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
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

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

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Pre Indo European (haplogroup j2; Hurri-Urartians) and Indo Europrean (haplogroup r1b; Armenians) migration and cultural diffusion

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on April 28, 2019

Armenian Haplogroups – R1b, J2, G2

1) R1b

Previously known to include a majority of R1b haplogroups is Italic/Celtic, Germanic/ Hittite, Armenian and Tocharian.

According to a study published in August 2010 (Myres et al.) “the phylogenetic relationships of numerous branches within the core Y-chromosome haplogroup R-M207 support West Asian origin of haplogroup R1b, its initial differentiation there followed by a rapid spread of one of its sub-clades carrying the M269 mutation to Europe.”

“We think the common ancestor ( with Western Europeans) lived in the Caucasus about 9,500 years age.” “It is estimated that the earliest migration of haplogroup R1b into Europe began with the spread of agriculture in 7,000 BC, according to iGENEA.”

The invention of agriculture was a pivotal event in human history. The first animal tamed by people was the dog. Its domestication probably occurred in the Early Stone Age, in the period of hunting development. Centuries later, people managed to tame sheep, pigs, goats, and cows. The Armenian Highlands are crucial in this regard. The oldest center of stock farming can be traced to the Armenian plateau. 

The early spread of agriculture known as the Neolithic revolution spread from the Armenian plateau through a mix of colonization and cultural diffusion, into Europe and elsewhere. In Europe the indigenous hunter gatherers adopted the new farming technologies by cultural diffusion. “All of the Armenian R1b DNA belongs to the ancient branches of the R1b tree, while all the European traces belong to the younger branches.”

2) J2

“J2 has been traced back to the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea that comprises territory in northwestern Iraq and Iran, eastern Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia”, which is Armenian Highlands.

According to Eupedia a second expansion of J2 occurred with the advent of metallurgy. The oldest metallurgy centre is in Metsamor, Armenia. “Metsamor is a working excavation and museum on the site of an ancient city complex with a large metallurgical and astronomical centre (occupied ca. 7,000 BC – 17th c. CE).”

3) G2

“Haplogroup G is defined by a mutation at M201. The first man to have the M201 mutation is thought to have lived about 30 thousand years ago, probably south of the Caucasus mountains and perhaps near Lake Van.”

“We estimate that the geographic origin of hg G plausibly locates somewhere nearby eastern Anatolia, Armenia or western Iran.” There are very few populations in this world, if there are indeed any, who can rival the Y-DNA G subclade variety, and Y-DNA G STR diversity observed in Armenians. Frequency is less significant.

“The homeland of this haplogroup has been estimated to be somewhere nearby eastern Anatolia, Armenia or western Iran, the only areas characterized by the co-presence of deep basal branches as well as the occurrence of high sub-haplogroup diversity.”

“Concerning the presence of hg G in the Caucasus, one of its distinguishing features is lower haplogroup diversity in numerous populations compared with Anatolia and Armenia, implying that hg G is intrusive in the Caucasus rather than autochthonous.”

Haplogroup G2

Haplogroup G2

Haplogroup J2

Painted Pottery Culture

Haplogroup J2 is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. The oldest known J2a samples at present were identified in remains from the Hotu Cave in northern Iran, dating from 9100-8600 BC, and from Kotias Klde in Georgia, dating from 7940-7600 BC.

This confirms that haplogroup J2 was already found around the Caucasus and the southern Caspian region during the Mesolithic period. The first appearance of J2 during the Neolithic came in the form of a 10,000 year-old J2b sample from Tepe Abdul Hosein in north-western Iran in what was then the Pre-Pottery Neolithic.

Notwithstanding its strong presence in West Asia today, haplogroup J2 does not seem to have been one of the principal lineages associated with the rise and diffusion of cereal farming from the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia to Europe. It is likely that J2 men had settled over most of Anatolia, the South Caucasus and Iran by the end of the Last Glaciation 12,000 years ago.

It is possible that J2 hunter-gatherers then goat/sheep herders also lived in the Fertile Crescent during the Neolithic period, although the development of early cereal agriculture is thought to have been conducted by men belonging primarily to haplogroups G2a (northern branch, from Anatolia to Europe), as well as E1b1b and T1a (southern branch, from the Levant to the Arabian peninsula and North Africa).

The present geographic distribution of haplogroup J2 suggests that it could initially have dispersed during the Neolithic from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia across the Iranian plateau to South Asia and Central Asia, and across the Caucasus to Russia (Volga-Ural).

The first expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE), rather than with the development of cereal agriculture in the Levant. A second expansion would have occured with the advent of metallurgy.

It is very likely that J2a, J1-Z1828, L1b, T1a-P77 and G2a-L293 were the dominant male lineages the Late Copper to Early Bronze Age Kura-Araxes culture (3,400-2,000 BCE), which expanded from the South Caucasus to eastern Anatolia, northern Mesopotamia, the Levant and the western Iran.

From then on, J2 men would have definitely have represented a sizeable portion of the population of Bronze and Iron Age civilizations such as the Hurrians, the Assyrians or the Hittites. It is very possible that bronze technology spread from the South Caucasus across the Iranian plateau until the Indus Valley, giving rise to the Harappan Civilisation.

After that J2 could have propagated through Anatolia and the Eastern Mediterranean with the rise of early civilizations during the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.

This is the case of the Hattians, the Hurrians, the Etruscans, the Minoans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and their Carthaginian offshoot), the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians.

The Minoan civilisation emerged from 2,700 BCE and could have been founded by colonists from the Kura-Araxes culture who would have brought bronze working with them. Modern Cretans have the highest percentage of G2a (11%), J1 (8.5%), J2a (32%), and L + T (2.5% together) in Greece (and the highest percentage of J1 and J2a in all Europe for that matter), the three haplogroups associated with the Kura-Araxes culture.

Although little data is available at present about deep clades in Crete or Aegean Greece, the parts of Italy that were colonised by Ionic and Doric Greeks, notably Sicily, Calabria and Basilicata, possess substantial percentages of typically Caucasian haplogroups, such as G2a-L297, J1-Z1828 and J2a-L581, as well as considerable levels of Middle Eastern and Caucasian autosomal admixture by European standards.

In fact, it seems that many branches of J2a (e.g. M319, Z7671, F3133, Z6046, L581) may have expanded from the South Caucasus from the Chalcolithic onwards. The presence of these haplogroups and admixtures in southern Italy almost certainly represent Kura-Araxes ancestry inherited from Minoan Greeks from the Aegean islands.

There is a distinct association of ancient J2 civilisations with bull worship. The oldest evidence of a cult of the bull can be traced back to Neolithic central Anatolia, notably at the sites of Çatalhöyük and Alaca Höyük.

Bull depictions are omnipresent in Minoan frescos and ceramics in Crete. Bull-masked terracotta figurines and bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus (dating back as far as the Neolithic, the first presumed expansion of J2 from West Asia). The Hattians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaaites, and Carthaginians all had bull deities (in contrast with Indo-European or East Asian religions).

The sacred bull of Hinduism, Nandi, present in all temples dedicated to Shiva or Parvati, does not have an Indo-European origin, but can be traced back to Indus Valley civilisation. Minoan Crete, Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley also shared a tradition of bull leaping, the ritual of dodging the charge of a bull. It survives today in the traditional bullfighting of Andalusia in Spain and Provence in France, two regions with a high percentage of J2 lineages.

The global distribution of J2a-M410 and J2b-M102 sub-haplogroups has been associated with Neolithic demic diffusion. Previous studies have established that J2a-M410 and J2b-M102 represent the Y-chromosomal component associated with demic diffusion of Neolithic farmers in North Africa and Eurasia from Mesopotamia (Iraq and Syria).

The J2-M172 has been associated with different cultures and populations in history, such as Mediterranean/Aegan, Greco-Anatolian, Mesopotamian and Caucasian. J2-M172 is a predominant HG in West and Central Asia. Populations living West from India show high frequency, subclade variation and presence of paragroups.

J2b-M102 has been found in all parts of India in low to moderate frequency, but it is significantly frequent among some nomadic PTGs of South India. From eastern region, some of the Austroasiatic tribes carry a high frequency of J2b2-M241.

Presence of J2a-M410 and J2b-M102 in India has been considered a result of gene influx from Western Asia. Worldwide subclade diversity and distribution of J2a-M410 suggest its spread from West and Central Asia into India through NW corridor. The spatial distribution of J2a-M410 throughout Middle East and Central Asia is overlapped by presence of Neolithic artifacts such as painted pottery and ceramic culture.

