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Oppression >>> extermination, greed >>> genocide

There is a narrative that Yelu Chucai, and advisor of Genghis Khan and his son, was responsible for the saving of much human life by making the case for taxation rather than extermination. The story told is that the Mongols toyed with the idea of driving peasants off their land so as to create vast pastures for their animals. Of course, peasants driven off their land would die of starvation. Yelu Chucai’s clearly correct argument was that peasants in place yielded  more rents than larger herds. The Emperor of China was always wealthier than the Shanyu of the Xiongnu.

But was this wisdom always known? Next week on my Substack I’ll be posting my interview with Dr. Kristian Kristiansen about the transition from Yamnaya to Corded Ware in Northern Europe (this week’s podcast is with David Anthony of  The Horse, The Wheel, and Language). A few years ago a notorious sensationalist piece came out based on some of Kristiansen’s assertions titled Story of most murderous people of all time revealed in ancient DNA. The title and assertion were ridiculous, but Kristiansen doesn’t deny that the Yamnaya were a militaristic people.

I posited to Kristiansen that the early Yamnaya did not have an ideology or theory of subjugation and subordination. That is, rather than conquering the native Neolithic societies the Yamnaya only saw the opportunity to replace them because that’s what human populations had been doing since time immemorial. Some of Kristiansen’s work involves highlighting the fact that in Western Europe the Yamnaya/Corded Ware seem to have engaged in mass burnings to clear the forest and transform them into pastures. As the Mongols imagined doing!

The near-total elimination of Neolithic paternal lineages is striking. Within a few centuries, the overwhelming preponderance of the lineages in Northern Europe was Indo-European. No native chiefs were co-opted into Corded Ware society. All the local elite lineages were all extinguished.

The world became less brutal when men could dream of being rich and lazy, living off the rents of their inferiors.


16 thoughts on “Oppression >>> extermination, greed >>> genocide

  1. This is an excellent text which confirms a couple of my writings in the past. Let see what the text ‘Story-of-most-murderous-people-of-all-time-revealed-in-ancient-dna’ says:
    “… By then, almost every Briton, from the south coast of England to the north-east tip of Scotland, had been wiped out by incomers….One question resounds: were the Yamnaya the most murderous people in history?
    Before about 5000 years ago, Neolithic Europe was inhabited by people much like those who raised Stonehenge. They were farmers with an urge to work together and build large stone structures. “It looks like these people were quite communal,” says Kristiansen. And that community spirit continued into the afterlife: many of their megalithic monuments served as shared graves – some containing the remains …”

    What I wrote in the past? People who lived in British Isles for several thousands of years were I2 people who came there from Vinca. In 2500 BC Yamnaya people came from Russian steppes and conducted the genocide on men from Vinca civilisation and took their women. More than 90% of men were killed, other escaped as far as Sardinia and Carpathians. In British Isles I2 population decreased from 100% to 5% today. Some of their descendants who migrated to US were – US presidents Munro and A. Johnson, Davy Crockett, general Custer, Bill Gates, Stephen King, Ted Dunston (Cheers!), king Elvis Presley and of course Chuck Norris (so as Martin Luther and Novak Djokovic). All European megaliths including Stonehenge were built by I2 people. Vinca civilisation was very prosperous because they had a period of couple thousands of years without wars. Since Yamnaya (ancestors of today’s ‘westerners’) came, we have for 5000 years uninterrupted chain of wars and genocides, started and conducted by them. Is it unscientific to conclude that there is something within these R1b genes that force them to behave like this?
    It is simply impossible that Yamnaya people, who were on much lower cultural and technological level comparing to Vinca people, brought sc. Indo-European language, which was allegedly a predecessor of almost all European languages. We already know that Anatolian hypothesis is wrong (confession made by its creator). Now, the conclusion is also that the period since Yamnaya came to Europe was too short for languages to diversify. De facto, it means that sc. Steppe (Kurgan) hypothesis is wrong, too. It is coming to one only possible scenario, that sc. ‘Indo-European’ language originated in Vinca several thousands of years before Yamnaya.
    “I” was the only European haplogroup. It splits to ‘I1’ which moved from Vinca to mostly Scandinavia. “I2” (sc. Dinaric) remained in Vinca, Balkan and later migrated to Spain, Sardinia and British Isles. Almost 40% of modern Serbs belong to I2a. The Palaeolithic Continuity Theory (M.Alinei) asserts the continuity of the ‘I2’ language since the Ice Age up to today. Scholars who assert a different theory (e.g. sc. Steppe) should prove that some other language came from somewhere and influenced so strongly the local population in a very short time period to adopt the sc. IE language and to totally forget all their previous languages.

