Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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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

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The Principality of Khachen

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on July 29, 2018

Sjur Cappelen Papazian sitt bilde.

Royal Standard of the Principality of Khachen (Kingdom of Artsakh) during the reign of Grand Prince Hasan Jalal Vahtangian (1214-1261).

The Principality of Khachen was a medieval Armenian principality on the territory of historical Artsakh (present-day Nagorno-Karabakh). Artsakh is located in the southern part of the Lesser Caucasus range, at the eastern edge of the Armenian Highlands, encompassing the highland part of the wider geographical region known as Karabakh.

Under Russian and Soviet rule, the region came to be known as Nagorno-Karabakh, meaning “Mountainous Karabakh” in Russian. The name Karabakh itself (derived from Turkic and Persian, and literary meaning “Black Vineyard”) was first employed in Georgian and Persian sources from the 13th and 14th centuries to refer to an Armenian principality known by modern historians as the Kingdom of Artsakh or Khachen.

Currently, most of this area is under the control of the de facto Artsakh Republic, which has economic, political, and military support from Armenia, but the region is de jure recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The final status of the region is still a subject of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The marches of Artsakh and Utik were attached to the Kingdom of Armenia in Antiquity. In the early medieval period they were under Sassanid or Arab suzerainty until the establishment of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia in the 9th century.

From the 12th century the Armenian Khachen principality dominated the region. The Byzantine emperor Constantine VII addressed his letters to the prince of Khachen with the inscription “To Prince of Khachen, Armenia.”

According to Abū Dulaf, an Arab traveller of the time, Khachen was an Armenian principality immediately south of Barda’a,  the capital of Caucasian Albania, a modern exonym for an ancient country in the eastern Caucasus, on the territory of present-day republic of Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located) and southern Dagestan, perhaps since the end of the fourth century.

The Armenian princely family of Hasan Jalalyan began ruling much of Khachen and Artsakh in 1214. In 1216, the Jalalyans founded the Gandzasar monastery which became the seat of a local Catholicos forced to Khachen from Partav (Barda) by the steady Islamization of the city.

The House of Hasan-Jalalyan was an Armenian dynasty named after Hasan-Jalal Dawla, an Armenian feudal prince from Khachen, that ruled the region of Khachen (Greater Artsakh) from 1214 onwards in what are now the regions of lower Karabakh, Nagorno-Karabakh and small part of Syunik.

Hasan-Jalal traced his descent to the Armenian Aranshahik dynasty, a family that predated the establishment of the Parthian Arsacids in the region.Much of Hasan-Jalal Dawla’s family roots were entrenched in an intricate array of royal marriages with new and old Armenian nakharar families.

Nakharar (“holder of the primacy”) was a hereditary title of the highest order given to houses of the ancient and medieval Armenian nobility. The origin of the nakharars seems to stretch back to pagan Armenia, which coexisted with the Roman and Parthian Empires.

The Hasan-Jalalyan family was able to maintain its autonomy throughout several centuries of foreign domination of the region by Seljuk Turks, Persians and Mongols as they, as well as the other Armenian princes and meliks of Khachen, saw themselves of holding the last bastion of Armenian independence in the region.

Through their many patronages of churches and other monuments, the Hasan-Jalalyans helped cultivate Armenian culture throughout the region. By the late 16th century, the Hasan-Jalalyan family had branched out to establish melikdoms in Gulistan and Jraberd, making them, along with Khachen, Varanda and Dizak, a part of what was then known as the “Melikdoms of Khamsa.”

The Khamsa (The Five) principalities maintained Armenian autonomy in the region throughout the Persian-Ottoman Wars. In 1603 the Persians established a protectorate over the Khamsa and sponsored the establishment of a local khanate in 1750. The name Khamsa, which was used by Arabs for the state, refers to the five Armenian Melikdoms who ruled the state.

History of Armenia in short

Little is known about the ancient history of the region, primarily because of the scarcity of historical sources. Because of its strategic location at the intersection of Asia and Europe, Anatolia has been the center of several civilizations since prehistoric times.

Neolithic settlements include Göbekli Tepe, Çayönü, Nevalı Çori, Hacılar, Mersin and Çatalhöyük. The history of Urfa may date back at least to 9000 BC, when there is ample evidence for the surrounding sites at Duru, Harran and Nevali Cori.

Within the further area of the city are three neolithic sites known: Göbekli Tepe, Gürcütepe and the city itself, where the life-sized limestone “Urfa Man” statue was found during an excavation in Balıklıgöl.

This is the place where the wide-scale transition from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, making an increasingly larger population possible, found place during the Neolithic period.

According to the local traditions held by many people in the area, the two river valleys in Nagorno-Karabakh were among the first to be settled by Noah’s descendants. The region was occupied by the people known to modern archaeologists as the Kura-Araxes, and is located between the two rivers bearing those names.

Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat. The area is traditionally believed to be one of the possible locations of the Garden of Eden. In Gilgamesh, the land of Aratta is placed in a geographic space that could be describing the Armenian plateau.

The Armenian Highland shows traces of settlement from the Neolithic era. Archaeological surveys in 2010 and 2011 have resulted in the discovery of the world’s earliest known leather shoe (3,500 BC), straw skirt (3,900 BC), and wine-making facility (4,000 BC) at the Areni-1 cave complex.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture of the central Transcaucasus region, one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures, is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands roughly 6000–4000 BC.

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 and Halaf cultures.

The Halaf period was succeeded by the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (ca. 5500/5400 to 5200/5000 BC) which comprised the late Halaf (c. 5400-5000 BC), and then by the Ubaid period. The Halaf appears to have ended around 5200 cal. BC and the northern Ubaid begins around then. There are several sites that run from the Halaf until the Ubaid.

During the Ubaid Period (5000–4000 BC), the movement towards urbanization began. “Agriculture and animal husbandry were widely practiced in sedentary communities”. There were also tribes that practiced domesticating animals as far north as Anatolia and as far south as the Zagros Mountains.

The Ubaid period in the south was associated with intensive irrigated hydraulic agriculture, and the use of the plough, both introduced from the north, possibly through the earlier Choga Mami, Hadji Muhammed and Samarra culture, a Chalcolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia that is roughly dated to 5500–4800 BC.

The Sumerians spoke a language isolate, but a number of linguists have claimed to be able to detect a substrate language of unknown classification beneath Sumerian because names of some of Sumer’s major cities are not Sumerian, revealing influences of earlier inhabitants.

However, the archaeological record shows clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the early Ubaid period (5300 – 4700 BC C-14) settlements in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerian people who settled here farmed the lands in this region that were made fertile by silt deposited by the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Some archaeologists have speculated that the original speakers of ancient Sumerian may have been farmers, who moved down from the north of Mesopotamia after perfecting irrigation agriculture there.

The Ubaid period 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.

The connection is most clearly seen at Tell Awayli (Oueilli, Oueili) near Larsa, excavated by the French in the 1980s, where eight levels yielded pre-Ubaid pottery resembling Samarran ware.

According to this theory, 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 bifacial assemblages found on the Arabian littoral. 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.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) is a Neolithic culture centered in upper Mesopotamia. It was typed by Kathleen Kenyon during her archaeological excavations at Jericho in the West Bank.

Like the earlier PPNA people, the PPNB culture developed from the Mesolithic Natufian culture. However, it shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia.

Cultural tendencies of this period differ from that of the earlier Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period in that people living during this period began to depend more heavily upon domesticated animals to supplement their earlier mixed agrarian and hunter-gatherer diet.

In addition the flint tool kit of the period is new and quite disparate from that of the earlier period. One of its major elements is the naviform core. This is the first period in which architectural styles of the southern Levant became primarily rectilinear; earlier typical dwellings were circular, elliptical and occasionally even octagonal.

Pyrotechnology was highly developed in this period. During this period, one of the main features of houses is evidenced by a thick layer of white clay plaster floors highly polished and made of lime produced from limestone.

It is believed that the use of clay plaster for floor and wall coverings during PPNB led to the discovery of pottery. The earliest proto-pottery was White Ware vessels, made from lime and gray ash, built up around baskets before firing, for several centuries around 7000 BC at sites such as Tell Neba’a Faour (Beqaa Valley).

Sites from this period found in the Levant utilizing rectangular floor plans and plastered floor techniques were found at Ain Ghazal, Yiftahel (western Galilee), and Abu Hureyra (Upper Euphrates). The period is dated to between ca. 10,700 and ca. 8,000 BP or 7000 – 6000 BCE.

Danielle Stordeur’s recent work at Tell Aswad, a large agricultural village between Mount Hermon and Damascus could not validate Henri de Contenson’s earlier suggestion of a PPNA Aswadian culture.

Instead, they found evidence of a fully established PPNB culture at 8700 BC at Aswad, pushing back the period’s generally accepted start date by 1,200 years. Similar sites to Tell Aswad in the Damascus Basin of the same age were found at Tell Ramad and Tell Ghoraifé.

How a PPNB culture could spring up in this location, practicing domesticated farming from 8700 BC has been the subject of speculation. Whether it created its own culture or imported traditions from the North East or Southern Levant has been considered an important question for a site that poses a problem for the scientific community.

