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The rosette symbol

Posted by Fredsvenn on December 21, 2013


Scorpions and Rosette

Steatite, Stamp seal, North Mesopotamia, Gawra period, c.3300 BC

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Cult scene: the worship of the sun-god, Shamash. Limestone cylinder-seal, Mesopotamia

Ram in a Thicket, Ur, Southern Iraq, 2600-2400 BC

Puabi (Akkadian: “Word of my father”), Ur, during the First Dynasty of Ur (ca. 2600 BCE)

Queen Pu-abi’s attendants, who were sacrificed to serve her in the afterlife

A shell plaque found in Queen Pu-abi’s tomb

– It shows ibexes rearing up on their hind legs to feed on the leaves of a high branch.

Note the eight-pointed rosette in the cente


Scorpion macehead

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Narmer Palette

Rosette designs from Meyer’s Handbook of Ornament

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Mohenjo-daro Priest

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Sitting bull

– Black marble (formerly inlaid), found in Warka (ancient city of Uruk), Djemdet-Nasr period (ca. 3000 BC)

Mycenaean Jug

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Phaistos Disc, Phaistos, Minoan Crete, ca. 1700 BC

Assyrian Tree of Life


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The Ishtar Gate, Babylon, 575 BC

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Rosette design at the bottom of a statue of the Buddha, Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, circa 1st century CE

A rosette is a round, stylized flower design, used extensively in sculptural objects from antiquity. Appearing in Mesopotamia and used to decorate the funeral stele in Ancient Greece. Adopted later in Romaneseque and Renaissance, and also common in the art of Central Asia, spreading as far as India where it is used as a decorative motif in Greco-Buddhist art.

The rosette derives from the natural shape of a rosette in botany, formed by leaves radiating out from the stem of a plant and visible even after the flowers have withered. The formalised flower motif is often in carved in stone or wood to create decorative ornaments for architecture and furniture. It was a common motif in metalworking, jewelry design and the applied arts at the intersection of two materials, or to form a decorative border.

This motif was widespread throughout Europe and the Near East. Rosette decorations have been used for formal military awards. They are also used to decorate musical instruments, such as around the perimeter of sound holes of guitars.

One of the earliest appearances of the rosette in ancient art is in early fourth millennium BC Mesopotamia. It’s not know for certain what particular symbolism the Sumerians attached to the eight-pointed rosette, but it occurs throughout their cultural history. It can be seen on shell plaques, on the headdresses, and on many other artifacts.

Inanna’s symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette. She was associated with lions – even then a symbol of power – and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses. Her cuneiform ideogram was a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds, representing the doorpost of the storehouse (and thus fertility and plenty).

Inanna was associated with the celestial planet Venus. There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation. It also is believed that in many myths about Inanna, including Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld and Inanna and Shukaletuda, her movements correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky.

Also, because of its positioning so close to Earth, Venus moves rather irregularly across the sky, and never travels all the way across the dome of the sky as most celestial bodies do, instead, Venus rises in the East and the West in both the morning and evening.

Because of Venus’ erratic movements (it disappears behind the sun from 90–3 days at a time and then reappears on the other horizon), some cultures did not recognize Venus as single entity, but rather two separate stars on each horizon as the morning and evening star.

The Mesopotamians, however, most likely understood that the planet was one entity. A cylinder seal from the Jemdet Nasr period expresses the knowledge that both morning and evening stars were the same celestial entity.

The erratic movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s erratic nature. Like Venus, Inanna seems unpredictable in her actions, being both the goddess of love and war, having both masculine and feminine qualities, and occasionally having temper tantrums. However, Mesopotamian literature takes this comparison one step further, explaining Inanna’s physical movements in mythology as similar to the movements of Venus in the sky.

Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld explains how Inanna is able to, unlike any other deity, descend into the netherworld and return to the heavens. The planet Venus appears to make a similar descent, setting in the West and then rising again in the East.

In Inanna and Shukaletuda, in search of her attacker, Inanna makes several movements throughout the myth that correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. An introductory hymn explains Inanna leaving the heavens and heading for Kur, what could be presumed to be, the mountains, replicating the rising and setting of Inanna to the West. Shukaletuda also is described as scanning the heavens in search of Inanna, possibly to the eastern and western horizons.

Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

Seal impressions from the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3100–2900 BC) show a fixed sequence of city symbols including those of Ur, Larsa, Zabalam, Urum, Arina, and probably Kesh. It is likely that this list reflects the report of contributions to Inanna at Uruk from cities supporting her cult.

A large number of similar sealings were found from the slightly later Early Dynastic I phase at Ur, in a slightly different order, combined with the rosette symbol of Inanna, that were definitely used for this purpose. They had been used to lock storerooms to preserve materials set aside for her cult. Inanna’s primary temple of worship was the Eanna, located in Uruk (c.f. Worship).

In Egypt the Scorpion macehead (also known as the Major Scorpion macehead) is a decorated ancient Egyptian macehead found by British archeologists James E. Quibell and Frederick W. Green in what they called the main deposit in the temple of Horus at Hierakonpolis during the dig season of 1897/1898.

It is made of limestone, is pear-shaped, and is attributed to the Scorpion II (Ancient Egyptian: possibly Selk or Weha), also known as King Scorpion, referring to the second of two kings or chieftains of that name during the Protodynastic Period of Upper Egypt, due to the glyph of a scorpion engraved close to the image of a king wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt.

Little is left of this macehead and its imagery: A king wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, sitting on a throne below a canopy, holding a flail. Beside his head, in the upper right corner, there is a image of a scorpion and a rosette. Facing him is a falcon who may be holding an end of a rope in one of its claws – a motif also present on the Narmer Palette.

On the macehead the king sporting a bull’s tail is standing by a body of water, probably a canal, holding a hoe. He is wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt and is followed by two fan bearers. A scorpion and a rosette are depicted close to his head. He is facing a man holding a basket and men holding standards. A number of men are busy along the banks of the canal. In the rear of the king’s retinue are some plants, a group of women clapping their hands and a small group of people, all of them facing away from the king. In the top register there is a row of nome standards. A bird is dangling from each of them, strung up by its neck.

A second, smaller macehead fragment showing Scorpion wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt is referred to as the Minor Scorpion macehead. Little is left of this macehead and its imagery: A king wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, sitting on a throne below a canopy, holding a flail. Beside his head images of a scorpion and a rosette. Facing him is a falcon who may be holding an end of a rope in one of its claws – a motif also present on the Narmer Palette.

It is believed the rosette was a symbol for kingly authority. The origin of this symbolism is unknown. Other of many examples are the famous Narmer palette, also known as the Great Hierakonpolis Palette or the Palette of Narmer, created as a memorial to a victorious campaign by that early king, also carries the rosette motif.

The Narmer Palette is a significant Egyptian archeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC, containing some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found. It is thought by some to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the king Narmer.

On one side, the king is depicted with the bulbed White Crown of Upper (southern) Egypt, and the other side depicts the king wearing the level Red Crown of Lower (northern) Egypt.

A large picture in the center of the Palette depicts Narmer wielding a mace wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt (whose symbol was the flowering lotus). To his left is a man bearing the king’s sandals, once again flanked by a rosette symbol.

Along with the Scorpion Macehead and the Narmer Maceheads, also found together in the Main Deposit at Nekhen, the Narmer Palette provides one of the earliest known depictions of an Egyptian king.

The Palette shows many of the classic conventions of Ancient Egyptian art, which must already have been formalized by the time of the Palette’s creation. The Egyptologist Bob Brier has referred to the Narmer Palette as “the first historical document in the world”.

The Palette, which has survived five millennia in almost perfect condition, was discovered by British archeologists James E. Quibell and Frederick W. Green, in what they called the Main Deposit in the Temple of Horus at Nekhen, during the dig season of 1897–1898. Also found at this dig were the Narmer Macehead and the Scorpion Macehead.

The exact place and circumstances of these finds were not recorded very clearly by Quibell and Green. In fact, Green’s report placed the Palette in a different layer one or two yards away from the deposit, which is considered to be more accurate on the basis of the original excavation notes.

It has been suggested that these objects were royal donations made to the temple. Nekhen, or Hierakonpolis, was the ancient capital of Upper Egypt during the pre-dynastic Naqada III phase of Egyptian history.

Palettes were typically used for grinding cosmetics, but this palette is too large and heavy (and elaborate) to have been created for personal use and was probably a ritual or votive object, specifically made for donation to, or use in, a temple. One theory is that it was used to grind cosmetics to adorn the statues of the gods.

The rosette continued to have a royal symbolism of dignity and authority down into later times. A Hittite tomb stela from the 8th century BC portrays a wonderful example of this symbol hovering over a princess and her attendant. What appears to be a sun-disk contains an eight-pointed rosette with two highly detailed and very bird-like wings stretching out on either side. A light gray steatite Hittite spool seal dating from 1500 BC has a stag on one side and a rosette on the other. The seal is drilled in the center of each.

Another early Mediterranean occurrence of the rosette design derives from Minoan Crete; for example, the rosette design has been found on the famed Phaistos Disc, recovered from the Phaistos archaeological site in southern Crete.

Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology. It is made of clay and now is on display at the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion. The exact date of manufacture is uncertain; some archaeologists ascribe it to the 17th century BC.

The Phaistos Disc captured the imagination of amateur and professional archeologists, and many attempts have been made to decipher the code behind the disc’s signs. While it is not clear that it is a script, most attempted decipherments assume that it is; most additionally assume a syllabary, others an alphabet or logography.

Attempts at decipherment are generally thought to be unlikely to succeed unless more examples of the signs are found, as it is generally agreed that there is not enough context available for a meaningful analysis.

The Phaistos disk was found in 1908 in a building at the Minoan palace site of Phaistos, near Hagia Triada, on the south coast of Crete. The disk is 16 centimeters in diameter (or 6 inches, approximately the size of the palm of your hand). It is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols.

Many, including Benjamin Schwartz, who in his work on decipherment refers to the Phaistos Disc as “the first movable type”, regard it as the first example of printing, since the embedded impressions (figures) were placed there by some form of prepared punch. How such symbolic tools were used otherwise is unknown, since similar examples have never been discovered.

In his popular science book Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond describes the disc as an example of a technological advancement that did not become widespread because it was made at the wrong time in history, and contrasts this with Gutenberg’s printing press.

The inscription was apparently made by pressing pre-formed hieroglyphic “seals” into the soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling towards the disc’s center. It was then fired at high temperature. The unique character of the Phaistos Disc stems from the fact that the entire text was inscribed in this way, reproducing a body of text with reusable characters.

The German typesetter and linguist Herbert Brekle, in his article “The typographic principle” in the Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, argues that the Phaistos Disc is an early document of movable type printing, since it meets the essential criteria of typographic printing, that of type identity:

An early clear incidence for the realization of the typographic principle is the notorious Phaistos Disc (ca. 1800–1600 BC). If the disc is, as assumed, a textual representation, we are really dealing with a “printed” text, which fulfills all definitional criteria of the typographic principle.

The spiral sequencing of the graphematical units, the fact that they are impressed in a clay disc (blind printing!) and not imprinted are merely possible technological variants of textual representation. The decisive factor is that the material “types” are proven to be repeatedly instantiated on the clay disc.

Eight-petaled rosettes similar to those on the Disk and on the various ancient gameboards appeared also on many other objects. They were generally a symbol for the sun, or more precisely its cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and so indicated the passages from one state of existence into another.

We might question the origin of the rosette images. Consider an eight-leaf rosette carved through an ivory disk from a child’s burial at the European Gravettian burial site in Sungir, situated about 200 km east of Moscow, on the outskirts of Vladimir, near the Klyazma River in Russia, dated to about 28,000 years ago, the earliest example found up to now, and one of the most beautiful. Clearly the rosette has a very old history, dating back to the times of the Cave Paintings of Europe, and the Great Flood, or earlier.

It was found in a child’s burial at the site, and its funerary context suggests that it may have been associated with the rebirth- and- renewal cluster of ideas already back then.

Whatever this rosette may have meant to its maker, its pierced design evokes to modern eyes the concept of “passage” or “transition” through its central opening even more powerfully than any flat shape could.

Closer to us in time, and less open to doubt about its meaning, are the many ancient Egyptian pictures that show the young sun god being born in a lotus blossom with eight leaves. This image reflects a sunrise over the flooded lands of the Delta where lotus, which grows as the Nile rises, covered the waters to the horizon. It was therefore a fitting sign for that daily rebirth and new beginning.

On the other hand, the association of that flower with birth was not unique to Egypt because in India, various gods, and particularly the Buddha, also emerged into the world from that same eight-petaled lotus.

The Egyptian “Book of the Dead” calls the king of the gods Re in Chapter 15 “the golden youth who came forth from the lotus”, and in Chapter 81 the deceased utters the desire to be transformed into a sacred lotus2.

The typical copy of that book also included a vignette of the cow-headed sky-goddess Hathor, the “mother of light”, emerging from the burial mound with an eight-leaved rosette on her neck.  Right next to her, the tomb owner rises from his coffin and clutches two “Life” signs in his hands, leaving no doubt about the meaning of the scene.

Similarly, a painted portrait from Tutankhamun’s tomb shows him rising out of a lotus blossom with eight petals that grows from his coffin and so illustrates his resurrection.

Such images led the symbolist Manfred Lurker to propose in his illustrated Dictionary “The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Egypt” that the rosette represented the sun breaking forth after the night and the defeat of the abysmal darkness.

The Bronze Age Cretans, too, decorated many objects with eight-leaved rosettes, including the ceiling of the “Throne Room” in the palace at Knossos. Like the later Philistines and Canaanites, they used that rosette as one of their favorite pottery ornaments.

The presence of golden eight-leaf rosettes in tombs at Mochlos, Crete, from around 2,000 BCE, and in Mycenaean graves from more than half a millennium later, attests that in these cultures, too, this sign was associated with a symbolism of death to be followed by rebirth.

Some of the wigs on the human-shaped clay coffins from Philistine-occupied Beth-Shean bear lotus flowers, and the sarcophagus of king Ahiram from the Phoenician city of Byblos, dated to about the time of Solomon, displays a ceremonial scene common in Phoenician art which shows him holding a lotus flower as a sign of his rebirth and apotheosis.

The Classical Greeks were equally fond of the eight-leaved rosette motif. One particularly revealing stone sculpture at the former site of the Eleusinian mystery cult shows an initiate emerging from the center of a giant eight-petaled flower bud that is marked all over with eight-leaf rosettes. The context leaves here no doubt that this sculpture illustrated the spiritual rebirth which the initiate to those mysteries was said to achieve7.

In the sun cults of ancient Northern Europe, a wheel with eight spokes represented the sun and its regenerative powers but appeared also as a symbol of death and destruction.

Similarly, the symbolic meaning of the Near Eastern rosette included death, as on a fragment from the throne of pharaoh Thutmosis IV where that sign marks an enemy crushed by the king’s foot.

On Greek vase paintings of battles, or of Theseus killing the Minotaur, an eight-leaf rosette often conveyed that the combat ended in death. For instance, a vase painting from about 660 BCE shows a clash between the warriors on two ships. Where their spears meet over the opposing bows, the ancient painter placed the eight-leaf rosette the way a modern comic book artist would put there a graphically enhanced “Zap” or “Pow”.

