Thursday, 7 December 2017

Have some Greek travellers adventured as far as deep high Himalayas in the Middle Ages ? It looks like they did.

We all admire so much Marco Polo and his travel to the Far East that we resist to admit that much before him many other Europeans adventured as far as Canada, like the Vikigs, or the Himalayas, like these levantine Greek : some bones were found there which are dated from the 8th-9th centuries, and its ADN revealed an hellenic origin!

Nobody writes or talks about medieval Greece: by the 8th century, it went through a semi-barbarian period, under the fear of Slavic and Ottoman invasion. Maybe the best descendants of  Pytheas, the Arctic navigator praised and honoured here at Ultima Thule, decided to escape an ungrateful destination and left the falling motherland under the Byzantine Empire to colonize lands farther east, Siria and Lebanon on the levantine coast of the Mediterranean. There are still thousands of ethnic Greeks in Aleppo, for instance.

The Byzantine Empire under Theodora comprised Syria and Lebanon.


The Roopkund lake, known by the locals as the lake of skeletons, is a tiny remote glacial lake over 5000 meters high on the Indian Hymalaias, accessible by a long slow uneasy pedestrian trail. It has been long uninhabited but misteriously it contains hundreds of human bones, as discovered in 1942 by a british forest guard.

The reason for so many victims is a violent hailstorm throwing down giant hail balls in the 9th century; that's an evidence shown by several contusions by hard round objects on the back of the skulls and shoulders. Legends and old songs among local peoples refer a tempest flinging hailstones "hard as iron".

A team from National Geographic started studying 30 of these remains since 2004; they had still bits of flesh and hair preserved by the dry cold air. The first results indicated that most of them were of persian/assyrian origin, the others were locals probably serving as porters or guides. Datation was around 850 AD. But more recently one small goup revealed an ADN particularly coherent with Greek population that by that time habitated Syria or Liban.

What were those people from greek Assyria looking for, during the last breath of Byzantium under the great Empress Theodora, before the arab conquest ? Were they byzantine emissaries far astray from their silk road ? Or maybe merchants making an adventurous deviation to escape road tolls ?

This was a fascinating era. Empires in convulsion, new powers arising, people parting to discover the world !...