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The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume XIX.

The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume XIX. London. 1890. The Early Races of Western Asia. By Major C.R.Conder, R.E.


  • …As early as 1600 B.C., at least, there were two races in Syria and Palestine known to the Egyptians. One of these was a Semitic race, speaking a language akin to Hebrew and Phoenician, and represented with Semitic features on the monuments. From their town-names, including many of the cities enumerated in the Book of Joshua, we learn that the Semitic nomenclature of Palestine is older than the Hebrew invasion under Joshua—a discovery which fully agrees with the statements of the Book of Genesis. It is not, however, with this Semitic population—the existence of which is proven beyond dispute—that we are now concerned, but with that other population, the contemporary existence of which, especially in the north between Damascus and Aleppo, is equally undoubted. The names of the towns conquered by Thothmes III, about 1600 B.C., in this region, are …not Semitic and not Aryan. When I found reason to suppose that they were probably Turkic, I made a comparison of the sounds with the Akkadian and with the Turkic languages, and the results appear to me to show beyond reasonable doubt, that these town-names are to be so interpreted. Several very distinctive Turko-Tatar words form often repeated elements of these names, among which I may mention as perhaps most clear: Tami for a ” building,” Su for “water,” and Tep for a “hill.” In this respect, therefore, the Syria of 3,500 years ago differs little from the Syria of to-day, when the same mixed nomenclature, Arab and Turkoman, is recognisable in the geographical names.
  • …For the personal names of seventeen chiefs of Northern Syria, mentioned in papyri of the time of Rameses II, tell the same tale. The chief tribe of non-Semitic race in Northern Syria was that of the Kheta or Khati, which, by common consent, is identified with the Biblical Hittites. Their power extended from Aleppo to Galilee, and in earlier times they appear to have extended their migrations to the very south of Palestine.
  • It was through observation of these personal names that I first became convinced of the Turanian origin of the race, and of its affinity to the Akkadian. The words Tur, Sar, Nazi, Lul, Essebu, Lar, and Tarkon, or Tarka, which occur as parts of the names of Hittite chiefs, are not at all unique words. Tur, Sar, and Essebu are words used in Akkadian for ” chief ” or ” prince “; Lul is a word widely spread and used by the Hunns to mean “chief”; Lar is a familiar Etruscan word for chief; Tarkon is the Etruscan Tarquin, and survives in various Turkic dialects, and in the old Mongol (Buriatdargo, as meaning the ” chief of a tribe.” These words and many others are clear evidence of the character of the Hittite population. Nazi is a Susian and Akkadian word which is spelt syllabically, and signifies ‘a prince’. My comparisons have been carried from China to Etruria, and from Finland to Chaldea; from the earliest days, 3,000 B.C., down to the present day; and the net result is, that the Turko-Tatar languages serve best to explain both the geographical and the personal names of the Hittites.
  • Turning from the question of language to that of racial types, it is, perhaps, sufficient to say that the authentic portraits of the Kheta on Egyptian monuments show a Mongolian type very similar to that of the Turkic and Mongol tribes of Central Asia in our own times; and that the hair is in many cases dressed in a pigtail like that of the Tatars, which was imposed on the Chinese at the time of the Tatar conquest. The general absence of beard is also an indication of importance, plainly indicating a Turanian type. The high tiara and the shoe with curled toe (like the Etruscan Tutulus and Calceus Mepandus) are both details of costume surviving to a late historic period in Italy among the early tribes, and in Western Asia among Turanians. Another detail of interest is the sort of axe or hammer held by some of the Cappadocian deities, and also by Sethluns in Etruria, and frequently by Charun, the Etruscan and Sardinian god of Hades. On coins of the Carian kings and towns in the 4th century B.C., the same instrument is held by a male figure. It also occurs on coins of Tarsus and Mylassa, and is sculptured at the latter Carian town on a door lintel. In Turkestan the Ai Balta, or ” hammer of honour,” was a mark of dignity down to the present century.
  • We know something of the religion of the Kheta from their invocation of the gods in their treaty with Rameses II. They adored the sun and moon, the mountains, rivers, clouds, and the sea. This animistic belief is common to all the tribes of Central Asia. [Turkic tribes.-S.A].Their gods are heaven and earth, the sacred mountain, the sacred river, the wind, the fire, and, among shore-side tribes, the sea also. The Akkadians had similar gods, including the “spirit of heaven ” and the ” spirit of earth.” The Turanians do not appear to have adored the planets, which were so important in the pantheon of the Semitic peoples.

