Glimpses of Loptuq Folk Botany: Phytonyms and Plant Knowledge in Sven Hedin’s Herbarium Notes from the Lower Tarim River Area as a Source for Ethnobiological Research
Keywords:Central Asia, cultural extinction, endangered language, fisher-foragers, ethnohistory, local ecological knowledge, plant names, Uyghur, East Turkestan, Xinjiang, Tarim, Lopnor, Loptuq, Loplik, ethnobiology, plant knowledge
This interdisciplinary study discusses the vernacular phytonyms and other ethnobiological aspects of vegetation in the Loptuq (Loplik) habitat on the Lower Tarim River. This small Turkic-speaking group lived as fisher-foragers in the Lopnor (Lop Lake) area in East Turkestan, now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. Information about this unique group, and especially the folk knowledge of plants in the area, is scant. In 1900, Swedish explorer Sven Hedin collected plant voucher specimens for the Swedish Natural History Museum in Stockholm. He noted local names on herbarium labels, thus providing modern researchers a rare glimpse into the Loptuq world. As the traditional way of life is already lost and the Loptuq language almost extinct, every trace of the former culture is of significance when trying to understand the peculiarities of human habitats and survival in arid areas. The ethnobiological analysis can further contribute to other fields, such as climate change, and define the place of the Loptuq on the linguistic and cultural map of Central Asia.