Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    War in the Fertile Crescent

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Gebel Ramlah and Nabta Playa

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on October 21, 2013

Gebel Ramlah is approximately 25 kilometers north-west of Gebel Nabta.  A small seasonal paleolake was situated at the foot of the hill and remains of Early to Late Neolithic occupations have been found along its south-western edge, including several Final Neolithic cemeteries.   Fourteen burial pits were found within a relatively small area, 4.5 x 3.3 m (with the exception of a solitary grave located slightly further to the north-east). Ten of the burials contained single inhumations, the remainder being multiple burials of two, five, six and eight individuals.  The bodies were positioned lying on one side with legs flexed and hands in front of the face.  Some may be secondary interments, suggesting that these individuals had died at some distance from the site during seasonal migrations and were then interred here.  Associated burial goods included vessels, palettes, jewelry and flint tools. Radiocarbon dates suggests this cemetery dates to between 6,550 and 6,350 years ago, contemporaneous with the Megalith builders of the Final Neolithic at Nabta.

A nearby small settlement yielded evidence of numerous episodes of short-term occupation during the Late Neolithic.  The settlement contained hearths, a grinding stone. and an in situ deposit of Egyptian flint cores, along with a variety of flint tools and cores and rare potsherds.  The faunal remains included cattle, small ruminants, two species of antelope, fox, large Nile birds and fragments of ostrich eggshell.

Nabta Playa – African Archaeology

Posted in Africa, Egypt, Megalithic | Leave a Comment »

The relation between Egypt and Southwest Asia

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on October 18, 2013

Mesopotamian pottery

Mesopotamian pottery

File:Predynastic collage.png

Predynastic artifacts – clockwise from top left:

A Bat figurine, a Naqada jar, an ivory figurine, cosmetic palette, a flint knife, and a Diorite vase.

File:Egypte louvre 317.jpg

Predynastic jar

The bull: symbol of power fertilizing, propagation vital. Associate for their horns with the moon and its influences. Connects with the mythical figure of the Minotaur, with the Egyptian Apis bull, bullfighting dance with ancient Crete, and the cult of Mithras.

The taurine (humpless cattle, B. taurus) was most likely domesticated somewhere in the Fertile Crescent about 10,500 years ago. The earliest substantive evidence for cattle domestication anywhere in the world is the Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures in the Taurus Mountains, circa 10,500 BP.

Archaeologists and biologists are fairly well agreed that there is strong evidence for two distinct domestication events: B. taurus in the near east, and B. indicus in the Indus valley of the Indian subcontinent.

Recent mitochondrial DNA studies also indicate that B. taurus was introduced into Europe and Africa where they interbred with local wild animals (aurochs). Whether these occurrences should be considered as separate domestication events is somewhat under debate.

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. Its present geographic distribution argue in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent.

This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE) from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of cereal agriculture in the Levant (which appears to be linked rather to haplogroups G2 and E1b1b).

The most frequent haplogroups among the current population on Crete were: R1b3-M269 (17%), G2-P15 (11%), J2a1-DYS413 (9.0%), and J2a1h-M319 (9.0%). They identified J2a parent haplogroup J2a-M410 (Crete: 25.9%) with the first ancient residents of Crete during the Neolithic (8500 BCE – 4300 BCE) suggesting Crete was founded by a Neolithic population expansion from Anatolia.

A second expansion of J2 could have occured with the advent of metallurgy, notably copper working (from the Lower Danube valley, central Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia), and the rise of some of the oldest civilisations. We have got 5 indications that Sumerians (proto-Aryans) migrated into the Indus Valley: a) J2a, b) bull-worshiping, c) Solar Religion, d) viticulture and e) Sumerian stone seals.

Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. 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. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.

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). Marduk is the “bull of Utu”. Shiva’s steed is Nandi, the Bull. 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.

In Egyptian mythology, Apis or Hapis (alternatively spelled Hapi-ankh), is a bull-deity that was worshipped in the Memphis region. “Apis served as an intermediary between humans and an all-powerful god (originally Ptah, later Osiris, then Atum).”

The cult of the Apis bull started at the very beginning of Egyptian history, probably as a fertility god connected to grain and the herds. In a funerary context, the Apis was a protector of the deceased, and linked to the pharaoh. This animal was chosen because it symbolized the king’s courageous heart, great strength, virility, and fighting spirit.

The Apis bull was considered to be a manifestation of the pharaoh, as bulls were symbols of strength and fertility, qualities which are closely linked with kingship (“strong bull of his mother Hathor” was a common title for gods and pharaohs).

The worship of the Sacred Bull throughout the ancient world is most familiar to the Western world in the Biblical episode of the idol of the Golden Calf. The Golden Calf after being made by the Hebrew people in the wilderness of Sinai, were rejected and destroyed by Moses and the Hebrew people after Moses’ time upon Mount Sinai (Book of Exodus).

The sacred bull survives in the constellation Taurus, one of the constellations of the zodiac, which means it is crossed by the plane of the ecliptic. Its name is a Latin word meaning “bull”, and its astrological symbol is a stylized bull’s head: Taurus.svg (Unicode ♉).

Taurus is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky. It is one of the oldest constellations, dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age when it marked the location of the Sun during the spring equinox. Taurus came to symbolize the bull in the mythologies of Ancient Babylon, Egypt and Greece.

The bull, whether lunar as in Mesopotamia or solar as in India, is the subject of various other cultural and religious incarnations, as well as modern mentions in new age cultures.

DNA traces cattle back to a small herd domesticated around 10,500 years ago

J2 Civilisations and Bull-Worship

J2 Civilisations and Bull Worship

The Sacred Bull

The relation between Egypt and Southwest Asia

In the Middle East, cultures identified as Neolithic began appearing by in the 10th millennium BC. There is no evidence for synchroneity for the onset of the Neolithic between the northern and southern Levant. Early development occurred in the Levant and from there spread eastwards and westwards.

The Khiamian (also referred to as El Khiam or El-Khiam) is a poorly understood and sometimes disputed sub-phase of the Near-Eastern Neolithic, straddling the transition from the Natufian (13000-9800 BC. ) to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA 10300-9600 BC.). Some sources date the Khiamian from about 10000 to 9500 BC., but it currently dates between 10200 and 8800 BC according to the ASPRO chronology.

The Younger Dryas stadial, also referred to as the Big Freeze, was a geologically brief (1,300 ± 70 years) period of cold climatic conditions and drought which occurred between approximately 10,800 and 9,500 years BP. The Younger Dryas stadial is thought to have been caused by the collapse of the North American ice sheets, although rival theories have been proposed.

The origins of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (8700-6000 BC.) in the southern and central Levant are somewhat obscure. Like the earlier PPNA people, which is thought from radiocarbon dates to have begun in the central Levant, the PPNB culture developed from the Earlier Natufian but shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the Armenian Highland, specifically northern Syria, and southeast Turkey, and diffused to the south and west into Anatolia.

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 Ghassulian culture.

Studies of the southern Levant in isolation have lead to a view that the introduction of new forms like the naviform cores and rectilinear structures was sudden and drastic, but that in fact the new forms were innovated first in the north and spread south.

Although these chronologies, which are based on radiocarbon dates, refer strictly to the southern/central and northern Levant respectively, they correspond sufficiently closely to each other, and refer to a sufficiently large region (the western Fertile Crescent), to provide a sound temporal framework for discussion of the origins and spread of agriculture in Southwest Asia as a whole.

However, not all dates from archaeological sites and sequences are equally reliable because of sampling biases, unclear contextual associations, differences in materials sampled, and interlaboratory inconsistencies in sample-processing. We must therefore be both cautious and critical when comparing dates from different sites and constructing regional chronologies.

