Cradle of Civilization

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Archive for August, 2018

The book: “Hayastan – Why I Love Armenia”

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 4, 2018

Order the astonishing book “Hayastan – Why I Love Armenia” by Sven-Erik Rise today! Hayastan – Why I Love Armenia

“When an honest-to-goodness Activist for Armenia, Armenian by Choice, and Guy-Who-Left-His-Heart-in-Armenia writes a book about his overriding passion, it becomes nearly impossible to stay within the confines of traditional literary genres. The content and message of this book draw upon a combination of years of reading and studying, as well as real-life interactions with peoples, cultures, and languages.”

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Domestication of goats and sheep

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 4, 2018

At several sites (e.g. Hallan Çemi, Abu Hureyra, Mureybet) we can see a continuous occupation from a hunter-gathering lifestyle (based on hunting, and gathering and grinding of wild grains) to an economy based mainly on growing (still wild varieties of) wheat, barley and legumes from around 9000 BC.

Domestication of goats and sheep followed within a few generations, but didn’t become widespread for more than a millennium. Weaving and pottery followed about two thousand years later.

Neolithic farmers began to herd wild goats primarily for easy access to milk and meat, as well as to their dung, which was used as fuel, and their bones, hair and sinew for clothing, building and tools.

The most recent genetic analysis confirms the archaeological evidence that the wild Bezoar ibex of the Zagros Mountains is the likely original ancestor of probably all domestic goats today.

The earliest remnants of domesticated goats dating 10,000 years before present are found in Ganj Dareh (“Treasure Valley” or “Treasure Valley Hill”) in Iran. It is located in the Harsin County in east of Kermanshah Province, in the central Zagros Mountains. The oldest settlement remains on the site date back to ca. 10,000 years ago, and have yielded the earliest evidence for goat domestication in the world.

Goat remains have been found at archaeological sites in Jericho, Choga Mami, Djeitun, and Çayönü, dating the domestication of goats in Western Asia at between 8000 and 9000 years ago.

Researchers sequenced the genome from the petrous bone of a 30-50 woman from Ganj Dareh, GD13a. mtDNA analysis shows that she belonged to Haplogroup X. She is phenotypically similar to the Anatolian early farmers and Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers.

Her DNA revealed that she had black hair, brown eyes and was lactose intolerant. The derived SLC45A2 variant associated with light skin was not observed in GD13a, but the derived SLC24A5 variant which is also associated with the same trait was observed.

GD13a is genetically closest to the ancient Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers identified from human remains from Western Georgia (Satsurblia Cave and Kotias Klde), just north of the Zagros mountains.

She also shared genetic affinities with the Steppe populations of the Yamna culture and the Afanasevo culture that were part of one or more Bronze age migrations into Europe, as well as early Bronze age cultures in that continent (Corded Ware), in line with previous relationships observed for the Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers.

Her population did not contribute very much genetically to modern Europeans. She belonged to a population that was genetically distinct from the Neolithic Anatolian farmers.

In terms of modern populations, she shows some genetic affinity with modern Central South Asian populations such as the Brahui people, the Baloch people and the Makrani caste, a Muslim community found in the state of Gujarat in India and Pakistan that descendents of Baluchs who were brought to Saurashtra as mercenaries.

The Baloch or Baluch are a people who live mainly in the Balochistan region of the southeastern-most edge of the Iranian plateau in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, as well as in the Arabian Peninsula. They mainly speak the Balochi language, a branch of Northwestern Iranian languages, and are an Iranic people.

About 50% of the total Baloch population live in Balochistan, a western province of Pakistan; 40% of Baloch are settled in Sindh; and a significant number of Baloch people in Punjab of Pakistan. They make up nearly 3.6% of the Pakistani population, about 2% of Iran’s population (1.5 million) and about 2% of Afghanistan’s population.

