Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Tarim Basin Cemeteries Support Argument That Soma Contained Ephedra

Wikipedia summarizes the debate of what "Soma" and "Haoma" were and discussed their religious context:
In Vedic tradition, soma (Sanskrit: सोम) or haoma (Avestan) is a ritual drink of importance among the early Indians. The Rigveda mentions it, particularly in the Soma Mandala. In the Avestan literature, the entire Yasht 20 and Yasna 9–11 treat of haoma. 
The texts describe the preparation of soma by means of extracting the juice from a plant, the identity of which is now unknown and debated among scholars. In both the ancient religions of Historical Vedic religion and Zoroastrianism, the name of the drink and the plant are the same. 
There has been much speculation about the most likely identity of the original plant. Traditional accounts with unbroken continuity in India, from Ayurveda and Siddha medicine practitioners and Somayajna ritualists undoubtedly use "Somalata" (Sarcostemma acidum). Non-Indian researchers have proposed candidates including Amanita muscaria, Psilocybe cubensis, Peganum harmala and Ephedra sinica. According to recent philological and archaeological studies, and in addition, direct preparation instructions confirm in the Rig Vedic Hymns (Vedic period) Ancient Soma most likely consisted of Poppy, Phaedra/Ephedra (plant) and Cannabis....
According to professor David W. Anthony, author of The Horse, the Wheel and Language, soma was introduced into Indo-Iranian culture from the Bactria–Margiana culture (BMAC). The Old Indic religion probably emerged among Indo-European immigrants in the contact zone between the Zeravshan River (present-day Uzbekistan) and (present-day) Iran. It was "a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian and new Indo-European elements", which borrowed "distinctive religious beliefs and practices" from the Bactria–Margiana culture. At least 383 non-Indo-European words were borrowed from this culture, including the god Indra and the ritual drink soma. According to Anthony,
Many of the qualities of Indo-Iranian god of might/victory, Verethraghna, were transferred to the adopted god Indra, who became the central deity of the developing Old Indic culture. Indra was the subject of 250 hymns, a quarter of the Rig Veda. He was associated more than any other deity with soma, a stimulant drug (perhaps derived from ephedra) probably borrowed from the BMAC religion. His rise to prominence was a peculiar trait of the Old Indic speakers.
Materials found in two Tarim Basin cemeteries seem to support the leading hypothesis, of many serious proposals, that the ephedra is indeed an active ingredient in what is called "Soma" and "Haoma" in the oldest Indo-Aryan (i.e. Sanskrit) and Indo-Iranian (i.e. in a language called Avestan, a.k.a. Zend, a.k.a. Northern Old Iranian, closely related to Old Persian, that is a sister language of Sanskrit) epics respectively.
Ephedra twigs were common and important in both cemeteries. Were they related to the “Soma” in ancient India (Vedas) and/or “Haoma” in ancient Iran (Avesta)? Were the Ephedra twigs related to the body painting (whitish sticky materials painting on skins of the dead)? Was there a common use of Ephedra plant in more nomadic groups in the Eurasian Steppe?
Yang, Yunyun, Shifting Memories: Burial Practices and Cultural Interaction in Bronze Age China: A study of the Xiaohe-Gumugou cemeteries in the Tarim Basin, URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-386612 via Eurogenes.

Ephedra is a key active ingredient in modern medicines including Sudafed. Dietary supplements containing it are banned in the U.S. and it is also illegal for athletes in international sports competitions since it is viewed as a performance enhancing drug. 


DDeden said...

OT: Any opinion on this paper?

The Out of East Asia model versus the African Eve model of modern human origins in light of ancient mtDNA findings
Ye Zhang & Shi Huang 2019

The 1st molecular model of Hs origins published in 1983 had the mtDNA
phylogenetic tree rooted in Asia.
This model was subsequently overlooked, and superseded by the African Eve
model in 1987, that was premised on the unrealistic infinite site
assumption & the now failed molecular clock hypothesis.

We have recently developed a new framework of molecular evolution: the
maximum genetic diversity hypothesis (MGD),
this has led us to discover a new model of Hs origins, with the roots of
uni-parental DNAs placed in E.Asia:
- the African mtDNA Eve model has haplotype N as ancestral to R,
- our Asia model places R as the ancestor of all.

We here examined ancient mtDNAs from the literature, focusing on the
relationship between N & R:
all 3 oldest mtDNAs were R:
-the 45-ka Ust-Ishim a basal type,
-the two ~40-ka samples sub-branch of R.

Among the numerous mtDNAs of 39.5-30-ka,
-most were R-subtype U,
-only 2 were N samples (Oase1 39.5-ka, Salkhit 34.425-ka).

These N-types are basal, and hence likely close to the root of N.

These ancient DNA findings suggest:
basal R is ~5 ky older than basal N,
-confirming the E.Asia model &
-invalidating the African Eve model.

andrew said...

@DDeden Total garbage. Probably motivated by political pressure from nationalistic Chinese Communist Party officials rather than any legitimate scientific insight.