History and Origins
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The history of the Pashtun people is ancient and much of it is not fully researched. Excavations of prehistoric sites suggest that early humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago. Since the 2nd millennium BC, cities in the region now inhabited by Pashtuns have seen invasions and migrations, including by Ancient Iranian peoples, the Medes and Persians of antiquity, Greeks, Indians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, and others. In recent age, people of the Western world have explored the area as well.
There are many conflicting theories about the origin of Pashtuns, some modern and others archaic, both among historians and the Pashtuns themselves. According to most historians, the true origin of the Pashtuns is some what unclear."...the origin of the Afghans is so obscure, that no one, even among the oldest and most clever of the tribe, can give satisfactory information on this point." "Looking for the origin of Pashtuns and the Afghans is something like exploring the source of the Amazon. Is there one specific beginning? And are the Pashtuns originally identical with the Afghans? Although the Pashtuns nowadays constitute a clear ethnic group with their own language and culture, there is no evidence whatsoever that all modern Pashtuns share the same ethnic origin. In fact it is highly unlikely."
Early precursors to some of the Pashtuns may have been old Iranian tribes that spread throughout the eastern Iranian plateau. According to the Russian scholar Yu. V. Gankovsky, the Pashtuns probably began as a "union of largely East-Iranian tribes which became the initial ethnic stratum of the Pashtun ethnogenesis, dates from the middle of the first millennium CE and is connected with the dissolution of the Epthalites (White Huns) confederacy." He proposes Kushan-o-Ephthalite origin for Pashtuns but others draw a different conclusion. According to Abdul Hai Habibi some oriental scholars hold that the second largest Pasthun tribe, the Ghilzais, are the descendants of a mixed race of Hephthalite and Pakhtas who have been living in Afghanistan since the Vedic Aryan period.
They are intimately tied to the history of modern Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India. Following Muslim conquests from the 7th to 11th centuries, many Pashtun ghazis (warriors) invaded and conquered much of the Indian subcontinent during the Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khilji dynasty, Lodhi dynasty, Suri dynasty and others.
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