(Chapter VII, section 3)

Speakers of Uralic and Altaic, and Old World Racial Origins

Before indulging in the speculation which the present study of the Uralic- and Altaic-speaking peoples in antiquity inspires, a brief review of our present knowledge will be in order. Uralic is a linguistic stock or sub-stock which includes Finnic and Ugrian, as well as Samoyedic; Altaic includes Mongolian, Turkish, Tungusic, and possibly Korean.

The Finns and the Ugrians were a united people, in the geographical sense, until the arrival of the Slavs from the west, and Huns and Avars from the east, forced some of them to migrate, and caused the absorption of others. Judging by a series of small samples taken from the heart of their forest abode, they were members of the general Nordic sub-group, most closely related to the Minussinsk people in Siberia, but showing relationships likewise with Scythians and peoples of known Indo-European linguistic affiliation. Thus, since the Finns and Ugrians were not Indo-European speakers, there is no reason to suppose that all of the nomads of central Asia who belonged to this same racial type were Iranians. The Samoyeds, distant linguistic relatives of the Finno-Ugrians, are not represented by early skeletal material, and their racial position in antiquity cannot be established.

Of the known Altaic speakers, three branches, the Tungus, Mongols, and the Koreans, were and still are almost purely mongoloid. The fourth branch, that of the Turks, is the only one the racial origin of which is in question. Today most of the Turks are racially European, but in the old days the Huns and Avars, who were intimately concerned with the Turkish expansion, were as mongoloid as the others, with both Tungus and Buryat-Mongol elements represented.

We are at this point squarely faced with the problem of the origin of the living Finns and Turks, and with that of the role played by speakers of their linguistic stock or stocks in the formation of European and Asiatic peoples. These problems may not be finally solved with the evidence in our possession. Yet there is enough material, historical, linguistic, and somatological, to make speculation legitimate.

In the foregoing chapter we have seen that the earliest Indo-European languages probably moved westward into central Europe as the speech of the Danubian immigrants as early as 3000 B.C. These Danubian farmers were racially the relatives or descendants of Anatolian and South Russian peoples of a special physical type, a branch of the Mediterranean stock to which we have given the name Danubian. This type was reasonably homogeneous, but the number of skulls upon which its identification is based is slight, and it is possible that a minor increment of longer-headed, narrower-nosed Mediterranean forms accompanied it, since the two variants seem long to have been associated in South Russia.

Now since Indo-European speech was a mixture of B, or Caucasic, with A, or Finno-Ugrian, and since, as we have seen, the earliest known Finno-Ugnians were Nordics with a very strong Danubian tendency, it therefore becomes likely that the Danubian farmers owed their racial type to a mixture of two linguistically different ethnic groups who were physically much the same, and both predominantly Danubian.

If we are correct in identifying the Corded people with the introduction of Altaic speech into Europe, then the further identification of the Corded racial type with (a) the non-mongoloid modern Turks and (b) the Afghanian racial type of the Irano-Afghan plateau, makes it seem possible that there was, in remote food-producing times, an ancestral bloc of peoples living on that plateau who spoke languages ancestral to Altaic, and perhaps remotely related to Uralic, Sumerian, or both. Some of the peoples who formed that bloc presumably moved northward onto the central Asiatic grasslands. This. change of scene on the part of these early agriculturalists may have had two effects: the introduction of agriculture into the oases of Turkestan and into Mongolia, and the development of pastoral nomadism by some of the immigrants, with the subsequent rise of the horse culture.

This step in our speculative structure leads logically to the question of the origin of the Turks. Having placed Ural-Altaic-speaking white men, of a special Mediterranean type still found in Iran and Afghanistan, in Turkestan and Mongolia,26 it is not difficult to suppose that mongoloid peoples, originally hunters, were attracted to the plains from their forests and rivers by the advantages of the new economy, and that they assimilated, in adopting it, those of the white immigrants with whom they were in immediate contact.

In the meanwhile, some of the Altaic-speaking plainsmen, related to the ancestors of the Corded people, may have mixed with smaller Mediterraneans such as were found at Anau, to produce Nordies of the type found in the Minussinsk kurgans, although it is possible that these Nordics do not antedate the arrival of the Iranians. An inruption of relatively unmixed Corded invaders from their eastern center, about 2200 B.C., brought the Altaic linguistic element noted by Nehring in Indo-European speech into central Europe, and produced, by a blending of these Corded invaders with European Danubian racial elements, the European Nordics, who, during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age, spread Indo-European speech over a wide area.