Worldwide spatial distribution of haplogroup (HG) J2a-M410 coincides with presence of archaeological records of painted pottery and ceramic figurine culture. Similar material culture dating 7000 BC has been recovered from the Neolithic sites of Mehrgarh located West of Indus Valley (now in Pakistan).

The earliest precursor known of Indus Valley civilization, Mehrgarh (NW of Indian subcontinent, now in Pakistan), provides one of the oldest 7000 BC evidences of origin of agriculture and plant domestication suited by early Holocene climate.

Additionally, these Neolithic sites of Mehrgarh showed the earliest evidence of transformation of subsistence from hunting-gathering to settled agriculture owing to the idea that the first farmers from Indus were agro-pastoral, and semi-nomadic people.

It is interesting to note that the concentration of J2a-M410 over the geography largely mimics the agricultural centres. J2a-M410 in India peaks at NW region and shows a clinal pattern towards Central and East, however, again rises considerably in South.

During and after Neolithic period, agriculturists dominated the land, especially the fertile river valleys. Emergence of agriculture led to the major socio-cultural transition and technological development in human prehistory.

The oldest evidence of agriculture comes from the Fertile Crescent 9000 BC, the centre for demic diffusion. However, evidences of first agriculture from South Asia indicate a timeline 7000 BC closer to the emergence of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent.

In the present study, we also see high frequency of J2a-M410 and J2b-M102 in remote undisturbed foragers with recent history of hunting gathering (eg. Asur, Chenchu), pastorals (eg. Toda tribe with high J2a-M68) and nomadic tribes (eg. Banjara, Bahelia etc).

Most of the nomadic tribes were from NW region or had recently migrated from the region towards South India (eg. Narikruwar, Shikari, Mondi, Pichakuntla). Considering these facts and arguments, one can deduce that these groups could be the relic of agro-pastoral communities spreading from the NW region of the subcontinent in the past.

Various studies have given evidences to support the influence of Neolithic from Near East on Indian subcontinent (in Mehrgarh) dated around 8500 BC and references therein. Noted similarities between Mehrgarh and Near East are domesticated wheat varieties, early phases of farming, pottery, other archaeological artefacts, some domesticated plants and herd animals.

A vast arid region of Iran and Afghanistan lies in between Near East and Indus Valley, leaving possibility of rainfall agriculture only in the foothills and cul-de-sac valleys. Yet, the area was not an undefeatable geographical barrier for Neolithic spread.

Some sections of the Silk Road (route South of the Caspian sea) connecting Badakhshan (north-eastern Afghanistan and south-eastern Tajikistan) with West Asia, Egypt and India were in use by 3000 BC. Other section of Silk Road connecting Badakhshan to the Mesopotamian plains (the Great Khorasan Road) was in use by 4000 BC. Archaeological evidences support similarities among widely separated Neolithic sites in these regions and plausibility of migration of population.

Kura Araxes Culture

The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end; in some locations it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC.

The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. It is sometimes known as Shengavitian, Karaz (Erzurum), Pulur, and Yanik Tepe (Iranian Azerbaijan, near Lake Urmia) cultures. To a large extent, this appears as an indigenous culture of Caucasus that was formed over a long period, and at the same time incorporating foreign influences.

Some scholars have suggested that the earliest manifestation of the Kura-Araxes phenomenon should be dated at least to the last quarter of the 5th millennium BC. This is based on the recent data from Ovcular Tepesi, a Late Chalcolithic settlement located in Nakhchivan by the Arpaçay river.

Altogether, the early trans-Caucasian culture enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, and mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and as far as Syria.

Rather quickly, elements of Kura–Araxes culture started to proceed westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into the area of Lake Van, and below the Urmia basin in Iran, such as to Godin Tepe. Finally, it proceeded into the present-day Syria (Amuq valley), and as far as Palestine.

According to Geoffrey Summers, the movement of Kura-Araxes peoples into Iran and the Van region, which he interprets as quite sudden, started shortly before 3000 BC, and may have been prompted by the ‘Late Uruk Collapse’ (end of the Uruk period), taking place at the end of Uruk IV phase c. 3100 BC.

In the earliest phase of the Kura–Araxes culture, metal was scarce. In comparison, the preceding Leilatepe culture’s metalwork tradition was far more sophisticated. The Kura–Araxes culture would later display a precocious metallurgical development, which strongly influenced surrounding regions.

They worked copper, arsenic, silver, gold, tin, and bronze. Their metal goods were widely distributed, from the Volga, Dnieper and Don-Donets river systems in the north to Syria and Palestine in the south and Anatolia in the west.

Their pottery was distinctive. The spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs.

Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya. The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes and, most certainly, had extensive trade contacts.

Khirbet Kerak-ware Culture

The Kura Araxes culture gave rise to the later Khirbet Kerak-ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire. Khirbet Kerak (“the ruin of the fortress”) or Beth Yerah (“House of the Moon (god)”) located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee in modern-day Israel.

Khirbet Kerak ware is a type of Early Bronze Age Syro-Palestinian pottery first discovered at this site. It is also found in other parts of the Levant (including Jericho, Beth Shan, Tell Judeideh, and Ugarit). The 2009 discovery at the tell of a stone palette with Egyptian motifs, including an ankh, points to trade/political relations with the First dynasty of Egypt, at approximately 3000 BC.

The tell spans an area of over 50 acres—one of the largest in the Levant—and contains remains dating from the Early Bronze Age (c. 3000 BC – 2000 BC) and from the Persian period (c. 450 BC) through to the early Islamic period (c. 1000 AD).

The tell of Khirbet Kerak was at certain times the site of two twin towns, Bet Yerah and Sinnabris. Al-Sinnabra or Sinn en-Nabra, as it is known in Arabic, was known in the Hellenistic times by the Greek name Sennabris.

Though it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible or other Bronze or Iron Age sources, the name may preserve, at least in part, the Canaanite toponym of Ablm-bt-Yrh, “the city/fort (qrt) of his-majesty Yarih”.

As Ablm (Heb. Abel), this location is mentioned in the 14th century BC Epic of Aqhat, a Canaanite myth from Ugarit, an ancient city in what is now Syria, and is thought to be a reference to the Early Bronze Age structure extant at Khirbet Kerak.

The Tale of Aqhat was recorded at Ugarit by the high priest Ilmilku, who was also the author of the Legend of Keret and the Baal Cycle. The three primary characters of the Tale are a man named Danel, described as a “righteous ruler” (Davies) or “probably a king” (Curtis), providing justice to widows and orphans, his son Aqhat, and his daughter Paghat.

Yarikh (also written as Jerah, Jarah, or Jorah) is a moon god in Canaanite religion whose epithets are “illuminator of the heavens”‘, “illuminator of the myriads of stars” and “lord of the sickle”. The latter epithet may come from the appearance of the crescent moon. It seems to have Hurrian roots and may be connected with Kušuḫ, the Hurrian moon god.

Yarikh was recognized as the provider of nightly dew, and married to the goddess Nikkal, his moisture causing her orchards to bloom in the desert. The city of Jericho was a center of his worship, and its name may derive from the name Yarikh, or from the Cannanite word for moon, Yareaẖ.

Kušuḫ (Ugaritic: kḏġ or kzġ) is the Hurrian Moon god. He is named after Ea (Enki) and before the Sun god Šimige. Kušuḫ, “Lord of the Oath” was invoked, along with his wife Nikkal, “Lady of the Oath” and Išḫara, as guarantor of oaths.

In cuneiform texts, the name is written with the Sumerograms dEN.ZU or dXXX, in Hieroglyphic Luwian with a crescent Moon symbol, which is transliterated as (DEUS) LUNA. At the Hittite cliff sanctuary in Yazılıkaya, he is depicted as a winged god with a crescent moon on top of his pointy hat.

He was syncretised with the Moon god of Harran (Hurrian: Kuzina). He was identified with the Hittite god Kaskuh. The Luwian peoples called him Arma, an Anatolian Moon god, worshipped by the Hittites and Luwians in the Bronze Age and early Iron Age.

Sīn or Suen (Akkadian: EN.ZU) or Nanna (Sumerian: DŠEŠ.KI, DNANNA) was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian religions of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with the Semitic Sīn.

The two chief seats of Nanna’s/Sīn’s worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north. During the period in which Ur exercised supremacy over the Euphrates valley (between 2600 and 2400 BC), Sīn was considered the supreme god. It was then that he was designated as “father of the gods”, “head of the gods” or “creator of all things”.

