In the beginning of our Civilization
Posted by Fredsvenn on July 16, 2015
A new paper in Science uses Bayesian phylogeographic methods to model the spatial expansion of Indo-European languages from their Anatolian homeland. An informative video shows how the authors estimate the process took place across space and time.
PIE didn’t start in the Armenian Highland – this is based on Liguistics, Archeology, Haplogroups etc etc. However, Semitic share a lot in common with IE, and there are no reason to think that Semitic wasn’t first talked in Syria 3750 BC.
Portasar or Göbekli Tepe is regarded as an archaeological discovery of the greatest importance since it could profoundly change the understanding of a crucial stage in the development of human society. Ian Hodder of Stanford University said, “Göbekli Tepe changes everything”. It shows that the erection of monumental complexes was within the capacities of hunter-gatherers and not only of sedentary farming communities as had been previously assumed. As excavator Klaus Schmidt put it, “First came the temple, then the city.”
Not only its large dimensions, but the side-by-side existence of multiple pillar shrines makes the location unique. There are no comparable monumental complexes from its time. Nevalı Çori, a Neolithic settlement also excavated by the German Archaeological Institute and submerged by the Atatürk Dam since 1992, is 500 years younger. Its T-shaped pillars are considerably smaller, and its shrine was located inside a village. The roughly contemporary architecture at Jericho is devoid of artistic merit or large-scale sculpture, and Çatalhöyük, perhaps the most famous Anatolian Neolithic village, is 2,000 years later.
At present the complex raises more questions for archaeology and prehistory than it answers. It remains unknown how a force large enough to construct, augment, and maintain such a substantial complex was mobilized and compensated or fed in the conditions of pre-sedentary society.
Scholars cannot interpret the pictograms, and do not know for certain what meaning the animal reliefs had for visitors to the site; the variety of fauna depicted, from lions and boars to birds and insects, makes any single explanation problematic.
As there is little or no evidence of habitation, and the animals pictured are mainly predators, the stones may have been intended to stave off evils through some form of magic representation. Alternatively, they could have served as totems.
The assumption that the site was strictly cultic in purpose and not inhabited has also been challenged by the suggestion that the structures served as large communal houses, “similar in some ways to the large plank houses of the Northwest Coast of North America with their impressive house posts and totem poles.”
It is not known why every few decades the existing pillars were buried to be replaced by new stones as part of a smaller, concentric ring inside the older one. Human burial may or may not have occurred at the site. The reason the complex was carefully backfilled remains unexplained. Until more evidence is gathered, it is difficult to deduce anything certain about the originating culture or the site’s significance.
In the border area between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, in an area formerly known as Western Armenia, cultures like the Halaf and the Hassuna cultures, not to forget the Shulaveri Shomu culture, developed, while in Central Iraq the Samarra culture developed, and in the south of Iraq the Ubaid culture developed. All these cultures have in common that they have teir root in the Armenian Highland.
Jarmo (Qal’at Jarmo) is an archeological site located in Southern Kurdistan [northern Iraq] on the foothills of Zagros Mountains east of Kirkuk city. It was one of the oldest agricultural communities in the world, dating back to 7090 BCE. Jarmo is broadly contemporary with such other important Neolithic sites such as Jericho in the southern Levant and Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia.
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 culture flowered in southern Iraq before moving up north. The Ubaid pottery of southern Mesopotamia has been connected via Choga Mami Transitional ware to the pottery of the Samarra period culture (c. 5700 – 4900 BC C-14) in the north, who were the first to practice a primitive form of irrigation agriculture along the middle Tigris River and its tributaries.
Later on the Sumerian culture was created. The Sumerians were a non-Semitic people, and spoke a language isolate; a number of linguists believed they could detect a substrate language beneath Sumerian, names of some of Sumer’s major cities are not Sumerian, revealing influences of earlier inhabitants.
It is speculated by some archaeologists that Sumerian speakers were farmers who moved down from the north, after perfecting irrigation agriculture there. According to this view, farming peoples spread down into southern Mesopotamia because they had developed a temple-centered social organization for mobilizing labor and technology for water control, enabling them to survive and prosper in a difficult environment.