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 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 the Ghassulian culture.

Some authors have proposed that there may be evidence of a substratum or adstratum language for geographic features and various crafts and agricultural activities, called variously Proto-Euphratean or Proto Tigrean, but this is disputed by others.

Proto-Euphratean is a hypothetical unclassified language or languages which was considered by some Assyriologists (for example Samuel Noah Kramer), to be the substratum language of the people that introduced farming into Southern Iraq in the Early Ubaid period (5300-4700 BC).

Dyakonov and Ardzinba identified these hypothetical languages with the Samarran culture. Benno Landsberger and other Assyriologists argued that by examining the structure of Sumerian names of occupations, as well as toponyms and hydronyms, one can suggest that there was once an earlier group of people in the region who spoke an entirely different language, often referred to as Proto-Euphratean.

Terms for “farmer”, “smith”, “carpenter”, and “date” (as in the fruit), also do not appear to have a Sumerian or Semitic origin. Linguists coined a different term, “banana languages,” proposed by Igor Dyakonov and Vladislav Ardzinba, based on a characteristic feature of multiple personal names attested in Sumerian texts, namely reduplication of syllables (like in the word banana): Inanna, Zababa, Chuwawa, Bunene etc.

The same feature was attested in some other unclassified languages, including Minoan. The same feature is allegedly attested by several names of Hyksos rulers: although Hyksos tribes were Semitic, some of their names, like Bnon, Apophis, etc. were apparently non-Semitic by origin.

The Minoan language is the language (or languages) of the ancient Minoan civilization of Crete written in the Cretan hieroglyphs and later in the Linear A syllabary. As the Cretan hieroglyphs are undeciphered and Linear A only partly deciphered, the Minoan language is unknown and unclassified.

Indeed, with the existing evidence, it seems impossible to be certain that the two scripts record the same language, or even that a single language is recorded in each. The Eteocretan language, attested in a few alphabetic inscriptions from Crete 1,000 years later, is possibly a descendant of Minoan, but it is itself unclassified.

The Minoan civilization was an Aegean Bronze Age civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands which flourished from about 2600 to 1600 BC, before a late period of decline, finally ending around 1100. It preceded the Mycenaean civilization of ancient Greece.

The civilization was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of British archaeologist Arthur Evans. It has been described as the earliest of its kind in Europe, with historian Will Durant calling the Minoans “the first link in the European chain”.

The term “Minoan”, which refers to the mythical King Minos, originally described in the pottery of the period. Minos was associated in Greek mythology with the labyrinth and the Minotaur, which Evans identified with the site at Knossos (the largest Minoan site). According to Homer, Crete once had 90 cities.

The Minoan period saw trade between Crete, Aegean and Mediterranean settlements, particularly the Near East. Through their traders and artists, the Minoan cultural influence reached beyond Crete to the Cyclades, the Old Kingdom of Egypt, copper-bearing Cyprus, Canaan and the Levantine coast and Anatolia.

Minoans, Mycenaeans, and modern Greeks have ancestry related to the ancient people of the Caucasus, Armenia, and Iran. Minoans and Mycenaeans were genetically similar, having at least three-quarters of their ancestry from the first Neolithic farmers of western Anatolia and the Aegean, and most of the remainder from ancient populations related to those of the Caucasus and Iran.

However, the Mycenaeans differed from Minoans in deriving additional ancestry from an ultimate source related to the hunter–gatherers of eastern Europe and Siberia, introduced via a proximal source related to the inhabitants of either the Eurasian steppe or Armenia.

Rubio challenged the substratum hypothesis, arguing that there is evidence of borrowing from more than one language. This theory is now predominant in the field (Piotr Michalowski, Gerd Steiner, etc.). A related proposal by Gordon Whittaker is that the language of the proto-literary texts from the Late Uruk period (c. 3350–3100 BC) is an early Indo-European language which he terms “Euphratic”.

Understanding Sumerian texts today can be problematic. Most difficult are the earliest texts, which in many cases do not give the full grammatical structure of the language and seem to have been used as an “aide-mémoire” for knowledgeable scribes.

During the 3rd millennium BC a cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism. The influences between Sumerian on Akkadian are evident in all areas including lexical borrowing on a massive scale—and syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence.

This mutual influence has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian of the 3rd millennium BC as a Sprachbund. Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC, but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary, and scientific language in Babylonia and Assyria until the 1st century AD.

Ubaid 3/4, sometimes called Ubaid I and Ubaid II (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.

Spreading from Eridu, the Ubaid culture extended from the Middle of the Tigris and Euphrates to the shores of the Persian Gulf, and then spread down past Bahrain to the copper deposits at 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 1,000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”. That might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron, one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene. It occurred around 3900 BC (5900 years Before Present), ending the Neolithic Subpluvial.

It is associated with the last round of the Sahara pump theory, and probably initiated the most recent desiccation of the Sahara, as well as a five century period of colder climate in more northerly latitudes.

It triggered human migration to the Nile, which eventually led to the emergence of the first complex, highly organized, state-level societies in the 4th millennium BC. It may have contributed to the decline of Old Europe and the first Indo-European migrations into the Balkans from the Pontic–Caspian steppe.

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 events, now called Bond events, which indicate the existence of a quasiperiodic cycle of Atlantic cooling events approximately every 1500 years ± 500 years.

For some reason, all the earlier arid events (including the 8.2-kiloyear event) were followed by recovery, as is 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 eastern Arabian Peninsula, the 5.9-kiloyear event may have contributed to an increase in relatively greater social complexity and have corresponded to an end of the local Ubaid period and the emergence of the first state societies at the lower end of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in southern Mesopotamia.

In central North Africa it triggered human migration to the Nile, which eventually led to the emergence of the second complex, highly organized, state-level societies in the 4th millennium BC.

By causing a period of cooling in Europe, it may have contributed to the decline of Old Europe and the first Indo-European migrations into the Balkans from the Pontic–Caspian steppe. Around 4200–4100 BCE a climate change occurred, manifesting in colder winters in Europe.

Between 4200–3900 BCE many tell settlements in the lower Danube Valley were burned and abandoned, while the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture showed an increase in fortifications, meanwhile moving eastwards towards the Dniepr. Steppe herders, archaic Proto-Indo-European speakers, spread into the lower Danube valley about 4200–4000 BCE, either causing or taking advantage of the collapse of Old Europe.

The Leyla-Tepe culture of ancient Azerbaijan belongs to the Chalcolithic era. It got its name from the site in the Agdam district. Its settlements were distributed on the southern slopes of Central Caucasus, mostly in Agdam District, from 4350 until 4000 BC.

Among the sites associated with this culture, the Soyugbulag kurgans or barrows are of special importance. The excavation of these kurgans, located in Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia, demonstrated an unexpectedly early date of such structures on the territory of Azerbaijan. They were dated to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC.

The Soyugbulag kurgans has provided substantial proof that the practice of kurgan burial was well established in the South Caucasus during the late Eneolithic. The roots of the Leylatepe Archaeological Culture to which the Soyugbulaq kurgans belong to, stemmed from the Ubaid culture of Southern Iraq.

The Leylatepe Culture tribes migrated to the north in the mid-fourth millennium, BC. and played an important part in the rise of the Maikop Culture of the North Caucasus. A number of Maikop Culture kurgans and Soyugbulaq kurgans display the same northwest to southeast grave alignment. More than that, Soyugbulaq kurgans yielded pottery forms identical to those recovered from the Maikop kurgans.

The Leyla-Tepe culture has been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslantepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.). Other sites belonging to the same culture in the Karabakh valley of Azerbaijan are Chinar-Tepe, Shomulu-Tepe, and Abdal-Aziz-Tepe.

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.

Leyla-Tepe pottery is very similar to the ‘Chaff-Faced Ware’ of the northern Syria and Mesopotamia. It is especially well attested at Amuq F phase. Similar pottery is also found at Kultepe, Azerbaijan.

In 2012, the important site of Galayeri, belonging to the Leyla-Tepe archaeological culture, was investigated. It is located in the Qabala District of Azerbaijan. Galayeri is closely connected to early civilizations of Near East.

Structures consisting of clay layers are typical; no mud-brick walls have been detected at Galayeri. Almost all findings have Eastern Anatolian Chalcolithic characteristics. The closest analogues of the Galayeri clay constructions are found at Arslantepe/Melid VII in Temple C.

The appearance of Leyla-Tepe tradition’s carriers in the Caucasus marked the appearance of the first local Caucasian metallurgy. This is attributed to migrants from Uruk, arriving around 4500 BCE. Recent research indicates the connections rather to the pre-Uruk traditions, such as the late Ubaid period, and Ubaid-Uruk phases.

Leyla-Tepe metalwork tradition was very sophisticated right from the beginning, and featured many bronze items. Yet later, the quality of metallurgy declined with the Kura–Araxes culture, an early Bronze-Age culture in the area assigned to the period between c. 4000 and 2200 BC.

The earliest evidence for the Kura Araxes culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread to Georgia by 3000 BC, proceeding westward and to the south-east into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van.