In Minotaur-slaying scenes, the rosette marks sometimes that monster to announce its upcoming death. At other times, it decorates Theseus and can be seen as a sign that he will return from his excursion into the labyrinth, a symbol of the underworld, and will thereby be regenerated.

In India, and in a few cases also in ancient Mesopotamia, an eight- leaf rosette adorned the memorial stelae of widow- burning victims who had been killed in their husbands’ funeral pyres.

In general, the contexts in which we find the eight-leaf rosette suggest that it represented the birth, death, and rebirth of the sun (and/or of the planet Venus), in many of the ancient Near Eastern religions which could have influenced the maker of the Disk.

This direction-reversing track on each side of the Disk resembles the paths on a group of gameboards for race games from India. These also begin with a counterclockwise tour around the border of their board and then make a U-turn to spiral clockwise to the center.

A geographical distance like that between India and Crete does not rule out the possibility of faraway connections through which people far from each other often shared common symbols or their expressions such as, for instance, this unique and characteristic game path of a counterclockwise outer turn followed by a clockwise spiral inward.

India was an active part of the same cultural complex that produced the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and their many common basic beliefs. The people of the Indus Valley, or Harappan, civilization shared a common cultural matrix with the Cretans and many other peoples of their time. That matrix included, for instance, bull cults and snake worship which are both attested in both India and Crete and in some of the areas between them.

In addition, both emphasized maritime trade since Crete is an island, and practically all the Harappan cities were built on the seashore or on navigable rivers. The ruins of Harappa and of Knossos also happened to reveal some of the most advanced sanitary plumbing systems of their time.

There can be no doubt about the existence of ancient trading contacts between Bronze Age Crete and Harappan India, however indirect these may have been through middlemen from Mari or elsewhere. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who excavated many of the principal Indus Valley sites, points out that two segmented faience beads, one from Knossos and the other from Harappa, did not only have the same shape but were also identical in composition, as shown by spectrographic analysis25.

Despite the miles and mountains that separated those civilizations, many of their beliefs spread also among them. For instance, Indian Vedic gods such as Mitra, Varuna, and Indra witnessed the oaths of kings in Hurrian Mitanni which is now in Syria. Also, most of the Hurrian words for horse craft were derived from Sanskrit, a major language of ancient India.

Moreover, in Ugarit on the Syrian coast, one of the words for “fire” was the name of Agni, the Indian Vedic god of fire who led to Latin “ignis” and so provided English speakers with “ignition” as well as the cozy “inglenook” by the fireplace.

As another example of such wide diffusion for certain ideas, the Classical Labyrinth design with seven circuits is first attested in the above doodle on the back of a book-keeping tablet from Pylos in Greece, dated to about 1200 BCE.

This labyrinth was also strongly associated with nearby Crete where it appeared in both round and square forms on coins from about the sixth century BCE on. However, that same intricate and unmistakable design is also reported from early southern India, among many other times and places.

Similarly, board games travel easily and spread widely, like most other number-related traditions, and they are often found distributed in almost identical form over large regions or in widely separated areas.

An excellent example is the ancient game of “Five Lines” which is still played in Crete and, of all other places, also in Northern India. A board for this game, shaped like a five-pointed star, was also found chiseled into the roofing slabs of a temple at Kurna in Egypt, completed during the 14th century BCE.

It takes therefore no stretch of the imagination to suspect  possible relationships between board games played in distant areas of the same cultural complex, particularly if these share an otherwise unusual trait such as that U-turn after the first counterclockwise go-around.

Graves 1 and 2 at Sunghir are described as “the most spectacular” among burials. The adult male was buried in what is called Grave 1 and the two adolescent children in Grave 2, placed head to head, together with an adult femur filled with red ochre.

The settlement area was found to have four burials: the remains of an older man and two adolescent children are particularly well-preserved, and the nature of the rich and extensive burial goods suggests they belonged to the same class. In addition, a skull and two fragments of human femur were also found at the settlement area, and two human skeletons outside the settlement area without cultural remains.

The three individuals buried at Sungir were all adorned with elaborate grave goods that included ivory-beaded jewelry, clothing, and spears. More than 13,000 beads were found (which would have taken 10,000 hours to produce). Red ochre, an important ritual material associated with burials at this time, covered the burials.

The children are considered a twin burial, thought to have ritual purpose, likely sacrifice. The findings of such complete skeletons are rare in late Stone Age, and indicate the high status of the male adult and related children. The children had the same MtDNA, which may indicate the same maternal lineage, but more would need to be known about other individuals in the settlement.

The site is one of the earliest examples of ritual burials and constitutes important evidence of the antiquity of human religious practices. The extraordinary collection of grave goods, the position of the bodies, and other factors all indicate it was a burial of high importance. Two other remains at the site are partial skeletons.

The remains are held by the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of RAS, Moscow. In 2004, the International Seminar, “Upper Paleolithic People from Sunghir, Russia,” was hosted by the Department of Archaeology, University of Durham, UK. It is the second of two major conferences about this site.

Two books have been published in Moscow about the findings. Upper Palaeolithic Site Sungir (graves and environment) (1998) was the first complete publication about the site, including an inventory of artifacts, reconstruction of the Paleolithic man’s clothes, archaic counting and calendar. The second part of the book displays the reconstruction of the environment by geological, palinological, zoological data.

The second book, Homo Sungirensis (2000) edited by T.I. Aexeeva et al., includes articles published since the first book, and new anthropological data derived from morphology, palaeopathology, X-ray study, histology, trace elements and molecular genetic analyses. It has an illustrated catalogue of all the skeletal materials.

Sungir – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Phaistos Disk Story

Rosettes of the Tree of Life around the Second Garden

Tree of Life in Crete and Cyprus

Rosettes of the Tree of Life in Crete and Cyprus

Tree of Life around the Second Garden

Rosettes of the Tree of Life around the Second Garden

Tree of Life around Lake Van and Mount Ararat

Rosettes of the Tree of Life around Lake Van and Mount Ararat

Tree of Life in Persia

Rosettes of the Tree of Life in Persia

Posted in Rarities, The Fertile Crescent | Leave a Comment »

A webside dedicated to Sumerian history, art and culture

Posted by Fredsvenn on December 21, 2013

A translation of Tablet #36 in the Library of Congress. The world’s first political satire, the first dark comedy and murder mystery. A literary masterpiece that was written by a Sumerian Shakespeare.

A webside dedicated to Sumerian history, art and culture


Posted in Mesopotamia, The Fertile Crescent | Leave a Comment »

War in the Fertile Crescent

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 13, 2013

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 was certainly at the heart of the plan of policy drawn up by one Oded Yinon in the 1980s. The ‘Yinon Plan’ strategized a vision by which the ethnic-tribal rivalries and the economic maladies within larger Arab states should be exploited to the extent of creating the conditions by which the balkanization of such states could be achieved.

Thus the plan elaborated on designs for specific countries such as Iraq which would ideally be divided into three mini-states: one Kurdish and the other two Arab of which one would be Sunni and the other Shia. For Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, the best case scenario was that of a Coptic Christian state and numerous other Muslim states.

Addressing the potentially fractious state of affairs in its north eastern neighbour, Yinon’s essay noted that “Syria is fundamentally no different from Lebanon except in the strong military regime which rules it”.

A continuum of this thinking is apparent in ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm’, a policy document produced by a team led by Richard Perle in 1996 for then serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Perle, it should be noted, was a contributor to Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

‘The Clean Break Report’ proposed that Israel give up on any objectives geared towards achieving a comprehensive peace with the Arab world and that it should instead work together with Turkey and Jordan to “contain, destabilize and roll-back” those states which pose as threats to all three.

”Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”

Just as with the PNAC document, the strategy behind Israeli policy was to effect the “weakening, controlling and even rolling back” of Syria. The threat posed to Israel by Syria thus has until recently been that of an ostensibly united state in possession of a substantive mass of territory and relatively large population under a strong form of leadership.

The report explained a new approach to solving Israel’s security problems in the Middle East with an emphasis on “Western values”. It has since been criticized for advocating an aggressive new policy including the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, and the containment of Syria by engaging in proxy warfare and highlighting their possession of “weapons of mass destruction”.

Brian Whitaker reported in a September 2002 article published in The Guardian that “With several of the Clean Break paper’s authors now holding key positions in Washington, the plan for Israel to transcend its foes by reshaping the Middle East looks a good deal more achievable today than it did in 1996. Americans may even be persuaded to give up their lives to achieve it.”

In March 2003 Patrick J. Buchanan, referring to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the report, wrote that “Their plan, which urged Israel to re-establish ‘the principle of preemption,’ has now been imposed by Perle, Feith, Wurmser & Co. on the United States.”

The roots of a Washington push for a new war on Iran can be found in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, the 1996 paper called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the 2000 Rebuilding America’s Defenses, and in a 2001 Pentagon memo described by Wesley Clark as listing these nations for attack: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

In 2010, Tony Blair included Iran on a similar list of countries that he said Dick Cheney had aimed to overthrow. The line among the powerful in Washington in 2003 was that Iraq would be a cakewalk but that real men go to Tehran.

The concerns here are those of dominating regions rich in resources, intimidating others, and establishing bases from which to maintain control of puppet governments.

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.

Posted in The Fertile Crescent | Leave a Comment »

The IE Homeland – In the Northern part of the Near East

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 7, 2013

The problem of the initial place from which the original Indo-European dialects spread over Eurasia has been studied by several generations of scholars. Few alternative points of view have been proposed: first an area near the North Sea (in the works of some scholars of the border of the 19th and 20th centuries), then the North coast of the Black Sea (an old idea of Schrader revived by Maria Gimbutas and her followers) or an area closer to the more eastern (Volga-Ural) parts of Central Eurasia.

40 years ago we suggested first in a talk at a conference, then in a series of articles and in a resulting book (published in Russian in 1984) that the Northern part of the Near East (an area close to North-East Syria and North Mesopotamia) may be considered as a possible candidate for the Indo-European homeland; similar suggestions were made by C. Renfrew and other scholars in their later works.

Recent research on these topics has brought up additional evidence that seems to prove the Near Eastern hypothesis for the time that had immediately preceded the dispersal of the Indo-European protolanguage.

Indirect evidence on the early presence of Indo-Europeans in the areas close to the Near East can be found in the traces of ancient contacts between linguistic families in this part of Eurasia. Such contacts between Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Kartvelian have been suggested in the work of T. Gamkrelidze and G. Mach’avariani more than 60 years ago.

The following studies have established a number of important loanwords from Proto-Indo-European in Proto-Kartvelian. Particularly interesting discoveries in this field were made by the late G. A. Klimov. He has found many new common elements of the two families in addition to a relatively long list in our joint work.

The main difficulty in interpreting the results of his investigations is connected to the problem of a possible common Nostratic origin both of Proto-Indo-European and of Proto-Kartvelian. If these two linguistic families were originally cognate, then some part of the correspondences found by Klimov and other scholars might be traced back to the early period of Proto-Nostratic (more than 10 000 years ago).

Only those words that were not inherited from this ancient time are important as a proof of the later presence of Proto-Indo-European in the area close to the Proto-Kartvelian (to the southwest of the Transcaucasian area in which the latter spread in the historic time).

In our book, published in 1984, we suggested some common terms shared by these languages, explaining them as possible traces of later Indo-European (probably Indo-Iranian) migrations through the Caucasus. The study of this problem has been enriched through the recent research on Proto-North Caucasian.

S. L. Nikolaev and S. A. Starostin have compiled a large etymological dictionary of this family, furthering the comparative studies started by Prince N. S. Trubetzkoy. Starostin has gathered a large collection of the terms of material culture common to North Caucasian and Indo-European. They include many names of domestic animals and animal body parts or products of cattle-breeding, plants and implements. In a special work on this subject Starostin suggested that all these terms were borrowed in the area of the Near East to the South of Transcaucasia in the early 5th mil. BC.

Although we still use the traditional term “North Caucasian”, it is not geographically correct even if applied to such living languages as Abkhaz and to the extinct Ubykh (spoken originally at the southern part of the South-West Transcaucasian area). Since both Hurro-Urartian and Hattic (two ancient dialects of this linguistic group) were spoken in the regions to the South of Transcaucasia already in the 3rd mil. BC, it becomes possible to pinpoint the homeland of the whole family (which at that time was not North Caucasian) in the same area close to the supposed Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Kartvelian homelands.

The fricative š in the Hurrian name for ‘horse’, eššə, and an affricate *č (> š) in the forms of the other North Caucasian dialects correspond to the Proto-Indo-European palatal stop *k’ that has become an affricate *č and then a fricative š /s in the Indo-European languages of the satəm type. Similar changes are present in the other borrowings discussed by Starostin. He supposed that the common words discovered by him were mostly borrowed from Proto-North Caucasian (or from a dialect of it) into Proto-Indo-European.

The opposite direction of borrowing from an Indo-European dialect of a satəm type can be suggested due to the typologically valid laws of sound change. But no matter which direction of the borrowing should be chosen, the existence of these loanwords is beyond doubt. They clearly point to the location of the Indo-European homeland.

In our monograph we suggested that several words shared by Semitic and Indo-European (such as the ancient term for ‘wine’, Hittite wiyana­) can be considered Proto-Indo-European borrowings (as distinct from the rest of the most ancient old Semitic or Afro-Asiatic loanwords in Proto-Indo-European).

S. A. Starostin suggested that a large number of (mainly West) Semitic words that did not have correspondences in the other Afro-Asiatic languages had been borrowed from Proto-Indo-European. He came to the conclusion: “the original Indo-European (Indo-Hittite) homeland was somewhere to the North of the Fertile Crescent from where the descendents of Indo-Hittites could have moved in two directions (starting with early 5th millennium BC) to the South where they came into the contact with the Semites, and indeed could have driven a part of them further to the South, and to the North (North-East) whence they ultimately spread both to Europe and to India”.

The interference of the early dialects of Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Semitic and Proto-Kartvelian to which the early Proto-“North” Caucasian can be added might have led to the formation of a sort of linguistic zone (Sprachbund) that not only shared many words pertaining to a new farming economy, but also had several phonological and grammatical features in common.

After we had published our hypothesis on the Near Eastern homeland of the Indo-Europeans, several scholars asked us why, at a time when writing had already been invented, there were no written documents testifying to the presence of Indo-Europeans in these areas. It seems that now there are several possible answers to the question.

The great specialist on Iranian, W. B. Henning, who had worked for many years on the problem of the name of Tocharians, suggested in a posthumous article that their early ancestors were Gutians who had invaded Mesopotamia in ca. 2350—2200 BC. In an article written after we had already published our book, we have developed Henning’s idea (based mainly on the etymological links of Near Eastern Guti and Tukri and Central Asian names of corresponding Indo-European Kuchean and Tocharian ethnic groups), also paying attention to the possible explanation of some names of Gutian kings preserved in Sumerian texts.

Recently it has been suggested that an unknown “Pre-Sumerian” language, reconstructed on the basis of the phonetic values of many cuneiform signs, was an archaic “Euphratic” Indo-European dialect spoken in Southern Mesopotamia in the second half of the 4th mil. BC. According to this hypothesis, the phonetic values of approximately one hundred of the early signs that are different from the Sumerian ones go back to the Euphratic words.

