Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

  • Sjur C Papazian

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Manji / Wan (Buddhist “Swastika”)

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on October 18, 2015

Manji / Wan (Buddhist “Swastika”)

Chinese Neolithic

Painted pottery culture

The swastika used in Buddhist art and scripture is known as a manji (Japanese; whirlwind), and represents Dharma, universal harmony, and the balance of opposites. In China, it is called wan.

It is derived from the Hindu religious swastika, but it is not identical in meaning. Round Manji The Manji is made up of several elements: a vertical axis representing the joining of heaven and earth, a horizontal axis representing the connection of yin and yang, and the four arms, representing movement- the whirling force created by the interaction of these elements.

When facing left, it is the Omote (front facing) Manji, representing love and mercy. Facing right, it represents strength and intelligence, and is called the Ura (rear facing) Manji. In Zen Buddhism, the Manji represents an ideal harmony between love and intellect.

The oldest svastikas are to be found in the Neolithic/Calcolithic ceramic production that appeared in the ancient Near East towards the end of the 8th millenium BCE, and towards the 6th millenium BCE painted ceramics were common, and, much earlier, in Paleolithic Ukraine.

Halaf cultures, a prehistoric period which lasted between about 6100 and 5100 BCE, mixed with the Samarra cultures down south and eventually gave rise to the Sumerian culture, in which their pre-cuneiform characters match many of the Vinca’s symbols and characters).

In southern Mesopotamia the Samarra culture, and in northern Mesopotamia the Hassuna and Samarra cultures, produced finely decorated ceramics in the seventh and early 6th centuries BCE, showing the distribution of Halaf and early Ubaid cultures. Stylized animals and swirling patterns in chocolate-brown are typical of the Samarran style.

About 7000 years ago, the oldest European civilization flourished in the central and eastern Europe. It was the Eneolithic Culture of Cucuteni, an ancient society of equal people. The scientific world came to recognize Cucuteni today as the first civilization of Europe.

Archaeologists have named this culture after the village of the same name. Cucuteni is a village in Iasi county where, between 1885 and 1910, excavations revealed remains dating from the Neolithic 4500-3000 BC.

Cucuteni was widespread in Moldova, north-eastern Wallachia, south-eastern Transylvania and Bassarabia and was characterized by a ceramic of high quality, rich and varied painted and statuettes representing human and animal forms.

Cucuteni ceramic culture is unique in Europe. Some similarities can be found just between Cucuteni ceramics and pottery and a neolithic culture in China. Between the two cultures it is anyway a very long time, the Chinese culture appearing about a millennium after Cucuteni. Painted pottery emerged in great numbers during the Neolithic period of the Yangshao and Longshan cultures.

A distinctly Chinese artistic tradition can be traced to the middle of the Neolithic period, about 4000 B.C. Two groups of artifacts provide the earliest surviving evidence of this tradition. It is now thought that these cultures developed their own traditions for the most part independently, creating distinctive kinds of architecture and types of burial customs, but with some communication and cultural exchange between them.

The first group of artifacts is the painted pottery found at numerous sites along the Yellow River basin, extending from Gansu Province in northwestern China to Henan Province in central China. The culture that emerged in the central plain was known as Yangshao. A related culture that emerged in the northwest is classified into three categories, the Banshan, Majiayao, and Machang, each categorized by the types of pottery produced.

The second group of Neolithic artifacts consists of pottery and jade carvings (2009.176) from the eastern seaboard and the lower reaches of the Yangzi River in the south, representing the Hemudu (near Hangzhou), the Dawenkou and later the Longshan (in Shandong Province), and the Liangzhu (Hangzhou and Shanghai region). These same craftsmen are credited with developing the potter’s wheel in China.

The Dawenkou culture (4100 BC to 2600 BC) is a name given by archaeologists to a group of Neolithic communities who lived primarily in Shandong, but also appeared in Anhui, Henan and Jiangsu, China.

The culture co-existed with the Yangshao culture. Turquoise, jade and ivory artefacts are commonly found at Dawenkou sites. The earliest examples of alligator drums appear at Dawenkou sites.

Archaeologists commonly divide the culture into three phases: the early phase (4100-3500 BC), the middle phase (3500-3000 BC) and the late phase (3000-2600 BC). Only the middle layer at Dawenkou is associated with the Dawenkou culture, as the earliest layer corresponds to the Beixin culture and the latest layer corresponds to the early Shandong variant of the Longshan culture.

The physical similarity of the Jiahu people, the site of a Neolithic settlement based in the central plain of ancient China, near the Yellow River, to the later Dawenkou (4300-2600 BC) indicates that the Dawenkou might have descended from the Jiahu, following a slow migration along the middle and lower reaches of the Huai river and the Hanshui valley.

According to some scholars, the Dawenkou culture may have a link with a pre-Austronesian language. Other researchers also note a similarity between Dawenkou inhabitants and modern Austronesian people in cultural practices such as tooth avulsion and architecture.

Research, which included samples from Dawenkou, has shown that during the neolithic, some Australoid like-traits were present in populations of both northern and southern China.

Other researchers claim Dawenkou remains showed a degree of seperation with other neolithic cultures in northern China such as the Yangshao, who bore resemblance to modern day Southern Chinese, Indonesians and some Indo-Chinese.

The people of Dawenkou exhibited a primarily Sinodont dental pattern. The Dawenkou were also physically dissimilar to the neolithic inhabitants of Hemudu, Southern China and Taiwan.

Some scholars have asserted that the racial type of the Dawenkou bore resemblance to the Polynesian cranium type. Others suggested they were more similar to Southern Chinese and Southern Mongoloids

Cucuteni preceded by several hundred years all human settlements in Sumer and ancient Egypt. According to these discoveries, the Cucuteni people were living in large settlements, a kind of proto-towns made up of buildings arranged in concentric circles.

However, the roots of the Cucuteni culture is to be found in the Near East, in the Halaf culture, a period that is a continuous development out of the earlier Pottery Neolithic located primarily in south-eastern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, although Halaf-influenced material is found throughout Greater Mesopotamia.

The new archaeology demonstrated that Halaf culture was not sudden and was not the result of foreign people, but rather a continuous process of indigenous cultural changes in northern Syria, that spread to the other regions.

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.

Portasar (Armenian: “Navel”) or Göbekli Tepe (Turkish: “Potbelly Hill”]) 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. It was excavated by a German archaeological team under the direction of Klaus Schmidt from 1996 until his death in 2014. The tell includes two phases of ritual use dating back to the 10th-8th millennium BCE.

The surviving structures, then, not only predate pottery, metallurgy, and the invention of writing or the wheel, they were built before the so-called Neolithic Revolution, i.e., the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry around 9000 BCE. But the construction of Göbekli Tepe implies organization of an advanced order not hitherto associated with Paleolithic, PPNA, or PPNB societies.

It has been suggested that an elite class of religious leaders supervised the work and later controlled whatever ceremonies took place. If so, this would be the oldest known evidence for a priestly caste—much earlier than such social distinctions developed elsewhere in the Near East.

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