Hurrian and Urartian language 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 highly possible, though the presence of the languages on the lands of the Kura–Araxes culture is more controversial.

In the Armenian hypothesis of Indo-European origins, the Kura Araxes culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages.

Trialeti culture, attributed to the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC, emerged in the areas of the preceding Kura-Araxes culture. At that time, there was already strong social differentiation indicated by rich mound burials. There are parallels to the Early Kurgan culture. Cremation was practised. Painted pottery was introduced. Tin-based bronze became predominant.

Geographical interconnectedness and links with other areas of the Near East are seen in many aspects of the culture. For example, a cauldron found in Trialeti is nearly identical to the one from Shaft Grave 4 of Mycenae in Greece. 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 the Sumerians and their Akkadian conquerors.

Trialeti-Vanadzor painted monochrome and polychrome pottery is very similar to that in the other areas of the Near East. In particular, similar ceramics are known as Urmia ware (named after Lake Urmia). Also, similar pottery was produced by the Uzarlik culture, and the Karmirberd-Sevan culture.

Martqopi kurgans are somewhat similar, and are contemporary to the earliest among the Trialeti kurgans. Together, they represent the early stage of the Early Kurgan culture of Central Transcaucasia.  The Martqopi Culture may be dated before 2550 BC.

This stage of the Early Bronze Age seems to represent the final stage of the Kura-Araxes culture. According to recent dating, the transition to the Early Kurgan period was around the mid of the 3rd millenium – somewhat between the 2700 to 2400 BC.

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.

During the final phase of the Middle Bronze Age (c.1700–1500 BC), in addition to the Trialeti Kirovakan Vanadzor period culture, three other geographically overlapping material culture horizons predominate in the South Caucasus and eastern Anatolia: Karmir-Berd (a.k.a. Tazakend), Karmir-Vank (a.k.a. Kizil Vank, Van-Urmia), and Sevan-Uzerlik (a.k.a. Sevan-Artsakh).

Black-burnished and monochrome painted wares vessels from the cemeteries of Ani, and Küçük Çatma (Maly Pergit), both in the Kars Province of Turkey, and tr:Sos Höyük IV in Erzurum Province resemble those of Trialeti.

Mitanni, also called Hurri by the Hittites, Hanigalbat (Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) in Assyrian or Nahrin, Maryannu and Naharin in Egyptian texts, was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from c. 1500 to 1300 BC.

Mitanni came to be a regional power after the Hittite destruction of Amorite Babylon and a series of ineffectual Assyrian kings created a power vacuum in Mesopotamia. At the beginning of its history, Mitanni’s major rival was Egypt under the Thutmosids.

However, with the ascent of the Hittite Empire, Mitanni and Egypt struck an alliance to protect their mutual interests from the threat of Hittite domination. At the height of its power, during the 14th century BC, Mitanni had outposts centred on its capital, Washukanni, whose location has been determined by archaeologists to be on the headwaters of the Khabur River.

The Mitanni dynasty ruled over the northern Euphrates-Tigris region between c. 1475 and c. 1275 BC. Eventually, Mitanni succumbed to Hittite and later Assyrian attacks and was reduced to the status of a province of the Middle Assyrian Empire.

While the Mitanni kings were Indo-Aryan, they used the language of the local people, which was at that time a non-Indo-European language, Hurrian. Their sphere of influence is shown in Hurrian place names, personal names and the spread through Syria and the Levant of a distinct pottery type.

Wasashatta, also spelled Wasašatta, was a king of the Hurrian kingdom of Mittani ca. the early thirteenth century BC. Like his father Shattuara, Wasashatta was an Assyrian vassal. He revolted against his master Adad-nirari I (c. 1295-1263 BC (short chronology)) and sought help in vain from the Hittites.

The Assyrians crushed his revolt and devastated Hanigalbat. The royal family was captured and brought to Assur and Wasashatta was never heard of again. Some scholars think he became ruler of a reduced Mitanni state called Shubria or Arme-Shupria, a Hurrian kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC.

Shubar was located in what is now known as the Armenian Highlands, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. Some scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia.

Weidner interpreted textual evidence to indicate that after the Hurrian king Shattuara of Mitanni was defeated by Adad-nirari I of the Middle Assyrian Empire in the early 13th century BC, he then became ruler of a reduced vassal state known as Shubria or Subartu.

The name Subartu (Sumerian: Shubur) for the region is attested much earlier, from the time of the earliest Mesopotamian records (mid 3rd millennium BC), although the term during Sumerian times appears to have described Upper Mesopotamia (Assyria).

The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites). Similarly, the earliest references to the “four quarters” by the kings of Akkad name Subartu as one of these quarters around Akkad, along with Martu, Elam, and Sumer.

Armani, (also given as Armanum) was an ancient kingdom mentioned by Sargon of Akkad and his grandson Naram-Sin of Akkad as stretching from Ibla (which might or might not be Ebla) to Bit-Nanib; its location is heavily debated, and it continued to be mentioned in later Assyrian inscriptions.

Armani was attested in the treaties of Sargon in a section that mentions regions located in Assyria and Babylonia or territories adjacent to the east, in contrast to the Syrian Ebla, located in the west. The later King Adad-Nirari I of Assyria also mentions Armani as being located east of the Tigris and on the border between Assyria and Babylon.

During the Middle Assyrian and Kassite periods, the land of Armani was mentioned as located east of the Tigris. King Shalmaneser III mentions his conquest of Halman, but the identification of Halman with Akkadian Armani (Arman) is dubious according to J.A. Brinkmann.

Armani was mentioned alongside Ibla in the geographical treaties of Sargon. This led some historians to identify Ibla with Syrian Ebla and Armani with Syrian Armi. However, Michael C. Astour refused to identify Armani with Armi, as Naram-Sin makes it clear that the Ibla he sacked (in c. 2240 BC) was a border town of the land of Armani, while the Armi in the Eblaite tablets is a vassal to Ebla.

Historians who disagree with the identification of Akkadian Armani with Syrian Armi place it (along with Akkadian Ibla) north of the Hamrin Mountains in northern Iraq. The site of Tall Bazi has also been suggested as the location of Armanum.

Together with Armani-Subartu (Hurri-Mitanni), Hayasa-Azzi and other populations of the region such as the Nairi fell under Urartian (Kingdom of Ararat) rule in the 9th century BC, and their descendants, according to most scholars, later contributed to the ethnogenesis of the Armenians.

In the Bronze Age, several states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power), Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia), and Hayasa-Azzi (1600–1200 BC).

Soon after the Hayasa-Azzi were the Nairi (1400–1000 BC) and the Kingdom of Urartu (1000–600 BC), who successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. The Iron Age kingdom of Urartu (Assyrian for Ararat) was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty.

Each of the aforementioned nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people. The name Armenia was given to the country by the surrounding states, and it is traditionally derived from Armenak or Aram (the great-grandson of Haik’s great-grandson, and another leader who is, according to Armenian tradition, the ancestor of all Armenians).

The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan, translated as the land of Haik, and consisting of the name of the ancient Mesopotamian god Haya (ha-ià) and the Persian suffix ‘-stan’ (“land”). The historical enemy of Hayk (the legendary ruler of Armenia), Hayastan, was Bel, or in other words Baal (Akkadian cognate Bēlu).

Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC by King Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain. Erebuni has been described as “designed as a great administrative and religious centre, a fully royal capital.”

Following Persian and subsequent Macedonian rule, the Artaxiad dynasty from 190 BC gave rise to the Kingdom of Armenia which rose to the peak of its influence under Tigranes II before falling under Roman rule.

In 301, Arsacid Armenia was the first sovereign nation to accept Christianity as a state religion. The Armenians later fell under Byzantine, Sassanid Persian, and Islamic hegemony, but reinstated their independence with the Bagratid Dynasty kingdom of Armenia.

The Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia, also known as Bagratid Armenia, was an independent state established by Ashot I Bagratuni (c. 820-890) in the early 880s following nearly two centuries of foreign domination of Greater Armenia under Arab Umayyad and Abbasid rule.

Ashot I oversaw the beginning of Armenia’s second golden age (862 – 977). He was known as Ashot the Great, was the son of Smbat VIII the Confessor and was a member of the Bagratuni Dynasty.

As with the other two other contemporary powers in the region, the Abbasids and the Byzantines, Ashot I was preoccupied in subjugating the people of the region and by the dissipation of several of the Armenian nakharar noble families he was able to assert himself as the leading figure of a movement to dislodge the Arabs from Armenia.

Ashot’s prestige rose as he was courted by both Byzantine and Arab leaders eager to maintain a buffer state near their frontiers. The Caliphate recognized Ashot as “prince of princes” in 862 and, later on, king in 884 or 885.

The establishment of the Bagratuni kingdom later led to the founding of several other Armenian principalities and kingdoms: Taron, Vaspurakan, Kars, Khachen and Syunik. Unity among all these states was sometimes difficult to maintain while the Byzantines and Arabs lost no time in exploiting the kingdom’s situation to their own gains.

Under the reign of Ashot III, Ani became the kingdom’s capital and grew into a thriving economic and cultural center. However, the first half of the 11th century saw the decline and eventual collapse of the kingdom.