The separation between the PPNA and the PPNB are exaggerated and that the PPN should be seen as a homogenous unit. The new elements is simply part of the regular ‘standard’ processes operating within the Levantine PPN system.

Anatolia became increasingly important at this time, with the establishment of major sites like Cayonu and Catal Huyuk. Most of the larger sites of the PPNB are in the Levantine corridor or in south-central Anatolia, in valleys and basins. Farming communities had expanded, increasing both population numbers and the amount of land under cultivation.

It is not known how agriculture was established in Anatolia during the PPNB – whether it was colonized or whether Anatolian inhabitants adopted the Levantine economic practices for themselves. Existing hunter-gatherer communities may have adopted the new techniques from neighbours, or agricultural communities may themselves have spread into new areas as populations began to expand.

In geographical terms, all of the Late PPNA and early PPNB sites associated with early cultivation were located near water resources of some sort (springs, lakes, rivers).  Examples of sites include Jericho, Tell Aswad, Netiv Hagdud and Mureybet.

Land that was appropriate for cultivation and had water nearby was not common, and it is suggested that this may well have accounted for the degree of individual site growth which is visible in the PPNB. This type of nucleation may also have had other impacts later on.

Although marginal settlement was rare in the early PPNB, smaller sites occur on each side of the Levantine Corridor, particularly in the desert, coastal and steppe areas. Most of these smaller sites continued to be bases for hunter-gathering groups, some foraging camps, some peripheral to the main settlement sites. Semi-arid areas occupied include El-Kom basin, the Black Desert, the Azraq Basin, south Jordan, Negev, Sinai.

In the southern Sinai, for example, seasonal hunting and gathering activities were carried out in the winter and summer. Grinding stones and storage pits were found, indicating that plant foods were used and that occupations were not necessarily very short-term. Marine shells were also found. Sites in Azraq, Sinai and the Negev were apparently all seasonally occupied with small-scale and simple curved stone-walled dwellings.

Prior to the Final PPNB or PPNC, the main phase of the PPNB comes to a decided close. Many settlements were abandoned, although there are exceptions, including Ain Ghazal.

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 6200 BC., and which lasted for the next two to four centuries.

Why there was a change between this and the subsequent phases has been a matter for some debate, but one of the main current arguments is that there was a major climatic change at this time, forcing some people to abandon areas which were increasingly inhabitable.

The growth of settlement sizes during the PPNB, a very much changed human use of the landscape, will inevitably have had an inevitable impact upon the physical and environmental landscape. The southwest Asian environment is a fragile one, particularly when assaulted by human populations intent on population growth, woodland clearance, soil tillage, animal pasturing and many other activities which can, in combination, lead toward land degradation, vegetation loss, salinization, soil erosion, and general resource decline.

The disappearence can have been caused by both environmental decline, probably caused by increased aridity, as well as human intervention at the end of the PPNB. Common sense and history dictate that such episodes would always have given an impetus for a human population to seek new land.

The Harifian is a specialized regional Epipalaeolithic cultural development restricted to the Sinai and Negev desert, and dates to between approximately 8,500 and 8,000 BC. It is probably broadly contemporary with the latest stages of the Late Natufian culture or PPN. Like the Natufian, it is characterized by semi-subterranean houses. These are often more elaborate than those found at Natufian sites. For the first time arrowheads are found among the stone tool kit.

According to scholarly opinion the Harifian is thought to have lasted only about three hundred years and then to have vanished following a thousand year hiatus in which the Negev and Sinai was uninhabitable.

According to scholarly opinion the Harifian culture is derived from the Natufian culture in which the only characteristic that distinguishes it from the Natufian is the Harif point. It is viewed as an adaptation of Natufian hunter gatherers to the Negev and Sinai.

Microlithic points are a characteristic feature of the industry, with the Harif point being both new and particularly diagnostic. It is suggested that it is an indication of improved hunting techniques.

Lunates, isosceles and other triangular forms were backed with Helwan Retouch, a bifacial microlithic flint-tool fabrication technology characteristic of the Early Natufian culture in the Levant, are found. This industry contrasts with the desert Natufian which did not have the roughly triangular points in its assemblage.

Natufian lithic technology throughout the usage of the Helwan Retouch was dominated by lunate-shaped lithics, such as picks and axes and especially sickles (which were predominantly – at least 80% of the time – used for harvesting wild cereals).

There are two main groups within the Harifian. One group consists of ephemeral base camps in the north of Sinai and western Negev, where stone points comprise up to 88% of all microliths, accompanied by only a few lunates and triangles. The other group consists of base camps and smaller campsites in the Negev and features a greater number of lunates and triangles than points.

These sites probably represent functional rather than chronological differences. The presence of Khiam points in some sites indicates that there was communication with other areas in the Levant at this time.

The decline of the Helwan Retouch was largely replaced by the “backing” technique and coincided with the emergence of microburin methods, which involved snapping bladelets on an anvil.

Harifian has close connections with the late Mesolithic cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern deserts of Egypt, whose tool assemblage resembles that of the Harifian. The Harifians are viewed as migrating out of the Fayyum and the Eastern Deserts of Egypt during the late Mesolithic to merge with the PPNB culture, whose tool assemblage resembles that of the Harifian.

The PPNB is commonly subdivided into Early (ca. 7500-7200 bc), Middle (ca. 7200-6500 BC.), Late (ca. 6500-6000 bc) and Final (alternatively called PPNC or even Early Late Neolithic, 6000-5500 BC.). Following the widespread archaeological appearance of pottery by about 5500 BC., the PPNB is succeeded by the Pottery (or Ceramic) Neolithic (ca. 5500-4200 BC.).

Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C (PPNC 6200 and 5900 BC). This is not a universally agreed-upon term and is not applicable to the entire of the Near Eastern PPN. Where in use, the term PPNC is usually applied to the Jordanian highlands. The term Early Late Neolithic (ELN) has been coined for the eastern Jordan tradition, which is quite different. Increasing amounts of data indicate increasing spatial, temporal and cultural distinctions.

Fusion of Harifian hunter gatherers in Southern Palestine, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt, with an increasing emphasis in PPNB cultures upon animal domesticates is hypothesised by Juris Zarins, to have led to the Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, a group of cultures that invented nomadic pastoralism, and may have been the original culture which spread Proto-Semitic languages throughout the region, in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BC. Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into southern Iraq.

According to the proponents of this theory, Syria and Mesopotamia was originally inhabited by a non-Semitic population as the earlier linguistic tradition of those areas can be seen from the non-Semitic toponyms preserved in Akkadian and Palaeosyrian languages.

The African origin may be firmly confirmed with the relationship between Afro-Asiatic and the Niger–Congo languages, whose urheimat probably lies in Nigeria-Cameroon. It appears that the most numerous isoglosses and lexicostatistical convergences link proto-Semitic to Libyco-Berber. Evidently, proto-Semitic speakers were still living in the Neolithic Subpluvial in the 5th millennium BC. when the Sahara was much wetter, retaining a link with Berber long after other Egyptic and Proto-Chadic separated.

The Neolithic Subpluvial, sometimes called the Holocene Wet Phase, began during the 7th millennium BC and was strong for about 2,000 years; it waned over time and ended after the 5.9 kiloyear event (3900 BC). Then the drier conditions that prevailed prior to the Neolithic Subpluvial returned; desertification advanced, and the Sahara desert formed (or re-formed). Arid conditions have continued through to the present day.

During the Paleolithic the Nile Valley was inhabited by various hunter gatherer populations. Clement and fertile conditions during the Neolithic Subpluvial supported increased human settlement of the Nile Valley in Egypt, as well as neolithic societies in Sudan and throughout the present-day Sahara. Cultures producing rock art (notably that at Tassili n’Ajjer in southeastern Algeria) flourished during this period.

