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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Kura Araxes culture

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on May 15, 2019

Jericho

Jericho (Arabic: Arīḥā; Hebrew: Yeriḥo) is a city in the Palestinian Territories and is located near the Jordan River in the West Bank. It is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and the city with the oldest known protective wall in the world.

Jericho is the type site for the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) periods. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 20 successive settlements in Jericho, the first of which dates back 11,000 years (9000 BCE), almost to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch of the Earth’s history.

The earliest settlement was located at the present-day Tell es-Sultan (or Sultan’s Hill), a couple of kilometers from the current city. In both Arabic and Hebrew, tell means “mound” – consecutive layers of habitation built up a mound over time, as is common for ancient settlements in the Middle East and Anatolia.

Epipaleolithic construction at the site appears to predate the invention of agriculture, with the construction of Natufian culture structures beginning earlier than 9000 BCE, the beginning of the Holocene epoch in geologic history.

During the Younger Dryas period of cold and drought, permanent habitation of any one location was impossible. However, the Ein es-Sultan spring at what would become Jericho was a popular camping ground for Natufian hunter-gatherer groups, who left a scattering of crescent-shaped microlith tools behind them.

Around 9600 BCE, the droughts and cold of the Younger Dryas stadial had come to an end, making it possible for Natufian groups to extend the duration of their stay, eventually leading to year-round habitation and permanent settlement.

The first permanent settlement on the site of Jericho developed near the Ein es-Sultan spring between 9,500 and 9000 BCE. As the world warmed up, a new culture based on agriculture and sedentary dwelling emerged, which archaeologists have termed “Pre-Pottery Neolithic A” (PPNA).

At Jericho, circular dwellings were built of clay and straw bricks left to dry in the sun, which were plastered together with a mud mortar. The wall and tower were built during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period around 8000 BCE. This tower and the even older ones excavated at Tell Qaramel in Syria are the oldest ever to be discovered.

After a few centuries, the first settlement was abandoned. After the PPNA settlement phase, there was a settlement hiatus of several centuries, then the PPNB settlement was founded on the eroded surface of the tell. The architecture consisted of rectilinear buildings made of mudbricks on stone foundations.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) is part of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, a Neolithic culture centered in upper Mesopotamia, dating to c. 10,800 – c. 8,500 years ago, that is, 8,800-6,500 BCE. It was typed by Kathleen Kenyon during her archaeological excavations at Jericho in the West Bank.

This is the first period in which architectural styles of the southern Levant became primarily rectilinear; earlier typical dwellings were circular, elliptical and occasionally even octagonal. It is believed that the use of clay plaster for floor and wall coverings during PPNB led to the discovery of pottery.

This second settlement, established in 6800 BCE, perhaps represents the work of an invading people who absorbed the original inhabitants into their dominant culture. Like the earlier PPNA people, the PPNB culture developed from the Mesolithic Natufian culture. However, it shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia.

Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period, which existed between 8,200 and 7,900 BP. Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into southern Iraq.

Juris Zarins has proposed that a Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex developed in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BCE, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in PPNB cultures upon animal domesticates, and a fusion with Harifian hunter gatherers in Southern Palestine, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt.

The culture disappeared during the 8.2 kiloyear event, a term that climatologists have adopted for a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6200 BCE, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries.

In the following Munhatta and Yarmukian post-pottery Neolithic cultures that succeeded it, rapid cultural development continues, although PPNB culture continued in the Amuq valley, located in the southern part of Turkey, in the Hatay Province, close to the city of Antakya (Antioch on the Orontes), where it influenced the later development of the Ghassulian culture, a culture and an archaeological stage dating to the Middle and Late Chalcolithic Period in the Southern Levant (c. 4400 – c. 3500 BC).

The main culture of the Chalcolithic era in Israel is the Ghassulian culture, thus named after the name of its type-site, Teleilat el-Ghassul, located in the eastern part of the Jordan Rift Valley, opposite Jericho. Afterwards, many additional settlements, located in other archaeological sites, were identified as Ghassulian settlements.

All these settlements had been built in areas that had not been previously inhabited, mainly on the outskirts of populated areas. Thus, Chalcolithic settlements have been discovered in the Jordan Rift Valley, in the Israeli coastal plain and on its fringes, in the Judaean Desert and in the northern and western Negev.