With emperor Basil II’s string of victories in annexing parts of southwestern Armenia, King Hovhannes-Smbat felt forced to cede his lands and in 1022 promised to “will” his kingdom to the Byzantines following his death.

However, after Hovhannes-Smbat’s death in 1041, his successor, Gagik II, refused to hand over Ani and continued resistance until 1045, when his kingdom, plagued with internal and external threats, was finally taken by Byzantine forces.

The Bagratid king of Kars, Gagik-Abas, still kept his throne even after 1064 when Ani fell to the Seljuk Turks, but even he was constrained to cede his lands to the Byzantines and retreat to Anatolia, only to see Kars captured by the Turks in 1065.

The Seljuk Empire was a medieval Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim empire, originating from the Qiniq branch of Oghuz Turks. The Seljuk empire was founded by Tughril Beg (1016–1063) in 1037. Tughril was raised by his grandfather, Seljuk-Beg, who was in a high position in the Oghuz Yabgu State. Seljuk gave his name to both the Seljuk empire and the Seljuk dynasty.

From their homelands near the Aral Sea, the Seljuks advanced first into Khorasan and then into mainland Persia before eventually conquering eastern Anatolia. The Seljuk Empire controlled a vast area stretching from the Hindu Kush to western Anatolia and the Levant, and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf.

Highly Persianized in culture and language, the Seljuks played an important role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition, even exporting Persian culture to Anatolia. The settlement of Turkic tribes in the northwestern peripheral parts of the empire, for the strategic military purpose of fending off invasions from neighboring states, led to the progressive Turkicization of those areas.

In Baghk and Eastern Syunik, only a few Armenian fortresses remained. Many churches and other forms of architecture suffered vandalism or outright destruction following the Seljuk invasions of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

After the fall of the kingdom in 1045, and the subsequent Seljuk conquest of Armenia in 1064, the Armenians migrated westward into the Byzantine Empire, and in 1080 Ruben, a relative of the last king of Ani, founded in the heart of the Cilician Taurus a small principality which gradually expanded into the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

This Christian state, where the Armenians prolonged their sovereignty to 1375, was surrounded by Muslim states hostile to its existence and had a stormy history of about 300 years, giving valuable support to the Crusaders, and trading with the great commercial cities of Italy.


Nagorno-Karabakh, meaning “Mountainous Karabakh,” also known as Artsakh, is a geographic region in present-day eastern Armenia and southwestern Azerbaijan, extending from the highlands of the Lesser Caucasus down to the lowlands between the rivers Kura and Aras.

It is a landlocked region in the South Caucasus, within the mountainous range of Karabakh, lying between Lower Karabakh and Zangezur, and covering the southeastern range of the Lesser Caucasus mountains. The region is mostly mountainous and forested.

It’s conventionally divided into three regions: Highland Karabakh (historical Artsakh, covered mostly by present-day Nagorno-Karabakh), Lowland Karabakh (the steppes between the Kura and Aras rivers), and the eastern slopes of the Zangezur Mountains (roughly Syunik and Kashatagh).

The region was populated with various Caucasian tribes, and is believed to have been conquered by the Kingdom of Armenia in the 2nd century BC and organized as parts of the Artsakh, Utik and the southern regions of Syunik provinces.

In the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, the area south of the Greater Caucasus and north of the Lesser Caucasus was divided between Caucasian Albania in the east, Caucasian Iberia in the center, Kolchis in the west, Armenia in the southwest and Atropateneto the southeast.

However, it is possible that the region had earlier been part of the Satrapy of Armenia under the Orontid dynasty from as early as the 4th century BC. After the partition of Armenia by Rome and Persia in 387 AD, Artsakh and Utik became a part of the Caucasian Albanian satrapy of Sassanian Persia, while Syunik remained in Armenia.

Utik was a historic province of the Kingdom of Armenia and a region of Caucasian Albania after the splitting of Armenia in 387 AD by Sassanid Persia. Most of the region is located within present-day Azerbaijan immediately west of the Kura River while a part of it lies within the Tavush province of present-day northeastern Armenia.

The first time the territory of modern Nagorno Karabakh is mentioned is in inscriptions of Sardur II, King of Urartu (763–734 BC), found in village Tsovk in Armenia, as the region Urtekhini. Then a breakdown to the Roman epoch. A following mention—already at Strabo which characterizes “Orkhistena” (Artsakh) as “the area of Armenia exposing the greatest number of horsemen”.

It is unclear when Orkhistena became part of Armenia. Strabo, carefully listing all gains of Armenian Kings since 189 BC., does not mention Orkhistena, which indirectly shows that it probably has been an accessory of the Armenian empire to which it could get in the inheritance from Persian satrapy “East Armenia”.

Strabo and authors of the 1st and 2nd centuries—Claudius Ptolemaeus and Pliny the Elder—unanimously approve, that border between Greater Armenia and Caucasian Albania is river Cyrus (Kura). Classical sources are unanimous in making the Kura River (Cyros) the frontier between Armenia and Albania after the conquest of the territories on the right bank of Kura by Armenians in the 2nd century BC.

Authoritative encyclopedias on antiquity also name Kura southern border of Albania, a modern exonym for an ancient country in the eastern Caucasus, on the territory of present-day republic of Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located) and southern Dagestan.

Albania or Arran in Islamic times was a triangle of land, lowland in the east and mountainous in the west, formed by the junction of the Kura and Aras rivers, Mil plain and parts of the Mughan plain, and in the pre-Islamic times, corresponded roughly to the territory of modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan.

Aghuank is the Armenian name for Caucasian Albania. The term Aghuank is polysemous and is also used in Armenian sources to denote the region between the Kur and Araxes rivers as part of Armenia. In the latter case it is sometimes used in the form “Armenian Aghuank” or “Hay-Aghuank”.

Armenian authors mention that the name derived from the word “ału” meaning amiable in Armenian. The Armenian historian of the region, Movses Kaghankatvatsi, who left the only more or less complete historical account about the region, explains the name Aghvank as a derivation from the word ału (Armenian for sweet, soft, tender), which, he said, was the nickname of Caucasian Albania’s first governor Arran and referred to his lenient personality.

The Parthian name for the region was Ardhan (Middle Persian: Arran). The Arabic was ar-Rān. In Georgian, it was known as Rani. In Ancient Greek, it was Albanía. Its endonym is unknown.

According to a 5th-century AD Armenian tradition, a local chieftain named Aran was appointed by the Armenian King Vologases I (Vagharsh I) to be the first governor of this province.

Movses Kaghankatvatsi and other ancient sources explain Arran or Arhan as the name of the legendary founder of Caucasian Albania (Aghvan) or even of the Iranian tribe known as Alans (Alani), who in some versions was a son of Noah’s son Yafet.

The name Alan is an Iranian dialectical form of Aryan, a common self-designation of the Indo-Iranians. Possibly related to the Massagetae, the Alans have been connected by modern historians with the Central Asian Yancai and Aorsi of Chinese and Roman sources, respectively.

Having migrated westwards and become dominant among the Sarmatians on the Pontic Steppe, they are mentioned by Roman sources in the 1st century AD. At the time, they had settled the region north of the Black Sea and frequently raided the Parthian Empire and the Caucasian provinces of the Roman Empire. In 215–250 AD, their power on the Pontic Steppe was broken by the Goths.

Upon the Hunnic defeat of the Goths on the Pontic Steppe around 375 AD, many of the Alans migrated westwards along with various Germanic tribes. They crossed the Rhine in 406 AD along with the Vandals and Suebi, settling in Orléans and Valence. Around 409 AD, they joined the Vandals and Suebi in the crossing of the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, settling in Lusitania and Carthaginensis.

The Iberian Alans were soundly defeated by the Visigoths 418 AD and subsequently surrendered their authority to the Hasdingi Vandals. In 428 AD, the Vandals and Alans crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa, where they founded a powerful kingdom which lasted until its conquest by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century AD.

The Alans who remained under Hunnic rule founded a powerful kingdom in the North Caucasus in the Middle Ages, which ended with the Mongol invasions in the 13th century AD. These Alans are said to be the ancestors of the modern Ossetians. The Alans spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.

The various forms of Alan (Greek: Alanoi) are derived from Iranian dialectal forms of Aryan. This word was preserved in modern Ossetian language in form of Allon. These and other variants of Aryan (such as Iran) were common self-designations of the Indo-Iranians, the common ancestors of the Indo-Aryans and Iranian peoples to whom the Alans belonged. Scarcer spellings include Alauni or Halani.

The Alans were also known over the course of their history by another group of related names including the variations Asi, As, and Os (Romanian Iasi or Olani, Bulgarian Uzi, Hungarian Jász, Russian Jasy, Georgian Osi). It is this name that is the root of the modern Ossetian.

The Iron (ar, aratta) are a subgroup of the Ossetians. They speak the Iron dialect, one of the two main dialects of the Ossetian language. The other group is known as Digor (digoron, pl.: digora, digorantta).