A large number of Anatolian personal names (of a very archaic Indo-European type) have been found in the Old Assyrian texts from trade colonies in Asia Minor. The continuation of the excavations in Kanish that have yielded more than 23000 cuneiform tablets has made it possible to discover in them many Anatolian Indo-European names and loanwords.

The Old Assyrian documents in Kanish are encountered in the archaeological levels II and Ib dated by the first centuries of the 2nd mil. BC (on the base of the recently found lists of eponyms); they precede Old Hittite texts for ca. 250 years. At that time the two Anatolian groups of dialects — a Northern (Hittite) one, displaying centum dialect features, and a Southern (Luwian), partly similar to the satəm languages — were already quite distinct.

From the very beginning, the idea of the Indo-European homeland in the Near East was connected to the discovery of a possible link between the appearance of speakers of Indo-European dialects in Europe and the spread of the new farming technology. This trend of thought has been developed in the archeological works of Sir Colin Renfrew. Subsequent attempts to support this hypothetical connection were made by comparing genetic data on the time and space characteristics of the European population.

The farming terms common to Indo-European and other linguistic families discussed above show that the innovations were not restricted to one group of languages and were transmitted and exchanged between different ethnic formations.

The area of the interference of these families coincides with the kernel of the rising farming in the Near East. That process of global (multilingual and multicultural) change had led to the diffusion of the results of the Neolithic revolution. The main directions of this diffusion coincide with the trends of the Indo-European migrations, but the new objects might have been introduced earlier than some of their Indo-European names and the latter might precede the coming of those who coined the terms.

The spread of Near Eastern innovations in Europe roughly coincides with the split of Proto-Indo-European (possibly in the early 5th mil. BC), but some elements of the new technology and economy might have penetrated it much earlier (partly through the farmers close to the Tyrrhenian population as represented 5300 years ago by the genome of the Tyrolean Iceman).

The diffusion took several thousand years and was probably already all over Europe ca. 3550 BC. At that time Indo-European migrations were only beginning. The speakers of the dialects of Proto-Indo-European living near the kernel of the technological revolution in Anatolia should have acquired the main results of this development.

The growth of farming economy in Europe became more active with the split of the proto-language and the dispersal of the Indo-Europeans. The astonishing scope and speed of that process were afforded by the use of the domesticated horse and wheeled vehicles. The Indo-Europeans did not have to be pioneers in this field, but they were probably skillful in spreading other peoples’ innovations.

Recent work on the Botai culture of North Kazakhstan makes it possible to suppose a contribution of the Proto-Yeniseian people to the development of horse domestication. For approximately fifteen hundred years serious preparatory work on horse domestication and the use of wheeled vehicles had been going on in different parts of Eurasia. Then, almost suddenly, the results are witnessed.

On the border of the 3rd and 2nd mil. BC both of these important innovations appear together, usually in a context implying the presence of Indo-Europeans: traces of Near East-type chariots and the ritual use of the horse are clear in (probably Ancient Iranian) Margiana (Gonur), we see chariots on the Anatolian type of seals in Kanish; Hurrian sculptures and other symbols of horse abound in Urkeš as if foretelling the future Mespotamian-Aryan and Hurrian excellent training of horses in Mitanni (as later in Urartu).

One of the first examples of the sacrificial horses used together with chariots in an archaic ritual was found in Sintashta; the following studies of the cities of the Transuralian Sintashta-Arkaim area made it clear that some Indo-European (and maybe Iranian as well) elements were at least partly present there.

The movement of Indo-Europeans to the north of the Caspian Sea in the northeast direction documented in the Sintashta-Arkaim complex led them much farther to the Altai-Sayany area where recent genetic investigations found traces of a Caucasoid element.

Another Indo-European group moving in a parallel eastward direction using the South Silk Road caused the presence of a similar anthropological group among the population of Central Asia. It may be supposed that the Caucasoid anthropological type of the Iranian and/or Tocharian population of Eastern Turkestan, attested in the mummies recently found there as well as in the contemporary images of the native people, should be considered as the result of these migrations from the West to the East.

The problem whether the boats played a role comparable to that of chariots at the time of early migrations is still to be decided by maritime archaeology. It seems that before the efficient use of chariots and horses, long-term mass movements were hardly possible.

The first changes in the geographical position of separate dialects, e.g. when the Anatolians separated the Greeks from the rest of the East Indo-European group (that included the Armenians and Indo-Iranians), were caused by rather small-scale migrations close to the original homeland in the Near East.

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Haplogroup T – An ancient Near East haplogroup

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 4, 2013

Haplogroup T originated at least 30,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest haplogroups found in Eurasia, which may explain its vast dispersal around Africa and South Asia. It also makes its place of origin uncertain. T is descended from haplogroup K, the ancestor of most of the Eurasian haplogroups (L, N, O, P, Q, R and T), and whose origins are thought to lie in the Middle ast or in Central Asia.

Haplogroup T-M184 (M193, M272, L206, PAGES129) is found in an insignificant majority of Kurru, Bauris & Lodha in South Asia; and in a significant minority of Rajus and Mahli in South Asia; Somalis, southern Egyptians and Fulbe in north Cameroon; Chian Greeks, Saccensi/Sicilians, Eivissencs / Ibizans and Northeastern Portuguese Jews in Europe and Zoroastrians, Bakhtiaris/Lurs in the Middle East. Its highest density is actually found among the Fulani people of Cameroon (18% of the population).

The maximal worldwide frequency for haplogroup T is observed in East Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania). It is common in northern Somalia and in the Somalis of Ethiopia. It is found in frequency of greater than 10 percent in populations of Kenya Tanzania and Cameroon.

Although haplogroup T is more common today in East Africa than anywhere else, it almost certainly spread from the Fertile Crescent with the rise of agriculture. Indeed, the oldest subclades and the greatest diversity of T is found in the Middle East, especially around the Fertile Crescent. The higher frequency of T in East Africa would be due to a founder effect among Neolithic farmers from the Middle East.

In the Middle East, especially the South Caucasus, southern Iraq, south-west Iran, Oman and southern Egypt, it accounts for approximately 5 to 15% of the male lineages. During the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age haplogroup T would have been an important (though probably not dominant) lineage among ancient peoples such as Sumerians and the Elamites.

Haplogroup T is common in northern Somalia and in the Somalis of Ethiopia. It is found in frequency of greater than 10 percent in populations of Kenya Tanzania and Cameroon. It is notable for being widespread in Tanzania where it is more common than Kenya . It has also been detected in the limba populations of Zimbabwe Malawi and South Africa. The distribution of this haplogroup has been suggested to be associated with mtdna haplogroup M1 as the two tend to be common in the same regions.

It is notable for being widespread in Tanzania where it is more common than Kenya. It has also been detected in the limba populations of Zimbabwe Malawi and South Africa. The distribution of this haplogroup has been suggested to be associated with mtdna haplogroup M1 as the two tend to be common in the same regions.

Haplogroup T-M184 is not associated with the R1, G and J lineages that entered Africa from Eurasia relatively recently. Luis et al. (2004) suggest that the presence of the clade on the African continent may, like R1* representatives, point to an older introduction from Asia. The Levant rather than the Arabian Peninsula appears to have been the main route of entry, as the Egyptian and Turkish haplotypes are considerably older in age (13,700 ybp and 9,000 ybp, respectively) than those found in Oman (only 1,600 ybp).

According to the authors, the spotty modern distribution pattern of haplogroup T-M184 within Africa may therefore represent the traces of a more widespread early local presence of the clade. Later expansions of populations carrying the E1b1b, E1b1a, G and J NRY lineages may have overwhelmed the T-M184 clade-bearers in certain localities.

Possible patterns between Y-chromosome and elite endurance runners were studied in an attempt to find a genetic explanation to the Ethiopian endurance running success. Given the superiority of East African athletes in international distance running over the past four decades, it has been speculated that they are genetically advantaged. Elite marathon runners from Ethiopia were analysed for K*(xP) which according to the previously published Ethiopian studies is attributable to the haplogroup T and specifically to the T1a1a* (old T1a*) subclade, according to further studies.

T1a1a* was found to be proportionately more frequent in the elite marathon runners sample than in the control samples than any other haplogroup, therefore this y-chromosome could play a significant role in determining Ethiopian endurance running success.

Haplogroup T1a1a* was found in 14% of the elite marathon runners sample of whom 43% of this sample are from Arsi province. In addition, haplogroup T1a1a* was found in only 4% of the Ethiopian control sample and only 1% of the Arsi province control sample. T1a1a* is positively associated with aspects of endurance running, whereas E1b1b1 (old E3b1) is negatively associated.

Family Tree DNA, a commercial genetic genealogy company, has displayed a map that shows a relatively high frequency of haplogroup T-M184 in some Australian aborigines. Probably the populations coincide with those previously reported in several studies as K*(M9), with a frequency near to 30% in Northern Australia. According to Family Tree DNA, the defining SNP for haplogroup T-M184 is M184, while M70 defines T1.

Finally, the moderately high frequency (∼18%) of T1b* chromosomes in the Lembas, theorized to have a Jewish origin on the basis of its possessing the 6-marker Cohen Modal Haplotype within haplogroup J, of southern Africa supports the hypothesis of a Near Eastern, but not necessarily a Jewish, origin for their paternal line.

The distribution of haplogroup T-M184 in most parts of Europe is patchy or regionalized; for example, haplogroup T-M184 was found in 1.7% (10/591) of a pool of six samples of males from southwestern Russia, but it was completely absent from a pool of eight samples totalling 637 individuals from the northern half of European Russia.

These subclades probably represent one of the Neolithic migration from the Fertile Crescent to Southeast Europe. They would then have spread around central and Eastern Europe, as far north as the eastern Baltic.

Haplogroup T is a fairly rare lineage in Europe. It makes up only 1% of the population on most of the continent, except in Greece, Macedonia and Italy where it exceeds 4%, and in Iberia where it reaches 2.5%, peaking at 10% in Cadiz and over 15% in Ibiza.

The occurrence in Europe of lineages belonging to both T1a1 (old T1a) and T1a2 (old T1b) subclades probably reflects multiple episodes of gene flow. T1a1* haplogroups in Europe likely reflect older gene flow.

While almost all subclades of T are found in the Middle East, most Europeans outside the Mediterranean belong to the subclades T1a2 (L131) and T1a1a1a (P77), who are also found in Anatolia.

T1a2 has been found as far east as the Volga-Ural region of Russia and Xinjiang in north-west China. This branch probably penetrated into the Pontic-Caspian Steppe during the Neolithic (perhaps alongside G2a3b1 and J2b2) and became integrated to the indigenous R1a peoples before their expansion to Central Asia during the Bronze Age.

Autosomal DNA tests have also identified unusually high percentages of Southwest Asian admixtures among the Finns (1 to 2.5%) and Lithuanians (1.5%), who otherwise lack West Asian or Caucasian admixture and possess hardly any Middle Eastern Y-DNA. This Southwest Asian admixture could be the trace of T lineages absorbed during the Neolithic.

Haplogroup T has been found at a relatively high frequency among the Tatars (5%) and Maris (2%) of the Volga-Ural region as well as in north-west Russia (3%) and Estonia (3.5%) suggesting that it may have been one of the principal lineages bringing the Neolithic to Uralic-speaking population.

The modern distribution T in Europe strongly correlates with a the Neolithic colonisation of Mediterranean Europe by Near-Eastern farmers, notably the Cardium Pottery culture (5000-1500 BCE).

The higher than average frequencies of haplogroup T in places like Cyprus, Sicily, Tunisia, Ibiza, Andalusia and the northern tip of Morocco suggest that haplogroup T could have been dispersed around the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians (1200-800 BCE), and that ancient Phoenicia seemingly had a higher incidence of T than Lebanon does today (5%).

Besides these regions and Europe, T is found in isolated pockets as far as Central Asia, India, Cameroon, Zambia and South Africa.

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Late Bronze Age Collapse

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 2, 2013

Archaeologists have long debated what caused the Late Bronze Age (LBA) world of the Eastern Mediterranean, a rich network of Aegean, Egyptian, Syro-Palestinian and Hittite civilizations to collapse about 1300 BC. Many scholars have cited warfare, political unrest and natural disaster as factors. But a new study supports the theory that climate change was largely responsible.

Pollen grains from Cyprus provided the clue that a huge drought hit the region about 3,200 years ago. Inscriptions and clay tablets have described crop failures, famines and war all occurring  during the same timeframe, suggesting that the drought triggered a chain of events that led to widespread societal collapse of these Late Bronze Age civilizations with population migrations and wars leading to new societies and new ideologies.

Egyptian bas-reliefs along with hieroglyphic and cuneiform texts portray the cause of the collapse as the invasions of the “Peoples-of-the-Sea” at the Nile Delta, the Turkish coast, and in the rich heartlands of Syria and Palestine there is a time when great armies clashed, famine-ravaged cities were abandoned, and the countryside itself became depopulated.

Despite abundant literature devoted to these Sea Peoples, we still do not know exactly who they were, where they came from, why they attacked and where they disappeared to after the raids. Some scholars are even uncertain whether the Sea People’s existence was a cause or an effect of the decline of the LBA.

The new palaeoclimate data from Cyprus for the Late Bronze Age crisis, alongside a radiocarbon-based chronology integrating both archaeological and palaeoclimate proxies, reveals the true extent and potential effects of abrupt climate change-driven famine and a definitive causal linkage with the Sea People invasions in Cyprus and Syria.  Between 1206 and 1150 BCE almost every large city between Pylos in Greece and Gaza at the southern limit of the Levant was abandoned.

The researchers drilled a core about 27 feet long from the bed of the Larnaca Salt Lake on the island of Cyprus which is acknowledged as a major centre of ancient eastern Mediterranean trade and then used radiocarbon dating to determine the age of each sediment layer.

Then they examined the pollen grains preserved within the core and were able to identify the tree species each grain came from, producing a time line of the vegetation in the region.

They found that lush woodlands gave way to arid grasslands about 3,200 years ago, marking one of “the driest [periods] of the last 5,000 years in the eastern Mediterranean region,” said Joel Guiot, a palaeoclimatologist at Aix-Marseille University in France and a study co-author.

Analysis of marine fossils in the core revealed that the site was once a bustling harbour that had dried into a landlocked salt lake, disrupting trade and farming.

Their findings closely match archaeological evidence of the collapse of civilizations in the region. The last trace of Late Bronze Age artefacts dates to the same time as the climate shift, while hieroglyphs and cuneiform texts describe famines and waves of mysterious “sea people” raiding Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Palestine’s shores about the same time. Archaeologists are now able to suggest these people were probably eastern Mediterraneans fleeing inhospitable homelands, seeking new areas to settle in mass migrations.

The LBA crisis, associated with a wave of destructions led by a flow of migrants, the Sea Peoples, and this is clearly attested in Cyprus with the end of the Late Cypriot IIC period, and the Late Cypriot IIC-IIIA transition dated to 1220–1190 cal yr BCE.  Late Cypriot IIC ceramics, imported from Cyprus, were also found at the site of Gibala-Tell Tweini, situated within the coastal plain of Jebleh within short distance of two other main archaeological sites: Tell Sukas (5 km) and Tell Siyannu (6 km), in northwest Syria, in the destruction layer dated from the end of the LBA.