Sīn was also called “He whose heart can not be read” and was told that “he could see farther than all the gods”. It is said that every new moon, the gods gather together from him to make predictions about the future. Sīn was also a protector of shepherds. A moon god by the same name was also worshipped in South Arabia.

Mitanni

It is believed that the southern expanse of the Kura Araxes culture is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians. Mitanni (Hittite cuneiform KUR URU Mi-ta-an-ni; Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni), also called Hanigalbat (Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) in Assyrian or Naharin in Egyptian texts, was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from c. 1500 to 1300 BC.

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

The names of the Mitanni aristocracy frequently are of Indo-Aryan origin, and their deities also show Indo-Aryan roots (Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nasatya), though some think that they are more immediately related to the Kassites.

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. 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.

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. A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.

Bearers of names in the Hurrian language are attested in wide areas of Syria and the northern Levant that are clearly outside the area of the political entity known to Assyria as Hanilgalbat. There is no indication that these persons owed allegiance to the political entity of Mitanni; although the German term Auslandshurriter (“Hurrian expatriates”) has been used by some authors.

In the 14th century BC numerous city-states in northern Syria and Canaan were ruled by persons with Hurrian and some Indo-Aryan names. If this can be taken to mean that the population of these states was Hurrian as well, then it is possible that these entities were a part of a larger polity with a shared Hurrian identity.

This is often assumed, but without a critical examination of the sources. Differences in dialect and regionally different pantheons points to the existence of several groups of Hurrian speakers.

Maykop culture

The Kura Araxes culture is closely linked to the approximately contemporaneous Maykop culture of Ciscaucasia. The Kura-Araxes culture was contiguous, and had mutual influences, with the Maikop culture in the Northwest Caucasus. There were elements of the Maikop culture in the early memorials of Chechnya and Ingushetia in the Meken and Bamut kurgans and in Lugovoe in Serzhen-Yurt.

Similarities between some features and objects of the Maikop and Kura-Araxes cultures, such as large square graves, the bold-relief curvilinear ornamentation of pottery, ochre-coloured ceramics, earthen hearth props with horn projections, flint arrowheads, stone axes and copper pitchforks are indicative of a cultural unity that pervaded the Caucasus in the Neolithic Age.

In 2006, a French–Azerbaijani team discovered nine kurgans at the cemetery of Soyuqbulaq (also, Soyuq Bulaq), a village in the Agstafa Rayon of Azerbaijan. It forms part of the municipality of Köçvəlili. They were dated to the beginning of the fourth millennium BC, which makes it the oldest kurgan cemetery in Transcaucasia. Similar kurgans have been found at Kavtiskhevi, Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia.

Several other archaeological sites seem to belong to the same ancient cultural tradition as Soyuq Bulaq. They include Berikldeebi, Kavtiskhevi, Leilatepe, Boyuk Kesik, and Poylu, Agstafa, and are characterized by pottery assemblages “mainly or totally in the North Mesopotamian tradition”.

The numerous artifacts discovered at these sites have shed light on the material and spiritual culture of this ancient people during the late Eneolithic period. Amongst the finds are stone and bone tools, metal objects, and a huge cache of clay vessels. There are also anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines made of clay or bone. Grain residues were also excavated.

The residents kept cattle and other domesticated animals in these settlements. Most of these sites are associated with the Leilatepe archeological culture of the first half of the fourth millennium BCE. It is believed that this was the result of the migration of near-eastern tribes from Mesopotamia to South Caucasus, especially to Azerbaijan.

Discovery of Soyugbulaq in 2004 and subsequent excavations 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.

The Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (ca. 5500/5400 to 5200/5000 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. It lies chronologically between the Halaf period and the Ubaid period. It is still a complex and rather poorly understood period. At the same time, recent efforts were made to study the gradual change from Halaf style pottery to Ubaid style pottery in various parts of North Mesopotamia.

Archaeologically the period has been studied anew recently by a number of scholars. 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. Tell Arpachiyah, and Tepe Gawra are the sites where the transition from Halaf to Ubaid were quite abrupt. No transitional levels were observed at these two important sites.

A Halaf-Ubaid Transition phase can be seen in ceramic assemblages. Sites like Tell el-‘Oueili, and Choga Mami in the Mandali region have been suggested as witnesses to this phase. More recently, a Halaf-Ubaid Transitional phase has been attested in Syria, in such places as Tell Zeidan, Tell Aqab, Tell Kurdu, Tell Masaikh (near Terqa, also known as Kar-Assurnasirpal), and Chagar Bazar.

Halaf-Ubaid Transitional pottery from Tell Begum, in the Shahrizor plain, is particularly plentiful. Shahrizor plain is located between the Mesopotamian plains and the Iranian plateau, so it is geographically significant. Recent analysis (2016) indicates that, in the Ashur region, as well as on the Shahrizor Plain, the settlement intensity, as well as the overall site numbers remained rather similar throughout the Halaf and Ubaid periods.

The Leylatepe Culture tribes migrated to the north in the mid-fourth millennium, B.C. 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. These are the major factors attesting to the existence of a genetic link between the two cultures.

Kurgan

The Kurgans provide us with an “earlier” people who buried their dead in a manner which must be regarded as a technological precursor to the later burial mounds of Babylon and Egypt, a people of Europe. We now know through radiocarbon dating that temples were under construction in Malta before 3000 BC, before the Pyramids of Egypt.

The initial temples of Pharaonic Egypt were made of “mud bricks” (as in Mesopotamia), whereas building in stone came thereafter, “mimicking” the same style of architectural building previously used for building in mud brick. This fact led the Egyptologist Walter Emery to conclude that the Pharaonic Egyptian culture traced its origin back to an immigrant people, perhaps from south Mesopotamia.

We find a clear correlation between the megaliths of Anatolia and the ones of Western Europe. Dolmens and Menhirs found in eastern Anatolia are similar to the ones found in western France and northern England. A total of 110 dolmens have been investigated in a large region covering from Ankara to Kars, in Turkey. It is difficult to give an exact date for these structures, because no organic remains were found within the dolmens, but they are older than the Egyptian pyramids.

This culture of building circular graves and cult centers has been recently discovered in Göbeklitepe – Southern Turkey. From the size and weight of these granite slabs we can guess that a lot of energy was spent to build these structures, which were important and special for these ancient people.

They may also be tomb sites built for important tribe leaders. Their pyramidal form is a clear symbol representing the memory of Caucasian mountains on which kurgans were built. The dolmen has a striking similarity to the Anatolian dolmens. They all have the same architectural structure of few uprights topped by a large covering slab.

The people from the kurgan culture were sun-worshippers and they quite naturally followed the trajectory of the sun in the sky moving towards the west. Further proof that these circular structures were cult centers built by a sun-worshiping culture is the circular and spiral forms found all over the world.

Wherever they went they kept the habit of building circular cult centers and spirals symbolizing the circular form of the sun. We find such circular forms and cult centers in Malta, Spain, France, Denmark, England, Scotland and Ireland.

We also find large circular structures which show that in time the dolmens were replaced by large cult centers. It is still believed that these cult centers were special places for sun-worshiping. Stonehenge, for example, is a location where thousands of people gather each year for celebrating the rising sun during the summer solstice.

Similar cult centers are also found on Mediterranean islands. The Brochtorff circle on the Gozo Island of Malta is a typical example of this ancient culture. The cult center of Gozo is bounded by a stone circle 45 meters in diameter, similar to the ones surrounding the kurgans found on the high peaks of the Altai Mountains. The worship-center shares clear similarities with the recent find at Göbeklitepe.

An heterogeneous ethno-linguistic population

Late in the history of the Kura Araxes culture, its people built kurgans of greatly varying sizes, containing widely varying amounts and types of metalwork, with larger, wealthier kurgans surrounded by smaller kurgans containing less wealth.

This trend suggests the eventual emergence of a marked social hierarchy. Their practice of storing relatively great wealth in burial kurgans was probably a cultural influence from the more ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent to the south.

Inhumation practices are mixed. Flat graves are found but so are substantial kurgan burials, the latter of which may be surrounded by cromlechs. This points to a heterogeneous ethno-linguistic population.

There seems to be a lack of unity in funerary monuments, which is considered more than strange in the framework of a single culture; for the funeral rites reflect the deep culture-forming foundations and are weakly influenced by external customs.

There are non-kurgan and kurgan burials, burials in ground pits, in stone boxes and crypts, in the underlying ground strata and on top of them; using both the round and rectangular burials; there are also substantial differences in the typical corpse position. Burial complexes of Kura–Araxes culture sometimes also include cremation.