Ancient Armenian authors, Movses Khorenatsi and Movses Kaghankatvatsi, name Aran as the ancestor inhabitants of Artsakh and Sisak the ancestor of the people in Utik, and through it the descendant of Haik, the ancestor and eponym of all Armenians.

In ancient times, the area was inhabited by “Utis” (modern day Udi people), after whom it was named. Early Armenian chronicles (5th century) state that the local princes of Utik descended from the Armenian noble family of Sisakan and spoke Armenian.

Utik had been one of the provinces of Greater Armenia, the population of which is referred to by the name Udini (or Utidorsi) in Latin sources, and by the name Outioi in Greek sources. However, Ancient Greco-Roman writers placed Udis beyond Utik, north of the Kura River.

Pliny the Elder calls “Utis” a Scythian tribe and also mentions so called utidors (which was apparently a tribe of mixed origin). Due to this a drift of ethnonym or more complex ethnogenetic processes are possible (for example, settlement of some Iranian-speaking or, less probably, Uralic peoples and adoption by them of language of the local Caucasian population).

According to Strabo, in the 2nd century BC, Armenians conquered from the Medes the lands of Siwnik and Caspiane, and the lands that lay between them, including Utik, that was populated by the people called Utis, after whom it received its name.

Modern historians agree that “Utis” were a people of non-Armenian origin, and the modern ethnic group of Udi is their descendants. After the Armenian conquest in the 2nd century BC Utik also had some Armenian population. The province was called Otena in Latin sources and Otene in Greek sources.

According to the Armenian geographer Anania Shirakatsi’s Ashkharatsuyts (“Geography”, 7th century), Utik was the 12th among the 15 provinces of the Kingdom of Armenia, and belonged, at the time, to the Caucasian Albania (when the Utik and Artsakh provinces were lost by Armenia after its partition in the 4th century).

According to Ashkharatsuyts, Utik was bounded by the Kura River from north-east, river Arax from south-east, and by the province of Artsakh from the west. Greco-Roman historians from the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD state that Utik was a province of Armenia, with the Kura River separating Armenia and Albania.

However, the Armenian-Albanian boundary along the river Kura, confirmed by Greco-Roman sources, was often overrun by armies of both countries. According to Strabo, Armenia, which in the 6th century BC had covered a large portion of Asia, had lost some of its lands by the 2nd century BC. At the same time Strabo wrote: “According to report, Armenia, though a small country in earlier times, was enlarged by Artaxias and Zariadris”.

Around 190 BC, under the king Artashes I, Armenia conquered Vaspurakan and Paytakaran from Media, Acilisene from Cataonia, and Taron from Syria. Some have suggested that Utik was among the provinces conquered by Artashes I at this time, though Strabo doesn’t list Utik among Artashes’ conquests.

King Urnayr of Caucasian Albania invaded Utik. But in 370 AD, the Armenian sparapet Mushegh Mamikonyan defeated the Albanians, restoring the frontier back to the river Kura. In 387 AD, the Sassanid Empire helped the Albanians to seize from the Kingdom of Armenia a number of provinces, including Utik.

In the middle of the 5th century, by the order of the Persian king Peroz I, the king Vache of Caucasian Albania built in Utik the city initially called Perozapat, and later Partaw and Barda, and made it the capital of Caucasian Albania.

James Darmesteter, translator of the Avesta, compared Arran with Airyana Vaego which he also considered to have been in the Araxes-Ararat region, although modern theories tend to place this in the east of Iran.

In pre-Islamic times, Caucasian Albania/Arran was a wider concept than that of post-Islamic Arran. Ancient Arran covered all eastern Transcaucasia, which included most of the territory of modern-day Azerbaijan Republic and part of the territory of Dagestan. However, in post-Islamic times the geographic notion of Arran reduced to the territory between the rivers of Kura and Araks.

Ancient Caucasian Albania lay on the south-eastern part of the Greater Caucasus mountains. It was bounded by Caucasian Iberia (present-day Georgia) to the west, by Sarmatia, a large Iranian confederation that flourished from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD, to the north, by the Caspian Sea to the east, and by the provinces of Artsakh and Utik in Armenia to the west along the river Kura.

Originally, at least some of the Caucasian Albanians probably spoke Lezgic languages close to those found in modern Daghestan; overall, though, as many as 26 different languages may have been spoken in Caucasian Albania.

Parts of the population in Caucasian Albania was assimilated by the Armenians, who dominated in the provinces of Artsakh and Utik, and by Georgians in the north, while the eastern parts of Caucasian Albania were Islamized and absorbed by Iranian and subsequently Turkic peoples, the modern Azerbaijanis, after becoming Christianized in the 4th century.

Small remnants of this group continue to exist independently, and are known as the Udi people, who are considered to be the descendants of the people of Caucasian Albania. The Udis (self-name Udi or Uti) are a native people of the Caucasus. They speak the Udi language. Their religion is Christianity.

According to the classical authors, the Udi inhabited the area of the eastern Caucasus along the coast of the Caspian Sea, in a territory extending to the Kura River in the north, as well as the ancient province of Utik.

Today, most Udis belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church while others are still trying to restore the Parthian Church of Caucasian Albania. Centuries of life in the sphere of Turco-Persian society influenced their culture, as is expressed in Udi folk traditions and the material culture.

The Udi were one of the predominating Albanian tribes and they were considered the creators of Caucasian Albania. Both capitals of Caucasian Albania: Kabalak (also called Kabalaka, Khabala, Khazar, today’s Qabala) and Partav (also called Partaw, today’s Barda), were located in the historical territory of the Udi.

After the rise of the Parthian Empire the kings of Caucasian Albania were replaced with an Arsacid family and would later be succeeded by another Iranian royal family in the 5th century AD, the Mihranids, an Iranian family which ruled several regions of Caucasus from 330 to 821. They claimed to be of Sasanian Persian descent but were of Parthian origin.

The Parni or Aparni were an east Iranian people who lived around Ochus River, southeast of the Caspian Sea but it is believed that their original homeland may have been southern Russia from where they emigrated with other Scythian tribes. The Parni were one of the three tribes of the Dahae confederacy.

In the middle of the 3rd century BCE, the Parni invaded Parthia, “drove away the Greek satraps, who had then only just acquired independence, and founded a new dynasty”, that of the Arsacids. Through the influence of the Parthians in Armenia, traces of the Parni language survive as loan-words in Armenian.

During the early Sasanian period, Middle Persian along with Greek and Parthian appeared in the inscriptions of the early Sasanian kings. However, by the time Narseh (r. 293–302) was ruling, Greek was no longer in use, perhaps due to the disappearance of Greek or the efforts of the anti-Hellenic Zoroastrian clergy to remove it once and for all.

This was probably also because Greek was commonplace among the Romans/Byzantines, the rivals of the Sasanians. Parthian soon disappeared as an administrative language too, but was continued to be spoken and written in the eastern part of the Sasanian Empire, the homeland of the Parthians.

Middle Persian is the Middle Iranian language or ethnolect of southwestern Iran that during the Sasanian Empire (224–654) became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions of the empire as well.

Middle Persian is classified as a Western Iranian language. It descends from Old Persian and is the linguistic ancestor of Modern Persian. With the establishment of the Sassanids, Middle Persian, a closely related language to Parthian, became an official language of the Sassanid empire.

As a written language, Old Persian is attested in royal Achaemenid inscriptions. It is an Iranian language and as such a member of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. The oldest known text written in Old Persian is from the Behistun Inscriptions carved by the order of Darius I in 521 or 520 BC.

In the trilingual Behistun Inscription the country referred to as Urartu in Babylonian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in the Elamite language. Urartu is cognate with the Biblical Ararat, Akkadian Urashtu, and Armenian Ayrarat. Being heirs to the Urartian realm, the earliest identifiable ancestors of the Armenians are the peoples of Urartu.

Urartu, which corresponds to the biblical mountains of Ararat, is the name of a geographical region commonly used as the exonym for the Iron Age kingdom also known by the modern rendition of its endonym, the Kingdom of Van, centered around Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands.

The name Kingdom of Van is derived from the Urartian toponym Biai or Biainili, which was adopted in Old Armenian as Van, because of betacism (in linguistics, when the letters b and v undergo a sound change), hence the names “Kingdom of Van” or “Vannic Kingdom”.

Assyrian inscriptions of Shalmaneser I (c. 1274 BC) first mention Uruartri as one of the states of Nairi, a loose confederation of small kingdoms and tribal states in the Armenian Highland in the 13th to 11th centuries BC which he conquered. Uruartri itself was in the region around Lake Van.

The Nairi states were repeatedly subjected to further attacks and invasions by the Assyrians, especially under Tukulti-Ninurta I (c. 1240 BC), Tiglath-Pileser I (c. 1100 BC), Ashur-bel-kala (c. 1070 BC), Adad-nirari II (c. 900 BC), Tukulti-Ninurta II (c. 890 BC), and Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC).

Urartu re-emerged in Assyrian inscriptions in the 9th century BC as a powerful northern rival of Assyria, which lay to the south in northern Mesopotamia and northeast Syria.

The Nairi states and tribes became a unified kingdom under king Aramu (c. 860–843 BC), whose capital at Arzashkun was captured by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser III.