Baloch people co-inhabit desert and mountainous regions along with Pashtuns. Baloch people practice Islam, are predominantly Sunni, and use Urdu as the lingua franca to communicate with other ethnic groups such as Pashtuns and Sindhis, as is the norm for Pakistan.

The exact origin of the word ‘Baloch’ is unclear. Rawlinson (1873) believed that it is derived from the name of the Babylonian king and god Belus. Dames (1904) believed that it is derived from the Persian term for cockscomb, said to have been used as a crest on the helmets of Baloch troops in 6th century BCE. Herzfeld (1968) proposed that it is derived from the Median term brza-vaciya, which describes a loud or aggressive way of speaking.

Naseer Dashti (2012) presents another possibility, that of being derived from the name of the ethnic group `Balaschik’ living in Balashagan, between the Caspian Sea and Lake Van in present day Turkey and Azerbaizan, who are believed to have migrated to Balochistan during the Sassanid times. The remnants of the original name such as ‘Balochuk’ and ‘Balochiki’ are said to be still used as ethnic names in Balochistan.

Balāsagān (literally meaning “country of Balas”) was a satrapy of the Sasanian Empire. Shapur I’s inscription at Naqsh-e-Rostam describes the satrapy as “extending to the Caucasus mountains and the Gate of Albania (also known as Gate of the Alans)”, but for the most part it was located south of the lower course of the rivers Kura and the Aras (Araxes), bordered on the south by Adurbadagan, and had the Caspian Sea on its east.

Balasagan is also mentioned separately from Albania as a province of the empire at Shapur’s inscription, which indicates that it was its own political entity even though it was subject to Albania. The monarch of Balasagan also gained the title of King under Ardashir, which would indicate it becoming a vassal.

After the conversion of Armenia to Christianity, and subsequently Iberia and Albania Balasagan was also slowly converted to Christianity. During the reign of Yazdegerd II, the king of Balasagan, Heran, sided with the Sassanids and helped crush an Armenian revolt, however he himself revolted later on and was executed.

Some writers suggest a derivation from Sanskrit words bal, meaning strength, and och meaning high or magnificent. An earliest Sanskrit reference to the Baloch might be the Gwalior inscription of the Gurjara-Pratihara ruler Mihira Bhoja (r. 836–885), which says that the dynasty’s founder Nagabhata I repelled a powerful army of Valacha Mlecchas, translated as “Baluch foreigners” by D. R. Bhandarkar. The army in question is that of the Umayyad Caliphate after the conquest of Sindh.

Walhaz

*Walhaz is a reconstructed Proto-Germanic word meaning “foreigner”, “stranger”, “Roman”, “Romance-speaker”, or “Celtic-speaker”. The term was used by the ancient Germanic peoples to describe inhabitants of the former Western Roman Empire, who were largely romanised and spoke Latin or Celtic languages (cf. Valland in Old Norse).

The adjectival form is attested in Old Norse valskr, meaning “French”; Old High German walhisk, meaning “Romance”; New High German welsch, used in Switzerland and South Tyrol for Romance speakers; Dutch Waals “Walloon”; Old English welisċ, wælisċ, wilisċ, meaning “Romano-British”; and Modern English Welsh.

The form of these words imply that they are descended from a Proto-Germanic form *walhiska-. It is attested in the Roman Iron Age from an inscription on one of the Tjurkö bracteates, where walhakurne “Roman/Gallic grain” is apparently a kenning for “gold” (referring to the bracteate itself).

*Walhaz is almost certainly derived from the name of the tribe which was known to the Romans as Volcae (in the writings of Julius Caesar) and to the Greeks as Οὐόλκαι / Ouólkai (Strabo and Ptolemy). This tribe occupied territory neighbouring that of the Germanic people and seem to have been referred to by the proto-Germanic name *Walhaz (plural *Walhōz, adjectival form *walhiska-).