Tell Tweini was inhabited from at least the end of the third millennium BCE until the Persian period. The town may have been ancient Gibala, a city mentioned in a treaty found at Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra) from the 13th century BCE. At the end of the Late Bronze Age Gibala formed the southern border of the Ugaritic kingdom.

The transition between the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age remains as at most northern Levantine site’s problematic, but preliminary results from the end of the 2007 campaign show the city was inhabited during the 11th-10th century BCE. During the Iron Age itself, the city was completely urbanised. A geophysical prospection conducted on the complete surface of the tell proofs this and made it possible to detect the ancient street system of the Iron Age city.

By the Perisian era the city lost its importance and the habitation was relocated near the modern harbour of Jebleh at the Mediterranean sea coast. Later, during the Byzantine domination of the region some isolated structures were installed on the surface of the tell.

Tell Tweini is being investigated since 1999 by a Syro-Belgian interdisciplinary team led by Michel al-Maqdissi and Joachim Bretschneider. Since excavations started in 1999 major descoveries include a Phoenician sanctuary, a large communal tomb from the end of the Middle Bronze Age containing 58 human remains, a large city wall, several domestic and public structures from the Iron Age I-II and multiple small finds. The coming years research on the tell will be continued.

Tell Tweini was a thriving trade centre located on the coast of the ancient Ugarit kingdom, where large-scale excavations over the past 13 years have unearthed a well-preserved destruction layer coeval with the end of the Bronze Age world. A stratified radiocarbon-based archaeology  has given the first chronology for the Sea People raids with a mean radiocarbon age of 2962±14 C yr BP, calibrated to 1 σ at 1215–1190 cal yr BCE.

Tell Sukas, about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) south of Jableh, Syria, was located at the center of the fertile plain of Jableh on a hill with access to two natural harbors. There is evidence of an earlier Neolithic settlement at the site dating back to the seventh or sixth millennium BC. The site was identified as ancient Suksi, which was mentioned in the Ugarit tablets and was probably the southernmost port of the Kingdom of Ugarit. The Bronze Age settlement was probably destroyed along with the capital, Ugarit, during the Bronze Age collapse.

The site was reused shortly thereafter and commercial activity at the Iron Age settlement can be traced again to at least the tenth century BC. A Phoenician settlement was established in the eighth century BC and the town thrived as a Greek trading outpost between c. 850 BC and c. 550 BC, when it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Recent excavations reveal that the site was inhabited again by the Phoenicians between 380 and 69 BC until it was destroyed again, possibly by an earthquake. It was later re-occupied for a short period by the Crusaders.

The site was excavated in 1958–1963 by the Danish Carlsberg Expedition to Phoenicia under P.J. Riis. Excavations uncovered an early Iron Age cemetery south of the tell which was dated to between the 13th and 10th century BC. Excavations also uncovered a large seventh-century Phoenician temple. The abundance of Greek pottery and the discovery of Greek burial grounds suggest that the city became a permanent Hellenic outpost by 600 BC.

By combining environmental and archaeological data, the study marks a serious investigation into the root cause of the LBA collapse in the Eastern Mediterranean – and without a doubt, climate change and the subsequent drought and three hundred years of reduced rainfall is that cause.

Guiot concludes, “We tend to focus on political, human-driven problems, but there isn’t a human driver for the destruction that matches what happened 3,000 years ago.”

The study serves as a reminder for current generations to address climate change, especially in the Mediterranean, he said.

Tell Tweini

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The Indo-Aryans of Maharashtra (Marathi)

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 31, 2013

File:Shengavit Foundations.JPG


The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end, but it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC.

The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread to Georgia by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), and during the next millennium it proceeded westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van, and finally down to the borders of present day Syria. Altogether, the early Trans-Caucasian culture, at its greatest spread, enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km.

The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Its territory corresponds to parts of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ingushetia and North Ossetia.

The culture is closely linked to the approximately contemporaneous Maykop culture of Transcaucasia. As Amjad Jaimoukha puts it: The Kura-Araxes culture was contiguous, and had mutual influences, with the Maikop culture in the Northwest Caucasus. According to E.I.Krupnov (1969:77), there were elements of the Maikop culture in the early memorials of Chechnya and Ingushetia in the Meken and Bamut kurgans and in Lugovoe in Serzhen-Yurt.

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

Archaeological evidence of inhabitants of the Kura–Araxes culture had shown that ancient settlements were found along the Hrazdan river, a major river of Armenia starting at the northwest extremity of Lake Sevan and flows south through the Province of Kotayk and Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, as shown by drawings at a mountainous area in a cave nearby.

Structures within settlements have not revealed much differentiation, nor was there much difference in size or character between settlements, facts that suggest they probably had a poorly developed social hierarchy for at least a significant stretch of their history. Some, but not all, settlements were surrounded by stone walls.

They built mud-brick houses, originally round, but later developing into subrectangular designs with structures of just one or two rooms, multiple rooms centered around an open space, or rectilinear designs.

At some point the culture’s settlements and burial grounds expanded out of lowland river valleys and into highland areas. Although some scholars have suggested that this expansion demonstrates a switch from agriculture to pastoralism, and that it serves as possible proof of a large-scale arrival of Indo-Europeans, facts such as that settlement in the lowlands remained more or less continuous suggest merely that the people of this culture were diversifying their economy to encompass both crop and livestock agriculture.

The economy was based on farming and livestock-raising (especially of cattle and sheep). They grew grain and various orchard crops, and are known to have used implements to make flour. They raised cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and in its later phases, horses (introduced around 3000 BCE, probably by Indo-European speaking tribes from the North). They are also remarkable for the production of wheeled vehicles (wagons and carts), which were sometimes included in burial kurgans.

In its earliest phase, metal was scant, but it would later display “a precocious metallurgical development which strongly influenced surrounding regions”. They worked copper, arsenic, silver, gold, tin, and bronze. Their metal goods were widely distributed, recorded in the Volga, Dnieper and Don-Donets systems in the north, into Syria and Palestine in the south, and west into Anatolia.

Their pottery was distinctive; in fact, the spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs for ornamentation. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya. The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes, and most certainly, had extensive trade contacts.

There is evidence of trade with Mesopotamia, as well as Asia Minor. It is, however, considered above all to be indigenous to the Caucasus, and its major variants characterized (according to Caucasus historian Amjad Jaimoukha) later major cultures in the region. It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

Archaeologists have attested a striking parallel in the spread to Syria of a distinct pottery type associated with what they call the Kura-Araxes culture. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians, but it might as well be Armenian, if there is any differences between these two languages at all.

In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom, corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili) 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.

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.[3] 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 identified with an Aleppo, earlier known as Armi.

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

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

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

Hurrian and Urartian elements are quite probable, as are Northeast Caucasian ones. Some authors subsume Hurrians and Urartians under Northeast Caucasian as well as part of the Alarodian theory. The presence of Kartvelian languages was also highly probable. Influences of Semitic languages and Indo-European languages are also highly possible, though the presence of the languages on the lands of the Kura–Araxes culture is more controversial.

In the Armenian hypothesis of Indo-European origins, this culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages, but it may rather maybe be identified with the speakers of the armenian language.

Mitanni (Mi-ta-an-ni, also Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni) was referred to as the Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni by the Egyptians, the Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri) by the Hittites, and the Hanigalbat (Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) by the Assyrians seem to have referred to the same kingdom and were used interchangeably, according to Michael C. Astour.

Hittite annals mention a people called Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri), located in northeastern Syria. A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurri”, or “Hurrians”. The Assyro-Akkadian version of the text renders “Hurri” as Hanigalbat. Tushratta, who styles himself “king of Mitanni” in his Akkadian Amarna letters, refers to his kingdom as Hanigalbat. Egyptian sources call Mitanni “nhrn”, which is usually pronounced as Naharin/Naharina from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim.

The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni (ca. 1500–1300 BC.) is difficult to ascertain. A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.

Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni are considered to form (part of) an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion. Pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) mention the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”.

The names of the Mitanni aristocracy frequently are of Indo-Aryan origin. In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni (between Suppiluliuma and Shattiwaza, ca. 1380 BC), the deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya (Ashvins) are invoked. Kikkuli’s horse training text (circa 1400 BC) includes technical terms such as aika (Vedic Sanskrit eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pañca, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, round).

The numeral aika “one” is of particular importance because it places the superstrate in the vicinity of Indo-Aryan proper (Vedic Sanskrit eka, with regular contraction of /ai/ to [eː]) as opposed to Indo-Iranian or early Iranian (which has *aiva; compare Vedic eva “only”) in general.

Another text has babru(-nnu) (babhru, brown), parita(-nnu) (palita, grey), and pinkara(-nnu) (pingala, red). Their chief festival was the celebration of the solstice (vishuva) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world.

Sanskritic interpretations of Mitanni names render Artashumara (artaššumara) as Arta-smara “who thinks of Arta/Ṛta” (Mayrhofer II 780), Biridashva (biridašṷa, biriiašṷa) as Prītāśva “whose horse is dear” (Mayrhofer II 182), Priyamazda (priiamazda) as Priyamedha “whose wisdom is dear” (Mayrhofer II 189, II378), Citrarata as citraratha “whose chariot is shining” (Mayrhofer I 553), Indaruda/Endaruta as Indrota “helped by Indra” (Mayrhofer I 134), Shativaza (šattiṷaza) as Sātivāja “winning the race price” (Mayrhofer II 540, 696), Šubandhu as Subandhu ‘having good relatives” (a name in Palestine, Mayrhofer II 209, 735), Tushratta (tṷišeratta, tušratta, etc.) as *tṷaišaratha, Vedic Tveṣaratha “whose chariot is vehement” (Mayrhofer I 686, I 736).

The common people’s language, the Hurrian language, is neither Indo-European nor Semitic. Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. It had been held that nothing more can be deduced from current evidence. A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.

Founded by an Indo-Aryan ruling class governing a predominately Hurrian population, Mitanni, in northern Syria and south-east Anatolia, came to be a regional power after the Hittite destruction of Amorite Babylon and a series of ineffectual Assyrian kings created a power vacuum in Mesopotamia.

At the beginning of its history, Mitanni’s major rival was Egypt under the Thutmosids. However, with the ascent of the Hittite empire, Mitanni and Egypt made an alliance to protect their mutual interests from the threat of Hittite domination.

At the height of its power, during the 14th century BC, Mitanni had outposts centered around its capital, Washukanni, whose location has been determined by archaeologists to be on the headwaters of the Khabur River. Their sphere of influence is shown in Hurrian place names, personal names and the spread through Syria and the Levant of a distinct pottery type. Eventually, Mitanni succumbed to Hittite and later Assyrian attacks, and was reduced to the status of a province of the Middle Assyrian Empire.

Within a few centuries of the fall of Washshukanni to Assyria, Mitanni became fully Assyrianized and linguistically Aramaized, and use of the Hurrian language began to be discouraged throughout the Neo-Assyrian Empire. However, Urartean, a dialect closely related to Hurrian seems to have survived in the new state of Urartu, in the mountainous areas to the north. In the 10th to 9th century BC inscriptions of Adad-nirari II and Shalmaneser III, Hanigalbat is still used as a geographical term.

The Mitanni warriors were called marya (Hurrian: maria-nnu), the term for (young) warrior in Sanskrit as well; note mišta-nnu (= miẓḍha,~ Sanskrit mīḍha) “payment (for catching a fugitive)” (Mayrhofer II 358).

Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which dominated many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi.

Robert Drews writes that the name ‘maryannu’ although plural takes the singular ‘marya’, which in Sanskrit means young warrior, and attaches a Hurrian suffix. He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age most would have spoken either Hurrian or Aryan but by the end of the 14th century most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.

Marhaši (Mar-ḫa-ši, Marhashi, Marhasi, Parhasi, Barhasi; in earlier sources Waraḫše) was a 3rd millennium BC polity situated east of Elam, on the Iranian plateau. It is known from Mesopotamian sources, and its precise location has not been identified.

An inscription attributed to Lugal-Anne-Mundu of Adab (albeit in much later copies) mentions it among the seven provinces of his empire, between the names of Elam and Gutium. This inscription also recorded that he confronted their governor (ensi), Migir-Enlil of Marhashi, who had led a coalition of 13 rebel chiefs against him.

The Awan kings of Elam were in conflict with a Sumerian ruler’s attempt to seize the market at Warakshe, a kingdom apparently near Elam on the Iranian plateau, rich in luxury products of all types, especially precious stones.

During the Akkadian Empire, Warakshe was conquered by Sargon the Great, and king Abalgamash of Warakshe and his general Sidgau, along with Luh-ishan of Awan, rebelled unsuccessfully against Rimush, while Hishep-ratep of Awan in alliance with Warakshe was defeated by Naram-Sin.

King Shulgi of the Ur-III dynasty gave his daughter Nialimmidashu in marriage to king Libanukshabash of Marhashi in his 18th year, in an attempt to forge an alliance, but this proved short-lived, for Shulgi’s successor Amar-Sin records having to campaign against their new king, Arwilukpi.

Hammurabi of Babylonia’s 30th year name was “Year Hammurabi the king, the mighty, the beloved of Marduk, drove away with the supreme power of the great gods the army of Elam who had gathered from the border of Marhashi, Subartu, Gutium, Tupliash (Eshnunna) and Malgium who had come up in multitudes, and having defeated them in one campaign, he (Hammurabi) secured the foundations of Sumer and Akkad.”

Maharashtra (Marathi) is a state in the western region of India. It is the second most populous state after Uttar Pradesh and third largest state by area in India. Maharashtra is the wealthiest state in India, contributing 15% of the country’s industrial output and 13.3% of its GDP (2006–2007 figures). Maharashtra is the world’s second most populous first-level administrative country sub-division. Were it a nation in its own right, Maharashtra would be the world’s twelfth most populous country ahead of Philippines.

Maharashtra is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west, Gujarat and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to the northwest, Madhya Pradesh to the north and northeast, Chhattisgarh to the east, Karnataka to the south, Andhra Pradesh to the southeast and Goa to the southwest. The state covers an area of 307,731 km2 (118,816 sq mi) or 9.84% of the total geographical area of India. Mumbai, the capital city of the state, is India’s largest city and the financial capital of the nation. Nagpur is the second (Winter) capital of the state.

The Maratha (archaically transliterated as Marhatta or Mahratta) are an Indian warrior caste, found predominantly in the state of Maharashtra. The term Marāthā has two related usages: within the Marathi-speaking region it describes the dominant Maratha caste which is credited for establishing Hindu rule by ending the Mughal rule; historically, the term describes the Maratha Empire founded by Shivaji in the seventeenth century and continued by his successors.

Robert Vane Russell, an untrained ethnologist of the British Raj period, basing his research largely on Vedic literature, that Marathas belong to one of the 96 different clans, known as the 96 Kuli Marathas or Chhānnava Kule. The organisation of this clan system is disputed in the popular culture and by historians. An authoritative listing was attempted in 1889, but the general body of lists are often at great variance with each other.

The Marathas primarily reside in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Goa. Those in Goa and neighbouring Karwar are known specifically as Konkan Marathas as an affiliation to their regional and linguistic alignment.