Others have suggested a continuity of Sumerians, from the indigenous hunter-fisherfolk traditions, associated with the Arabian bifacial assemblages found on the Arabian littoral, while the Sumerians themselves claimed kinship with the people of Dilmun, associated with Bahrein in the Persian Gulf. Professor Juris Zarins believes the Sumerians may have been the people living in the Persian Gulf region before it flooded at the end of the last Ice Age.
Sumer was one of the ancient civilizations and historical regions in southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq, during the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze ages. Although the earliest specimens of writing in the region do not go back much further than ca. 2500 BC, modern historians have suggested that Sumer was first permanently settled between ca. 5500 and 4000 BC by a non-Semitic people who spoke the Sumerian language (pointing to the names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc., as evidence). These conjectured, prehistoric people are now called “proto-Euphrateans” or “Ubaidians”, and are theorized to have evolved from the Samarra culture of northern Mesopotamia.
According to the Sumerian king list, Uruk was founded by the king Enmerkar. Though the king-list mentions a king of Eanna before him, the epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta relates that Enmerkar constructed the House of Heaven (Sumerian: e2-anna; Cuneiform: E.AN) for the goddess Inanna in the Eanna District of Uruk. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh builds the city wall around Uruk and is king of the city.
Uruk went through several phases of growth, from the Early Uruk period (4000–3500 BC) to the Late Uruk period (3500–3100 BC). The city was formed when two smaller Ubaid settlements merged. The temple complexes at their cores became the Eanna District and the Anu District dedicated to Inanna and Anu, respectively. The Anu District was originally called ‘Kullaba’ (Kulab or Unug-Kulaba) prior to merging with the Eanna District. Kullaba dates to the Eridu period when it was one of the oldest and most important cities of Sumer.
There are different interpretations about the purposes of the temples. However, it is generally believed they were a unifying feature of the city. It also seems clear that temples served both an important religious function and state function. The surviving temple archive of the Neo-Babylonian period documents the social function of the temple as a redistribution center.
Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list.
Aratta is described in Sumerian literature as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach. It is home to the goddess Inanna, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.
Inanna’s name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna; however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin; Cuneiform: SAL.TUG2) and sky (Sumerian: an; Cuneiform: AN).
These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities. The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.
Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis. Inara’s mother is probably Hebat and her brother is Sarruma.
The mother goddess Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”) promises Inara land and a man during a consultation by Inara. Inara then disappears. Her father looks for her, joined by Hannahannah with a bee. The story resembles that of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, in Greek myth. Hannahannah was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat.
The Ubaidians (though never mentioned by the Sumerians themselves) are assumed by modern-day scholars to have been the first civilizing force in Sumer, draining the marshes for agriculture, developing trade, and establishing industries, including weaving, leatherwork, metalwork, masonry, and pottery.
However, some scholars contest the idea of a Proto-Euphratean language or one substrate language. It has been suggested by them and others, that the Sumerian language was originally that of the hunter and fisher peoples, who lived in the marshland and the Eastern Arabia littoral region, and were part of the Arabian bifacial culture.
Reliable historical records begin much later; there are none in Sumer of any kind that have been dated before Enmebaragesi (c. 26th century BC). Professor Juris Zarins believes the Sumerians were settled along the coast of Eastern Arabia, today’s Persian Gulf region, before it flooded at the end of the Ice Age. Sumerian literature speaks of their homeland being Dilmun.
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB, circa 7,600-6,000 BC) is a division of the Neolithic developed by Kathleen Kenyon during her archaeological excavations at Jericho in the West Bank. Cultural tendencies of this period differ from the earlier Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period in that people living during this period began to depend more heavily upon the use of domesticated animals to supplement their earlier mixed agrarian and hunter-gatherer diet, a different set of tools, and new architectural styles.
Like the earlier PPNA people, the PPNB culture developed from the Earlier Natufian but shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia, the Armenian Highland. The culture disappeared during the 8.2 kiloyear event, a term that climatologists have adopted for a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6200 BCE, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries.
In the following Munhatta and Yarmukian post-pottery Neolithic cultures that succeeded it, rapid cultural development continues, although PPNB culture continued in the Amuq valley, where it influenced the later development of Ghassulian culture. Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period which existed between 8,200 and 7,900 BP.
Juris Zarins has proposed that a Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex developed in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BCE, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in PPNB cultures upon animal domesticates, and a fusion with Harifian hunter gatherers in Southern Palestine, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt. Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into southern Iraq.