It is assumed that this term specifically referred to the Celtic Volcae, because application of Grimm’s law to that word produces the form *Walh-. Subsequently, this term *Walhōz was applied rather indiscriminately to the southern neighbours of the Germanic people, as evidenced in geographic names such as Walchgau and Walchensee in Bavaria.

These southern neighbours, however, were then already completely Romanised. Thus, Germanic speakers generalised this name first to all Celts, and later to all Romans. Old High German Walh became Walch in Middle High German, and the adjective OHG walhisk became MHG welsch, e.g. in the 1240 Alexander romance by Rudolf von Ems – resulting in Welsche in Early New High German and modern Swiss German as the exonym for all Romance speakers.

For instance, the historical German name for Trentino, the part of Tyrol with a Romance speaking majority, is Welschtirol, and the historical German name for Verona is Welschbern.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the word for Romance peoples was borrowed from the Goths (as *walhs) into Proto-Slavic some time before the 7th century. The first source using the word was the writings of Byzantine historian George Kedrenos in the mid-11th century.

From the Slavs the term passed to other peoples, such as the Hungarians (oláh, referring to Vlachs, more specifically Romanians, olasz, referring to Italians), Turks (“Ulahlar”) and Byzantines (“Vláhi”) and was used for all Latin people of the Balkans. Over time, the term Vlach (and its different forms) also acquired different meanings.

Ottoman Turks in the Balkans commonly used the term to denote native Balkan Christians (possibly due to the cultural link between Christianity and Roman culture), and in parts of the Balkans the term came to denote “shepherd” – from the occupation of many of the Vlachs throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The Polish words Włoch (pl. Włosi), “Italian”, and Włochy, “Italy”, and the Slovenian lah, a mildly derogatory word for “Italian”, can also be mentioned.

The Volcae were a tribal confederation constituted before the raid of combined Gauls that invaded Macedonia c. 270 BC and fought the assembled Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae in 279 BC. Tribes known by the name Volcae were found simultaneously in southern Gaul, Moravia, the Ebro valley of the Iberian Peninsula, and Galatia in Anatolia.

The Volcae appear to have been part of the late La Tène material culture, and a Celtic identity has been attributed to the Volcae, based on mentions in Greek and Latin sources as well as onomastic evidence.

Driven by highly mobile groups operating outside the tribal system and comprising diverse elements, the Volcae were one of the new ethnic entities formed during the Celtic military expansion at the beginning of the 3rd century BC.

Collecting in the famous excursion into the Balkans, ostensibly, from the Hellene point of view, to raid Delphi, a branch of the Volcae split from the main group on the way into the Balkans and joined two other tribes, the Tolistobogii and the Trocmi, to settle in central Anatolia and establish a new identity as the Galatians.

The English translation of the Greek Galatai or Latin Galatae, Galli, or Gallograeci refer to either the Galatians or the Gauls in general. The Gauls were a group of Celtic peoples of West-Central Europe in the Iron Age and the Roman period (roughly from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD). The area they inhabited was known as Gaul. Their Gaulish language forms the main branch of the Continental Celtic languages.

The Gauls emerged around the 5th century BC as the bearers of the La Tène culture north of the Alps (spread across the lands between the Seine, Middle Rhine and upper Elbe).

By the 4th century BC, they spread over much of what is now France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Southern Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia by virtue of controlling the trade routes along the river systems of the Rhône, Seine, Rhine, and Danube, and they quickly expanded into Northern Italy, the Balkans, Transylvania and Galatia.

Gaul was never united under a single ruler or government, but the Gallic tribes were capable of uniting their forces in large-scale military operations. They reached the peak of their power in the early 3rd century BC.

The rising Roman Republic after the end of the First Punic War increasingly put pressure on the Gallic sphere of influence; the Battle of Telamon of 225 BC heralded a gradual decline of Gallic power over the 2nd century, until the eventual conquest of Gaul in the Gallic Wars of the 50s BC.