  • The civilisation of the Kheta was far advanced. They had walled towns, chased metal work, chariots and horses, skilled artificers. They could carve in stone, and could write in hieroglyphic character. All this wonderful cultivation they possessed while Israel as yet was hardly a nation, and the Bible account of the Canaan overrun by Joshua is fully confirmed by monumental evidence.

  • The Kheta married outside their own tribe—at least in some cases. Thus in the Bible Esau and Solomon had Hittite wives, and in Egyptian history a Hittite Princess wedded Rameses II. This custom is not distinctively Aryan. The Aryans married within the limits of the tribe (or as archaeologists say – they were endogamous, not exogamous) preferring their relatives to strangers; and down to the present time this custom holds among the Iranians of the Caucasus. Turanian social ideas have always apparently differed very much from those of Aryans or Semites; since exogamy, polyandry and the tracing of descent from the mother are widely spread customs among them even as far east as China. Many are the Turanian tribes ruled by women, or among whom women have great authority. The Salique law was not a Turanian idea.
  • If then from the preceding considerations it be concluded that the non-Semitic race in Syria was Turanian, and akin to the Turkic and Mongol stocks, and thus to the Medes and Akkadians further east, it becomes legitimate to compare the name of the Kheta with that of the great nation of the Khitai in Central Asia. The historic home of that people appears to have been in the high and healthy region of Kashgar, one of the most fertile portions of Turkestan, well watered, well pastured, the fit cradle of an energetic people. Where the Khitai first came from is matter of doubt. The tribe in question is distinguished as “black ” or “western ” Khitai, because another tribe of Khitai or Kitans lived in northern Mongolia and near Lake Baikal, where perhaps they left their mark in the town Chita marked on modern maps. [The city of Chita is located in Russia, as well as Lake Baikal. -Ed]. Chinese authors regard this as the original home, but these are late authorities compared with Ptolemy the celebrated geographer, who speaks of these Khitai as even then dwelling in the Kashgar region above noticed.
  • The Western or Kara Khitai were the predecessors of the Mongols, and in the 11th century, A.d., they spread over the whole of Turkestan and across the Oxus[Famous  Turkologist – linguist of the XI c. Mahmud al Kashgari  included Khitai in the list of Turkic tribes ever existed, in his work Diwan Lugat-at-Turk: “Khitay which is Shin – Şın…“. The word Kara in the name of  Kara Khitai means ‘black’ in Turkic. Thus, Kara Khitai meant ‘ the people Khitai with dark complexion and skin’. According to Khan of Khorezm Ebulgazi Bahadir Han, the author of the extensive work on Turkic genealogy “A General History of the Turks, Moguls, and Tatars, Vulgarly Called Tartars Together with a Description of the Countries They Inhabit. in Two Volumes”, Mongols and Tatars share the same lineage leading to one Turkic forefather- Alanza Khan.Alanza Khan had two twin-sons, the one called Tatar, and the other Mogull, or more properly Mung’l; between whom he divided his dominions, when he drew near his end. ‘Tis from this Prince the Tatars take their name, and not from the river Tata, as the Mogulls from Mogull.” -Ed.]
  •  It is from these Khitai that the well-known mediaeval name of Cathay is derived, for they conquered northern China and ruled the Mongols and the Manchus. [This name Cathay ,or Kitay – Китай  denotes the country China in the Russian language. -Ed.] They were bowmen and charioteers, they owned fields and built houses and planted mulberries. They had a mythology as fanciful and poetic as that of the Aryans, they wore armour and were acquainted with gold. They reverenced a sacred throne and carried with them a tent-temple, or tabernacle, in their ware. A few survivors bearing the name still exist, it is said, south of the Chu river. The language of the Khitai as investigated by Mr. Howorth is akin to Mongolian and to the Turkic dialects ; and I may note that words are found in this language which also occur in Akkadian, and which in some cases occur also in the Kheta geographical names already mentioned.
  • In many other respects these Khitai resembled the Kheta of Syria. They had horses and chariots. They were skilful draughtsmen, and brought with them to China a written character of their own. They adored the spirit of heaven and the spirit of earth, the sacred mountain and other atmosphericdivinities. It may be said that it is a far cry from Syria to Kashgar; but distance is nothing to the Mongol. Age after age the Turanians of Central Asia have poured forth as Scythians, Hunns, Uigurs, Khitai or Mongols, penetrating to the shores of the Mediterranean and reaching Europe through Russia and Hungary. It is not possible to say, in the early times of which we are speaking, whether the migration had its centre in Turkestan or near the Caspian; but there appears to me to be no scientific objection to an identification of the Kheta, and the Khitai, since both are independently known to be a Tatar people. [Of Turkic origin. -Ed]
  • On the other hand we have direct—though fragmentary —information from the monuments, which proves to us that a civilisation similar to, or identical with, that of the Kheta, existed in Cappadocia, in Caria and in Lydia, at a period quite as early as that already considered. Few as are the indications, they all point in one direction, and serve to give the connecting link between the Medes and Akkadians on the east, the Kheta on the south, and the Etruscans on the west.
  • We have seen that monumental traces exist in Mesopotamia, in Media, in Asia Minor, and in Syria, of a great Turanian stock more closely akin to the Turkic and the Ugrian than to any other. We have seen that wherever the old centre of civilisation may have been, whether on the south side of the Caspian as many now suppose, or in Central Asia as used to be believed, the fact remains that the Tatars from Turkestan are of the same stock with the Kheta, the Lydians, Carians, and Cappadocians, and with the Etruscans or Tyrrhenians of Italy. It is but an earlier edition which we are considering of that great advance which in the 13th century A.D. brought the Mongols to the Mediterranean and to Hungary. Far away to the west, in the Pyrenees, the remnant of the old Iberian stock—of the same Asiatic origin—remains among the Basques. It is traced in the Tyrol and among the north Italians, as well as among Sabines and Tuscans. In Egypt the same people early found a place. Wherever they went, they erected great cities of unsquared stone, and brought with them the arts of painting, of writing, of metal work in gold, silver, and bronze. It is on this basis that Chinese civilisation has arisen, and far from being barbarians, the Turanians [Known also as Turkic nations. -Ed] were the first civilisers of Western Asia, and the first to spread the arts and sciences of the old world along the southern coast of Europe. Forgotten for a time, while Aryans and Semites absorbed our attention, they now begin to claim their rightful place in the history of human civilisation originating in Asia.