In the middle of the second millennium n.e., during the full Bronze Age, one branch of these Indo-European speakers, the Iranians, spread eastward from their home in southern Russia across the country north of the Black Sea into Turkestan, and thence some of them went southward into Afghanistan and India, bearing with them their original cattle and farming culture which they had brought from their earlier home, with a minimum of horse culture elements.

Other Iranians remained on the plains, and took over the horse nomad-ism which the Altaic speakers had already developed. That they mixed with Altaic speakers, as the legend of the Scythian youths and Amazon maidens would suggest, is probable, owing to their acquisition of a low cranial vault and a wide face, eastern Nordic traits which at this time were foreign to western Europe. The importance of Altaic god names in what is known of the Scythian language would support this contention. These Iranians spread the horse culture westward to the Danube and eastward to China, and pushed those of their Altaic-speaking predecessors whom they had failed to absorb northward and eastward into Siberia and Mongolia.

In Mongolia, about 400 B.C., the horse culture was taken over completely by the fully mongoloid Hiung-Nu, as indicated by Chinese historical documents. The royal and noble families of the Huns and Avars remained purely mongoloid, but their followers in their march to Europe consisted in large measure of these Altaic-speaking white men who accompanied them. The historic Turks are descended in large measure from these Altaic-speaking whites. Some, such as the Kirghiz and the Tatars whose ancestors invaded eastern Russia in historic times, are half mongoloid; others, including the Turkomans, the Azerbaijani Turks, and the truly Turkish element among the Seljuks and Osmanlis, are fully white, since their ancestors had never been subjected to this mixture. A third group, represented today by the Uzbegs and Sarts of Russian Turkestan, and by the pseudo-Armenoid crania found in late Turkish graves in Europe, were a mixture of the old long-headed white strain with central Asiatic Alpines, such as the Tajiks, and to a lesser extent with mongoloids.

Mongols, Turks, and Tungus, living today in the forested northern part of Asia, that is in Siberia, are historically recent intruders who, in response to their new environment, have partially taken over the culture of Palaeasiatic aborigines. Their dispersions may be traced from the Altai Mountains and Mongolia as a center. Their linguistic relationship with each other may be due to varying degrees of acquisition of the speech of the nomadic white peoples who brought the horse culture to Mongolia, or to an earlier diffusion from whites, bringing agriculture to Mongolia, from the same source, or to both. The reindeer-milking complex of the Tungus and Samoyeds, and the reindeer riding of the former, are borrowings from the central Asiatic horse culture.

The two most important steps in the foregoing reconstruction are: (1) the tentative identification of the Corded people with Altaic speech; and (2) the identification of the Corded skeletal type with (a) an element in the Nordic racial complex of Europe, (b) the living as well as ancient inhabitants of Iran and Afghanistan, and (c) the modern Turkomans, Azerbaijani Turks, and the true Turkish strain among living Osmanlis. The induction of the Sumerians into this argument is helpful if true, but not necessary. Some of the Corded cultural paraphernalia had a Sumerian appearance, but this may have been caused by diffusion alone rather than by common ethnic ancestry.

The foregoing hypothesis, in reference to the origin of the Corded people, of the Turks, of the modern Altaic-speaking mongoloids, and of the Sumerians, is pure hypothesis and should not be quoted without the inclusion of a statement that it is offered as speculation only. It is not intended to form a part of the serious contribution of the present study to white racial history. It is included, however, because in the light of existing evidence it seems more likely than any other hypothesis known to the author which is of equal scope and which purports to explain the same phenomena.

In any case, the question of Uralic and Altaic origins is a part of the white racial problem, and it is intimately connected with the history of Indo-European languages and of the Nordic race. Of two elements in this reconstruction we are reasonably sure; that the ancestors of some of the living Turks, including the Turkomans, Azerbaijanis, and Osmanlis, were always white men, and that the Corded people were racially related to the inhabitants of the Iranian plateau in antiquity.


26 This is substantiated by the fact that some of the Neolithic skulls from Lake Baikal studied by Debetz are of Mediterranean type, while others resemble those of modern Tungus.

Debetz, G., RAJ, vol. 19, 1930, pp. 7-50; AZM, vol. 2, 1932, pp. 26-48.