The origin of the dragon cult
Posted by Fredsvenn on April 17, 2015
The Khabur or Khaboor River is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory. Although the Khabur originates in Turkey, the karstic springs around Ra’s al-‘Ayn are the river’s main source of water.
Several important wadis join the Khabur north of Al-Hasakah, together creating what is known as the Khabur Triangle, or Upper Khabur area. From north to south, annual rainfall in the Khabur basin decreases from over 400 mm to less than 200 mm, making the river a vital water source for agriculture throughout history. The Khabur joins the Euphrates near the town of Busayrah.
Since the 1930s, numerous archaeological excavations and surveys have been carried out in the Khabur Valley, indicating that the region has been occupied since the Lower Palaeolithic period. Important sites that have been excavated include Tell Halaf, Tell Brak, Tell Leilan, Tell Mashnaqa, Tell Mozan and Tell Barri.
The region has given its name to a distinctive painted ware found in northern Mesopotamia and Syria in the early 2nd millennium BCE, called Khabur ware. The region of the Khabur River is also associated with the rise of the Kingdom of the Mitanni that flourished c.1500-1300 BC.
Hubur (ḪU.BUR, Hu-bur) is a Sumerian term meaning “river”, “watercourse” or “netherworld”. It is usually the “river of the netherworld”. A connection to Tiamat has been suggested with parallels to her description as “Ummu-Hubur”. Hubur is also referred to in the Enuma Elish as “mother sea Hubur, who fashions all things”. The river Euphrates has been identified with Hubur as the source of fertility in Sumer.
This Babylonian “river of creation” has been linked to the Hebrew “river of paradise”. Gunkel and Zimmern suggested resemblance in expressions and a possible connection between the Sumerian river and that found in later literary tradition in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47) likely influencing imagery of the “River of Water of Life” in the Apocalypse (Revelation 22). They also noted a connection between the “Water of Life” in the legend of Adapa and a myth translated by A.H. Sayce called “An address to the river of creation”.
Delitzch has suggested the similar Sumerian word Habur probably meant “mighty water source”, “source of fertility” or the like. This has suggested the meaning of Hubur to be “river of fertility in the underworld”. Linda Foubister has suggested the river of creation was linked with the importance of rivers and rain in the fertile crescent and suggested it was related to the underworld as rivers resemble snakes.
Samuel Eugene Balentine suggested that the “pit” (sahar) and “river” or “channel” (salah) in the Book of Job (Job 33:18) were referencing the Hubur. The god Marduk was praised for restoration or saving individuals from death when he drew them out of the waters of the Hubur, a later reference to this theme is made in Psalm 18 (Psalms 18).
In Sumerian cosmology, the souls of the dead had to travel across the desert or steppe, cross the Hubur river, to the mountainland of Kur. Here the souls had to pass through seven different walled and gated locations to reach the netherworld. The Annanuki administrated Kur as if it were a civilized settlement both architecturally and politically.
Frans Wiggermann connected Hubur to the Habur, a tributary of the Euphrates far away from the Sumerian heartland, there was also a town called Haburatum east of the Tigris.
He suggested that as the concept of the netherworld (as opposed to an underworld) in Sumerian cosmogeny lacked the modern concept of an accompanying divine ruler of a location underneath the earth, the geographical terminology suggested that it was located at the edges of the world and that its features derived in part from real geography before shifting to become a demonic fantasy world.
The Balikh River is a perennial river that originates in the spring of ‘Ayn al-‘Arus (Syria). It flows due south and joins the Euphrates at the modern town of Ar-Raqqah. After the Khabur River, the Balikh is the largest tributary to the Euphrates on Syrian soil. It is an important source of water and large parts have recently been subjected to canalization.
Portasar (“Navel” in Armenian) Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill” in Turkish) is an archaeological site at the top of a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. The tell has a height of 15 m (49 ft) and is about 300 m (984 ft) in diameter. It is approximately 760 m (2,493 ft) above sea level.
The antecedents to civilization in this region of the middle east were the Kebaran culture (a nomadic late paleolithic people who lived in the Levant and Sinai around 18,000 to 10,000 BC), and the Natufian culture (a mesolithic hunter-gatherer culture from about 12,500 to 9,500 BC who were unusual in that they built permanent settlements even before the dawn of agriculture).
The Younger Dryas stadial, also referred to as the Big Freeze, was a 1,300 (± 70) year period of cold climatic conditions and drought which occurred between approximately 12,800 and 11,500 years BP (between 10,800 and 9500 BC). The Younger Dryas stadial is thought to have been caused by the collapse of the North American ice sheets, although rival theories have been proposed.
The Younger Dryas is often linked to the adoption of agriculture in the Levant. It is argued that the cold and dry Younger Dryas lowered the carrying capacity of the area and forced the sedentary Early Natufian population into a more mobile subsistence pattern. Further climatic deterioration is thought to have brought about cereal cultivation.
While there exists relative consensus regarding the role of the Younger Dryas in the changing subsistence patterns during the Natufian, its connection to the beginning of agriculture at the end of the period is still being debated.
Göbekli Tepe is a site in Turkey, just north of the Syrian border, a bit south of the Euphrates river, and about 15 km northeast of the town Sanilurfa in Turkey. The site is on top of a small hill (Göbekli Tepe means “hill with a navel” or “hill with a belly” in Turkish). The site was examined in the early 1960’s by archeologists from the University of Chicago, and the University of Istanbul. It was part of a larger survey of the region, and at the time, it was dismissed as the remains of a medieval monastery.
Three decades later, a local shepherd noticed some oddly shaped stones on the ground. The news reached the curators of the local museum in Sanilurfa, about 50 km away, and eventually to the government ministry in charge of antiquities. They contacted the German Archeological Institute in Istanbul. As a consequence, Klaus Schmidt re-examined the site in 1994, and noted that various artifacts found at the site were similar to those found at nearby sites which had been carbon dated to as early as 9,000 B.C. Excavation began the next year, with a German-Turkish team.
Spectacular discoveries in recent years have illuminated the very start of mankind’s love of monuments. The earliest megalith in the world has been found in the cradle of farming. Before cultivation even began, abundant resources in the region where the Levant meets Anatolia encouraged hunting and foraging groups into a more settled lifestyle. Eventually some lived in permanent settlements.
Göbekli Tepe is one of the most important archaeological discoveries of modern times, pushing back the origins of monumentality beyond the emergence of agriculture. We are pleased to present a summary of work in progress by the excavators of this remarkable site and their latest thoughts about its role and meaning.
At the dawn of the Neolithic, hunter-gatherers congregating at Göbekli Tepe created social and ideological cohesion through the carving of decorated pillars, dancing, feasting—and, almost certainly, the drinking of beer made from fermented wild crops.
It is here at Göbekli Tepe, in what is now Turkey, that the world’s first megalithic monument has been uncovered. Its most recent building phase has been radiocarbon dated c. 8000 BC, with an earlier phase ending c. 9000 BC. Circles of T-shaped pillars are adorned with animal reliefs. These are similar to those at a later monument in Nevali Çori, 30 kilometers to the north-west of Göbekli, suggesting a continuity of population from Mesolithic to Neolithic.
Archaeologist Klaus Schmidt found that the most common bone remains at Göbekli Tepe are those of aurochs, an extinct species of ox. Aurochs were massive and terrifyingly strong. Just one required a communal effort to hunt. A hunting band capable of that feat would have to be large and well-organised, capable also of building such a monument. Schmidt sees it as the world’s first temple. Some of the T-shaped pillars have carved arms, and so may represent stylized humans.
Ekur (É.KUR, E2.KUR, E-kur) is a Sumerian term meaning “mountain house”. It is the assembly of the gods in the Garden of the gods, parallel in Greek mythology to Mount Olympus and was the most revered and sacred building of ancient Sumer.