On the other hand, it seems that people of the Chalcolithic period did not settle in the mountainous regions of Israel or in northern Israel. Several facts allow us to assume that the carriers of this culture were immigrants who had brought their own culture with them: all excavated sites represent an advanced stage of this culture, whereas no evidence of its nascent stages has been discovered, so far, anywhere in the region. This culture’s characteristics indicate they had connections with neighboring regions and that their culture had not evolved in the southern Levant.

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.Funerary customs show evidence that they buried their dead in stone dolmens and also practiced Secondary burial.

A dolmen or cromlech is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of two or more vertical megaliths supporting a large flat horizontal capstone or “table”. Most date from the early Neolithic (4000–3000 BCE) and were sometimes covered with earth or smaller stones to form a tumulus.

A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds or kurgans, and may be found throughout much of the world. A cairn, which is a mound of stones built for various purposes, may also originally have been a tumulus.

The method of inhumation may involve a dolmen, a cist, a mortuary enclosure, a mortuary house, or a chamber tomb. The word tumulus is Latin for ‘mound’ or ‘small hill’, which is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *teuh2- with extended zero grade *tum-, ‘to bulge, swell’ also found in tumor, thumb, thigh, and thousand.

The earliest known kurgans are dated to the 4th millennium BC in the Caucasus. Kurgans were used in the Ukrainian and Russian steppes, their use spreading with migration into eastern, central, and northern Europe in the 3rd millennium BC.

In the late 4th millennium BCE, Jericho was occupied during Neolithic 2 and the general character of the remains on the site link it culturally with Neolithic 2 (or PPNB) sites in the West Syrian and Middle Euphrates groups. This link is established by the presence of rectilinear mud-brick buildings and plaster floors that are characteristic of the age.

The city was surrounded by extensive defensive walls strengthened with rectangular towers, and possessed an extensive cemetery with vertical shaft-tombs and underground burial chambers; the elaborate funeral offerings in some of these may reflect the emergence of local kings.

During the Middle Bronze Age, Jericho was a small prominent city of the Canaan region, reaching its greatest Bronze Age extent in the period from 1700 to 1550 BCE. It seems to have reflected the greater urbanization in the area at that time, and has been linked to the rise of the Maryannu, a class of chariot-using aristocrats linked to the rise of the Mitannite state to the north.

Jericho was continually occupied into the Middle Bronze Age; it was destroyed in the Late Bronze Age, after which it no longer served as an urban centre. There was evidence of a small settlement in the Late Bronze Age (c. 1400s BCE) on the site, but erosion and destruction from previous excavations have erased significant parts of this layer.

Jericho’s name in Hebrew, Yeriẖo, is generally thought to derive from the Canaanite word reaẖ (“fragrant”). The Arabic name ʼArīḥā, means “fragrant” and also has its roots in Canaanite Reaẖ. However, other theories hold that it originates in the Canaanite word for “moon” (Yareaẖ) or the name of the lunar deity Yarikh for whom the city was an early centre of worship.

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.

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. It seems to have Hurrian roots and may be connected with Kušuḫ, the Hurrian moon god.

Khirbet Kerak

Khirbet Kerak (Arabic: Khirbet al-Karak, “the ruin of the fortress”) or Beth Yerah (Hebrew: “House of the Moon (god)”) is a tell (archaeological mound) located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee in modern-day Israel.

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 BCE Epic of Aqhat, and is thought to be a reference to the Early Bronze Age structure extant at Khirbet Kerak.

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).

“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).

Early Transcaucasian Culture: The Kura–Araxes culture 

Khirbet Kerak culture appears to have been a Levantine version of the Early Transcaucasian 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.

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, Pulur, and Yanik Tepe cultures.

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.

The Hurrians were a people of the Bronze Age Near East. They spoke a Hurro-Urartian language called Hurrian and lived in Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia.

By the Early Iron Age, the Hurrians had been assimilated with other peoples. Their remnants were subdued by a related people that formed the state of Urartu, which corresponds to the biblical mountains of Ararat, also known as the Kingdom of Van.

