Professor Victor H. Mair
Dept. of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305


Dear Professor Mair:


Thank you for the kind e-mail response to my earlier inquiry: The Mysterious Mummies of China

Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 20:42:52 -0400 (EDT)

From: (Victor Mair)

Refer to:

The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age People of Eastern Central Asia, Victor Mair, Editor, Institute for the Study of Man, Washington, DC, 1998. Monograph #26 in two volumes.

Refer also to the PBS Nova program, "The Mysterious Mummies of China."

This response will be divided into six Parts, because of the intricacy of the data.

I request your permission to copy this response to other interested parties.

I approached you because of the direct bearing of your discoveries, and those of your colleagues, on my investigative work. While I am not a professional scholar, I have devoted considerable time in examination of the cultural history of our world. I believe my work, in turn, may have a direct bearing on your discoveries.

I concentrated on ancient wide cultural influences, and the necessary dispersion or migration of people to bring those influences, and not upon the details of local evolutions.

My work indicates three major cultural forces deriving from unique groups of people. The most ancient is now lost in the mists of the past, with only nominal-word memory and some portions of myth to indicate its existence across wide areas of the globe. The evidence suggests that it was a missionary activity, attempting to up step and ennoble native populations without abrupt interference in local expressions. I shall not discuss that influence here, except for peripheral mention.

I shall discuss the remaining two because they are interrelated. These two, when correlated, offer insights into your discoveries.

The second I call the "Don" influence. The evidence indicates that this influence extended from the extremes of western Europe into the subcontinent and into China and southeast Asia. The influence was biological as well as cultural, mixing with native populations but not disrupting their societies.

The third I call the Iberi influence. It ultimately derives from the "Don" influence. From my investigations I had concluded that this influence originated among the Semites from north Mesopotamia, or perhaps from the mountain regions between the Pontus and the Caspian, with migrations into other regions of the Near East in the third millennium, and a second wave of later migrations into most regions of Europe in the first millennium. The first wave of migrations shows itself with the presence of the early Phoenicians along the eastern Mediterranean coast, the appearance of Akkad, Abraham in Ur, and so on.

I was truly surprised by the discoveries of you and your colleagues to find Iberi influence in Eastern Central Asia, as demonstrated through the fascinating mummies of China. From my review of your discoveries I believe those people were part of the second Semitic wave of people. I was impelled to contact you because of the strong Keltic affinities in red hair, traditions of green eyes, and tartan plaids you found in your discoveries. Evidence indicates the Keltic people of western Europe are part of the legacy of the later Iberi migrations. The mummies of China show this same legacy. Obviously, a widespread migration of people took place to provide evidence from such extreme geographical regions.

Numerous questions arise. Why did they migrate over such wide geographical areas? What psychological, religious, or cultural impulse drove them? Did they possess cultural persuasion which impacted upon the native populations of the regions to which they migrated? Did they mix biologically with the native populations? Have their traditions come down to us in folk lore or mythology? Did they leave behind traces of their existence in native languages?

You and your colleagues reviewed accumulating evidence for Eastern Central Asia. I shall briefly survey evidence from other regions as I have been able to isolate it from regional traditions and cultural memory.

Before proceeding with details it may be helpful to make some general remarks regarding these ancient influences. The evidence indicates that the migrating people did not engage in military conquest, or attempt to replace the local cultures, but rather commingled with the native populations. A definite

superiority of the migrating people is indicated by the absorption of their influence into the local populations to produce what we now see as the "Don" and Iberi evidence. A model of replacement or subjection of the local populations would require denial of the evidence. Your work, and that of your colleagues, demonstrates this absorption into local cultures.


This factor may be troubling to many researchers who attempt to separate and delineate cultural boundaries. Life would be easier for all of us if we could identify "X" and "Y" as distinct cultures with their respective artifacts and languages. When "X" and "Y" mix, those distinct boundaries blur and leave us with our analytical desires in confusion. I shall offer a simple illustration. I was raised in the "Dutch" region of eastern Pennsylvania. I did not know until I left home at the age of 18 that "outen the light" was not good English. My verbal accent yet today reflects that "German" influence. This element suggested to me that there can be a commingling of religious practices, mechanical methods, burial techniques, and language from different cultural origins which cannot be separated by distinct boundaries. Imagine the trouble a foreign visitor to our earthly shores might experience if he should attempt to delineate the cultural heritage of China, for example, but all the citizens of this world were dead, and he knew nothing of our recent history. I suspect it would be impossible for him to untangle the mix of cultures which has been manifested on our world in the past two hundred years. This personal assessment led me to view commingling as a possible cause for misunderstanding the Etruscan's, as one example. Others exist. The classical approach to those people then is missing a crucial element in perception.

Another element conditions our understanding of the past. Our view of cultural horizons may limit our insights. Scientific practice requires hard evidence. Much of this evidence is dependent upon surviving artifacts, mummies, and so on, to make our approach rigorous and disciplined. The wear of time simply removes most of that evidence. You and your colleagues were fortunate to work from an environment favorable to preservation. Other cultural horizons may precede those which will forever escape us because time has obliterated the hard evidence. However, linguistics and myth have taken an important role. If we discover common "soft" evidence across cultural regions we may safely deduce that some influence was at work to bring that similarity. The Indo-European languages were one important discovery in such approach. Furthermore, some scientific fields do not depend upon hard evidence but rather upon observation and analysis. Astronomy is one of those. Thus we would be poor scholars to reject evidence not measurable by chemical or physical techniques. Your colleagues recognize the importance of language and myth.

I interject this thought because those elements of evidence play such an important role in our understanding of the past. But our cultural horizons, if limited to seven or ten thousands years of human history, may blind us. I believe the forcing of Indo-European linguistic evidence to such limited horizons has caused us to misunderstand the evidence. The cultural influences I discuss here may come from sources that predate ten thousand years. Can our analysis of linguistics and myth more precisely determine those sources, and their temporal origins?

As I engaged in these studies I also came to another recognition. We commonly define cultural levels by technological advances. We assume that the bronze age people were more cultured than those who lived with stone tools. However, this assumption may be wrong. A highly refined culture may not necessarily devote its mental and artistic powers to mechanical developments. Note the cave paintings of Europe which date to thirty thousand BCE. Therefore, lack of hard artifacts does not necessarily indicate inferior culture.

With these general remarks I shall now proceed to evidence.

Please note that I do not provide an exhaustive review of evidence in the following discussions. My purpose is to survey the nature of the evidence --- not offer rigorous scholarly demonstration. I also do not provide citations for this survey.

Further, I have styled my presentation for more general readership.

The titles of the following Parts, each sent under separate cover:

1. The Don Evidence

2. The Iberi Connection

3. The Red Color Memories

4. The Later Iberi Migrations

5. Linguistics

6. Some Thoughts

I shall send these as HTML attachments. I make extensive use of italics, which do not carry under ASCII encoding. Most Internet software can open these attachments. If you experience difficulty please let me know. I can send under different formats.

The length of the attachments is 30K bytes or less, and about eight pages each.