chapter  2
14 Pages

The Turkic Peoples: A Historical Sketch

Origins and Early Notices The modem Turkic peoples descend from an ancient grouping of tribes who through conquest, interaction and assimilation extended its language and elements of its culture across Eurasia. Their origins and earliest history can be reconstructed only with difficulty. Turkic belongs to the Altaic language 'family'. The nature of this relationship (see p. 77), whether genetic or the result of long-standing interaction, is much debated. Recent research posits an Altaic 'community' - whatever its origins - cAOOO-3000 BC, from which Ancient Turkic emerged c.3000-500 BC. On the basis of ancient borrowings from Uralic and Indo-European, it would appear that the Turkic-speaking grouping was the westernmost of the Altaic family. The location of this earliest Turkic urheimat (original habitat) is unclear. Since Indo-Europeans appear to have pioneered the development of equestrian-based pastoral nomadism in the fourth to third millennia BC, the ancestors of the earliest Turkic peoples must have inhabited regions where this technology could be transferred to them, i.e. the forest-steppe zone that ringed the Eurasian plains from the north. This original habitat has been identified with southem Siberia, from the Yenisey to the Pacific (in particular the Altay region or TransBaikalia), or with the trans-Caspian zone. In the course of the first millennium BC, the bearers of Proto-Turkic spread over hitherto predominantly IndoEuropean (Iranian) central and inner Mongolia. It was in the steppe that this equestrian, pastoral nomadic culture matured, most probably in further contact with Indo-European (Iranian) pastoral nomads.