as the Xiongnu or China needs to suffer one hell of an stability crisis.
 
Well, we'd be speaking about the Sino-European languages in this case :)

Naturally, this is going to create some MAJOR changes, and my knowledge of the Chinese Bronze Age isn't established enough to really add a lot, sadly. And the POD is so far back in the past, obviously, that much of our knowledge of history would be radically different. Having said that, I find the idea fascinating!
I think that if Europe and Asia are still concepts they would be called "Eurasiatic" languages given their extreme demographic dominace, that is Indo-Aryans end up in India too.
 
The Han dynasty Chinese where familiar with the Wusun, who were Indo-European nomads. They were conquered by the Xiongnu though, who were a proto Mongolic/Turkic/etc. confederation. To conquer China, you would have to be at least as powerful as the Xiongnu or China needs to suffer one hell of an stability crisis.
Xiongnu weren't clearly fully Turkic and certainly there is no linguistic evidence they were Mongolic(nevermind that they are temporarily removed from the para-Mongol Khitans by centuries already), they clearly had a major Iranic component, clear from both linguistics and genetics.
 
The Han dynasty Chinese where familiar with the Wusun, who were Indo-European nomads. They were conquered by the Xiongnu though, who were a proto Mongolic/Turkic/etc. confederation. To conquer China, you would have to be at least as powerful as the Xiongnu or China needs to suffer one hell of an stability crisis.
Well, or *China hasn't quite formed yet. Have the initial incursions occur during the Shang Dynasty. The Vedic Pediod began roughly around 1500 BCE in India, and this is roughly around the time of the formation of the Shang in China (the actual start of the Shang is hard to pin down and some estimates go as far back as 1700 BCE while others say around 1500). So lets say that our Indo-Iranians arrive just at the beginning of state formation or shortly before.
 
Re; number of Indo-Iranians, we will get better ideas of this as methods to estimate census size are applied to ancient dna. Probably in the next few years! But enough to probably make 10-15% or so overall impact in both South Asia and Iran, unevenly distributed over space (unevenly partly because geography, partly due to caste/jati structure)?

I would guess the ratio of proto-Indo-Iranian speakers in the world to Iran+South Asia people combined prior to expansions was probably lower than 1:6 or 1:10 (1:16 to 1:25 or something?), but natural disasters affecting early civilizations probably changed this a bit, combined with more population growth during expansion and integration phases.

I would also guess that what happened during Indo-European expansions was that decline in previous urban and agrarian civilizations like the BMAC complex or Harappan India led to opportunity for nomadic pastoralists as farmland turned to pasture, and then the Indo-European speakers had an advantage in having widely used, mutually intelligible languages and identities which were able to integrate lots of people (often with a slight female bias, but including lots of local males at times where there were prestigious patrilineal settlements which survived). Also some parallels in decline of neolithic societies in Europe.

Pet theory on much of why Indo-Europeans expanded (before documented reasons like spread of Latin or Greek colonization which involved state expansion) is that they neither felled civilizations, nor brought civilizations. Instead were nomadic people who quickly became ubiquitous when given the opportunity, and then because they formed a ubiquitous common culture and set of religious beliefs with a shared language and set of cultural rules for behaviour, people tended to switch to varieties of Indo-European speech and marry into Indo-European culture networks when networks got reassembled. Indo-European speech spread not quite as a lingua franca, because there was more of an ethnic component to that than we think, but a bit closer to that than the spread of Sino-Tibetan languages (which is more like a pure demic expansion), or the somewhat top down spread of Turkic and Hungarian (although the line is blurrier here).