The practical consequences of these changes took the form of increased abundance of fish, waterfowl, freshwater mollusks, rodents, hippopotamus and crocodiles. The riches of this increased aquatic biomass were exploited by humans with rafts, boats, weirs, traps, harpoons, nets, hooks, lines and sinkers. This “riparian” (river) way of life supported much larger communities than could that of typical hunting bands. These changes, along with the local development of pottery (whereby liquids could be both stored and heated) resulted in a “culinary revolution” consisting of soup, fish stew and porridge. The last mentioned implies the cooking of gathered cereals.

The classic account of the riparian lifestyle of this period comes from investigations in Sudan during World War II by British archeologist Anthony Arkell. Arkell’s report described a Late Stone Age settlement on a sandbank of the Blue Nile which was then about 12 feet (3.7 m) higher than its present flood stage.

The countryside was clearly savanna, not the present-day desert, as evidenced by the bones of the most common species found in the middens — antelope, which require large expanses of seed-bearing grasses. These people probably lived mainly on fish, however, and Arkell concluded, based on the totality of the evidence, that rainfall at the time was at least three times that of today.

The physical characteristics derived from skeletal remains suggested that these people were related to modern Nilotic peoples, such as the Nuer and Dinka. Subsequent radiocarbon dating firmly established Arkell’s site to between 7000 and 5000 BC.

Based on common patterns at his site and at French-excavated sites already reported from Chad, Mali and Niger (e.g., bone harpoons and a characteristic “wavy line” pottery), Arkell inferred “a common fishing and hunting culture spread by negroid people right across Africa at about the latitude of Khartoum at a time when the climate was so different that it was not desert. The originators of the wavy line pottery are as yet unidentified.

In the 1960s, the archeologist Gabriel Camps investigated the remains of a hunting and fishing community dating from about 6700 BC. in southern Algeria. These pottery-making people (the “wavy line” motif again) were black African rather than Mediterranean in origin and (according to Camps) evidenced definite signs of deliberate cultivation of grain crops as opposed to simply the gathering of wild grains. Later studies at the site have shown the culture to be hunter gatherers and not agriculturalists, as all the grains were morphologically wild, and the society was not sedentary.

Human remains were found by archaeologists in 2000 at a site known as Gobero in the Ténéré Desert of northeastern Niger. The Gobero finds represent a uniquely preserved record of human habitation and burials from what is now called the Kiffian (7700 to 6200 BC.) and the Tenerian (5200 to 2,500 BC.) cultures.

Various populations of pastoralists have left paintings of abundant wildlife, domesticated animals, chariots, and a complex culture that dates back to at least 10,000 BC. in Northern Niger and neighboring parts of Algeria and Libya. Several former northern Nigerian villages and archaeological sites date from the Green Sahara period of 7,500-7,000 to 3,500-3,000 BC.

In the Mesolithic, the Capsian culture dominated the region with Neolithic farmers becoming predominant by 6000 BC. Over this period, the Sahara region was steadily drying, creating a barrier between North Africa and the rest of the African continent.

The period from 9000 to 6000 BC has left very little in the way of archaeological evidence. Around 6000 BC, Neolithic settlements appear all over Egypt. Studies based on morphological, genetic, and archaeological data have attributed these settlements to migrants from the Fertile Crescent returning during the Egyptian and North African Neolithic, possibly bringing agriculture to the region. Weaving is evidenced for the first time during the Faiyum A Period. People of this period, unlike later Egyptians, buried their dead very close to, and sometimes inside, their settlements.

Settler colonists from the Near East would most likely have merged with the indigenous cultures resulting in a mixed economy with the agricultural aspect of the economy increasing in frequency through time, which is what the archaeological record more precisely indicates. Both pottery, lithics, and economy with Near Eastern characteristics, and lithics with African characteristics are present in the Fayum A culture.

By around 4200 BC., the monsoon retreated south to approximately where it is today, leading to the gradual desertification of the Sahara. The Sahara is now as dry as it was about 13000 years ago. These conditions are responsible for what has been called the Sahara pump theory. Saharan population retreated to the south towards the Sahel, and East towards the Nile Valley.

Continued desertification forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians to settle around the the Nile Valley on the Eastern edge of North Africa, one of the richest agricultural areas in the world, more permanently and adopt a more sedentary lifestyle.

It was these populations, in addition to Neolithic farmers from the Near East, that played a major role in the formation of the Egyptian state as they brought their food crops, sheep, goats and cattle to the Nile Valley. The desiccation of the Sahara increased the population density in the Nile Valley and large cities developed. Eventually Ancient Egypt unified in one of the world’s first civilizations.

Rock drawing attest to vibrant Neolithic culture in the Sahara that collapsed due to desertification and climate change ca. 3500 BC., forcing the Proto-Semites to emigrate en masse through the Nile Delta to Southwester Asia. They were probably responsible for the collapsing of the Ghassulian culture (3800–3350 BC.) dating to the Middle Chalcolithic Period in the Southern Levant around 3300 BC. Another indication to the arrival of the proto-Semitic culture is the appearance of tumuli in 4th and 3rd millennium Palestine, which were typical characteristic of Neolithic North Africa.

The Ghassulian stage was characterized by small hamlet settlements of mixed farming peoples, and migrated southwards from Syria into Israel. Houses were trapezoid-shaped and built mud-brick, covered with remarkable polychrome wall paintings. Their pottery was highly elaborate, including footed bowls and horn-shaped drinking goblets, indicating the cultivation of wine. Several samples display the use of sculptural decoration or of a reserved slip (a clay and water coating partially wiped away while still wet). The Ghassulians were a Chalcolithic culture as they also smelted copper.

Ghassulian culture, considered to correspond to the Halafian culture of North Syria and Mesopotamia, has been identified at numerous other places in what is today southern Israel, especially in the region of Beersheba. The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt and may have had trading affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan culture in Crete. Funerary customs show evidence that they buried their dead in stone dolmens. Its type-site, Tulaylat al-Ghassul, is located in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea in modern Jordan and was excavated in the 1930s.

The Semitic family is a member of the larger Afroasiatic family, all of whose other five or more branches are based in north and north east Africa. Largely for this reason, the ancestors of Proto-Semitic speakers were originally believed by some to have first arrived in the Middle East from North Africa, possibly as part of the operation of the Saharan pump, around the late Neolithic.

Diakonoff sees Semitic originating between the Nile Delta and Canaan as the northernmost branch of Afroasiatic. A recent Bayesian analysis of alternative Semitic histories supports the latter possibility and identifies an origin of Semitic languages in the Levant around 3750 BC. with a single introduction from southern Arabia into Africa around 800 BC.

In one interpretation, Proto-Semitic itself is assumed to have reached the Arabian Peninsula by approximately the 4th millennium BC, from which Semitic daughter languages continued to spread outwards. When written records began in the late 4th millennium BC., the Semitic-speaking Akkadians (Assyrians/Babylonians) were entering Mesopotamia from the deserts to the west, and were probably already present in places such as Ebla in Syria. Akkadian personal names began appearing in written record in Mesopotamia from the late 29th Century BC.

The earliest wave of Semitic speakers were the Akkadians, who entered the fertile crescent via Palestine and Syria and eventually founded the first Semitic empire at Kish. Their relatives, the Amorites, followed them and settled Syria before 2500 BC.

The term Afroasiatic Urheimat (Urheimat meaning “original homeland” in German) refers to the hypothetical place where Proto-Afroasiatic speakers lived in a single linguistic community, or complex of communities, before this original language dispersed geographically and divided into distinct languages.