Here one can come to the conclusion that the Kura–Araxes culture developed gradually through a synthesis of several cultural traditions, including the ancient cultures of the Caucasus and nearby territories. Ancient DNA studies have shown that the Near East consisted of several distinct populations in the Early Neolithic period.

Hurrian and Urartian language elements are quite probable, as are Northeast Caucasian ones. 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 the Proto-Indo-European homeland, this culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages. It suggests that Proto-Indo-European was spoken during the 5th–4th millennia BC in “eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia”.

Recent DNA-research has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a ‘pre-proto-Indo-European’. It also lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language “no later than the 4th millennium BCE.”

The Anatolian languages, including Hittite, split-off before 4000 BCE, and migrated into Anatolia at around 2000 BCE. Around 4000 BCE, the proto-Indo-European community split into Greek-Armenian-Indo-Iranians, Celto-Italo-Tocharians, and Balto-Slavo-Germanics.

At around 3000–2500 BCE, Greek moved to the west, while the Indo-Aryans, the Celto-Italo-Tocharians and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics moved east, and then northwards along the eastern slope of the Caspian Sea. The Tocharians split from the Italo-Celtics before 2000 BCE and moved further east, while the Italo-Celtics and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics turned west again towards the northern slopes of the Black Sea. From there, they expanded further into Europe between around 2000 and 1000 BCE.

The phonological peculiarities of the consonants proposed in the glottalic theory would be best preserved in Armenian and the Germanic languages. Proto-Greekwould be practically equivalent to Mycenaean Greek from the 17th century BC and closely associate Greek migration to Greece with the Indo-Aryan migration to India at about the same time (the Indo-European expansion at the transition to the Late Bronze Age, including the possibility of Indo-European Kassites).

Recent DNA-research has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a ‘proto-proto-Indo-European’. It also lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language “no later than the 4th millennium BCE.”

The Armenian hypothesis gains in plausibility since the Yamnaya partly descended from a Near Eastern population, which resembles present-day Armenians. Yet, the question of what languages were spoken by the ‘Eastern European hunter-gatherers’ and the southern, Armenian-like, ancestral population remains open.

The most likely location of the population that first spoke an Indo-European language was south of the Caucasus Mountains, perhaps in present-day Iran or Armenia, because ancient DNA from people who lived there matches what we would expect for a source population both for the Yamnaya and for ancient Anatolians. Nevertheless, were some, if not most, of the Indo-European languages spread by the Yamnaya people.

The Armenian Highland show no indication of a large-scale intrusion of a steppe population. The earliest attestation of Anatolian names, in the Armi state, must be dated to 3000-2400 BCE, contemporaneous with the Yamnaya culture. A scenario in which the Anatolian Indo-European language was linguistically derived from Indo-European speakers originating in this culture can be rejected. Both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European must have split-off from a common mother language no later than the 4th millennium BCE.

The Caucasus was the birthplace of bronze metallurgy, and the two great Bronze Age cultures that stemmed from it, the Maykop-Yamna and Kura-Araxes cultures, expanded far and wide and reshaped the genetic landscape of western Eurasia. The Maykop culture (3700-2500 BCE) in the north-west Caucasus was culturally speaking a sort of southern extension of the Yamna horizon.

Although not generally considered part of the Pontic-Caspian steppe culture due to its geography, the North Caucasus had close links with the steppes, as attested by numerous ceramics, gold, copper and bronze weapons and jewelry in the contemporaneous cultures of Mikhaylovka, Sredny Stog and Kemi Oba.

The Natufian-derived population of the southern Levant had affinities with the Red Sea region (Y-haplogroup E1b1b). Anatolian tribes seem to have belonged primarily to Y-haplogroup G2a, who brought agriculture to Europe.

South Caucasians would have belonged to Y-haplogroups J1 and J2, later associated with the Kura-Araxes culture. Y-haplogroup T1a may have been found around Mesopotamia. Certain lineages seem to expand during the Kura Araxes expansion, the majority are J2a, followed by J1, G and T.

‘Shulaveri Shomu Culture

The formative processes of the Kura-Araxes cultural complex, and the date and circumstances of its rise, have been long debated. The Shulaveri-Shomu culture, a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Colchis, Azerbaijan, the Armenian Highlands, and including small parts of northern Iran, preceded the Kura–Araxes culture.

Later on, in the middle Bronze Age period (c. 3000–1500 BC), the Trialeti culture, also known as the Trialeti-Vanadzor [Kirovakan] culture), named after the Trialeti region of Georgia, emerged in the areas of the preceding Kura-Araxes culture in the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC.

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 Sos Höyük IV in Erzurum Province, resemble those of Trialeti.

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. Tin-based bronze became predominant.

Painted pottery was introduced. 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 in Iran). Also, similar pottery was produced by the Uzarlik culture, and the Karmirberd-Sevan culture.

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.

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.

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. This Early Kurgan period, known as Martkopi-Bedeni, has been interpreted as a transitional phase and the first stage of the Middle Bronze Age.

The Trialeti culture was known for its particular form of burial. The elite were interred in large, very rich burials under earth and stone mounds, which sometimes contained four-wheeled carts. Also there were many gold objects found in the graves. These gold objects were similar to those found in Iran and Iraq. They also worked tin and arsenic.

This form of burial in a tumulus or “kurgan”, along with wheeled vehicles, is the same as that of the Kurgan culture which has been associated with the speakers of Proto-Indo-European. In fact, the black burnished pottery of especially early Trialeti kurgans is similar to Kura-Araxes pottery.

In a historical context, their impressive accumulation of wealth in burial kurgans, like that of other associated and nearby cultures with similar burial practices, is particularly noteworthy. This practice was probably a result of influence from the older civilizations to the south in the Fertile Crescent.

The Shulaveri-Shomu culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC. Especially in recent years as a result of archaeological research in the area of Goytepe, the Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture has been identified as belonging to the 7th millennium BC and the second half of the 6th millennium.

Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasis on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).

The technology and typology of bone-based instruments are similar to those of the Middle East Neolithic material culture. The similarities between the macrolithic tools and the use of ochre also bring Shulaveri-Shomu culture closer to the culture of Halaf. Pestles and mortars found in Shulaveri-Shomu sites and Late Neolithic layers of Tell Sabi Abyad in Syria are also similar to each other.

There is many differences between the Shulaveri-Shomu culture and the Kura Araxes culture, so the connection is not clear. It has been suggested that the Sioni culture of eastern Georgia possibly represented a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.

At many sites, the Sioni culture layers can be seen as intermediary between Shulaver-Shomu-Tepe layers and the Kura-Araxes layers. This kind of stratigraphy warrants a chronological place of the Sioni culture at around 4000 BC.

Viticulture

Viticulture and wine-making were widely practised in the area from the earliest times. Viticulture even goes back to the earlier Shulaveri-Shomu culture. The earliest evidence of domesticated grapes in the world has been found at Gadachrili Gora, near the village of Imiri, Marneuli Municipality, in southeastern Republic of Georgia; carbon-dating points to the date of about 6000 BC.

Grape pips dating back to the V-IVth millennia B.C. were found in Shulaveri; others dating back to the IVth millennium B.C. were found in Khizanaant Gora—all in this same ‘Shulaveri area’ of the Republic of Georgia.

A theory has been suggested by Stephen Batiuk that the Kura-Araxes folk may have spread Vitis vinifera vine and wine technology to the “Fertile Crescent”—to Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean. The spread of wine-goblet form, such as represented by the Khirbet Kerak ware, is clearly associated with these peoples. The same applies to the large ceramic vessels used for grape fermentation.

China (Pre-Indo-European)

Neolithic China

Neolithic China, the Yangshao

Following the northern Beringian hunter-gatherer culture, there is also archaeological evidence indicating some glimmerings of a primitive agrarian culture in China in the late Paleolithic time period. By about 5000 BCE they appear to have domesticated the pig and begun making rudimentary pottery.

Although following by over a millennium, this distinct agriculture most likely originated independently from Mesopotamia . Different types of agriculture emerged in the northwest and southeast of China about the same time. 

Although the southeast was developing in its own way, it is to the northwest of China that historians look for the development of classical Chinese history. They call this culture the Yangshao Painted Pottery Culture after one of the early archaeological sites.

The Yangshao culture of the Upper Yellow River Valley in China reached its peak about 3000 BCE. The dates of this first phase of the northern Chinese Neolithic period are roughly set at 5000-2500 BCE. However, the culture continued in isolated areas for thousands of years after their decline.

