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The Indo-Aryans of Maharashtra (Marathi)

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 31, 2013

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Shengavit

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The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end, but it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC.

The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread to Georgia by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), and during the next millennium it proceeded westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van, and finally down to the borders of present day Syria. Altogether, the early Trans-Caucasian culture, at its greatest spread, enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km.

The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Its territory corresponds to parts of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ingushetia and North Ossetia.

The culture is closely linked to the approximately contemporaneous Maykop culture of Transcaucasia. As Amjad Jaimoukha puts it: The Kura-Araxes culture was contiguous, and had mutual influences, with the Maikop culture in the Northwest Caucasus. According to E.I.Krupnov (1969:77), there were elements of the Maikop culture in the early memorials of Chechnya and Ingushetia in the Meken and Bamut kurgans and in Lugovoe in Serzhen-Yurt.

Similarities between some features and objects of the Maikop and Kura-Araxes cultures, such as large square graves, the bold-relief curvilinear ornamentation of pottery, ochre-coloured ceramics, earthen hearth props with horn projections, flint arrowheads, stone axes and copper pitchforks are indicative of a cultural unity that pervaded the Caucasus in the Neolithic Age.

Archaeological evidence of inhabitants of the Kura–Araxes culture had shown that ancient settlements were found along the Hrazdan river, a major river of Armenia starting at the northwest extremity of Lake Sevan and flows south through the Province of Kotayk and Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, as shown by drawings at a mountainous area in a cave nearby.

Structures within settlements have not revealed much differentiation, nor was there much difference in size or character between settlements, facts that suggest they probably had a poorly developed social hierarchy for at least a significant stretch of their history. Some, but not all, settlements were surrounded by stone walls.

They built mud-brick houses, originally round, but later developing into subrectangular designs with structures of just one or two rooms, multiple rooms centered around an open space, or rectilinear designs.

At some point the culture’s settlements and burial grounds expanded out of lowland river valleys and into highland areas. Although some scholars have suggested that this expansion demonstrates a switch from agriculture to pastoralism, and that it serves as possible proof of a large-scale arrival of Indo-Europeans, facts such as that settlement in the lowlands remained more or less continuous suggest merely that the people of this culture were diversifying their economy to encompass both crop and livestock agriculture.

The economy was based on farming and livestock-raising (especially of cattle and sheep). They grew grain and various orchard crops, and are known to have used implements to make flour. They raised cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and in its later phases, horses (introduced around 3000 BCE, probably by Indo-European speaking tribes from the North). They are also remarkable for the production of wheeled vehicles (wagons and carts), which were sometimes included in burial kurgans.

In its earliest phase, metal was scant, but it would later display “a precocious metallurgical development which strongly influenced surrounding regions”. They worked copper, arsenic, silver, gold, tin, and bronze. Their metal goods were widely distributed, recorded in the Volga, Dnieper and Don-Donets systems in the north, into Syria and Palestine in the south, and west into Anatolia.

Their pottery was distinctive; in fact, the spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs for ornamentation. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya. The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes, and most certainly, had extensive trade contacts.

There is evidence of trade with Mesopotamia, as well as Asia Minor. It is, however, considered above all to be indigenous to the Caucasus, and its major variants characterized (according to Caucasus historian Amjad Jaimoukha) later major cultures in the region. It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

Archaeologists have attested a striking parallel in the spread to Syria of a distinct pottery type associated with what they call the Kura-Araxes culture. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians, but it might as well be Armenian, if there is any differences between these two languages at all.

In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom, corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili) was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521/0 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî.[3] There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources. The earliest is from an inscription which mentions Armânum together with Ibla (Ebla) as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in ca. 2250 BC identified with an Aleppo, earlier known as Armi.

Inhumation practices are mixed. Flat graves are found, but so are substantial kurgan burials, the latter of which may be surrounded by cromlechs. This points to a heterogeneous ethno-linguistic population.

Late in the history of this culture, its people built kurgans of greatly varying sizes, containing greatly varying amounts and types of metalwork, with larger, wealthier kurgans surrounded by smaller kurgans containing less wealth.

This trend suggests the eventual emergence of a marked social hierarchy. Their practice of storing relatively great wealth in burial kurgans was probably a cultural influence from the more ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent to the south.

Hurrian and Urartian elements are quite probable, as are Northeast Caucasian ones. Some authors subsume Hurrians and Urartians under Northeast Caucasian as well as part of the Alarodian theory. The presence of Kartvelian languages was also highly probable. Influences of Semitic languages and Indo-European languages are also highly possible, though the presence of the languages on the lands of the Kura–Araxes culture is more controversial.

In the Armenian hypothesis of Indo-European origins, this culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages, but it may rather maybe be identified with the speakers of the armenian language.

Mitanni (Mi-ta-an-ni, also Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni) was referred to as the Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni by the Egyptians, the Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri) by the Hittites, and the Hanigalbat (Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) by the Assyrians seem to have referred to the same kingdom and were used interchangeably, according to Michael C. Astour.

Hittite annals mention a people called Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri), located in northeastern Syria. A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurri”, or “Hurrians”. The Assyro-Akkadian version of the text renders “Hurri” as Hanigalbat. Tushratta, who styles himself “king of Mitanni” in his Akkadian Amarna letters, refers to his kingdom as Hanigalbat. Egyptian sources call Mitanni “nhrn”, which is usually pronounced as Naharin/Naharina from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim.

The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni (ca. 1500–1300 BC.) is difficult to ascertain. A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.

Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni are considered to form (part of) an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion. Pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) mention the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”.

The names of the Mitanni aristocracy frequently are of Indo-Aryan origin. In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni (between Suppiluliuma and Shattiwaza, ca. 1380 BC), the deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya (Ashvins) are invoked. Kikkuli’s horse training text (circa 1400 BC) includes technical terms such as aika (Vedic Sanskrit eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pañca, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, round).

The numeral aika “one” is of particular importance because it places the superstrate in the vicinity of Indo-Aryan proper (Vedic Sanskrit eka, with regular contraction of /ai/ to [eː]) as opposed to Indo-Iranian or early Iranian (which has *aiva; compare Vedic eva “only”) in general.

Another text has babru(-nnu) (babhru, brown), parita(-nnu) (palita, grey), and pinkara(-nnu) (pingala, red). Their chief festival was the celebration of the solstice (vishuva) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world.

Sanskritic interpretations of Mitanni names render Artashumara (artaššumara) as Arta-smara “who thinks of Arta/Ṛta” (Mayrhofer II 780), Biridashva (biridašṷa, biriiašṷa) as Prītāśva “whose horse is dear” (Mayrhofer II 182), Priyamazda (priiamazda) as Priyamedha “whose wisdom is dear” (Mayrhofer II 189, II378), Citrarata as citraratha “whose chariot is shining” (Mayrhofer I 553), Indaruda/Endaruta as Indrota “helped by Indra” (Mayrhofer I 134), Shativaza (šattiṷaza) as Sātivāja “winning the race price” (Mayrhofer II 540, 696), Šubandhu as Subandhu ‘having good relatives” (a name in Palestine, Mayrhofer II 209, 735), Tushratta (tṷišeratta, tušratta, etc.) as *tṷaišaratha, Vedic Tveṣaratha “whose chariot is vehement” (Mayrhofer I 686, I 736).

The common people’s language, the Hurrian language, is neither Indo-European nor Semitic. Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. It had been held that nothing more can be deduced from current evidence. A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.

Founded by an Indo-Aryan ruling class governing a predominately Hurrian population, Mitanni, in northern Syria and south-east Anatolia, came to be a regional power after the Hittite destruction of Amorite Babylon and a series of ineffectual Assyrian kings created a power vacuum in Mesopotamia.

At the beginning of its history, Mitanni’s major rival was Egypt under the Thutmosids. However, with the ascent of the Hittite empire, Mitanni and Egypt made an alliance to protect their mutual interests from the threat of Hittite domination.

At the height of its power, during the 14th century BC, Mitanni had outposts centered around its capital, Washukanni, whose location has been determined by archaeologists to be on the headwaters of the Khabur River. Their sphere of influence is shown in Hurrian place names, personal names and the spread through Syria and the Levant of a distinct pottery type. Eventually, Mitanni succumbed to Hittite and later Assyrian attacks, and was reduced to the status of a province of the Middle Assyrian Empire.

Within a few centuries of the fall of Washshukanni to Assyria, Mitanni became fully Assyrianized and linguistically Aramaized, and use of the Hurrian language began to be discouraged throughout the Neo-Assyrian Empire. However, Urartean, a dialect closely related to Hurrian seems to have survived in the new state of Urartu, in the mountainous areas to the north. In the 10th to 9th century BC inscriptions of Adad-nirari II and Shalmaneser III, Hanigalbat is still used as a geographical term.

The Mitanni warriors were called marya (Hurrian: maria-nnu), the term for (young) warrior in Sanskrit as well; note mišta-nnu (= miẓḍha,~ Sanskrit mīḍha) “payment (for catching a fugitive)” (Mayrhofer II 358).

Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which dominated many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi.

Robert Drews writes that the name ‘maryannu’ although plural takes the singular ‘marya’, which in Sanskrit means young warrior, and attaches a Hurrian suffix. He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age most would have spoken either Hurrian or Aryan but by the end of the 14th century most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.

Marhaši (Mar-ḫa-ši, Marhashi, Marhasi, Parhasi, Barhasi; in earlier sources Waraḫše) was a 3rd millennium BC polity situated east of Elam, on the Iranian plateau. It is known from Mesopotamian sources, and its precise location has not been identified.

An inscription attributed to Lugal-Anne-Mundu of Adab (albeit in much later copies) mentions it among the seven provinces of his empire, between the names of Elam and Gutium. This inscription also recorded that he confronted their governor (ensi), Migir-Enlil of Marhashi, who had led a coalition of 13 rebel chiefs against him.

The Awan kings of Elam were in conflict with a Sumerian ruler’s attempt to seize the market at Warakshe, a kingdom apparently near Elam on the Iranian plateau, rich in luxury products of all types, especially precious stones.

During the Akkadian Empire, Warakshe was conquered by Sargon the Great, and king Abalgamash of Warakshe and his general Sidgau, along with Luh-ishan of Awan, rebelled unsuccessfully against Rimush, while Hishep-ratep of Awan in alliance with Warakshe was defeated by Naram-Sin.

King Shulgi of the Ur-III dynasty gave his daughter Nialimmidashu in marriage to king Libanukshabash of Marhashi in his 18th year, in an attempt to forge an alliance, but this proved short-lived, for Shulgi’s successor Amar-Sin records having to campaign against their new king, Arwilukpi.

Hammurabi of Babylonia’s 30th year name was “Year Hammurabi the king, the mighty, the beloved of Marduk, drove away with the supreme power of the great gods the army of Elam who had gathered from the border of Marhashi, Subartu, Gutium, Tupliash (Eshnunna) and Malgium who had come up in multitudes, and having defeated them in one campaign, he (Hammurabi) secured the foundations of Sumer and Akkad.”

Maharashtra (Marathi) is a state in the western region of India. It is the second most populous state after Uttar Pradesh and third largest state by area in India. Maharashtra is the wealthiest state in India, contributing 15% of the country’s industrial output and 13.3% of its GDP (2006–2007 figures). Maharashtra is the world’s second most populous first-level administrative country sub-division. Were it a nation in its own right, Maharashtra would be the world’s twelfth most populous country ahead of Philippines.

Maharashtra is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west, Gujarat and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to the northwest, Madhya Pradesh to the north and northeast, Chhattisgarh to the east, Karnataka to the south, Andhra Pradesh to the southeast and Goa to the southwest. The state covers an area of 307,731 km2 (118,816 sq mi) or 9.84% of the total geographical area of India. Mumbai, the capital city of the state, is India’s largest city and the financial capital of the nation. Nagpur is the second (Winter) capital of the state.

The Maratha (archaically transliterated as Marhatta or Mahratta) are an Indian warrior caste, found predominantly in the state of Maharashtra. The term Marāthā has two related usages: within the Marathi-speaking region it describes the dominant Maratha caste which is credited for establishing Hindu rule by ending the Mughal rule; historically, the term describes the Maratha Empire founded by Shivaji in the seventeenth century and continued by his successors.

Robert Vane Russell, an untrained ethnologist of the British Raj period, basing his research largely on Vedic literature, that Marathas belong to one of the 96 different clans, known as the 96 Kuli Marathas or Chhānnava Kule. The organisation of this clan system is disputed in the popular culture and by historians. An authoritative listing was attempted in 1889, but the general body of lists are often at great variance with each other.

The Marathas primarily reside in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Goa. Those in Goa and neighbouring Karwar are known specifically as Konkan Marathas as an affiliation to their regional and linguistic alignment.

The generally accepted theory among the scholars is that the words Maratha and Maharashtra ultimately derive from a compound of Maha (Sanskrit for “great”) and rashtrika. The word rashtrika is a Sanskritized form of Ratta, the name of a tribe or a dynasty of petty chiefs ruling in the Deccan region. Another theory is that the term is derived from Maha (“great”) and rathi or ratha (charioteer). An alternative theory states that the term derives from the words Maha (“Great”) and Rashtra (“nation/dominion”).

Marathi, an Indo-Aryan language, is the state’s official language. The modern Marathi language developed from the Prakrit known as Maharashtri. The words Maratha and Marathi may be a derivative of the Prakrit Marhatta found in Jain Maharashtri literature.

Maharastri or Maharastri Prakrit, is a language of ancient and medieval India which is the ancestor of Marathi, Konkani, Sinhala and the Divehi as well. It is one of the many languages (often called dialects) of a complex called Prakrit, and the chief Dramatic Prakrit. Maharashtri was spoken for 1000 years (500 BC to 500 AD). It was used in numerous works of literature, and its literary use was made famous by the Sanskrit playwright Kālidāsa.

Maharashtri Prakrit was commonly spoken until AD 875 and was the official language of the Sātavāhana empire. Works like Karpurmanjari and Saptashati (150 BC) were written in it. Maharashtri Prakrit was the most widely used Prakrit language in western and southern India.

Maharashtri Apabhraṃśa remained in use for several hundred years until at least AD 500. Apabhraṃśa was used widely in Jain literature and formed an important link in the evolution of Marathi. This form of Apabhraṃśa was re-Sanskritised and eventually became Marathi.

The varna, the term for the four broad ranks into which traditional Hindu society is divided, of the Maratha is a contested issue, with arguments for their being of the Kshatriya (warrior) varna which is widely accepted, and others for their being of peasant origins.

This issue was the subject of antagonism between the Brahmins and Marathas, dating back to the time of Shivaji, but by the late 19th century moderate Brahmins were keen to ally with the influential Marathas of Bombay in the interests of Indian independence from Britain.

These Brahmins supported the Maratha claim to Kshatriya status, and the legend of Shivaji, but their success in this political alliance was sporadic, and fell apart entirely following independence in 1947.

Various Maratha families lay claim to the Kshatriya varna, and the various clans make dis-similar claims. Bhonsles claim their origin from Suryavanshi Sisodias, Jadhavs from Yaduvanshi Yadavas, Bhoites from Chandravanshi Bhatis, Chavans from Agnivanshi Chauhans, Salunkhes from Agnivansha Solankis etc.

The Marathas are Hindu warriors from the western Deccan (present day Maharashtra) that rose to prominence by establishing ‘Hindawi Swarajya’. The Marathas became prominent in the 17th century under the leadership of the Great Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhonsale who revolted against the Bijapur Sultanate and the Mughal Empire, and carved out an an independent kingdom with Raigad as his capital.

After a lifetime of guerrilla warfare with the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur and Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Shivaji formally established an independent Hindu Maratha kingdom when he crowned himself Chhatrapati in 1674 with Raigad as its capital. Shivaji died in 1680, leaving behind a large kingdom. Soon after Shivaji’s death, the Mughals invaded, fighting an unsuccessful War of 27 years from 1681 to 1707.

Known for their mobility, the Marathas consolidated their territory during the Deccan Wars (1680-1707), also called the Mughal–Maratha Wars or the War of 27 years, against the Mughals and, at their peak, controlled much of northern and central India.

Shahu, a grandson of Shivaji, was released by the Mughals after the death of Aurangzeb. Following a brief struggle with his aunt Tarabai, Shahu became ruler. During this period, he appointed Balaji Vishwanath Bhat and later his descendants as the Peshwas or the prime ministers of the Maratha Empire.

After the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the empire expanded greatly under the rule of the Peshwas. The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Pakistan) on the Afghanistan border in the north, and Bengal and Andaman Islands in east.

A large portion of the Maratha empire was coastline, which had been secured by a potent navy under commanders such as Kānhōjī Āngré. He was very successful at keeping foreign naval ships, particularly of the Portuguese and British, at bay. Securing the coastal areas and building land-based fortifications were crucial aspects of the Maratha’s defensive strategy and regional military history.

In 1761, the Maratha army lost the Third Battle of Panipat to Abdali’s Afghan Durrani Empire, which halted their imperial expansion. Ten years after Panipat, young Madhavrao Peshwa reinstated the Maratha authority over North India.

In a bid to effectively manage the large empire, he gave semi-autonomy to the strongest of the knights, which created a confederacy of Maratha states. They became known as Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, Bhonsales of Nagpur.

In 1775, the British East India Company intervened in a succession struggle in Pune, which became the First Anglo-Maratha War. Marathas remained the preeminent power in India until their defeat in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha wars (1805–1818), which left the British East India Company in control of most of India.

The British recognised Maratha as a martial race, a term created by Army officials of British India after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, against the rebel caste and pro British caste into one of two categories, ‘martial’ and ‘non-martial’, beginning early in the 20th century.

The ostensible reason was that a ‘martial race’ was typically pro British thus well-built for fighting, while the ‘non-martial races’ were those whom the British believed to be unfit for battle because of their patriotic natures.

Actually British-trained Indian soldiers were among those who rebelled in 1857 and thereafter recruitment policy favoured castes which had remained loyal to the British and diminished or abandoned recruitment from the catchment area of the Bengal army. The concept already had a precedent in Indian culture as one of the four orders (varnas) in the Vedic social system of Hinduism is known as the Kshatriya, literally “warriors.”

Earlier listings of martial races had often excluded them, with Lord Roberts, commander-in-chief of the Indian Army 1885-1893 stating the need to substitute “more warlike and hardy races for the Hindusthani sepoys of Bengal, the Tamils and Telugus of Madras and the so-called Marathas of Bombay.”

Sikata Banerje notes a dissonance in British military opinions of the Maratha, wherein the British portrayed them as both “formidable opponents” and yet not “properly qualified” for fighting, criticising the Maratha guerrilla techniques as an improper way of war.

Banerje cites a 1859 statement as emblematic of this disparity: “”[T]here is something noble in the carriage of an ordinary Rajput, and something vulgar in that of the most distinguished Mahratta. The Rajput is the most worthy antagonist, the Mahratta the most formidable enemy.”

The Maratha Light Infantry regiment of the Indian Army is one of the “oldest and most renowned” regiments of the Indian Army. Its First Battalion, also known as the Jangi Paltan (“Warrior Platoon”), traces its origins back to 1768 as part of the Bombay Sepoys. The battle cry of Maratha Light Infantry is Bol Shri Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai! (“Cry Victory to Emperor Shivaji!”) in tribute to the Maratha sovereign.