There is a clear association of Ziggurats with mountain houses. Mountain houses play a certain role in Mesopotamian mythology and Assyro-Babylonian religion, associated with deities such as Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursag. In the Hymn to Enlil, the Ekur is closely linked to Enlil whilst in Enlil and Ninlil it is the abode of the Annanuki, from where Enlil is banished.
The fall of Ekur is described in the Lament for Ur. In mythology, the Ekur was the centre of the earth and location where heaven and earth were united. It is also known as Duranki and one of its structures is known as the Kiur (“great place”). Enamtila has also been suggested by Piotr Michalowski to be a part of the Ekur.
A hymn to Nanna illustrates the close relationship between temples, houses and mountains. “In your house on high, in your beloved house, I will come to live, O Nanna, up above in your cedar perfumed mountain”. This was carried-on into later tradition in the Bible by the prophet Micah who envisions “the mountain of the temple of Yahweh”.
Schmidt engaged in some speculation regarding the belief systems of the groups that created Göbekli Tepe, based on comparisons with other shrines and settlements. He assumed shamanic practices and suggested that the T-shaped pillars represent human forms, perhaps ancestors, whereas he saw a fully articulated belief in gods only developing later in Mesopotamia, associated with extensive temples and palaces.
This corresponds well with an ancient Sumerian belief that agriculture, animal husbandry, and weaving were brought to mankind from the sacred mountain Ekur, which was inhabited by Annuna deities, very ancient gods without individual names. Schmidt identified this story as a primeval oriental myth that preserves a partial memory of the emerging Neolithic.
It is also apparent that the animal and other images give no indication of organized violence, i.e. there are no depictions of hunting raids or wounded animals, and the pillar carvings ignore game on which the society mainly subsisted, like deer, mainly in favor of formidable creatures like lions, snakes, spiders, and scorpions.
Hursag (transcribed cuneiform: ḫur.saḡ(HUR.SAG)) is a Sumerian term variously translated as meaning “mountain”, “hill”, “foothills” or “piedmont”. Thorkild Jacobsen extrapolated the translation in his later career to mean literally, “head of the valleys”.
Mountains play a certain role in Mesopotamian mythology and Assyro-Babylonian religion, associated with deities such as Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursag. Some scholars also identify hursag with an undefined mountain range or strip of raised land outside the plain of Mesopotamia.
In a myth variously entitled by Samuel Noah Kramer as “The Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and later Ninurta Myth Lugal-e by Thorkild Jacobsen, Hursag is described as a mound of stones constructed by Ninurta after his defeat of a demon called Asag. Ninurta’s mother Ninlil visits the location after this great victory. In return for her love and loyalty, Ninurta gives Ninlil the hursag as a gift. Her name is consequentially changed from Ninlil to Ninhursag or the “mistress of the Hursag”.
In Sumerian religion, Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, is the consort goddess of Enlil. In some texts Ninlil is also the mother of Ninurta, the heroic god who slew Asag the demon with his mace, Sharur.
After her death, she became the goddess of the wind, like Enlil. She may be the Goddess of the South Wind referred to in the story of Adapa, as her husband Enlil was associated with northerly winter storms. As “Lady Wind” she may be associated with the figure of the Akkadian demon “Lil-itu”, thought to have been the origin of the Hebrew Lilith legend.
Her parentage is variously described. Most commonly she is called the daughter of Haia (god of stores) and Nunbarsegunu (or Ninshebargunnu [a goddess of barley] or Nisaba). Another Akkadian source says she is the daughter of Anu (aka An) and Antu (Sumerian Ki). Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu.
In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag or Ninkharsag was a mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the ‘true and great lady of heaven’ (possibly in relation to her standing on the mountain) and kings of Sumer were ‘nourished by Ninhursag’s milk’.
Nin-hursag means “lady of the sacred mountain” (from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG “sacred mountain, foothill”, possibly a reference to the site of her temple, the E-Kur (House of mountain deeps) at Eridu. She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (mother); Aruru, Belet-Ili (lady of the gods, Akkadian).
According to legend her name was changed from Ninmah to Ninhursag by her son Ninurta in order to commemorate his creation of the mountains. As Ninmenna, according to a Babylonian investiture ritual, she placed the golden crown on the king in the Eanna temple.
As the wife and consort of Enki she was also referred to as Damgulanna (great wife of heaven) or Damkina (faithful wife). She had many epithets including shassuru or ‘womb goddess’, tabsut ili ‘midwife of the gods’, ‘mother of all children’ and ‘mother of the gods’. In this role she is identified with Ki in the Enuma Elish. She had shrines in both Eridu and Kish.
Ḫaldi (Ḫaldi, also known as Khaldi or Hayk) was one of the three chief deities of Ararat (Urartu). His shrine was at Ardini. The other two chief deities were Theispas of Kumenu, and Shivini of Tushpa. Of all the gods of Ararat (Urartu) pantheon, the most inscriptions are dedicated to him. His wife was the goddesses Arubani, the Urartian’s goddess of fertility and art, and Bagmashtu.
Tell Halaf/Hassuna/Shulaveri Shomu/Samarra/Ubaid
Tell Halaf is an archaeological site in the Al Hasakah governorate of northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border, just opposite Ceylanpınar. It was the first find of a Neolithic culture, subsequently dubbed the Halaf culture, characterized by glazed pottery painted with geometric and animal designs. The site dates to the 6th millennium BCE and was later the location of the Aramaean city-state of Guzana or Gozan.
The site is located near the city of Ra’s al-‘Ayn in the fertile valley of the Khabur River (Nahr al-Khabur), close to the modern border with Turkey. The name Tell Halaf is a local Aramaic placename, tell meaning “hill”, and Tell Halaf meaning “made of former city”; what its original inhabitants called their settlement is not known.
Tell Halaf is the type site of the Halaf culture, which developed from Neolithic III at this site without any strong break. The Tell Halaf site flourished from about 6,100 to 5,400 BCE, a period of time that is referred to as the Halaf period. The Halaf culture was succeeded in northern Mesopotamia by the Ubaid culture. The site was then abandoned for a long period.
The Hassuna culture is a Neolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia dating to the early sixth millennium BC. It is named after the type site of Tell Hassuna in Iraq. Other sites where Hassuna material has been found include Tell Shemshara.
By around 6000 BC people had moved into the foothills (piedmont) of northernmost Mesopotamia where there was enough rainfall to allow for “dry” agriculture in some places. These were the first farmers in northernmost Mesopotamia. They made Hassuna-style pottery (cream slip with reddish paint in linear designs). Hassuna people lived in small villages or hamlets ranging from 2 to 8 acres (3.2 ha).
At Tell Hassuna, adobe dwellings built around open central courts with fine painted pottery replace earlier levels with crude pottery. Hand axes, sickles, grinding stones, bins, baking ovens and numerous bones of domesticated animals reflect settled agricultural life.
Female figurines have been related to worship and jar burials within which food was placed related to belief in afterlife. The relationship of Hassuna pottery to that of Jericho suggests that village culture was becoming widespread.
The Samarra culture is a Chalcolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia that is roughly dated to 5500–4800 BCE. It partially overlaps with Hassuna and early Ubaid. Samarran material culture was first recognized during excavations by German Archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld at the site of Samarra. Other sites where Samarran material has been found include Tell Shemshara, Tell es-Sawwan and Yarim Tepe.
At Tell es-Sawwan, evidence of irrigation—including flax—establishes the presence of a prosperous settled culture with a highly organized social structure. The culture is primarily known for its finely made pottery decorated against dark-fired backgrounds with stylized figures of animals and birds and geometric designs.