“These early farmers employed primitive techniques of cultivation, shifted their villages as the soils became exhausted, and lived in semi-subterranean houses … Their hand-crafted, painted pottery occasionally bears a single incised sign that may be a forerunner of Chinese writing.”

While the designs of the pottery are similar, the people aren’t. The inhabitants of the Yangshao culture of the upper Yellow River Valley are of Mongoloid stock. This factoid rules out a direct European migration.

While this supports the idea of indigenous development, it doesn’t explain the cultural similarities. The Yangshao culture had many features that were common to the other Neolithic cultures that were spread throughout Eurasia.

Some of the features of this Neolithic culture [the Yangshao] are common to all early civilizations and belong to a culture-complex that extends from the Nile Valley to Mesopotamia from the Indus Valley to the Tarim Basin, linked to China by the ‘Corridor of the Steppes’, a natural migration-route. In all these areas they developed the use of polished stone tools and of the bow and arrow, and the domestication of animals.

The Yangshao culture produced beautiful painted pottery, which was similar in design and motif to that of a distinct pottery culture spread throughout the Eurasian continent for 2000 years. The similarities of the pottery motifs to a Eurasian pottery culture, specifically Iran, make it seem as if the painted pottery was inspired from outside the area rather than emerging locally from long held traditions.

Because this pottery ‘culture complex’ extended over such a wide area, it is thought that Neolithic communications must have been more widespread than would be expected considering their more primitive forms of transportation.

However, it may be said that an intercourse must have existed between these prehistoric pottery cultures, and that the trade and cultural contacts between Europe, the Near and the Far East must have been far closer than historical research had believed until recently. 

It has been speculated that these pottery cultures, which flourished all over the Eurasian continent from 4000 BCE to 2000 BCE could have had an earlier common source. What is more likely and just as plausible is that the prehistoric pottery cultures which flourished from the shores of the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean during the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd millennium were derived from a common, earlier source.

This theory would then explain the similar decorative motives as a common heritage of magic symbols which the various branches of the pottery culture were continuing with their own modifications.

The common source for all these pottery cultures was probably the Old European culture found in Mesopotamia and Iran that preceded the Yangshao culture of China by 2000 years. 

Neolithic

Old Europe, or Neolithic Europe, refers to the time between the Mesolithic and Bronze Age periods in Europe, roughly from 7000 BCE (the approximate time of the first farming societies in Greece) to ca. 1700 BCE (the beginning of the Bronze Age in Scandinavia)

The duration of the Neolithic varies from place to place: in southeast Europe it is approximately 4000 years (i. e., 7000–3000 BCE); in parts of North-West Europe it is just under 3000 years (ca. 4500–1700 BCE).

In the Middle East, cultures identified as Neolithic began appearing in the 10th millennium BC. Early development occurred in the Levant (e.g., Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) and from there spread eastwards and westwards.

The Natufian period or “proto-Neolithic” lasted from 12,500 to 9,500 BC, and is taken to overlap with the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPNA) of 10,200–8800 BC. As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas (about 10,000 BC) are thought to have forced people to develop farming.

The Neolithic started in around 10,200 BC in the Levant, arising from the Natufian culture, when pioneering use of wild cereals evolved into early farming. A temple area in southeastern Turkey at Göbekli Tepe, dated to around 9500 BC, may be regarded as the beginning of the period.

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

Recent DNA analysis of modern domesticated wheat compared with wild wheat has shown that its DNA is closest in sequence to wild wheat found on Karaca Dağ 30 km (20 mi) away from the site, suggesting that this is where modern wheat was first domesticated. 

By 10,200–8800 BC farming communities had arisen in the Levant and spread to Asia Minor, North Africa and North Mesopotamia. Neolithic cultures are also attested in southeastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia by around 8000 BC.

Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt, and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 6900–6400 BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.

Like the earlier PPNA culture (c. 9500- 8000 BC), the PPNB culture (c. 7600-6000 BC) 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.

Around 8000 BC during the Pre-pottery Neolithic period, and before the invention of pottery, several early settlements became experts in crafting beautiful and highly sophisticated containers from stone, using materials such as alabaster or granite, and employing sand to shape and polish.

Artisans used the veins in the material to maximum visual effect. Such object have been found in abundance on the upper Euphrates river, in what is today eastern Syria, especially at the site of Bouqras located around 35 kilometres (22 mi) from Deir ez-Zor in Syria.

Pottery making began in the 7th millennium BC. The earliest history of pottery production in the Fertile Crescent can be divided into four periods, namely: The Hassuna period (7000–6500 BC), the Halaf period (6500–5500 BC), the Ubaid period (5500–4000 BC), and the Uruk period (4000–3100 BC). By about 5000 BC pottery-making was becoming widespread across the region, and spreading out from it to neighbouring areas. 

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. 7500 – 6000 BC.

Jarmo, a prehistoric archeological site located in modern Iraq on the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, is one of the oldest sites at which pottery has been found, appearing in the most recent levels of excavation, which dates it to the 7th millennium BC.

This pottery is handmade, of simple design and with thick sides, and treated with a vegetable solvent. There are clay figures, zoomorphic or anthropomorphic, including figures of pregnant women which are taken to be fertility goddesses, similar to the Mother Goddess of later Neolithic cultures in the same region.

Excavations revealed that Jarmo was an agricultural community dating back to 7090 BC. It was broadly contemporary with such other important Neolithic sites such as Jericho in the southern Levant and Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia.

The earliest forms, which were found at the Hassuna site, were hand formed from slabs, undecorated, unglazed low-fired pots made from reddish-brown clays. Within the next millennium, wares were decorated with elaborate painted designs and natural forms, incising and burnished.

The site of Umm Dabaghiyah in the same area of Iraq, is believed to have the earliest pottery in this region, and is sometimes described as a ‘Proto-Hassuna culture’ site. Other related sites in the area are Sotto, and Kul Tepe (Iraq). Another pre-Hassuna or proto-Hassuna site in Iraq is Tell Maghzaliyah.

More recently, the concept of a very early ‘Pre-Proto-Hassuna’ pottery tradition has been introduced by some scholars. This has been prompted by more recent discoveries of still earlier pottery traditions. Nevertheless, all of these nomenclatures may refer to quite similar types of pottery, depending on some specific geographic region of Upper Mesopotamia.

The Halaf culture is a prehistoric period which lasted between about 6100 BC and 5100 BC. The period is a continuous development out of the earlier Pottery Neolithic and is located primarily in south-eastern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, although Halaf-influenced material is found throughout Greater Mesopotamia.

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

The best known, most characteristic pottery of Tell Halaf, called Halaf ware, produced by specialist potters, can be painted, sometimes using more than two colors (called polychrome) with geometric and animal motifs.

Halaf pottery has been found in other parts of northern Mesopotamia, such as at Nineveh and Tepe Gawra, Chagar Bazar and at many sites in Anatolia (Turkey) suggesting that it was widely used in the region.

In the Chalcolithic period in Mesopotamia, Halafian pottery achieved a level of technical competence and sophistication, not seen until the later developments of Greek pottery with Corinthian and Attic ware. The potter’s wheel was invented in Mesopotamia sometime between 6,000 and 4,000 BC (Ubaid period) and revolutionised pottery production.

Within the debate concerning the relations between Anatolia, Greece and Southeast Europe,the so called “stamp seals” have often been under discussion. The Halaf culture saw the earliest known appearance of stamp seals in the Near East.

The pottery of Tell Sabi Abyad is somewhat similar to what was found in the other prehistoric sites in Syria and south-eastern Turkey. Yet in Sabi Abyad, the presence of painted pottery is quite unique. It was discovered that around 6700 BC, pottery was already mass-produced.

Archaeologists discovered what seems like the oldest painted pottery here. Remarkably, the earliest pottery was of a very high quality, and some of it was already painted. Later, the painted pottery was discontinued, and the quality declined.

Our finds at Tell Sabi Abyad show an initial brief phase in which people experimented with painted pottery. This trend did not continue, however. As far as we can see now, people then gave up painting their pottery for centuries.

Instead, people concentrated on the production of undecorated, coarse wares. It was not until around 6200 BC that people began to add painted decorations again. The question of why the Neolithic inhabitants of Tell Sabi Abyad initially stopped painting their pottery is unanswered for the time being.

Pottery found at the site includes Dark Faced Burnished Ware and a Fine Ware that resembled Hassuna Ware and Samarra Ware. Bowls and jars often had angled necks and ornate geometric designs, some featuring horned animals. Only around six percent of the pottery found was produced locally. 