After this, Gaul became a province of the Roman Empire, and the Gauls were ethnically and culturally largely assimilated into Latin (Roman settlers) majority, losing their tribal identities by the end of the 1st century AD.

The terms “Galatians” came to be used by the Greeks for the three Celtic peoples of Anatolia: the Tectosages, the Trocmii, and the Tolistobogii. All three tribes were beaten in 189 BCE by the Roman consul Gnaeus Manlius Vulso at the battles of Mt. Olympus and Mt. Magaba.

Ancient Galatia was an area in the highlands of central Anatolia (Ankara, Çorum, Yozgat Province) in modern Turkey. Galatia was named for the immigrant Gauls from Thrace (cf. Tylis), who settled here and became its ruling caste in the 3rd century BC, following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans in 279 BC. It has been called the “Gallia” of the East, Roman writers calling its inhabitants Galli (Gauls or Celts).

By the 4th century BC the Celts had penetrated into the Balkans, coming into contact with the Thracians, Macedonians and Greeks. In 380 BC they fought in the southern regions of Dalmatia (present day Croatia), and rumors circulated around the ancient world that Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedonia had been assassinated by a dagger of Celtic origins.

Arrian writes that “Celts established on the Ionic coast” were among those who came to meet Alexander the Great during a campaign against the Getae in 335 BC. Several ancient accounts mention that the Celts formed an alliance with Dionysius I of Syracuse who sent them to fight alongside the Macedonians against the Thebans.

In 279 BC two Celtic factions united under the leadership of Brennus and began to push southwards from southern Bulgaria towards the Greek states. According to Livy, a sizable force split off from this main group and head toward Asia Minor.

For several years a federation of Hellespontine cities, including Byzantion and Kalchedon prevented the Celts from entering Asia Minor but this changed when Nikomedes I of Bithynia allied with some of the Celtic leaders in a war against his brother Zipoetes and the Seleucid king Antiochus I.

When the Celts finally entered Asia Minor chaos ensued until the Celts were briefly routed by Antiochus’ army in the Battle of Elephants. In the aftermath of the battle the Celts withdrew to Phrygia, eventually settling in Galatia.

By the 1st century BC the Celts had become so Hellenized that some Greek writers called them Hellenogalatai. The Romans called them Gallograeci. Though the Celts had, to a large extent, integrated into Hellenistic Asia Minor, they preserved their linguistic and ethnic identity.

Although originally possessing a strong cultural identity, by the 2nd century AD, the Galatians had become assimilated (Hellenization) into the Hellenistic civilization of Anatolia. The fate of the Galatian people is a subject of some uncertainty, but they seem ultimately to have been absorbed into the Greek-speaking populations of Anatolia.

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Posted by Fredsvenn on August 4, 2018

Hell

Hell, in many religious and folkloric traditions, is a place of torment and punishment in the afterlife. Hell appears in several mythologies and religions. It is commonly inhabited by demons and the souls of dead people.

Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as eternal destinations while religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations.

Typically these traditions locate hell in another dimension or under the Earth’s surface and often include entrances to Hell from the land of the living. Other afterlife destinations include Heaven, Purgatory, Paradise, and Limbo.

Other traditions, which do not conceive of the afterlife as a place of punishment or reward, merely describe Hell as an abode of the dead, the grave, a neutral place located under the surface of Earth.

The modern English word hell is derived from Old English hel, helle (first attested around 725 AD to refer to a nether world of the dead) reaching into the Anglo-Saxon pagan period, and ultimately from Proto-Germanic *halja, meaning “one who covers up or hides something”.

This Germanic word also gave rise to similar forms in other Germanic languages, such as Old Frisian helle, hille, Old Saxon hellia, Middle Dutch helle (modern Dutch hel), Old High German helle (Modern German Hölle), Danish, Norwegian and Swedish hel and helvede/helvete (hel + Old Norse víti, “punishment” whence the Icelandic víti “hell”), and Gothic halja.