That could happen in China and would be a fine and interesting parallel but I think the agricultural base might have been more robust to disasters (as it was more native to China and well adapted to local climate?), and the distance is further from the Indo-Iranian core? They'd need to cross through Mongolia or the Inner Asian Mountain corridor. It seems like they actually did this (see - https://www.cell.com/cell/pdf/S0092-8674(20)31321-0.pdf) but at least in Mongolia were also perhaps somewhat "blocked" by local pastoralist people, who had been practicing pastoralism after introduced earlier by Afanasievo culture (putatively early Indo-European). (There is an unusual signal of Afanasievo culture where a person of completely local Mongolian ancestry was given an Afanasievo burial, which is unusual from the record of other Afanasievo culture people, where they all seem to be identical to people of the Yamnaya culture from Ukraine and Southern Russia. That suggests some unusual cultural exchange may have happened in Mongolia.). There are continued signs of people who were presumably "ancestrally Indo-Iranian" in Mongolia through the late Bronze and Iron Age, but there is a robust continuity of majority of local people without any I-Ir ancestry.
 
Re; number of Indo-Iranians, we will get better ideas of this as methods to estimate census size are applied to ancient dna. Probably in the next few years! But enough to probably make 10-15% or so overall impact in both South Asia and Iran, unevenly distributed over space (unevenly partly because geography, partly due to caste/jati structure)?

I would guess the ratio of proto-Indo-Iranian speakers in the world to Iran+South Asia people combined prior to expansions was probably lower than 1:6 or 1:10 (1:16 to 1:25 or something?), but natural disasters affecting early civilizations probably changed this a bit, combined with more population growth during expansion and integration phases.

I would also guess that what happened during Indo-European expansions was that decline in previous urban and agrarian civilizations like the BMAC complex or Harappan India led to opportunity for nomadic pastoralists as farmland turned to pasture, and then the Indo-European speakers had an advantage in having widely used, mutually intelligible languages and identities which were able to integrate lots of people (often with a slight female bias, but including lots of local males at times where there were prestigious patrilineal settlements which survived). Also some parallels in decline of neolithic societies in Europe.

Pet theory on much of why Indo-Europeans expanded (before documented reasons like spread of Latin or Greek colonization which involved state expansion) is that they neither felled civilizations, nor brought civilizations. Instead were nomadic people who quickly became ubiquitous when given the opportunity, and then because they formed a ubiquitous common culture and set of religious beliefs with a shared language and set of cultural rules for behaviour, people tended to switch to varieties of Indo-European speech and marry into Indo-European culture networks when networks got reassembled. Indo-European speech spread not quite as a lingua franca, because there was more of an ethnic component to that than we think, but a bit closer to that than the spread of Sino-Tibetan languages (which is more like a pure demic expansion), or the somewhat top down spread of Turkic and Hungarian (although the line is blurrier here).

That could happen in China and would be a fine and interesting parallel but I think the agricultural base might have been more robust to disasters (as it was more native to China and well adapted to local climate?), and the distance is further from the Indo-Iranian core? They'd need to cross through Mongolia or the Inner Asian Mountain corridor. It seems like they actually did this (see - https://www.cell.com/cell/pdf/S0092-8674(20)31321-0.pdf) but at least in Mongolia were also perhaps somewhat "blocked" by local pastoralist people, who had been practicing pastoralism after introduced earlier by Afanasievo culture (putatively early Indo-European). (There is an unusual signal of Afanasievo culture where a person of completely local Mongolian ancestry was given an Afanasievo burial, which is unusual from the record of other Afanasievo culture people, where they all seem to be identical to people of the Yamnaya culture from Ukraine and Southern Russia. That suggests some unusual cultural exchange may have happened in Mongolia.). There are continued signs of people who were presumably "ancestrally Indo-Iranian" in Mongolia through the late Bronze and Iron Age, but there is a robust continuity of majority of local people without any I-Ir ancestry.
So the population of indo iranians in andronovo cultural horizon in say 1500 BCE is around 2 millionish? Hard to say but a rough guess? Based on the estimated population of Indian subcontinent being around 6 million at the time of the migration
 
Re; number of Indo-Iranians, we will get better ideas of this as methods to estimate census size are applied to ancient dna. Probably in the next few years! But enough to probably make 10-15% or so overall impact in both South Asia and Iran, unevenly distributed over space (unevenly partly because geography, partly due to caste/jati structure)?
I'm pretty sure the impact from the Andronovo Steppe was a bit higher than 15% in Iran(although I guess only around 20-25%), plus in India one should at most only consider northern India or even north-West India given how indo-europeanization went.


