Central Asia in the Early Middle Ages,
Introduction to the history of the regions

5. Ferghana

Some aspects of the ethnic history

(pp. 112-113 of Chapter 5, "Ferghana", G. Brykina, N. Gorbunova)
 

The geographical position of Ferghana made it an important centre of ethnogenetic processes. Since ancient times it was crossed by caravan routes, serving as a transit station in the trade between East and West. Numerous waves of invaders passed through Ferghana.

The study of the ethnic history of Ferghana is hindered by the scarce literary evidence. The ancient authors gave only short, although expressive descriptions of its population. Chzhan Cjan wrote at the end of the II c. BC that "from Davan to the west up to An'si although different languages are spoken but the colloquials are similar and people usually can understand one another. The people in general have sunken eyes and thick beards [Bichurin, 1950. v. II, p. 161]. Other chronicles repeat almost verbatim the same statement. They also mention the sunken eyes and the thick beards, which are not characteristic for the Mongoloids of Middle Asia ["Middle Asia", as opposed to "Central Asia", is a Russian term for the non-Soviet, eastern part of Central Asia - Western China, probably Mongolia as well; V.K.]. Thus the Chinese chronicles recorded the Europoid features of the ancient Ferghanis. These records come from the II c. BC and the beginning of the first millennium AD.

The anthropological materials also attest the Europoidity of the Ferghanis. However, the wide chronological hiatuses in the archaeological material and the irregular study of this vast territory do not allow to follow the dynamics of the ethnogenetic processes, to correlate synchronous types from different regions and to identify their specifics.

The contacts of Ferghana with the populations of the Tashkent oasis, of Tien Shan and Alai played an important role in the ethnogenetic processes.

The palaeoanthropological data from different parts of Ferghana show that in the first millennium AD the population was mixed. Litvinskij distinguishes four racial types from that period: 1) mesobrachiocranic type (the type of the population between Amu Darja and Sir Darja); 2) dolichocranic (Mediterranean type); 3) both types with some signs of Mongoloidity; 4) single representatives of other racial types [Litvinskij, 1977. p. 171].

T.K. Khodzhajov noted that the population of Ferghana belonged to the mesobrachiocranic type, characteristic for the region between the two major Central Asian rivers Amu Darja and Sir Darja. Isolated representatives of the dolichocranic Mediterranean type have been found in the south and in the west of the valley. A notable Mongoloid admixture was found in south-eastern Ferghana [Khodzhajov, 1980].

Judging from the palaeoanthropological date the early medieval population of Ferghana, similarly to that of the preceding ancient period, belong predominantly to the first type of Litvinskij. The second and third type were insignificant. That is, regardless of the large movements of nomadic tribes, frequently of Middle Asian origin, there were no significant changes in the anthropological type.

Analysing the anthropological materials V.V. Ginsburg came to the conclusion that towards the mid-I millennium AD the Mongoloid elements played insignificant role in the overall anthropological type [Ginsburg, 1959. pp. 17-35]. It was only the increased inflow of Turkic tribes which lead to the change in the Europoid appearance of the population.

In the mid-VII c. (627-649 AD) the Turkic ruler Ashina Shuni conquered Ferghana. Since that time Ferghana was strongly under the influence of the Turkic dynasty. At first the capital was at Kasan, later - at Akhsiket. This records of the ancient authors are confirmed by the finds of Turkic writings. Most of them are localised in the southern and south-western parts of Ferghana (the regions of Isfara and Batken). Another group of finds hails from south-eastern Ferghana. The easternmost find is from Shurabashat. It is quite possible that these inscriptions were the work of the Turks themselves.

As we see, the epigraphic finds form compact groups. Probably they pinpoint the areas where there were compact Turkic groups.

The arrival of the Tjurks in Ferghana at the beginning of the VII c, and the political domination of the Western Turkic Khaganate did not, apparently, influence noticeably the ethnogenetic processes. As late as in the VIII c. the Ferghanis still spoke their own language and only the subsequent massive movements of Turkic population to the region, their settling down and migration to the towns could significantly change the picture.

B.A. Litvinskij and Ja. A. Zadneprovskij suggested that a separate Ferghana ethnos existed in the I millennium AD. Zadneprovskij was on the opinion that it was formed in the first centuries AD, while Litvinskij in the V-VII cc. AD [Litvinskij, 1976. p. 66].

The Ferghana ethnos was formed on the basis of the Europoid tribes of the valley ad the fore-mountains of Ferghana. Through contacts they developed a specific ethnic culture.

Another indicator of ethnicity was the language. Sjuan Czjan wrote in the VII c. that the language of the Ferghanis was different from the languages of the other countries. Hoj Chao also wrote in the VIII c. that the Ferghana languages was completely different from those of the other countries [Bernshtam, 1952. p. 193]. It probably belonged to the Eastern Iranian group of languages [Livshic, 1968].

The objects of art provide glimpse to the appearance of the ancient Ferghanis. We have in mind the sculptures from Kajragach. As already mentioned these sculptures depicted the images of the honoured ancestors and portrayed really existing individuals. Although quite similar and depicting the ethnic type, each of the sculptural images has some specific, unique to it features. The Kajragach sculptured describe quite accurately the physical type of the population of Western Ferghana.

All statues have heads with slant fore-heads which speaks that artificial deformation has been practised. All sculptures have long almond-like eyes and long, strongly protruding noses which shows the people were Europoid. However, there were two types of faces. Five sculptures show broad-faced people belonging to the type characteristic for the region between Amu Darja and Sir Darja. Seven other sculptures depict narrow-faced and long-headed people of the Mediterranean type.

One more find portraying the physical appearance of the local people came from Karajgach. The face of a man with coarse features appears on one clay vessel. It was drawn with a sharp object before the clay was fired. The face has a long, hawkish nose, a massive, protruding chin, a big, stretched in a smile mouth, and big almond-like eyes. The forehead is very slant which makes the cranial dome take a nearly conical shape. The head has a helmet-like headdress. It looks as if the artist had followed the canons depicting the rulers on the coins: the head of the ruler in a profile, but turned to the right this time. But the vessel shows a really existing person, and not a king. This sketch as well as the sculptures show people of the Europoid type with a ring deformation of the skull.

These anthropomorphic images correlate very well with the actual skull types found at Kajragach by the anthropologists. Two type of Europoids had been buried in he Kajragach mound of the Mediterranean type and of the type of the region between the two Central Asian rivers.

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