  2. The instinct to become capitalist investor and landlord is very strong with me. My ancestors might have something to do with it.

    As arctic people, they are notoriously weak with social and verbal skill. So middle easterners and Jews were recruited into their bureaucracy to rule and collect tax (rent) due to their strong verbal and social skill. Middle easterners for mongol, Jews for westerners.

    Warren Buffett is very good example, who delegates all those tough managerial works to others.

  3. I think there are a couple of exceptions to telhe R1 uniformity among CWC I can think of; a couple of Polish CWC lads with slightly HG enriched ancestry for one and some CWC from Switzerland, all I2s. (Ref: – Poland; – Switzerland, see SI).

    Though not sure if Harvard lab data file called the Swiss CWC as CWC but def have got steppe ancestry. And of course some ppl might say these are just I2 from the steppe, but I don’t know the phylogeny enough to say if that’s true or not. Not totally small among the available current count of CWC samples.

    In general it’s true that turnover almost absolute though.

    It seems the case in NW and SW Europe, considering the Beakers for sure (not so among SE Beakers in Hungary though, who I think have some share of G2a outliers and things). My guess is that’s a combination perhaps of small population numbers among the NW LN EEF and maybe a patrilineal culture among the NW EEF that made for a straightforward patrilineal slugfest without any switching sides…? NW LN EEF seem to have been moving to pastoralist culture (some suggestions the Beakers introduced a relatively more agriculturalist culture!), so it seems possible to me that when two patrilineal pastoralist groups meet, they basically just kill each other over pasture, while assimilation maybe happens more when pastoralists meet farmers, whether ones with advantages in war or high population or just sophisticated sedentary stuff. It seems likely that some I2s survived in NW, since there are some locally rooted lineages (unless they were reintroduced!) but not frequent at all.

    Re; elite dominance, so far I don’t think there’s any sign of enrichment of R1 beyond expectation in the limited SE European sequence so far. I think there might be some greater representation of J2 than expected among elite groups though (if I’m remembering Hungary BA, Croatia BA, Mycenean LBA properly, which I may not be).

  4. Kristian Kristiansen is a very prolific and well known scholar of Bronze Age Europe. His seminal work is ofcourse on the 2nd millennium BCE transformations across Europe, especially focusing on the Nordic region but more generally on how Near Eastern cultures, predominantly the Minoans and Myceneans, but also the Hittites and more distant peoples influenced the cultures of Carpathian and Nordic Europe beginning around 1700 BC. This led to the creation of a warrior aristocratic culture that lasted right upto the time of christianisation.

    I am inclined to think that this transformative influence from Near East led to the spread of Indo-European languages across Europe and not the Corded ware-Bell Beaker cross fertilization phenomenon that began a millenia earlier.

  5. For better or worse, the inequality is not that simple.

    The Mongols did engage in their share of extermination back in the day. This was game-theoretic, in the sense that they were doing it to scare other peoples into behaving better while oppressed, but they did it a lot precisely because they felt oppression was *not* much better than extermination if the oppressed dared to give their oppressors a hard time.

    In more recent history, while one can try to use modern technology to oppress more efficiently, that’s a potentially endless adversarial game; use of technology to directly produce wealth tends to avoid this problem. This decreases the value of oppression, both on an absolute scale and relative to that of extermination.