I would guess the ratio of proto-Indo-Iranian speakers in the world to Iran+South Asia people combined prior to expansions was probably lower than 1:6 or 1:10 (1:16 to 1:25 or something?), but natural disasters affecting early civilizations probably changed this a bit, combined with more population growth during expansion and integration phases.
I mean the population ratio isn't strictly relevant because a good portion of the Indo-Iranian population never migrated to those places or even was close to, remaining in Kazakhstan or the Altai region.
Plus like you have shown the disparity is already so large that I don't think it's a real limitation here.

or the somewhat top down spread of Turkic and Hungarian (although the line is blurrier here).
Turkic in Anatolia was pretty much heavily demic. With admixture rates likely as high if not higher than Indo-Europeans with Iran for example.

That could happen in China and would be a fine and interesting parallel but I think the agricultural base might have been more robust to disasters (as it was more native to China and well adapted to local climate?), and the distance is further from the Indo-Iranian core? They'd need to cross through Mongolia or the Inner Asian Mountain corridor. It seems like they actually did this (see - https://www.cell.com/cell/pdf/S0092-8674(20)31321-0.pdf) but at least in Mongolia were also perhaps somewhat "blocked" by local pastoralist people, who had been practicing pastoralism after introduced earlier by Afanasievo culture (putatively early Indo-European). (There is an unusual signal of Afanasievo culture where a person of completely local Mongolian ancestry was given an Afanasievo burial, which is unusual from the record of other Afanasievo culture people, where they all seem to be identical to people of the Yamnaya culture from Ukraine and Southern Russia. That suggests some unusual cultural exchange may have happened in Mongolia.). There are continued signs of people who were presumably "ancestrally Indo-Iranian" in Mongolia through the late Bronze and Iron Age, but there is a robust continuity of majority of local people without any I-Ir ancestry.
I'm a bit unsure why Andronovo couldn't just take over the rest Mongolia if given the chance there, we saw the same happening in Central Asia and ultimately they left a big impact just about every from the lower Yenisei westwards. Sometimes I think when looking at prehistory people think too much in terms of structures and large scale traits(having pastoralism, having agriculture) when for all we know it could have been still just as much reliant on specific conflicts like the Mongol or Xiongnu expansion.

But in any case I don't think they need to get to Central and Eastern Mongolia to migrate to China, the Gobi desert is still there to the south and as much of a barrier as they would have migrating from Dzungaria or the Altai.

The example of the iron age Scytho-Siberian migrating west show there some push factor there(I don't think they migrated westwards with some purpose, Greek colonies formed afterwards and I don't see why they would know about Near eastern states and trade from so far away) which could be redirected eastwards but mainly southwards, maybe during the Shang-Zhou transition.
 
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Yeah, could be 20%. These are just rough best guesses (as in my post); I'm not saying that any population estimate is critical to the scenario, just responding to Freedom2018's question, that my best guess would be the population probably wasn't two orders of magnitude smaller between these regions or anything. There are fuzzy lines between demic and non-demic processes (as in my post). I don't say that ongoing presence of native Mongolian pastoralist groups that seem not to have been replaced or really even impacted much by Andronovo complex presents a barrier to the scenario, just that it happened in our time line (as in my previous post).
 
The problem is geographic. China is rather isolated from the Indo-European space, far more than India. Iran and afghanistan are sort of desert-ish but not as unpleasant as Xinjiang, the Hindu Kush and the Gobi, which the Indo-Aryans (imma just call em Aryans for convenience's sake) would have to pass through in high numbers to reach China and "aryanize" it.
To the north are the proto-Mongolics and proto-Turkics and who knows what (some say the Huns spoke a Yeniseian language), who all were nomadic pastoralists like the Aryans. To avoid them would mean going all the way through southern Siberia to Manchuria and going into China from that direction, and that area and route is simply unsuited to that lifestyle.