The history of the states and dynasties comprising the Maratha Empire constitutes a major portion of the history of late medieval India. Among its impacts, the Maratha empire:

  • The Marathas were the primary force responsible for weakening and eventually ending the moghal domination of India.
  • were among those who participated in the revival of the power of Hindus in north India after many centuries of Muslim rule. At this time they were seen as major supporters of the Hindu cause.
  • led to the dilution of the caste system as a large number of lower castes, Brahmins and other castes fought along with them.
  • encouraged the usage of Sanskrit and development of the Marathi language and was seminal to the consolidation of a distinct Maharashtrian identity.

The empire also resulted in the voluntary relocation of substantial numbers of Maratha and other Marathi-speaking people outside Maharashtra, and across a big part of India. Thus, there are today several small but significant communities descended from these emigrants living in the north, south and west of India.

These communities tend often to speak the languages of those areas, although many do also speak Marathi in addition. Notable Maratha families outside Maharashtra include Scindia of Gwalior, Gaekwad of Baroda, Ghorpade of Mudhol, and Bhonsle of Thanjavur.

Marathas have dominated the state politics of Maharashtra since its inception in 1960. Since then, Maharashtra has witnessed heavy presence of Maratha ministers or officials (which comprises 25% of the state) in the Maharashtra state government, local municipal commissions, and panchayats. 10 out of 16 chief ministers of Maharashtra hailed from the Maratha community as of year 2012.

Hurrians

Shengavit Settlement

Kura–Araxes culture

Indo-Aryan expansion

Mitanni

Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni

Maryannu

Urartu

Marhasi

Maharashtra

Maratha

Marathi language

Maharastri Prakrit

Jiroft culture

Meluhha

Aratta

Hamazi

Subartu

Y-chromosomes and mtDNA from Maharashtra

The most recent gene flow paternal gene flow from West Asia corresponds largely to haplogroup J2a-M410. Unfortunately the authors used the “evolutionary mutation rate” which I and others have criticized, hence their age estimates are inflated. J2a and R1a1 have similar Y-STR variances in the two studied populations (0.36 and 0.34), and their ages are roughly a third of those reported (with wide uncertainty), or about ~4ky.

This is roughly consistent with the postulated arrival of the Indo-Aryans in India, and should probably be added to the enumeration of cases where the genealogical mutation rate correlates well with prehistory. It also seems consistent with my speculation about a West Asian origin of the Indo-Aryans.

Haplogroup R1a1 is more diverse in India-Pakistan than in west Eurasia, but there is variation in diversity in different South Asian groups. It’s possible that a subgroup of it also migrated from the west, but that possibility must remain speculative in the absence of even more Y-SNP structure within it.

South of Mari, and 110 kilometres north of Baghdad, a mound was discovered in the 1960s at Tell es Sawwan that has become a type site for the Samarra culture of the mid-6th through early 5th millennia. Like the Halaf culture to the west, it shows the extent of early settlement in Mesopotamia.

Map - Tell es Sawwan and Samarra

The main site Tell es Sawwan – Samarra

– lies about 50 miles upstream from modern Baghdad where the Euphrates and Tigris begin to flow more closely together.

Map showing the location of Samarra

Samarran pottery – Its distinctive pottery helps to define the Samarra culture

Samarran figurine – as do the clay figurines ‘mother goddess’ figures.

This map shows the geographical position of the Jarmo and Samarra cultures

north of Baghdad to the Ubaid and Uruk to the south.

Armenian

Mitanni (Mitra)

Indian (Indra)

Posted in Indo Aryans, The Fertile Crescent | Leave a Comment »

Messuring the time

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 31, 2013

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Cromlech of the Almendres

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Nabta megalith

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Zorats Karer

Posted in Megalithic | Leave a Comment »

The Funnel(-neck-)beaker culture

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 31, 2013

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/European_Late_Neolithic.gif

Indo-Europeans

Funnel beaker from Skåne.

Pottery

Lactose tolerance

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A copy of the key element on the pot

– The image on the pot is the oldest well-dated representation of a 4-wheeled vehicle in the world

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Double-edged battle axe from Skåne

Funnel(-neck-)beaker culture

While the Funnel(-neck-)beaker culture (short TRB or TBK from (German) Trichter(-rand-)becherkultur, ca 4300 – 2800 BC), an archaeological culture in north-central Europe, isn’t exactly the LBK, the TRB origins have to be sought rather in the central European LBK than in the Mediterranean Cardium pottery. According to a craniometrical cluster analysis by Ilse Schwidetzky, the Swedish neolithic is very similar to the central European middle neolithic Rössen culture, and both are close to LBK.

The main difference between the Danubian cultures and the Cardium derived cultures is that the latter seem more strongly dominated by haplogroup G, which in turn seems to imply a stronger presence of the (Southern part of the) Caucasus component, while the former may have had more haplogoup I and Haplogroup R1b3.

Early papers publishing results on European-wide Y-DNA marker frequencies, such as those of Semino (2000) and Rosser (2000), correlated haplogroup R1b-M269 with the earliest episodes of European colonization by Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH). The peak frequencies of M269 in Iberia (especially the Basque region) and the Atlantic façade were postulated to represent signatures of re-colonization of the European West following the Last Glacial Maximum.

However, even prior to recent criticisms and refinements, the idea that Iberian R1b carrying males repopulated most of western Europe was not consistent with findings which revealed that Italian M269 lineages are not derivative of Iberian ones. More recently, data and calculations from Myres (2011), Cruciani (2010), Arredi (2007) and Belaresque (2010) suggest a Late Neolithic entry of M269 into Europe.

These hypotheses appear to be corroborated by more direct evidence from ancient DNA. For example, Early Neolithic Y-DNA from Spain did not reveal any R1b, but rather E-V13 and G2a, whilst a similar study from a French pre-Beaker Neolithic site revealed haplgroup G2a and I-P37. It is only later, from a German Bell Beaker site dated to the third millennium BCE, that the first evidence for R1b is detected. Ancient Y-DNA results for the remains of Beaker people from Iberia have yet to be obtained.

Whilst Cruciani, Belaresque and Arredi support a spread of R1b from South-Eastern Europe, Klyosov (2012) postulates that “Western European” R1b-L150 entered Europe from Northern Africa, via Iberia, coincident with the spread of the Bell Beaker culture.

From a mitochondrial DNA perspective, haplogroup H, which has high (~ 40%) throughout Europe, has received similar attention. Early studies by Richards et al (2000) purported that it arose 28 – 23,000 years ago (kya), spreading into Europe ~ 20 kya, before then re-expanding from an Iberian glacial refuge ~ 15 kya, calculations subsequently corroborated by Pereira (2004). However, a larger study by Roostalu (2006), incorporating more data from the Near East, suggested that whilst Hg H did begin to expand c. 20 kya, this was limited to the Near East, Caucasus and Southeastern Europe. Rather its subsequent spread further west occurred later, in the post-glacial period from a postulated South Caucasian refugium. This hypothesis has been supported by a recent ancient DNA analysis study, which links the expansion of mtDNA Hg H in Western Europe with the Bell Beaker phenomenon.

The TRB developed as a technological merger of local neolithic and mesolithic techno-complexes between the lower Elbe and middle Vistula rivers, introducing farming and husbandry as a major source of food to the pottery-using hunter-gatherers north of this line.

Preceded by Lengyel-influenced STK groups/Late Lengyel and Baden-Boleraz in the southeast, Rössen groups in the southwest and the Ertebølle-Ellerbek groups in the north, the TRB techno-complex is divided into a northern group including modern northern eastalbingian Germany and southern Scandinavia (TRB-N, roughly the area that previously belonged to the Ertebølle-Ellerbek complex), a western group between Zuiderzee and lower Elbe, an eastern group centered around the Vistula catchment, roughly ranging from Oder to Bug, and south-central groups (TRB-MES, Altmark) around the middle and upper Elbe and Saale.

Especially in the southern and eastern groups, local sequences of variants emerged. In the late 4th millennium BC, the Globular Amphora culture (KAK) replaced most of the eastern and subsequently also the southern TRB groups, reducing the TRB area to modern northern Germany and southern Scandinavia. The younger TRB in these areas was superseded by the Single Grave culture (EGK) at about 2800 BC.

In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, the culture is seen as non-Indo-European, representing the culture of what Marija Gimbutas termed Old Europe, the peoples of which were later to be governed by the Indo-European-language-speaking peoples intruding from the east. The political relation between the aboriginal and intrusive cultures resulted in quick and smooth cultural morphosis into Corded Ware culture.

Heterodoxically, Dutch publications mention mixed burials and propose a quick and smooth internal change to Corded Ware within two generations occurring about 2900 BC in Dutch and Danish TRB territory, probably precluded by economic, cultural and religious changes in East Germany, and call the migrationist view of steppe intrusions introducing Indo-European languages obsolete (at least in this part of the world). It is more likely that Indo-European languages were adopted by local populations because they represented a new way of life, bringing with them horses and cattle and the status they represented.

The north-central European megaliths were built primarily during the TRB era. The Funnelbeaker culture marks the appearance of megalithic tombs at the coasts of the Baltic and of the North sea, an example of which are the Sieben Steinhäuser in northern Germany. The megalithic structures of Ireland, France and Portugal are somewhat older and have been connected to earlier archeological cultures of those areas.

Burial practices were varied, depending on region and changed over time. Inhumation seems to have been the rule. The oldest graves consisted of wooden chambered cairns inside long barrows, but were later made in the form of passage graves and dolmens. Originally, the structures were probably covered with a heap of dirt and the entrance was blocked by a stone. The graves were probably not intended for every member of the settlement but for only an elite. At graves, the people sacrificed ceramic vessels that probably contained food, and axes and other flint objects.

The technology was flint-based, of which the deposits found in Belgium and on the island of Rügen as well as deposits in the Kraków area were important. The culture used Battle Axes which were stone versions of Central Europe’s copper axes. The early versions were multi-angled, and the later are called double-edged, although one of the edges is more rounded. It imported copper from Central Europe, especially daggers and axes. Axes and vessels were also deposed in streams and lakes near the farmlands, and virtually all Sweden’s 10,000 flint axes that have been found from this culture were probably sacrificed in water.

One find assigned to the Funnelbeaker culture is the Bronocice pot, which shows the oldest known depiction of a wheeled vehicle (here, a 2-axled, 4-wheeled wagon). The pot dates to approximately 3500 BC.

The picture on the pot symbolically depicts key elements of the prehistoric human environment. The most important component of the decoration are five rudimentary representations of what seems to be a wagon. They represent a vehicle with a shaft for a draught animal, and four wheels. The lines connecting them probably represent axles. The circle in the middle possibly symbolizes a container for harvest. Other images on the pot include a tree, a river and what may be fields intersected by roads/ditches or the layout of a village.

The image on the pot is the oldest well-dated representation of a 4-wheeled vehicle in the world.[2] It suggests the existence of wagons in Central Europe as early as in the 4th millennium BC. They were presumably drawn by aurochs whose remains were found with the pot. Their horns were worn out as if tied with a rope, possibly a result of using a kind of yoke.

It has been suggested that the Funnelbeaker culture was the origin of the gene allowing adults of Northern European descent to digest lactose. It was claimed that in the area formerly inhabited by this culture, prevalence of the gene is virtually universal. A paper published in 2007 by Burger et al. indicated that the genetic variant that causes lactase persistence in most Europeans (-13,910*T) was rare or absent in early farmers from central Europe. A study published by Yuval Itan and colleagues in 2010 clearly shows this.

A study published in 2009, also by Itan et al., suggests that the Linear Pottery culture, which preceded the TRB culture by some 1,500 years, was the culture in which this trait started to co-evolve with the culture of dairying.

Ancient DNA extracted from three individuals ascribed to a TRB horizon in Gökhem, Sweden, were found to possess mtDNA haplogroups H, J, and T.

Posted in Europa, Megalithic, Neolithic | Leave a Comment »

Step pyramid

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 31, 2013

File:Ancient ziggurat at Ali Air Base Iraq 2005.jpg

The 4100 year old Great Ziggurat of Ur in southern Iraq

File:Pyramid of Djoser 2010.jpg

Pyramid of Djoser

A step pyramid or stepped pyramid is an architectural structure that uses flat platforms, or steps, receding from the ground up, to achieve a completed shape similar to a geometric pyramid. Step pyramids are structures which characterized several cultures throughout history, in several locations throughout the world. These pyramids typically are large and made of several layers of stone. The term refers to pyramids of similar design that emerged separately from one another, as there are no firmly established connections between the different civilizations that built them.

Ziggurats were huge religious monuments built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels. There are 32 ziggurats known at, and near, Mesopotamia. Twenty-eight of them are in Iraq, and four of them are in Iran. Notable Ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq, the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near Baghdad, Iraq, Chogha Zanbil in Khūzestān, Iran, the most recent to be discovered – Sialk near Kashan, Iran and others. Ziggurats were built by the Sumerians, Babylonians, Elamites and Assyrians as monuments to local religions. The probable predecessors of the ziggurat were temples supported on raised platforms or terraces that date from the Ubaid period during the fourth millennium BC, and the latest date from the 6th century BC.

The earliest ziggurats probably date from the latter part of the Early Dynastic Period of Sumer. Built in receding tiers upon a rectangular, oval, or square platform, the ziggurat was a pyramidal structure. Sun-baked bricks made up the core of the ziggurat with facings of fired bricks on the outside. The facings were often glazed in different colors and may have had astrological significance. Kings sometimes had their names engraved on these glazed bricks. The number of tiers ranged from two to seven, with a shrine or temple at the summit. Access to the shrine was provided by a series of ramps on one side of the ziggurat or by a spiral ramp from base to summit. It was also called Hill of Heaven or Mountain of the gods.

The earliest Egyptian pyramids were step pyramids. During the Third dynasty of Egypt, the architect Imhotep designed Egypt’s first step pyramid as a tomb for the pharaoh, Djoser. This structure, the Pyramid of Djoser, was composed of a series of six successively smaller mastabas (an earlier form of tomb), one on top of another. Later pharaohs, including Sekhemkhet and Khaba, built similar structures.

In the Fourth dynasty of Egypt, the Egyptians began to build “true pyramids” with smooth sides. The earliest of these pyramids, located at Meidum, began as a step pyramid built for Sneferu. Sneferu later made other pyramids, the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid at Dahshur, which were the first true pyramids to be built as such from the beginning. With this innovation, the age of Egyptian stepped pyramids came to an end.

A step pyramid exists in the archaeological site of Monte d’Accoddi, in northern Sardinia, located in the territory of Sassari near Porto Torres, dating to the 4th millennium BC. It is the site of a megalithic structure, the oldest part are dated to around c. 4,000-3,650 BC. The structure has a base of 27 m by 27 m and probably reached a height of 5.5 m. It culminated in a platform of about 12.5 m by 7.2 m, accessible via a ramp. It has been variously described as an altar, a temple or a step pyramid.

It is a trapezoidal platform on an artificial mound, reached by a sloped causeway. At one time a rectangular structure sat atop the platform. The site was frequented from the Middle Neolithic on, but the platform dates from the Copper Age (c. 2700-2000 BC), with some minor subsequent activity in the Early Bronze Age (c. 2000-1600 BC). Near the mound are several standing stones, and a large limestone slab, now at the foot of the mound, may have served as an altar.

Similarities between Los Millares architecture and the step pyramid at Monte d’Accoddi in Sardinia have been noticed. Los Millares is the name of a Chalcolithic occupation site 17 km north of Almería, in the municipality of Santa Fe de Mondújar, Andalusia, Spain. The complex was in use from the end of the fourth millennium to the end of the second millennium BC and probably supported somewhere around 1000 people.

Los Millares participated in the continental trends of Megalithism and the Beaker culture. Analysis of occupation material and grave goods from the Los Millares cemetery of 70 tholos tombs with port-hole slabs has led archaeologists to suggest that the people who lived at Los Millares were part of a stratified, unequal society which was often at war with its neighbours. The Los Millares civilisation was replaced circa 1800 BC, with the arrival of Bronze by the El Argar civilisation, whose successor culture is embodied in the contemporary culture of Vila Nova de São Pedro in nearby Portugal.

Step pyramid

Posted in Megalithic | Leave a Comment »

Finland

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 31, 2013

Finland is not a Germanic country linguistically despite having been part of the Kingdom of Sweden for most of its recorded history until the 19th century. Over 60% of Finns belong to the Uralic haplogroup N1c1, which is concordant with the fact that Finnish language (Suomi) also belongs to the Uralic linguistic family.

One might therefore wonder whether the 28% of I1 lineages in Finland came from their Scandinavian neighbours (notably Sweden) sometime between the Bronze Age and the Middle Ages, or on the contrary whether I1 spread throughout Fennoscandia at the same time during the Mesolithic period, when the ice sheet receded over the region.

A look at the phylogenetic tree shows that the Finns, Swedes and Norwegians belong primarily to the northern cluster (L22). Out of five subclades, two (L287 and L300) are almost exclusively Finnish, while the others are Scandinavian. This is enough to think that a late Mesolithic colonisation of Fennoscandia from Denmark or southern Sweden (perhaps as late as 6000 or 7000 years ago, during the Ertebølle culture) could have brought I1 around the same time in Finland, central/northern Sweden and Norway.

This would have happened well before the first Indo-European speakers reached Scandinavia. Finland is the only country with more than 15% of I1 where the Germanic culture and language didn’t take root. A good reason for this would indeed be if Germanic culture did not yet exist in Scandinavia at the time when I1 reached Finland.

Of the 28% of I1 in Finland, 80% belong to the exclusively Finnish L287 and L300 subclades, while the rest (5%) generally resemble more closely Swedish I1. These are typically found on the west and south-west coast of Finland, where Swedes have settled in historical times and where Swedish is still spoken. This is also where most of the R1b (3.5%) and Scandinavian R1a-Z282 (3%) is to be found.

The Scandinavian I1 in Finland is found at a similar proportion to R1b and R1a as in Sweden. In contrast, Finnish I1 is found in all the country, where hardly any Germanic Y-DNA is present. This is another confirmation that the I1 in Finland is pre-Germanic, pre-Bronze Age, and consequently of Mesolithic origin.

Unfortunately this timeline seriously conflicts with the estimated age of I1a2c, which Ken Nordtvedt calculated to be only 2000 years old based on STR variatons. This method is not very accurate because it fails to take into account population size. Larger populations create more genetic variations.

Nordic countries have always had a lower population density than central of southern Europe. Before the Bronze Age, Nordic people were still hunter-gatherers, while the rest of Europe had been farming for up to 3500 years. Agricultural societies could support populations ten times higher than hunter-gatherers in similar climates.

In cold Fennoscandia, the pre-Indo-European population density must have been at least 20 times lower than in Mediterranean Europe. This means that the mutation rate would also be 20 times lower, and therefore that haplogroup I1 is much older than STR variations alone would suggest.

If the age estimate of 2000 years old happened to be correct anyway (very unlikely), the only way I1 could have become so predominant in Finland is through an unprecedented founder effect, with a single male lineage quickly replacing one fourth of all lineages in the country (a highly unrealistic scenario).

Posted in Finno-Ugric | Leave a Comment »

Tidlig minoiske koloniseringen av Spania

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 31, 2013

Forfatteren diskuterer arkeologiske bevis for en Aegean minoiske maritime kolonisering Sørøst Iberia. Den primære kausale faktoren for dette var utviklingen av sveiseavsettet teknologi arsenical kobber. Legeringens hardhet og castability gjort Trebearbeiding verktøy av sagen, bue drill og dreiebenk mulig. Disse verktøy sett scenen for oppfinnelsen av først effektivt produsert planked tre skip med kjøl i Egeerhavet som fastsatt på reiser leting tidlig i fjerde årtusener BC søk prestisje metaller av gull og sølv som resulterer i Los Millares kulturen i det sørøstlige Spania.