The generally accepted theory among the scholars is that the words Maratha and Maharashtra ultimately derive from a compound of Maha (Sanskrit for “great”) and rashtrika. The word rashtrika is a Sanskritized form of Ratta, the name of a tribe or a dynasty of petty chiefs ruling in the Deccan region. Another theory is that the term is derived from Maha (“great”) and rathi or ratha (charioteer). An alternative theory states that the term derives from the words Maha (“Great”) and Rashtra (“nation/dominion”).

Marathi, an Indo-Aryan language, is the state’s official language. The modern Marathi language developed from the Prakrit known as Maharashtri. The words Maratha and Marathi may be a derivative of the Prakrit Marhatta found in Jain Maharashtri literature.

Maharastri or Maharastri Prakrit, is a language of ancient and medieval India which is the ancestor of Marathi, Konkani, Sinhala and the Divehi as well. It is one of the many languages (often called dialects) of a complex called Prakrit, and the chief Dramatic Prakrit. Maharashtri was spoken for 1000 years (500 BC to 500 AD). It was used in numerous works of literature, and its literary use was made famous by the Sanskrit playwright Kālidāsa.

Maharashtri Prakrit was commonly spoken until AD 875 and was the official language of the Sātavāhana empire. Works like Karpurmanjari and Saptashati (150 BC) were written in it. Maharashtri Prakrit was the most widely used Prakrit language in western and southern India.

Maharashtri Apabhraṃśa remained in use for several hundred years until at least AD 500. Apabhraṃśa was used widely in Jain literature and formed an important link in the evolution of Marathi. This form of Apabhraṃśa was re-Sanskritised and eventually became Marathi.

The varna, the term for the four broad ranks into which traditional Hindu society is divided, of the Maratha is a contested issue, with arguments for their being of the Kshatriya (warrior) varna which is widely accepted, and others for their being of peasant origins.

This issue was the subject of antagonism between the Brahmins and Marathas, dating back to the time of Shivaji, but by the late 19th century moderate Brahmins were keen to ally with the influential Marathas of Bombay in the interests of Indian independence from Britain.

These Brahmins supported the Maratha claim to Kshatriya status, and the legend of Shivaji, but their success in this political alliance was sporadic, and fell apart entirely following independence in 1947.

Various Maratha families lay claim to the Kshatriya varna, and the various clans make dis-similar claims. Bhonsles claim their origin from Suryavanshi Sisodias, Jadhavs from Yaduvanshi Yadavas, Bhoites from Chandravanshi Bhatis, Chavans from Agnivanshi Chauhans, Salunkhes from Agnivansha Solankis etc.

The Marathas are Hindu warriors from the western Deccan (present day Maharashtra) that rose to prominence by establishing ‘Hindawi Swarajya’. The Marathas became prominent in the 17th century under the leadership of the Great Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhonsale who revolted against the Bijapur Sultanate and the Mughal Empire, and carved out an an independent kingdom with Raigad as his capital.

After a lifetime of guerrilla warfare with the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur and Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Shivaji formally established an independent Hindu Maratha kingdom when he crowned himself Chhatrapati in 1674 with Raigad as its capital. Shivaji died in 1680, leaving behind a large kingdom. Soon after Shivaji’s death, the Mughals invaded, fighting an unsuccessful War of 27 years from 1681 to 1707.

Known for their mobility, the Marathas consolidated their territory during the Deccan Wars (1680-1707), also called the Mughal–Maratha Wars or the War of 27 years, against the Mughals and, at their peak, controlled much of northern and central India.

Shahu, a grandson of Shivaji, was released by the Mughals after the death of Aurangzeb. Following a brief struggle with his aunt Tarabai, Shahu became ruler. During this period, he appointed Balaji Vishwanath Bhat and later his descendants as the Peshwas or the prime ministers of the Maratha Empire.

After the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the empire expanded greatly under the rule of the Peshwas. The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Pakistan) on the Afghanistan border in the north, and Bengal and Andaman Islands in east.

A large portion of the Maratha empire was coastline, which had been secured by a potent navy under commanders such as Kānhōjī Āngré. He was very successful at keeping foreign naval ships, particularly of the Portuguese and British, at bay. Securing the coastal areas and building land-based fortifications were crucial aspects of the Maratha’s defensive strategy and regional military history.

In 1761, the Maratha army lost the Third Battle of Panipat to Abdali’s Afghan Durrani Empire, which halted their imperial expansion. Ten years after Panipat, young Madhavrao Peshwa reinstated the Maratha authority over North India.

In a bid to effectively manage the large empire, he gave semi-autonomy to the strongest of the knights, which created a confederacy of Maratha states. They became known as Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, Bhonsales of Nagpur.

In 1775, the British East India Company intervened in a succession struggle in Pune, which became the First Anglo-Maratha War. Marathas remained the preeminent power in India until their defeat in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha wars (1805–1818), which left the British East India Company in control of most of India.

The British recognised Maratha as a martial race, a term created by Army officials of British India after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, against the rebel caste and pro British caste into one of two categories, ‘martial’ and ‘non-martial’, beginning early in the 20th century.

The ostensible reason was that a ‘martial race’ was typically pro British thus well-built for fighting, while the ‘non-martial races’ were those whom the British believed to be unfit for battle because of their patriotic natures.

Actually British-trained Indian soldiers were among those who rebelled in 1857 and thereafter recruitment policy favoured castes which had remained loyal to the British and diminished or abandoned recruitment from the catchment area of the Bengal army. The concept already had a precedent in Indian culture as one of the four orders (varnas) in the Vedic social system of Hinduism is known as the Kshatriya, literally “warriors.”

Earlier listings of martial races had often excluded them, with Lord Roberts, commander-in-chief of the Indian Army 1885-1893 stating the need to substitute “more warlike and hardy races for the Hindusthani sepoys of Bengal, the Tamils and Telugus of Madras and the so-called Marathas of Bombay.”

Sikata Banerje notes a dissonance in British military opinions of the Maratha, wherein the British portrayed them as both “formidable opponents” and yet not “properly qualified” for fighting, criticising the Maratha guerrilla techniques as an improper way of war.

Banerje cites a 1859 statement as emblematic of this disparity: “”[T]here is something noble in the carriage of an ordinary Rajput, and something vulgar in that of the most distinguished Mahratta. The Rajput is the most worthy antagonist, the Mahratta the most formidable enemy.”

The Maratha Light Infantry regiment of the Indian Army is one of the “oldest and most renowned” regiments of the Indian Army. Its First Battalion, also known as the Jangi Paltan (“Warrior Platoon”), traces its origins back to 1768 as part of the Bombay Sepoys. The battle cry of Maratha Light Infantry is Bol Shri Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai! (“Cry Victory to Emperor Shivaji!”) in tribute to the Maratha sovereign.

The history of the states and dynasties comprising the Maratha Empire constitutes a major portion of the history of late medieval India. Among its impacts, the Maratha empire:

  • The Marathas were the primary force responsible for weakening and eventually ending the moghal domination of India.
  • were among those who participated in the revival of the power of Hindus in north India after many centuries of Muslim rule. At this time they were seen as major supporters of the Hindu cause.
  • led to the dilution of the caste system as a large number of lower castes, Brahmins and other castes fought along with them.
  • encouraged the usage of Sanskrit and development of the Marathi language and was seminal to the consolidation of a distinct Maharashtrian identity.

The empire also resulted in the voluntary relocation of substantial numbers of Maratha and other Marathi-speaking people outside Maharashtra, and across a big part of India. Thus, there are today several small but significant communities descended from these emigrants living in the north, south and west of India.

These communities tend often to speak the languages of those areas, although many do also speak Marathi in addition. Notable Maratha families outside Maharashtra include Scindia of Gwalior, Gaekwad of Baroda, Ghorpade of Mudhol, and Bhonsle of Thanjavur.

Marathas have dominated the state politics of Maharashtra since its inception in 1960. Since then, Maharashtra has witnessed heavy presence of Maratha ministers or officials (which comprises 25% of the state) in the Maharashtra state government, local municipal commissions, and panchayats. 10 out of 16 chief ministers of Maharashtra hailed from the Maratha community as of year 2012.


Shengavit Settlement

Kura–Araxes culture

Indo-Aryan expansion


Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni






Marathi language

Maharastri Prakrit

Jiroft culture





Y-chromosomes and mtDNA from Maharashtra

The most recent gene flow paternal gene flow from West Asia corresponds largely to haplogroup J2a-M410. Unfortunately the authors used the “evolutionary mutation rate” which I and others have criticized, hence their age estimates are inflated. J2a and R1a1 have similar Y-STR variances in the two studied populations (0.36 and 0.34), and their ages are roughly a third of those reported (with wide uncertainty), or about ~4ky.

This is roughly consistent with the postulated arrival of the Indo-Aryans in India, and should probably be added to the enumeration of cases where the genealogical mutation rate correlates well with prehistory. It also seems consistent with my speculation about a West Asian origin of the Indo-Aryans.

Haplogroup R1a1 is more diverse in India-Pakistan than in west Eurasia, but there is variation in diversity in different South Asian groups. It’s possible that a subgroup of it also migrated from the west, but that possibility must remain speculative in the absence of even more Y-SNP structure within it.

South of Mari, and 110 kilometres north of Baghdad, a mound was discovered in the 1960s at Tell es Sawwan that has become a type site for the Samarra culture of the mid-6th through early 5th millennia. Like the Halaf culture to the west, it shows the extent of early settlement in Mesopotamia.

Map - Tell es Sawwan and Samarra

The main site Tell es Sawwan – Samarra

– lies about 50 miles upstream from modern Baghdad where the Euphrates and Tigris begin to flow more closely together.

Map showing the location of Samarra

Samarran pottery – Its distinctive pottery helps to define the Samarra culture

Samarran figurine – as do the clay figurines ‘mother goddess’ figures.

This map shows the geographical position of the Jarmo and Samarra cultures

north of Baghdad to the Ubaid and Uruk to the south.


Mitanni (Mitra)

Indian (Indra)

Posted in Indo Aryans, The Fertile Crescent | Leave a Comment »

The Semites

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 29, 2013

Semitic Language Tree


Haplogroup E

Haplogroup E1b1b (Y-DNA) - Eupedia

Outside Europe, E1b1b is found at high frequencies in Morocco (over 80%), Somalia (80%), Ethiopia (40% to 80%), Tunisia (70%), Algeria (60%), Egypt (40%), Jordan (25%), Palestine (20%), and Lebanon (17.5%). On the European continent it has the highest concentration in Kosovo (over 45%), Albania and Montenegro (both 27%), Bulgaria (23%), Macedonia and Greece (both 21%), Cyprus (20%), Sicily (20%), South Italy (18.5%), Serbia (18%) and Romania (15%).

Haplogroup E1b1b (formerly E3b) represents the last major direct migration from Africa into Europe. It is believed to have first appeared in the Horn of Africa approximately 26,000 years ago and dispersed to North Africa and the Near East during the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. E1b1b lineages are closely linked to the diffusion of Afroasiatc languages.

The highest genetic diversity of haplogroup E1b1b is observed in Northeast Africa, especially in Ethiopia and Somalia, which also have the monopoly of older and rarer branches like M281, V6 or V92. Ethiopians and Somalians belong mostly to the V22 and V32 (downstream of V12) subclades, but possess also a minority of M81, M123 and V42 subclades. Among the main subclades of E1b1b only V13 and V65 are absent from the Horn of Africa, and probably originated in northern Africa (V65) or the southern Levant (V13).

It is still unclear when haplogroup E first entered Europe. The earliest known prehistoric sample to date is an E-V13 from Catalonia dating from 5000 BCE. So we know for sure that E1b1b was present in southern Europe at least since the Early Neolithic. Nonetheless, the possibility of other migrations of E1b1b to southern Europe during the Mesolithic or Late Palaeolithic cannot be ruled out.

Haplogroup E1b1b may well have been associated with the earliest development of Neolithic lifestyle and the advent of agriculture, which is so far believed to have arisen in the Fertile Crescent, but could have developed earlier in parts of Northeast Africa now covered by the Sahara desert. Agriculture spread from the Near East to Europe, at first mostly ovicaprid and cattle herders.

E1b1b men (accompanied by G2a, J and T men) appear to have been associated at least with the diffusion of Neolithic painted pottery from the Levant to the Balkans (Thessalian Neolithic), and with the Cardium Pottery culture (5000-1500 BCE) in the Western Mediterranean. The only concrete evidence for this at the moment is the presence of the E-V13 subclade, commonest in the southern Balkans today, at a 7000-year old Neolithic site in north-east Spain, which was tested by Lacan et al (2011). The African origin of some Neolithic cattle was confirmed by Decker et al 2013, who reported that Iberian and Italian cattle possess introgression from African taurine.

Judging from modern frequencies, E1b1b would have been a major Near Eastern haplogroup linked to the propagation of agriculture in Europe. It is the only Near Eastern haplogroup consistently found throughout Europe, even in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Baltic countries, which are conspicuous by the absence of other Neolithic haplogroups like G2a (bar the Indo-European G2a3b1), J1 and T (except in Estonia).

E1b1b lineages would have been part and parcel to virtually all Neolithic and subsequent cultures in Europe, if only as a tiny minority in Scandinavia, Northeast Europe and in the Pontic Steppe.

The ancient Greeks contributed to the diffusion of E1b1b to places such as Cyprus, Sicily, southern Italy, Liguria, Provence, and eastern Spain, while the Phoenicians and Carthaginians brought more E1b1b to Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Ibiza and southern Iberia. Migrations within the Roman Empire probably played a role, although a minor one, in the redistribution of E1b1b in Europe.

Haplogroup J1

Haplogroup J1 (Y-DNA) - Eupedia

Haplogroup J1 is a Middle Eastern haplogroup, which probably originated in eastern Anatolia, near Lake Van in central Kurdistan. Eastern Anatolia being the region where goats, sheep and cattle were first domesticated in the Middle East, haplogroup J1 is almost certainly linked to the expansion of pastoralist lifestyle throughout the Middle East and Europe.

Like haplogroup G, J1 might have been of the principal lineages to bring domesticated animals to Europe. Both G and J1 reach their maximal frequencies in the Caucasus, some ethnic groups being almost exclusively J1 (Kubachis, Kaitaks, Dargins, Avars), while others have extremely high levels of G (Shapsugs, North Ossetians). Most of the ethnic groups in the North Caucasus have between 20 and 40% of each haplogroup, which are by far their two dominant haplogroups.

Frequencies og haplogroup J1 in Europe and West Asia tend to vary considerably from one regional community to the next. The highest local percentages in Europe are found in Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal and hardly ever exceed 5% of the population. However Italy, France and Spain also have areas where J1 appears completely absent. Even in northern Europe, where the nation-wide frequencies are below 0.5%, very localised pockets of J1 have been observed in Scotland, England, Belgium, Germany and Poland. Larger sample sizes are needed to get a clearer picture of the distribution of J1 in Europe.

Surpisingly, even in the Caucasus and in Anatolia, the region where this haplogroup is thought to have originated, there are wide discrepancies between regions. For example, the Kubachi and Dargins from Dagestan in the Northeast Caucasus have over 80% of J1 lineages, while in their Ingush neighbours, 200 km to the north, it barely reaches 3%. East Anatolia around Lake Van sees over 30% of J1, whereas south-west Anatolia has only 2%. Even within Kurdistan frequencies vary greatly. The small sample sizes for each region is surely to blame.

