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Date of Award
Department or Program Affiliation
Master of Arts (MA)
Garfinkle, Steven J.
Vajda, Edward J.
Cultural connections between the ancient Xiongnu and the Huns have been disputed for over a century. This disputed topic has been approached in the fields of history, anthropology, linguistics, genetics, and archaeology. Though evidence for previous claims to connections between the two groups of nomadic pastoralists has been scant, research into the topic over the last 20 years has been robust. New evidence for connections between them has come from the previously listed disciplines, but rarely in an integrated form. By taking a multidisciplinary approach to this research question, this paper attempts to integrate the results into a cohesive narrative to not only provide evidence of the existence of these cultural connections but also to provide a means by which those connections took shape. Beginning with a previously overlooked interpretation of the works of Roman diplomat Priscus, produced in the year 448/449 C.E., this work incorporates available evidence from outside of the field of history with this new interpretation. This work then analyzes the available body of outside evidence through the lens of Priscus’ intended definition of the term “Scythian” to demonstrate that cultural connections between the two groups exist in the forms of language, material culture, and genetic relations. Furthermore, this work elaborates on the nature of aristocratic hierarchy on the ancient Eurasian Steppe to show that a mobile elite chosen from a small group of family lines linked individual groups through dynastic association. These links demonstrate the wider impact and importance of Steppe nomads in ancient history to the transmission of culture between the power centers of the ancient world. By integrating evidence from a multidisciplinary perspective with the evidence that can be extracted by careful examination of ancient textual sources, this project proves that links between the ancient Xiongnu and Huns can no longer be disputed. This opens the door to future research elaborating on the nature of dynastic power of the cultures and peoples on the ancient Eurasian Steppe.
Huns, Xiongnu, Central Asia
Western Washington University
Subject – LCSH
Xiongnu (Asian people)--History; Huns--History; Asia, Central--Civilization; Nomads--Asia, Central--History; Steppes--Eurasia
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Armistead, Shawn R., "The Black Cauldron, a Curtain of Fire, and the Sword of the War God: Connections Between Nomadic Populations on the Ancient Eurasian Steppe" (2023). WWU Graduate School Collection. 1244.