Tidlig minoiske koloniseringen av Spania

Posted in Europa, Mediterrean, Megalithic | Leave a Comment »

Haplogroup G2a – Cardium Pottery culture, Ozieri culture, Bell-Beaker culture and Bonnanaro culture

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 31, 2013

File:Cardial map.png

Cardium Pottery Culture or Cardial Culture, or Impressed Ware Culture

File:Neolithic expansion.svg

Cardium Pottery or Cardial Ware

Cardium Pottery or Cardial Ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the cockle, an edible marine mollusk, formerly Cardium edulis, now Cerastoderma edule. These forms of pottery are in turn used to define the Neolithic culture which produced and spread them, mostly commonly called the “Cardial Culture”.

The alternative name Impressed Ware is given by some archaeologists to define this culture, because impressions can be with sharp objects other than cockle shell, such as a nail or comb. Impressed pottery is much more widespread than the Cardial. Impressed Ware is found in the zone “covering Italy to the Ligurian coast” as distinct from the more western Cardial extending from Provence to western Portugal. The sequence in Western Europe has traditionally been supposed to start with widespread Cardial Ware, and then to develop other methods of impression locally, termed “epi-Cardial”. However the widespread Cardial and Impressa pattern types overlap and are now considered more likely to be contemporary.

This pottery style gives its name to the main culture of the Mediterranean Neolithic: Cardium Pottery Culture or Cardial Culture, or Impressed Ware Culture, which eventually extended from the Adriatic sea to the Atlantic coasts of Portugal and south to Morocco.

The earliest Impressed Ware sites, dating to 6400-6200 BC, are in Epirus and Corfu. Settlements then appear in Albania and Dalmatia on the eastern Adriatic coast dating to between 6100 and 5900 BC. The earliest date in Italy comes from Coppa Nevigata on the Adriatic coast of southern Italy, perhaps as early as 6000 cal B.C. Also during Su Carroppu civilization in Sardinia, already in its early stages (low strata into Su Coloru cave, c. 6000 BC) early examples of cardial pottery appear. Northward and westward all secure radiocarbon dates are identical to those for Iberia c. 5500 cal B.C., which indicates a rapid spread of Cardial and related cultures: 2,000 km from the gulf of Genoa to the estuary of the Mondego in probably no more than 100–200 years. This suggests a seafaring expansion by planting colonies along the coast.

Older Neolithic cultures existed already at this time in eastern Greece and Crete, apparently having arrived from the Levant, but they appear distinct from the Cardial or Impressed Ware culture. The ceramic tradition in the central Balkans also remained distinct from that along the Adriatic coastline in both style and manufacturing techniques for almost 1,000 years from the 6th millennium BC. Early Neolithic impressed pottery is found in the Levant, and certain parts of Anatolia, including Mezraa-Teleilat, and in North Africa at Tunus-Redeyef, Tunisia. So the first Cardial settlers in the Adriatic may have come directly from the Levant. Of course it might equally well have come directly from North Africa, and impressed-pottery also appears in Egypt. Along the East Mediterranean coast Impressed Ware has been found in North Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.

LBK

The Linear Pottery culture is a major archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic, flourishing ca. 5500–4500 BC. It is abbreviated as LBK (from German: Linearbandkeramik), is also known as the Linear Band Ware, Linear Ware, Linear Ceramics or Incised Ware culture, and falls within the Danubian I culture of V. Gordon Childe.

The densest evidence for the culture is on the middle Danube, the upper and middle Elbe, and the upper and middle Rhine. It represents a major event in the initial spread of agriculture in Europe. The pottery after which it was named consists of simple cups, bowls, vases and jugs, without handles, but in a later phase with lugs or pierced lugs, bases and necks. They were obviously designed as kitchen dishes, or for the immediate or local transport of food and liquids.

Important sites include Nitra in Slovakia; Bylany in the Czech Republic; Langweiler and Zwenkau in Germany; Brunn am Gebirge in Austria; Elsloo, Sittard, Köln-Lindenthal, Aldenhoven, Flomborn and Rixheim on the Rhine; Lautereck and Hienheim on the upper Danube; Rössen and Sonderhausen on the middle Elbe.

Excavations at Oslonki in Poland revealed a large fortified settlement (dating to 4300 BC, i. e., Late LBK), covering an area of 4,000 m². Nearly thirty trapezoidal longhouses and over eighty graves make it one of the richest such settlements in archaeological finds from all of central Europe. The rectangular longhouses were between 7 and 45 meters long and between 5 and 7 meters wide. They were built of massive timber posts chinked with wattle and daub mortar.[2][3]

Two variants of the early Linear Pottery culture are recognized:

  • The Early or Western Linear Pottery Culture developed on the middle Danube, including western Hungary, and was carried down the Rhine, Elbe, Oder and Vistula.
  • The Eastern Linear Pottery Culture flourished in eastern Hungary.

Middle and late phases are also defined. In the middle phase, the Early Linear Pottery Culture intruded upon the Bug-Dniester culture and began to manufacture Musical note pottery. In the late phase, the Stroked Pottery Culture moved down the Vistula and Elbe.

A number of cultures ultimately replaced the Linear Pottery culture over its range, but there is no one-to-one correspondence between its variants and the replacing cultures. The culture map instead is complex. Some of the successor cultures are the Hinkelstein, Großgartach, Rössen, Lengyel, Cucuteni-Trypillian, and Boian-Maritza.

The Ozieri culture

From the earliest period, Sardinia has been in contact with extra-insular communities in Corsica, Liguria, Lombardy, and Provence. Towards the end of the fifth millennium BC an increased exportation of obsidian extended the cultural interaction to the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. From the third millennium BC on, comb-impressed Beaker ware, as well as other Beaker material in Ozieri or sub-Ozieri contexts, has been found, demonstrating continuing relationships with the western Mediterranean; it appears likely that Sardinia was the intermediary that brought Beaker materials to Tuscany and Sicily.

The Ozieri culture (or San Michele culture) was a prehistoric pre-Nuragic culture that lived in Sardinia from c. 3200 to 2800 BC. It takes its name from the locality where the main findings connected with it have been found, the grotto of San Michele near Ozieri, in northern Sardinia. The influence of the culture extended also to the nearby Corsica.

The archaeological excavation held there in 1914 and 1949 found fine worked vases with geometrical motifs carved in the clay and colored with red ochre. The oldest ones were still rather crude, while the more recent examples were more refined and slender.

Such ceramics were a novelty for prehistoric Sardinia, since up to that point they had been considered typical of the Cyclades and Crete. The development of the Ozieri culture, therefore, probably stemmed from contacts with other eastern Mediterranean civilizations, in particular from the Neolithic Greece area.

Villages of the Ozieri culture which have been identified amount to some 200, located both in plain and mountain areas. They were formed by small stone huts, with a circular (rarely rectangular) wall supporting a wooden frame with a ceiling of boughs. One, near Mogoro, included 267 huts, perhaps also erected on poles driven into the ground. The pavements were composed of limestone slabs, of basalt cobbles or clay.

The villages had no walls, and findings of weapons in the tombs are scarce: the Ozieri civilization was thus perhaps a peaceful one, far different from the later Nuragic civilization. The tombs were grouped in the hypogeous structures that later became known as domus de janas, or, as more frequent in Gallura (regarding what is sometimes defined as Arzachena culture), in Megalithic circles. Some tombs, of more monumental appearance, belonged perhaps to chiefs, in the fashion of those in Crete.

Religion included the adoration of the Neolithic Mother goddess and of a Bull god, perhaps connected to fertility. Female statuettes similar to those of the Ozieri culture have been found in Malta.

The Ozieri culture (3500-2700 BC) developed mighty megalithic walls that are limited to the northern area, suggesting unknown defensive demands that are the sign of the warlike state that can be noticed at the same time in the Mediterranean. The successing chalcolithic (aneolithic) Filigosa-Abealzu culture (2700-2500 BC) followed the collapse of the great megalithic civilizations. A significant impulse given to metallurgy accompanied vascular production characterized by a disappearance of earlier St. Micheal (Ozieri) fanciful decoration in favor of blank soberly scribbled surfaces. The Monte Claro culture (2500-2000 BC) reveals scratched ceramics and fortified enclosures that seem to anticipate a strategic conception of territory control which reached a highlight in the Nuragic Age (1600-900 BC). This tradition came to an end only around 900 BC by destruction and fire.

In some sites, material of the megalithic Monte Claro culture has been found in association with true Bell Beaker materials; elsewhere, Beaker material has been found stratigraphically above Monte Claro and at the end of the Chalcolithic period in association with the related Bronze Age Bonnanaro culture (1800-1600 BC), for which C-14 dates calibrate to ca. 2250 BC. Like elsewhere in Europe and in the Mediterranean area, the Bell Beaker culture in Sardinia (2000-1800) is characterized by the typical ceramics decorated with overlaid horizontal bands and associated finds (brassards, V-pierced buttons etc.) There is virtually no evidence in Sardinia of external contacts in the late third and early second millennia, apart from late Beakers and close parallels between Bonnannaro pottery and that of the North Italian Polada culture.

The Bell-Beaker culture

The Bell-Beaker culture (sometimes shortened to Beaker culture, Beaker people, or Beaker folk; German: Glockenbecherkultur), ca. 2800 – 1800 BC, is the term for a widely scattered ‘archaeological culture’ of prehistoric western Europe starting in the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic and running into the early Bronze Age. The term was coined by John Abercromby, based on the culture’s distinctive pottery drinking vessels.

The Bell Beaker culture is understood not only as a particular pottery type, but as a complete and complex cultural phenomenon involving other artefact styles such as weaponry and ornamentation, as well as shared ideological, cultural and religious ideas.

The Bell Beaker period marks a period of unprecedented cultural contact in Atlantic and Western Europe on a scale not seen previously, nor again seen in succeeding periods. This contrasted the situation in Central and Eastern Europe where the slightly earlier Corded Ware Culture had already established wide-ranging contacts within those regions.

Its appearance is marked from 2900 BC, lasting until 1800 BC, when the incipient Bronze Age dissolved the beaker phenomenon.

It is important to note that underlying the Bell beaker superstratum existed a wide diversity in local burial styles (including incidences of cremation rather than inhumation), housing styles, economic profile and local coarse ceramic wares which continued to persist.

There are two main Bell Beaker styles: the cord-impressed types, such as the “All Over Corded” (AOC) or “All Over Ornamented” (AOO), and the “Maritime” type, decorated with bands filled with impressions made with a comb or cord. Later, characteristic regional styles developed.

It has been suggested that the beakers were designed for the consumption of alcohol, and that the introduction of the substance to Europe may have fuelled the beakers’ spread. Beer and mead content have been identified from certain examples. However, not all Beakers were drinking cups. Some were used as reduction pots to smelt copper ores, others have some organic residues associated with food, and still others were employed as funerary urns. They were used as status display amongst disparate elites.

There have been numerous proposals by archaeologists as to the origins of the Bell Beaker culture, and debates continued on for decades. Several regions of origin have been postulated, notably the Iberian peninsula, the Netherlands and Central Europe. Similarly, scholars have postulated various mechanisms of spread, including migrations of populations (“folk migrations”), smaller warrior groups, individuals (craftsmen), or a diffusion of ideas and object exchange.

Recent analyses have made significant inroads to understanding the Beaker phenomenon, mostly by analysing each of its components separately. They have concluded that the Bell Beaker phenomenon was a synthesis of elements, representing “an idea and style uniting different regions with different cultural traditions and background.”

Radiocarbon dating seems to support that the earliest “Maritime” Bell Beaker design style is encountered in Iberia, specifically in the vibrant copper-using communities of the Tagus estuary in Portugal around 2800-2700 BC and spread from there to many parts of western Europe. An overview of all available sources from southern Germany concluded that Bell Beaker was a new and independent culture in that area, contemporary with the Corded Ware culture.

The inspiration for the Maritime Bell Beaker is argued to have been the small and earlier Copoz beakers that have impressed decoration and which are found widely around the Tagus estuary in Portugal. Turek sees late Neolithic precursors in northern Africa, arguing the Maritime style emerged as a result of seaborne contacts between Iberia and Morocco in the first half of the third millennium BCE. However, radiocarbon dating from North African sites is lacking for the most part.

AOO and AOC Beakers appear to have evolved continually from pre-Beaker period in the lower Rhine and North Sea regions, at least for Northern and Central Europe.

Furthermore, the burial ritual which typified Bell Beaker sites was intrusive into Western Europe. Individual burials, often under tumuli burials, with the inclusion of weapons contrast markedly to the preceding Neolithic traditions of often collective, weaponless burials in Atlantic/Western Europe. Such an arrangement is rather derivative of Corded Ware traditions, although instead of ‘battle-axes’, Bell Beaker individuals used copper daggers.

Overall, all these elements (Iberian-derived maritime ceramic styles, AOC and AOO ceramic styles, and ‘eastern’ burial ritual symbolism) appear to have first fused in the Lower Rhine region.

It is doubtful that the Bell Beaker culture (2800-1900 BCE) in Western Europe was already Indo-European because its attributes are in perfect continuity with the native Megalithic cultures. The Beaker phenomenon started during the Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic in Portugal and propagated to the north-east towards Germany. During the same period Bronze Age steppe cultures spread from Germany in the opposite direction towards Iberia, France and Britain. It is more likely that the beakers and horses found across Western Europe during that period were the result of trade with neighbouring Indo-European cultures, including the first wave of R1b into Central Europe.

Given the unusual form and fabric of Beaker pottery, and its abrupt appearance in the archaeological record, along with a characteristic group of other artefacts, known as the Bell Beaker “package”, the explanation for the Beaker culture until the last decades of the 20th century was to interpret it as a diffusion of one group of people across Europe. However British and American archaeology since the 1960s had been sceptical about prehistoric migration in general, so the idea of “Bell Beaker Folk” lost ground. A theory of cultural contact de-emphasizing population movement was presented by Colin Burgess and Stephen Shennan in the mid-1970s.[24]

It is now common to see the Beaker culture as a ‘package’ of knowledge (including religious beliefs and copper, bronze and gold working) and artefacts (including copper daggers, v-perforated buttons and stone wrist-guards) adopted and adapted by the indigenous peoples of Europe to varying degrees. This new knowledge may have come about by any combination of population movements and cultural contact. An example might be as part of a prestige cult related to the production and consumption of beer, or trading links such as those demonstrated by finds made along the seaways of Atlantic Europe. Palynological studies and analysis of pollen, associated with the spread of beakers, certainly suggests increased growing of barley, which may be associated with beer brewing. Noting the distribution of Beakers was highest in areas of transport routes, including fording sites, river valleys and mountain passes, it was suggested that Beaker ‘folk’ were originally bronze traders, who subsequently settled within local Neolithic or early Chalcolithic cultures creating local styles. Close analysis of the bronze tools associated with beaker use suggests an early Iberian source for the copper, followed subsequently by Central European and Bohemian ores.

Investigations in the Mediterranean and France recently questioned the nature of the phenomenon. Instead of being pictured as a fashion or a simple diffusion of objects and their use, the investigation of over 300 sites showed that human groups actually moved in a process that involved explorations, contacts, settlement, diffusions and acculturation/assimilation. Some elements show the influence from the north and east, and other elements reveal the south-east of France to be an important cross road on an important route of communication and exchange spreading north. A distinctive barbed wire element is thought to have migrated through central Italy first. The pattern of movements was diverse and complicated, along the Atlantic coast and the northern Mediterranean coast, and sometimes also far inland. The prominent central role of Portugal in the region and the quality of the pottery all across Europe are forwarded as arguments for a new interpretation that denies an ideological dimension.

The initial moves from the Tagus estuary were maritime. A southern move led to the Mediterranean where ‘enclaves’ were established in south-western Spain and southern France around the Golfe du Lion and into the Po valley in Italy probably via ancient western Alpine trade routes used to distribute Jadeite axes. A northern move incorporated the southern coast of Armorica with further, less well defined, contacts extending to Ireland and possibly to central southern Britain.

The earliest copper production in Ireland, identified at Ross Island in the period 2400-2200 BC, was associated with early Beaker pottery. Here the local sulpharsenide ores were smelted to produce the first copper axes used in Britain and Ireland. The same technologies were used in the Tagus region and in the west and south of France. The evidence is sufficient to support the suggestion that the initial spread of Maritime Bell Beakers along the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean, using sea routes that had long been in operation, was directly associated with the quest for copper and other rare raw materials.

The enclave established in southern Brittany was linked closely to the riverine and landward route via the Loire and across the Gatinais valley to the Seine valley and thence to the lower Rhine. This was a long-established route reflected in early stone axe distributions and it was via this network that Maritime Bell Beakers first reached the Lower Rhine in about 2700-2500 BC. The Lower Rhine region had, by 3000 BC, adopted a burial rite characterized by single inhumation accompanied by a beaker decorated with cord zone impressions, and frequently by a perforated stone battle-axe. This cultural package was characteristic of belief systems which extended across the North European Plain and into Russia. The arrival of the Maritime Bell Beaker from the west a century or two later initiated a period of borrowing and experimentation in what has been called the Primary Bell Beaker/Corded Ware contact zone and cultural traits developed here, such as single burial and the shaft-hole axe, were transmitted westwards along the exchange networks from the Rhine to the Loire. It was from this fusion zone that the modified Beaker package spread northwards across the Channel to Britain.

The Bonnanaro culture

The altar of Monte d’Accoddi fell out of use starting from c. 2000 BC, when the Beaker culture, which at the time was widespread in almost all western Europe, appeared in the island. The introduction of bronze from the new people arriving from the mainland brought numerous improvements, such as in agriculture, in which more effective tools could be used, but also in war and hunting.

The Bonnanaro culture is the last evolution of the Beaker culture in Sardinia (c. 1800 BC), and shows several similarities with the Bronze-Age Polada culture of northern Italy. These have been connected to link with the Italian prehistoric settlements through Corsica. To this period date the construction of the platformlike so-called proto-nuraghe.

Sardinia is one of the most geologically ancient bodies of land in Europe. The island was populated in waves of emigration from the Paleolithic period until recent times.

The first people to settle in northern Sardinia during the Mesolithic probably came from the Italian mainland via Corsica, particularly from Etruria (present-day Tuscany); however in the Corbeddu Cave of Oliena there are evidences that suggest a previous Paleolithic colonization of the island. In the middle Neolithic period, the Ozieri culture, probably of Aegean origin, flourished in the island.

During the early Bronze Age, the so-called Beaker culture, coming from the Continent, appeared in Sardinia. These new people settled predominantly on the west coast where the most part of the sites attributed to them had been found.

Evidence of trade with Aegean (Eastern Mediterranean) centres is present in the period 1600 BC onwards. As time passed, the different Sardinian peoples appear to have become united in customs, yet remained divided politically as various small, tribal groupings, at times banding together, and at others waging war against each other. Habitations consisted of round thatched stone huts.

From about 1500 BC onwards, villages were built around the round tower-fortresses called nuraghi, which were often reinforced and enlarged with battlements. The boundaries of tribal territories were guarded by smaller lookout nuraghi erected on strategic hills commanding a view of other territories.

Today some 7,000 nuraghi dot the Sardinian landscape. While initially these Nuraghes has a relatively simple structure, with time they became extremely complex and monumental (see for example Su Nuraxi near Barumini or Nuraghe Arrubiu near Orroli). The scale, complexity and territorial spread of these buildings attest to the level of wealth accumulated by the Nuragic people, their advances in technology and the complexity of their society, which was able to coordinate large numbers of people with different roles for the purpose of building the monumental Nuraghes.