In Arabic countries, J1 climaxes among the Marsh Arabs of South Iraq (81%), the Sudanese Arabs (73%), the Yemeni (72%), the Bedouins (63%), the Qatari (58%), the Saudi (40%), the Omani (38%) and the Palestinian Arabs (38%). High percentages are also observed in the United Arab Emirates (35%), coastal Algeria (35%), Jordan (31%), Syria (30%), Tunisia (30%), Egypt (21%) and Lebanon (20%).

In the South Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan), haplogroup J2 comes into the admixture and is in fact slightly higher than either J1 or G. Most of the Caucasian J1 is at present J1*, meaning that at present no common SNP has been identified that could form a new subclade. Armenia stands out of the lot by having a substantial J1c3d (also called J-P58) minority (at least one third of all J1, i.e. roughly 4% of the population). Most of the Arabic J1 belongs to the J1c3 variety.

J1-P58 (J1b2 on the ISOGG tree, formerly known as J1c3) is by far the most widespread subclade of J1. It is a typically Semitic haplogroup, making up most of the population of the Arabian peninsula, where it accounts for approximately 40% to 75% of male lineages. Most of the J1 in the Caucasus, Anatolia and Europe is of the non-J1-P58 variety.

The dominant lineage in the Arabian peninsula is J1-L147.1. L147.1 is also the Cohen Modal Haplotype. Roughly half of all Cohanim belong to the L147.1 subclade. In the Hebrew Bible the common ancestor of all Cohens is identified as Aaron, the brother of Moses.

Y-chromosomal Aaron is the name given to the hypothesised most recent common ancestor of many of the patrilineal Jewish priestly caste known as Kohanim (singular “Kohen”, “Cohen”, or Kohane). In the Torah, this ancestor is identified as Aaron, the brother of Moses. The hypothetical most recent common ancestor was therefore jocularly dubbed “Y-chromosomal Aaron”, in analogy to Y-chromosomal Adam.

The original scientific research was based on the discovery that a majority of present-day Jewish Kohanim either share, or are only one step removed from, a pattern of values for 6 Y-STR markers, which researchers named the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH). However it subsequently became clear that this six marker pattern was widespread in many communities where men had Y chromosomes which fell into Haplogroup J; the six-marker CMH was not specific just to Cohens, nor even just to Jews.

More recent research, using a larger number of Y-STR markers to gain higher resolution more specific genetic signatures, has indicated that about half of contemporary Jewish Kohanim, who share Y-chromosomal haplogroup J1c3 (also called J-P58), do indeed appear to be very closely related. A further approximately 15% of Kohanim fall into a second distinct group, sharing a different but similarly tightly related ancestry. This second group fall under haplogroup J2a (J-M410). A number of other smaller lineage groups are also observed. Only one of these haplogroups could indicate ancestry from Y-chromosomal Aaron.

 The numerous subclades downstream of L858 represent the tremendous expansion of J1 lineages linked to the propagation of Islam and the Arabic language from Saudi Arabia from the 7th century CE.

J1-P58 is thought to have expanded from eastern Anatolia to the Levant, Taurus and Zagros mountains and the Arabian peninsula at the end of the last Ice Age (12,000 years ago) with the seasonal migrations of pastoralists. Arabic speakers recolonised the Arabian peninsula in the Bronze Age from the north-west of the peninsula, close to modern Jordan. The rise of Islam in the 7th century CE played a major part in the re-expansion of J1 from Arabia throughout the Middle East, as well as to North Africa, and to a lower extent to Sicily and southern Spain.

Haplogroup J2

Haplogroup J2 (Y-DNA) - Eupedia

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).

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.

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).

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.

Haplogroup G

Haplogroup G is believed to have originated around the Middle East during the late Paleolithic, possibly as early as 30,000 years ago. At that time humans would all have been hunter-gatherers, and in most cases living in small nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes. Members of this haplogroup appear to have been closely linked to the development of early agriculture in the Levant part of the Fertile Crescent, starting 11,500 years before present.

There has so far been ancient Y-DNA analysis from only four Neolithic cultures (LBK in Germany, Remedello in Italy and Cardium Pottery in south-west France and Spain), and all sites yielded G2a individuals, which is the strongest evidence at present that farming originated with and was disseminated by members of haplogroup G (although probably in collaboration with other haplogroups such as E1b1b, J, R1b and T).

So far, the only G2a people negative for subclades downstream of P15 or L149.1 have all been found in the South Caucasus region. The highest genetic diversity within haplogroup G is found between the Levant and the Caucasus, in the Fertile Crescent, which is another good indicator of its region of origin.

It is thought that early Neolithic farmers expanded from the Levant and Mesopotamia westwards to Anatolia and Europe, eastwards to South Asia, and southwards to the Arabian peninsula and North and East Africa. The domestication of goats and cows first took place in the mountainous region of eastern Anatolia, including the Caucasus and Zagros. This is probably where the roots of haplogroup G2a (and perhaps of all haplogroup G) are to be found.

Haplogroup R1b

Haplogroup R1b (Y-DNA) - Eupedia

The Paleolithic origins of R1b are not entirely clear to this day. Some of the oldest forms of R1b are found around the Caucasus, in Iran and in southern Central Asia, a vast region where could have roamed the nomadic R1b hunter-gatherers during the Ice Age. Haplogroup R1* and R2* might have originated in southern Central Asia (between the Caspian depression and the Hindu Kush).

A branch of R1 would have developed into R1b then R1b1 and R1b1a in the northern part of the Middle East around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (circa 20,000 years ago), while R1a migrated north to Siberia. R1b1a presumptively moved to northern Anatolia and across the Caucasus during the Neolithic, where it split into R1b1a1 (M73) and R1b1a2 (M269). The Near Eastern leftovers evolved into R1b1c (V88), now found at low frequencies among the Lebanese, the Druze, and the Jews. The Phoenicians (who came from modern day Lebanon) spread this R1b1c to their colonies, notably Sardinia and the Maghreb.

R1b1a2 (the most common form in Europe) and R1b1a1 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, including almost all Europe (except Finland and Bosnia-Herzegovina), Anatolia, Armenia, European Russia, southern Siberia, many pockets around Central Asia (notably Xinjiang, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan), without forgetting Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. The history of R1b and R1a are intricately connected to each others.

R1b is the most common haplogroup in Western Europe, reaching over 80% of the population in Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, western Wales, the Atlantic fringe of France, the Basque country and Catalonia. It is also common in Anatolia and around the Caucasus, in parts of Russia and in Central and South Asia. Besides the Atlantic and North Sea coast of Europe, hotspots include the Po valley in north-central Italy (over 70%), Armenia (35%), the Bashkirs of the Urals region of Russia (50%), Turkmenistan (over 35%), the Hazara people of Afghanistan (35%), the Uyghurs of North-West China (20%) and the Newars of Nepal (11%). R1b-V88, a subclade specific to sub-Saharan Africa, is found in 60 to 95% of men in northern Cameroon.

Haplogroup T


Haplogroup T (Y-DNA) - Eupedia

Haplogroup T originated at least 30,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest haplogroups found in Eurasia, which may explain its vast dispersal around Africa and South Asia. It also makes its place of origin uncertain. T is descended from haplogroup K, the ancestor of most of the Eurasian haplogroups (L, N, O, P, Q, R and T), and whose origins are thought to lie in the Middle ast or in Central Asia.

Although haplogroup T is more common today in East Africa than anywhere else, it almost certainly spread from the Fertile Crescent with the rise of agriculture. Indeed, the oldest subclades and the greatest diversity of T is found in the Middle East, especially around the Fertile Crescent. The higher frequency of T in East Africa would be due to a founder effect among Neolithic farmers from the Middle East.

The modern distribution T in Europe strongly correlates with a the Neolithic colonisation of Mediterranean Europe by Near-Eastern farmers, notably the Cardium Pottery culture (5000-1500 BCE).

During the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age haplogroup T would have been an important (though probably not dominant) lineage among ancient peoples such as Sumerians and the Elamites.

The higher than average frequencies of haplogroup T in places like Cyprus, Sicily, Tunisia, Ibiza, Andalusia and the northern tip of Morocco suggest that haplogroup T could have been dispersed around the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians (1200-800 BCE), and that ancient Phoenicia seemingly had a higher incidence of T than Lebanon does today (5%).

While almost all subclades of T are found in the Middle East, most Europeans outside the Mediterranean belong to the subclades T1a2 (L131) and T1a1a1a (P77), who are also found in Anatolia. These subclades probably represent one of the Neolithic migration from the Fertile Crescent to Southeast Europe. They would then have spread around central and Eastern Europe, as far north as the eastern Baltic.

T1a2 has been found as far east as the Volga-Ural region of Russia and Xinjiang in north-west China. This branch probably penetrated into the Pontic-Caspian Steppe during the Neolithic (perhaps alongside G2a3b1 and J2b2) and became integrated to the indigenous R1a peoples before their expansion to Central Asia during the Bronze Age (=> see R1a-Z93).

Haplogroup T has been found at a relatively high frequency among the Tatars (5%) and Maris (2%) of the Volga-Ural region as well as in north-west Russia (3%) and Estonia (3.5%) suggesting that it may have been one of the principal lineages bringing the Neolithic to Uralic-speaking population.

Autosomal DNA tests have also identified unusually high percentages of Southwest Asian admixtures among the Finns (1 to 2.5%) and Lithuanians (1.5%), who otherwise lack West Asian or Caucasian admixture and possess hardly any Middle Eastern Y-DNA. This Southwest Asian admixture could be the trace of T lineages absorbed during the Neolithic.


Indo-European and Semitic Languages

The word “Semitic” (from the Biblical “Shem”) is an adjective derived from Shem, one of the three sons of Noah in the Bible (Genesis 5.32, 6.10, 10.21). In Genesis 10:21–31, Shem is described as the father of Aram, Ashur, and Arpachshad: the Biblical ancestors of the Semites, of whom the languages are closely related; the language family containing them was therefore named “Semitic” by linguists.

The concept of “Semitic” peoples is derived from Biblical accounts of the origins of the cultures known to the ancient Hebrews. Those closest to them in culture and language were generally deemed to be descended from their forefather Shem. Enemies were often said to be descendants of his cursed nephew, Canaan (even though Hebrew in reality, is itself a Canaanite language).

As language studies are interwoven with cultural studies, the term also came to describe the extended cultures and ethnicities, as well as the history of these varied peoples as associated by close geographic and linguistic distribution.

In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of West Asian origin, now called the Semitic languages. The term Semite means a member of any of various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples originating in the Near East, including;

Akkadians (Assyrians and Babylonians), Eblaites, Ugarites, Canaanites, Phoenicians (including Carthaginians), Hebrews (Israelites, Judeans and Samaritans), Ahlamu, Amalekites, Amhari, Amorites, Arabs, Arameans, Bahranis, Canaanites, Chaldeans, Dilmunites, Eblaites, Edomites, Ethiopian Semites, Ge’ez, Hebrews, Hyksos, Nabateans, Maganites, Malteses, Mandeans, Moabites, Phoenicians, Shebans, Sutu, Maltese, Mandaeans, Mhallami, Palmyrans Sabians, Syriacs, Tigres, Tigrinyans, Ugarits, and Ubarites.

The Canaanites and Amorites also spoke languages very closely related to Hebrew and attested in writing earlier, and are therefore termed Semitic in linguistics, despite being described in Genesis as sons of Ham. Shem is also described in Genesis as the father of Elam and Lud, however the Elamites were not Semitic, they spoke a language isolate, and the equally non Semitic Lydians spoke an Indo-European language. Equally, the Hittites are described as sons of Ham, but in actuality they spoke an Indo-European language.

The reconstructed Proto-Semitic language, ancestral to historical Semitic languages in the Middle East, is thought to have been originally from either the Arabian Peninsula (particularly around Yemen), the Levant, Mesopotamia or even the Ethiopian Highlands. However, its region of origin is still uncertain and much debated, with, for example, a recent Bayesian analysis identifying an origin for Semitic languages in the Levant around 3,750 BC. with a later single introduction from what is now southern Arabia into north Africa around 800 BC.

The Semitic language family is also considered a component of the larger Afroasiatic macro-family of languages. Identification of the hypothetical proto-Semitic region of origin is therefore dependent on the larger geographic distributions of the other language families within Afroasiatic.

The earliest historical attestation of any Semitic people comes from Mesopotamia, with the East Semitic Akkadian-speaking peoples entering the region dominated by the non-Semitic Sumerians, whom Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer asserts “No people has contributed more to the culture of mankind than the Sumerians” and yet it is only comparatively recently that we have built up a knowledge of the existence of this ancient culture.

The Sumerian city of Eridu, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, was the world’s first city, where three separate cultures fused – that of peasant Ubaidian farmers, living in mud-brick huts and practicing irrigation; that of mobile nomadic Semitic pastoralists living in black tents and following herds of sheep and goats; and that of fisher folk, living in reed huts in the marshlands, who may have been the ancestors of the Sumerians.

The earliest known Akkadian inscription was found on a bowl at Ur, addressed to the very early pre-Sargonic king Meskiang-nuna of Ur by his queen Gan-saman, who is thought to have been from Akkad. However, some of the names appearing on the Sumerian king list as prehistoric rulers of Kish have been held to indicate a Semitic presence even before this, as early as the 30th or 29th century BC.

Sumerian civilization took form in the Uruk period (4th millennium BC), continuing into the Jemdat Nasr and Early Dynastic periods. During the 3rd millennium BC, a close cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians (who spoke a Language Isolate) and the Semitic Akkadian speakers, which included widespread bilingualism.

The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the 3rd millennium BC as a sprachbund.

The surplus of storable food created by this economy allowed the population of this region to settle in one place, instead of migrating as hunter gatherers. It also allowed for a much greater population density, and in turn required an extensive labour force and division of labour with many specialised arts and crafts.

At the same time, over use of the irrigated soils led to progressive salinisation, and a Malthusian crisis which led to depopulation of the Sumerian region over time, leading to its progressive eclipse by the Akkadians of middle Mesopotamia.

Sumer was conquered by the Semitic-speaking kings of the Akkadian Empire around 2270 BC (short chronology), but Sumerian continued as a sacred language. By the mid 3rd millennium BC, many states and cities in Mesopotamia had come to be ruled or dominated by Akkadian speaking Semites, including Assyria, Eshnunna, Akkad, Kish, Isin, Ur, Uruk, Adab, Nippur, Ekallatum, Nuzi, Akshak, Eridu and Larsa.

The Akkadian Empire (2335 BC – 2193 BC) enabled the Mesopotamian Semites to unite all of Mesopotamia under one rule, and further spread their dominance and cultural and technological influence over much of the Near East, Asia Minor (Anatolia) and Ancient Iran.

The East Semitic Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia proved to be not only the oldest, but the most advanced in the Near East and its surrounds, between the mid 24th and late 6th centuries BC, often asserting dominance over the West, Northwest and South Semitic speaking peoples, as well as the Non-Semitic peoples of the region.

A number of non-Semitic peoples were eventually absorbed by Semites; The Sumerians were absorbed into the Akkadian speaking Assyro-Babylonian population of Mesopotamia by around 2000 BC, and the Kassites who ruled Babylonia for almost five centuries from the early 16th century BC, eventually blended into the native population.