This widely exported type of pottery, one of the first widespread, relatively uniform pottery styles in the Ancient Near East, was first recognized at Samarra. The Samarran Culture was the precursor to the Mesopotamian culture of the Ubaid period.
Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures. The Shulaveri-Shomu culture begins after the 8.2 kiloyear event which was a sudden decrease in global temperatures starting ca. 6200 BC and which lasted for about two to four centuries.
The 8.2 kiloyear event is the term that climatologists have adopted for a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6,200 BCE, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries. Milder than the Younger Dryas cold spell that preceded it, but more severe than the Little Ice Age that would follow, the 8.2 kiloyear cooling was a significant exception to general trends of the Holocene climatic optimum. During the event, atmospheric methane concentration decreased by 80 ppb or an emission reduction of 15%, by cooling and drying at a hemispheric scale.
Drier conditions were notable in North Africa, while East Africa suffered five centuries of general drought. In West Asia and especially Mesopotamia, the 8.2 kiloyear event was a three-hundred year aridification and cooling episode, which may have provided the natural force for Mesopotamian irrigation agriculture and surplus production that were essential for the earliest class-formation and urban life. However multi-centennial changes around the same period are difficult to link specifically to the approximately 100-year abrupt event as recorded most clearly in the Greenland ice cores.
Shulaveri culture predates the Kura-Araxes culture and surrounding areas, which is assigned to the period of ca. 4000 – 2200 BC, and had close relation with the middle Bronze Age culture called Trialeti culture (ca. 3000 – 1500 BC). Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.
In around ca. 6000–4200 B.C the Shulaveri-Shomu and other Neolithic/Chalcolithic cultures of the Southern Caucasus use local obsidian for tools, raise animals such as cattle and pigs, and grow crops, including grapes.
Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasis on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).
The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification and decreasing egalitarianism. Bogucki describes this as a phase of “Trans-egalitarian” competitive households, in which some fall behind as a result of downward social mobility.
Morton Fried and Elman Service have hypothesised that Ubaid culture saw the rise of an elite class of hereditary chieftains, perhaps heads of kin groups linked in some way to the administration of the temple shrines and their granaries, responsible for mediating intra-group conflict and maintaining social order.
It would seem that various collective methods, perhaps instances of what Thorkild Jacobsen called primitive democracy, in which disputes were previously resolved through a council of one’s peers, were no longer sufficient for the needs of the local community.
Ubaid culture originated in the south, but still has clear connections to earlier cultures in the region of middle Iraq. The appearance of the Ubaid folk has sometimes been linked to the so-called Sumerian problem, related to the origins of Sumerian civilisation.
Whatever the ethnic origins of this group, this culture saw for the first time a clear tripartite social division between intensive subsistence peasant farmers, with crops and animals coming from the north, tent-dwelling nomadic pastoralists dependent upon their herds, and hunter-fisher folk of the Arabian littoral, living in reed huts.
Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oikumene that resulted from Ubaid expansion, contrasting it to the colonial expansionism of the later Uruk period. “A contextual analysis comparing different regions shows that the Ubaid expansion took place largely through the peaceful spread of an ideology, leading to the formation of numerous new indigenous identities that appropriated and transformed superficial elements of Ubaid material culture into locally distinct expressions”.
The Ubaid house is a dwelling used by the Ubaid culture of the Neolithic era. The Ubaid house is the predecessor of the Ubaid temple as well as Sumerian domestic and temple architecture.
The period from 4500–4000 BC saw a period of intense and rapid urbanisation with the Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia and was adopted by the Halaf culture. Ubaid artifacts spread also all along the Arabian littoral, showing the growth of a trading system that stretched from the Mediterranean coast through to Oman.
The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation. At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”. This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron.
The 5.9 kiloyear event was one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene Epoch. It occurred around 3900 BC, ending the Neolithic Subpluvial and probably initiated the most recent desiccation of the Sahara desert.
Thus, it also triggered worldwide migration to river valleys, such as from central North Africa to the Nile valley, which eventually led to the emergence of the first complex, highly organized, state-level societies in the 4th millennium BC. It is associated with the last round of the Sahara pump theory.
A model by Claussen et al. (1999) suggested rapid desertification associated with vegetation-atmosphere interactions following a cooling event, Bond event 4. Bond et al. (1997) identified a North Atlantic cooling episode 5,900 years ago from ice-rafted debris, as well as other such now called Bond events that indicate the existence of a quasiperiodic cycle of Atlantic cooling events, which occur approximately every 1,470 years ± 500 years.
For some reason, all of the earlier of these arid events (including the 8.2 kiloyear event) were followed by recovery, as attested by the wealth of evidence of humid conditions in the Sahara between 10,000 and 6,000 BP.
However, it appears that the 5.9 kiloyear event was followed by a partial recovery at best, with accelerated desiccation in the millennium that followed. For example, Cremaschi (1998) describes evidence of rapid aridification in Tadrart Acacus of southwestern Libya, in the form of increased aeolian erosion, sand incursions and the collapse of the roofs of rock shelters. The 5.9 kiloyear event was also recorded as a cold event in the Erhai Lake (China) sediments.
In the Middle East the 5.9 kiloyear event contributed to the abrupt end of the Ubaid period. It was associated with an abandonment of unwalled villages and the rapid growth of hierarchically structured walled cities, and in the Jemdet Nasr period, with the first book-keeping scripts.
The Neolithic Subpluvial — sometimes called the Holocene Wet Phase — was an extended period (from about 7500–7000 BCE to about 3500–3000 BCE) of wet and rainy conditions in the climate history of northern Africa. It was both preceded and followed by much drier periods.
The Neolithic Subpluvial was the most recent of a number of periods of “Wet Sahara” or “Green Sahara”, during which the region was much more moist and supported a richer biota and human population than the present-day desert.
The Neolithic Subpluvial began during the 7th millennium BC and was strong for about 2,000 years; it waned over time and ended after the 5.9 kiloyear event (3900 BCE). Then the drier conditions that prevailed prior to the Neolithic Subpluvial returned; desertification advanced, and the Sahara Desert formed (or re-formed). Arid conditions have continued through to the present day.
Mechta-Afalou or Mechtoid are an extinct people of North Africa. Mechtoids inhabited Northern Africa during late Paleolithic and Mesolithic (Ibero-Maurusian archaeological culture).Mechtoids were assimilated during Neolithic and early Bronze Age by bearers of Afroasiatic languages. The Capsian culture, from the anthropological standpoint, is considered an indigenous development.
The Leyla-Tepe culture is a culture of archaeological interest from the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus from 4350 until 4000 BC. They apparently buried their dead in ceramic vessels. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture.
The culture has been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region. The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets.
Jar-Burial Culture, an archaeological culture that was widespread in the second century B.C. to the eighth century A.D. in the basins of the Kura and Araks rivers in Transcaucasia, particularly in Caucasian Albania.
The culture was characterized by the burial of the dead in a strongly flexed position on their sides in large clay jars. The burial inventory contained articles made of metal (bronze and primarily iron tools and weapons and bronze, silver, and gold ornaments), wood, stone, clay, glass, and paste. Roman, Arsacid, and Sassanid coins have been found in later burials.
The Jar-Burial culture belonged to a settled farming population, which also engaged in stock raising, hunting, fishing, and the production of handicrafts.
It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture (ca. 3700 BC—3000 BC), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Western Caucasus region of Southern Russia.
An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.
In the south it borders the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it. To the north is the Yamna culture, including the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.
The Kuban River is navigable for much of its length and provides an easy water-passage via the Sea of Azov to the territory of the Yamna culture, along the Don and Donets River systems. The Maykop culture was thus well-situated to exploit the trading possibilities with the central Ukraine area.