  6. Fascinating post. When it comes to “No native chiefs were co-opted into Corded Ware society. All the local elite lineages were all extinguished,” how can we be confident that I1 in Scandinavia wasn’t a local elite lineage that joined the Corded Ware bandwagon and so ultimately thrived in that region?

  7. jon, good point! 1) it’s not really neolithic, but HG. 2) i think it probably got integrated very early on in eastern europe. so this is technically not right…but i think i1 was there as a CW lineage almost at the beginning so the dynamic is correctly described

  8. Yelu Chucai’s clearly correct argument

    He was wrong. People matter more than money. The Mongols should have enlarged their hordes, not grow fat and rich on the toils of others.

  9. Taxation => bureaucracy => literacy
    Genghis Khan controlled an efficient literate
    administration. The Yamnaya and Corded Ware
    did not.

  10. @Twinkie

    The Mongols should have enlarged their hordes, not grow fat and rich on the toils of others.

    I do not think such long-term “interests” of the Mongol people mattered much to the Mongol rulers, they seem to have been much more interested in their own personal wealth and power. I do not get the impression from the written records and actual history that Genghis and his descendants had a goal of turning large parts of their political possessions into Mongol-inhabited lands, whether through assimilation or replacement, and thereby perpetuating Mongol existence in large parts of Eurasia.

  11. The Yuan seem to have had the “right” general idea in what they did – various policies to try and turn the Chinese part of their empire into part of a larger multicultural empire with an imperial loyalty to the Yuan, imposing some degree of discrimination that would encourage people to opt out of a Han identity – but were defeated by demographics? Such a thing might have been safer for their posterity than trying to turn farmland into pasture, if it were possible.

    I wonder if it ever could have worked, with a bit more luck in the scheme of events, or the natural demographic skew of Han farmers was just too severe! Perhaps they could have scoured the lands of North China of people a bit more, then installed Jurchen and/or Korean farmers on them, and been safer from a native resurgence…? A bit of tactical plantation.

  12. There’s an old Irish legend of the Partholon who settled Ireland by sea from Iberia and brought farming then all his people died of plague, which sounds similar to Early European Farmers.

    Could the replacement of the neolithic male lines have been spurred by a population collapse from the plague? It could be similar to what happened in Central and South America.

  13. @Leenonus

    Could the replacement of the neolithic male lines have been spurred by a population collapse from the plague? It could be similar to what happened in Central and South America.

    Such male line replacements happened in most of Europe and the Eurasian steppe during the early IE expansions. It would be very weird if all of them happened concurrently with plague-induced population collapses.

  14. I’m not sure there were male line replacements in the steppe and Central Asia really, just total replacements.

    Among Narasimhans set of Central Asians, I think most of the male samples admixed between R1a and other groups (East Asians, BMAC, West Siberians) were about as likely to show a non-R1a haplogroup as R1a (there seems no sex biased component there that I could see in the y).

    A plague knocking down relatively small Northern European EEF settlements down to size seems plausible.

    David Anthony recently talks about how, just prior to the Yamnaya expansion, there seemed to be loads of mobility about, often involving people who had these Maikop or Steppe Maikop ancestry. It seemed kind of unlikely to me that the Yamnaya originated crowd diseases. Not exactly dense populations right? But it seems plausible that *someone* might have spread the crowd diseases from the dense cores of Eurasian culture – Mesopotamia, Egypt, even China – into Old Europe real fast, through use of fast wagons, and that had consequences for people who were sedentary farmers… then when the land is depopulated, there is lots of pasture wanting grazing.

  15. I do not think such long-term “interests” of the Mongol people mattered much to the Mongol rulers, they seem to have been much more interested in their own personal wealth and power.

    Agree. The Mongol elites cared nothing for “res publica.” That’s why Rome still endures, but Karakorum does not. Our current elites seem intent on replicating the Mongols.

  16. @Matt

    Indeed it is hard to believe people could be so genocidal, even during pre-state times, but it is hard to be sure they could not be either.

    BTW, could you convert these data into visual form as in this blog post? I do not have the time or the software to deal with them.

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