Afroasiatic languages are today primarily spoken in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Sahel. Their distribution seems to have been influenced by the Saharan pump operating over the last 10000 years.

There is no agreement on when and where this Urheimat existed, though the language is generally believed to have originated somewhere in the area between the Eastern Sahara and the Horn of Africa, including Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

The earliest written evidence of an Afroasiatic language is an Ancient Egyptian inscription of c. 3200 BC. Symbols on Gerzean pottery resembling Egyptian hieroglyphs, suggesting a still earlier possible date. This gives us a minimum date for the age of Afroasiatic. However, Ancient Egyptian is highly divergent from Proto-Afroasiatic, and considerable time must have elapsed in between them.

Estimates of the date at which the Proto-Afroasiatic language was spoken vary widely. They fall within a range between approximately 7500-16000 BC. According to Igor M. Diakonoff Proto-Afroasiatic was spoken 10000 BC. According to Christopher Ehret Proto-Afroasiatic was spoken 11000 BC., and at the latest and possibly as early as 16000 BC. These dates are older than dates associated with most other proto-languages.

There is also evidence that sheep and goats were introduced into Nabta from Southwest Asia about 8,000 years ago. There is some speculation that this culture is likely to be the predecessor of the Egyptians, based on cultural similarities and social complexity which is thought to be reflective of Egypt’s Old Kingdom.

Contamination from handling and intrusion from microbes create obstacles to the recovery of Ancient DNA. Consequently most DNA studies have been carried out on modern Egyptian populations with the intent of learning about the influences of historical migrations on the population of Egypt.

In general, various DNA studies have found that the gene frequencies of modern North African populations are intermediate between those of the Near East, the Horn of Africa, southern Europe and Sub Saharan Africa, though NRY frequency distributions of the modern Egyptian population appear to be much more similar to those of the Middle East than to any sub-Saharan African population, suggesting a much larger Eurasian genetic component.

Blood typing and DNA sampling on ancient Egyptian mummies is scant; however, blood typing of dynastic mummies found ABO frequencies to be most similar to modern Egyptians and some also to Northern Haratin populations. ABO blood group distribution shows that the Egyptians form a sister group to North African populations, including Berbers, Nubians and Canary Islanders. Scholars such as Frank Yurco believe that Modern Egyptians are largely representative of the ancient population, and the DNA evidence appears to support this view.

Nabta Playa at the southwest corner of the western Egyptian desert was once a large lake in the Nubian Desert, located 500 miles south of modern-day Cairo. By 5000 BC., the peoples in Nabta Playa had fashioned the world’s earliest known astronomical device, 1000 years older than, but comparable to, Stonehenge.

Archaeological findings may indicate human occupation in the region dating to at least somewhere around the 10th and 8th millennia BC. Fred Wendorf the site’s discoverer, and ethno-linguist Christopher Ehret have suggested that the people who occupied this region at that time were early pastoralists, or like the Saami practiced semi-pastoralism.

However, this is disputed by other sources because the cattle remains found at Nabta have been shown to be morphologically wild in several studies, and nearby Saharan sites such as Uan Afada in Libya were penning wild Barbary sheep, an animal that was never domesticated).

The people of that time consumed and stored wild sorghum, and used ceramics adorned by complicated painted patterns created perhaps by using combs made from fish bone and which belong to a general pottery tradition strongly associated with the southern parts of the sahara (e.g., of the Khartoum mesolithic and various contemporary sites in Chad) of that period.

Analysis of human remains by Fred Wendorf and reported in “Holocene settlement of the Egyptian and Nubian Sahara”, based on osteological data suggests a subsaharan origin for the site’s inhabitants. Several scholars also support a Nilo-Saharan linguistic affinity for the Nabta people; including Fred Wendorf Christopher Ehret and.

By the 7th millennium BC, exceedingly large and organized settlements were found in the region, relying on deep wells for sources of water. Huts were constructed in straight rows. Sustenance included fruit, legumes, millets, sorghum and tubers. Also in the late 7th millennium BC, but a little later than the time referred to above, imported goats and sheep, apparently from Southwest Asia, appear. Many large hearths also appear.

By the 6th millennium BC, evidence of a prehistoric religion or cult appears, with a number of sacrificed cattle buried in stone-roofed chambers lined with clay. It has been suggested that the associated cattle cult indicated in Nabta Playa marks an early evolution of Ancient Egypt’s Hathor cult. For example, Hathor was worshipped as a nighttime protector in desert regions.

The area was first used as what they call a ‘regional ceremonial centre’ around 6100 to 5600 BC with people coming from various locations to gather on the dunes surrounding the playa where there is archaeological evidence for gatherings which involved large numbers of cattle bones, as cattle were normally only killed on important occasions.

Around 5500 BC a new, more organised group began to use the site, burying cattle in clay-lined chambers and building other tumuli. Around 4800 BC a stone circle was constructed, with narrow slabs approximately aligned with the summer solstice, near the beginning of the rainy season.

More complex structures followed during a megalith period the researchers dated to between about 4500 BC to 3600 BC. Using their original measurements and measurements by satellite and GPS measurements by Brophy and Rosen they confirmed possible alignments with Sirius, Arcturus, Alpha Centauri and the Belt of Orion.

It is suggested that there are three pieces of evidence suggesting astronomical observations by the herdsmen using the site, which may have functioned as a necropolis. The symbolism embedded in the archaeological record of Nabta Playa is very basic, focussed on issues of major practical importance to the nomads: cattle, water, death, earth, sun and stars. This is shown by the orientation of the cromlech, repetitive orientation of megaliths, stele, human burials and cattle burials that reveals a very early symbolic connection to the north and the fifth millennium alignments of stele to bright stars.

Research shows it to be a prehistoric calendar that accurately marks the summer solstice. Findings indicate that the region was occupied only seasonally, likely only in the summer when the local lake filled with water for grazing cattle. There are other megalithic stone circles in the southwestern desert.

Archaeological findings may indicate human occupation in the region dating to at least somewhere around the 10th and 8th millennia BC. Fred Wendorf the site’s discoverer, and ethno-linguist Christopher Ehret have suggested that the people who occupied this region at that time were early pastoralists, or like the Saami practiced semi-pastoralism.

However, this is disputed by other sources because the cattle remains found at Nabta have been shown to be morphologically wild in several studies, and nearby Saharan sites such as Uan Afada in Libya were penning wild Barbary sheep, an animal that was never domesticated).

The people of that time consumed and stored wild sorghum, and used ceramics adorned by complicated painted patterns created perhaps by using combs made from fish bone and which belong to a general pottery tradition strongly associated with the southern parts of the sahara (e.g., of the Khartoum mesolithic and various contemporary sites in Chad) of that period.

Analysis of human remains by Fred Wendorf and reported in “Holocene settlement of the Egyptian and Nubian Sahara”, based on osteological data suggests a subsaharan origin for the site’s inhabitants. Several scholars also support a Nilo-Saharan linguistic affinity for the Nabta people; including Fred Wendorf Christopher Ehret and.

The Predynastic period dates to the end of the fourth millenium BC. From about 4800 to 4300 BC. the Merimde culture, so far only known from a big settlement site at the edge of the Western Delta, flourished in Lower Egypt. The culture has strong connections to the Faiyum A culture as well as the Levant.

People lived in small huts, produced a simple undecorated pottery and had stone tools. Cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were held. Wheat, sorghum and barley were planted. The Merimde people buried their dead within the settlement and produced clay figurines. The first Egyptian lifesize head made of clay comes from Merimde.

The El Omari culture is known from a small settlement near modern Cairo. People seem to have lived in huts, but only postholes and pits survive. The pottery is undecorated. Stone tools include small flakes, axes and sickles. Metal was not yet known. Their sites were occupied from 4000 BC to the Archaic Period.