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, one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene Epoch, at the end of the Older Peron, which in the eastern Arabian Peninsula may have contributed to an increase in relatively greater social complexity, corresponding to an end of the local Ubaid.
The 5.9 kiloyear event occurred around 3900 BC (5,900 years BP), ending the Neolithic Subpluvial and probably initiating 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.
The region of origin of the reconstructed Proto-Semitic language, ancestral to historical and modern Semitic languages in the Middle East, is still uncertain and much debated. However, a recent Bayesian analysis identified an origin for Semitic languages in the Levant (modern Syria and Lebanon) around 3750 BC with a later single introduction from what is now Southern Arabia into the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia) around 800 BC.
The climate catastrophe produced the Kish civilization, a time period corresponding to the early East Semitic era in Mesopotamia and the Levant. Coined by Ignace Gelb, the epoch began in the early 4th millennium BC. The tradition encompasses 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.
A few commentators have associated the end of the Uruk period with the climate changes linked to the Piora Oscillation, an abrupt cold and wet period in the climate history of the Holocene Epoch, other explanation is the arrival of the East Semitic tribes represented by the Kish civilization.
During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Semitic Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism. Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere between the 3rd and the 2nd millennia BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate).
Sumerian civilization took form in the Uruk period (4th millennium BC), continuing into the Jemdat Nasr and Early Dynastic periods. During the 3rd millennium BC, a close cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians, who spoke a language no relatives of which are known today; see language isolate, and the Semitic Akkadian speakers, which included widespread bilingualism.
The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the 3rd millennium BC as a Sprachbund.
The Akkadian Empire reached its political peak between the 24th and 22nd centuries BC, following the conquests by its founder Sargon of Akkad (2334–2279 BC). Under Sargon and his successors, Akkadian language was briefly imposed on neighboring conquered states such as Elam. Akkad is sometimes regarded as the first empire in history, though there are earlier Sumerian claimants.
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 civlisation is considered to end with the rise of the Akkadian empire in the 24th century BC.
The non-Semitic toponyms preserved in Akkadian and Palaeo-Syrian languages suggests that Syria and Mesopotamia were originally inhabited by a non-Semitic population. Edward Lipinski believes that support for an African origin is provided by what he describe as a possible relationship between Afro-Asiatic and the Niger–Congo languages, whose Urheimat probably lies in Nigeria–Cameroon.
He states that the most numerous isoglosses and lexicostatistical convergences link proto-Semitic to Libyco-Berber and concludes that proto-Semitic speakers were still living in the Neolithic Subpluvial in the 5th millennium BC when the Sahara was much wetter, retaining a link with Berber long after other Egyptic and Proto-Chadic separated.
According to Lipinski, rock drawings attest to a Neolithic culture in the Sahara that collapsed due to desertification and climate change ca. 3500 BC, forcing the Proto-Semites to emigrate en masse through the Nile Delta to western Asia. They were probably responsible for the collapse of the Ghassulian culture in Palestine around 3300 BC.
Another indication of the arrival of the proto-Semitic culture is the appearance of tumuli in 4th and 3rd millennium Palestine, which were typical characteristic of Neolithic North Africa. It is possible that at this point, the ancestors of the speakers of Elamite moved towards Iran, although the inclusion of Elamite in Afroasiatic is only contemplated by a tiny minority.
The earliest wave of Semitic speakers was the Akkadians, who entered the Fertile Crescent via Palestine and Syria and eventually founded the first Semitic empire at Kish. Their relatives, the Amorites, followed them and settled Syria before 2500 BC. The collapse of the Bronze Age culture in Palestine led the Southern Semites southwards, where they reached the highlands of Yemen after 2000 BC. Those crossed back to the Horn of Africa between 1500–500 BC.
The same authors dated Proto-Indo-European at 8.4ky, in agreement with the work of Gray and Atkinson. In the current paper they re-analyze the data of Kitchen et al. (2009) for Semitic languages, and their estimate is somewhat younger than 5,750 years of that paper. All in all, it’s good to see different researchers using different techniques but coming up with similar solutions.
The earliest attestations of a Semitic language are in Akkadian, dating to ca. the 23rd century BC and Eblaite, but earlier evidence of Akkadian comes from personal names in Sumerian texts circa 2800 BC. Researchers in Egypt also claim to have discovered Canaanite snake spells that “date from between 3000 and 2400 BC”.