The Nuraghes are not the only Nuragic buildings that survive, as there are several sacred wells around Sardinia and other buildings that had religious purposes such as the Giants’ grave (monumental collective tombs) and collections of religious buildings that probably served as destinations for pilgrimage and mass religious rites (e.g. Su Romanzesu near Bitti).

Sardinia was at the time at the centre of several commercial routes and it was an important provider of raw materials such as copper and lead, which were pivotal for the manufacture of the time. By controlling the extraction of these raw materials and by commercing them with other countries, the Nuragic civilisation was able to accumulate wealth and reach a level of sophistication that is not only reflected in the complexity of its surviving buildings, but also in its artworks (e.g. the votive bronze statuettes found across Sardinia).

According to some scholars, the Nuragic peoples are identifiable with the Shardana, a tribe of the “Sea Peoples”.

The Nuragic civilization was linked with other contemporaneous megalithic civilization of the western Mediterranean such as the Talaiotic culture of the Balearic islands and the Torrean civilization of southern Corsica. Several artefacts (e.g. pots) have been found in Nuragic sites which came from as far as Anatolia, Greece as well as from Italy, which testifies the scope of commercial relations between the Nuragic people and other people in Europe and beyond.

Haplogroup G2a

Various estimated dates and locations have been proposed for the origin of Haplogroup G. The National Geographic Society places haplogroup G origins in the Middle East 30,000 years ago and presumes that people carrying the haplogroup took part in the spread of the Neolithic[2] Two scholarly papers have also suggested an origin in the Middle East, while differing on the date. Semino et al. (2000) suggested 17,000 years ago. Cinnioglu et al. (2004) suggested the mutation took place only 9,500 years ago.

Haplogroup G2a(SNP P15+) has been identified in neolithic human remains in Europe dating between 5000-3000BC. Furthermore, the majority of all the male skeletons from the European Neolithic period have so far yielded Y-DNA belonging to this haplogroup. The oldest skeletons confirmed by ancient DNA testing as carrying haplogroup G2a were five found in the Avellaner cave burial site for farmers in northeastern Spain and were dated by radiocarbon dating to about 7000 years ago.

At the Neolithic cemetery of Derenburg Meerenstieg II, north central Germany, with burial artifacts belonging to the Linear Pottery culture, known in German as Linearbandkeramik (LBK). This skeleton could not be dated by radiocarbon dating, but other skeletons there were dated to between 5,100 and 6,100 years old.

The most detailed SNP mutation identified was S126 (L30), which defines G2a3. G2a was found also in 20 out of 22 samples of ancient Y-DNA from Treilles, the type-site of a Late Neolithic group of farmers in the South of France, dated to about 5000 years ago. The fourth site also from the same period is the Ötztal of the Italian Alps where the mummified remains of Ötzi the Iceman were discovered. Preliminary word is that the Iceman belongs to haplogroup G2a2b (earlier called G2a4).

Haplogroup G2a2b is a rare group today in Europe. The authors of the Spanish study indicated that the Avellaner men had rare marker values in testing of their short tandem repeat (STR) markers.

Two men found in a high-status burial at Ergolding in present-day Bavaria, southern Germany, of the Merovingian dynasty period (7th century), were found to belong to haplogroup G2a (P15+).

Men who belong to G2a3 but are negative for all its subgroups represent a small number today. This haplogroup was found in a Neolithic skeleton from around 5000 BC, in the cemetery of Derenburg Meerenstieg II, Germany, which forms part of the Linear Pottery culture, known in German as Linearbandkeramik (LBK), but was not tested for G2a3 subgroups.

G2a3a and its several subgroups seem most commonly found in Turkey and the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean where it can constitute up to 50% of haplogroup G samples. G2a3a is more common in southern Europe than northern Europe. In Europe—except in Italy—G2a3a constitutes less than 20% of G samples. G2a3a so far has seldom surfaced in northern Africa or southern Asia, but represents a small percentage of the G population in the Caucasus Mountains region and in Iran.

A relatively high percentage of G2a3a persons have a value of 21 at STR marker DYS390. The DYS391 marker has mostly a value of 10, but sometimes 11, in G2a3a persons, and DYS392 is almost always 11. If a sample meets the criteria indicated for these three markers, it is likely the sample is G2a3a.

G2a3a has two known subgroups. Both are relatively common among G2a3a persons.

Early papers publishing results on European-wide Y-DNA marker frequencies, such as those of Semino (2000) and Rosser (2000), correlated haplogroup R1b-M269 with the earliest episodes of European colonization by Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH). The peak frequencies of M269 in Iberia (especially the Basque region) and the Atlantic façade were postulated to represent signatures of re-colonization of the European West following the Last Glacial Maximum.

However, even prior to recent criticisms and refinements, the idea that Iberian R1b carrying males repopulated most of western Europe was not consistent with findings which revealed that Italian M269 lineages are not derivative of Iberian ones. More recently, data and calculations from Myres (2011), Cruciani (2010), Arredi (2007) and Belaresque (2010) suggest a Late Neolithic entry of M269 into Europe.

These hypotheses appear to be corroborated by more direct evidence from ancient DNA. For example, Early Neolithic Y-DNA from Spain did not reveal any R1b, but rather E-V13 and G2a, whilst a similar study from a French pre-Beaker Neolithic site revealed haplgroup G2a and I-P37. It is only later, from a German Bell Beaker site dated to the third millennium BCE, that the first evidence for R1b is detected. Ancient Y-DNA results for the remains of Beaker people from Iberia have yet to be obtained.

Whilst Cruciani, Belaresque and Arredi support a spread of R1b from South-Eastern Europe, Klyosov (2012) postulates that “Western European” R1b-L150 entered Europe from Northern Africa, via Iberia, coincident with the spread of the Bell Beaker culture.

From a mitochondrial DNA perspective, haplogroup H, which has high (~ 40%) throughout Europe, has received similar attention. Early studies by Richards et al (2000) purported that it arose 28 – 23,000 years ago (kya), spreading into Europe ~ 20 kya, before then re-expanding from an Iberian glacial refuge ~ 15 kya, calculations subsequently corroborated by Pereira (2004). However, a larger study by Roostalu (2006), incorporating more data from the Near East, suggested that whilst Hg H did begin to expand c. 20 kya, this was limited to the Near East, Caucasus and Southeastern Europe. Rather its subsequent spread further west occurred later, in the post-glacial period from a postulated South Caucasian refugium. This hypothesis has been supported by a recent ancient DNA analysis study, which links the expansion of mtDNA Hg H in Western Europe with the Bell Beaker phenomenon.

Whilst such studies are insightful, even if the dates postulated by authors are correct, they do not necessarily imply that the spread of a particular genetic marker represents a distinct population, ‘tribe’ or language group. Authors often take for granted that the expansion of a lineage is related to real demography rather than other evolutionary events, such as random genetic drift or natural selection. Moreover, they overlook detailed analyses of the archaeological record which demonstrate the genesis of cultural phenomena representing multiple, complex lines of interaction criss-crossing far-flung regions rathern than simple ‘folk migrations’. As such, ‘genetic studies’ have often drawn criticisms not only from archaeologists and cultural anthropologists, but also from fellow population geneticists.

However, studies of the ancient Y-DNA from the earlier Neolithic cave burials of Cardium pottery culture men shows they were mainly haplogroup G2a. These ‘Neolithic lineages’ accounted for 22% of the total European Y chromosome gene pool, and were predominantly found in Mediterranean regions of Europe (Greece, Italy, southeastern Bulgaria, southeastern Iberia).

Good point. While the TRB isn’t exactly the LBK, the TRB origins have to be sought rather in the central European LBK than in the Mediterranean Cardium pottery. And according to a craniometrical cluster analysis by Ilse Schwidetzky, the Swedish neolithic is very similar to the central European middle neolithic Rössen culture, and both are close to LBK. IMO the main difference between the Danubian cultures and the Cardium derived cultures is that the latter seem more strongly dominated by haplogroup G, which in turn seems to imply a stronger presence of the (Southern part of the) Caucasus component, while the former may have had more haplogoup I and Atlantic_Med.

Haplogroup G is believed to have originated around the Middle East during the late Paleolithic, possibly as early as 30,000 years ago. At that time humans would all have been hunter-gatherers, and in most cases living in small nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes. Members of this haplogroup appear to have been closely linked to the development of early agriculture in the Levant part of the Fertile Crescent, starting 11,500 years before present. There has so far been ancient Y-DNA analysis from only four Neolithic cultures (LBK in Germany, Remedello in Italy and Cardium Pottery in south-west France and Spain), and all sites yielded G2a individuals, which is the strongest evidence at present that farming originated with and was disseminated by members of haplogroup G (although probably in collaboration with other haplogroups such as E1b1b, J, R1b and T).

So far, the only G2a people negative for subclades downstream of P15 or L149.1 have all been found in the South Caucasus region. The highest genetic diversity within haplogroup G is found between the Levant and the Caucasus, in the Fertile Crescent, which is another good indicator of its region of origin. It is thought that early Neolithic farmers expanded from the Levant and Mesopotamia westwards to Anatolia and Europe, eastwards to South Asia, and southwards to the Arabian peninsula and North and East Africa. The domestication of goats and cows first took place in the mountainous region of eastern Anatolia, including the Caucasus and Zagros. This is probably where the roots of haplogroup G2a (and perhaps of all haplogroup G) are to be found.

It has now been proven by the testing of Neolithic remains in various parts of Europe that haplogroup G2a was one of the lineages of Neolithic farmers and herders who migrated from Anatolia to Europe between 9,000 and 6,000 years ago. In this scenario migrants from the eastern Mediterranean would have brought with them sheep and goats, which were domesticated south of the Caucasus about 12,000 years ago. This would explain why haplogroup G is more common in mountainous areas, be it in Europe or in Asia.

The geographic continuity of G2a from Anatolia to Thessaly to the Italian peninsula, Sardinia, south-central France and Iberia already suggested that G2a could be connected to the Printed-Cardium Pottery culture (5000-1500 BCE). Ancient DNA tests conducted on skeletons from a LBK site in Germany (who were L30+) as well as Printed-Cardium Pottery sites from Languedoc-Roussilon in southern France and from Catalonia in Spain all confirmed that Neolithic farmers in Europe belonged primarily to haplogroup G2a. Other haplogroups found so far in Neolithic Europe include E-V13, F and I2a1 (P37.2).

Ötzi the Iceman (see famous individuals below), who lived in the Italian Alps during the Chalcolithic, belonged to haplogroup G2a2a2 (L91), a relatively rare subclade found nowadays in the Middle East, southern Europe (especially Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica) and North Africa. G2a2 (PF3146) is otherwise found at low frequencies all the way from the Levant to Western Europe. In conclusion, Neolithic farmers in Europe would have belonged to G2a, G2a2 (+ subclades) and G2a3 (and at least the M406 subclade).

Nowadays G2a is found mostly in mountainous regions of Europe, for example, in the Apennine mountains (15 to 25%) and Sardinia (12%) in Italy, Cantabria (10%) and Asturias (8%) in northern Spain, Austria (8%), Auvergne (8%) and Provence (7%) in south-east France, Switzerland (7.5%), the mountainous parts of Bohemia (5 to 10%), Romania (6.5%) and Greece (6.5%). It may be because Caucasian farmers sought hilly terrain similar to their original homeland, perhaps well suited to the raising of goats. But it is more likely that G2a farmers escaped from Bronze-Age invaders, such as the Indo-Europeans and found shelter into the mountains. For example, G2a3a (M406) is found at relatively high frequencies in the southern Balkans, the Apennines and the Alps, in contrast with G2a3b (L141.1), which is found everywhere in Europe.

Nowadays haplogroup G is found all the way from Western Europe and Northwest Africa to Central Asia, India and East Africa, although everywhere at low frequencies (generally between 1 and 10% of the population). The only exceptions are the Caucasus region, central and southern Italy and Sardinia, where frequencies typically range from 15% to 30% of male lineages.

About 42% of the Sardinians belong to Y-chromosome haplogroup I, which is otherwise frequently encountered only in Scandinavia, Northern Germany and the Croatia-Bosnia-Montenegro-Serbia area. The second-most common Y-chromosome haplogroup among the Sardinian male population is the haplogroup R1b (22% of the total population) mainly present in the northern part of the island.

Sardinia also has a relatively high distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroup G (11%),[44] which is also found mainly in the Caucasus, the Sardinian subtype of the Haplogroup G is closer to that one still present today in the Alps region, in particular the Tyrol area. Ötzi the Iceman, the mummy of a man who lived about 3,300 BC, found on the Alps in 1991 was discovered recently to be closely related genetically to modern Sardinians.

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Sardinia, the history

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 30, 2013

Archaeological evidence of prehistoric human settlement on Sardinia island is present in the form of the nuraghe and others prehistoric monuments which dot the land. The recorded history of Sardinia begins with its contacts with the various people who sought to dominate western Mediterranean trade in Classical Antiquity: Phoenicians, and Romans.

In the Stone Age the island was inhabited by people who had arrived there in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic ages from several parts of Europe and the Mediterranean area.

Modern humans appeared in the island during the Upper Paleolithic, a phalanx dated to 18000 BC had been found in the Corbeddu cave near Oliena. From the earliest period, Sardinia has been in contact with extra-insular communities in Corsica, Liguria, Lombardy, and Provence.

Already in the Stone Age, Monte Arci played an important role. The old volcano was one of the central places where obsidian was found and worked for cutting tools and arrowheads. Towards the end of the fifth millennium BC an increased exportation of obsidian extended the cultural interaction to the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. Even now the volcanic glass can be found on the sides of the mountain.

The first people to settle in northern Sardinia during the Mesolithic probably came from the Italian mainland via Corsica, particularly from Etruria (present-day Tuscany); however in the Corbeddu Cave of Oliena there are evidences that suggest a previous Paleolithic colonization of the island. In the middle Neolithic period, the Ozieri culture, probably of Aegean origin, flourished in the island.

Initially under the political and economic alliance with the Phoenician cities, it was colonised and then conquered by Rome during the First Punic War (238 BC). After the island was included for centuries in the Roman province of Corsica et Sardinia, included in 3rd and 4th centuries in the Italia suburbicaria diocese.

In the Early Middle Ages, through barbarian movements, the waning of the Byzantine Empire influence in the western Mediterranean and the Saracen raids, the island fell out of the sphere of influence of any higher government. This led to the birth of several kingdoms called Giudicati in the 8th through 10th centuries.

Falling under papal influence, Sardinia became the focus of the rivalry of Genoa and Pisa, comuni and Signorie, the Giudicati and the Crown of Aragon, which subsumed the island as the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1324, which was to last until 1718 when it was acquired by the House of Savoy, which later, in 1861, became the Kingdom of Italy and finally in 1946 the Italian Republic.

Archeological cultures of Sardinia in the pre-Nuragic period:

  • Cardium Pottery or Filiestru culture (6000−4000 BC)
  • Bonu Ighinu culture (4000−3400 BC)
  • San Ciriaco culture (3400−3200 BC)
  • Ozieri culture (3200−2700 BC)
  • Abealzu-Filigosa culture (2700−2400 BC)
  • Monte Claro culture (2400−2100 BC)
  • Bell Beaker culture (2100−1800 BC)
  • Bonnanaro culture (A phase) (1800-1600 BC)

During the early Bronze Age, the so-called Beaker culture, coming from the Continent, appeared in Sardinia. These new people settled predominantly on the west coast where the most part of the sites attributed to them had been found.

Evidence of trade with Aegean (Eastern Mediterranean) centres is present in the period 1600 BC onwards. As time passed, the different Sardinian peoples appear to have become united in customs, yet remained divided politically as various small, tribal groupings, at times banding together, and at others waging war against each other. Habitations consisted of round thatched stone huts.

The Neolithic began in Sardinia in the 4th millennium BC with the Cardium Pottery Culture or Cardial Culture, or Impressed Ware Culture, which eventually extended from the Adriatic sea to the Atlantic coasts of Portugal and south to Morocco.

Cardium Pottery or Cardial Ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the cockle, an edible marine mollusk, formerly Cardium edulis, now Cerastoderma edule. These forms of pottery are in turn used to define the Neolithic culture which produced and spread them, mostly commonly called the “Cardial Culture”.

The alternative name Impressed Ware is given by some archaeologists to define this culture, because impressions can be with sharp objects other than cockle shell, such as a nail or comb.[1] Impressed pottery is much more widespread than the Cardial. Impressed Ware is found in the zone “covering Italy to the Ligurian coast” as distinct from the more western Cardial extending from Provence to western Portugal.

The sequence in Western Europe has traditionally been supposed to start with widespread Cardial Ware, and then to develop other methods of impression locally, termed “epi-Cardial”. However the widespread Cardial and Impressa pattern types overlap and are now considered more likely to be contemporary.

The earliest Impressed Ware sites, dating to 6400-6200 BC, are in Epirus and Corfu. Settlements then appear in Albania and Dalmatia on the eastern Adriatic coast dating to between 6100 and 5900 BC. The earliest date in Italy comes from Coppa Nevigata on the Adriatic coast of southern Italy, perhaps as early as 6000 cal BC.

Also during Su Carroppu civilization in Sardinia, already in its early stages (low strata into Su Coloru cave, c. 6000 BC) early examples of cardial pottery appear. Northward and westward all secure radiocarbon dates are identical to those for Iberia c. 5500 cal B.C., which indicates a rapid spread of Cardial and related cultures: 2,000 km from the gulf of Genoa to the estuary of the Mondego in probably no more than 100–200 years. This suggests a seafaring expansion by planting colonies along the coast.

Older Neolithic cultures existed already at this time in eastern Greece and Crete, apparently having arrived from the Levant, but they appear distinct from the Cardial or Impressed Ware culture. The ceramic tradition in the central Balkans also remained distinct from that along the Adriatic coastline in both style and manufacturing techniques for almost 1,000 years from the 6th millennium BC.

Early Neolithic impressed pottery is found in the Levant, and certain parts of Anatolia, including Mezraa-Teleilat, and in North Africa at Tunus-Redeyef, Tunisia. So the first Cardial settlers in the Adriatic may have come directly from the Levant. Of course it might equally well have come directly from North Africa, and impressed-pottery also appears in Egypt. Along the East Mediterranean coast Impressed Ware has been found in North Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.

Later, important cultures like the Ozieri culture of the late Neolithic and the Abealzu-Filigosa and Monte Claro culture of the Chalcolithic period, developed in the island contemporaneously with the appearance of the megalithic phenomenon.

From the third millennium BC on, comb-impressed Beaker ware, as well as other Beaker material in Ozieri or sub-Ozieri contexts, has been found, demonstrating continuing relationships with the western Mediterranean; it appears likely that Sardinia was the intermediary that brought Beaker materials to Tuscany and Sicily.

The most ancient settlements have been discovered both in Gallura and central Sardinia; later several cultures developed in the island, such as the Ozieri culture, a prehistoric pre-Nuragic culture that lived in Sardinia from c. 3200 to 2800 BC. The economy was based on agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing and trading with the mainland.

The Ozieri culture (or San Michele culture, 3500-2700 BC) developed mighty megalithic walls that are limited to the northern area, suggesting unknown defensive demands that are the sign of the warlike state that can be noticed at the same time in the Mediterranean.

The Ozieri culture takes its name from the locality where the main findings connected with it have been found, the grotto of San Michele near Ozieri, in northern Sardinia. The influence of the culture extended also to the nearby Corsica.

The archaeological excavation held there in 1914 and 1949 found fine worked vases with geometrical motifs carved in the clay and colored with red ochre. The oldest ones were still rather crude, while the more recent examples were more refined and slender.