The Maadi culture (also called Buto Maadi culture) is the most important Lower Egyptian prehistoric culture contemporary with Naqada I and II phases in Upper Egypt. The culture is best known from the site Maadi near Cairo, but is also attested in many other places in the Delta to the Fayum region. The pottery of the Buto Maadi culture, best known from the site at Maadi near Cairo, also shows connections to the southern Levant.

Copper was known, and some copper adzes have been found. The pottery is simple and undecorated and shows, in some forms, strong connections to Southern Israel. People lived in small huts, partly dug into the ground. The dead were buried in cemeteries, but with few burial goods. The Maadi culture was replaced by the Naqada III culture; whether this happened by conquest or infiltration is still an open question.

The Tasian culture was the next in Upper Egypt. This culture group is named for the burials found at Der Tasa, on the east bank of the Nile between Asyut and Akhmim. The Tasian culture group is notable for producing the earliest blacktop-ware, a type of red and brown pottery that is painted black on the top and interior. This pottery is vital to the dating of Predynastic Egypt. Because all dates for the Predynastic period are tenuous at best, WMF Petrie developed a system called Sequence Dating by which the relative date, if not the absolute date, of any given Predynastic site can be ascertained by examining its pottery.

As the Predynastic period progressed, the handles on pottery evolved from functional to ornamental, and the degree to which any given archaeological site has functional or ornamental pottery can be used to determine the relative date of the site. Since there is little difference between Tasian and Badarian pottery, the Tasian Culture overlaps the Badarian range significantly. From the Tasian period onward, it appears that Upper Egypt was influenced strongly by the culture of Lower Egypt.

The Badarian culture, from about 4400 to 4000 BC, is named for the Badari site near Der Tasa. It followed the Tasian culture, but was so similar that many consider them one continuous period. The Badarian Culture continued to produce the kind of pottery called Blacktop-ware (albeit much improved in quality) and was assigned Sequence Dating numbers 21 – 29.

The primary difference that prevents scholars from merging the two periods is that Badarian sites use copper in addition to stone and are thus chalcolithic settlements, while the Neolithic Tasian sites are still considered Stone Age.

Distinctly Badarian sites have been located from Nekhen to a little north of Abydos. It appears that the Fayum A culture and the Badarian and Tasian Periods overlapped significantly; however, the Fayum A culture was considerably less agricultural and was still Neolithic in nature.

Badarian flint tools continued to develop into sharper and more shapely blades, and the first faience was developed. Thousands of similar faience beads have been found at Tell Brak, in Syria, and at Tell Arpachiya, in northern Mesopotamia, in fourth-millennium contexts, probably earlier than the Badarian culture.

Either the Badarian beads were imports from the Near East that were being eloborated in situ, or we should look for a common ancestor for both Badarian and Asiatic glazed steatite in the fifth millennium BC.

Considering the enormous quantities of glazed steatite objects deriving from north Mesopotamian and Syrian sites, it is suggested that this is the most likely area we might look or origins of the glazing technology. However, we still need to clarify the geographical route by which the two regions were making contact.

Hammamat became the major route from Thebes to the Red Sea port of Elim, and then to the Silk Road that led to Asia, or to Arabia and the horn of Africa. This 200 km journey was the most direct route from the Nile to the Red Sea, as the Nile bends toward the coast at the western end of the wadi.

The Hammamat route ran from Qift (or Coptos), located just north of Luxor, to Al-Qusayr on the coast of the Red Sea. Qift was an important center for administration, religion, and commerce. The cities at both ends of the route were established by the First Dynasty, although evidence of predynastic occupation also has been found along the route.

In Ancient Egypt Hammamat was a major quarrying area for the Nile Valley. Quarrying expeditions to the Eastern Desert are recorded from the second millennia BCE, where the wadi has exposed Precambrian rocks of the Arabian-Nubian Shield. These include Basalts, schists, bekhen-stone (an especially prized green metagraywacke sandstone used for bowls, palettes, statues, and sarcophagi) and gold-containing quartz.

Pharaoh Seti is recorded as having the first well dug to provide water in the wadi, and Senusret I sent mining expeditions there. The site is described in the earliest-known ancient geological map, the Turin Papyrus Map, describing a quarrying expedition prepared for Ramesses IV.

Today Hammamat is famous mostly for its ancient Egyptian graffiti, as well as that in ancient times it was a quarry that lay on the Silk Road to Asia, and is a common destination for modern tourists. The wadi contains many carvings and inscriptions dating from before the earliest Egyptian Dynasties to the modern era, including the only painted petroglyph known from the Eastern Desert and drawings of Egyptian reed boats dated to 4000 BC.

Occupying groups from the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire used both the route and the mines, the Romans establishing toll stations, the Byzantines reopening New Kingdom and Ptolemaic mines at Bir Umm Fawakhir, and both building watch towers along the route that survive today. The Romans built a series of eight watering stages (hydreuma), one of which, the Qasr el Banat, the Castle of the Maidens, survives.

In Upper Egypt the predynastic Badarian culture was followed by the Naqada culture. The origins of these people is still not fully understood although they seem to be more closely related to the Nubians and North East Africans than with northern Egyptians.

One author has stated that the Naqada phase of Predynastic Egyptians in Upper Egypt shared an almost identical culture with the Nubian A-Group peoples of the Lower Sudan. Based in part on the similarities at the royal tombs at Qustul, some scholars have even proposed an Egyptian origin in Nubia among the A-group.

In 1996 Lovell and Prowse reported the presence of individual rulers buried at Naqada in what they interpreted to be elite, high status tombs, showing them to be more closely related morphologically to populations in Northern Nubia than those in Southern Egypt. Most scholars however, have rejected this hypothesis and cite the presence of royal tombs that are contemporaneous with that of Qustul and just as elaborate, together with problems with the dating techniques.

Toby Wilkinson, in his book Genesis of the Pharaohs, proposes an origin for the Egyptians somewhere in the Eastern Desert. He presents evidence that much of predynastic Egypt duplicated the traditional African cattle-culture typical of Southern Sudanese and East African pastoralists of today.

Kendall agrees with Wilkinson’s interpretation that ancient rock art in the region may depict the first examples of the royal crowns, while also pointing to Qustul in Nubia as a likely candidate for the origins of the white crown, being that the earliest known example of it was discovered in this area.

Modern studies on ancient Egyptian dentition clusters the Ancient Egyptians with Caucasoids (Europeans, Western Asians) who have small teeth, as opposed to Negroids (Western Sub-Saharan Africans) who have megadont/large teeth.

A 2006 bioarchaeological study on the dental morphology of ancient Egyptians by Prof. Joel Irish shows dental traits characteristic of current indigenous North Africans and to a lesser extent Middle Eastern and southern European populations, but not at all to Sub-Saharan populations.

Among the samples included in the study is skeletal material from the Hawara tombs of Fayum, (from the Roman period) which clustered very closely with the Badarian series of the predynastic period. All the samples, particularly those of the Dynastic period, were significantly divergent from a neolithic West Saharan sample from Lower Nubia. Biological continuity was also found intact from the dynastic to the post-pharaonic periods.

The Amratian Culture was a cultural period in the history of predynastic Upper Egypt, which lasted approximately from 4000 to 3500 BC. It is named after the site of El-Amra, about 120 km (75 mi) south of Badari, Upper Egypt. El-Amra was the first site where this culture group was found without being mingled with the later Gerzean culture group. However, this period is better attested at the Naqada site, thus it also is referred to as the Naqada I culture.

Black-topped ware continued to be produced, but white cross-line ware, a type of pottery which has been decorated with close parallel white lines being crossed by another set of close parallel white lines, begins to be produced during this time. The Amratian period falls between S.D. 30 and 39 in Petrie’s Sequence Dating system.