Image of Turks

  • The great Philistine race [Not to be confused with modern Palestinians. -Ed] in southern Syria was in all probability of the same stock though mingled with a Semitic people. The head-dress of the Philistines, according to Egyptian pictures, is similar to that of the Teukrians, and their beardless faces appear to be non-Semitic. There are many town and personal names in Philistia, mentioned in the Bible, which seem to be non-Semitic, and have never been translated in Hebrew. Hitzig believed the Philistines to be Pelasgi, and the Bible classes them with certain Egyptian tribes… The Philistines were an uncircumcised people, and circumcision is not a Turanian custom. Schroder expresses the opinion that the name of the Philistine god, Dagon, known in Babylonia as Dakan, is not Semitic, but is to be referred to an Akkadian etymological origin. In this connection, it is interesting to note that even in the eighth century, B.C., the Philistine city of Ashdod is mentioned as a city of the Hittites in an inscription of Sargon. This fact which agrees with the Bible account of Hittites in the south of Palestine, and with the survival of the Hittite name in the modern villages, Hatta and Kefr Hatta in Philistia, is a monumental rebuke to those prejudiced persons who have striven to show a discord which does not exist between the Biblical and the monumental accounts of the sons of Heth.
  • One interesting particular I would note in speaking of this branch of the Syrian Turanians, namely, the objection which the Philistine priests had to tread ing on a threshold. The objection still holds among Syrian Moslems, whatever be its origin, but among the Mongols this became a very important superstition. The ambassadors sent to Mangu Khan were carefully instructed, as we learn from various writers of the 13th century, not to tread on the threshold ; guards were set to prevent the occurrence, and one unfortunate European lost his audience and was stripped of his clothes because he stumbled on the threshold as he went in. Thus the old Philistine superstition of ” hopping over the threshold ” connects them with Turanian races of the East.