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The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal
confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action. Usually created by a treaty A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in i ...
of
nomadic peoples
nomadic peoples
who, according to ancient Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern
Eurasian Steppe The Eurasian Steppe, also simply called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characteri ...
from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD. Chinese sources report that
Modu Chanyu Modun, Maodun, Modu (, c. 234 – c. 174 BCE) was the son of Touman and the founder of the empire of the Xiongnu. He came to power by ordering his men to kill his father in 209 BCE. Modu ruled from 209 BCE to 174 BCE. He was a military leader un ...
, the supreme leader after 209 BC, founded the Xiongnu Empire. After their previous rivals, the
Yuezhi The Yuezhi (, ) were an ancient people first described in Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and depe ...
, migrated into
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia Asia () is 's largest and most populous , located primarily in the and . It shares the continental of with the continent of and the continental landmass of with both Europe and . Asia covers an area ...

Central Asia
during the 2nd century BC, the Xiongnu became a dominant power on the
steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may ...

steppe
s of
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. ...

East Asia
, centred on an area known later as
Mongolia Mongolia (, mn, Монгол Улс, Mongol Uls, Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: '; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia") is a landlocked country in East Asia. It is bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia ...

Mongolia
. The Xiongnu were also active in areas now part of
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region spanning much of Northern Asia. Siberia has been Russian conquest of Siberia, part of modern Russia since the latter half of th ...

Siberia
,
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked of the . Its border includes most of the length of China's with the country of . Inner Mongolia also accounts for a small section of China's with (). Its capit ...

Inner Mongolia
,
Gansu Gansu (, ; alternately romanized as Kansu) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnatio ...

Gansu
and
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
. Their relations with adjacent Chinese dynasties to the south-east were complex, with repeated periods of conflict and intrigue, alternating with exchanges of
tribute Objects in the "Apadana" reliefs at Persepolis: armlets, bowls, and ''amphorae'' with griffin handles are given as tribute. A tribute (; from Latin ''tributum'', "contribution") is wealth, often Gifts in kind, in kind, that a party gives to an ...

tribute
, trade and marriage treaties (
heqin ''Heqin'', also known as marriage alliance, refers to the historical practice of Chinese emperors Emperor of China, or ''Huáng dì'' was the monarch of China during the History of China#Imperial China, Imperial Period of Chinese history. In tr ...
). During the
Sixteen Kingdoms The Sixteen Kingdoms (), less commonly the Sixteen States, was a chaotic period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty ...
era, as one of the
Five Barbarians The Five Barbarians, or Wu Hu (), is a Chinese historical exonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loca ...
, they founded several dynastic states in northern China, such as
Former Zhao The Han Zhao (; 304–329 AD), or Former Zhao (), was a dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is th ...
,
Northern Liang The Northern Liang (; 397-439) was a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous ...
and
Xia Xia (Hsia in Wade–Giles) may refer to: Chinese history * Xia dynasty (夏) (c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC) * Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms) (夏) (407–431), a Xiongnu state * Xia (夏) (617–621), a state founded by Dou Jiande near the end of the Sui dynast ...
. Attempts to identify the Xiongnu with later groups of the western
Eurasian Steppe The Eurasian Steppe, also simply called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characteri ...
remain controversial.
Scythians The Scythians (from grc, Σκύθης , ) or Scyths, also known as Saka and Sakae ( ; egy, 𓋴𓎝𓎡𓈉 The ancient Egyptian Hill-country or "Foreign land" hieroglyph (𓈉) is a member of the sky, earth, and water hieroglyphs. A ...
and
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; Ancient Greek, Greek: ; la, Sarmatae , ) were a large Iranian peoples, Iranian confederation that existed in classical antiquity, flourishing from about the fifth century BC to the fourth century AD. Originating in the centr ...
were concurrently to the west. The identity of the ethnic core of Xiongnu has been a subject of varied hypotheses, because only a few words, mainly titles and personal names, were preserved in the Chinese sources. The name ''Xiongnu'' may be
cognate In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Itali ...
with that of the
Huns The Huns were a nomadic people A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation which regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherers, pastoral ...