New data revealed the similarity of artifacts from the Maykop culture with those found recently in the course of excavations of the ancient city of Tell Khazneh in northern Syria, the construction of which dates back to 4000 BC.
Its inhumation practices were characteristically Indo-European, typically in a pit, sometimes stone-lined, topped with a kurgan (or tumulus). Stone cairns replace kurgans in later interments.
In the early 20th century, researchers established the existence of a local Maykop animal style in the artifacts found. This style was seen as the prototype for animal styles of later archaeological cultures: the Maykop animal style is more than a thousand years older than the Scythian, Sarmatian and Celtic animal styles.
Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, whose views are highly controversial, suggest that the Maykop culture (or its ancestor) may have been a way-station for Indo-Europeans migrating from the South Caucasus and/or eastern Anatolia to a secondary Urheimat on the steppe.
This would essentially place the Anatolian stock in Anatolia from the beginning, and in this respect only, agrees with Colin Renfrew’s Anatolian hypothesis. Considering that some attempt has been made to unite Indo-European with the Northwest Caucasian languages, an earlier Caucasian pre-Urheimat is not out of the question (see Proto-Pontic). However, most linguists and archaeologists consider this hypothesis incorrect, and prefer the Eurasian steppes as the genuine IE Urheimat.
Kurgan is the Russian word (of Tatar (Turkic) origin) for tumulus, a type of burial mound or barrow, heaped over a burial chamber, often of wood. These are mounds of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Originating with its use in Soviet archaeology, the word is now widely used for tumuli in the context of Eastern European and Central Asian archaeology.
The earliest kurgans appeared in the 4th millennium BC in the Caucasus, and are associated with the Indo-Europeans. Kurgans were built in the Eneolithic, Bronze, Iron, Antiquity and Middle Ages, with old traditions still active in Southern Siberia and Central Asia. Kurgan cultures are divided archeologically into different sub-cultures, such as Timber Grave, Pit Grave, Scythian, Sarmatian, Hunnish and Kuman-Kipchak.
The earliest kurgans appeared in the 4th millennium BC in the Caucasus. Kurgan barrows were characteristic of Bronze Age peoples, from the Altay Mountains to the Caucasus, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. Kurgans were used in the Ukrainian and Russian Steppes but spread into eastern, central, and northern Europe in the 3rd millennium BC.
In Sumerian mythology, Kur is considered the first ever dragon, and usually referred to the Zagros mountains to the east of Sumer. The cuneiform for “kur” was written ideographically, a pictograph of a mountain. It can also mean “foreign land”.
Although the word for earth was Ki, Kur came to also mean land, and Sumer itself, was called “Kur-gal” or “Great Land”. “Kur-gal” also means “Great Mountain” and is a metonym for both Nippur and Enlil who rules from that city. Ekur, “mountain house” was the temple of Enlil at Nippur. A second, popular meaning of Kur was “underworld”, or the world under the earth.
Kur was sometimes the home of the dead, it is possible that the flames on escaping gas plumes in parts of the Zagros mountains would have given those mountains a meaning not entirely consistent with the primary meaning of mountains and an abode of a god. The eastern mountains as an abode of the god is popular in Ancient Near Eastern mythology.
The underworld Kur is the void space between the primeval sea (Abzu) and the earth (Ma). Kur is almost identical with “Ki-gal”, “Great Land” which is the Underworld (thus the ruler of the Underworld is Ereshkigal “Goddess of The Great Land”.
In later Babylonian myth Kur is possibly an Anunnaki, brother of Ereshkigal, Inanna, Enki, and Enlil. In the Enuma Elish in Akkadian tablets from the first millennium BC, Kur is part of the retinue of Tiamat, and seems to be a snakelike dragon. In one story the slaying of the great serpent Kur results in the flooding of the earth.
A first millennium BC cylinder seal shows a fire-spitting winged dragon—a nude woman between its wings—pulling the chariot of the god who subdued it, another depicts a god riding a dragon, a third a goddess.
Ma is a Sumerian word meaning “land” that in Sumerian mythology was also used to regard Primordial Land. There seems to be some loss in records as to the transition, but the same name Ma appears again later, also tied to the Earth, in Ma being referred to as “Mother of the mountain” – in this case, Kur (Mountain) the first dragon god.
In Sumerian mythology, a me or parşu is one of the decrees of the gods foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods.
The underworld Kur is the void space between the primeval sea (Abzu) and the earth (Ma). Which seem a likely pairing for parentage, in a fuzzy set of records. Ma was a local goddess at Ma and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele.
Comana was a city of Cappadocia and later Cataonia. The Hittite toponym Kummanni is considered likely to refer to Comana, but the identification is not considered proven. Its ruins are at the modern Turkish village of Şar, Tufanbeyli district, Adana Province.
Kummanni was the name of the main center the Anatolian kingdom of Kizzuwatna. Its location is uncertain, but is believed to be near the classical settlement of Comana in Cappadocia. It was the major cult center of the Hurrian chief deity, Tešup. Its Hurrian name Kummeni simply translates as “The Shrine.”
The city persisted into the Early Iron Age, and appears as Kumme in Assyrian records. It was located on the edge of Assyrian influence in the far northeastern corner of Mesopotamia, separating Assyria from Urartu and the highlands of southeastern Anatolia.
Kumme was still considered a holy city in Assyrian times, both in Assyria and in Urartu. Adad-nirari II, after re-conquering the city, made sacrifices to “Adad of Kumme.” The three chief deities in the Urartian pantheon were “the god of Ardini, the god of Kumenu, and the god of Tushpa.”
A worldwide phylogeographic analysis of the R1b haplogroup provided strong support to the Asia-to-Africa back-migration hypothesis. The analysis of the distribution of the R-V88 haplogroup in >1800 males from 69 African populations revealed a striking genetic contiguity between the Chadic-speaking peoples from the central Sahel and several other Afroasiatic-speaking groups from North Africa.
The R-V88 coalescence time was estimated at 9200–5600 kya, in the early mid Holocene. We suggest that R-V88 is a paternal genetic record of the proposed mid-Holocene migration of proto-Chadic Afroasiatic speakers through the Central Sahara into the Lake Chad Basin, and geomorphological evidence is consistent with this view.
A thorough study by Cruciani et al. (2004) which analyzed populations from Morocco concludes that the North African pattern of Y-chromosomal variation (including both J1 and R1b haplogroups) is largely of Neolithic origin, which suggests that the Neolithic transition in this part of the world was accompanied by demic diffusion of Berber-speaking pastoralists from the Algerian Desert into Eastern Morocco, although later papers have suggested that this date could have been as long as ten thousand years ago, with the transition from the Oranian, or Iberomaurusian, to the Capsian culture in North Africa.
The Iberomaurusian culture is a backed bladelet industry found throughout the Maghreb. The industry was originally described in 1909 by the French scholar Pallary, at the site of Abri Mouillah. Other names for the industry have included “Mouillian” and “Oranian”.
Recent fieldwork indicates that the culture existed in the region from around the timing of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), at 20,000 BP, until the Younger Dryas. The culture is succeeded by the Capsian, which was originally thought to have expanded into the Maghreb from the Near East, although later studies have indicated that the Iberomaurusian were the progenitors of the Capsian.
The Capsian culture (named after the town of Gafsa in Tunisia) was a Mesolithic culture of the Maghreb, which lasted from about 10,000 to 6,000 BCE. It was concentrated mainly in modern Tunisia, and Algeria, with some sites attested in southern Spain to Sicily.
It is traditionally divided into two horizons, the Capsien typique (Typical Capsian) and the Capsien supérieur (Upper Capsian) which are sometimes found in chronostratigraphic sequence. They represent variants of one tradition, the differences between them being both typological and technological.