Similarly, the Philistines eventually disappeared into the native Israelite-Canaanite population, and in northern Aram (Syria) and south central Asia Minor, there was a synthesis between the Semitic Arameans and Indo-European Neo-Hittites, with the founding of a number of small Syro-Hittite states fro the 12th century BC until their destruction by Assyria in the 8th and 7th centuries BC.

During the Middle Assyrian Empire (1366-1050 BC) and in particular the Neo Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC) much of the Near East, Asia Minor, Caucasus, Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, Ancient Iran and North Africa fell under Assyrian domination. During the 8th century BC the Assyrians introduced Aramaic as the lingua franca of their empire, and this language was to remain dominant among Near Eastern Semites until the early Medieval Period.

The Assyrian Empire collapsed by 605 BC after decades of internal civil war followed by a combined attack on the weakened sate by an alliance of its former subject peoples (their own Babylonian relations, together with the Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians), and after the collapse of the succeeding Neo Babylonian Empire in 539 BC, the Semitic peoples found themselves largely under the domination of various Indo-European speaking empires for over twelve centuries; the Achaemenid Empire, Seleucid Empire, Parthian Empire, Roman Empire, Sassanid Empire and Byzantine Empire.

Babylon became the centre of a short lived but influential Babylonian Empire in the 18th century BC, and subsequent to this southern Mesopotamia came to be known as Babylonia, with Babylon superseding Nippur as the primary religious center of southern Mesopotamia. Northern Mesopotamia had long before already coalesced into Assyria. After the fall of the first Babylonian Empire, the far south of Mesopotamia broke away for circa 300 years, becoming the independent Sealand Dynasty.

Babylonia was often erroneously referred to as Chaldea from the period of the Neo Babylonian Empire onwards, although only the first three or four rulers of the empire were certainly Chaldeans, and the last ruler was Assyrian. The Chaldeans, like the Amorites and Kassites of southern Mesopotamia before them, eventually blended into the indigenous population, and disappeared as a distinct people, and Babylonia itself was subsumed into the Assyrian province during the Parthian Empire.

There were a number of Non-Semitic groups living in the same regions, and whose histories are interwoven with the Semites at various times; these included peoples who spoke Language Isolates, stand alone languages unrelated to any other recorded language, living or dead.

Language isolate speakers included; Sumerians in Mesopotamia, Elamites in south western Ancient Iran, Lullubi, Kassites, Gutians and Manneans in north western Ancient Iran, as well as Hattians, Hurrians and Urartians in Asia Minor.

A number of Indo-European speaking peoples also appeared; In Asia Minor, the Kaskians, Luwians, Ancient Greeks and Hittites emerged between the 23rd and 19th centuries BC, and the Mitanni in the 17th century BC, the Phrygians and Dorian Greeks arrived in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) during the 13th century BC, followed by Cappadocians, Lydians, Carians, Cilicians, Lycians, Cimmerians, Scythians, Armenians and Corduene (Kurds) during the late Iron Age and early Classical Period.

The non-Semitic Philistines, one of the Sea Peoples, and not to be confused with modern Palestinian Arabs, are conjectured to have arrived in southern Canaan sometime in the 12th century.

They are conjectured to have spoken an Indo-European language, as there are possibly Greek and Luwian traces in the limited information available about their tongue, although this is not certain.

At approximately the same time or shortly before the Iranic Indo-Europeans, the Medes, Persians, Parthians, Sogdians and Bactrians entered Ancient Iran Circa 1000 BC, nations speaking Kartvelian (Georgian) languages arose, Colchia and Tabal in Asia Minor.

In Egypt, the people were speakers of a stand alone Afroasiatic tongue, a language loosely related to but distinct from those of the Semitic peoples, as were the Berbers of the Sahara and the coasts of North Africa, Semitic Carthage aside. Nilotic peoples such as the Nubians and Kushites dwelt to the south of the Egyptians, and Puntites to the south east of Ethiopia.

Sumerian texts repeatedly refer to three important centers with which they traded: Magan, Dilmun, and Meluhha. Magan is usually identified with Oman. This identification, however, is Assyrian; the Sumerian localization of Magan was probably Oman. Dilmun was a Persian Gulf civilization which traded with Mesopotamian civilizations, the current scholarly consensus is that Dilmun encompassed Bahrain, Failaka, Kuwait and the adjacent eastern Arabia coast in the Persian Gulf.

The location of Meluhha, however, is hotly debated. There are scholars today who confidently identify Meluhha with the Harappan Civilization on the basis of the extensive evidence of trading contacts between Sumer and this region. Sesame oil was probably imported from the Indus valley into Sumer: the Sumerian word for this oil is illu (Akkadian: ellu). In Dravidian languages of South India el or ellu stands for sesame.

There is extensive presence of Harappan seals and cubical weight measures in Mesopotamian urban sites. Specific items of high volume trade are timber and specialty wood such as ebony, for which large ships were used. Luxury items also appear, such as lapis lazuli mined at a Harappan colony at Shortugai (Badakshan in northern Afghanistan), which was transported to Lothal, a port city in Gujarat in western India, and shipped from there to Oman, Bahrain, and Sumer.

A number of other non-Arab South Semitic states existed in the far south of what was much later to become known as the Arabian Peninsula, such as Sheba (in modern Yemen), Magan and Ubar (both in modern Oman), although the histories of these states is sketchy (mainly coming from Mesopotamian and Egyptian records), as there was no written script in the region at this time.

During these periods there were spells of varying degrees of independence in Israel, and among the Assyrians (with the Neo-Assyrian states of Adiabene, Osrhoene and Hatra, as well as for a time the old Assyrian capital of Ashur itself), in the Aramean state of Palmyra, the Syriac speaking Nabatean state, with its capital of Petra, and most notably the powerful Phoenician state of Carthage which rivaled Rome.

During this period (circa 27th to 26th century BC), another East Semitic speaking people, the Eblaites, appear in historical record north eastern Syria, founding the state of Ebla, whose language was closely related to Akkadian.

Aleppo, who in historical records appears as an important city much earlier than Damascus, 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.

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.

All early Semites across the entire Near East appear to have originally been Polytheist. Mesopotamian religion is the earliest recorded and for millenia the most influential, exerting strong influence on the later recorded Canaanite religions then practiced in what is today Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories and the Sinai, and also those of the Arameans, Chaldeans, Phoenicians/Carthaginians and Arabs.

The influence of Mesopotamian religion can also be found in Armenian and Graeco-Roman religion and to some degree upon the later Semitic Monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, Mandeanism, Gnosticism and Islam.

Of the West Semitic speaking peoples who occupied what is today Syria (excluding the East Semitic north east), Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and the Sinai peninsula, the earliest references concern the Canaanite speaking Amorites (known as “Martu” or “Amurru” by the Mesopotamians) of northern and eastern Syria, and date from the 24th century BC in Mesopotamian annals.

The technologically advanced Sumerians, Akkadians and Assyrians of Mesopotamia mention the West Semitic peoples in disparaging terms;- The MAR.TU who know no grain… The MAR.TU who know no house nor town, the boors of the mountains… The MAR.TU who digs up truffles… who does not bend his knees (to cultivate the land), who eats raw meat, who has no house during his lifetime, who is not buried after death.

However, after initially being prevented from doing so by powerful Assyrian kings of the Old Assyrian Empire intervening from northern Mesopotamia, these Amorites would eventually overrun southern Mesopotamia, and found the state of Babylon in 1894 BC, where they became Akkadianized, adopted Mesopotamian culture and language, and blended into the indigenous population.

In the 19th century BC a similar wave of Canaanite speaking Semites entered Egypt and by the early 17th century BC these Canaanites (known as Hyksos by the Egyptians) had conquered the country, forming the Fifteenth Dynasty, introducing military technology new to Egypt, such as the war Chariot.

Proto-Canaanite texts from northern Canaan and the Levant (modern Lebanon and Syria) around 1500 BC yield the first undisputed attestations of a written West Semitic language (although earlier testimonies are possibly preserved in Middle Bronze Age alphabets, such as the Proto-Sinaitic script from the late 19th century BC), followed by the much more extensive Ugaritic tablets of northern Syria from the late 14th century BC in the city-state of Ugarit in north west Syria. Ugaritic was a West Semitic language, the same language family as the Amorites, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Moabites, Edomites and Israelites.

The Shasu appear in Egyptian records circa 14th century BC, as a semi-nomadic Canaanite speaking people inhabiting Moab and northern Edom (a region stretching from the Jezreel Valley to Ashkelon and the Sinai), and a number of scholars believe the Shasu were synonymous with the Hebrews, who went on to eventually found Israel.

The appearance of nomadic Semitic Aramaeans and Suteans in historical record also dates from the late 14th century BC, the Arameans coming to dominate an area roughly corresponding with modern Syria (which became known as Aram or Aramea), subsuming the earlier Amorites, and founding states such as Aram-Damascus, Idlib (Aleppo), Hamath Aram-Naharaim, Paddan-Aram, Aram-Rehob, and Zobah, while the Suteans occupied the deserts of south eastern Syria and north eastern Jordan.

The Chaldeans, closely related to but distinct from the Arameans, appeared in south east Mesopotamia (Babylonia) circa the 12th century BC, where they settled and became Akkadianised.

A Canaanite group known as the Phoenicians came to dominate the coasts of Syria, Lebanon and south west Turkey from the 13th century BC, founding city states such as Tyre, Sidon, Byblos Simyra, Arwad, Berytus (Beirut) and Aradus, eventually spreading their influence throughout the Mediterranean, including building colonies in Malta, Sicily, the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain), the coasts of North Africa, founding the major city state of Carthage (in modern Tunisia) in the 9th century BC.

The Phoenicians created the Phoenician alphabet in the 12th century BC, which would eventually supersede Cuneiform. Phoenician became one of the most widely used writing systems, spread by Phoenician merchants across the Mediterranean world and beyond, where it evolved and was assimilated by many other cultures.

The still extant Aramaic alphabet, a modified form of Phoenician script, was the ancestor of modern Hebrew, Syriac/Assyrian and Arab scripts, stylistic variants and descendants of the Aramaic script.

The Greek alphabet (and by extension its descendants such as the Latin, the Cyrillic and the Egyptian Coptic scripts), was a direct successor of Phoenician, though certain letter values were changed to represent vowels. Old Italic, Anatolian, Armenian, Georgian and Paleohispanic scripts are also descendant of Phoenician script.

Between the 13th and 11th centuries BC, a number of small Canaanite speaking states arose in Southern Canaan, an area approximately corresponding to modern Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Sinai peninsula, these were the lands of the Edomites, Moabites, Hebrews/Israelites, Ammonites and Amalekites, all of whom spoke closely related west Semitic Canaanite languages.

Edom and Moab were first to appear in historical record during the mid to late 13th century BC, both coming into conflict with Egypt. The Hebrews (who spoke a Canaanite dialect) make an appearance in historical record, with the founding of the state of Israel in the late 11th century BC in southern Canaan. Later, a part of Israel broke away, becoming Judah, with a further Jewish kingdom Samarra (the land of the Samaritans) also founded as a puppet kingdom by the Assyrians.

In Israel the very first example of Monotheism arose, with the founding of Judaism, and the belief in one single god, Yaweh. The Hebrew language, closely related to the earlier attested Canaanite language of the Phoenicians, would become the vehicle of the religious literature of the Tanakh and Torah, and thus eventually have global ramifications.

Alongside and at the same time as the Hebrews/Israelites, another closely related West Semitic/Canaanite nation of Ammon also appeared, often involved in local rivalries with Israel, as did the stateless Amalekites.

The Arabs first appear in record in Assyrian Annals from the mid 9th century BC as desert dwelling nomadic inhabitants of what is today Saudi Arabia. They were regarded as conquered vassals of the Assyrians.

Later still, written evidence of Old South Arabian and Ge’ez (both related to but in reality separate languages to the Arabic language) offer the first written attestations of South Semitic languages in the 8th century BC in what is now modern Oman and Yemen. These, along with writing in the form of the Ge’ez script, were later imported to Ethiopia and Eritrea by migrating South Semites from part of Southern Arabia (modern west Yemen) during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, who intermingling with the native non-Semitic African peoples, gave rise to Ethiopian Semitic speaking peoples whose languages survive to this day.

The Nabateans, an Aramaic speaking people of mixed Canaanite, Aramean and Arab origins appear in the 4th century BC around the Negev, Sinai Peninsula and northern Arabia, forming an independent Nabatea between the 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD, with its capital at Petra.

The Mandeans, a Gnostic Ethno-Religious sect venerating John the Baptist as the true Messiah, appear in the 1st century AD first in Assyria, and then Southern Mesopotamia. Their origins are unclear, but most scholars believe that they are originally a Canaanite or Aramean people originating from around the River Jordan, while others believe them to be native Mesopotamians.

During the Seleucid period, the Greek rulers of both Mesopotamia and Aram (modern Syria) applied the terms Syria and Syrian, the Indo-European name for Assyria and Assyrians, not only to Assyria itself, but also to Aram to the west. From this point (and particularly from the early Christian period) onward, both the Arameans of the Levant and the Assyrians of Mesopotamia, although distinct and separate peoples to this day, were often collectively referred to as Syriacs or Syrians in Greco-Roman culture and later also by western Europeans.

By the 1st century AD various Aramaic dialects had come to dominate an area stretching from eastern Asia Minor in the north to the northern Arabian Peninsula in the south, and from Assyria, Mesopotamia and north western Persia in the east, to the Eastern coasts of the Mediterranean in the west.

Particularly Semitic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Mandaeism, Sabianism, Manicheanism and Gnosticism took root among the Semites, with Judaism long centered in Judaea (Israel) and Mesopotamia, and Christianity first spread initially among the largely Aramaic speaking Semitic races of Judaea, Syria, Assyria, Babylonia, Nabatea and Phoenicia during the 1st century AD, an area encompassing the modern states of Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, south eastern Turkey and the Palestinian Territories. Syriac Christianity was largely centered in areas outside of Roman control, such as in Persian-occupied Assyria (Athura/Assuristan) from whence it spread to Central Asia, India and China, and Coptic Christianity spread from Egypt to the Ethiopian Semites by the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Mandeanism was centered in Assyria and Mesopotamia, and Gnostic sects were to be found all over the Semitic world.

With the advent of the Arab Islamic conquest of the 7th and 8th centuries AD, the hitherto largely uninfluential Arabic language (and Islamic culture) gradually replaced many (but not all) of the indigenous Semitic languages and cultures of the Near East. Both the Near East and North Africa saw an influx of Muslim Arabic people from the Arabian Peninsula.

The previously dominant Aramaic dialects gradually began to be sidelined, however descendant dialects of Aramaic, including Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, survive to this day among the Assyrians (and Mandeans) of Iraq, Northwestern Iran Northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey, with the dialects of the Assyrian Christians still containing hundreds of Akkadian loan words and an Akkadian grammatical structure.

Long extant geopolitical regions such as Judaea, Assyria, Phoenicia and Syria were dissolved by the Arabs. Indigenous Semitic peoples became citizens in a greater Arab Islamic state, and those who resisted conversion to Islam had certain restrictions imposed upon them.[19] They were excluded from specific duties assigned to Muslims, did not enjoy certain political rights reserved to Muslims, their word was not equal to that of a Muslim in legal matters, they were subject to payment of a special tax (jizyah), they were banned from spreading their religions further in Muslim ruled lands, but were otherwise equal under the laws of property, contract and obligation.