However, the Middle Assyrian Empire fell into a period of temporary stagnation for decades during the first half of the 8th century BC, which had aided Urartu’s growth. Within a short time it became one of the largest and most powerful states in the Near East.

Sarduri I (c. 832–820 BC), son of king Aramu, successfully resisted the Assyrian attacks from the south, led by Shalmaneser III, consolidated the military power of the state and moved the capital to Tushpa (modern Van, on the shore of Lake Van).

His son, Ispuini (c. 820–800 BC) annexed the neighbouring state of Musasir and made his son Sarduri II viceroy; Musasir later became an important religious center of the Urartian Kingdom. Ispuini was in turn attacked by Shamshi-Adad V.

His successor Menua (c. 800–785 BC) also enlarged the kingdom greatly and left inscriptions over a wide area. Urartu reached the highest point of its military might under Menua’s son Argishti I (c. 785–760 BC), becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms of ancient Near East.

Argishti I added more territories along the Araks River and Lake Sevan, and frustrated Shalmaneser IV’s campaigns against him. Argishti also founded several new cities, most notably Erebuni in 782 BC. 6,600 captured slaves worked on the construction of the new city.

At its height, the Urartu kingdom stretched North beyond the Araks River (Greek: Araxes) and Lake Sevan, encompassing present-day Armenia and even the southern part of present-day Georgia almost to the shores of the Black Sea; west to the sources of the Euphrates; east to present-day Tabriz, Lake Urmia, and beyond; and south to the sources of the Tigris.

It is unknown what language was spoken by the peoples of Urartu at the time of the existence of the kingdom, but there is linguistic evidence of contact between the proto-Armenian language and the Urartian language at an early date, occurring prior to the formation of Urartu as a kingdom.

The presence of a proto-Armenian-speaking population in Urartu prior to its demise is subject to speculation, but the existence of Urartian words in the Armenian language suggests early contact between the two languages and long periods of bilingualism.

The Mannaeans (country name usually Mannea; Akkadian: Mannai, possibly Biblical Minni) were an ancient people who lived in the territory of present-day northwestern Iran south of lake Urmia, around the 10th to 7th centuries BC. At that time they were neighbors of the empires of Assyria and Urartu, as well as other small buffer states between the two, such as Musasir and Zikirta.

According to examinations of the place and personal names found in Assyrian and Urartian texts, the Mannaeans, or at least their rulers, spoke a Hurrian language, a non-Semitic and non-Indo-European language related to Urartian, with no modern language connections.

In the Bible (Jeremiah 51:27) the Mannaeans are called Minni. In the Jewish Encyclopedia (1906), Minni is identified with Armenia, but it could refer to one of the provinces in ancient Armenia; Minni, Ararat and Ashkenaz.

The Mannaeans were subdued by the Scytho-Kimmerians during the seventh and eighth centuries BC. After suffering several defeats at the hands of both Scythians and Assyrians, the remnants of the Mannaean populace were absorbed by an Iranian people known as the Matieni and the area became known as Matiene.

Matiene was the name of a kingdom in northwestern Iran on the lands of the earlier kingdom of the Mannae. Ancient historians including Strabo, Ptolemy, Herodotus, Polybius, and Pliny, mention names such as Mantiane, Martiane, Matiane, Matiene, to designate a region located to the northwest of Media.”

The name Matiene was applied also to the neighboring Lake Matianus (Lake Urmia) located immediately to the east of the Matieni people. Matiene was ultimately conquered by the Medes in about 609 BCE.

Matiene became a satrapy of the Median Empire until the Persian conquest, when alongside with tribes of Saspires and Alaradians (remnants of Urartians) it became a part of the XVIII satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire.

The name Matiene is believed to be related to Mitanni, the name of a state some 800 years earlier, which was founded by an Indo-Aryan ruling class governing the Hurrian population. The Mitanni kingdom was referred to as the Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni by the Egyptians, the Hurri by the Hittites, and the Hanigalbat by the Assyrians.

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

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. The Assyrians (direct descendants of Akkadians) to this day refer Armenians by their inscription Armani.

There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources. The earliest is from an inscription which mentions Armânum together with Ibla as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in c. 2250 BC identified with an Akkadian colony in the Diarbekr region.

However, many historians, such as Wayne Horowitz, identify Armanî which was conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad, with the Syrian city of Aleppo and not with the Armenian Highland.

Another mention by pharoah Thutmose III in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen (“Region of the Minni”), and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”. The Kurdish and Turkish form referring to Armenians is Ermenin.

Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which existed in many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age.

The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi. Robert Drews writes that the name ‘maryannu’ although plural takes the singular ‘marya’, which in Sanskrit means young warrior, and attaches a Hurrian suffix.

He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age most would have spoken either Hurrian or Aryan but by the end of the 14th century most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.

Old Persian belongs to the Iranian language family which is a branch of the Indo-Iranian language family, itself within the large family of Indo-European languages. The common ancestors of Indo-Iranians came from Central Asia sometime in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE.

The extinct and unattested Median language is another Old Iranian language related to Old Persian (e.g. both are classified as Western Iranian languages and many Median names appeared in Old Persian texts).

The group of Old Iranian languages was presumably a large group; however knowledge of it is restricted mainly to Old Persian, Avestan and Median. The former are the only languages in that group which have left written original texts while Median is known mostly from loanwords in Old Persian.

The oldest date of use of Old Persian as a spoken language is not precisely known. According to certain historical assumptions about the early history and origin of ancient Persians in south-western Iran (where Achaemenids hailed from).

Old Persian was originally spoken by a tribe called Parsuwash, who arrived in the Iranian Plateau early in the 1st millennium BCE and finally migrated down into the area of present-day Fārs province. Their language, Old Persian, became the official language of the Achaemenid kings.

Assyrian records, which in fact appear to provide the earliest evidence for ancient Iranian (Persian and Median) presence on the Iranian Plateau, give a good chronology but only an approximate geographical indication of what seem to be ancient Persians.

In these records of the 9th century BCE, Parsuwash (along with Matai, presumably Medians) are first mentioned in the area of Lake Urmia in the records of Shalmaneser III. The exact identity of the Parsuwash is not known for certain, but from a linguistic viewpoint the word matches Old Persian pārsa itself coming directly from the older word *pārćwa.

Also, as Old Persian contains many words from another extinct Iranian language, Median, according to P. O. Skjærvø it is probable that Old Persian had already been spoken before formation of the Achaemenid Empire and was spoken during most of the first half of the first millennium BCE.

Xenophon, a Greek general serving in some of the Persian expeditions, describes many aspects of Armenian village life and hospitality in around 401 BC, which is when Old Persian was still spoken and extensively used. He relates that the Armenian people spoke a language that to his ear sounded like the language of the Persians.

By the 4th century BCE, the late Achaemenid period, the inscriptions of Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III differ enough from the language of Darius’ inscriptions to be called a “pre-Middle Persian,” or “post-Old Persian.” Old Persian subsequently evolved into Middle Persian, which is in turn the ancestor of New Persian.

The language known as New Persian, which usually is called at this period (early Islamic times) by the name of Parsi-Dari, can be classified linguistically as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of Sassanian Iran, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenids.

Unlike the other languages and dialects, ancient and modern, of the Iranian group such as Avestan, Parthian, Soghdian, Kurdish, Pashto, etc., Old, Middle and New Persian represent one and the same language at three states of its history. It had its origin in Fars and is differentiated by dialectical features, still easily recognizable from the dialect prevailing in north-western and eastern Iran.

Middle Persian, also sometimes called Pahlavi, is a direct continuation of old Persian and was used as the written official language of the country. Comparison of the evolution at each stage of the language shows great simplification in grammar and syntax. However, New Persian is a direct descendent of Middle and Old Persian.

Parsua (earlier Parsuash, Parsumash) was an ancient tribal kingdom/chiefdom (860-600 BC) located near Lake Urmia between Zamua (formerly: Lullubi) and Ellipi, in central Zagros to the southwest of Piranshahr, northwestern Iran. The name Parsua is from an old Iranian word *Parsava and it is presumed to mean border or borderland.

Parsua was distinct from Persis, another region to the southeast, now known as Fars province in Iran. Some accounts suggest that Teispes, the ancestor of the Achaemenid dynasty, led a migration from Parsua to Persis, formerly the Elamite state of Anshan.

Teïspes, who ruled Anshan in 675-640 BC, was the son of Achaemenes of Persis (c. 705 BC-675 BC), the eponymous apical ancestor of the Achaemenid dynasty of rulers from Persis, and an ancestor of Cyrus the Great. There is evidence that Cyrus I and Ariaramnes were both his sons. Teispes’ sons reportedly divided the kingdom among them after his death. Cyrus reigned as king of Anshan while his brother Ariaramnes was king of Parsa.

Cyrus I (Old Persian: Kuruš) or Cyrus I of Anshan or Cyrus I of Persia, was King of Anshan in Persia from c. 600 to 580 BC or, according to others, from c. 652 to 600 BC. Cyrus I of Anshan is the grandfather of Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus II.