During this period, the environment of the Maghreb was open savanna, much like modern East Africa, with Mediterranean forests at higher altitudes. The Capsian diet included a wide variety of animals, ranging from aurochs and hartebeest to hares and snails; there is little evidence concerning plants eaten. During the succeeding Neolithic of Capsian Tradition, there is evidence from one site, for domesticated, probably imported, ovicaprids.
Anatomically, Capsian populations were modern Homo sapiens, traditionally classed into two variegate types: Proto-Mediterranean and Mechta-Afalou on the basis of cranial morphology. Some have argued that they were immigrants from the east, whereas others argue for population continuity based on physical skeletal characteristics and other criteria, et cetera.
Given its widespread occurrence in the Sahara, the Capsian culture is identified by some historical linguists as a possible ancestor of the speakers of modern Afroasiatic languages of North Africa which includes the Berber languages in North Africa.
Nothing is known about Capsian religion, but their burial methods suggest a belief in an afterlife. Decorative art is widely found at their sites, including figurative and abstract rock art, and ochre is found coloring both tools and corpses. Ostrich eggshells were used to make beads and containers; seashells were used for necklaces. The Ibero-Maurusian practice of extracting the central incisors continued sporadically, but became rarer.
The Eburran industry which dates between 13,000 and 9,000 BCE in East Africa, was formerly known as the “Kenya Capsian” due to similarities in the stone blade shapes.
Within Africa, the highest frequencies of the R-V88 haplogroup (and its commonest sub-clade, R-V69) were observed in the central Sahel (northern Cameroon, northern Nigeria, Chad, and Niger).
Immediately south of this region (southern Cameroon and southern Nigeria), frequencies drastically dropped to 0.0–4.8%. The central Sahel is characterized by a strong linguistic fragmentation with populations speaking languages belonging to three of the four linguistic families of Africa (Afroasiatic, Niger-Congo, and Nilo-Saharan).
When the linguistic affiliation of the populations from the central Sahel was also taken into account, a clear-cut divide was observed between those speaking Afroasiatic languages (including the Berber-speaking Tuareg, the Semitic Arab Shuwa, and Chadic-speaking populations from northern Cameroon) and the other populations (Mann–Whitney test P=1.4 × 10−3), with Chadic-speaking populations mostly contributing to this difference.
It is worth noting that, if the finding of 20% R-V88 chromosomes among the Hausa is representative, this population, encompassing by far more people than all other Chadic speakers, also encompasses the highest absolute number of V88 carriers.
In contrast to prior studies on nuclear (mostly autosomal) ins/del and microsatellite markers, the Chadic are distinguished from the Nilo-Saharan-speaking populations at the Y chromosome variation level. Repeated assimilations of Nilo-Saharan females over generations may account for these conflicting signals.
Although the presence of the haplogroup R-V88 at non-negligible frequencies in some Niger-Congo-speaking populations from the central Sahel can be accounted for by Chadic admixture favored by geographic contiguity, the presence of this haplogroup both in northern Africa and the central Sahel is especially intriguing given that >1500 km across the Sahara separate the two regions. The expansion time for the haplogroup R-V88 in Africa, under two different population models (see Materials and methods), was found to be 9.2–5.6 ky (95% CI=7.6–10.8 ky and 4.7–6.6 ky, respectively).
Diverse hypotheses have been proposed to explain the process by which proto-Chadic speakers arrived to the Lake Chad region. Ehret has put forward a model for Afroasiatic languages with a primary division between the Omotic languages of Ethiopia and an Erythraean subgroup. This, in turn, has been subdivided into Cushitic and North Erythraean, the latter including Berber, Semitic, Ancient Egyptian, and Chadic.
In his opinion, around 7000 kya proto-Chadic Afroasiatic speakers may have moved west through the Central Sahara and then farther south into the Lake Chad Basin. Blench, in turn, suggested that speakers of proto-Cushitic–Chadic language migrated east-to-west from the Middle Nile to the Lake Chad, and recent mtDNA data support this view.
However, in contrast to the mtDNA, a strong connection between Chadic and other Afroasiatic populations from Northern Africa is revealed by the Y chromosome data. This finding would indicate the trans-Saharan a more likely scenario than the inter-Saharan hypothesis, at least as far as the male component of gene pool is concerned. In this view, it is tempting to speculate that the Y chromosome haplogroup R-V88 represents a preserved genetic record of gene flow along the same axis as the proposed spread of proto-Chadic languages.
Indeed, geomorphological evidence4 from the paleolakes that existed in the Sahara during the mid-Holocene indicates that these lakes could have covered an area as large as about 10% of the Sahara, providing an important corridor for human migrations across the region.
In summary, our data indicate a significant male contribution from northern Africa (and ultimately Asia) to the gene pool of the central Sahel. The trans-Saharan population movements resulting in this genetic pattern would seem to mirror the spread of the proto-Chadic languages, and most likely took place during the early mid Holocene, a period when giant paleolakes may have provided a corridor for human migrations across what is now the Sahara desert.
At the craddle of Afroasiatic (or Northern Afroasiatic), Capsian culture, stone circles and possibly E1b1b and R1b-V88, the Upper Egypt/Nubia area, we find striking cultural parallels with the SW Europe and southern Turkey. The exact spread of these cultural elements is so far a mystery. Both “missing links” are NW Africa and West Asia south of Turkey. Whatever the case, it seems that the Nile area got West Eurasian influences in the Paleolithic, which explain the presence of R1b and possibly other haplogroups.
The earliest blade industries in North Africa are called Ibero-Maurusian or Oranian (after a site near Oran). The industry appears to have spread throughout the coastal regions of North Africa between 15,000 and 10,000 BC.
Between about 9000 and 5000 BC, the Capsian culture made its appearance showing signs to belong to the Neolithic and began influencing the IberoMaurusian, and after about 3000 BC the remains of just one human culture can be found throughout the former region.
Neolithic civilization (marked by animal domestication and subsistence agriculture) developed in the Saharan and Mediterranean North Africa after the Levante between 6000 and 2000 BC. This type of economy, so richly depicted in the Tassili n’Ajjer cave paintings, predominated in North Africa until the classical period.
The cave paintings found at Tassili n’Ajjer, north of Tamanrasset, Algeria, and at other locations depict vibrant and vivid scenes of everyday life in central North Africa during the Neolithic Subpluvial period (about 8000 to 4000 BC). They were executed by a hunting people in the Capsian period of the Neolithic age who lived in a savanna region teeming with giant buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus, animals that no longer exist in the now-desert area.
The pictures provide the most complete record of a prehistoric African culture. Various populations of pastoralists have left paintings of abundant wildlife, domesticated animals, chariots, and a complex culture that dates back to at least 10,000 BC in Northern Niger and neighboring parts of Algeria and Libya. Several former northern Nigerien villages and archeological sites date from the Green Sahara period of 7500-7000 to 3500-3000 BC.
Some parts of North Africa began to participate in the Neolithic revolution in the 6th millennium BC, just before the rapid desertification of the Sahara around 3500 B.C. due to a tilt in the Earth’s orbit.
Clement and fertile conditions during the Neolithic Subpluvial supported increased human settlement of the Nile Valley in Egypt, as well as neolithic societies in Sudan and throughout the present-day Sahara. Cultures producing rock art (notably that at Tassili n’Ajjer in southeastern Algeria) flourished during this period. In Prehistoric Egypt, Neolithic settlements appear from about 6000 BC. Oher regions in Africa independently developed agriculture at about the same time: the Ethiopian highlands, the Sahel, and West Africa.