Significant cultural changes are observed at c. 6200 BC, which seem to be connected to the 8.2 kiloyear event. Nevertheless, the settlement was not abandoned at the time.

The Samarra culture is a Chalcolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia that is roughly dated to 5500–4800 BCE. It partially overlaps with Hassuna and early Ubaid. Other sites where Samarran material has been found include Tell Shemshara, Tell es-Sawwan and Yarim Tepe.

The culture is primarily known for its finely made pottery decorated with stylized animals, including birds, and geometric designs on dark backgrounds. This widely exported type of pottery, one of the first widespread, relatively uniform pottery styles in the Ancient Near East, was first recognized at Samarra.

At Tell Sabi Abyad and other Late Neolithic sites in Syria, scholars adopt increasingly vague terms such as Samarra “influenced”, Samarra-“related” or even Samarra “impulses”, largely because we do not understand the relationships with the traditional Samarra heartlands.

The term may be extended to include sites in Syria such as Tell Chagar Bazar, Tell Boueid II, Tell Sabi Abyad or Tell Halula, where similar pottery is currently being excavated in Pre-Halaf to Early Halaf Transitional contexts.

At Tell es-Sawwan, evidence of irrigation—including flax—establishes the presence of a prosperous settled culture with a highly organized social structure. The Samarran Culture was the precursor to the Mesopotamian culture of the Ubaid period.

The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. It has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period.

Tell el-‘Oueili is a tell, or ancient settlement mound, located in Dhi Qar Governorate, southern Iraq. The excavations have revealed occupation layers predating those of Eridu, making Tell el-‘Oueili the earliest known human settlement in southern Mesopotamia.

The environment of ‘Oueili is characterized by temperatures that can reach more than 50º C in summer and less than 250 mm of annual rainfall, making the area unsuitable for rainfed agriculture. The phase Ubaid 0 was first discovered at this site and was hence provisionally termed ‘Oueili-phase (6500–5400 BC).

Ubaid 1, sometimes called Eridu corresponding to the city Eridu, (5400–4700 BC), is a phase limited to the extreme south of Iraq, on what was then the shores of the Persian Gulf. This phase, showing clear connection to the Samarra culture to the north, saw the establishment of the first permanent settlement south of the 5 inch rainfall isohyet.

These people pioneered the growing of grains in the extreme conditions of aridity, thanks to the high water tables of Southern Iraq. Ubaid 2 (4800–4500 BC), after the type site of the same name, saw the development of extensive canal networks from major settlements. Irrigation agriculture, which seems to have developed first at Choga Mami (4700–4600 BC) and rapidly spread elsewhere, form the first required collective effort and centralised coordination of labour in Mesopotamia.

In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (ca. 5500/5400 to 5200/5000 BC) and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.

The Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period is still a complex and rather poorly understood period. At the same time, recent efforts were made to study the gradual change from Halaf style pottery to Ubaid style pottery in various parts of North Mesopotamia.

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. Many Halafians settlements were abandoned, and the remaining ones showed Ubaidian characters.

The new period is named Northern Ubaid to distinguish it from the proper Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia, and two explanations were presented for the transformation.

The first maintain an invasion and a replacement of the Halafians by the Ubaidians, however, there is no hiatus between the Halaf and northern Ubaid which exclude the invasion theory. The most plausible theory is a Halafian adoption of the Ubaid culture, which is supported by most scholars.

The PPNB 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 in the Southern Levant (c. 4400 – c. 3500 BC). 

The Ghassulian stage was characterized by small hamlet settlements of mixed farming peoples, who had immigrated from the north and settled in the southern Levant – today’s Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Their pottery was highly elaborate, including footed bowls and horn-shaped drinking goblets, indicating the cultivation of wine.

The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt, also called Naqada I, a culture of prehistoric Upper Egypt which lasted approximately from 4000 to 3500 BC, and also seems to have affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan culture in Crete.

Minoans and Mycenean Greeks

The finding of PPNB lineages in a recent survey indicates a pre-Bronze arrival of these genetic traits to Crete. This is in agreement with the archaeological information pointing at a Near Eastern Neolithic origin of the Bronze Age Cretan culture. Substantial human migrations were involved in the Neolithic spread. The first Neolithic farmers entered Europe following a maritime route through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands.

A 2017 archeogenetics study of mtDNA polymorphisms from Minoan remains published in the journal Nature concluded that the Mycenean Greeks, who created a famous civilization that dominated mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from about 1600 B.C.E. to 1200 BC, were genetically closely related with the Minoans, and that both are closely related, but not identical, to modern Greek populations.

Now, ancient DNA suggests that living Greeks are indeed the descendants of Mycenaeans, with only a small proportion of DNA from later migrations to Greece. A comparative study of DNA haplogroups of modern Cretan men showed that a male founder group, from Anatolia or the Levant, is shared with the Greeks. 

The ancient Mycenaeans and Minoans were most closely related to each other, and they both got three-quarters of their DNA from early Neolithic-era farmers who lived in Western Anatolia and the Aegean Sea.

Both cultures additionally inherited DNA from people from the eastern Caucasus, near modern-day Iran, suggesting an early migration of people from the east after the early farmers settled there but before Mycenaeans split from Minoans.

The Mycenaeans did have an important difference: They had some DNA—4% to 16%—from northern ancestors who came from Eastern Europe or Siberia. This suggests that a second wave of people from the Eurasian steppe came to mainland Greece by way of Eastern Europe or Armenia, but didn’t reach Crete, says Iosif Lazaridis, a population geneticist at Harvard University who co-led the study.

Not surprisingly, the Minoans and Mycenaeans looked alike, both carrying genes for brown hair and brown eyes. Artists in both cultures painted dark-haired, dark-eyed people on frescoes and pottery who resemble each other, although the two cultures spoke and wrote different languages.

The Mycenaeans were more militaristic, with art replete with spears and images of war, whereas Minoan art showed few signs of warfare, Lazaridis says. Because the Minoans script used hieroglyphics, some archaeologists thought they were partly Egyptian, which turns out to be false.

When the researchers compared the DNA of modern Greeks to that of ancient Mycenaeans, they found a lot of genetic overlap. Modern Greeks share similar proportions of DNA from the same ancestral sources as Mycenaeans, although they have inherited a little less DNA from ancient Anatolian farmers and a bit more DNA from later migrations to Greece.

The continuity between the Mycenaeans and living people is particularly striking given that the Aegean has been a crossroads of civilizations for thousands of years. This suggests that the major components of the Greeks’ ancestry were already in place in the Bronze Age, after the migration of the earliest farmers from Anatolia set the template for the genetic makeup of Greeks and, in fact, most Europeans.

The spread of farming populations was the decisive moment when the major elements of the Greek population were already provided. The results also show it is possible to get ancient DNA from the hot, dry landscape of the eastern Mediterranean. The results have now opened up the next chapter in the genetic history of western Eurasia—that of the Bronze Age Mediterranean.

Although stone-tool evidence suggests that hominins may have reached Crete as early as 130,000 years ago, evidence for the first anatomically-modern human presence dates to 12,000–10,000 BC. The oldest evidence of modern human habitation on Crete is pre-ceramic Neolithic farming-community remains which date to about 7000 BC.

The Minoans were traders, and their cultural contacts reached the Old Kingdom of Egypt, copper-containing Cyprus, Canaan and the Levantine coast and Anatolia. Minoan-manufactured goods suggest a network of trade with mainland Greece (notably Mycenae), Cyprus, Syria, Anatolia, Egypt, Mesopotamia and westward as far as the Iberian peninsula.

Indo-Europeans

Haplogroup R1b – Wikipedia

Haplogroup R1b- Eupedia

A major Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b Holocene era founder effect

R1b is the most common haplogroup in Western Europe, reaching over 80% of the population in Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, western Wales, the Atlantic fringe of France, the Basque country and Catalonia. It is also common in Anatolia and around the Caucasus, in parts of Russia and in Central and South Asia.

Besides the Atlantic and North Sea coast of Europe, hotspots include the Po valley in north-central Italy (over 70%), Armenia (35%), the Bashkirs of the Urals region of Russia (50%), Turkmenistan (over 35%), the Hazara people of Afghanistan (35%), the Uyghurs of North-West China (20%) and the Newars of Nepal (11%). R1b-V88, a subclade specific to sub-Saharan Africa, is found in 60 to 95% of men in northern Cameroon.

Haplogroup R* originated in North Asia just before the Last Glacial Maximum (26,500-19,000 years ago). This haplogroup has been identified in the remains of a 24,000 year-old boy from the Altai region, in south-central Siberia. This individual belonged to a tribe of mammoth hunters that may have roamed across Siberia and parts of Europe during the Paleolithic.

