Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Euro-Afghans ?

I wondered in a comments box a week or two back what had happened to the Spectator expedition to Afghanistan, which aimed to collect genetic samples in an attempt to determine whether the blond-haired, blue-eyed Afghans are the descendants of Alexander the Great's army.

Image copyright Matthew Leeming. Used without permission.

Well we don't know the results yet, but the expedition site is here. Hopefully Matthew Leeming will be updating the site soon with some results. At present he's probably crossing the Oxus on an oil-drum raft. Thanks to Hugo Willliams for the link.

JFD at Way Of The Intercepting Fisk (to be known henceforth as WOTIF) shares my fascination (and surpasses my knowledge as Sirius does Proxima Centauri) with the links between modern and ancient peoples and cultures.

I'd seen an old map of Central Asia a while back, showing the North-East of Afghanistan, above Hazara and west of Kashmir, as Kafiristan ('land of infidels'), but more modern maps showed it as Nuristan ('land of the enlightened' or 'land of light' - obviously good Muslims). I'd wondered what happend to the Kafirs (the derogatory South African word used to describe black people came from the Muslim slave traders' word for unbelievers).

Well they were all converted to Islam at end of the nineteenth century , though I imagine those who didn't were killed. The previous religions were polytheistic or animistic. But in a few remote valleys the Kafirs survived and are there to this day. You can trek there with Walji - or you could in 1996, and some of their culture was recorded in 1929 by the late Professor Georg Morgenstierne. Videos of Goat Sacrifice, anyone ?