The beginning of the Bronze Age in Egypt is conventionally identified as the Protodynastic Period, following the Neolithic Naqada culture about 3200 BC. By the Iron Age, the historic record demonstrated the existence of the Berbers in North Africa from at least 10,000 BC. While Egypt and Sudan had entered historicity since the Bronze Age, the Maghreb remained in the prehistoric period longer. Some Phoenician and Greek colonies were established along the Mediterranean coast during the 7th century BC.
The Halfan culture flourished along the Nile Valley of Egypt and Nubia between 18,000 and 15,000 BC, though one Halfan site dates to before 24,000 BC. They survived on a diet of large herd animals and the Khormusan tradition of fishing. Greater concentrations of artifacts indicate that they were not bound to seasonal wandering, but settled for longer periods.
They are viewed as the parent culture of the Ibero-Maurusian industry, which spread across the Sahara and into Spain. The Halfan culture was derived in turn from the Khormusan, which depended on specialized hunting, fishing, and collecting techniques for survival. The primary material remains of this culture are stone tools, flakes, and a multitude of rock paintings.
About twenty archaeological sites in upper Nubia give evidence for the existence of a grain-grinding Mesolithic culture called the Qadan Culture, which practiced wild grain harvesting along the Nile during the beginning of the Sahaba Daru Nile phase, when desiccation in the Sahara caused residents of the Libyan oases to retreat into the Nile valley.
Qadan peoples developed sickles and grinding stones to aid in the collecting and processing of these plant foods prior to consumption. However there are no indications of the use of these tools after around 10,000 BC, when hunter-gatherers replaced them.
In Egypt, analyses of pollen found at archaeological sites indicate that the Sebilian culture (also known as Esna culture) were gathering wheat and barley. Domesticated seeds were not found (modern wheat and barley originated in Asia Minor and Palestine). It has been hypothesized that the sedentary lifestyle used by farmers led to increased warfare, which was detrimental to farming and brought this period to an end.
The Harifian is a specialized regional cultural development of the Epipalaeolithic of the Negev Desert. It corresponds to the latest stages of the Natufian culture. Like the Natufian, it is characterized by semi-subterranean houses. These are often more elaborate than those found at Natufian sites. For the first time arrowheads are found among the stone tool kit.
Andy Burns states “The Harifian dates to between approximately 10,800/10,500bp and 10,000/10,200bp. It is restricted to the Sinai and Negev, and is probably broadly contemporary with the Late Natufian or Pre-Pottery Neolithic A.
Microlithic points are a characteristic feature of the industry, with the Harif point being both new and particularly diagnostic – Bar-Yosef (1998) suggests that it is an indication of improved hunting techniques. Lunates, isosceles and other triangular forms were backed with retouch, and some Helwan lunates are found. This industry contrasts with the Desert Natufian which did not have the roughly triangular points in its assemblage.
There are two main groups within the Harifian. One group consists of ephemeral base camps in the north of Sinai and western Negev, where stone points comprise up to 88% of all microliths, accompanied by only a few lunates and triangles. The other group consists of base camps and smaller campsites in the Negev and features a greater number of lunates and triangles than points. These sites probably represent functional rather than chronological differences. The presence of Khiam points in some sites indicates that there was communication with other areas in the Levant at this time.”
Harifian has close connections with the late Mesolithic cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Deserts of Egypt, whose tool assemblage resembles that of the Harifian. Fusion with animal domestication elements of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) culture is hypothesised by Juris Zarins, to have led to the Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, a group of cultures that invented nomadic pastoralism, and may have been the original culture which spread Proto-Semitic languages throughout the region.
The Harifians are viewed as migrating out of the Fayyum and the Eastern Deserts of Egypt during the late Mesolithic to merge with the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) culture, whose tool assemblage resembles that of the Harifian. This assimilation led to the Circum-Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, a group of cultures that invented nomadic pastoralism, and may have been the original culture which spread Proto-Semitic languages throughout Mesopotamia.
Continued desertification forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians to settle around the Nile more permanently and adopt a more sedentary lifestyle.
The period from 9000 to 6000 BC has left very little in the way of archaeological evidence. Around 6000 BC, Neolithic settlements appear all over Egypt. Studies based on morphological, genetic, and archaeological data have attributed these settlements to migrants from the Fertile Crescent in the Near East returning during the Egyptian and North African Neolithic, bringing agriculture to the region.
However, other regions in Africa independently developed agriculture at about the same time: the Ethiopian highlands, the Sahel, and West Africa. However, some morphological and post-cranial data has linked the earliest farming populations at Fayum, Merimde, and El-Badari, to Near Eastern populations.
The archaeological data suggests that Near Eastern domesticates were incorporated into a pre-existing foraging strategy and only slowly developed into a full-blown lifestyle, contrary to what would be expected from settler colonists from the Near East.
Finally, the names for the Near Eastern domesticates imported into Egypt were not Sumerian or Proto-Semitic loan words, which further diminishes the likelihood of a mass immigrant colonization of lower Egypt during the transition to agriculture.
Weaving is evidenced for the first time during the Faiyum A Period. People of this period, unlike later Egyptians, buried their dead very close to, and sometimes inside, their settlements.
Although archaeological sites reveal very little about this time, an examination of the many Egyptian words for “city” provide a hypothetical list of reasons why the Egyptians settled. In Upper Egypt, terminology indicates trade, protection of livestock, high ground for flood refuge, and sacred sites for deities.
From about 5000 to 4200 BC the Merimde culture, so far only known from a big settlement site at the edge of the Western Delta, flourished in Lower Egypt. The culture has strong connections to the Faiyum A culture as well as the Levant.
People lived in small huts, produced a simple undecorated pottery and had stone tools. Cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were held. Wheat, sorghum and barley were planted. The Merimde people buried their dead within the settlement and produced clay figurines. The first Egyptian lifesize head made of clay comes from Merimde.
Haplogroup R* originated in North Asia just before the Last Glacial Maximum (26,500-19,000 years ago). This haplogroup has been identified in the remains of a 24,000 year-old boy from the Altai region, in south-central Siberia (Raghavan et al. 2013). This individual belonged to a tribe of mammoth hunters that may have roamed across Siberia and parts of Europe during the Paleolithic.
Autosomally this Paleolithic population appears to have contributed mostly to the ancestry of modern Europeans and South Asians, the two regions where haplogroup R also happens to be the most common nowadays (R1b in Western Europe, R1a in Eastern Europe, Central and South Asia, and R2 in South Asia).
The oldest forms of R1b (M343, P25, L389) are found dispersed at very low frequencies from Western Europe to India, a vast region where could have roamed the nomadic R1b hunter-gatherers during the Ice Age.
The three main branches of R1b1 (R1b1a, R1b1b, R1b1c) all seem to have stemmed from the Middle East. The southern branch, R1b1c (V88), is found mostly in the Levant and Africa. It is found among the native populations of Rwanda, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau.
The Sahara, covering about one third of the African continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, is the earth’s most extensive desert. Over the past thousands of years, the Sahara has undergone dramatic climatic oscillations including arid phases, during which it was largely uninhabitable, and humid episodes, which transformed the desert into a fertile landscape. After a hyper-arid period about 2100–12.500 BC, the Saharan region experienced a monsoonal moist climate, characterized by increased rainfall.
During the Holocene Climatic Optimum (about 8000–3000 BC), a few thousand years after the beginning of the humid period, flora and fauna repopulated the desert, and a mosaic of savannah and woodland became well established throughout much of the Sahara.
At the same time, the Sahara was home to giant lakes, the largest of which, the paleolake Megachad, may have possibly covered an area of at least 400 000 km2, more than the Caspian Sea, the biggest lake on earth today.
This greening scenario was interrupted by a number of arid episodes, and at about 3000–4000 BC, the region experienced a rapid onset of dryer conditions. These marked the beginning of a shift towards permanent aridity, with variations in the distribution and timing of these changes between the eastern and central/western Sahara. Human–environment interactions in the Sahara have been greatly influenced by these climate fluctuations.