Huns
or the '' Huna'', although this is disputed.Vaissière 2006 Other linguistic links—all of them also controversial—proposed by scholars include
Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subreg ...
,: "Their royal tribes and kings (''shan-yü'') bore Iranian names and all the Hsiung-nu words noted by the Chinese can be explained from an Iranian language of Saka type. It is therefore clear that the majority of Hsiung-nu tribes spoke an Eastern Iranian language." ,Tumen D., "Anthropology of Archaeological Populations from Northeast Asi

page 25, 27
Turkic languages, Turkic,Hucker 1975: 136Henning 1948
Uralic The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family of 38 languages spoken by approximately 25million people, predominantly in Northern Eurasia. The Uralic languages with the most native speakers are Hungarian lang ...

Uralic
,
Yeniseian The Yeniseian languages (sometimes known as Yeniseic or Yenisei-Ostyak;"Ostyak" is a concept of Language geography, areal rather than Genetic relationship (linguistics), genetic linguistics. In addition to the Yeniseian languages it also includes ...
, Sinitic (or "Sino-Yeniseian"), or multi-ethnic.Geng 2005


History


Nomadic predecessors

The territories associated with the Xiongnu in historical sources were previously occupied by other nomadic cultures such as the
Afanasevo culture The Afanasievo culture, or Afanasevo culture (Russian Афанасьевская культура ''Afanas'yevskaya'' kul'tura; " heAfanasevan culture"), is the earliest known archaeological culture of south Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сиби ...
(3500-2500 BC), based in the northwest of the
Altai Mountains The Altai Mountains (), also spelled Altay Mountains, are a mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with simil ...

Altai Mountains
, which resulted from the eastward migration of the
Yamnaya culture The Yamnaya culture (/ˈjamnaja/), from Russian Я́мная культу́ра, or Yamnaya Horizon, (mistakenly) Yamna culture, (translated) Pit Grave culture, or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological cul ...

Yamnaya culture
, originally based in the
Pontic steppe Pontic, from the Greek language, Greek ''pontos'' (, ), or "sea", may refer to: The Black Sea Places * The Pontic colonies, on its northern shores * Pontus (region), a region on its southern shores * The Pontic–Caspian steppe, steppelands stre ...
north of the
Caucasus Mountains The Caucasus Mountains, : pronounced * hy, Կովկասյան լեռներ, : pronounced * az, Qafqaz dağları, pronounced * rus, Кавка́зские го́ры, Kavkázskiye góry, kɐfˈkasːkʲɪje ˈɡorɨ * tr, Kafkas Dağla ...

Caucasus Mountains
. Their probable descendants, the
Yuezhi The Yuezhi (, ) were an ancient people first described in Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and depe ...
, were displaced by the Xiongnu expansion in the 2nd century BC, and had to migrate to Central and Southern Asia. In the southern part of that territory -i.e. the
Tarim basin The Tarim Basin is an endorheic basin An endorheic basin (; also spelled endoreic basin or endorreic basin) is a drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans ...
's eastern edge- the
Tarim mummies File:KunlunMountains.jpg, Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin. The Tarim mummies are a series of mummy, mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from Tarim Basin#Early periods, 1800 BC to the first centuries ...
are discovered and dated to circa 2000 BC; recent studies (Li et al., 2010; Zhang et al.; 2021) indicate that the prehistoric inhabitants of the Tarim Basin arose from the admixture between locals of
Ancient North Eurasian In archaeogenetics Archaeogenetics is the study of ancient DNA Ancient DNA (aDNA) is DNA The structure of part of a DNA double helix Deoxyribonucleic acid (; DNA) is a molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling ...
and Northeast Asians descent. though in his use, "Turks" always referred to
Magyars Hungarians, also known as Magyars ( ; hu, magyarok ), are a nation and ethnic group native to Hungary (Hungarian: Magyarország) and Kingdom of Hungary, historical Hungarian lands who share a common Hungarian culture, culture, Hungarian histor ...