Trade between Upper and Lower Egypt is attested at this time, as new excavated objects attest. A stone vase from the north has been found at el-Amra, and copper, which is not present in Egypt, apparently was imported from the Sinai, or perhaps from Nubia. Obsidian and an extremely small amount of gold were both definitively imported from Nubia during this time. Trade with the oases also was likely.

New innovations such as mud-brick buildings for which the Gerzean period is well known also to begin during this time, attesting to cultural continuity. However, they did not reach nearly the widespread use that they were known for in later times. Additionally, oval and theriomorphic cosmetic palettes appear to be used in this period. However, the workmanship was still very rudimentary and the relief artwork for which they were later known is not yet present.

The 5.9 kiloyear event was one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene Epoch. It occurred around 3900 BC (5,900 years BP), ending the Neolithic Subpluvial and probably initiated the most recent desiccation of the Sahara desert. Thus, it also triggered worldwide migration to river valleys, such as from central North Africa to the Nile valley, which eventually led to the emergence of the first complex, highly organised, state-level societies in the 4th millennium BC. It is associated with the last round of the Sahara pump theory.

A model by Claussen et al. (1999) suggested rapid desertification associated with vegetation-atmosphere interactions following a cooling event, Bond event 4. Bond et al. (1997) identified a North Atlantic cooling episode 5,900 years ago from ice-rafted debris, as well as other such now called Bond events that indicate the existence of a quasiperiodic cycle of Atlantic cooling events, which occur approximately every 1,470 years ± 500 years.

For some reason, all of the earlier of these arid events (including the 8.2 kiloyear event) were followed by recovery, as attested by the wealth of evidence of humid conditions in the Sahara between 10,000 and 6,000 BP.

However, it appears that the 5.9 kiloyear event was followed by a partial recovery at best, with accelerated desiccation in the millennium that followed. For example, Cremaschi (1998) describes evidence of rapid aridification in Tadrart Acacus of southwestern Libya, in the form of increased aeolian erosion, sand incursions and the collapse of the roofs of rock shelters.

The Acacus Mountains or Tadrart Acacus, one of the most arid of the Sahara, form a mountain range in the desert of the of the Ghat District in western Libya, part of the Sahara. They are situated east of the Libyan city of Ghat and stretch north from the Algerian border about 100 km. Tadrart is the feminine form of ‘mountain’ in the Berber languages (masculine: Adrar). The area has a particularly rich array of prehistoric rock art.

The area is known for its rock-art and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 because of the importance of these paintings and carvings. The paintings date from 12,000 BC to 100 AD and reflect cultural and natural changes in the area. There are paintings and carvings of animals such as giraffes, elephants, ostriches and camels, but also of men and horses. Men are depicted in various daily life situations, for example while making music and dancing.

About 5,000 years ago the wet phase of the Sahara came to end. Saharan population retreated to the south towards the Sahel, and East towards the Nile Valley. It was these populations, in addition to Neolithic farmers from the Near East, that played a major role in the formation of the Egyptian state as they brought their food crops, sheep, goats and cattle to the Nile Valley.

Settler colonists from the Near East would most likely have merged with the indigenous cultures resulting in a mixed economy with the agricultural aspect of the economy increasing in frequency through time, which is what the archaeological record more precisely indicates. Both pottery, lithics, and economy with Near Eastern characteristics, and lithics with African characteristics are present in the Fayum A culture.

Located in the extreme north-east corner of Africa, Ancient Egyptian society was at a crossroads between the African and Near Eastern regions. There seems to be a correlation between increased novelty and seemingly rapid change in Predynastic pottery, and trade contacts between ancient Egypt and the Middle East. The evidence suggests influence from these regions.

The Gerzean culture (3500-3200 BC.), is named after the site of Gerzeh. It was the next stage in Egyptian cultural development, and it was during this time that the foundation of Dynastic Egypt was laid. The end of the Gerzean period is generally regarded as coinciding with the unification of Egypt.

Gerzean culture coincided with a significant decline in rainfall, and farming along the Nile now produced the vast majority of food, though contemporary paintings indicate that hunting was not entirely forgone. With increased food supplies, Egyptians adopted a much more sedentary lifestyle and cities grew as large as 5,000. It was in this time that Egyptian city dwellers stopped building with reeds and began mass-producing mud bricks, first found in the Amratian Period, to build their cities.

Gerzean culture is largely an unbroken development out of Amratian Culture, starting in the delta and moving south through upper Egypt, but failing to dislodge Amratian culture in Nubia. Gerzean pottery is distinctly different from Amratian white cross-lined wares or black-topped ware. It was painted mostly in dark red with pictures of animals, people, and ships, as well as geometric symbols that appear derived from animals. Also, “wavy” handles, rare before this period became more common and more elaborate until they were almost completely ornamental.

Egyptian stone tools, while still in use, moved from bifacial construction to ripple-flaked construction. Copper was used for all kinds of tools, and the first copper weaponry appears here. Silver, gold, lapis, and faience were used ornamentally, and the grinding palettes used for eye-paint since the Badarian period began to be adorned with relief carvings.

The first tombs in classic Egyptian style were also built, modeled after ordinary houses and sometimes composed of multiple rooms. Although further excavations in the Delta are needed, this style is generally believed to originate there and not in Upper Egypt.

Although the Gerzean Culture is now clearly identified as being the continuation of the Amratian period, significant amounts of Mesopotamian influences worked their way into Egypt during the Gerzean. Lapis lazuli trade, in the form of beads, from its only known prehistoric source – Badakshan, in northeastern Afghanistan – also reached ancient Gerzeh.

Distinctly foreign objects and art forms entered Egypt during this period, indicating contacts with several parts of Asia. Objects such as the Gebel el-Arak knife handle, which has patently Mesopotamian relief carvings on it, have been found in Egypt, and the silver which appears in this period can only have been obtained from Asia Minor.

In addition, Egyptian objects are created which clearly mimic Mesopotamian forms, although not slavishly. Cylinder seals appear in Egypt, as well as recessed paneling architecture, the Egyptian reliefs on cosmetic palettes are clearly made in the same style as the contemporary Mesopotamian Uruk culture, and the ceremonial mace heads which turn up from the late Gerzean and early Semainean are crafted in the Mesopotamian “pear-shaped” style, instead of the Egyptian native style.

The route of this trade is difficult to determine. It is usually assumed to have been by water, and it is theorized that Uruk sailors circumnavigated Arabia, but a Mediterranean route, probably by middlemen through Byblos is more likely, as evidenced by the presence of Byblian objects in Egypt.

The fact that so many Gerzean sites are at the mouths of wadis which lead to the Red Sea may indicate some amount of trade via the Red Sea (though Byblian trade potentially could have crossed the Sinai and then taken to the Red Sea). Also, it is considered unlikely that something as complicated as recessed panel architecture could have worked its way into Egypt by proxy, and at least a small contingent of migrants is often suspected.

Posted in Africa, Egypt, The Fertile Crescent | Leave a Comment »

The Land of Punt

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on October 18, 2013

File:NC Punt.jpg

File:Africa in 400 BC.jpg

“In addition to the erection and endowments of many temples listed in the Palermo Stone, the Pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty were active in expanding the existing trade relations with neighbouring countries , as the King Sahure (2458-2446 B.C.) from this Egyptian Old Kingdom, Dynasty V (2498-2491 B.C.), who made a trade expedition to the Land of Punt . Egyptian ships also reached the shores of the land of Punt on the Somali coast to procure highly valued cargoes of myrrh, ebony and animals, among other goods. “

Text Reference: The UNESCO General History of Africa: Ancient Civilization of Africa, Vol, II, General History of Africa, G. Mokhtar, 1990, p 64-68

By the eighth millennium BC, people of a Neolithic culture had settled into a sedentary way of life there in fortified mud-brick villages, where they supplemented hunting and fishing on the Nile with grain gathering and cattle herding.