Autosomally this Paleolithic population appears to have contributed mostly to the ancestry of modern Europeans and South Asians, the two regions where haplogroup R also happens to be the most common nowadays (R1b in Western Europe, R1a in Eastern Europe, Central and South Asia, and R2 in South Asia).

It has been hypothetised that R1b people (perhaps alongside neighbouring J2 tribes) were the first to domesticate cattle in northern Mesopotamia some 10,500 years ago. R1b tribes descended from mammoth hunters, and when mammoths went extinct, they started hunting other large game such as bisons and aurochs.

With the increase of the human population in the Fertile Crescent from the beginning of the Neolithic (starting 12,000 years ago), selective hunting and culling of herds started replacing indiscriminate killing of wild animals. The increased involvement of humans in the life of aurochs, wild boars and goats led to their progressive taming.

Cattle herders probably maintained a nomadic or semi-nomadic existence, while other people in the Fertile Crescent (presumably represented by haplogroups E1b1b, G and T) settled down to cultivate the land or keep smaller domesticates.

The analysis of bovine DNA has revealed that all the taurine cattle (Bos taurus) alive today descend from a population of only 80 aurochs. The earliest evidence of cattle domestication dates from circa 8,500 BCE in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures in the Taurus Mountains.

The two oldest archaeological sites showing signs of cattle domestication are the villages of Çayönü Tepesi in southeastern Turkey and Dja’de el-Mughara in northern Iraq, two sites only 250 km away from each others. This is presumably the area from which R1b lineages started expanding – or in other words the “original homeland” of R1b.

The oldest forms of R1b (M343, P25, L389) are found dispersed at very low frequencies from Western Europe to India, a vast region where could have roamed the nomadic R1b hunter-gatherers during the Ice Age. The early R1b cattle herders would have split in at least three groups. The three main branches of R1b1 (R1b1a, R1b1b, R1b1c) all seem to have stemmed from the Middle East.

R1b1b (M335) has only been found in Anatolia, but judging from its extreme rarity today wasn’t very successful, perhaps due to the heavy competition with other Neolithic populations in Anatolia, or to the scarcity of pastures in this mountainous environment.

The southern branch, R1b1c (V88)  is found mostly in the Levant and Africa. It migrated south to the Levant, where it became the V88 branch. Some of them searched for new lands south in Africa, first in Egypt, then colonising most of northern Africa, from the Mediterranean coast to the Sahel.

The northern branch, R1b1a (P297), seems to have originated around the Caucasus, eastern Anatolia or northern Mesopotamia, then to have crossed over the Caucasus, from where they would have invaded Europe and Central Asia.

It crossed the Caucasus into the vast Pontic-Caspian Steppe, which provided ideal grazing grounds for cattle. They split into two factions: R1b1a1 (M73), which went east along the Caspian Sea to Central Asia, and R1b1a2 (M269), which at first remained in the North Caucasus and the Pontic Steppe between the Dnieper and the Volga.

It is not yet clear whether M73 actually migrated across the Caucasus and reached Central Asia via Kazakhstan, or if it went south through Iran and Turkmenistan. In any case, M73 would be a pre-Indo-European branch of R1b, just like V88 and M335.

R1b-M269 (the most common form in Europe) is closely associated with the diffusion of Indo-European languages, as attested by its presence in all regions of the world where Indo-European languages were spoken in ancient times, from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Indian subcontinent, which comprised almost all Europe (except Finland, Sardinia and Bosnia-Herzegovina), Anatolia, Armenia, European Russia, southern Siberia, many pockets around Central Asia (notably in Xinjiang, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan), without forgetting Iran, Pakistan, northern India and Nepal.

Modern linguists have placed the Proto-Indo-European homeland in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, a distinct geographic and archeological region extending from the Danube estuary to the Ural mountains to the east and North Caucasus to the south.

It is not yet entirely clear when R1b-M269 crossed over from the South Caucasus to the Pontic-Caspian steppe. This might have happened with the appearance of the Dnieper-Donets culture (c. 5100-4300 BCE). This was the first truly Neolithic society in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe.

Domesticated animals (cattle, sheep and goats) were herded throughout the steppes and funeral rituals were elaborate. Sheep wool would play an important role in Indo-European society, notably in the Celtic and Germanic (R1b branches of the Indo-Europeans) clothing traditions up to this day.

However, many elements indicate a continuity in the Dnieper-Donets culture with the previous Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, and at the same time an influence from the Balkans and Carpathians, with regular imports of pottery and copper objects. It is therefore more likely that Dnieper-Donets marked the transition of indigenous R1a and/or I2a1b people to early agriculture, perhaps with an influx of Near Eastern farmers from ‘Old Europe’.

Over 30 DNA samples from Neolithic Ukraine (5500-4800 BCE) have been tested. They belong to Y-haplogroups I, I2a2, R1a, R1b1a (L754) and one R1b1a2 (L388). None of them belonged to R1b-M269 or R1b-L23 clades, which dominated during the Yamna period.

Mitochondrial lineages were also exclusively of Mesolithic European origin (U4a, U4b, U4d, U5a1, U5a2, U5b2, as well as one J2b1 and one U2e1). None of those maternal lineages include typical Indo-European haplogroups, like H2a1, H6, H8, H15, I1a1, J1b1a, W3, W4 or W5 that would later show up in the Yamna, Corded Ware and Unetice cultures.

Indeed, autosomally genomes from Neolithic Ukraine were purely Mesolithic European (about 90% EHG and 10% WHG) and completely lacked the Caucasian (CHG) admxiture later found in Yamna and subsequent Indo-European cultures during the Bronze Age.

The first clearly Proto-Indo-European cultures were the Khvalynsk (5200-4500 BCE) and Sredny Stog (4600-3900 BCE) cultures in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe. This is when small kurgan burials begin to appear, with the distinctive posturing of the dead on the back with knees raised and oriented toward the northeast, which would be found in later steppe cultures as well. There is evidence of population blending from the variety of skull shapes.

Towards the end of the 5th millennium, an elite starts to develop with cattle, horses and copper used as status symbols. It is at the turn of the Khvalynsk and Sredny Stog periods that R1b-M269’s main subclade, L23, is thought to have appeared, around 4,500 BCE.

99% of Indo-European R1b descends from this L23 clade. The other branch descended from M269 is PF7562, which is found mostly in the Balkans, Turkey and Armenia today, and may represent an early Steppe migration to the Balkans dating from the Sredny Stog period.

Another migration across the Caucasus happened shortly before 3700 BCE, when the Maykop culture, the world’s first Bronze Age society, suddenly materialised in the north-west Caucasus, apparently out of nowhere. The origins of Maykop are still uncertain, but archeologists have linked it to contemporary Chalcolithic cultures in Assyria and western Iran.

However, the link between the northern Black Sea coast and the North Caucasus is older than the Maykop period. Its predecessor, the Svobodnoe culture (4400-3700 BCE), already had links to the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka and early Sredny Stog cultures. The even older Nalchik settlement (5000-4500 BCE) in the North Caucasus displayed a similar culture as Khvalynsk in the Caspian Steppe and Volga region. This may be the period when R1b started interracting and blending with the R1a population of the steppes.

Archeology also shows a clear diffusion of bronze working and kurgan-type burials from the Maykop culture to the Pontic Steppe, where the Yamna culture developed soon afterwards (from 3500 BCE). Kurgan (a.k.a. tumulus) burials would become a dominant feature of ancient Indo-European societies and were widely used by the Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, and Scythians, among others.

The Yamna period (3500-2500 BCE) is the most important one in the creation of Indo-European culture and society. Middle Eastern R1b-M269 people had been living and blending to some extent with the local R1a foragers and herders for over a millennium, perhaps even two or three. The close cultural contact and interactions between R1a and R1b people all over the Pontic-Caspian Steppe resulted in the creation of a common vernacular, a new lingua franca, which linguists have called Proto-Indo-European (PIE).

It is pointless to try to assign another region of origin to the PIE language. Linguistic similarities exist between PIE and Caucasian and Hurrian languages in the Middle East on the one hand, and Uralic languages in the Volga-Ural region on the other hand, which makes the Pontic Steppe the perfect intermediary region.

The Neolithic, Eneolithic and early Bronze Age cultures in Pontic-Caspian steppe has been called the Kurgan culture (4200-2200 BCE) by Marija Gimbutas, due to the lasting practice of burying the deads under mounds (“kurgan”) among the succession of cultures in that region. Kurgan-type burials date from the 4th millenium BCE and originated south of the Caucasus. The genetic diversity of R1b being greater around eastern Anatolia, it is hard to deny that R1b evolved there before entering the steppe world.