Magyars
. Such archaizing was a common literary ''topos'', and implied similar geographic origins and nomadic lifestyle but not direct filiation. Some
Uyghurs The Uyghurs ( or ; ; ; zh, s=, t=, p=Wéiwú'ěr, IPA: ), alternatively spelled Uighurs, Uyghers, Uygurs or Uigurs, are a Turkic peoples, Turkic ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central Asi ...
claimed descent from the Xiongnu (according to Chinese history ''
Weishu The ''Book of Wei'', also known by its Chinese name as the ''Wei Shu'', is a classic Chinese historical text compiled by Wei Shou from 551 to 554, and is an important text describing the history of the Northern Wei and Eastern Wei from 386 to ...
'', the founder of the
Uyghur Khaganate The Uyghur Khaganate (or Uyghur Empire or Uighur Khaganate, self defined as Toquz-Oghuz country; otk, 𐱃𐰆𐰴𐰕:𐰆𐰍𐰕:𐰉𐰆𐰑𐰣, Toquz Oγuz budun, Tang-era names, with modern Hanyu Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often a ...

Uyghur Khaganate
was descended from a Xiongnu ruler), but many contemporary scholars do not consider the modern Uyghurs to be of direct linear descent from the old Uyghur Khaganate because modern
Uyghur language The Uyghur or Uighur language (; , , , or , , , , Common Turkic Alphabet, CTA: Uyğurçä; formerly known as Eastern Turki), is a Turkic languages, Turkic language, written in a Uyghur Arabic alphabet, Uyghur Perso-Arabic script, with 10 to ...

Uyghur language
and
Old Uyghur language Old or OLD may refer to: Places *Old, Baranya, Hungary *Old, Northamptonshire, England *Old Street station, a railway and tube station in London (station code OLD) *OLD, IATA code for Old Town Municipal Airport and Seaplane Base, Old Town, Main ...
s are different. Rather, they consider them to be descendants of a number of people, one of them the ancient Uyghurs. In various kinds of ancient inscriptions on monuments of
Munmu of Silla Munmu of Silla (626–681; reigned 661–681) was the thirtieth king of the Korea Korea (officially the "Korean Peninsula") is a region in East Asia. Since 1945 it has been Division of Korea, divided into the two parts which soon became t ...
, it is recorded that King Munmu had Xiongnu ancestry. According to several historians, it is possible that there were tribes of
Koreanic Koreanic is a compact language family consisting of Korean language, Korean and the Jeju language. The latter is often described as a dialect of Korean, but is distinct enough to be considered a separate language. A few scholars suggest that the ...
origin. There are also some Korean researchers that point out that the grave goods of Silla and of the eastern Xiongnu are alike.


Language isolate theories

Turkologist
Gerhard DoerferGerhard Doerfer (8 March 1920 – 27 December 2003) was a German Turkologist, Altaist, and philologist best known for his studies of the Turkic languages The Turkic languages are a language family of at least 35 documented languages, spoken by th ...
has denied any possibility of a relationship between the Xiongnu language and any other known language, even any connection with Turkic or Mongolian.


Geographic origins

The original geographic location of the Xiongnu is disputed among steppe archaeologists. Since the 1960s, the geographic origin of the Xiongnu has attempted to be traced through an analysis of
Early Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history between the use of the first stone tools by hominins 3.3 million years ago and the ...
burial constructions. No region has been proven to have
mortuary A morgue or mortuary (in a hospital A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment with specialized medical and nursing staff and medical equipment. The best-known type of hospital is the general hospital, which typica ...

mortuary
practices that clearly match those of the Xiongnu.


Archaeology

In the 1920s,
Pyotr Kozlov Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov (russian: Пётр Кузьми́ч Козло́в; October 3, 1863 in Dukhovshchina – September 26, 1935 in Peterhof) was a Russian and Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. ...
's excavations of the royal tombs at the
Noin-Ula burial site The Noin-Ula burial site ( mn, Ноён уулын булш, , also Noyon Uul) consist of more than 200 large burial mounds, approximately square in plan, some 2 m in height, covering timber burial chambers. They are located by the Selenga The S ...
in northern Mongolia that date to around the first century CE provided a glimpse into the lost world of the Xiongnu. Other archaeological sites have been unearthed in
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked of the . Its border includes most of the length of China's with the country of . Inner Mongolia also accounts for a small section of China's with (). Its capit ...

