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The Greece-China Connection

Greek Characters: Theresa Mitsopoulou and Her Theories

by Adrian Vrettos

Theresa Mitsopoulou, archaeologistIn the age of the X-files and Star Wars, many theories abound about who we are and where we come from. The mysteries of the pyramids and the Mayans are yet to be unlocked, and paleontologists, archaeologists and anthropologists alike are locked in battles trying to uncover the origins of man and civilized society.

One archaeologist here in Greece has been putting forward ideas about the origins of Greek language and society that is as far-reaching as the place she claims that they came from. Teresa Mitsopoulou, archaeologist, author and tour guide has theories that fly in the face of modern academia with her long-term research in this field.

"In all the tangle of prehistoric and historic society, I have discovered strong links between Ancient China and Ancient Greece," she says. What makes her concept even more interesting is that both Chinese and Greek, even though they have undergone a multitude of changes, are still easily accessible in their ancient form to scholars and laypersons alike. However very few scholars and linguist experts in China and in Greece know about both, as indeed they are seen as two separate academic disciplines altogether.

It is a commonly accepted theory that Greeks are Indo-Europeans, however Mrs. Mitsopoulou stretches this ideology further by stating that we are in fact Sino-Europeans. "Similarities abound not only between the languages, but also in art, architecture and customs," she notes. The archaeologist cites as a powerful example the significance of the snake/dragon in both the Greek and Chinese culture, adding that "some of the snake depictions in ancient Greek art are of species only found in China."

Mrs Mitsopoulou first became interested in Chinese culture whilst a student in the sixties, but it was not until the early 1980's that she went on her first trip to China. There she not only noticed some resemblances in the language with her own, but whilst she wondered around, lost in the Forbidden City she was struck by its similarity to the Greek pre-classical site of Knossos. This led her, upon returning to Athens, to start avidly learning Chinese and begin research on her newborn hypothesis that there may be links between the two cultures.

As difficult as her early research was, she had two advantages, firstly that she spoke six other languages, and secondly that after year of working as a tour guide she had an excellent ear for different dialects and discerning phonetics.
By cataloguing similarities between the two languages, Mitsoploulou has found several impressive examples of how Greek sounds like Chinese and vice versa, to fortify her theory. Some are: Ego - Wo (meaning I), Kai - he (and), Dasos - Dashu (forest in Greek, big trees in Chinese), Ioda - (zh)idao (know), Pino - pin (drink), Abyssos - Abi (abyss\deep), Yiayia - Yeye (grandmother - grandfather). These are but a few of the words that can be found in her book "The common origin of the Greek and the Chinese languages" 2000 Basilopoulos press. She goes on to give examples of other fundamental similarities in the languages, and draws her conclusions on these.

Plato's statement that "language teaches history" has been a great inspiration to Mrs Mitsopoulou, who learnt that Chinese was originally written from left to right, but that due to the use of bamboo shoots as a writing surface it changed to up-down. She also notes that in the 1977 lexicon by Rong Geng, "Inscriptions On Bronzes", all of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin letters and numbers appear along with all the Chinese characters. During the excavations at Troy, a linguist colleague of Schlimann, the archaeologist who discovered Mycenae, noted that the inscriptions found on one of the Greek vases by saying that it read like Chinese (MORE SPECIFICALLY?). However, amongst the chief problems with discussing the origin of languages is that so much has changed over the last couple of millennia, that existing similarities are at best considered debatable and at worst laughed at as mere coincidence.

Further comparing the two languages, Mrs Mitsopoulou states that Greek was originally a monosyllabic language, as Chinese is, which acoustically and semantically is very probable. Since the words seem to be made up of many little words that create the overall meaning, these smaller monosyllabic imports have in many cases vanished over time. Indeed, Ancient Greek was written without breaks, with no free spaces between words, thus as the language developed larger words came into common use.

Beyond her evaluation of the two languages, Mrs. Mitsopoulou compares numerous aspects of the Greek and Chinese cultures, such as pottery styles and their symbolism, dance and architecture to name but a few topics. She also adds to her 'categories' odd examples from other cultures such as those in the Americas, the Vikings and Celts, as well as African and Australian aboriginals. This element of her broader research aims to lend weight to her theories that mankind (homo sapiens) and culture primarily originated in Southeast Asia and then spread throughout the world. Her theory is clearly contradictory to the Eve theory, which states that Homo sapiens originated from Africa. Yet recent discoveries, like that of two skulls dated between 250,000 - 320,000 years, which were unearthed in China, may act to disprove that wide-held belief, by suggesting that indeed Homo sapiens (man as today) may well have originated outside of Africa and in China. However evidence is still very limited, and there are a great number of possibilities and alternate theories.

Unfortunately, the controversial findings of Mrs. Mitsopoulou have been met with everything from indifference to disdain by the Greek archaeological community. Her volumes of research have also been classified as groundless by the Chinese academics she has approached with her theories. However, fuelled by a strong spirit and fathomless determination, she continues single-handedly to research and publish her ideas. There is the spark of the adventurer and discoverer in Mrs. Mitsopoulou, something refreshing in the field of archaeology, where new ways of seeing things are asked for in theory but in actual practice are felt to rock the balances of power.

When asked to raise her eyes from the misty, distant past and look into her future plans, Mrs Mitsopoulou sighs. "Ahh I have been studying footage from ceremonies of Zulu tribes," she says excitedly, like a schoolgirl set on a new adventure after having discovered new clues, "and soon I will bring out some amazing material on this, which strongly connects to much of the work of the past" she divulges, smiling from ear to ear.

Certainly her theories may appear tenuous, however Mrs. Mitsopoulou has made some remarkable connections, and the mere intensity and magnitude of her work warrants more consideration and research by teams of experts, not just a single lone crusader. This could lead to her connections being proved or disproved once and for all. Being right or wrong is not so much what is at issue here; opening up groundbreaking new paths in thought and ideology is what it's all about.

More on Theresa Mitsopoulou

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