The migration of R1b people can be followed archeologically through the presence of domesticated cattle, which appear in central Syria around 8,000-7,500 BCE (late Mureybet period), then in the Southern Levant and Egypt around 7,000-6,500 BCE (e.g. at Nabta Playa and Bir Kiseiba). Cattle herders subsequently spread across most of northern and eastern Africa.
The wide distribution of V88 in all parts of Africa, its incidence among herding tribes, and the coalescence age of the haplogroup all support a Neolithic dispersal. Evidence of cow herding during the Neolithic has shown up at Uan Muhuggiag in central Libya around 5500 BCE, at the Capeletti Cave in northern Algeria around 4500 BCE.
But the most compelling evidence that R1b people related to modern Europeans once roamed the Sahara is to be found at Tassili n’Ajjer in southern Algeria, a site famous pyroglyphs (rock art) dating from the Neolithic era. Some painting dating from around 3000 BCE depict fair-skinned and blond or auburn haired women riding on cows.
After reaching the Maghreb, R1b-V88 cattle herders could have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to Iberia, probably accompanied by G2 farmers, J1 and T1a goat herders and native Maghreban E-M81 lineages. These Maghreban Neolithic farmers/herders could have been the ones who established the Almagra Pottery culture in Andalusia in the 6th millennium BCE.
Nowadays small percentages (1 to 4%) of R1b-V88 are found in the Levant, among the Lebanese, the Druze, and the Jews, and almost in every country in Africa north of the equator. Higher frequency in Egypt (5%), among Berbers from the Egypt-Libya border (23%), among the Sudanese Copts (15%), the Hausa people of Sudan (40%), the the Fulani people of the Sahel (54% in Niger and Cameroon), and Chadic tribes of northern Nigeria and northern Cameroon (especially among the Kirdi), where it is observed at a frequency ranging from 30% to 95% of men. According to Cruciani et al. (2010) R1b-V88 would have crossed the Sahara between 9,200 and 5,600 years ago, and is most probably associated with the diffusion of Chadic languages, a branch of the Afroasiatic languages.
V88 would have migrated from Egypt to Sudan, then expanded along the Sahel until northern Cameroon and Nigeria. However, R1b-V88 is not only present among Chadic speakers, but also among Senegambian speakers (Fula-Hausa) and Semitic speakers (Berbers, Arabs).
R1b-V88 is found among the native populations of Rwanda, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau. The wide distribution of V88 in all parts of Africa, its incidence among herding tribes, and the coalescence age of the haplogroup all support a Neolithic dispersal. In any case, a later migration out of Egypt would be improbable since it would have brought haplogroups that came to Egypt during the Bronze Age, such as J1, J2, R1a or R1b-L23.
The maternal lineages associated with the spread of R1b-V88 in Africa are mtDNA haplogroups J1b, U5 and V, and perhaps also U3 and some H subclades.
The northern branch, R1b1a (P297), seems to have originated around the Caucasus, eastern Anatolia or northern Mesopotamia, then to have crossed over the Caucasus, from where they would have invaded Europe and Central Asia. It migrated from the Middle East to the North Caucasus, founded the Maykop culture and spread the Bronze Age to the steppes then to Europe. R1b1b (M335) has only been found in Anatolia.
It has been hypothetised that R1b people (perhaps alongside neighbouring J2 tribes) were the first to domesticate cattle in northern Mesopotamia some 10,500 years ago. R1b tribes descended from mammoth hunters, and when mammoths went extinct, they started hunting other large game such as bisons and aurochs.
With the increase of the human population in the Fertile Crescent from the beginning of the Neolithic (starting 12,000 years ago), selective hunting and culling of herds started replacing indiscriminate killing of wild animals. The increased involvement of humans in the life of aurochs, wild boars and goats led to their progressive taming.
Cattle herders probably maintained a nomadic or semi-nomadic existence, while other people in the Fertile Crescent (presumably represented by haplogroups E1b1b, G and T) settled down to cultivate the land or keep smaller domesticates.
The analysis of bovine DNA has revealed that all the taurine cattle (Bos taurus) alive today descend from a population of only 80 aurochs. The earliest evidence of cattle domestication dates from circa 8,500 BCE in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures in the Taurus Mountains.
The two oldest archaeological sites showing signs of cattle domestication are the villages of Çayönü Tepesi in southeastern Turkey and Dja’de el-Mughara in northern Iraq, two sites only 250 km away from each others. This is presumably the area from which R1b lineages started expanding – or in other words the “original homeland” of R1b.
The early R1b cattle herders would have split in at least three groups. One branch (M335) remained in Anatolia, but judging from its extreme rarity today wasn’t very successful, perhaps due to the heavy competition with other Neolithic populations in Anatolia, or to the scarcity of pastures in this mountainous environment.
A second branch migrated south to the Levant, where it became the V88 branch. Some of them searched for new lands south in Africa, first in Egypt, then colonising most of northern Africa, from the Mediterranean coast to the Sahel.
The third branch (P297), crossed the Caucasus into the vast Pontic-Caspian Steppe, which provided ideal grazing grounds for cattle. They split into two factions: R1b1a1 (M73), which went east along the Caspian Sea to Central Asia, and R1b1a2 (M269), which at first remained in the North Caucasus and the Pontic Steppe between the Dnieper and the Volga.
It is not yet clear whether M73 actually migrated across the Caucasus and reached Central Asia via Kazakhstan, or if it went south through Iran and Turkmenistan. In the latter case, M73 might not be an Indo-European branch of R1b, just like V88 and M335.
R1b-M269 (the most common form in Europe) is closely associated with the diffusion of Indo-European languages, as attested by its presence in all regions of the world where Indo-European languages were spoken in ancient times, from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Indian subcontinent, which comprised almost all Europe (except Finland, Sardinia and Bosnia-Herzegovina), Anatolia, Armenia, European Russia, southern Siberia, many pockets around Central Asia (notably in Xinjiang, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan), without forgetting Iran, Pakistan, northern India and Nepal. The history of R1b and R1a are intricately connected to each others.
Haplogroup J2 is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. Its present geographic distribution argue in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent.
This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE) from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of cereal agriculture in the Levant (which appears to be linked rather to haplogroups G2 and E1b1b).
A second expansion of J2 could have occured with the advent of metallurgy, notably copper working (from the Lower Danube valley, central Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia), and the rise of some of the oldest civilisations.
Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. This is the case of the Hattians, the Hurrians, the Etruscans, the Minoans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and their Carthaginian offshoot), the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.
There is a distinct association of ancient J2 civilisations with bull worship. The oldest evidence of a cult of the bull can be traced back to Neolithic central Anatolia, notably at the sites of Çatalhöyük and Alaca Höyük. Bull depictions are omnipresent in Minoan frescos and ceramics in Crete.
Bull-masked terracotta figurines and bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus (dating back as far as the Neolithic, the first presumed expansion of J2 from West Asia). The Hattians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaaites, and Carthaginians all had bull deities (in contrast with Indo-European or East Asian religions).
The sacred bull of Hinduism, Nandi, present in all temples dedicated to Shiva or Parvati, does not have an Indo-European origin, but can be traced back to Indus Valley civilisation. Minoan Crete, Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley also shared a tradition of bull leaping, the ritual of dodging the charge of a bull. It survives today in the traditional bullfighting of Andalusia in Spain and Provence in France, two regions with a high percentage of J2 lineages.