Such ceramics were a novelty for prehistoric Sardinia, since up to that point they had been considered typical of the Cyclades and Crete. The development of the Ozieri culture, therefore, probably stemmed from contacts with other eastern Mediterranean civilizations, in particular from the Neolithic Greece area.

Villages of the Ozieri culture which have been identified amount to some 200, located both in plain and mountain areas. They were formed by small stone huts, with a circular (rarely rectangular) wall supporting a wooden frame with a ceiling of boughs. One, near Mogoro, included 267 huts, perhaps also erected on poles driven into the ground. The pavements were composed of limestone slabs, of basalt cobbles or clay.

The villages had no walls, and findings of weapons in the tombs are scarce: the Ozieri civilization was thus perhaps a peaceful one, far different from the later Nuragic civilization.

The tombs were grouped in the hypogeous structures that later became known as domus de janas (Sardinian: “House of the Fairies” or of the “Witches”), a type of pre-historic chamber tombs found in Sardinia consisting of several chambers quarried out by the Ozieri and Beaker cultures, resembling houses in their layout, or, as more frequent in Gallura (regarding what is sometimes defined as Arzachena culture), in Megalithic circles. Some tombs, of more monumental appearance, belonged perhaps to chiefs, in the fashion of those in Crete.

Remains from this period include more than 2,400 hypogeum, or hypogaeum (plural hypogea), which literally means “underground”, from Greek hypo (under) and gaia (mother earth or goddess of earth), usually refering to an underground temple or tomb, tombs called Domus de Janas, the 4th millennium BC statue menhirs representing warriors or female figures, and the stepped pyramid of Monte d’Accoddi, near Sassari, which has some similarities with the monumental complex of Los Millares (Andalusia) and the later Talaiots in the Balearic Islands, an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsul.

When Christian underground shrines, crypts and tombs that would be hypogea if the rites and burials were pagan, are called catacombs rather than hypogea, a mistaken discontinuity in sepulture practices is implied that is not borne out by the archeology and history. “Like other ambitious Romans, the bishop-saints of the third and fourth centuries were usually buried in hypogea in the cemeteries outside the walls of their cities; often it was only miracles at their tombs that caused their successors to adopt more up-to-date designs. In Dijon the saint and bishop Benignus (d. c. 274) was buried in a large sarcophagus in a chamber tomb in the Roman cemetery. By the sixth century the tomb had long since fallen into disrepair and was regarded as pagan, even by Bishop Gregory of Langres”, Werner Jacobsen has observed.

Hypogea will often contain niches for cremated human remains or loculi for buried remains.

Hypogeum can also simply refer to any antique building or part of building built below ground. There was a series of underground tunnels under the Colosseum where slaves and animals were kept ready to fight for the gladiatorial games. The animals and slaves would be let up through trapdoors under the sand-covered arena at any time during a fight. Occasionally tombs of this type are referred to as built tombs.

An early example of a hypogeum is found at the Minoan Bronze Age site of Knossos on Crete. Hogan notes this underground vault was of a beehive shape and cut into the soft rock. The Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum in Paola, Malta, is the oldest example of a prehistoric hypogeum, the earliest phase dating to 3600–3300 BC; it is a complex of underground chambers, halls and passages covering approximately 500 m2 on three levels, partly carved to imitate temple architecture and containing extensive prehistoric art. In Larnaka, Cyprus – the Lefkaritis Tomb was discovered in 1999. Other excavated structures, not used for ritual purposes, include the Greco-Roman cryptoporticus, and in other cultures the dugout, souterrain, yaodong and fogou.

The talaiots, or talayots, are Bronze Age megaliths on the islands of Minorca and Majorca forming part of the Talaiotic Culture or Talaiotic Period. They date from the late second millennium and early first millennium BC. There are at least 274 of them, in, near, or related to Talaiotic settlements and Talaiotic navetes. While some certainly had a defensive purpose, the purpose of others is not clearly understood. Some believe them to have served the purpose of lookout or signalling towers, as on Minorca, where they form a network. These monuments pre-date the taulas, which are usually found nearby. Similar but not necessarily related are the “nuraghes” of Sardinia, the “torri” of Corsica, and the “sesi” of Pantelleria.

According to some scholars, the similarity between this structure and Mesopotamian ones is due to cultural influxs coming from the Eastern Mediterranean. During this period copper objects and weapons also appeared in the island.

Built between 3400 and 2700 BC, more than 1000 of the rock-cut tombs, or domus de janas, are known on the island. They date to the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age. A necropolis of them at the site of Anghelu Ruju, near Alghero, consists of 38 tombs some carved with bulls’ heads. Another large site is that of Sant’Andrea Priu at Bonorva, including 18 chambers: during the late Roman and Byzantine dominations it was turned into a cave church. Other sites can be found at Pimentel, Sedini, Villaperuccio, Ittiri and Porto Torres.

The shape of grottoes can vary from that of a rounded hut with conical or triangular ceiling. The walls are often decorated with magical reliefs. The corpses, painted with red ochre like the tomb’s walls, were buried together with common life objects, jewels and tools. According to archaeologist Giovanni Lilliu, they were buried under shells of molluscs; according to other theories, they were left outside the tomb, being put inside only after they had reduced to a skeleton.

The altar of Monte d’Accoddi, the archaeological site of a megalithic structure, the oldest part are dated to around c. 4,000-3,650 BC., in northern Sardinia, Italy, located in the territory of Sassari near Porto Torres, fell out of use starting from c. 2000 BC, when the Beaker culture, which at the time was widespread in almost all western Europe, appeared in the island.

The Monte Claro culture (2500-2000 BC) reveals scratched ceramics and fortified enclosures that seem to anticipate a strategic conception of territory control which reached a highlight in the Nuragic Age (1600-900 BC). This tradition came to an end only around 900 BC by destruction and fire.

In some sites, material of the megalithic Monte Claro culture has been found in association with true Bell Beaker materials; elsewhere, Beaker material has been found stratigraphically above Monte Claro and at the end of the Chalcolithic period in association with the related Bronze Age Bonnanaro culture (1800-1600 BC), for which C-14 dates calibrate to ca. 2250 BC.

The religion of the Ozieri culture included the adoration of the Neolithic Mother goddess and of a Bull god, perhaps connected to fertility. Female statuettes similar to those of the Ozieri culture have been found in Malta.

The dolmens culture, around the end of the 3rd millennium BC, passed with other typical material aspects of western Europe (e.g. Bell Beaker) through by the Sardinian coast even in Sicily, and from there all over Mediterranean basin.

Pre-historic and Pre-nuragic monuments and constructions that characterise the Sardinian landscapes are the Domus de Janas (Sardinian: House of the Fairies, House of the Witches), the Statue menhir and the dolmens.

Remains from this period include more than 2,400 hypogeum tombs called Domus de Janas, the 4th millennium BC statue menhirs, a type of carved standing stone created during the later European Neolithic, representing warriors or female figures, and the stepped pyramid of Monte d’Accoddi, near Sassari, which has some similarities with the monumental complex of Los Millares (Andalusia) and the later Talaiots in the Balearic Islands. According to some scholars, the similarity between this structure and Mesopotamian ones is due to cultural influxs coming from the Eastern Mediterranean.

A statue menhir is a type of carved standing stone created during the later European Neolithic. The statues consist of a vertical slab or pillar with a stylised design of a human figure cut into it, sometimes with hints of clothing or weapons visible. They are most commonly found in south and west France, Catalonia, Corsica, Sardinia, Italy and the Alps. A group from the Iron Age also is known in Liguria and Lunigiana.

Kurgan stelae, or Balbals (supposedly from a Turkic word balbal meaning “ancestor” or “grandfather” or the Mongolic word “barimal” which means “handmade statue”) are anthropomorphic stone stelae, images cut from stone, installed atop, within or around kurgans (i.e. tumuli), in kurgan cemeteries, or in a double line extending from a kurgan. The stelae are also described as “obelisks” or “statue menhirs”.

Spanning more than three millennia, they are clearly the product of various cultures. The earliest are associated with the Pit Grave culture of the Pontic-Caspian steppe. There are Iron Age specimens are identified with the Scythians and medieval examples with Turkic peoples. Such stelae are found in large numbers in Southern Russia, Ukraine, Prussia, southern Siberia, Central Asia and Mongolia.

Anthropomorphic stelae were probably memorials to the honoured dead. They are found in the context of burials and funeral sanctuaries from the Eneolithic through to the Middle Ages. When used architecturally, stelae could act as a system of stone fences, frequently surrounded by a moat, with sacrificial hearths, sometimes tiled on the inside.

The earliest anthropomorphic stelae date to the 4th millennium BC, and are associated with the early Bronze Age Yamna Horizon, in particular with the Kemi Oba culture of the Crimea and adjacent steppe region. Those in Ukraine number around three hundred, most of them very crude stone slabs with a simple schematic protruding head and a few features such as eyes or breasts carved into the stone. Some twenty specimens, known as statue menhirs, are more complex, featuring ornaments, weapons, human or animal figures.

The introduction of bronze from the new people arriving from the mainland brought numerous improvements, such as in agriculture, in which more effective tools could be used, but also in war and hunting.

The successing chalcolithic (aneolithic) Filigosa-Abealzu culture (2700-2500 BC) followed the collapse of the great megalithic civilizations. A significant impulse given to metallurgy accompanied vascular production characterized by a disappearance of earlier St. Micheal (Ozieri) fanciful decoration in favor of blank soberly scribbled surfaces.

The Bell-Beaker culture (sometimes shortened to Beaker culture, Beaker people, or Beaker folk; German: Glockenbecherkultur), ca. 2800 – 1800 BC, is the term for a widely scattered ‘archaeological culture’ of prehistoric western Europe starting in the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic and running into the early Bronze Age. The term was coined by John Abercromby, based on the culture’s distinctive pottery drinking vessels.

The Bell Beaker culture is understood not only as a particular pottery type, but as a complete and complex cultural phenomenon involving other artefact styles such as weaponry and ornamentation, as well as shared ideological, cultural and religious ideas.

The Bell Beaker period marks a period of unprecedented cultural contact in Atlantic and Western Europe on a scale not seen previously, nor again seen in succeeding periods. This contrasted the situation in Central and Eastern Europe where the slightly earlier Corded Ware Culture had already established wide-ranging contacts within those regions.

Its appearance is marked from 2900 BC, lasting until 1800 BC, when the incipient Bronze Age dissolved the beaker phenomenon.

It is important to note that underlying the Bell beaker superstratum existed a wide diversity in local burial styles (including incidences of cremation rather than inhumation), housing styles, economic profile and local coarse ceramic wares which continued to persist.

There are two main Bell Beaker styles: the cord-impressed types, such as the “All Over Corded” (AOC) or “All Over Ornamented” (AOO), and the “Maritime” type, decorated with bands filled with impressions made with a comb or cord. Later, characteristic regional styles developed.

It has been suggested that the beakers were designed for the consumption of alcohol, and that the introduction of the substance to Europe may have fuelled the beakers’ spread. Beer and mead content have been identified from certain examples. However, not all Beakers were drinking cups. Some were used as reduction pots to smelt copper ores, others have some organic residues associated with food, and still others were employed as funerary urns. They were used as status display amongst disparate elites.

Early papers publishing results on European-wide Y-DNA marker frequencies, such as those of Semino (2000) and Rosser (2000), correlated haplogroup R1b-M269 with the earliest episodes of European colonization by Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH).

The peak frequencies of M269 in Iberia (especially the Basque region) and the Atlantic façade were postulated to represent signatures of re-colonization of the European West following the Last Glacial Maximum. However, even prior to recent criticisms and refinements, the idea that Iberian R1b carrying males repopulated most of western Europe was not consistent with findings which revealed that Italian M269 lineages are not derivative of Iberian ones.

More recently, data and calculations from Myres (2011), Cruciani (2010), Arredi (2007) and Belaresque (2010) suggest a Late Neolithic entry of M269 into Europe.

These hypotheses appear to be corroborated by more direct evidence from ancient DNA. For example, Early Neolithic Y-DNA from Spain did not reveal any R1b, but rather E-V13 and G2a, whilst a similar study from a French pre-Beaker Neolithic site revealed haplgroup G2a and I-P37. It is only later, from a German Bell Beaker site dated to the third millennium BCE, that the first evidence for R1b is detected. Ancient Y-DNA results for the remains of Beaker people from Iberia have yet to be obtained.

Whilst Cruciani, Belaresque and Arredi support a spread of R1b from South-Eastern Europe, Klyosov (2012) postulates that “Western European” R1b-L150 entered Europe from Northern Africa, via Iberia, coincident with the spread of the Bell Beaker culture.

From a mitochondrial DNA perspective, haplogroup H, which has high (~ 40%) throughout Europe, has received similar attention. Early studies by Richards et al (2000) purported that it arose 28 – 23,000 years ago (kya), spreading into Europe ~ 20 kya, before then re-expanding from an Iberian glacial refuge ~ 15 kya, calculations subsequently corroborated by Pereira (2004). However, a larger study by Roostalu (2006), incorporating more data from the Near East, suggested that whilst Hg H did begin to expand c. 20 kya, this was limited to the Near East, Caucasus and Southeastern Europe. Rather its subsequent spread further west occurred later, in the post-glacial period from a postulated South Caucasian refugium. This hypothesis has been supported by a recent ancient DNA analysis study, which links the expansion of mtDNA Hg H in Western Europe with the Bell Beaker phenomenon.

Whilst such studies are insightful, even if the dates postulated by authors are correct, they do not necessarily imply that the spread of a particular genetic marker represents a distinct population, ‘tribe’ or language group. Authors often take for granted that the expansion of a lineage is related to real demography rather than other evolutionary events, such as random genetic drift or natural selection. Moreover, they overlook detailed analyses of the archaeological record which demonstrate the genesis of cultural phenomena representing multiple, complex lines of interaction criss-crossing far-flung regions rathern than simple ‘folk migrations’. As such, ‘genetic studies’ have often drawn criticisms not only from archaeologists and cultural anthropologists, but also from fellow population geneticists.

Bell Beaker has been suggested as a candidate for an early Indo-European culture; more specifically, an ancestral proto-Celtic. No evidence of other large-scale immigrations took place, and many scholars deny Celtic speech originated solely from La Tene culture, whose migrations started at about 400 BC. Instead, those scholars propose Celtic languages evolved gradually and simultaneously over a large area by way of a common heritage and close social, political and religious links. Although controversial, the theory fits (according to its proponents) the archeological evidence that provides little support for westward migrations of Celtic people matching the historically known movements south and west.

Like elsewhere in Europe and in the Mediterranean area, the Bell Beaker culture in Sardinia (2000-1800) is characterized by the typical ceramics decorated with overlaid horizontal bands and associated finds (brassards, V-pierced buttons etc.) There is virtually no evidence in Sardinia of external contacts in the late third and early second millennia, apart from late Beakers and close parallels between Bonnannaro pottery and that of the North Italian Polada culture.

The Bonnanaro culture (1800-1600 BC), named after the comune of Bonnanaro in the province of Sassari, considered as the first stadium of the Nuragic civilization, is a protohistoric culture that flourished in Sardinia during the 2nd millennium BC.

Bonnanaro finds have been unearthed in over 70 sites scattered in all Sardinian territory. The ceramics were smooth and linear with some reminiscences with those of the Beaker period. Metal objects increased and the first swords of arsenicated copper appeared.

It is still uncertain if the first “protonuraghi” or “pseudonuraghi” were built at this time or in the successive Sub-Bonnanaro culture (or Bonnanaro B) of the middle bronze age (1600-1330 BC) .

The Proto-Nuraghi were megalithic edifices which are considered the precursors of the future Nuraghi. The Proto-Nuraghi are horizontal building characterized by a long corridor with rooms and cells ; they represent an attempt to fortify the more traditional huts, in a period were tribal clashes, due to the introduction of the first sophisticated weapons, were becoming increasingly common.

Dating to the 2nd millennium BC, the nuraghe are megalithic towers with a truncated cone shape, which are widespread in the whole of Sardinia, about one nuraghe every three square kilometers. There has long been controversy among scholars. Theories about their utilization have included social, military, religious, astronomical role, as furnaces or sepulture places, but the modern agreement is that they were defensible homesites that included barns and silos.

Around 1500 BC, archaeological studies have proved the increasing size of the settlements built around these structures, which were often located at the summit of hills. Perhaps for protection reasons, new towers were added to the original ones, connected by walls provided with slits.

The imposing stone structures known as nuraghi (singular nuraghe) surely dominated the Bronze Age landscape of Sardinia. Although the remains of some 7,000 nuraghi have been found, up to 30,000 may have been built.

Classic nuraghi are truncated conical towers, about 40 feet in diameter, sloping up to a circular roof some 50 feet above the ground. Several courses of large, minimally dressed, dry-laid stone form the walls and usually an interior stairwell spirals up to the roof or to a second (and sometimes a third) story. A ground-level doorway, spanned by a large lintel, typically serves as an entrance. The ground-level chamber, which is generally less than 20 feet in diameter, contains one to three wall niches. The vaulted ceiling is 20 to 35 feet above the floor, perhaps accommodating raised wooden interior platforms or lofts to make use of the space.

Religion expressed itself around sacred wells, often in association to the megalithic nuraghe, most of them of Beaker signature. The earliest attested water cult site is that at Abini-Teti, where votive offerings dateable to the early Bonnanaro period have been found; votive offerings at the spring of Sos Malavidos-Orani date to later Bonnanaro. This tradition showed local continuity to historic times, as it was at such centers that the Romans found attacking the natives most efficient (Strabo 5.2.7).

The nuraghe (plural Italian nuraghi, Sardinian Logudorese nuraghes / Sardinian Campidanese nuraxis) is the main type of ancient megalithic edifice found in Sardinia, developed during the Nuragic Age between 1900-730 BC. Today it has come to be the symbol of Sardinia and its distinctive culture, the Nuragic civilization.

The most important complex is Su Nuraxi di Barumini, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The highest and most imposing one is the Nuraghe Santu Antine near the village of Torralba. Other famous nuraghes are near Alghero (Palmavera), Macomer, Abbasanta (see Losa), Orroli (Nuraghe Arrubiu), and Villanovaforru.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the etymology is “uncertain and disputed”: “The word is perhaps related to the Sardinian place names Nurra, Nurri, Nurru, and to Sardinian nurra heap of stones, cavity in earth (although these senses are difficult to reconcile). A connection with the Semitic base of Arabic nūr light, fire … is now generally rejected.” The Latin word “murus” (wall) may be related to it (M. Pittau, philologist), as the old Italian word “mora” (tombal rock mound), as used by Dante in his “Comedy”. The derivation: murus-muraghe-nuraghe is debated.

The typical nuraghe is situated in areas where previous Prehistoric Sardinians Cultures had been distributed, that is not far from alluvial plains (though few nuraghi appear in plains nowadays, as they were destroyed by human activities such as agriculture, dams and others) and has the shape of a truncated conical tower resembling a medieval tower (outside) or a beehive (inside). The structure’s walls consist of three components: an outer layer (tilted inwards and made of many layers of stones whose size diminishes with height: mostly, lower layers consist of rubble masonry, while upper layers tend to ashlar masonry) shaped like a tower, an inner layer, made of smaller stones (to form a bullet shaped dome called “Tholos”: ashlar masonry is used here more frequently), an intermediate layer of very small pieces and dirt, which makes the whole construction very sturdy: it stands only by virtue of the weight of its stones, which may each amount to several tons. Some nuraghes are about 20 metres (60 ft) in height. A spiral stone stair was built within the thick walls, leading to upper floors (if present) and/or to a terrace.

Today, there are little less than 7,000 nuraghes still extant in Sardinia, although their number was somewhat larger, originally. Nuraghes are most prevalent in the northwest and south-central parts of the island.