The Germanic word comes from an Indo-European root to do with hiding, with Indo-European cognates including Latin cēlāre (“to hide”, related to the English word “cellar”) and early Irish ceilid (“hides”). Subsequently, the word was used to denote a concept in Christian theology.

Some have theorized that English word hell is derived from Old Norse hel. However, this is very unlikely as hel appears in Old English before the Viking invasions. Furthermore, the word has cognates in all the other Germanic languages and has a Proto-Germanic origin.

Among other sources, the Poetic Edda, compiled from earlier traditional sources in the 13th century, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, provide information regarding the beliefs of the Norse pagans, including a being named Hel, who is described as ruling over an underworld location of the same name.

Helvetii

The Helvetii (Latin: Helvētiī; anglicized Helvetians) were a Gallic tribe or tribal confederation occupying most of the Swiss plateau at the time of their contact with the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. Posidonius described the Helvetians of the late 2nd century BC as “rich in gold but peaceful,” without giving clear indication to the location of their territory.

In his Natural History (c. 77 AD), Pliny provides a foundation myth for the Celtic settlement of Cisalpine Gaul in which a Helvetian named Helico plays the role of culture hero. Helico had worked in Rome as a craftsman and then returned to his home north of the Alps with a dried fig, a grape, and some oil and wine, the desirability of which caused his countrymen to invade northern Italy.

The Helvetians were subjugated after 52 BC, and under Augustus, Celtic oppida, such as Vindonissa or Basilea, were re-purposed as garrisons. In AD 68, a Helvetian uprising was crushed by Aulus Caecina Alienus. The Swiss plateau was at first incorporated into the Roman province of Gallia Belgica (22 BC), later into Germania Superior (AD 83).

The Helvetians, like the rest of Gaul, were largely Romanized by the 2nd century. In the later 3rd century, Roman control over the region waned, and the Swiss plateau was exposed to the invading Alemanni. The Alemanni and Burgundians established permanent settlements in the Swiss plateau in the 5th and 6th centuries, resulting in the early medieval territories of Alemannia (Swabia) and Upper Burgundy.

The endonym Helvetii is mostly derived from a Gaulish elu-, meaning “gain, prosperity” or “multitude”, cognate with Welsh elw and Old Irish prefix il-, meaning “many” or “multiple” (from the PIE root *pelh1u- “many”). The second part of the name has sometimes been interpreted as *etu-, “terrain, grassland”, thus interpreting the tribal name as “rich in land”.

The earliest attestation of the name is found in a graffito on a vessel from Mantua, dated to c. 300 BC. The inscription in Etruscan letters reads eluveitie, which has been interpreted as the Etruscan form of the Celtic elu̯eti̯os (“the Helvetian”), presumably referring to a man of Helvetian descent living in Mantua.

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Upper Mesopotamia and Mesopotamia

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 3, 2018

Upper Mesopotamia

Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain of northwestern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey, in the northern Middle East. The region extends south from the mountains of Anatolia, east from the hills on the left bank of the Euphrates river, west from the mountains on the right bank of the Tigris river and includes the Sinjar plain.

It extends down the Tigris to Samarra and down the Euphrates to Hit. The Khabur River runs for over 400 km (250 mi) across the plain, from Turkey in the north, feeding into the Euphrates. The major settlements are Mosul, Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Al Hasakah, Diyarbakır and Qamishli. The western, Syrian part, is essentially contiguous with the Syrian Al-Hasakah Governorate and is described as “Syria’s breadbasket”.

The eastern, Iraqi part, includes and extends slightly beyond the Iraqi Ninewa Governorate. In the north it includes the Turkish provinces of Şanlıurfa, Mardin, and parts of Diyarbakır Province. The Euphrates and Tigris rivers transform Mesopotamia into almost an island, as they are joined together at the Shatt al-Arab in the Basra Governorate of Iraq, and their sources in eastern Turkey are in close proximity.