Inner Mongolia
. Those include the
Ordos culture The Ordos culture () was a material culture occupying a region centered on the (corresponding to the region of , including to the north, all located in modern , ) during the and early from the 6th to 2nd centuries BCE. The Ordos culture is kno ...
of
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked of the . Its border includes most of the length of China's with the country of . Inner Mongolia also accounts for a small section of China's with (). Its capit ...

Inner Mongolia
, which has been identified as a Xiongnu culture. In the 1920s,
Pyotr Kozlov Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov (russian: Пётр Кузьми́ч Козло́в; October 3, 1863 in Dukhovshchina – September 26, 1935 in Peterhof) was a Russian and Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. ...
's excavations of the royal tombs at the
Noin-Ula burial site The Noin-Ula burial site ( mn, Ноён уулын булш, , also Noyon Uul) consist of more than 200 large burial mounds, approximately square in plan, some 2 m in height, covering timber burial chambers. They are located by the Selenga The S ...
in northern Mongolia that date to around the first century CE provided a glimpse into the lost world of the Xiongnu. Other archaeological sites have been unearthed in
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked of the . Its border includes most of the length of China's with the country of . Inner Mongolia also accounts for a small section of China's with (). Its capit ...

Inner Mongolia
. Those include the
Ordos culture The Ordos culture () was a material culture occupying a region centered on the (corresponding to the region of , including to the north, all located in modern , ) during the and early from the 6th to 2nd centuries BCE. The Ordos culture is kno ...
of
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked of the . Its border includes most of the length of China's with the country of . Inner Mongolia also accounts for a small section of China's with (). Its capit ...

Inner Mongolia
, which has been identified as a Xiongnu culture.
Sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's ...
Otto Maenchen-Helfen has said that depictions of the Xiongnu of
Transbaikal Transbaikal, Trans-Baikal, Transbaikalia ( rus, Забайка́лье, r=Zabaykalye, p=zəbɐjˈkalʲjɪ), or Dauria (, ''Dauriya'') is a mountainous region to the east of or "beyond" (trans-) in . The steppe and wetland landscapes of Dauria a ...
ia and the Ordos show individuals with "Europoid" features. Iaroslav Lebedynsky said that Europoid depictions in the Ordos region should be attributed to a "Scythian affinity". Portraits found in the Noin-Ula excavations demonstrate other cultural evidences and influences, showing that Chinese and Xiongnu art have influenced each other mutually. Some of these embroidered portraits in the Noin-Ula
kurgan A kurgan (russian: link=no, курга́н, uk, link=no, курга́н, висока могила) is a type of tumulus File:Gamla uppsala.jpg, The Royal mounds of Gamla Uppsala in Sweden from the 5th and 6th centuries originally the site h ...

kurgan
s also depict the Xiongnu with long braided hair with wide ribbons, which is seen to be identical with the Ashina clan hair-style. Well-preserved bodies in Xiongnu and pre-Xiongnu tombs in the Mongolian Republic and southern
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region spanning much of Northern Asia. Siberia has been Russian conquest of Siberia, part of modern Russia since the latter half of th ...