There's an alternate, if more interesting, but just as "difficult" route of invading China. Go through Indochina. Still, the problem of the tropical rainforest not being conductive to pastoralism arises. Combine it with a more extensive Tocharian expansion and the results could be quite interesting.

I like the idea of why nomadic pastoralist languages were so "overpowered" due to essentially becoming languages of long-distance trade. Makes sense.

It also indicates that the precursors of the Chinese were also nomadic pastoralists.
 
I wrote this here about 5 years ago. It appears to be relevant to this thread:

Afanasevo culture

The Afanasevo culture is the earliest Eneolithic archaeological culture found until now in south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains in 3500-2500 BC. Afanasevan sites have also been claimed for Mongolia and Western China, and a possible connection to the Europoid mummies of Xinjiang and the Indo-European Tocharians has been proposed.

[...]

The Afanasevo culture is primarily known for its cemeteries. Approximately ten settlements and fifty cemeteries are known. The Europoid physical type of the Afanasevo is confirmed by both craniological and genetic data. They closely resemble the remains of the Yamna culture of Eastern Europe.

[...]

Although far from the European steppe, the Afanasevo culture shares a significant number of traits with its distant European neighbors. This includes burials in a supine flexed position, the use of ochre, animal remains in graves, pointed-based pots, censers (circular bowls on legs), a Europoid physical type along with both horses and a suspected presence of wheeled vehicles. While the use of kurgans (tumuli) are general on the western steppe, it is likely that the Afanasevo tombs were covered by low mounds. These characteristics have made scholars link the Afanasevo with the cultures of the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, specifically the Sredny Stog, Yamna, Catacomb and Poltavka cultures. As a result, the Afanasevo is often regarded as the easternmost branch of the European steppe cultures. Indeed, genetic material extracted from human remains found in Afanasevo sites as well as in the steppe, have confirmed that the Afanasevo people are genetically indistinguishable from the Yamnaya.

Because of its numerous traits attributed to the early Indo-Europeans, like metal-use, horses and wheeled vehicles, and cultural relations with European steppe cultures, the Afanasevans are believed to have been Indo-European-speaking.

Ordos culture

The Ordos culture was a culture occupying a region centered on the Ordos Loop (modern Inner Mongolia, China) 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 Europoid Eurasian nomads, specifically the Scythians.

[...]

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, also earlier noted by Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen, Lededynsky suggests the Ordos culture had "a Scythian affinity". 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.

Ordos%20culture_zpskemckjxc.jpg


Yuezhi

The Yuezhi may have been an Europoid people, as indicated by the portraits of their kings on the coins they struck following their exodus to Transoxiana (2nd–1st century BCE), portraits from statues in Khalchayan, Bactria in the 1st century BCE, some old place names in Gansu explainable in Tocharian languages, and especially the coins they struck in India as Kushans (1st–3rd century CE). Ancient Chinese sources do describe the existence of "white people with long hair" (the Bai people of the Shan Hai Jing) beyond their northwestern border.

According to one theory, the Yuezhi were connected to a large migration of Indo-European-speaking peoples from eastern Central Asia in the Bronze Age. These were possibly ethnic Tocharian speakers and connected to the Afanasevo culture. Very well preserved Tarim mummies from the 18th century bc to the first centuries bc with Europoid features (light hair and eyes) and dominated by Haplogroup R1a1a (Y-DNA) have been found in the Tarim Basin. One mummy today displayed at the Ürümqi Museum and dated from the 3rd century BCE, found at the ancient oasis on the Silk Road, Niya, has been connected to the Yuezhi. Evidence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages also has been found in the same geographical area, Although the first known epigraphic evidence dates to the 6th century CE, the degree of differentiation between Tocharian A and Tocharian B and the absence of Tocharian language remains beyond that area suggest that a common Tocharian language existed in the same area of Yuezhi settlement during the second half of the 1st millennium BCE.

