There’s a weird but interesting expedition being documented over at a page calledTravel Afghanistan.
A small proportion of Afghan children have a distinctively European appearance, sometimes blonde or red-haired, quite different from the dark Asian looks of most Afghans. Western explorers have always wondered whether they might be descended from the Greek soldiers in Alexander’s army whom we know settled in Asia. The Afghans themselves are proud of this tradition: Marco Polo records that in the thirteenth century the Kings of Badakshan (the remote eastern part of Afghanistan that abuts China) claimed descent from the Greek conqueror.
These people may be the descendants of Alexander’s settlers who have moved higher up the mountains over the past 2,300 years. The inhabitants at Boroghil, where the samples were taken in 2002, have named one of the huge mountains that tower over their village Qala Iskanderiya the Fort of Alexander. So the knowledge of Alexander’s conquests live on in these people’s collective memory. Elsewhere in Afghanistan the murderous Mongol invaders probably killed all the inhabitants, but people up in high mountain villages escaped.
A second, and parallel, explanation is that these people share a common ancestry with the Greeks. Intriguingly, when Alexander conquered the inhabitants of what is now Nuristan he greeted them as fellow worshippers of Dionysus. Certain tribal groupings in Afghanistan may well be descended from Indo-Europeans, a prehistoric people who spread their languages across Asia and Europe.
The 2003 Spectator Alexander in Afghanistan Expedition and University College, London will use the latest genetic technology to test these two hypotheses. A clear and scientific result will be obtained to these two questions that have preoccupied scholars and explorers for hundreds of years.
I admit, the expedition is based on a weird fact that does arouse my curiosity, but I think there are more pressing issues in Afghanistan which these people could use their energies to address. Though maybe it’ll pique interest and increase Westerners’ likelihood of being sympathetic if they see little white kids living in the hell of what Afghanistan now is (and for a long time has been).
Credit for the link goes to Laban’s Tall Blog.