Ariaramnes (“He who brings peace to the Aryans (i.e. Iranians)” was a great uncle of Cyrus the Great and the great-grandfather of Darius I, and perhaps the king of Parsumash, the ancient core kingdom of Persia.

As supported by the relief at Bisitun he was the first king of a separate Achaemenid branch that ran parallel to the reigns of Cyrus I and his son Cambyses I. An attestation of his reign is the later Behistun Inscription, where his great grandson Darius I states that eight Achaemenid kings preceded him – and then, he must be counting Ariaramnes as a king.

According to 7th-century BC documents, Teispes captured the Elamite city of Anshan, speculated to have occurred after the Persians were freed from Median supremacy, and expanded his small kingdom. His kingdom was, however, a vassal state of the Neo Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC). He was succeeded by his second son, Cyrus I.

The name is probably Iranian, but its etymology is unknown. Its connection with either the name of the Mitannian and Urartu storm god Tešup-Theispas, or with the (Elamite) byname Za-iš-pi-iš-ši-ya is likely.

It is quite possible that Achaemenes was only the mythical ancestor of the Persian royal house, but if Achaemenes was a historical personage, he should have lived at the end of the 8th and the first quarter of the 7th century BC. Many scholars believe he was a ruler of Parsumash, a vassal state of the Median Empire, and that from there he led armies against the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 681 BC.

The chronological placement of this event is uncertain. This is due to his suggested, but still debated identification, with the monarch known as “Kuras of Parsumas”. Kuras is first mentioned c. 652 BC. In that year Shamash-shum-ukin, king of Babylon (668–648 BC), revolted against his older brother and overlord Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria (668–627 BC).

Cyrus is mentioned being in a military alliance with the former. The war between the two brothers ended in 648 BC with the defeat and reported suicide of Shamash-shum-ukin.

Cyrus is mentioned again in 639 BC. At that year Ashurbanipal managed to defeat Elam and became overlord to several of its former allies. Kuras was apparently among them. His elder son “Arukku” was reportedly sent to Assyria to pay tribute to its King.

Kuras then seems to vanish from the historical record. His suggested identification with Cyrus would help connect the Achaemenid dynasty to the major events of the 7th century BC.

Ashurbanipal died in 627 BC. Cyrus presumably continued paying tribute to his sons and successors Ashur-etil-ilani (627–623 BC) and Sin-shar-ishkun (623–612 BC). They were both opposed by an alliance led by Cyaxares of Media (633–584 BC) and Nabopolassar of Babylon (626–605 BC).

Cyaxares (“Good Ruler”; r. 625–585 BC) was the third and most capable king of Media, according to Herodotus, with a far greater military reputation than his father Phraortes or grandfather Deioces. He was the first to divide his troops into separate sections of spearmen, archers, and horsemen.

By uniting most of the Iranian tribes of ancient Iran and conquering neighbouring territories, Cyaxares transformed the Median Empire into a regional power. He facilitated the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and according to Herodotus repelled the Scythians from Media.

Cyaxares was born in the Median capital of Ecbatana. His father Phraortes was killed in a battle against the Assyrians, led by Ashurbanipal, the king of Assyria. After Phraortes’ demise, the Scythians overran Media. Cyaxares, seeking revenge, killed the Scythian leaders and proclaimed himself King of Medes. After throwing off the Scythians, he prepared for war against Assyria.

Cyaxares reorganized the Median army, then allied himself with King Nabopolassar of Babylonia, a mutual enemy of Assyria. This alliance was formalized through the marriage of Cyaxares’ daughter, Amytis, to Nabopolassar’s son, Nebuchadnezzar II. These allies overthrew the Assyrian Empire and destroyed Nineveh in 612 BC.

This was effectively the end of the Neo-Assyrian Empire though remnants of the Assyrian Army under Ashur-uballit II (612–609 BC) continued to resist from Harran.

Media and Babylon soon shared the lands previously controlled by the Assyrians. Anshan apparently fell under the control of the former. Cyrus is considered to have ended his days under the overlordship of either Cyaxares or his son Astyages (584–550 BC). Cyrus was succeeded by his son Cambyses I. His grandson would come to be known as Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire.

It has been noted that this account of his life and reign would place his early activities more than a century before those of his grandson. This would place his fathering of Cambyses very late in life and his death at an advanced age.

It has been argued that Kuras and Cyrus were separate figures of uncertain relation to each other. The latter would have then reigned in the early 6th century BC and his reign would seem rather uneventful. Due to the current lack of sufficient records for this historical period it remains uncertain which theory is closer to the facts.

Tiglath Pileser III of Assyria conquered Urartu in the first year of his reign (745 BC). There the Assyrians found horsemen and horses, tamed as colts for riding, that were unequalled in the south, where they were harnessed to Assyrian war-chariots.

In 714 BC, the Urartu kingdom suffered heavily from Cimmerian raids and the campaigns of Sargon II. The main temple at Mushashir was sacked, and the Urartian king Rusa I was crushingly defeated by Sargon II at Lake Urmia. He subsequently committed suicide in shame.

Rusa’s son Argishti II (714–685 BC) restored Urartu’s position against the Cimmerians, however it was no longer a threat to Assyria and peace was made with the new king of Assyria Sennacherib in 705 BC. This in turn helped Urartu enter a long period of development and prosperity, which continued through the reign of Argishti’s son Rusa II (685–645 BC).

After Rusa II, however, the Urartu grew weaker under constant attacks from Cimmerian and Scythian invaders. As a result, it became dependent on Assyria, as evidenced by Rusa II’s son Sarduri III (645–635 BC) referring to the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal as his “father”.

According to Urartian epigraphy, Sarduri III was followed by three kings—Erimena (635–620 BC), his son Rusa III (620–609 BC), and the latter’s son Rusa IV (609–590 or 585 BC).

Late during the 7th century BC (during or after Sarduri III’s reign), Urartu was invaded by Scythians and their allies—the Medes. In 612 BC, the Median king Cyaxares the Great together with Nabopolassar of Babylon and the Scythians conquered Assyria after it had been badly weakened by civil war.

Little is known of what was truly spoken in the geopolitical region until the creation of the Armenian alphabet in the 4th century AD. It is unclear weather the Medes then took over the Urartian capital of Van towards 585 BC, effectively ending the sovereignty of Urartu, or the Medes helped the Armenians establish the Orontid dynasty.

Many Urartian ruins of the period show evidence of destruction by fire. This would indicate two scenarios—either Media subsequently conquered Urartu, bringing about its subsequent demise, or Urartu maintained its independence and power, going through a mere dynastic change, as a local Armenian dynasty (later to be called the Orontids) overthrew the ruling family with the help of the Median army.

Ancient sources support the latter version: Xenophon, for example, states that Armenia, ruled by an Orontid king, was not conquered until the reign of Median king Astyages (585–550 BC) – long after Median invasion of the late 7th century BC.

Similarly, Strabo (1st century BC – 1st century AD) wrote that “[i]n ancient times Greater Armenia ruled the whole of Asia, after it broke up the empire of the Syrians, but later, in the time of Astyages, it was deprived of that great authority …”

Medieval Armenian chronicles corroborate the Greek and Hebrew sources. In particular, Movses Khorenatsi writes that Armenian prince Paruyr Skayordi helped Cyaxares and his allies conquer Assyria, for which Cyaxares recognized him as the king of Armenia, while Media conquered Armenia only much later—under Astyages.

It is possible that the last Urartian king, Rusa IV, had connections to the future incoming Armenian Orontids dynasty. Anyway, Urartu was destroyed in either 590 BC or 585 BC. By the late 6th century, Urartu had certainly been replaced by Armenia.

The region formerly known as Urartu became the Satrapy of Armenia under the Achaemenids, which later became an independent kingdom, the Kingdom of Armenia. Little is known of what happened to the region of Urartu under the foreign rule following its fall and the emergence of Armenia.

According to Encyclopaedia Iranica, during the Armenian rebellion against the Persian king Darius the Great in 521 BC (70 years after the fall of Urartu), the ethnonym Armenian and all other names attested, including personal and topographic names, were of Urartian origin (proper names Araxa, Haldita, Dādṛšiš; toponyms Zūzahya, Tigra, Uyamā), suggesting that Urartian elements persisted within Armenia after its fall.

Darius’ inscription, which was written in three languages, refers to the country as Armenia (Armina) and the people as Armenian (Arminiya) in Old Persian, but as Urartu (Urashtu) and Urartian (Urashtaa) in Babylonian, suggesting that Urartu and Armenia were part of the same geopolitical entity.

The most widely accepted theory about the emergence of Indo-European in the region is that settlers related to Phrygians (the Mushki and/or the retroactively named Armeno-Phrygians), who had already settled in the western parts of the region prior to the establishment of Urartu, had become the ruling elite under the Median Empire, followed by the Achaemenid Empire. Some have argued that the Urartian language wasn’t spoken at all.

The Kingdom of Urartu, during its dominance, had united disparate tribes, each of which had its own culture and traditions. Thus, when the political structure was destroyed, little remained that could be identified as one unified Urartian culture.