Siberia
show both Mongoloid and Caucasian features. Analysis of skeletal remains from some sites attributed to the Xiongnu provides an identification of
dolichocephalic Dolichocephaly (derived from the Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the foll ...
Mongoloid, ethnically distinct from neighboring populations in present-day Mongolia. Russian and Chinese anthropological and craniofacial studies show that the Xiongnu were physically very heterogenous, with six different population clusters showing different degrees of Mongoloid and Caucasoid physical traits. Presently, there exist four fully excavated and well documented cemeteries: Ivolga, Dyrestui, Burkhan Tolgoi, and Daodunzi. Additionally thousands of tombs have been recorded in
Transbaikal Transbaikal, Trans-Baikal, Transbaikalia ( rus, Забайка́лье, r=Zabaykalye, p=zəbɐjˈkalʲjɪ), or Dauria (, ''Dauriya'') is a mountainous region to the east of or "beyond" (trans-) in . The steppe and wetland landscapes of Dauria a ...
ia and Mongolia. The archaeologists have chosen to, for the most part, refrain from positing anything about Han-Xiongnu relations based on the material excavated. However, they were willing to mention the following:
"There is no clear indication of the ethnicity of this tomb occupant, but in a similar brick-chambered tomb of the late Eastern Han period at the same cemetery, archaeologists discovered a bronze seal with the official title that the Han government bestowed upon the leader of the Xiongnu. The excavators suggested that these brick chamber tombs all belong to the Xiongnu (Qinghai 1993)."
Classifications of these burial sites make distinction between two prevailing type of burials: "(1) monumental ramped terrace tombs which are often flanked by smaller "satellite" burials and (2) 'circular' or 'ring' burials." Some scholars consider this a division between "elite" graves and "commoner" graves. Other scholars, find this division too simplistic and not evocative of a true distinction because it shows "ignorance of the nature of the mortuary investments and typically luxuriant burial assemblages nd does not account forthe discovery of other lesser interments that do not qualify as either of these types."


Genetics

A genetic study published in the ''
American Journal of Human Genetics The ''American Journal of Human Genetics'' is a monthly peer-reviewed Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work ( peers). It functions as a form of self-regulation by q ...
'' in July 2003 examined the remains of 62 individuals buried between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD at the Xiongnu necropolis at Egyin Gol in northern Mongolia. The examined individuals were found to be primarily of East Asian ancestry. A genetic study published in the ''
American Journal of Physical Anthropology The ''American Journal of Physical Anthropology'' is a peer-reviewed Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work ( peers). It functions as a form of self-regulation by qua ...
'' in October 2006 detected significant genetic continuity between the examined individuals at Egyin Gol and modern Mongols. Lihongjie (2012) analyzed the Y-DNA of samples from a 2nd- or 1st-century BCE cemetery at Heigouliang in Xinjiang—which is believed to have been a summer palace for Xiongnu kings. The Y-DNA of 12 men excavated from the site belonged to haplogroup Q—either Q-MEH2 (Q1a) or Q-M378 (Q1b). The Q-M378 men among them were regarded as hosts of the tombs; half of the Q-MEH2 men appeared to be hosts and the other half as sacrificial victims. Likewise, L. L. Kang et al. (2013), found that three samples from a Xiongnu site in Barkol, Xinjiang belonged to Q-M3 (Q1a2a1a1). A genetic study published in the ''American Journal of Physical Anthropology'' in July 2010 analyzed three individuals buried at an elite Xiongnu cemetery in Duurlig Nars of Northeast Mongolia around 0 AD. One male carried the paternal haplogroup C3 and the maternal haplogroup . The female also carried the maternal haplogroup D4. The third individual, a male, carried the paternal haplogroup R1a1 and the maternal haplogroup U2e1. C3 and D4 are both common in
Northeast Asia Northeast Asia or Northeastern Asia is a geographical subregion of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Eart ...
, R1a1 is common in Eurasia while U2e1 is a West Eurasian lineage. A genetic study published in ''
Nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter an ...
'' in May 2018 examined the remains of five Xiongnu. The four samples of
Y-DNA The Y chromosome is one of two sex chromosome A chromosome is a long DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid (; DNA) is a molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist ...
extracted belonged to haplogroups R1,
R1b Haplogroup R1b (R-M343), previously known as Hg1 and Eu18, is a human Y-chromosome haplogroup. It is the most frequently occurring paternal lineage in Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe. The region's countries a ...

