The Caucasians: Central Asia in the European Imagination


ACLS Fellowship Program




Following the eclipse of biblical narrative that placed the origins of humankind in western Asia (Eden, Ararat, Babel), there arose a new scientific narrative of human origins and migrations that employed other means to reach approximately the same conclusion: that humankind first appeared on the slopes of the Caucasus mountains or the steppes of Central Asia. Between 1780 and 1830, three new sciences (anthropology, classical philology, linguistics) converged to confirm the Caucasian hypothesis of human origins. This project reconstructs the founding of those disciplines and the networks of travel and correspondence that linked centers of European science with frontiers of exploration in farthest east Asia and colonies around the globe.