Horses were first domesticated around 4600 BCE in the Caspian Steppe, perhaps somewhere around the Don or the lower Volga, and soon became a defining element of steppe culture. Nevertheless it is unlikely that R1b was already present in the eastern steppes at the time, so the domestication of the horse should be attributed to the indigenous R1a people, or tribes belonging to the older R1b-P297 branch, which settled in eastern Europe during the Late Paleolithic or Mesolithic period.

Samples from Mesolithic Samara and Latvia all belong to R1b-P297. Autosomally these Mesolithic R1a and R1b individuals were nearly pure Mesolithic East European, sometimes with a bit of Siberian admixture, but lacked the additional Caucasian admixture found in the Chalcolithic Afanasevo, Yamna and Corded Ware samples.

During the Yamna period cattle and sheep herders adopted wagons to transport their food and tents, which allowed them to move deeper into the steppe, giving rise to a new mobile lifestyle that would eventually lead to the great Indo-European migrations. This type of mass migration in which whole tribes moved with the help of wagons was still common in Gaul at the time of Julius Caesar, and among Germanic peoples in the late Antiquity.

The Yamna horizon was not a single, unified culture. In the south, along the northern shores of the Black Sea coast until the the north-west Caucasus, was a region of open steppe, expanding eastward until the Caspian Sea, Siberia and Mongolia (the Eurasian Steppe).

The western section, between the Don and Dniester Rivers (and later the Danube), was the one most densely settled by R1b people, with only a minority of R1a people (5-10%). The eastern section, in the Volga basin until the Ural mountains, was inhabited by R1a people with a substantial minority of R1b people (whose descendants can be found among the Bashkirs, Turkmans, Uyghurs and Hazaras, among others).

The northern part of the Yamna horizon was forest-steppe occupied by R1a people, also joined by a small minority of R1b (judging from Corded Ware samples and from modern Russians and Belarussians, whose frequency of R1b is from seven to nine times lower than R1a).

The western branch would migrate to the Balkans and Greece, then to Central and Western Europe, and back to their ancestral Anatolia in successive waves (Hittites, Phrygians, Armenians, etc.). The eastern branch would migrate to Central Asia, Xinjiang, Siberia, and South Asia (Iran, Pakistan, India). The northern branch would evolve into the Corded Ware culture and disperse around the Baltic, Poland, Germany and Scandinavia.

Leyla-Tepe culture

The Leyla-Tepe culture of ancient Azerbaijan belongs to the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 B.C.

The Leyla-Tepe culture has also 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 are Chinar-Tepe, Shomulu-Tepe, and Abdal-Aziz-Tepe.

The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region. The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets.

Leyla-Tepe pottery is very similar to the ‘Chaff-Faced Ware’ of the northern Syria and Mesopotamia. Recent research indicates the connections rather to the pre-Uruk traditions, such as the late Ubaid period, and Ubaid-Uruk phases.

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. 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.

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture (c. 3700 BC–3000 BC). There are similarities between artifacts of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe with those found in the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I in Syria, from the 4th millennium BC.

Discovery of Soyugbulaq in 2004 and subsequent excavations provided substantial proof that the practice of kurgan burial was well established in the South Caucasus during the late Eneolithic. The Leylatepe Culture tribes migrated to the north in the mid-fourth millennium, B.C. and played an important part in the rise of the Maikop Culture of the North Caucasus.

The Maykop culture was a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the western Caucasus region of southern Russia. In the south it borders the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.

The Kuban River is navigable for much of its length and provides an easy water-passage via the Sea of Azov to the territory of the Yamna culture, along the Don and Donets River systems. The Maykop culture was thus well-situated to exploit the trading possibilities with the central Ukraine area.

The Maykop people lived sedentary lives, and horses formed a very low percentage of their livestock, which mostly consisted of pigs and cattle. Its inhumation practices were characteristically Indo-European, typically in a pit, sometimes stone-lined, topped with a kurgan (or tumulus). Stone cairns replace kurgans in later interments.

In the early 20th century, researchers established the existence of a local Maykop animal style in the artifacts found. This style was seen as the prototype for animal styles of later archaeological cultures: the Maykop animal style is more than a thousand years older than the Scythian, Sarmatian and Celtic animal styles.

The culture has been described as, at the very least, a “kurganized” local culture with strong ethnic and linguistic links to the descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It has been linked to the Lower Mikhaylovka group and Kemi Oba culture, and more distantly, to the Globular Amphora and Corded Ware cultures, if only in an economic sense.

Yamna Culture

The Yamnaya culture (lit. ‘pit culture’), also known as the Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture, or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC. Its name refers to its characteristic burial tradition: kurgans containing a simple pit chamber.

The people of the Yamnaya culture were the likely result of admixture between the descendants of Eastern European hunter-gatherers and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus.

The Yamnaya people were the result of admixture between two different hunter-gatherer populations: distinctive “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” with high affinity to the Mal’ta–Buret’ culture or other, closely related people from Siberia and a population of “Caucasus hunter-gatherers” who probably arrived from the Caucasus.

They are also closely connected to later Final Neolithic cultures, which spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware people, but also the Bell Beaker culture as well as the peoples of the Sintashta, Andronovo, and Srubna cultures.

The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language. The spread of the Yamnaya horizon was the material expression of the spread of late Proto-Indo-European across the Pontic–Caspian steppes.

According to those studies, haplogroups R1b and R1a, now the most common in Europe (R1a is also common in South Asia), would have expanded from the Pontic–Caspian steppes, along with the Indo-European languages. Characteristic for the culture are the burials in pit graves under kurgans (tumuli). The dead bodies were placed in a supine position with bent knees and covered in ochre.

Afanasevo Culture

The Yamna culture is very similar to the Afanasevo culture, the earliest known archaeological culture of south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains during the eneolithic era, c. 3300 to 2500 BC.

It is believed that the Afanasevans were descended from people who migrated c. 3700–3300 BCE across the Eurasian Steppe from the Repin culture of the Don-Volga region (and possibly members of the neighbouring Yamnaya culture).

Because of its numerous traits attributed to the early Indo-Europeans, like metal-use, horses and wheeled vehicles, and cultural relations with Kurgan steppe cultures, the Afanasevans are believed to have been Indo-European-speaking.

Because of its geographical location and dating the Afanasevans have been linked to the Proto-Tocharian language. They were genetically indistinguishable from Yamnaya people.

Only three Afanasevo male samples have had their paternal lineage results published, and all three, like most Yamnaya males, belong to haplogroup R1b, with two of them belonging to subclade M269, the most numerous both among the Yamnaya people and in modern Western Europe.

The Afanasevo culture was succeeded by the Okunev culture, which is considered as an extension of the local non-Indo-European forest culture into the region. The region was subsequently occupied by the Andronovo, Karasuk, Tagar and Tashtyk cultures, respectively.

Allentoft et al. (2015) study also confirms that the Afanasevo culture was replaced by the second wave of Indo-European migrations from the Andronovo culture during late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Tarim mummies were also found to be genetically closer to the Andronovo culture than to the Yamnaya culture or Afanasevo culture.

China (Indo-Europeans)

Numerous scholars have suggested that the Afanasevo culture was responsible for the introduction of metallurgy to China. The Shang dynasty (Chinese: 商朝; pinyin: Shāngcháo) or Yin dynasty (殷代; Yīndài) is the earliest dynasty of traditional Chinese history supported by archaeological evidence.

The Shang dynasty, according to traditional historiography, ruled in the Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, succeeding the Xia dynasty and followed by the Zhou dynasty.

They left written records and extensive material remains, especially bronze works. Bronze metallurgy, horses, chariots, and other wheeled vehicles came to China with Indo-European migrants. The classic account of the Shang comes from texts such as the Book of Documents, Bamboo Annals and Records of the Grand Historian.

Bronze weapons were an integral part of Shang society. Shang infantry were armed with a variety of stone and bronze weaponry, including máo (矛) spears, yuè (鉞) pole-axes, gē (戈) pole-based dagger-axes, composite bows, and bronze or leather helmets.

Recent archaeological finds have shown that the late Shang used horses, chariots, bows and practiced horse burials that are similar to the steppe peoples to the west. These influences led Christopher I. Beckwith to speculate that Indo-Europeans “may even have been responsible for the foundation of the Shang Dynasty”, though he admits there is no direct evidence.

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