During the fifth millennium BC migrations from the drying Sahara brought neolithic people into the Nile Valley along with agriculture. The population that resulted from this cultural and genetic mixing developed social hierarchy over the next centuries become the Kingdom of Kush (with the capital at Kerma) at 1700 BC.

Anthropological and archaeological research indicate that during the predynastic period Nubia and Nagadan Upper Egypt were ethnically, and culturally nearly identical, and thus, simultaneously evolved systems of pharaonic kingship by 3300 BC.

Together with other countries lying on Red Sea, Sudan is considered the most likely location of the land known to the ancient Egyptians as Punt (or “Ta Netjeru”, meaning “God’s Land”), whose first mention dates to the 25th century BC.

The Land of Punt, also called Pwenet, or Pwene by the ancient Egyptians, was an Egyptian trading partner known for producing and exporting gold, aromatic resins, African blackwood, ebony, ivory, slaves and wild animals, known from ancient Egyptian records of trade missions to this region. Some biblical scholars have identified it with the biblical land of Put.

At times Punt is referred to as Ta netjer, the “land of the god”. Older literature (and current non-mainstream literature) maintained that the label “God’s Land”, when interpreted as “Holy Land” or “Land of the gods/ancestors”, meant that the ancient Egyptians viewed the Land of Punt as their ancestral homeland.

The exact location of Punt is still debated by historians. Most scholars today believe Punt was located to the southeast of Egypt, most likely in the coastal region of what is today northern Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Northeast Ethiopia and the Red Sea coast of Sudan. The term was not only applied to Punt, located southeast of Egypt, but also to regions of Asia east and northeast of Egypt, such as Lebanon, which was the source of wood for temples. However, some scholars point instead to a range of ancient inscriptions which locate Punt in the Arabian Peninsula. It is also possible that the territory covered both the Horn of Africa and Southern Arabia.

The Nubians are an ethnic group originally from northern Sudan, and southern Egypt. Nubians are the people of southern Egypt and northern Sudan, settling along the banks of the Nile from Aswan. They were very famous for their horsemanship, for which they rode their horses bareback and held on by their knees, making them light, mobile, and efficient, and a good cavalry choice.

The Nubian people in Sudan inhabit the region between Wadi Halfa in the north and Aldaba in the south. The main Nubian groups from north to south are the Halfaweyen, Sikut, Mahas, and Danagla. They speak different dialects of the Nubian language. Their Nubian language is an Eastern Sudanic language, part of the Nilo-Saharan phylum.

Land of Punt

Kingdom of Kush

Posted in Africa, Egypt | Leave a Comment »

From the Canaries to Armenia

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on August 7, 2013

Genetic evidence shows that northern African peoples (possibly descendants of the Capsian culture) made a significant contribution to the aboriginal population of the Canaries following desertification of the Sahara at some point after 6000 BCE. Linguistic evidence suggests ties between the Guanche language and the Berber languages of North Africa, particularly when comparing numeral systems. Research into the genetics of the Guanche population have led to the conclusion that they share an ancestry with Berber peoples.

A more typical proposal is that Semitic is an offshoot of a northern family of Afroasiatic languages, including Berber, and possibly Egyptian. It then entered the Levant and was possibly spread by what Juris Zarins calls the Syro-Arabian nomadic pastoralism complex, spreading south along the shores of the Red Sea and northeast around the edge of the “Fertile Crescent”. It is thought that Semitic speakers then crossed from South Arabia back into Eritrea.

In contrast, Bender proposed on linguistic grounds that Cushitic (found in the Horn of Africa) shares important innovations with Semitic and Berber, and that these three split off early from the others, while still near an original homeland of all Afroasiatic.

In the past it was asserted that pastoral nomads left no presence archaeologically but this has now been challenged. Pastoral nomadic sites are identified based on their location outside the zone of agriculture, the absence of grains or grain-processing equipment, limited and characteristic architecture, a predominance of sheep and goat bones, and by ethnographic analogy to modern pastoral nomadic peoples.

Juris Zahrins has proposed that pastoral nomadism began as a cultural lifestyle in the wake of the 6200 BC climatic crisis when Harifian hunter-gatherers fused with Pre-Pottery Neolithic B agriculturalists to produce a nomadic lifestyle based on animal domestication, developing a circum-Arabian nomadic pastoral complex, and spreading Proto-Semitic languages.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) is a division of the Neolithic developed by Kathleen Kenyon during her archaeological excavations at Jericho in the southern Levant region. The period is dated to between ca. 10,700 and ca. 8,000 BP or 7000 – 6000 BCE.

Cultural tendencies of this period differ from that of the earlier Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period in that people living during this period began to depend more heavily upon domesticated animals to supplement their earlier mixed agrarian and hunter-gatherer diet. In addition the flint tool kit of the period is new and quite disparate from that of the earlier period. One of its major elements is the naviform core.

This is the first period in which architectural styles of the southern Levant became primarily rectilinear; earlier typical dwellings were circular, elliptical and occasionally even octagonal.

Pyrotechnology was highly developed in this period. During this period, one of the main features of houses is evidenced by a thick layer of white clay plaster floors highly polished and made of lime produced from limestone. It is believed that the use of clay plaster for floor and wall coverings during PPNB led to the discovery of pottery.

The earliest proto-pottery was White Ware vessels, made from lime and gray ash, built up around baskets before firing, for several centuries around 7000 BC at sites such as Tell Neba’a Faour (Beqaa Valley). Sites from this period found in the Levant utilizing rectangular floor plans and plastered floor techniques were found at Ain Ghazal, Yiftahel (western Galilee), and Abu Hureyra (Upper Euphrates).

Whether it created its own culture or imported traditions from the North East or Southern Levant has been considered an important question for a site that poses a problem for the scientific community.

Like the earlier PPNA people, the PPNB culture developed from the Earlier Natufian but shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia. The culture disappeared during the 8.2 kiloyear event, a term that climatologists have adopted for a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6200 BCE, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries.

In the following Munhatta and Yarmukian post-pottery Neolithic cultures that succeeded it, rapid cultural development continues, although PPNB culture continued in the Amuq valley, where it influenced the later development of Ghassulian culture.

Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period which existed between 8,200 and 7,900 BP.

Juris Zarins has proposed that a Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex developed in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BCE, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in PPNB cultures upon animal domesticates, and a fusion with Harifian hunter gatherers in Southern Palestine, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt. Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into southern Iraq.

The Hurrians were an ancient people, who spoke a Hurro-Urartian language of the Ancient Near East, living in Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia during the Bronze Age.

The largest and most influential partly Hurrian nation was the kingdom of Mitanni, though the Mitanni were an Indo-European speaking people who formed a ruling class over the Hurrians.

The population of the Indo-European speaking Hittite Empire in Anatolia to a large part consisted of Hurrians and Hattians, and there is significant Hurrian influence in Hittite mythology.

By the Early Iron Age, the Hurrians had been assimilated with other peoples, except perhaps in the kingdom of Urartu.

According to a hypothesis by I.M. Diakonoff and S. Starostin, the Hurrian, Hattic, and Urartian languages are related to the Northeast Caucasian languages.

Hurrian names occur sporadically in north western Mesopotamia and the area of Kirkuk in modern Iraq by the Middle Bronze Age. Their presence was attested at Nuzi, Urkesh and other sites. They eventually infiltrated and occupied a broad arc of fertile farmland stretching from the Khabur River valley to the foothills of the Zagros Mountains.