Urartu was centered around Lake Van in the historie Armenian Highlands (present-day eastern Anatolia). The present-day Armenians are an amalgam of the Indo-European groups with the Hurrians and Urartians. Being heirs to the Urartian realm, the earliest identifiable ancestors of the Armenians are the peoples of Urartu.

It is unknown what language was spoken by the peoples of Urartu at the time of the existence of the kingdom, but there is linguistic evidence of contact between the proto-Armenian language and the Urartian language at an early date (sometime between the 3rd—2nd millennium BC), occurring prior to the formation of Urartu as a kingdom.

The Kura-Araxes people underwent a major expansion, first west to Anatolia, south to the Fertile Crescent and east toward the Iranian plateau, possibly all the way to Pakistan, where they would have influenced the Indus Valley Civilisation.

It is likely that the descendants of the Kura-Araxes culture eventually colonised Greek islands, including Crete, where they would have founded the Minoan Civilisation (2600-1100 BCE), Europe’s oldest civilisation.

Based on the modern phylogeny, Kura-Araxes people are thought to have belonged primarily to Y-DNA haplogroups J2a1 (the largest lineage), J1a2-Z1828, T1a-P77, G2a1 (L293, aka FGC7535 or Z6552), G2a2b1a (M406) and L1b.

Other minor haplogroups may have been present too, including the now rare R1b1a-L388, which was identified in one Kura-Araxes individual by Lazaridis et al. (2016).

During the Classical Antiquity ancient Greek islanders, who were descended in great part from the Minoans, colonised southern Italy, bringing their Kura-Araxes lineages with them.

The oldest known G-L293 sample is a Neolithic man from western Iran. Nowadays, G-L293 is the most common G2a clade in the central and northern Caucasus, peaking at 64% of the population in North Ossetia.

The Kura-Araxes culture expanded from the South Caucasus, where L293 is considerably lower (1% in Armenia and eastern Turkey). L293 is conspicuously absent from Sardinia and the northern half of Italy, which excludes both a Neolithic and an Indo-European origin.

It is found at low frequencies across Turkey, northwest Iran, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon (i.e. the further extent of the Kura-Araxes culture proper), but also in Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, southern Italy (especially in Sicily) and Corsica.

G-M406 reaches its maximum frequency (18%) among the Chamalal people in Southwestern Dagestan, but is otherwise more common in Georgia (3%), Armenia (2%), Iran (0.5-2.5%) and Turkey (3-6%) than in the Caucasus itself.

It is found at low frequencies in the Levant, and as far south as Egypt and Yemen. In Europe, M406 is most common in Greece (2%), including Crete (2.5%), as well as in Italy (3%), and particularly Sicily (4%).

Neither G-L293 nor G-M406 have been identified among the hundreds of Neolithic European individuals tested, which is in agreement with a later Bronze Age dispersal from the South Caucasus.

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.

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.

However, 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).

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.

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. J2 could have been the main paternal lineage of the Kura-Araxes culture (Late Copper to Early Bronze Age), which expanded from the southern Caucasus toward northern Mesopotamia and the Levant.

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. J2 men would have definitely have represented a sizeable portion of the population of Bronze and Iron Age civilizations.

Within the Indian subcontinent, J2a peaks at frequencies of 15-25% around the Indo-Pakistani border, from Punjab to Gujarat and Sindh. 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.

This region matches exactly the confines of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilisation, that existed from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE and which practised bull worship like other J2a civilizations.

Bronze started being used by the Harappan Civilization circa 3000 BCE, a few centuries after its earliest known regular use around the Caucasus by the Maykop culture (from 3700 BCE) and the Kura–Araxes culture (from 3500 BCE).

The Maykop culture was closely linked to the Yamnaya culture in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe and is thought to be associated with Proto-Indo-European speakers and Y-haplogroups R1a and R1b.

The Kura-Araxes culture would have allowed the diffusion of Y-haplogroup J1 and J2a around the Middle East, taking over the Neolithic societies primarily associated with Y-haplogroup G2a and G2b.

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, the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians.

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

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.

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 three main branches of R1b1 (R1b1a, R1b1b, R1b1c) all seem to have stemmed from the Middle East. The early R1b cattle herders would have split in at least three groups.

One branch (M335) remained 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.

A second branch 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 third branch (P297), 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.

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