R1b
, O3a and O3a3b2, while the five samples of
mtDNA Illustration of the location of mitochondrial DNA in human cells Electron microscopy reveals mitochondrial DNA in discrete foci. Bars: 200 nm. (A) Cytoplasmic section after immunogold labelling with anti-DNA; gold particles marking mtDNA are ...

mtDNA
extracted belonged to haplogroups , N9a2a, G3a3, and . The study concluded that Xiongnu confederation was genetically heterogeneous, and Xiongnu individuals belonging to two distinct groups, one being of
East Asian East Asia is the eastern region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and ...
origin and the other presenting considerable admixture levels with West Eurasian (possibly from Central Saka) sources. The examined Xiongnu with mixed East Asian and West Eurasian origin have had a larger amount of East Asian ancestry than neighboring Sakas, Wusun and Kangju. The evidence suggested that the Huns emerged through westward migrations of East Asian nomads (especially Xiongnu tribal members) and subsequent admixture between them and Sakas. A genetic study published in ''
Scientific Reports ''Scientific Reports'' is an online peer-reviewed Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work ( peers). It functions as a form of self-regulation by qualified members of ...
'' in November 2019 examined the remains of three individuals buried at Hunnic cemeteries in the
Carpathian Basin alt=The Roman empire in red with a land in darker red; water is in pale blue, and non-Roman land in grey, The highlighted borders of the province of Pannonia within the Roman Empire The Pannonian Basin, or Carpathian Basin, is a large basin ...

Carpathian Basin
in the 5th century AD. The results from the study supported the theory that the Huns were descended from the Xiongnu. A genetic study published in ''
Human Genetics Human genetics is the study of inheritance as it occurs in human beings. Human genetics encompasses a variety of overlapping fields including: classical genetics, cytogenetics, molecular genetics, biochemical genetics, genomics, population genet ...
'' in July 2020 which examined the remains of 52 individuals excavated from the Tamir Ulaan Khoshuu cemetery in
Mongolia Mongolia (, mn, Монгол Улс, Mongol Uls, Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: '; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia") is a landlocked country in East Asia. It is bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia ...

Mongolia
propose the ancestors of the Xiongnu as an admixture between Scythians and Siberians and support the idea that the Huns are their descendants.


Culture


Religion

According to Book of Han, "the Xiongnu called Heaven (天) 'Chēnglí' (撐犁) a Chinese transcription of
Tengri Tengri ( otk, 𐰚𐰇𐰚:𐱅𐰭𐰼𐰃, Kök Teŋri/Тeŋiri, lit=Blue Heaven; Middle Turkic Middle Turkic (''Türki'' or ''Türkçe'') refers to a phase in the development of the Turkic language family, covering much of the Middle Ages ...
.


Artistic distinctions

Within the Xiongnu culture more variety is visible from site to site than from "era" to "era," in terms of the Chinese chronology, yet all form a whole that is distinct from that of the Han and other peoples of the non-Chinese north. In some instances iconography cannot be used as the main cultural identifier because art depicting animal predation is common among the steppe peoples. An example of animal predation associated with Xiongnu culture is a tiger carrying dead prey. We see a similar image in work from Maoqinggou, a site which is presumed to have been under Xiongnu political control but is still clearly non-Xiongnu. From Maoqinggou, we see the prey replaced by an extension of the tiger's foot. The work also depicts a lower level of execution; Maoqinggou work was executed in a rounder, less detailed style. In its broadest sense, Xiongnu iconography of animal predation include examples such as the gold headdress from Aluchaideng and gold earrings with a turquoise and jade inlay discovered in Xigouban, Inner Mongolia. Xiongnu art is harder to distinguish from
Saka The Saka, Śaka, Shaka, Śāka or Sacae ( ; Kharosthi: ; Brahmi script, Brahmi: , ; sa, wiktionary:शक#Sanskrit, शक , ; grc, Σάκαι ; la, Sacae; , Old Chinese, old , Pinyin, mod. , ; egy, wiktionary:sk#Etymology 2, 𓋴𓎝 ...