The region of origin of J2 is still unclear at present. It is likely that J2 men had settled over most of Anatolia, the South Caucasus and Iran by the end of the Last Glaciation 12,000 years ago. It is possible that J2 hunter-gatherers then goat/sheep herders also lived in the Fertile Crescent during the Neolithic period, although the development of early cereal agriculture is thought to have been conducted by men belonging primarily to haplogroups E1b1b and G2a.
The first expansion of J2 into Europe probably happened during the Late Glacial and immediate postglacial periods (c. 16 to 10 kya), when Anatolian hunter-gatherers moved into the Balkans. This migration would have included J2b and E-V13 male lineages and assorted J and T maternal lineages (presumably J1c, J2a1, T1a1, T2a1b, T2b, T2e and T2f1).
This population would have occupied the modern regions of western Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Bulgaria. When farmers and herders expanded from the Fertile Crescent during the Early Neolithic, they would have blended with one another before expanding towards Central Europe and Italy.
J2b seems to have split in two subclades soon after leaving Anatolia, with J2b1 being found mostly in western Anatolia and Greece, while J2b2 expanded from the Balkans to most of Europe, to Central Asia, India and back to the Middle East.
It is very likely that J2a, J1 and G2a were the three dominant male lineages the Early Bronze Age Kura-Araxes culture, which expanded from the South Caucasus to eastern Anatolia, northern Mesopotamia and the western Iran. From then on, J2 men would have definitely have represented a sizeable portion of the population of Bronze and Iron Age civilizations such as the Hurrians, the Assyrians or the Hittites.
Haplogroup G descends from macro-haplogroup F, which is thought to represent the second major migration of Homo sapiens out of Africa, at least 60,000 years ago.
While the earlier migration of haplogroups C and D had followed the coasts of South Asia as far as Oceania and the Far East, haplogroup F penetrated through the Arabian peninsula and settled in the Middle East. Its main branch, macro-haplogroup IJK would become the ancestor of 80% of modern Eurasian people.
Haplogroup G had a slow start, evolving in apparent isolation for tens of thousands of years, possibly in Southwest Asia, cut off from the wave of colonisation of Eurasia.
As of early 2014, there were 286 mutations (SNPs) defining haplogroup G, confirming that this paternal lineage experienced a severe bottleneck before splitting into happlogroups G1 and G2.
Haplogroup G1 might have originated around modern Iran, while G2 would have developed in Southwest Asia during the Upper Paleolithic, probably in the Late Glacial period (19,000 to 12,000 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 haplogroup G2 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. The G2a branch expanded to Anatolia, the Caucasus and Europe, while G2b ended up secluded in the southern Levant and is now found mostly among Jewish people.
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.
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).
The highest genetic diversity within haplogroup G is found between the Levant and the Caucasus, in the Fertile Crescent, which is a 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. So far, the only G2a people negative for subclades downstream of P15 or L149.1 were found exclusively in the South Caucasus region.
Uruk (Cuneiform: UNUG; Sumerian: Unug; Akkadian: Uruk; Aramaic/Hebrew: Erech; Ancient Greek: Orchoē, Arabic: Warkā) was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the dried-up, ancient channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.
Uruk is the type site for the Uruk period. Uruk played a leading role in the early urbanization of Sumer in the mid 4th millennium BC. At its height c. 2900 BC, Uruk probably had 50,000–80,000 residents living in 6 km2 of walled area; making it the largest city in the world at the time. The legendary king Gilgamesh, according to the chronology presented in the Sumerian king list, ruled Uruk in the 27th century BC.
The city lost its prime importance around 2000 BC, in the context of the struggle of Babylonia with Elam, but it remained inhabited throughout the Seleucid and Parthian periods until it was finally abandoned shortly before or after the Islamic conquest.
The site of Uruk was visited in 1849 by William Kennett Loftus who led the first excavations from 1850 to 1854. The Arabic name of Babylonia, al-ʿIrāq, is thought to be derived from the name Uruk, via Aramaic (Erech) and possibly Middle Persian (Erāq) transmission.
In addition to being one of the first cities, Uruk was the main force of urbanization during the Uruk period (4000–3200 BC). This period of 800 years saw a shift from small, agricultural villages to a larger urban center with a full-time bureaucracy, military, and stratified society.
The Uruk period culture exported by Sumerian traders and colonists had an effect on all surrounding peoples, who gradually evolved their own comparable, competing economies and cultures. Ultimately, Uruk could not maintain long-distance control over colonies such as Tell Brak by military force.
Geographic factors underpin Uruk’s unprecedented growth. The city was located in the southern part of Mesopotamia, an ancient site of civilization, on the Euphrates rivers.
Through the gradual and eventual domestication of native grains from the Zagros foothills and extensive irrigation techniques, the area supported a vast variety of edible vegetation. This domestication of grain and its proximity to rivers enabled Uruk’s growth into the largest Sumerian settlement, in both population and area, with relative ease.
Uruk’s agricultural surplus and large population base facilitated processes such as trade, specialization of crafts and the evolution of writing. Evidence from excavations, such as extensive pottery and the earliest known tablets of writing, support these events.
Excavation of Uruk is highly complex because older buildings were recycled into newer ones, thus blurring the layers of different historic periods. The topmost layer most likely originated in the Jemdet Nasr period (3100–2900 BC) and is built on structures from earlier periods dating back to the Ubaid period.
Semitic is an offshoot of a northern family of Afroasiatic languages, including Berber, and possibly Egyptian. It then entered the Levant and was possibly spread by what Juris Zarins calls the Syro-Arabian nomadic pastoralism complex, spreading south along the shores of the Red Sea and northeast around the edge of the “Fertile Crescent”. It is thought that Semitic speakers then crossed from South Arabia back into Eritrea.
The Kish civilization or tradition is a term coined by Ignace Gelb to indicate the early East Semitic period in Mesopotamia and the Levant starting in the early 4th millennium BC and including the sites of Ebla and Mari in the Levant, Nagar in the north, and the proto-Akkadian sites of Abu Salabikh and Kish in central Mesopotamia which constituted the Uri region as it was known to the Sumerians.
The East-Semitic population migrated from what is now the Levant and spread into Mesopotamia, and the new population could have contributed to the collapse of the Uruk period c. 3100 BC. This early East Semitic culture is characterized by linguistic, literary and orthographic similarities extending from Ebla in the west to Abu Salabikh in the East.
The personal names from the Sumerian city of Kish show an East Semitic nature and reveals that the city population had a strong Semitic component from the dawn of recorded history, Gelb consider Kish to be the center of this civilization hence the naming.
The similarities included the using of a writing system that utilized non-Sumerian Logograms, the use of the same system in naming the months of the year, dating by regnal years and a similar measuring system among many other similarities.
However Gelb doesn’t assume the existence of a single authority ruling those lands as each city had its own monarchical system, in addition to some linguistic differences for while the languages of Mari and Ebla were closely related, Kish represented an independent East-Semitic linguistic entity that spoke a dialect (Kishite), different from both pre-Sargonic Akkadian and the Ebla-Mari language. The Kish Civlization is considered to end with the rise of the Akkadian empire in the 24th century BC.
I think I have a general handle on how the so-called “dragon bloodline” has manifested in the real world. Below I will attempt to plot, in a very general and simplistic fashion, the meandering of the main branches of this so-called dragon, however I don’t contend that there is a literal blood connection between the ancient Sumerians and Egyptian Pharaohs to the present … I doubt that there is (… though there might, and some might believe it to be so).
I simply see that there is a cultural connection apparent and that the movement of the concept of rule by divine right and the traditions of conquering culture can be traced. The arrows below don’t represent the movements of people so much as the movements of leadership and ideas associated with “dragon culture”.
It started amid a quartet of locales, between which advanced heirarchical society apparently evolved over many centuries (circa, 5 thousand years ago?) … primarily Egypt, Canaan, Sumer and Crete.