There is a similar type of structure which has a corridor or a system of corridors. Some authors consider them somewhat older than the typical nuraghe and probably serving different purposes. The nuraghes were built between the middle of the Bronze Age (18th-15th centuries BC) and the Late Bronze Age. This clearly rules out any possible cultural correlation with later towers such as Scottish Brochs and Israelian El Awhat. The only similar buildings related to nuraghes seem to be Corsican Towers.

According to Massimo Pallottino, a scholar of Sardinian prehistory and an Etruscologist, the architecture produced by the Nuragic civilization was the most advanced of any other in the western Mediterranean during this epoch, including those in the regions of Magna Graecia. Of the 7,000 extant nuraghes, only a few have been scientifically excavated. Many Nuragic Cultural traits and values were inherited by the Etruscans and by the Romans.

There is no consensus on the function of the nuraghes: they could have been religious temples, ordinary dwellings, rulers’ residences, military strongholds, meeting halls, or a combination of the former. Some of the nuraghes are, however, located in strategic locations – such as hills – from which important passages could be easily controlled. They might have been something between a “status symbol” and a “passive defence” building, meant to be a deterrent for possible enemies.

Nuraghes could also have been the “national” symbol of the Nuragic peoples. Small-scale models of nuraghe have often been excavated at religious sites (e.g. in the “maze” temple at the Su Romanzesu site near Bitti in central Sardinia). Nuraghes may have just connoted wealth or power, or they may have been an indication that a site had its owners. Recent unconfirmed theories tend to suggest that Sardinian towns were independent entities (such as the city-states, although in a geographical sense they were not cities) that formed federations and that the building of these monuments might have depended on agreed-on distributions of territory among federated unities.

In 2002, Juan Belmonte and Mauro Zedda measured the entrance orientations (declinations and azimuths) of 272 simple nuraghes and of the central towers of 180 complex ones. The data revealed clear peaks corresponding to orientations pointing to the sunrise at winter solstice and to the moon at its southernmost rising position. These alignments remained constant throughout the history of nuraghe. The most common declinations revealed were of around -43° for the earlier nuraghes, shifting to just -45½° for the later. Zedda has suggested that the target is likely a star, quite possibly Alpha Centauri.

It has been suggested that some of the current Sardinian villages trace their origin directly from Nuragic ones, including perhaps those containing the root Nur- in their name (Nurachi, Nuraminis, Nurri, Nurallao, Noragugume). The most famous among the numerous existing nuraghe, which have been included in the UNESCO Heritage List, are the Su Nuraxi at Barumini, Santu Antine at Torralba, Nuraghe Losa at Abbasanta, Palmavera (Alghero), Genna Maria at Villanovaforru, Santa Cristina at Paulilatino.

The Giants of Monte Prama are a group of 32 (or 40) statues with a height of up to 2.5 m, found in 1974 near Cabras, in the province of Oristano. They depict warriors, archers, wrestlers, models of nuraghe and boxers with shield and armed glove. They date to around the 10th-8th centuries BC.

They feature disc-shaped eyes and eastern-like garments. The statues probably depicted mythological heroes, guarding a sepulchre; according to another theory, they could be a sort of Pantheon of the typical Nuragic divinities.

Their finding proved that the Nuragic civilization had maintained its peculiarities, and introduced new ones across the centuries, well into the Phoenician colonization of most of Sardinia.

The Sacred Pits were structures destined to the cult of waters. Though initially assigned to the 8th-6th centuries BC, due to their evoluted buildings techniques, they most likely date to the earlier Bronze Age, when Sardinia had strong relationships with the Mycenaenan kingdoms of Greece and Crete.

The Nuragic Sacred Pits followed the same pattern of the nuraghe, the main part consisting of a circular room with a tholos vault with a hole at the summit. A monumental staircase connected the entrance to this subterranean (hypogeum) room, whose main role is to collect the water of the sacred spring. The exterior walls features stone benches on which were deposed the offers from the faithful and the religious objects. Some sites had also sacrifice altars: some scholars think that these architecture could be dedicated to Sardus, one of the main Nuragic divinities.

A sacred pit who resemble those of Sardinia had been found in western Bulgaria, near the village of Garlo.

The so-called “giant’s graves” were funerary structures whose precise function is still unknown, and which perhaps evolved from elongated dolmens. They date to the whole Nuragic era up to the Iron Age, and are more frequent in the central sector of the island. Their plan was in the shape of the head of a bull.

The Nuragic economy, at least at the origins, was mostly based on agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as on fishing. Navigation had an important role: historian Pierluigi Montalbano mentions the finding of at least 156 bronze naval models, some weighing 100 kg. This has suggested that the Nuragic people used efficient ships, which could perhaps reach lengths up to 15 meters. These allowed them to travel the whole Mediterranean, establishing commercial links with the Mycenaean civilization (attested by the common tholos tomb shape, and the adoration of bulls), Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Lebanon. Items such as Cyprus-type copper ingots have been found in Sardinia, while Nuragic ceramics have been found in Spain (Huelva, Tarragona, Malaga, Teruel and Cadiz) up to the Gibraltar strait, and in Etruscan centers of the Italian peninsula such as Vetulonia, Vulci and Populonia (known in the 9th-6th centuries from Nuragic statues found in their tombs).

Sardinia was rich in metals such as lead and copper. Archaeological findings have proven the good quality of Nuragic metallurgy, including numerous bronze weapons. The so-called “golden age” of the Nuragic civilization (mid-2nd millennium BC) coincided perhaps with the apex of the mining of metals in the island. Sardinian copper ingots have been found in Spain, France, Turkey and Greece. The widespread use of bronze, an alloy which used tin, a metal which however was not present in Sardinia if not in a single deposit, further proves the capability of the Nuragic people to trade in the resources they needed. A recent study (2013) of 71 ancient Swedish bronze objects dated to Nordic Bronze Age , revealed that most of copper utilized at that time in Scandinavia came from Sardinia and the Iberian peninsula.

Nuragic ceramics have been found in the Italian peninsula, in Sicily, Spain and Crete.

The Nuragic civilization was most likely based on clans. They were led by a chief and lived in villages with circular huts with a straw roof, very similar to the modern pinnettas of the Barbagia shepherds. Religion and military had a strong role in the society, which has led scholars to the hypothesis that the Nuragic civilization was a theocracy. An important role was that of mythological heroes such as Norax, Sardus, Iolaos and Aristeus, military leaders considered also as divinities.

The Nuraghe bronzes clearly portrays figures of chief-kings, recognizable from the presence of a staff with bosses and of a mantle. Also depicted are the other classes, including miners and artisans; numerous are the soldiers, which has led to think to a warring society, with a precise military hierarchy (archers, infantry, swordsmen, musicians, wrestlers and boxers, the latter similar to those of the Minoan civilizations). Different uniforms could belong to different cantons or clans, or to different military corps.

The priest role was perhaps fulfilled by women.

The small bronzes also gave clues on personal care and fashion. Women generally had long hair; men sported two long braids on each side of the face, while the head was shaved off, or covered by a leather cap.

The large stone sculptures known as betili (a kind of slender menhir, sometimes featuring crude depiction of male sexual organs, or of female breasts), and the representations of animals such as the bull, belong most likely to pre-Nuragic civilizations. The latter kept however its importance among the Nuraghe people, and was frequently depicted on ships, bronze vases used in religious rites and in the soldiers’ helmets. Small bronze sculptures depicting half-man, half-bull figures have been found, as well as characters with four arms and eyes and two-headed deers: they probably had a mythological and religious significance. Another holy animal which was frequently depicted is the dove.

A key element of the Nuragic religion was that of fertility, connected to the male power of the Bull-Sun and the female one of Water-Moon. According to the scholars’ studies, there existed a Mediterranean-type Mother Goddess and a God-Father (Babai). The excavations have proved that the Nuragic people, in determinate periods of the year, gathered in common holy places, usually characterized by sitting steps and the presence of a holy pit. In some holy areas, such as Gremanu at Fonni, Serra Orrios at Dorgali and S’Arcu ‘e is forros at Villagrande Strisaili, there were rectangular temples, with central holy room housing perhaps a holy fire.

The deities worshipped are unknown, but were perhaps connected to water, or to astronomical entities (Sun, Moon, solstices). Also having a religious role were perhaps the small chiseled discs, with geometrical patterns, known as pintadera, although their function has not been identified yet.

Some structures could have a “federal” Sardinian role, such as the sanctuary of Santa Vittoria near Serri, including both religious and civil buildings: here, according to Italian historian Giovanni Lilliu, the main clans of the central island held their assemblies to sign alliances, decide wars or to stipulate commercial agreements. Spaces for trades were also present. At least twenty of such multirole structures are known, including those of Santa Cristina at Paulilatino and of Siligo; some have been re-used as Christian temples (such as the cumbessias of San Salvatore in Sinis at Cabras).

The Bonnanaro culture brought new religious ideas and funerary rites and a new form of sepolture, the so-called “giants’ grave”, a derivate of the Allée couverte. The people who introduced these innovation in the island came probably by sea from southern France and Central Europe in various small waves.

Giants’ grave (Italian: Tomba dei giganti, Sardinian: Tumbas de sos zigantes) is the name given by local people and archaeologists to a type of Sardinian megalithic gallery grave, a form of Megalithic tomb where there is no size difference between the burial chamber itself and the entrance passage, built during the Bronze Age by the Nuragic civilization. They can be found throughout Sardinia, and so far 321 have been discovered.

A Gallery grave is a form of Megalithic tomb where there is no size difference between the burial chamber itself and the entrance passage. Two parallel walls of stone slabs were erected to form a corridor and covered with a line of capstones. The rectangular tomb was covered with a barrow or a cairn. Most were built during the fourth millennium BC, though some were still being built in the Bronze Age.

They are distributed across Europe and they are usually subdivided by period, region and also into more generic types of chambered long barrows, chambered round barrows, chambered long cairns and chambered round cairns. Examples are known in Catalonia, France, the Low Countries, Germany, The British Isles, Scandinavia, Sardinia and southern Italy.

A stone cairn lies over the burial chamber itself. Some examples have a cup-shaped entrance similar to the court cairn tombs of Ireland. There is also a structure similar to a block-type giants’ tomb on the island of Malta and in British Islands.

The court cairn or court tomb is a megalithic type of chamber tomb and gallery grave, specifically a variant of the chambered cairn, found in western and northern Ireland, and in mostly southwest Scotland (where it maybe also be called a horned cairn or Clyde-Carlingford tomb), around 4000–3500 BCE, but many remained in use until as late as the Bronze Age transition, c. 2200 BCE. They are generally considered to be the earliest chambered cairn tombs in Scotland, and their construction technique was probably brought from Scotland to Ireland. In Scotland, they are most common in what today are Argyll and Dumfries and Galloway (where they form the Clyde-Carlingford group), though a small outlying group have been found near Perth.

Court tombs are rectangular burial chambers. They are distinguished by their roofless, oval forecourt at the entrance. Large slabs of rock were used to make the walls and roof of the very basic burial chamber, normally located at one end of the cairn, which although usually blocked after use could be immediately accessed from the outside courtyard. They are gallery graves rather than passage graves, since they lack any significant passage.

They usually had two functions: the chamber to serve as a tomb, and the courtyard to accommodate a ritual. Objects were often buried with the deceased, as the first megalithic farmers of this time believed in life after death.

There are two general types of giants’ tomb. In the so-called “slab type”, uncut slabs are buried on end in the ground, and are arranged side-by-side. There is usually a central stele, which is the largest (up to 4 m in height) slab and has a doorway cut through it. The sepulchres have a characteristic rectangular plan with an apse. The burial chamber is usually 5 to 15 metres long and 1 to 2 metres high. The structures were originally covered by a mound resembling the shape of an overturned ship. Near the entrance was an obelisk (betile in Sardinian), which symbolizes the gods or ancestors who watched over the dead.

In the more primitive slab-type giants’ tombs, the central slab is unmodified aside from the entrance that is cut through it at the base, or else there is a crude dolmen-like arrangement of 3 uncut rocks to form the entrance (Osono, Sortali, Lolghi, Pescaredda). In a more advanced slab-type giants’ tombs, the central slab is modified so as to be rounded on top, and has a simple design carved into the front surface (Dorgali, Goronna, Santu Bainzu, Coddu Vecchju).

The so-called “block type” is made of rectangular-cut blocks (Bidistili, Madau II, Seleni II, Iloi, Mura Cuata). There is also a structure similar to a block-type giants’ tomb on the island of Malta and in British Islands.

An obelisk (from Greek obeliskos, diminutive of obelos, “spit, nail, pointed pillar”) is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top. Like Egyptian pyramids, whose shape is thought to be representative of the descending rays of the sun, an obelisk is said to resemble a petrified ray of the sun-disk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon. Ancient obelisks were often monolithic, whereas most modern obelisks are made of several stones and can have interior spaces. The term stele (plural: stelae) is generally used for other monumental standing inscribed sculpted stones.

A beehive house is a building made from a circle of stones topped with a domed roof. The name comes from the similarity in shape to a straw beehive.

The ancient Bantu used this type of house, which was made with mud, poles, and cow dung.

Beehive houses are some of the oldest known structures in Ireland and Scotland. Dating from as far back as around 2000 BC and some were still being built as late as the 19th century in Puglia (Italy).

A beehive tomb, also known as a tholos tomb (plural tholoi) (Greek: “domed tombs”), is a burial structure characterized by its false dome created by the superposition of successively smaller rings of mudbricks or, more often, stones. The resulting structure resembles a beehive, hence the traditional English name.

Tholoi were used for burial in several cultures in the Mediterranean and West Asia, but in some cases they were used for different purposes such as homes (Cyprus), ritual (Syria), and even fortification (Spain, Sardinia). Although Max Mallowan used the same name for the circular houses belonging to the Neolithic culture of Tell Halaf (Iraq, Syria and Turkey), there is no relationship between them.

In Greece, the vaulted tholoi are a monumental Late Bronze Age development. Their origin is a matter of considerable debate: were they inspired by the tholoi of Crete which were first used in the Early Minoan period or were they a natural development of tumulus burials dating to the Middle Bronze Age? In concept, they are similar to the much more numerous Mycenaean chamber tombs which seem to have emerged at about the same time. Both have chamber, doorway stomion and entrance passage dromos but tholoi are largely built while chamber tombs are rock-cut.

A few early examples of tholoi have been found in Messenia in the SW Peloponnese Greece (for example at Voidhokoilia), and recently near Troezen in the NE Peloponnese. These tholoi are built on level ground and then enclosed by a mound of earth. A pair of tumuli at Marathon, Greece indicate how a built rectangular (but unvaulted) central chamber was extended with an entrance passage.

After about 1500 BCE, beehive tombs became more widespread and are found in every part of the Mycenaean heartland. In contrast, however, to the early examples these are almost always cut into the slope of a hillside so that only the upper third of the vaulted chamber was above ground level. This masonry was then concealed with a relatively small mound of earth.

The tombs usually contain more than one burial, in various places in the tomb either on the floor, in pits and cists or on stone-built or rock-cut benches, and with various grave goods. After a burial, the entrance to the tomb was filled in with soil, leaving a small mound with most of the tomb underground.

The chamber is always built in masonry, even in the earliest examples, as is the stomion or entrance-way. The dromos in early examples was usually just cut from the bedrock, as in the Panagia Tomb at Mycenae itself. In later examples such as the Treasury of Atreus and Tomb of Clytemnestra (both at Mycenae), all three parts were constructed of fine ashlar masonry.

The chambers were built as corbelled vaults, with layers of stone placed closer together as the vault tapers toward the top of the tomb.

The entrances provided an opportunity for conspicuous demonstration of wealth. That of the Treasury of Atreus, for example, was decorated with columns of red and green “Lapis Lacedaimonius” brought from quarries over 100 km away.

The abundance of such tombs, often with more than one being associated with a settlement during one specific time period, may indicate that their use was not confined to the ruling monarchy only, although the sheer size and therefore the outlay required for the larger tombs (ranging from about 10 meters to about 15 meters in diameter and height) would argue in favour of royal commissions. The larger tombs contained amongst the richest finds to have come from the Late Bronze Age of Mainland Greece, despite the tombs having been pillaged both in antiquity and more recently.

Although the Vapheio tholos, south of Sparta, had been robbed, two cists in the floor had escaped notice. These contained, among other valuable items, the two gold “Vapheio cups” decorated with scenes of bull taming which are among the best known of Mycenaean treasures.

Circular structures were commonly built in the Near East, including the examples known as tholoi found in the Neolithic Halaf culture of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They were probably used as both houses and as storage structures, but ritual use may also have occurred. Other, later examples are found in Cyprus (Khirokitia), where they were used as homes. There is no clear connection between these domestic, circular buildings and later tholos tombs.

In the Chalcolithic period of the Iberian peninsula, beehive tombs appear among other innovative “megalithic” variants, since c. 3000 BCE. They are especially common in southern Spain and Portugal, while in Central Portugal and southeastern France other styles (artificial caves especially) are preferred instead. The civilization of Los Millares and its Bronze Age successor, El Argar, are particularly related to this burial style.

The Bronze Age fortifications known as motillas in La Mancha (Spain) also use the tholos building technique.

The imposing stone structures known as nuraghi as well as the similar structures of southern Corsica, dominated the Bronze Age landscape of Sardinia (Italy). Nuraghi are truncated conical towers of dry-laid stone, about 40 feet in diameter, sloping up to a circular roof some 50 feet above the ground. The vaulted ceiling is 20 to 35 feet above the floor. Although the remains of some 7,000 nuraghi have been found, up to 30,000 may have been built.

There are also recorded Etruscan tombs at a necropolis at Banditaccia from the 6th and 7th Centuries BCE having an external appearance similar to a beehive. The interiors are decorated and furnished as Etruscan dwellings.

The beehive Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak is an example of the richly decorated tholoi tombs of Thracian rulers, many of which are found in modern Bulgaria and date from the 4th-3rd century BC. The walls of the Kazanlak tomb are covered with plaster and stucco, with ornate scenes from the life of the deceased. Other tumuli, known as mogili in Bulgarian, that feature underground chambers in the form of a beehive dome include, among others, the Thracian tomb of Aleksandrovo, Golyama Arsenalka, Thracian tomb of Seuthes III. There have been several significant gold and silver treasures associated with Thracian tombs currently kept at Bulgaria’s Archaeological and National History Museums and other institutions.

The earliest stone-built tombs which can be called “beehive” are in Oman, built of stacked flat stones which occur in nearby geological formations. They date to between 3,500 and 2,500 years BCE, to a period when the Arabian peninsula was subject to much more rainfall than now, and supported a flourishing civilisation in what is now desert, to the west of the mountain range along the Gulf of Oman. No burial remains have ever been retrieved from these “tombs”, though there seems no other purpose for their building. They have only superficial similarities with the Aegean tombs (circular shape) as they are built entirely above ground level and do not share the same tripartite structure – the entrances are usually an undifferentiated part of the circular walling of the tomb.

Currently there are three areas where these tombs can be found: Al Hajar Region, Hat Region, and Hadbin area close to Barka. The Hajar tombs are very numerous and one or two have been restored, allowing you to crawl into the centre of a 5-6m tall stone structure.

The Bonnanaro culture is the last evolution of the Beaker culture in Sardinia, and shows several similarities with the Bronze-Age Polada culture of northern Italy. These have been connected to link with the Italian prehistoric settlements through Corsica. To this period date the construction of the platformlike so-called proto-nuraghe.