The region is extremely important archeologically. This is the area where the earliest signs of agriculture and domestication of animals have been found, and thus the starting point leading to civilization and the modern world. It includes the mountain Karaca Dağ in southern Turkey, where the closest relative to modern wheat still grows wild.

At several sites (e.g. Hallan Çemi, Abu Hureyra, Mureybet) we can see a continuous occupation from a hunter-gathering lifestyle (based on hunting, and gathering and grinding of wild grains) to an economy based mainly on growing (still wild varieties of) wheat, barley and legumes from around 9000 BC. Domestication of goats and sheep followed within a few generations, but didn’t become widespread for more than a millennium. Weaving and pottery followed about two thousand years later.

After the Arab Islamic conquest of the mid-7th century AD the region has been known by the traditional Arabic name of al-Jazira, also transliterated Djazirah, Djezirah, Jazirah & the Syriac (Aramaic) variant Gazerṯo or Gozarto. The name means “island”, and at one time referred to the land between the two rivers, which in Aramaic is Bit Nahren.

Historically, the name could be restricted to the Sinjar plain coming down from the Sinjar Mountains, or expanded to embrace the entire plateau east of the coastal ranges. In pre-Abbasid times the western and eastern boundaries seem to have fluctuated, sometimes including what is now northern Syria to the west and Adiabene in the east.

The name al-Jazira has been used since the 7th century AD by Islamic sources to refer to the northern section of Mesopotamia, which together with the Sawād, the name used in early Islamic times (7th–12th centuries) for southern Iraq, made up al-‘arāq (Iraq).

Sawad means “black land” and refers to the stark contrast between the alluvial plain of Mesopotamia and the Arabian desert. As a generic term, it was used to denote the irrigated and cultivated areas in any district, in Arabic and Persian.

The term Sawad was also used in early Islamic times for the region of the alluvial plain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, contrasting it with the arid Arabian desert. As an Arabic word it means “hem”, “shore”, “bank”, or “edge”, so that the name by folk etymology came to be interpreted as “the escarpment”, viz. at the south and east of the Jazira Plateau, which forms the northern and western edge of the “al-Iraq arabi” area.

Under the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, it was an official political term for a province encompassing most of modern Iraq (except for the western desert and al-Jazira in the north).

The Arabic name al-ʿIrāq has been in use since before the 6th century. There are several suggested origins for the name. One dates to the Sumerian city of Uruk (Biblical Hebrew Erech) and is thus ultimately of Sumerian origin, as Uruk was the Akkadian name for the Sumerian city of Urug, containing the Sumerian word for “city”, UR.

The historical period in Iraq truly begins during the Uruk period (4000 BC to 3100 BC), with the founding of a number of Sumerian cities, and the use of Pictographs, Cylinder seals and mass-produced goods.

An Arabic folk etymology for the name is “deeply rooted, well-watered; fertile”. During the medieval period, there was a region called ʿIrāq ʿArabī (“Arabian Iraq”) for Lower Mesopotamia and ʿIrāq ʿajamī (“Foreign Iraq”), for the region now situated in Central and Western Iran.

The term historically included the plain south of the Hamrin Mountains and did not include the northernmost and westernmost parts of the modern territory of Iraq. Prior to the middle of the 19th century, the term Eyraca Arabic was commonly used to describe Iraq. In accordance with the 2005 Constitution, the official name of the state is the “Republic of Iraq” (Jumhūrīyyat al-‘Irāq).

Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia literally means “(Land) between rivers” in ancient Greek. The oldest known occurrence of the name Mesopotamia dates to the 4th century BC, when it was used to designate the land east of the Euphrates in north Syria.

Later it was more generally applied to all the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris, thereby incorporating not only parts of Syria but also almost all of Iraq and southeastern Turkey.