The specific appearance of the donkey (an African animal) in Proto-Semitic but total absence of any reference to wheeled vehicles rather narrowly dates Proto-Semitic to between 3,800 BC and 3,500 BC.
It is increasingly clear that while the Proto-Indo-Europeans originated in the Neolithic Near East, the Proto-Semites followed them by about three thousand years. In the latter case there is also a Y-chromosome marker (J-P58) with an apparent age in impeccable agreement with the linguistic evidence, now that the genealogical-“evolutionary” mutation wars seem to have been won.
This also brings into focus the weakness of the argument that Anthony (2007) (p. 76) brings to the table by hypothesizing that the first farmers of northern Syria were Afro-Asiatic speakers like the Semites of the Near Eastern lowlands.
Semites come into the picture 5,000 years after the onset of the Neolithic, and 3,000 years after the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Their relationship with Afroasiatic speakers of Africa make it quite likely that they lived in the south, probably in Arabia, and certainly not in eastern Anatolia or northern Syria.
Indeed, the recent discovery that haplogroup J1*(xP58) is associated with Northeast Caucasian languages, together with the absence or paucity of J1 in most African Afroasiatic speakers suggests to me that the J-P58 Proto-Semites may be the result of the transfer of an African language on a basically West Asian population. Such a scenario might also explain some of the -incorrectly quantified, but nonetheless existent- African genetic components in both Jews and Arabs, as well as the pastoralist/dry-climate J1 associations.
In North Mesopotamia the Ubaid period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period. 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 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 (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 BC. The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslan-tepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.). The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets.
It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture (3700 BC-3000 BC), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Western Caucasus region of Southern Russia. Radiocarbon dates for various monuments of the Maykop culture are from 3950 – 3650 – 3610 – 2980 calBC.
It extends along the area from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan and southwards to the Kura River. The culture takes its name from a royal burial found in Maykop kurgan in the Kuban River valley.
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.
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 (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 BC. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture.
The culture has also 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.
It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. 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 2010, nearly 200 Bronze Age sites were reported stretching over 60 miles between the Kuban and Nalchik rivers, at an altitude of between 4,620 feet and 7,920 feet. They were all “visibly constructed according to the same architectural plan, with an oval courtyard in the center, and connected by roads.”
The Maykop kurgan was extremely rich in gold and silver artifacts; unusual for the time. 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.
The Maykop people lived sedentary lives, and horses formed a very low percentage of their livestock, which mostly consisted of pigs and cattle. Archaeologists have discovered a unique form of bronze cheek-pieces, which consists of a bronze rod with a twisted loop in the middle and a thread through her nodes that connects with bridle, halter strap and headband. Notches and bumps on the edges of the cheek-pieces were, apparently, to fix nose and under-lip belts.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
In the earliest phase of the Kura-Araxes culture, metal was scarce, but the culture 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, from the Volga, Dnieper and Don-Donets river systems in the north to Syria and Palestine in the south and Anatolia in the west.
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. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.
The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread northward in Caucasus 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. It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.
The culture is closely linked to the approximately contemporaneous Maykop culture of Ciscaucasia. 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.
Inhumation practices are mixed. They are also remarkable for the production of wheeled vehicles (wagons and carts), which were sometimes included in burial kurgans. Flat graves are found, but so are substantial kurgan burials, the latter of which may be surrounded by cromlechs, something that point 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.
The Trialeti culture, named after Trialeti region of Georgia, is attributed to the first part of the 2nd millennium BC. In the late 3rd millennium BC, settlements of the Kura-Araxes culture began to be replaced by early Trialeti culture sites. The Trialeti culture was the second culture to appear in Georgia, after the Shulaveri-Shomu culture which existed from 6000 to 4000 BC. The Trialeti culture shows close ties with the highly developed cultures of the ancient world, particularly with the Aegean, but also with cultures to the south, such as probably the Sumerians and their Akkadian conquerors.
The Trialeti culture was known for its particular form of burial. The elite were interred in large, very rich burials under earth and stone mounds, which sometimes contained four-wheeled carts. Also there were many gold objects found in the graves. These gold objects were similar to those found in Iran and Iraq. They also worked tin and arsenic. This form of burial in a tumulus or “kurgan”, along with wheeled vehicles, is the same as that of the Kurgan culture which has been associated with the speakers of Proto-Indo-European.