Saka
or
Scythian art Scythian art is the art associated with Scythian cultures Scythian cultures, also referred to as Scythic cultures, Scytho-Siberian cultures, Early Nomadic cultures, Scythian civilization, Scythian horizon, Scythian world or Scythian continuum, wer ...
. There was a similarity present in stylistic execution, but Xiongnu art and Saka art did often differ in terms of iconography. Saka art does not appear to have included predation scenes, especially with dead prey, or same-animal combat. Additionally, Saka art included elements not common to Xiongnu iconography, such as a winged, horned horse. The two cultures also used two different bird heads. Xiongnu depictions of birds have a tendency to have a moderate eye and beak and have ears, while Saka birds have a pronounced eye and beak and no ears. Some scholars claim these differences are indicative of cultural differences. Scholar Sophia-Karin Psarras claims that Xiongnu images of animal predation, specifically tiger plus prey, is spiritual, representative of death and rebirth, and same-animal combat is representative of the acquisition of or maintenance of power.


Rock art and writing

The rock art of the Yin and
Helan Mountains The Helan Mountains, frequently called Alashan Mountains in older sources, are an isolated desert mountain range forming the border of Inner Mongolia's Alxa League and Ningxia. They run north-south parallel to the north-flowing Yellow River in t ...
is dated from the 9th millennium BC to the 19th century AD. It consists mainly of engraved signs (petroglyphs) and only minimally of painted images. Excavations conducted between 1924 and 1925 in the Noin-Ula kurgans produced objects with over twenty carved characters, which were either identical or very similar to that of to the runic letters of the
Old Turkic alphabet The Old Turkic script (also known as variously Göktürk script, Orkhon script, Orkhon-Yenisey script, Turkic runes) was the alphabet used by the Göktürks and other early Turkic peoples, Turkic khanates from the 8th to 10th centuries to re ...
discovered in the
Orkhon Valley Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape (; mn, Орхоны хөндийн соёлын дурсгал, Orkhony xöndiiyn soyoliyn dursgal, Mongolian Script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first Mongolian ...
. From this a some scholars hold that the Xiongnu had a script similar to Eurasian runiform and this alphabet itself served as the basis for the ancient Turkic writing. The ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dep ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'' (vol. 110) state that when the Xiongnu noted down something or transmitted a message, they made cuts on a piece of wood; they also mention a "Hu script". File:Fig6Ishjamts p166R1.gif, 2nd century BC – 2nd century AD characters of Xiongnu-
Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were a Proto-Mongolic Proto-Mongolic is the hypothetical ancestor language of the modern Mongolic languages. It is very close to the Middle Mongol language, the language spoken at the time of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empir ...
script (Mongolia and Inner Mongolia), N. Ishjamts, "Nomads In Eastern Central Asia", in the ''History of civilizations of Central Asia'', Volume 2, Fig 5, p. 166, UNESCO Publishing, 1996, File:Fig5Ishjamts p166R2.gif, 2nd century BC – 2nd century AD, characters of Xiongnu-Xianbei script (Mongolia and Inner Mongolia), N. Ishjamts, "Nomads In Eastern Central Asia", in the ''History of civilizations of Central Asia'', Volume 2, Fig 5, p. 166, UNESCO Publishing, 1996,


Literacy

Chinese sources indicate that the Xiongnu did not have an ideographic form of writing like Chinese, but in the 2nd century BC, a renegade Chinese dignitary Yue "taught the
Shanyu Chanyu () or Shanyu (), short for Chengli Gutu Chanyu (), was the title used by the supreme rulers of Inner Asian nomads for eight centuries until superseded by the title "''Khagan''" in 402 CE. The title was most famously used by the ruling L ...
to write official letters to the Chinese court on a wooden tablet 31 cm long, and to use a seal and large-sized folder." The same sources tell that when the Xiongnu noted down something or transmitted a message, they made cuts on a piece of wood ('ke-mu'), and they also mention a "Hu script". At Noin-Ula and other Xiongnu burial sites in Mongolia and the region north of Lake Baikal, among the objects were discovered over 20 carved characters. Most of these characters are either identical or very similar to letters of the
Old Turkic alphabet The Old Turkic script (also known as variously Göktürk script, Orkhon script, Orkhon-Yenisey script, Turkic runes) was the alphabet used by the Göktürks and other early Turkic peoples, Turkic khanates from the 8th to 10th centuries to re ...
of the Early Middle Ages found on the Eurasian steppes. From this, some specialists conclude that the Xiongnu used a script similar to the ancient ''Eurasian runiform'', and that this alphabet was a basis for later Turkic writing.N. Ishjatms, "Nomads In Eastern Central Asia", in the "History of civilizations of Central Asia", Volume 2, Fig 6, p. 166, UNESCO Publishing, 1996,