The neighbouring steppes to the west of the Euphrates and the western part of the Zagros Mountains are also often included under the wider term Mesopotamia. A further distinction is usually made between Upper or Northern Mesopotamia and Lower or Southern Mesopotamia.

Upper Mesopotamia, also known as the Jezirah, is the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris from their sources down to Baghdad. Lower Mesopotamia is the area from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf and includes Kuwait and parts of western Iran.

In modern scientific usage, the term Mesopotamia often also has a chronological connotation. It is usually used to designate the area until the Arab Muslim conquests in the 7th century AD, with Arabic names like Syria, Jezirah and Iraq being used to describe the region after that date.

It has been argued that these later euphemisms are Eurocentric terms attributed to the region in the midst of various 19th-century Western encroachments. The regional toponym Mesopotamia (“land between rivers”) or Syriac Beth Nahrain (“land of rivers”) comes from the ancient Greek root words meso (“middle”) and potamos (“river”) and translates to “(Land) between two/the rivers”.

It is used throughout the Greek Septuagint (ca. 250 BC) to translate the Hebrew and Aramaic equivalent Naharaim. Naharin, which is usually pronounced as Naharin from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim, was the Ancient Egyptian term for the kingdom of Mitanni during the New Kingdom period of the 18th Dynasty.

Ancient writers later used the name “Mesopotamia” for all of the land between the Tigris and Euphrates. However the usage of the Hebrew name “Aram-Naharaim” does not match this later usage of “Mesopotamia”, the Hebrew term referring to a northern region within Mesopotamia.

The Book of Jubilees 9:5 places Aram’s portion between the Tigris and Euphrates, and lying north of the Chaldeans, who are south of the Euphrates: “And for Aram there came forth the fourth portion, all the land of Mesopotamia [Naharaim] between the Tigris and the Euphrates to the north of the Chaldees to the border of the mountains of Asshur and the land of ‘Arara.”

The translation of the name as “Mesopotamia” was not consistent – the Septuagint also uses a more precise translation “Mesopotamia of Syria” as well as “Rivers of Syria”. Josephus refers to the subjects of Chushan, king of Aram Naharaim, as Assyrians.

In Hebrew, Ashur denotes the region of Assyria proper on the Tigris, and is listed as distinct from Aram Naharaim in Jubilees. Aram Naharaim lay west of Ashur, as it contained Haran. Haran lies on the west bank of the Balikh, east of the Upper Euphrates.

The traditional Jewish location of Ur Kasdim (at Edessa) and the Balikh itself lie west of the Khabur, and the latter may have been considered one of the “two rivers” delineating this Aramaean homeland, the other being the Euphrates.

Jubilees, however, clearly associates the city of Ur Kesed (Ur Kasdim, “Ur of the Chaldees”) not with the descendants of Aram who received Aram Naharaim as an inheritance, but rather with those of Arpachshad, his brother, who was Abram’s ancestor. Both Jonathan ben Uzziel and Onkelos translate Aram Naharaim “Aram which is on the Euphrates”.

Aram-Naharaim (Hebrew: ’Aram Naharayim) is a region that is mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. It is commonly identified with Nahrima mentioned in three tablets of the Amarna correspondence as a geographical description of the kingdom of Mitanni.

In Genesis, it is used somewhat interchangeably with the names Paddan Aram and Haran to denote the place where Abraham stayed briefly with his father Terah’s family after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan (Gen. 11:31), and the place from which later patriarchs obtained wives, rather than marry daughters of Canaan.

Paddan Aram refers to the part of Aram-Naharaim along the upper Euphrates, while Haran is mainly identified with the ancient Assyrian city of Harran on the Balikh River. According to one rabbinical Jewish tradition, the birthplace of Abraham (Ur) was also situated in Aram-Naharaim.

An even earlier Greek usage of the name Mesopotamia is evident from The Anabasis of Alexander, which was written in the late 2nd century AD, but specifically refers to sources from the time of Alexander the Great. In the Anabasis, Mesopotamia was used to designate the land east of the Euphrates in north Syria.