Esther Jacobson emphasizes that "the Yuezhi/Kushans may properly be considered to have belonged to the larger Scytho-Siberian culture." The nomadic people, probably Scythians, of the Ordos culture of the Ordos Plateau, who lived in northern China, east of the Yuezhi, are another of a later similar migration. According to some scholars the Yuezhi might themselves have been Scythians. The Yuezhi (Rouzhi) are associated by some scholars with the Ordos culture. Also, the Europoid mummies of Pazyryk, which were probably Scythian in origin, were found around 1,500 kilometers northwest of the Yuezhi and date to around the 3rd century BCE. The Pazyryk burials coincide with the apex of Yuezhi power, and has been connected to them by some scholars.

Wusun

"Among the barbarians in the Western Regions, the look of the Wusun is the most unusual. The present barbarians who have green eyes and red hair, and look like macaque monkeys, are the offspring of this people."

Initially, when only a few number of skulls from Wusun territory were known, the Wusun were recognized as an Europoid people with slight Mongoloid admixture. Later, in a more thorough study by Soviet archaeologists of eighty-seven skulls of Zhetysu, the six skulls of the Wusun period were determined to be purely Europoid or close to it.

[...]

The Wusun are generally believed to have been an Indo-European-speaking people. They are thought to be Iranian-speaking by the archaeologist Elena Kuzmina, linguist János Harmatta, Joseph Kitagawa, David Durand-Guédy, Turkologist Peter B. Golden and Central Asian scholar Denis Sinor. The Sinologist Edwin G. Pulleyblank has suggested that the Wusun, along with the Yuezhi, the Dayuan, the Kangju and the people of Yanqi, could have been Tocharian-speaking. Colin Masica and David Keightley also suggest that the Wusun were Tocharian-speaking. Sinor finds it difficult to include the Wusun within the Tocharian category of Indo-European until further research. Indo-Europeanist J. P. Mallory has suggested that the Wusun contained both Tocharian and Iranian elements. Central Asian scholar Christopher I. Beckwith suggests that the Wusun were Indo-Aryan-speaking. The first syllable of the Wusun royal title Kunmi was proably the royal title while the second syllable referred to the royal family name. Beckwith specifically suggests an Indo-Aryan etymology of the title Kunmi.

It appears that at one time, almost all of central Asia was occupied by Indo-Europeans, who had arrived in several waves. The furthest east of them, the Ordos peoples, settled within 500 km of the Yellow Sea. They were eventually driven out or overrun by various expanding Turkic and Mongolian powers, but for thousands of years Indo-Europeans were the dominant power over much of western, central and southern Asia.
 
Didn't Stirlings Conquistador have the premise that Alexander the Greats Empire endured, forcing the nomads away from Europe they eventually assimilated northern China, becoming a people called Tocharian or something like that. Is that similar to this thread?
 
Yes, that is what happened in that TL. I also seem to remember that there was a seperate Iranian expanion into China
 
There's some evidence to suggest that Indo Europeans founded the Shang and introduced things like Horses and Metal Work to China. They over time assimilated into the Much larger Agriculture population who where Sino Tibetan speakers.. Leaving only some loans words into old Chinese. So this could be done by having some depopulation event occur to screw over the preexisting agriculture people's. So the Indo Europeans assimilate them and not the other way around.
 
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The land stretch from the Proto Indo-Iranian homeland near the Volga Basin and Southern Russia to the fertile region of China is incredibly hostile and the possibility that a group will make it through with numbers and fertility rates to make any change is very very small. Cold grassland, cold desert, hot desert, cold forests, etc, you have them all, en-route.

However one possibility of an Indo-Iranian China could arise from a migration Anti-clockwise from the North of the Caspian sea and they manage to pull off an exceptionally good food production capacity. The route could be from Volga Basin (possible homeland)-Caucasus (or via Balkans)- Turkey- Iran- India- Burma- China. Previous point holds good and they need an exceptional food production and management capacity, to use this route and create a predominantly Indo-Iranian China.

Forget the route via the steppes, Siberia and the deserts. They will probably die off on the way.
 
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