The Bonnanaro culture had been described by scholars as the Sardinian regionalization of the pan-European Bell Beaker culture with some influences from the Polada culture (14th-13th century BC) of northern Italy, a culture of the ancient Bronze Age which spread on all of the territory of Northern Italy and characterized by settlements on pile-dwellings.

Terramare is a technology complex mainly of the central Po valley, in Emilia, northern Italy, dating to the Middle and Late Bronze Age ca. 1700–1150 BC. It takes its name from the “black earth” residue of settlement mounds. Terramare is from terra marna, “marl-earth”, where marl is a lacustrine deposit. It may be any color but in agricultural lands it is most typically black, giving rise to the “black earth” identification of it. The population of the terramare sites is called the terramaricoli. The sites were excavated exhaustively in 1860–1910.

These sites prior to the second half of the 19th century were commonly believed to have been used for Gallic and Roman sepulchral rites. They were called terramare and marnier by the farmers of the region, who mined the soil for fertilizer. Scientific study began with Bartolomeo Gastaldi in 1860. He was investigating peat bogs and old lake sites in north Italy but did some investigations of the marnier, recognizing them finally as habitation, not funerary, sites similar to the pile dwellings further north.

His studies attracted the attention of Pellegrino Strobel and his 18-year-old assistant, Luigi Pigorini. In 1862 they wrote a piece concerning the Castione di Marchesi in Parma, a terramare site. They were the first to perceive that the settlements were prehistoric. Starting from the views of Gaetano Chierici that the pile dwellings further north represented a Roman ancestral population, Pigorini developed a theory of Indo-European settlement of Italy from the north.

Great differences of opinion have arisen as to the origin and ethnographical relations of the Terramare folk. Brizio in his Epoca Preistorica advances the theory that they were the original Ligurians, an ancient Indo-European people who gave their name to Liguria, a region of north-western Italy, who at some early period took to erecting pile dwellings.

Why they should have done so is difficult to see. Some of the Terramare are clearly not built with a view to avoiding inundation, inasmuch as they stand upon hills. The rampart and the moat are for defence against enemies, not against floods, and as Brizio brings in no new invading people till long after the Terramare period, it is difficult to see why the Ligurians should have abandoned their unprotected hut-settlements and taken to elaborate fortification.

There are other difficulties of a similar character. Hence Luigi Pigorini regards the Terramare people as a lake-dwelling people who invaded the north of Italy in two waves from Central Europe (the Danube valley) at the end of the Stone Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age, bringing with them the building tradition which led them to erect pile dwellings on dry land, as well as Indo-European languages.

These people he calls the Italici, to whom he attributes the Villanovan culture, the earliest Iron Age culture of central and northern Italy, abruptly following the Bronze Age Terramare culture and giving way in the 7th century BC to an increasingly orientalizing culture influenced by Greek traders, which was followed without a severe break by the Etruscan civilization.

These cultural traces may not be directly equivalent to a widespread ethnic culture that identified itself as the equivalent of “Villanovan”, Renato Peroni has suggested; they tend to underlie those of both Celtic and Italic provenance, adding to the difficulties in assessing who “founded” the culture. Many archeologists consider that Villanovans belonged to the indigenous population. However, there is a common view that they might be identified as the Proto-Etruscans.

The expansion of the Urnfield/Halstatt culture to Italy is evident in the form of the Villanovan culture (c. 1100-700 BCE), which shared striking resemblances with the Urnfield/Hallstatt sites of Bavaria and Upper Austria.

The Villanova culture marks a clean break with the previous Terramare culture. Although both cultures practised cremation, whereas Terramare people placed cremated remains in communal ossuaries like their Neolithic ancestors, Villanovans used distinctive Urnfield-style double-cone shaped funerary urns, and elite graves containing jewellery, bronze armour and horse harness fittings were separated from ordinary graves, showing for the first time the development of a highly hierarchical society, so characteristic of Indo-European cultures. Quintessential Indo-European decorations, such as swastikas, also make their appearance.

Originally a Bronze-age culture, the Villanova culture introduced iron working to the Italian peninsula around the same time as it appeared in the Hallstatt culture, further reinforcing the link between the two cultures. In all likelihood, the spread of the Villanova culture represents the Italic colonisation of the Italian peninsula. The highest proportion of R1b-S28 is found precisely where the Villanovans were the more strongly established, around modern Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna.

The Villanova culture was succeeded by the Etruscan civilisation, which displayed both signs of continuity with Villanova and new hybrid elements of West Asian origins, probably brought by Anatolian settlers (who would have belonged to a blend of haplogroups E1b1b, G2a, J1, and J2).

The Nuragic civilization was a civilization of Sardinia, lasting from the Bronze Age (18th century BC) to the 2nd century AD. The name derives from its most characteristic monuments, the nuraghe. They consist of tower-fortresses, built starting from about 1800 BC. Today some 7,000 nuraghi dot the Sardinian landscape.

The cyclopean nuraghes, the main type of ancient megalithic edifice found in Sardinia, developed during the Nuragic Age between 1900-730 BC., has come to be the symbol of Sardinia and its distinctive culture, the Nuragic civilization.

The cyclopean nuraghes has more or less related cousins like the Mycenaean tholoi, the Corsican Torre, the Talaiots of the Balearic Isles, the Sesi of Sicily, and more (the probably much later Brochs of Scotland are mentioned as well): All these architectural forms have their origins from a common cultural matrix widespread in the Mediterranean, but in Sardinia there was an original and grandiose development that has not be found elsewhere.

It is still uncertain if the first “protonuraghi” or “pseudonuraghi” were built at this time or in the successive Sub-Bonnanaro culture (or Bonnanaro B) of the middle bronze age (1600-1330 BC) .

The Proto-Nuraghi were megalithic edifices which are considered the precursors of the future Nuraghi. The Proto-Nuraghi are horizontal building characterized by a long corridor with rooms and cells ; they represent an attempt to fortify the more traditional huts, in a period were tribal clashes, due to the introduction of the first sophisticated weapons, were becoming increasingly common.

Soon Sardinia, a land rich in mines, notably copper and lead, saw the construction of numerous furnaces for the production of alloys which were traded across the Mediterranean basin and nuragic people became skilled metal workers; they were among the main metal producers in Europe and with bronze they produced a wide variety of objects and new weapons as swords, daggers, axes, and after drills, pins, rings, bracelets, typical bronze statuettes, and the votive bronze boats show a close relationship with the sea.

Tin may have drawn Bronze Age traders from the Aegean where copper is available but tin for bronze-making is scarce; The first verifiable smelting slag has come to light; its appearance in a hoard of ancient tin confirms local smelting as well as casting.

The usually cited tin sources and trade in ancient times are those in the Iberian Peninsula or from Cornwall. Markets included civilizations living in regions with poor metal resources, such as the Mycenaean civilization, Cyprus and Crete, as well as the Iberian peninsula, a fact that can explain the cultural similarities between them and the Nuraghe civilization and the presence in Nuragic sites of late Bronze Age Mycenaean, west and central Cretan and Cypriote ceramics, as well as locally made replicas, concentrated in half a dozen findspots that seem to have functioned as “gateway-communities.

By the 15th century, international trade returned, making Sardinia an integral part of a commercial network that extended from the Near East to Northwestern Europe, the principal eastern component of this network being Cyprus. Also contacts with the Mycenaean world were established.

Indigenous Sardinians appear in the Eastern Mediterranean as Sherden, one of the main tribes of the Sea Peoples, and are supposed to be the carriers of some of the eastern material found on the island.

The late Bronze Age (15th-13th centuries BC) saw a vast migration of the so-called sea people, described in ancient Egyptian sources. They destroyed Mycenaean and Hittite sites and also attacked Egypt. According to some scholars the Sherden, one of the most important tribes of the sea peoples, are to be identified with the Nuragic Sardinians.

Sardinian (Logudorese: sardu/saldu, limba sarda Campidanese: sardu/sadru, lingua sarda) is a Romance language spoken on most of the island of Sardinia (Italy). It is the most conservative of the Romance languages in terms of phonology and is noted for a Paleosardinian substratum.

Since 1997, the languages of Sardinia have been protected by regional and national laws. Several written standards, including the Limba Sarda Comuna (Common Sardinian Language), have been created in an attempt to unify the two main variants of the language. This standard is co-official with Italian where spoken on Sardinia.

The history of the island of Sardinia, relatively isolated from the European continent up into modern times, led to the development of a distinct Romance language, which even now preserves traces of the indigenous pre-Roman language of the island. The language is of Latin origin like all Romance languages yet the following substratal influences are possible: Nuragic, Etruscan, Basque and Illyrian. Adstratal influences include: Catalan, Spanish and Italian.

Sassari’s Republic medieval statutes written in the Sardinian language (13th–14th centuries)

The early origins of the Sardinian language (sometimes called Paleo-Sardinian) are still obscure, due mostly to the lack of documents, as Sardinian appeared as a written form only in the Middle Ages. There are substantial differences between the many theories about the development of Sardinian.

Many studies have attempted to discover the origin of some obscure roots that today could legitimately be defined as indigenous, pre-Romance roots. First of all, the root of sard, present in many toponyms and distinctive of the ethnic group, is supposed to have come from the Sherden, one of the so-called Peoples of the Sea.

Massimo Pittau claimed in 1984 to have found in the Etruscan language the etymology of many other Latin words, after comparison with the Nuragic language. If true, one could conclude that, having evidence of a deep influence of Etruscan culture in Sardinia, the island could have directly received from Etruscan many elements that are instead usually considered to be of Latin origin. Pittau then indicates that both the Etruscan and Nuragic languages are descended from the Lydian language, both therefore being Indo-European languages, as a consequence of the alleged provenance of Etruscans/Tyrrhenians from that land (as in Herodotus), where effectively the capital town was Sardis. Pittau also suggests, as a historical point, that the Tirrenii landed in Sardinia, whereas the Etruscans landed in modern-day Tuscany. Massimo Pittau’s views however are not representative of most Etruscologists.

It has been said that Paleosardinian should be expected to have notable similarities with Iberic languages and the Siculian language: the suffix -‘ara, for example, in proparoxytones (Bertoldi and Terracini proposed it indicated plural forms). The same would happen (according to Terracini) for suffixes in -/àna/, -/ànna/, -/énna/, -/ònna/ + /r/ + paragogic vowel (as in the toponym Bonnànnaro). Rohlfs, Butler and Craddock add the suffix -/ini/ (as in the toponym Barùmini) as a peculiar element of Paleosardinian. At the same time, suffixes in /a, e, o, u/ + -rr- seem to find a correspondence in northern Africa (Terracini), in Iberia (Blasco Ferrer), in southern Italy and in Gascony (Rohlfs), with some closer relation to Basque (Wagner, Hubschmid). However, these early links proposing a link to a precursor of modern Basque have been discredited by most Basque linguists.[3] Suffixes in -/ài/, -/éi/, -/òi/, and -/ùi/ are common to Paleosardinian and northern African languages (Terracini). Pittau underlined that this concerns terms originally ending in an accented vowel, with an attached paragogic vowel; the suffix resisted Latinization in some toponyms, which show a Latin body and a Nuragic desinence. On this point, some toponyms ending in -/ài/ and in -/asài/ were thought to show Anatolic influence (Bertoldi). The suffix -/aiko/, widely used in Iberia, and perhaps of Celtic origins, as well as the ethnical suffix in -/itanos/ and -/etanos/ (as in the Sardinian Sulcitanos) have been noted as other Paleosardinian elements (viz Terracini, Ribezzo, Wagner, Hubschmid, Faust, et al.).

Linguists like Blasco Ferrer (2009, 2010) or Morvan (2009) have recently attempted to revive the theory of a Basque connection by linking modern surface forms such as Sardinian ospile “fresh natural cover for cattle” and Basque ozpil “id.”, Sardinian arrotzeri “vagabond” and Basque arrotz “stranger”, Sardinian arru “stone, stony” and Basque arri “stone”, Gallurese (South Corsican and North Sardinian) zerru “pig” and Basque zerri “id.”. Of interest, and in support to this theory, genetic data on the distribution of HLA antigens have suggested a common origin for Basque and Sardinian people.

The Sherden (also known as Serden or Shardana) are one of several groups of “Sea Peoples” who appear in fragmentary historical records (Egyptian inscriptions) for the Mediterranean region in the second millennium B.C.; little is known about them. On reliefs they are shown carrying a round shield and a long thrusting Naue II type sword. They are shown wearing a complicated armour corselet of overlapping bands of either leather or metal, and a horned helmet surmounted with a balled spike at the top.

At Medinet Habu the corselet appears similar to that worn by the Philistines and is similar, though not identical, to that found in tomb 12 at Dendra where Mycenaean IIB-IIIA pottery dates it to the second half of the fifteenth century BCE. The Sherden sword, it has been suggested by archaeologists since James Henry Breasted, may have developed from an enlargement of European daggers, and been associated with the exploitation of Bohemian tin. Robert Drews has recently suggested that use of this weapon amongst groups of Sharden and Philistine mercenaries made them capable of withstanding attacks by chariotry, making them valuable allies in warfare.

The earliest mention of the people called Srdn-w, more usually called Sherden or Shardana, occurs in the Amarna Letters correspondence of Rib-Hadda, of Byblos, to Pharaoh Akhenaten, at about 1350 BCE. At this time, they already appear as sea raiders and mercenaries, prepared to offer their services to local employers.

Ramesses II (ruled 1279-1213 BCE) defeated them in his second year (1278 BCE) when they attempted to raid Egypt’s coast, together with the Lukka (L’kkw, possibly the later Lycians) and the Šqrsšw (Shekelesh), in a sea battle off the Mediterranean coast. The pharaoh subsequently incorporated many of these warriors into his personal guard. An inscription by Ramesses II on a stele from Tanis which recorded the Sherden pirates’ raid and subsequent defeat, speaks of the constant threat which they posed to Egypt’s Mediterranean coasts: the unruly Sherden whom no one had ever known how to combat, they came boldly sailing in their warships from the midst of the sea, none being able to withstand them.

After Ramesses II succeeded in defeating the invaders and capturing some of them, Sherden captives are depicted in this Pharaoh’s bodyguard, where they are conspicuous by their helmets with horns with a ball projecting from the middle, their round shields and the great Naue II swords, with which they are depicted in inscriptions of the Battle with the Hittites at Kadesh. Ramesses tells us, in his Kadesh inscriptions, that he incorporated some of the Sherden into his own personal guard at the Battle of Kadesh. Little more than a century later, many Sherden are found cultivating plots of their own; these are doubtless rewards given to them for their military services. There is also evidence of Sherden at Beth Shean, the Egyptian garrison in Canaan.

Michael Wood suggests that the Sherden were an important part of the bands of pirates that disrupted Aegean trade in the end of the 13th century BCE, and that their raids contributed greatly to the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization.

Archaeologist Adam Zertal suggests that some Sherden settled in what is now northern Israel. He hypothesizes that Biblical Sisera was a Sherden general and that the archaeological site at el-Ahwat (whose architecture resembles Nuraghe sites in Sardinia) was Sisera’s capital, Harosheth Haggoyim.

No mention of the Sherden has ever been found in Hittite or Greek legends or documents, suggesting that they did not originate from either sphere of influence. The theory that these people came from the Western Mediterranean, suggested by some who draw attention to the etymological connections between Sherden and Sardinia, Shekelesh with Sicily, and Trs-w (Teresh or Tursci) with Etruscans, is not archaeologically satisfactory, and there is evidence that these people arrived in the areas in which they lived after the period of Ramesses III, rather than before. Archaeologist Margaret Guido[9] concludes the evidence for the Sherden, Shekelesh or Teresh coming from the western Mediterranean is flimsy.

Guido suggests that the Sherden may ultimately derive from Ionia, in the central west coast of Anatolia, in the region of Hermos, east of the island of Chios. It is suggested that Sardis, and the Sardinian plain nearby, may preserve a cultural memory of their name. Until recently it was assumed that Sardis was only settled in the period after the Anatolian and Aegean Dark Age, but American excavations have shown the place was settled in the Bronze Age and was a site of a significant population. If this is so, the Sherden, pushed by Hittite expansionism of the Late Bronze Age and prompted by the famine that affected this region at the same time, may have been pushed to the Aegean islands, where shortage of space led them to seek adventure and expansion overseas. It is suggested that from here they may have later migrated to Sardinia. Guido suggests that if a “few dominating leaders arrived as heroes only a few centuries before Phoenician trading posts were established, several features of Sardinian prehistory might be explained as innovations introduced by them: oriental types of armour, and fighting perpetuated in the bronze representation of warriors several centuries later; the arrival of the Cypriot copper ingots of the Serra Ilixi type; the sudden advance in and inventiveness of design of the Sardinian nuraghes themselves at about the turn of the first Millennium; the introduction of certain religious practices such as the worship of water in sacred wells – if this fact was not introduced by the Phoenician settlers”.

However, weapons and armour similar to those of the Sherden are found in Sardinia dating only to several centuries after the period of the Sea Peoples. If the theory that the Sherden moved to Sardinia only after their defeat by Ramesses III is true, then it could be inferred from this that the finds in Sardinia are survivals of earlier types of weapons and armour. On the other hand, if the Sherden only moved into the Western Mediterranean in the ninth century, associated perhaps with the movement of early Etruscans and even Phoenician seafaring peoples into the Western Mediterranean at that time, it would remain unknown where they were located between the period of the Sea Peoples and their eventual appearance as the Nuragic civilization of Sardinia.

These theoretical coincidences (enforced, as said, by linguistic considerations) could allow to suppose that a people of skilled sailors left the Eastern Mediterranean and established themselves in Sardinia. They very probably would have encountered some resistance on their way there. It is also possible that they were explorers. If so, it is likely that only a warrior people like the Sherden could have organised such an expedition.

Another hypothesis is that they arrived to the island around the 13th-12th century after the failed invasion of Egypt. However, these theories remain controversial. A lost work by Simonides of Ceos reported by Zenobius, spoke of raids by Sardinians against the island of Crete, in the same period in which the Sea People invaded Egypt. This would at least confirm that Nuragic Sardinians frequented the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Further proofs come from 13th century Nuragic ceramics found at Tiryns and in the Agrigento area in Sicily, along the sea route linking western to eastern Mediterranean.

Recently the archaeologist Adam Zertal, echoing the theory already presented in 2005 by Leonardo Melis, has proposed that the Harosheth Haggoyim of Israel, home of the biblical figure Sisera, is identifiable with the site of “El-Ahwat” and that it was a Nuragic site suggesting that he came from the people of the Sherden of Sardinia.

In ancient times, Greek historians and geographers tried to solve the mystery of the nuraghe and their builders. They described the presence of fabulous edifices, called daidaleia, from the name of Daedalus, who, after building his labyrinth in Crete, would have moved to Sicily and then to Sardinia. Diodorus Siculus asserts that Sardinia would have been populated by Heracles, who sent here a colony of his children led by nephew Iolaus. He also speaks of the Ilienses tribe, who were repeatedly fought by the Carthaginians and the Romans, but in vain.

Around 1000 BC the Phoenicians began visiting Sardinia with increasing frequency. The most common ports of call were Caralis, Nora, Bithia, Sulcis, Tharros, Bosa and Olbia.

The Roman historian Justin describes a Carthaginian expedition led by Malco in 540 BC against a still strongly Nuragic Sardinia. The expedition failed and this caused a political revolution in Carthage, from which Mago emerged. He launched another expedition against the island, in 509 BC, after the Sardinians attacked the Phoenicians coastal cities held by the enemy. The Carthaginians, after a number of military campaigns in which Mago died and was replaced by his brother Hamilcar, overcame the Sardinians and conquered the coastal Sardinia, the Iglesiente with its mines and the southern plains. The Nuragic civilization survived in the mountainous mainland of the island.