I. J. Gelb and E. A. Speiser believed Semitic Subarians had been the linguistic and ethnic substratum of northern Mesopotamia since earliest times, while Hurrians were merely late arrivals.

That idea is at odds with a long-held belief among scholars that the Hurrians arrived much later from the Caucasus or some other distant region to the northeast, drawn to the fringes of civilization after the rise of the great southern Sumerian centers of Ur, Uruk, and Nippur. Scholars long assumed that the Hurrians arrived in the middle of the third millennium B.C., and eventually settled down and adopted cuneiform as a script and built their own cities. That theory is based on linguistic associations with Caucasus’ languages and the fact that Hurrian names are absent from the historical record until Akkadian times.

But Piotr Michaelowski, an Assyriologist at the University of Michigan, notes that Hurrian, like Sumerian, is a language unrelated to Semitic or Indo-European tongues that dominated the region during and after the third millennium B.C. Perhaps, he suggests, the Hurrians were earlier inhabitants of the region, who, like the Sumerians, had to make room for the Semitic-speaking people who created the world’s first empire based at Akkad in central Mesopotamia around 2350 B.C.

The discovery of a sophisticated city with monumental architecture, plumbing, stonework, and a large population contradicts the idea that Hurrians were a roving mountain people in a strange land. Far from being yet another rough nomadic tribe, such as the Amorites or Kassites who were latecomers to the Mesopotamian party, the Hurrians and their unique language, music, deities, and rituals may have played a key role in shaping the first cities, empires, and states. The language has died, the music faded, and the rituals are forgotten. But thanks to the sculptors, stone masons, and seal carvers at Urkesh, Hurrian creativity can shine once again.

Roy King and Peter Underhill had previously published on the Congruent distribution of Neolithic painted pottery and ceramic figurines with Y-chromosome lineages, in which they found that only the Eu9 [Dienekes: J2-M172] haplogroup successfully predicted the distribution of both Neolithic figurines (88% accuracy) and painted pottery (80% accuracy).

Examining the beginnings of agriculture in the ‘Fertile Crescent’, this research team has compared the distribution of rainfall with the distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroups. The extended families signalled by J1 and J2 haplogroups seem to have had different destinies in the era of agro-pastoralist experiment: J2 were the agricultural innovators who followed the rainfall, while J1 remained largely with their flocks.

In human genetics, Haplogroup J-M172 is a Y-chromosome haplogroup which is a subclade (branch) of haplogroup J-P209. J-M172 can be classified as Mediterranean/Aegean (Di Giacomo, 2004), Greco-Anatolian, Mesopotamian and/or Caucasian and is linked to the earliest indigenous populations of Anatolia and the Aegean. It was carried by Bronze Age immigrants to Europe.

The precise region of origin for haplogroup J-M172 remains a topic of discussion. However, at least within a European context, Anatolia and the Aegean seem to be source regions, with Hg J2 having perhaps arisen in the Levant (Di Giacomo 2004) / Middle East (Semino 2004) with the development of agriculture.

The highest reported frequency of J-M172 ever was 87.4%, among Ingush in Malgobek (Balanovsky 2011). J-M172 – Associated with Mediterranean, South Caucasian and Fertile Crescent populations, with its peaks at 87.4% in Ingushetia and 72% in Georgia’s Kazbegi region (near Mount Kazbek). In the North Caucasus, the largest frequencies are those of Nakh peoples (Chechens (56.7%) and Ingush (88.8%). Other notable values were found among North Caucasian Turkic peoples (Kumyks (25%) and Balkars (24%).

It is notable that according to both Nasidze’s study in 2004 and then a later study on Dagestani peoples by Yunusbaev in 2006, J-M172 suddenly collapses as one enters the territory of non-Nakh Northeast Caucasian peoples, dropping to very low values among Dagestani peoples. The overwhelming bulk of Chechen J-M172 is of the subclade J-M67), of which the highest frequencies by far are found among Nakh peoples- Chechens were 55.2% according to the Balanovsky study, while Ingush were 87.4%.

Y DNA haplogroup J-M267, also commonly known as Haplogroup J1 is found today in significant frequencies in many areas in order near the Middle East, and parts of the Caucasus, Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

North Africa received Semitic migrations, according to some studies it may have been diffused in recent time by Arabs who, mainly from the 7th century a.d., expanded to northern Africa. However the Canary islands is not known to have had any Semitic language. There J-M267 is dominated by J-P58, and dispersed in a very uneven manner according to studies so far, often but not always being lower among Berber and/or non-urban populations.

In Ethiopia there are signs of older movements of J-M267 into Africa across the Red Sea, not only in the J-P58 form. This also appears to be associated with Semitic languages. According to a study in 2011, in Tunisia, J-M267 is significantly more abundant in the urban (31.3%) than in the rural total population (2.5%).

According to the authors, these results could be explained by supposing that Arabization in Tunisia was a military enterprise, therefore, mainly driven by men that displaced native Berbers to geographically marginal areas but that frequently married Berber women.

Since the discovery of haplogroup J-P209 it has generally been recognized that it shows signs of having originated in or near West Asia. The frequency and diversity of both its major branches, J-M267 and J-M172, in that region makes them candidates as genetic markers of the spread of farming technology during the Neolithic, which is proposed to have had a major impact upon human populations.

In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521/0 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.

Shubria was part of the Urartu confederation. Later, there is reference to a district in the area called Arme or Urme, which some scholars have linked to the name Armenia.

Shupria (Shubria) or Arme-Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was a Hurrian-speaking kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC, located in the Armenian Highland, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. The capital was called Ubbumu. Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia.

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

Subartu may have been in the general sphere of influence of the Hurrians. There are various alternate theories associating the ancient Subartu with one or more modern cultures found in the region, including Armenian or Kurdish tribes.

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources. The earliest is from an inscription which mentions Armânum together with Ibla (Ebla) as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in ca. 2250 BC.

Aleppo has scarcely been touched by archaeologists, since the modern city occupies its ancient site. The site has been occupied from around 5000 BC, as excavations in Tallet Alsauda show.

Aleppo appears in historical records as an important city much earlier than Damascus. The first record of Aleppo comes from the third millennium BC, when Aleppo was the capital of an independent kingdom closely related to Ebla, known as Armi to Ebla and Armani to the Akkadians.

Giovanni Pettinato describes Armi as Ebla’s alter ego. Naram-Sin of Akkad destroyed both Ebla and Armani in the 23rd century BC.

Another mention by pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”.

Posted in Africa, Armenia, Semitic People | Leave a Comment »

Eurasia – Afrika

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on October 17, 2007

  • Vest Asia
  • Byer
  • Mesopotamia
  • Mesopotamske figurer
  • Kaukasus
  • Kaukasiske kulturer
  • Kaukasiske språk
  • Kaukasiske figurer
  • Armenia
  • Armenia II
  • Armenske figurer
  • Levanten
  • Byer
  • Levantiske kulturer  
  • Levantiske språk  
  • Levantiske figurer
  • Israel
  • Israelske språk
  • Israelske figurer
  • Abrahamske religioner
  • Jødedom
  • Genesis
  • Kristendom
  • Islam
  • Semittiske folk
  • Semittiske språk 
  • Arabia
  • Arabisk historie
  • Arabisk kultur
  • Arabiske språk
  • Arabiske figurer
  • Diverse guder
  • Proto-semittisk pantheon
  • Hurriske guder
  • Afrika
  • Afrikanske land
  • Afrikansk historie
  • Afrikanske kulturer
  • Egypt
  • Berber
  • Khoisan
  • Afrikansk mytologi

Posted in Africa, South West Asia | Leave a Comment »

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