In fact, the black burnished pottery of especially early Trialeti kurgans is similar to Kura-Araxes pottery. In a historical context, their impressive accumulation of wealth in burial kurgans, like that of other associated and nearby cultures with similar burial practices, is particularly noteworthy. This practice was probably a result of influence from the older civilizations to the south in the Fertile Crescent.
The Armenian language (hayeren) is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenians. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia and the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It has historically been spoken throughout the Armenian Highlands and today is widely spoken in the Armenian diaspora. Armenian has its own unique script, the Armenian alphabet, invented in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots.
Linguists classify Armenian as an independent branch of the Indo-European language family. It is of interest to linguists for its distinctive phonological developments within the Indo-European languages. Some linguists group Armenian with Greek and the Indo-Iranian family into a higher-level subgroup of Indo-European, which is defined by such shared innovations as the augment. More recently, others have proposed a Balkan grouping including Greek, Phrygian, Armenian, and Albanian.
Armenia was a monolingual country by the second century BC at the latest. Its language has a long literary history, with a fifth-century Bible translation as its oldest surviving text. There are two standardized modern literary forms, Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian, with which most contemporary dialects are mutually intelligible.
While the Armenians were known to history much earlier (for example, they were mentioned in the 6th century BC Behistun Inscription and Xenophon’s 4th century BC history, The Anabasis), the oldest surviving Armenian-language text is the 5th-century AD Bible translation of Mesrop Mashtots, who created the Armenian alphabet in 405 AD, at which time it had 36 letters. He is also credited by some with the creation of the Georgian alphabet.
The loans from Iranian languages initially led linguists to erroneously classify Armenian as an Iranian language. The distinctness of Armenian was only recognized when Hübschmann (1875) used the comparative method to distinguish two layers of Iranian loans from the older Armenian vocabulary.
I. M. Austin (1942) concluded that there was an early contact between Armenian and Anatolian languages, based on what he considered common archaisms, such as the lack of a feminine and the absence of inherited long vowels. However, unlike shared innovations (or synapomorphies), the common retention of archaisms (or symplesiomorphy) is not necessarily considered evidence of a period of common isolated development.
Soviet linguist Igor Diakonov (1985) noted the presence in Old Armenian of what he calls a Caucasian substratum, identified by earlier scholars, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages. Noting that the Hurro-Urartian peoples inhabited the Armenian homeland in the second millennium b.c., Diakonov identifies in Armenian a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and animal and plant terms.
Some of the terms he gives admittedly have an Akkadian or Sumerian provenance, but he suggests they were borrowed through Hurrian or Urartian. Given that these borrowings do not undergo sound changes characteristic of the development of Armenian from Proto-Indo-European, he dates their borrowing to a time before the written record but after the Proto-Armenian language stage.
Graeco-Aryan (or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan) is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family, ancestral to the Greek language, the Armenian language, and the Indo-Iranian languages. Graeco-Aryan unity would have become divided into Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian by the mid 3rd millennium BC.
Conceivably, Proto-Armenian would have been located between Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, consistent with the fact that Armenian shares certain features only with Indo-Iranian (the satem change) but others only with Greek (s > h).
Graeco-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists for the Indo-European Homeland to be located in the Armenian Highland. Early and strong evidence was given by Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal flection.
Used in tandem with the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, the Armenian language would also be included under the label Aryano-Greco-Armenic, splitting into proto-Greek/Phrygian and “Armeno-Aryan” (ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian).
In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, Greco-Aryan is also known as “Late PIE” or “Late Indo-European” (LIE), suggesting that Greco-Aryan forms a dialect group which corresponds to the latest stage of linguistic unity in the Indo-European homeland in the early part of the 3rd millennium BC. By 2500 BC, Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had separated, moving westward and eastward from the Pontic Steppe, respectively.
If Graeco-Aryan is a valid group, Grassmann’s law may have a common origin in Greek and Sanskrit. Note, however, that Grassmann’s law in Greek postdates certain sound changes that happened only in Greek and not Sanskrit, which suggests that it cannot strictly be an inheritance from a common Graeco-Aryan stage.
Rather, it is more likely an areal feature that spread across a then-contiguous Graeco-Aryan-speaking area after early Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had developed into separate dialects but before they ceased being in geographic contact.