Circa 1000 BC the Phoenicians began visiting Sardinia with increasing frequency, presumably initially needing safe over-night and/or all-weather anchorages along their trade routes from the coast of modern-day Lebanon as far afield as the African and European Atlantic coasts and beyond. The most common ports of call were Caralis, Nora, Bithia, Sulcis, Tharros, Bosa and Olbia.

While the Phoenicians stuck to the coastline, their relationship with the Sardinians was peaceful. However, after a few hundred years of habitation, they began expanding inward. They took over valuable natural resources such as silver and lead mines, and established a military presence in the form of a fortress on Monte Sira in 650 BC. The Sardinians resented these intrusions, and in 509 BC they mounted a series of attacks against Phoenician settlements. The Phoenician settlers called upon Carthage for help, and when it arrived they successfully took control of part of the southern part of the island.

In 238 BC the Carthaginians, as a result of their defeat by the Romans in the first Punic War, surrendered Corsica and Sardinia to Rome, and together they became a Roman province. The Greek geographer Strabo confirms the survival of the Nuragic civilization in Roman times.

The existing coastal cities were enlarged and embellished, while Coloniae such as Turris Lybissonis and Feronia were founded. These were populated by Roman immigrants. The Roman military occupation brought the Nuragic civilization to an end. Roman domination of Sardinia lasted 694 years, during which it was an important source of grain for the capital. Latin came to be the dominant spoken language of Sardinia during this period, though Roman culture was slower to take hold, and Roman rule was often contested by the inhabitants of Sardinia’s mountainous central regions.

Throughout the second millennium and in the first part of the first millennium BC, Sardinia was inhabited by the single extensive and uniform cultural group represented by the Nuragic people.

Centuries later, Roman sources describe the island as inhabited by numerous ethnic groups which had gradually merged culturally. They however maintained a political identity, and were often warring each other for the control of the most valuable territories. Tribes mentioned include the Iolei or Ilienses, the Balares, the Corsi and the Civitatas Barbarie, the latter living in what is now Barbagia and defying the Romanization process.

The east Germanic tribe of the Vandals conquered Sardinia in 456. Their rule lasted for 78 years up to 534, when eastern Roman troops under Cyrillus retook the island. It is known that the Vandal government continued the forms of the existing Roman Imperial structure. The governor of Sardinia continued to be called the praeses and apparently continued to manage military, judicial, and civil governmental functions via imperial procedures. (This continuity was not novel to Sardinia; like the Visigoths, the Vandals generally maintained the pretense of the empire, nominally acknowledging Constantinople and declaring themselves its deputies.) The only Vandal governor of Sardinia about whom there is substantial record is the last, Godas, a Visigoth noble. In AD 530 a coup d’état in Carthage removed King Hilderic, a convert to Nicene Christianity, in favor of his cousin Gelimer, an Arian Christian like most of his kingdom. Godas was sent to take charge and ensure the loyalty of Sardinia. He did the exact opposite, declaring the island’s independence from Carthage and opening negotiations with Emperor Justinian I, who had declared war on Hilderic’s behalf. In AD 533 Gelimer sent the bulk of his army to Sardinia to subdue Godas, with the catastrophic result that the Vandal Kingdom was overwhelmed when Justinian’s own army under Belisarius arrived in their absence. The Vandal Kingdom ended and Sardinia was returned to Byzantine rule.

In AD 533 Sardinia returned under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire (in this period sometimes referred to as the Byzantine Empire) when the Vandals were defeated by the armies of Justinian I under the General Belisarius in the Battle of Tricamarum, in their African kingdom; Belisarius sent his general Cyrillus to Sardinia to retake the island. Sardinia remained in Byzantine hands for the next 300 years., aside from a short period in which it was invaded by the Ostrogoths in 551.

Under Byzantine rule, the island was divided into districts called merèie, which were governed by a judge residing in Caralis (Cagliari) and garrisoned by an army stationed in Forum Traiani (today Fordongianus) under the command of a dux. During this time, Christianity took deeper root on the island, supplanting the Paganism which had survived into the early Medieval era in the culturally conservative hinterlands. Along with lay Christianity, the followers of monastic figures such as St. Basil became established in Sardinia. While Christianity penetrated the majority of the population, the region of Barbagia remained largely pagan. In Barbagia towards the end of the 6th century, a short-lived independent principality established itself, returning to the local traditional religions. One of its princes, Ospitone, conducted raids upon the neighbouring Christian communities controlled by the Byzantine dux Zabarda. He was later reprimanded by Pope Gregory I within a letter for “Living, all like irrational animals, ignorant of the true God and worshiping wood and stone” In 594. Ospitone was then convinced by Gregory the Great, to convert to Christianity after receiving the papal letter. His followers, however, were not immediately convinced and ostracised their prince for a short time before they themselves converted.

The dates and circumstances of the end of Byzantine rule in Sardinia are not known. Direct central control was maintained at least through c. 650, after which local legates were empowered in the face of the rebellion of Gregory the Patrician, Exarch of Africa and the first invasion of the Umayyads in North Africa. There is some evidence that senior Byzantine administration in the Exarchate of Africa retreated to Cagliari following the final fall of Carthage to the Arabs in 697.

The loss of imperial control in Africa led to escalating Moorish and Berber raids on the island, the first of which is document in 705, forcing increased military self-reliance in the province.

Communication with the central government became daunting if not impossible during and after the Muslim conquest of Sicily between 827 and 902. A letter by Pope Nicholas I as early as 864 mentions the “Sardinian judges”, without reference to the empire and a letter by Pope John VIII (reigned 872-882) refers to them as principes (“princes”). By the time of De Administrando Imperio, completed in 952, the Byzantine authorities no longer listed Sardinia as an imperial province, suggesting they considered it lost.

Whether this final transformation from imperial civil servant to independent sovereign resulted from imperial abandonment or local assertion, by the 10th century, the giudici (Sardinian: judikes / Latin: iudices, literally judges”, a Byzantine administrative title) had emerged as the autonomous rulers of Sardinia. The title of iudice changed with the language and local understanding of the position, becoming the Sardinian giudice, essentially a king or sovereign, while giudicato (Sardinian: judicadu), literally judgeship or judicature, came to mean both State and palace or capital.

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Beehive house

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 30, 2013

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Harran-beehouses

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Another view of beehive houses in Harran

A beehive house is a building made from a circle of stones topped with a domed roof. The name comes from the similarity in shape to a straw beehive. A beehive tomb, also known as a tholos tomb (plural tholoi) (“domed tombs”), is a burial structure characterized by its false dome created by the superposition of successively smaller rings of mudbricks or, more often, stones. The resulting structure resembles a beehive, hence the traditional English name.

Tholoi were used for burial in several cultures in the Mediterranean and West Asia, but in some cases they were used for different purposes such as homes (Cyprus), ritual (Syria), and even fortification (Spain, Sardinia). Max Mallowan used the same name for the circular houses belonging to the Neolithic culture of Tell Halaf (Iraq, Syria and Turkey).

Beehive houses are some of the oldest known structures in Ireland and Scotland. Dating from as far back as around 2000 BC and some were still being built as late as the 19th century in Puglia (Italy). The ancient Bantu used this type of house, which was made with mud, poles, and cow dung.

Circular structures were commonly built in the Near East, including the examples known as tholoi found in the Neolithic Halaf culture of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They were probably used as both houses and as storage structures, but ritual use may also have occurred. Other, later examples are found in Cyprus (Khirokitia), where they were used as homes. There is no clear connection between these domestic, circular buildings and later tholos tombs.

Beehive tomb

Clochán, Irish stone huts, often beehive shaped

Dovecote also called doocot (Scots), buildings to house doves, some are beehive shaped, stone structures.

Musgum mud huts, huts of the Musgum people in Cameroon

Nuraghe, large, round, neolithic, stone structures in Sardinia

Trullo, a southern Italian type of beehive house

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Statue menhirs or Kurgan stelae, also known as Balbals

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 30, 2013

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Anthropomorphic stele of the early type from Hamangia-Baia, Romania

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A balbal near Burana Tower in Kyrgyzstan

A statue menhir consist of a vertical slab or pillar with a stylised design of a human figure cut into it, sometimes with hints of clothing or weapons visible. They are most commonly found in south and west France, Catalonia, Corsica, Sardinia, Italy and the Alps. A group from the Iron Age also is known in Liguria and Lunigiana.

There are two in Guernsey, La Gran’ Mère de Chimqiere, the Grandmother of Chimqiere, a highly-detailed example in the Parish of Saint Martin, and another known simply as La Gran’ Mère in the Parish of Castel. The latter is an earlier example found buried underneath the parish church.

Kurgan stelae, or Balbals (supposedly from a Turkic word balbal meaning “ancestor” or “grandfather” or the Mongolic word “barimal” which means “handmade statue”), are anthropomorphic stone stelae, images cut from stone, installed atop, within or around kurgans (i.e. tumuli), in kurgan cemeteries, or in a double line extending from a kurgan. The stelae are also described as “obelisks” or “statue menhirs”.

Spanning more than three millennia, they are clearly the product of various cultures. The earliest are associated with the Pit Grave culture of the Pontic-Caspian steppe. There are Iron Age specimens are identified with the Scythians and medieval examples with Turkic peoples. Such stelae are found in large numbers in Southern Russia, Ukraine, Prussia, southern Siberia, Central Asia and Mongolia.

Anthropomorphic stelae were probably memorials to the honoured dead. They are found in the context of burials and funeral sanctuaries from the Eneolithic through to the Middle Ages. They are found in the context of burials and funeral sanctuaries from the Eneolithic through to the Middle Ages.

Ivanovovsky reported that Tarbagatai Torgouts (Kalmyks) revered kurgan obelisks in their country as images of their ancestors, and that when a bowl was held by the statue, it was to deposit a part of the ashes after the cremation of the deceased, and another part was laid under the base of the statue. When used architecturally, stelae could act as a system of stone fences, frequently surrounded by a moat, with sacrificial hearths, sometimes tiled on the inside.

The earliest anthropomorphic stelae date to the 4th millennium BC, and are associated with the early Bronze Age Yamna Horizon, in particular with the Kemi Oba culture of the Crimea and adjacent steppe region. Those in Ukraine number around three hundred, most of them very crude stone slabs with a simple schematic protruding head and a few features such as eyes or breasts carved into the stone. Some twenty specimens, known as statue menhirs, are more complex, featuring ornaments, weapons, human or animal figures.

The simple, early type of anthropomorphic stelae are also found in the Alpine region of Italy, southern France and Portugal. Examples have also been found in Bulgaria at Plachidol, Vezevero, and Durankulak. The example illustrated above was found at Hamangia-Baia, Romania.

The distribution of later stelae is limited in the west by the Odessa district, Podolsk province, Galicia, Kalisz province, Prussia; in the south by Kacha River, Crimea; in the south-east by Kuma River in the Stavropol province and Kuban region; in the north by Minsk province and Oboyan district of the Kursk province (in some opinions even the Ryazan province), Ahtyr district in the Kharkov province, Voronej province, Balash and Atkar districts in the Saratov province to the banks of Samara River in Buzuluk districts in the Samara province, in the east they are spread in the Kyrgyz (Kazakh) steppe to the banks of the Irtysh River and to Turkestan (near Issyk Kul, Tokmak district), then in upper courses of rivers Tom and Yenisei, in Sagai steppe in Mongolia (according to Potanin and Yadrintseva).

The Cimmerians of the early 1st millennium BC left a small number (about ten are known) of distinctive stone stelae. Another four or five “deer stelae” dating to the same time are known from the northern Caucasus.

From the 7th century BC, Scythian tribes began to dominate the Pontic steppe. They were in turn displaced by the Sarmatians from the 2nd century BC, except in Crimea, where they persisted for a few centuries longer. These peoples left carefully crafted stone stelae, with all features cut in deep relief.

Early Slavic stelae are again more primitive. There are some thirty sites of the middle Dniestr region where such anthropomorphic figures were found. The most famous of these is the Zbruch Idol (c. 10th century), a post measuring about 3 meters, with four faces under a single pointed hat (c.f. Svetovid). Boris Rybakov argued for identification of the faces with the gods Perun, Makosh, Lado and Veles.

Bronze Age anthropomorphic funerary stelae have been found in Saudi Arabia. There are similarities to the Kurgan type in the handling of the slab-like body with incised detail, though the treatment of the head is rather more realistic.

The anthropomorphic stelae so far found in Anatolia appear to post-date those of the Kemi Oba culture on the steppe and are presumed to derive from steppe types. A fragment of one was found in the earliest layer of deposition at Troy, known as Troy I.

Thirteen stone stelae, of a type similar to those of the Eurasian steppes, were found in 1998 in their original location at the centre of Hakkâri, a city in the south eastern corner of Turkey, and are now on display in the Van Museum. The stelae were carved on upright flagstone-like slabs measuring between 0.7 m to 3.10 m in height.

The stones contain only one cut surface, upon which human figures have been chiseled. The theme of each stele reveals the fore view of an upper human body. Eleven of the stelae depict naked warriors with daggers, spears, and axes-masculine symbols of war. They always hold a drinking vessel made of skin in both hands.

Two stelae contain female figures without arms. The earliest of these stelae are in the style of bas relief while the latest ones are in a linear style. They date from the 15th to the 11th century BC and may represent the rulers of the kingdom of Hubushkia, perhaps derived from a Eurasian steppe culture that had infiltrated into the Near East.

European traveler William of Rubruck mentioned them for the first time in the 13th century, seeing them on kurgans in the Cuman (Kipchak) country, he reported that Cumans installed these statues on tombs of their deceased. These statues are also mentioned in the 17th-century “Large Drawing Book”, as markers for borders and roads, or orientation points.

In the 18th century information about some kurgan stelae was collected by Pallas, Falk, Guldenshtedt, Zuev, Lepekhin, and in the first half of the 19th century by Klaprot, Duboa-de-Montpere and Spassky (Siberian obelisks). Count Aleksey Uvarov, in the 1869 ‘‘Works of the 1st Archeological Congress in Moscow (vol. 2), assembled all available at that time data about kurgan obelisks, and illustrated them with drawings of 44 statues.

Later in the 19th century, data about these statues was gathered by A.I. Kelsiev, and in Siberia, Turkestan and Mongolia by Potanin, Pettsold, Poyarkov, Vasily Radlov, Ivanov, Adrianov and Yadrintsev, in Prussia by Lissauer and Gartman.

The Historical museum in Moscow has 30 specimens (in the halls and in the courtyard); others are in Kharkov, Odessa, Novocherkassk, etc. These are only a small part of examples dispersed in various regions of Eastern Europe, of which multitudes were already destroyed and used as construction material for buildings, fences, etc.

In the 1850s Piskarev, summing all information about kurgan obelisks available in literature, counted 649 items, mostly in Ekaterinoslav province (428), in Taganrog (54), in Crimea province (44), in Kharkov (43), in the Don Cossacks land (37), in Yenisei province, Siberia (12), in Poltava (5), in Stavropol (5), etc.; but many statues remained unknown to him.

Scythian balbals commonly depict a warrior holding a drinking horn in their upraised right hand. Many also show a sword or dagger suspended on the warrior’s belt.

Writing about Altai kurgans, L.N. Gumilev states: “To the east from the tombs are standing chains of balbals, crudely sculpted stones implanted in the ground. Number of balbals at the tombs I investigated varies from 0 to 51, but most often there are 3–4 balbals per tomb”. Similar numbers are also given by L. R. Kyzlasov. They are memorials to the feats of the deceased, every balbal represents an enemy killed by him. Many tombs have no balbals. Apparently, there are buried ashes of women and children.

Balbals have two clearly distinct forms: conic and flat, with shaved top. Considering the evidence of Orkhon inscriptions that every balbal represented a certain person, such distinction cannot be by chance. Likely here is marked an important ethnographic attribute, a headdress. The steppe-dwellers up until present wear a conic ‘malahai’, and the Altaians wear flat round hats. The same forms of headdresses are recorded for the 8th century.

Another observation of Lev Gumilev: “From the Tsaidam salt lakes to the Kül-tegin monument leads a three-kilometer chain of balbals. To our time survived 169 balbals, apparently there were more. Some balbals are given a crude likeness with men, indicated are hands, a hint of a belt. Along the moat toward the east runs a second chain of balbals, which gave I. Lisi a cause to suggest that they circled the fence wall of the monument. However, it is likely that it is another chain belonging to another deceased buried earlier”.

Some kurgan obelisks are found still standing on kurgans, others were found buried in the slopes. Not always can be stated if they were contemporary with the kurgans on which they stand, existed earlier, or were carved later and lifted onto the kurgan.

Kurgan obelisks are of sandstone, limestone, granite, etc. Their height is from 3.5 m to 0.7 m, but more often 1.5 – 2 m. Some of them are simple stone columns, with a rough image of a human face, on others the head (with the narrowed neck) is clearly depicted; in most cases not only the head is depicted, but also body, arms, and frequently both legs, and headdress, and dress.

On more crude statues is impossible to dissern sex, but mostly it is expressed clearly: men are with moustaches (sometimes with beard, one bearded kurgan obelisk is in the courtyard of the Historical Museum in Moscow), in a costume with metal breastplates and belts, sometimes with a sword, etc.; women are with bared breasts, wearing peculiar headdresses, with girdles or necklaces on the neck, etc.

Other obelisks show figures completely naked and usually only their head is covered, and legs are shod. Kurgan statues are sitting (frequently females), and standing (mostly males); in both cases the legs are not depicted. If the legs are depicted, they are either barefoot, or more often shoed, in high or low boots (‘bashmaks’), sometimes with distinguishable trousers with ornaments.

Many female kurgan obelisks (and some male) are naked above the belt, but below a belt and dress are visible, sometimes two dresses, one longer underneath, and another on the top, as a semi-‘kaftan’ or a short furcoat, with appliques and inserts (the ornaments of inserts consist of geometrical lines, double spirals, etc., or even cuirass).

Others have stripes on the shoulders, many have two stripes (seldom three, or one wide across), plates (apparently, metal) on the breast attached to a belt or, more often, to two belts. On the belt sometimes is possible to distinguish a buckle in the middle or thongs hanging from it with sometimes attached bag, a round metal pocket mirror, knife, comb, sometimes also is shown (male statues) a dagger or a straight sword, a bow, a ‘kolchan’ (quiver), a hook, an axe.

On the neck the men wear a metal band, women wear a necklace of beads or scales, sometimes even 2 or 3 are visible, some have a wide tape or a belt dropping from the necklace, ending with a 4-corner cloth.

On the hands, wrists and shoulders (especially for nude figures) are bracelets (rings) and cuffs, in the ears, for women and men, are earrings, on the head (forehead) sometimes is an ornametal bandage or a diadem. The female braids can not always be distinguished from ribbons or bandages, they also are depicted for men. In some cases the male hat undoubtedly represents a small helmet (‘misyurka’), sometimes with crossing metal strips. The female headdress is more diverse, like a hat with curved brims, ‘bashlyk’, Kyrgyz (Kazakh) hat, etc.

The type of the face is not always depicted clearly. The vast majority of women join hands on the navel or at the bottom of the stomach, and hold a vessel, frequently cylindrical, like a cup or a glass. Sometimes it is so blurred that it can be taken for a folded scarf. One male figurine holds a bowl in the left hand, and a sword in the right; and another has hands simply joined together, without a bowl, one female figurine holds a ring, some hold a rhyton (drinking horn).

Kurgan stele

Megalithic art

European Megalithic Culture

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