The Aramaic term biritum/birit narim corresponded to a similar geographical concept. Later, the term Mesopotamia was more generally applied to all the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris, thereby incorporating not only parts of Syria but also almost all of Iraq and southeastern Turkey.

Eber-Nari (Akkadian, also Ebir-Nari), Abar-Nahara (Aramaic) or ‘Ābēr Nahrā (Syriac) was the name of a region of Western Asia and a satrapy of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC), Neo-Babylonian Empire (612-539 BC) and Achaemenid Empire (539-332 BC).

Eber-Nari roughly corresponded with the Levant (modern Syria), and was also known as Aramea. It means “Beyond the River” or “Across the River” in both the Akkadian and Imperial Aramaic languages of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (that is, the Western bank of the Euphrates from a Mesopotamian and Persian viewpoint). It is also referred to as Transeuphratia (French Transeuphratène) by modern scholars.

The province is also mentioned extensively in the Biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Additionally, sharing the same root meaning, Eber was also a character in the Hebrew Bible from which the term Hebrew was widely believed to have been derived, thus the Hebrews were inferred to have been the people who crossed into Canaan across the (Euphrates) river.

The definitive origin of the term “Hebrew” remains uncertain. The Biblical term Ivri (“to traverse” or “to pass over”, is usually rendered as Hebrew in English, from the ancient Greek and the Latin Hebraeus. The Biblical word Ivri has the plural form Ivrim, or Ibrim.

Genesis 10:21 refers to Shem, the elder brother of Ham and Japheth and thus the first-born son of Noah, as the father of the sons of Eber, which may have a similar meaning. Some authors argue that Ibri denotes the descendants of the biblical patriarch Eber, son of Shelah, a great-grandson of Noah and an ancestor of Abraham, hence the occasional anglicization Eberites.

Since the 19th-century CE discovery of the second-millennium BCE inscriptions mentioning the Habiru, many theories have linked these to the Hebrews. Some scholars argue that the name “Hebrew” is related to the name of those seminomadic Habiru people recorded in Egyptian inscriptions of the 13th and 12th centuries BCE as having settled in Egypt.

Other scholars rebut this, proposing that the Hebrews are mentioned in older texts of the 3rd Intermediate Period of Egypt (15th century BCE) as Shasu of Yhw, Semitic-speaking cattle nomads in the Levant from the late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age or the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt.

The name’s etymon may be Egyptian š3sw, which originally meant “those who move on foot”. Levy, Adams, and Muniz report similar possibilities: an Egyptian word that means “to wander”, and an alternative Semitic one with the meaning “to plunder”.

The term Eber-Nari was established during the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC) in reference to its Levantine colonies, and the toponym appears in an inscription of the 7th century BC Assyrian king Esarhaddon.

The region remained an integral part of the Assyrian empire until its fall in 612 BC, with some northern regions remaining in the hands of the remnants of the Assyrian army and administration until at least 605 BC, and possibly as late as 599 BC.

Nairi was the Assyrian name for a confederation of tribes in the Armenian Highlands, roughly corresponding to the modern Van and Hakkâri provinces of modern Turkey. The word is also used to describe the Armenian tribes who lived there.

Nairi has sometimes been equated with Nihriya, known from Mesopotamian, Hittite, and Urartean sources. The Battle of Nihriya, the culminating point of the hostilities between Hittites and Assyrians for control over the remnants of the former empire of Armenian (Indo-European) Mitanni, took place there, c. 1230 BC. However, its co-occurrence with Nihriya within a single text may argue against this.

During the Bronze Age collapse (13th to 12th centuries BC), the Nairi tribes were considered a force strong enough to contend with both Assyria and Hatti. The Nairi fought against the southern incursions of the Assyrians and would later unite into Urartu. Nairi was incorporated into Urartu during the 10th century BC.

 

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