With the region reunified again under Armenia, the disparate peoples of the region mixed and became more homogenous and a unified sense of identity developed. The Indo-European language became the predominant language, and eventually become known as “Armenian”. Some Urartians might have kept their former identity.

According to Herodotus, the Alarodians (Alarodioi)—believed to be Urartian remnants—were part of the 18th Satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire and formed a special contingent in the grand army of Xerxes I. The Urartians who were in the satrapy were then part of the amalgamation of the peoples, becoming part of the Armenian ethnogenesis.

As the Armenian identity developed in the region, the memory of Urartu faded and disappeared. Parts of its history passed down as popular stories and were preserved in Armenia, as written by Movses Khorenatsi in the form of garbled legends in his 5th century book History of Armenia, where he speaks of a first Armenian Kingdom in Van which fought wars against the Assyrians.

The toponym Urartu did not disappear, however. The name of the province of Ayrarat in the center of the Kingdom of Armenia is believed to be its continuum. The Ararat Province of modern Armenia is named after Mount Ararat, which itself receives its name from the biblical Mountains of Ararat (or Mountains of Urartu).

According to historian M. Chahin: “Urartian history is part of Armenian history, in the same sense that the history of the ancient Britons is part of English history, and that of the Gauls is part of French history. Armenians can legitimately claim, through Urartu, an historical continuity of some 4000 years; their history is among those of the most ancient peoples in the world.”

In the 6th century BC, Urartu was succeeded by a geopolitical entity referred to as “Armenia”, ruled by the Orontid Dynasty, who spoke the Armenian language, which is part of the Indo-European language family. Since the Urartian language is not a part of the Indo-European language family, linguists and historians have attempted to explain the emergence of the Armenian language in the area.

It is generally assumed that proto-Armenian speakers entered Anatolia from around 1200 BC, three to four centuries before the emergence of the Kingdom of Urartu. Proto-Armenian would have derived from a Paleo-Balkans context, and over the following centuries spread east to the Armenian Highlands.

The Kingdom of Urartu united the disparate peoples of the highlands, which began a process of intermingling and amalgamation of the peoples, languages, and cultures within the highlands. This intermixing would ultimately culminate in the emergence of the Armenian people as the direct successors and inheritors of the Urartian domain.

While the Urartian language was used by the royal elite, the population they ruled may have been multi-lingual, and some of these peoples would have spoken an Indo-European language which would later be known as “Armenian”.

In the later days of the Kingdom of Urartu, its population may have already been speaking the Armenian language, which, after the fall of Urartu, would rise to prominence and replace the Urartian language used by the former ruling elite.

An addition to this theory, supported by the official historiography of Armenia and experts in Assyrian and Urartian studies such as Igor M. Diakonoff, Giorgi Melikishvili, Mikhail Nikolsky, Ivan Mestchaninov, suggests that Urartian was solely the formal written language of the state, while its inhabitants, including the royal family, spoke Armenian.

This theory primarily hinges on the fact that the Urartian language used in the cuneiform inscriptions were very repetitive and scant in vocabulary (having as little as 350–400 roots). Furthermore, over 250 years of usage, it shows no development, which is taken to indicate that the language had ceased to be spoken before the time of the inscriptions or was used only for official purposes.

According to the Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture: “The Armenians according to Diakonoff, are then an amalgam of the Hurrian (and Urartians), Luvians and the Proto-Armenian Mushki who carried their IE [Indo European] language eastwards across Anatolia.

After arriving in its historical territory, Proto-Armenian would appear to have undergone massive influence on part the languages it eventually replaced. Armenian phonology, for instance, appears to have been greatly affected by Urartian, which may suggest a long period of bilingualism.”

Another theory suggested by Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze and Vyacheslav V. Ivanov in 1984 places the Proto-Indo-European homeland (the location where Indo-European would have emerged from) in the Armenian Highlands, which would entail the presence of proto-Armenians in the area during the entire lifetime of the Urartian state.

This Armenian hypothesis theory supports the theory that the Urartian language was not spoken, but simply written, and postulating the Armenian language as an in situ development of a 3rd millennium BC Proto-Indo-European language.

Armenian is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages. It is of interest to linguists for its distinctive phonological developments within that family. Some linguists tentatively conclude that Armenian, Greek (Phrygian) and Indo-Iranian were dialectally close to each other; within this hypothetical dialect group, Proto-Armenian was situated between Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian.

The Armenian historian Faustus of Byzantium wrote that during an epoch of the disorders which followed intrusion of Persians into Armenia (about 370), Artsakh appeared among the risen provinces, whereas Utik has been grasped by Caucasus Albanians.

Armenian military commander Mushegh Mamikonian defeated the country of Artsakh in a big battle, made many inhabitants of the region prisoners, took hostages from the rest, and imposed a tribute on them. In 372 Mushegh defeated the Caucasus Albanians, took from them Utik, and restored the border on Kura, “as was earlier”.

In 387 Armenia was divided between Roman Empire and Persia; thus Artsakh together with Armenian provinces Utik and Paytakaran was attached to Caucasian Albania. Ancient inhabitants of Artsakh spoke a special dialect of the Armenian language; we know about this from the author of the Armenian grammar Stepanos Siunetsi who lived in around 700 AD.

The Byzantines cooperated extensively with the leader of Caucasian Albania, Sandilch, in the latter half of the 6th century. They occupied extensive territories from the bank of the Caspian Sea to the Caucasian Mountains, on the left and right banks of the Kura River. One of the regions in this area was named “Utik”.

The Arab invasions later led to the rise of several Armenian princes who came to establish their dominance in the region. After the conquest of the Caucasian Albania by the Arabs, the number of the Udi and their territory were gradually reduced.

According to “Geography” (Ashkharatsuyts) by 7th-century Armenian geographer Anania Shirakatsi, Artsakh was the 10th among the 15 provinces (nahangs) of Armenia, and consisted of 12 districts (gavars).

During the period of Mongol domination, a great number of Armenians left Lowland Karabakh and sought refuge in the mountainous (Highland) heights of the region. Centuries of constant warfare on the Armenian Plateau forced many Armenians, including those in the Karabakh region, to emigrate and settle elsewhere.

In 1813, under the terms of the Treaty of Gulistan, the region of Karabakh was lost by the Persians to the Russian Empire. Under Russian and Soviet rule, the region came to be known as Nagorno-Karabakh, meaning “Mountainous Karabakh” in Russian.

Under Russian rule, Karabakh (both Lowland and Highland) was a region with an area of 13,600 km2 (5,250 sq mi), with Shusha (Shushi) as its most prominent city. Its population consisted of Armenians and Muslims (mainly of “Tatars” (Azerbaijanis), but also Kurds).

After the dissolution of Russian Empire Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhchivan were disputed between newly established republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Fighting between two republics broke out. However, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, British troops occupied the South Caucasus.

The British command affirmed Khosrov bey Sultanov (an appointee of the Azerbaijani government) as the provisional governor-general of Karabakh and Zangezur, pending a final decision by the Paris Peace Conference.

In 1920, Azerbaijan and Armenia were sovietized and Karabakh’s status was taken up by the Soviet authorities. In 1923, parts of Karabakh were made a part of the newly established Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), an administrative entity of the Azerbaijan SSR, leaving it with a population that was 94% Armenian.

During the Soviet period, several few attempts were made by the authorities of the Armenian SSR to unite it with the NKAO but these proposals found no support in Moscow.

In February 1988, within the context of Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika policies, the Supreme Soviet of the NKAO voted to unite itself with Armenia. By the summer of 1989 the Armenian-populated areas of the NKAO were under blockade by Azerbaijan as a response to Armenia’s blockade against Nakhichevan, cutting road and rail links to the outside world.

On July 12 the Nagorno-Karabakh AO Supreme Soviet voted to secede from Azerbaijan, which was rejected unanimously by the Supreme Soviet of USSR, declaring NKAO had no right to secede from Azerbaijan SSR under Soviet Constitution.

Soviet authorities in Moscow then placed the region under its direct rule, installing a special commission to govern the region. In November 1989 the Kremlin returned the oblast to Azerbaijani control. The local government in the region of Shahumian also declared its independence from the Azerbaijan SSR in 1991.

In late 1991, the Armenian representatives in the local government of the NKAO proclaimed the region a republic, independent from Azerbaijan. Portions of the lowland Karabakh are now under the control of the Karabakh Armenian forces. The region’s Azerbaijani inhabitants were forced to leave the territories remaining under Armenian control.

Currently, most of this area is under the control of the de facto Artsakh Republic, which has economic, political, and military support from Armenia, but the region is de jure recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The final status of the region is still a subject of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This article encompasses the history of the region from the ancient to the modern period.

Today Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed territory, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but most of the region is governed by the Republic of Artsakh (formerly named Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), a de facto independent state with Armenian ethnic majority established on the basis of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

Azerbaijan has not exercised political authority over the region since the advent of the Karabakh movement in 1988. Since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, representatives of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been holding talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group on the region’s disputed status.

The region is usually equated with the administrative borders of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast comprising an area of 4,400 square kilometres (1,700 sq mi). The historical area of the region, however, encompasses approximately 8,223 square kilometres (3,175 sq mi).

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