Diet

Xiongnu were a nomadic people. From their lifestyle of herding flocks and their horse-trade with China, it can be concluded that their diet consist mainly of
mutton Lamb, hogget, and mutton, generically sheep meat, are the meat of domestic sheep Sheep (''Ovis aries'') are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order (biology), order Art ...
,
horse meat Horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a Domestication, domesticated odd-toed ungulate, one-toed ungulate, hoofed mammal. It belongs to the taxonomic family Equidae and is one of two Extant taxon, extant subspecies of wild horse, ''Equ ...
and wild geese that were shot down.


See also

* List of Xiongnu rulers (Chanyus) * Rulers family tree * Nomadic empire * Ethnic groups in Chinese history * History of the Han Dynasty * Ban Yong * Zubu * List of largest empires *
Ordos culture The Ordos culture () was a material culture occupying a region centered on the (corresponding to the region of , including to the north, all located in modern , ) during the and early from the 6th to 2nd centuries BCE. The Ordos culture is kno ...


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

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Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dep ...

Records of the Grand Historian
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''Transoxiana'', August 2009, 14. . * Petkovski, Elizabet. 2006
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nowiki>]
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(Etnicheskii sostav i proiskhozhdenie altaitsev, Ethnic composition and origins of the Altaians). Leningrad: Nauka. Facsimile in Microsoft Word format. * Pritsak O. 1959. XUN Der Volksname der Hsiung-nu. ''Central Asiatic Journal'', 5: 27–34. * Psarras, Sophia-Karin. "HAN AND XIONGNU: A REEXAMINATION OF CULTURAL AND POLITICAL RELATIONS (I)." ''Monumenta Serica''. 51. (2003): 55–236. Web. 12 Dec. 2012. . * * * Sims-Williams, Nicholas. 2004

Letters 1, 2, 3, and 5 translated into English. * Talko-Gryntsevich, Julian. Paleo-Ethnology of Trans-Baikal area. In: ''Archaeological sites of the Xiongnu'', vol. 4. St Petersburg, 1999. * Taskin V.S. [Таскин В.С.]. 1984. ''Материалы по истории древних кочевых народов группы Дунху'' (Materials on the history of the ancient nomadic peoples of the Dunhu group). Moscow. * * * Vaissière, Étienne de la. 2006
Xiongnu
''Encyclopædia Iranica'' online. * * Wink, A. 2002. ''Al-Hind: making of the Indo-Islamic World''. Brill. * Yap, Joseph P. (2009). "Wars with the Xiongnu: A translation from Zizhi tongjian". AuthorHouse. * *


Further reading

* Потапов, Л. П. 1966. Этнионим ''Теле'' и Алтайцы
''Тюркологический сборник'', 1966
233–240. Moscow: Nauka. (Potapov L.P., The ethnonym "Tele" and the Altaians
''Turcologica'' 1966
233–240). * Houle, J. and L.G. Broderick 2011
'' "Settlement Patterns and Domestic Economy of the Xiongnu in Khanui Valley, Mongolia
, 137–152. In ''Xiongnu Archaeology: Multidisciplinary Perspectives of the First Steppe Empire in Inner Asia''. * * Yap, Joseph P, (2019). The Western Regions, Xiongnu and Han, from the Shiji, Hanshu and Hou Hanshu.


External links




Encyclopedic Archive on Xiongnu

The Xiongnu Empire

The Silk Road Volume 4 Number 1

The Silk Road Volume 9



Belt buckle, Xiongnu type, 3rd–2nd century B.C.

Videodocumentation: Xiongnu – the burial site of the Hun prince (Mongolia)


{{Empires Xiongnu, 3rd-century BC establishments 460 disestablishments Ancient peoples of China History of China Former countries in Chinese history History of Mongolia Nomadic groups in Eurasia States and territories disestablished in the 1st century States and territories established in the 3rd century BC