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Appearance of nomads over the centuries

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calvo View Drop Down
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  Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Appearance of nomads over the centuries
    Posted: 30-Jul-2008 at 23:02

Throughout the 2000 years of history on the Eurasian steppes, the steppe nomads' outward appearance (physionomy, dress, and haircut) varied from tribe to tribe, century to century, region to region; and so have the sedentary civilizations' perception of them.

Starting from the Iranic Scythians and Samatians. They were most probably caucasoid in appearance, but physionomically they were alien enough to the Mediterranean civilizations for the Greeks and Romans for contemporary historians to describe them as "ugly". They were know to have worn their hair long and braided, and their clothes were made of animal skin, felt and leather.
 
The Xiongnu and the Huns were famous for artificially deforming their skulls to create and elongating effect. They generally shaved their heads bald mutilated their faces deliberatly with scars to scare off the enemy on the battlefield. Westen sources described the Huns as "hedious, 2-legged beasts" for their Mongoloid features, deformed skulls, and scarred faces.
I'd like to see a recronstruction of a bust of a typical "Hun". The elongated head must have looked very outlandish. Does anyone have any pictures?
 
Few comments have been made about the appearance of the Avars, Bulgars, Magyars, Khazars, Gokturks. The Gokturks were described to have worn their head full of hair long and braided. Many also had earrings. On the battlefield, they were mostly dressed in mail armour and some khans wore golden chain-mail.
 
The Kypchaks, or Cumans, were described by European chroniclers as a very "handsome" people, and especially regarding the beauty of their women; yet few detailed descriptions survive of their actual appearance.  Would they have looked so different from the Huns for  Europeans to have such a different perception of them?
 
The Mongol haircut had to be one of the most eccentric styles: shaving the top of the head while leaving a few locks by the side. Both western and Chinese chronicles described them as "smelly" and "filthy" for the fact that they seldom took any baths.
 
Most of the "Tatar" nationalities after the Mongol empire seemed to have adopted the same haircut: shaving the head while leaving one lock in the center which they tied into a braid. This fashion was also emulated by many Europeans who drifted to the steppes. Even Polish noblemen of the 16th and 17th century adopted this haircut, and so did most of th Ukrainians.
Where does this haircut actually come from? The Mongols, Kypchaks, Bulgars, or Pechenegs?
The "Manchu" haircut that was imposed in China was similar to the "Tatar haircut" less that the lock of hair was left to grow at the back rather than from the top of the head.
 
European travellers of the 19th century in Central Asia generally described the Kazakh (which they named Kirghiz) as a "handsome, good-looking people".
 
........
Does anyone have anymore information regarding descriptions of the outer appearance of the steppe nomads?
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Xianpei View Drop Down
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  Quote Xianpei Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Aug-2008 at 02:25

Hi Calvo,

I am also with great interests in this "appearances of different nomad tribes"  (I have a question of the same in the other earlier posted thread)....  unfortunately, it seems there are very few or even no feedback and information.   Frankly speaking, the main reason lured myself in digging more information about steppe nomad histories for years is : how these people looked like in the past as far as my blood may have the genes of one of them or combined one?

I just have to take a reference with Ospery's drawn pictures; but I do not know whether these are "authoritative source".   I post this is not for giving you anymore information; but just wanted to share with you the same desire (in search of their appearances at that times) I have.

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  Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Aug-2008 at 12:54
Regarding physionomy, it has been more or less concluded that the Western steppes (Ukraine, southern Russia, Hungary etc) have always been populated by Caucasoid, or predominantly Caucasoid people; from the Iranian Scythians to the Turkic Cumans, Pechnegs, and Bulgars right down to the Crimean Tatars and the Slavic Cossacks.
Mongolia, on the other hand, had always been populated by predominantly Mongoloid peoples; from the Xiongnu to the present-day Mongols.
 
In Central Asia, such as Kazakhstan, Kirguizstan, and the Uighur region of China, a transformation seemed to have taken place. Back in the Roman and Han times the population seemed to be of Caucasoid stock speaking indo-European languages; yet after the Xiongnu migration and the expansion of the Gokturks, Mongoloid people from the East seemed to have blended in with the local population, and in some cases (like the Kazakhs), predominated over them.
 
After all, most steppe peoples had the customs of marrying outside one's tribe, thus quickly absorbing the genes and the physionomy of the neighbouring peoples.
thus I very much doubt that any of the steppe nationalities had been ever "racially homogeneous". Most probably the Gokturks and the Kipchaks had included Mongoloids at the eastern end and Caucasoids at the western end with a mixture in the middle.
 
Regarding haircuts; the ancient Turkic and Iranic peoples seemed to have worn their hair long and braided; while in later eras more "elaboratly-shaven" heads came into fashion, such as the famous "Tatar haircut".
 
Yet the European perception of the Steppe peoples had improved from the "hedious" Huns to the "Handsome" Kypchaks, Kazakhs, and Crimean Tatars.
 
 
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  Quote Snafu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Aug-2008 at 06:22
The Khitans also had a unique haircut. Similar to the Mongols, but somewhat different too.
 
 
Here's a computer reconstruction of a Khitan woman of the Liao dynasty. It was made based on a skull found in a Liao tomb.
 
 
 
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  Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Aug-2008 at 08:12
Excellent images.
¿Have archaeologists made any more reconstruction of skulls of Scythians, Huns, Gokturks, Kipchaks, or Pechenegs?
 
The Huns must have looked indeed very frightening taking into account their elongated heads and scarred faces.
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  Quote TheMysticNomad Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Aug-2008 at 10:02
While doing a Google search for Huns images, I came across this impressive painting.  It's a fresco on the wall of the Nibelung Hall in Munich depicting a battle between the Huns and the Nibelungs.  The fresco appears to have been painted in the late Rennaisance or early modern period, but I think the artist did a pretty good job of conveying what the Huns may have looked like.
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  Quote Xianpei Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Aug-2008 at 16:36

Good to talk about Huns image again!

I hope I could borrow this thread to get more sheded lights on the post I placed to other older thread given by PeKau; and though, Leonidas had also reacted to my message there.

My message is :

" I have come to both Chinese and the Western records about ho XiongNus and Huns looked like .  They conflict me as some Chinese records describe XiongNu with high nose which is non-orient (east Asian) looking; Whilst the Western ones say Huns are more orient looking (Mongoloid)...

Assuming we are NOT debating whether Huns come from XiongNu or they were actually two different races , hence:

HOW XIONGNU PHYSICAL APPEARANCE WAS; AND HOW WAS PHYSICAL APPEARANCE of Huns?

REMARKS: I meant the Elite Ruling Class.

Additionally, by looking at The Mystic Nomad's given picture, it seems the huns appeared to be more Western (or something Eastern Europe), so it is somewhat different from those old Greek / Romanian descriptions .....

Thanks!
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  Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2014 at 01:18
Calvo:
 
I question the accuracy of some of your post.
 
"The Kypchaks, or Cumans, were described by European chroniclers as a very "handsome" people, and especially regarding the beauty of their women; yet few detailed descriptions survive of their actual appearance.  Would they have looked so different from the Huns for  Europeans to have such a different perception of them?"
 
The Kipchaks and the Cumans were two very different peoples.
 
The Kipchaks were a Turkic group, which faded into history in about the early 1200's.
 
The Cumans, on the other hand, were somewhat of an enigma. They originated in the area east of the Yellow River in northern China, but were of Caucasian appearance, with fair hair and blue or green eyes.
 
The Huns on the other hand, appear to have been a mongoloid people who originated in Scythia, probably in the Caucasus or the Steppes.
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