The Arabs spread their South Semitic language to North Africa where it gradually replaced Coptic and Berber (although Berber is still largely extant), and for a time to the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal).

The Druze religion, a hybrid of Islam and Christianity, was founded in the 12th century AD in Lebanon and Syria, with its followers eventually becoming a distinct people in their own right.

A number of South Arabian languages distinct from Arabic still survive, such as Soqotri, Mehri and Shehri which are mainly spoken in Socotra, Yemen and Oman, and are likely descendants of the languages spoken in the ancient kingdoms of Sheba, Magan, Ubar and Dilmun.

By the 21st century AD, people identifying as Arabs now make up the largest population of Semites in the Near East, followed by large numbers of non-Semitic Berbers in North Africa and Ethiopian Semites in the Horn of Africa. Isreal and Malta are currently the only non-Arab ruled Semitic nations.

However a significant number of the once dominant indigenous, ancient Pre-Arab, Non-Arab and Pre-Islamic Semitic peoples of the Middle East maintain their identities to this day, despite being often persecuted ethnic (and often also religious) minorities.

In Israel, the majority population are Hebrew speaking ethnic Jews, with a tiny minority of Samaritans still extant.

In Iraq and the areas of northeast Syria, northwest Iran and southeast Turkey bordering Northern Iraq, the indigenous Assyrian people (also known as Chaldo-Assyrians) still maintain their Akkadian-influenced dialects of Eastern Aramaic as spoken and written tongues, together with their ancient forms of Eastern Rite Christianity. In these same areas the Mandeans retain their distinct pre-Arab Mandean language and Gnostic religion.

Among the Syrian Christians and Mhallami of modern Syria, the advocacy of a pre-Arab Aramean or Syriac-Aramean identity is still strong, although only tiny minorities now speak their native Western Aramaic tongue.

In Lebanon and some coastal regions of Syria the concept of Phoenicianism is endorsed, particularly by Maronite Christians who reject Arab identity and instead assert their ethnic roots lie with the pre-Arab and pre-Islamic Canaanites and Phoenicians.

Malta is the only Semitic nation in Europe, with Maltese being a member of the Semitic language group.

Haplogroup J1 (Y-DNA) – Eupedia

Haplogroup J (Y-DNA) – Familypedia

Haplogroup J-P209

Haplogroup J-M267

Y-DNA Haplogroup J

Semitic people

Afroasiatic languages


Posted in Haplogroups, Semitic People, The Fertile Crescent | Leave a Comment »

Euphratic – A phonological sketch

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 29, 2013

There is an interesting monograph by Fournet & Bomhard on the Indo-European Elements in Hurrian (pdf). I will leave the linguistic details to the experts, as I doubt that many people are competent in both Proto-Indo-European and Hurrian to assess the authors’ thesis. However, this is the bit that captured my attention:

Hurrian cannot be considered an Indo-European language — this is so obvious that it barely needs to be stated. Traditional Indo-European languages, such as Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Gothic, Old Irish, Old Church Slavic, Tocharian, etc., are clearly related to each other through many common features and shared innovations that are lacking in Hurrian.
However, that is not the end of the argument. In the preceding chapters, we presented evidence that Hurrian and Proto-Indo-European “[bear] a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could have been produced by accident; so strong that no philologer could examine [them] without believing them to have sprung from some common source.” In this chapter, we will discuss our views on what that common source may have been like. In so doing, we will have to delve deeply into prehistory, well beyond the horizon of what is traditionally reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European in the traditional handbooks.
Our discussion now comes to an end. In the course of this book, we have attempted to show, through a careful analysis of the relevant phonological, morphological, and lexical data, that Urarto-Hurrian and Indo-European are, in fact, genetically related at a very deep level, as we indicated at the beginning of this chapter by quoting from the famous Third Anniversary Discourse (1786) of Sir William Jones. We propose that both are descended from a common ancestor, which may be called “Proto-Asianic”, to revive an old, but not forgotten, term.

On the basis of genetic data I have recently proposed an origin of the Indo-Aryans in the Transcaucasus, based on their possession of a genetic component related to that of modern Northeast Caucasian speakers and the putative relationship of the latter with the Hurro-Urartian group. If the Hurrian-Indo-European “Proto-Asianic” hypothesis is true, then it would strengthen that hypothesis as it would place the Proto-Indo-Europeans in the vicinity of the Hurrians.

In the following paper the primary correspondences between Indo-Euro-pean terms and their Sumerian counterparts, for which a loan status has been argued (Whittaker 1998, 2001, 2004, 2004/05, 2005, 2008, 2009), aretabulated for convenience of comparison. It has been postulated that alexical exchange took place in Southern Mesopotamia in the mid-4th mil-lennium BC, persisting down into the early 3rd millennium. Tis contactinvolved an Indo-European group which I have dubbed the Euphrateans, a pre-equestrian society whose pastoral and agricultural economy, alongwith the bulk of their material culture, makes them largely indistinguishable from other Near Eastern groups of this time.

Over the course of the Late Uruk and Early Dynastic periods (late 4thand early 3rd mill. BC), the Euphrateans would have come into contactwith speakers of different languages in the Mesopotamian crossroads, of which the best-documented ones are Sumerian, an isolate, and Akkadian, aSemitic tongue. Although Sumerian and Akkadian have bestowed uponeach other a vast number of elite and mundane loans, there are a signifi-cant number of terms in both languages that have been regarded by severalgenerations of Assyriologists as having come from an unidentified sourceor sources.

A good number of these terms are of an advanced technicalnature or of local reference, suggesting contact within Mesopotamia or itsimmediate environs, and it is these words that are the subject of this paper. As I will attempt to demonstrate, many of the words in question resembleattested and reconstructed vocabulary in Proto-Indo-European and itsearly descendants. Most importantly, the terms are for the most part poly-syllabic (unlike the great majority of Sumerian lexemes) but unsegment-able, whereas the Indo-European terms can frequently be broken downinto two or more morphemes each, which argues for the latter as thesource of the former. In some cases, the Indo-European term (for example,the ancestor of English axe) is itself likely to have been a loan from anunidentified language at some point prior to the separation of Euphratic from the Indo-European continuum.

Of relevance to the question as to when the contact took place is,among other things, a body of structural evidence from the Mesopotamianwriting system. A considerable number of phonetic values in early cunei-form have no known source or motivation, which again suggests inheritance from an independent language, one associated with the early development of the script, and probably with the initial stage known as proto-cuneiform. Since writing at this early date was confined to Egypt, Mesopotamia and Elam to the east, each of which had quite distinct systems of writing, the probable source of these values must be sought within Meso-potamia itself, in a proto-cuneiform script developed for administrativepurposes by the Euphratean elite. This scenario is reminiscent of the one documented for the Japanese script, which is based on a Chinese modeland preserves logographic and syllabic values derived over a long period from several stages of Chinese influence.

Furthermore, even those Assyriologists who deny the possibility of anearly non-Sumerian, non-Semitic element in the population of 4th-millennium Mesopotamia (despite the fact that, in recorded history, Mesopotamia has always been a crossroads for a wide variety of ethnic groups and languages) frequently concede that many of the early placenames and names of deities in Southern and Central Mesopotamia lack arecognizable morphological and lexical affnity to Sumerian or Semitic. Anumber of these names have been discussed in the papers cited above,where details of the proposed scenario can be found.

The brief phonological sketch laid out here is, of course, highly tenta-tive. It is meant to be viewed as a preliminary attempt to retrieve from aseries of alleged loanwords certain patterns of correspondence that may cast light as much on Sumerian as on the Indo-European donor language itself. It goes without saying that much work remains to be done before thephonology of Euphratic can be considered understood in its essence. Fu-ture work on the proto-cuneiform corpus, both on the contexts in whichsigns occur and on phonetic (rebus) usage within these archaic texts, com-plemented by rigorous studies of sign-value accretion in the writing sys-tem that evolved out of the Uruk-period script, has the potential to refineour understanding of the languages of early Mesopotamia and help us re-think the manner in which Indo-European evolved.

Although many aspects of Euphratic phonology remain uncertain, andmany others as yet unexplored, a number of regular patterns of correspon-dence between Indo-European and Mesopotamian languages can nonethe-less be discerned that are suggestive of early and prolonged historical con-tact, a contact that had run its course centuries before the first documentsin Hittite and Greek were set down.

It has not always been possible to determine accurately the nature of a given correspondence, for examplewhether a specific lexical relationship involves sound changes that havetaken place in the donor language rather than the receiver, or whether par-ticular loans are earlier or later than others. Nor is it possible to determine,at least with the kind of precision that one wishes, the exact qualities of many Euphratic and Sumerian phonemes reflected in the lexical transfer.

Nevertheless, a start has been made, and there is good reason to believethat this picture will continue to undergo refinement as fresh data from Mesopotamia and fresh insights from Assyriological and Indo-Europeanistresearch emerge.

Euphratic – A phonological sketch by Gordon Whittaker

Posted in Indo-Europeans, The Fertile Crescent | Leave a Comment »

Ancient DNA and Sumerians

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 28, 2013

There has been assumed that there prior to the rise of expansive civilizations (Sargon of Akkad) was much more linguistic and ethnic diversity than we currently see around us. Or, was evident even in the early Iron Age. In other words, the ancient Fertile Crescent may have resembled the highlands of Papua, with Hurrians, Akkadians, Gutians, Elamites, Sumerians, etc., all speaking mutually unintelligible dialects which diverged very far back in the mists of antiquity.

But there is a possibility that there was a great deal of demographic change between the Mesolithic and the Bronze Age, with successive waves of layering and replacement. According to another hypothesis a few groups of farmers may have expanded to swallow up thousands of hunter-gatherer groups. These homogeneous farmer societies eventually would diversify, because they were not united by the institutional forces which cemented later imperial regimes, in particular, literate elites which had a sense of consciousness which extended deep into the past because of written records. Therefore, the diversification would presumably have been similar to what we see with Romance languages, or Indo-Aryan, branching out from an common root language which replaced many competitors rapidly. Without writing and large scale polities the divergence would be more rapid, and there would be many more tips on the phylogenetic tree.

The problem with that model is that that Sumerians, and their neighbors the Elamites, as well as groups like the Hatti and Hurrians, none of these groups seem to be Indo-European or Semitic, the two dominant language families of Near East by ~ 1,000 BC. You have in the ancient Near East then a situation where the light of history reveals before us not the diversification of Indo-European and Semitic speaking farmers, but rather a host of unique and disparate peoples, all simultaneously lurching toward literate civilization, one after another.

Something just does not add up. Genetics will not solve the puzzle, but it may help in elucidating relationships. The origins of the Sumerians are murky, but many scholars have suggested that they may have arrived from the south (the oldest city, Eridu, is in the south). Others have suggested that the Sumerians descended from the mountains of the northeast. Though I presume that the people Arabia have changed a great deal since antiquity, it would be interesting if it was found that the Sumerians resembled the Qatari (at least the Eurasian component) more than they did the modern Assyrians.

Y-DNA Haplogroup J is a descendent of suprahaplogroup F, which encompasses a large group Y-DNA lineages (haplogroups F-T). Suprahaplogroup F is believed to have migrated from Africa approximately 50kya.  Haplogroup J arose approximately 30kya (see Figure 4) and has been defined by a number of unique Y-chromosome polymorphisms; the 12f2a deletion and the M304 and P209 SNPs.

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, and ultimately descends from the Cro-Magnon population (IJ-M429 Y-DNA) within the region spanning eastern Turkey and Persia around 35,000 years ago.

The origin of Y-DNA Haplogroup J maps to the Middle East around the ‘Fertile Crescent’, an area also known as the ‘Cradle of Civilization’ since this area saw the birth of many technological advancements that helped humans move from nomadic hunter-gatherers to an agriculture-based society living in one place. The sprouting of some the first cities and empires in human history were contingent on these developments and featured the proliferation of Haplogroup J.

The precise location for the origin of Haplogroup J is not known, but its prominence in the Near East/West Asia and the Middle East/Central Asia indicates that it likely arose in one of these regions. It is closely associated with the Fertile Crescent; an area spanning the Nile and Tigris/Euphrates River systems, with the Levant (present day Lebanon) in between.

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. This region has encompassed many early cultures and empires from the Stone Age (Neolithic) to the Iron Age and has also been dubbed the ‘Cradle of Civilization’. Societies, dynasties and empires in this broad region include the Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Phoenician and Persian. Haplogroup J is also particularly abundant in Anatolia (present day Turkey) and the Y-chromosome diversity observed here suggests that this area is a possible source of this clade. Owing to these strategic locations, Y-DNA Haplogroup J is common on three continents: Asia, Europe and Africa.

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).

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.

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. J2 (M172+) along with T (M70+) and G (M201+) are to be associated with Nahrain’s pre-Semitic civilizations (Sumer, Hurrians, etc…).

There is a distinct association of ancient J2 civilisations with bull worship. The oldest evidence of a cult of the bull can be traced back to Neolithic central Anatolia, notably at the sites of Çatalhöyük and Alaca Höyük. Bull depictions are omnipresent in Minoan frescos and ceramics in Crete. Bull-masked terracotta figurines and bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus (dating back as far as the Neolithic, the first presumed expansion of J2 from West Asia). The Hattians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaaites, and Carthaginians all had bull deities (in contrast with Indo-European or East Asian religions).

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

Haplogroup J-M172 has been shown to have a more northern distribution in the Middle East, although it exists in significant amounts in the southern middle-east regions, a lesser amount of it was found when compared to its brother haplogroup, J-M267, which has a high frequency southerly distribution. It was believed that the source population of J-M172 originated from the Levant/Syria (Syrid-J-M172), and that its occurrence among modern populations of Europe, Central Asia, and South Asia was a sign of the neolithic agriculturalists. However, as stated it is now more likely to have originated in regions farther to the north, with the first metallurgists of the Middle East.

Anthropologist Carleton S. Coon is quoted as saying The Iraqi population is without doubt much the same today as it was in Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian times. The Iraqi people are a Caucasian people. It has been found that Y-DNA Haplogroup J2 originated in northern Iraq (Ancient Assyria).

In spite of the importance of this region, genetic studies on the Iraqi people are limited and generally restricted to analysis of classical markers due to Iraq’s modern political instability, although there have been several published studies displaying the genealogical connection between all Iraqi people and the neighbouring countries, regardless religious and linguistic barriers (Iraq contains Semitic peoples such as Arabs, Assyrians and Mandeans, Turkic peoples such as Turcomans,Indo-European peoples such as Kurds, Armenians, Shabaks and North Caucasian speakers such as Circassians). One such study reveals a close genetic relationship between all Iraqis, Kurds, Caspian Iranians and Svani Georgians.

Iraqi mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup distribution is similar to that of Iran, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Georgia, and Armenia, whereas it substantially differs from that observed in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. Iraqi Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) haplogroup distribution is similar to that of Lebanon, Turkey, and Syria. No significant differences in Y-DNA variation were observed among Iraqi Arabs, Assyrians, or Mandeans.

For both mtDNA and Y-DNA variation, the large majority of the haplogroups observed in the Iraqi population (H, J, T, and U for the mtDNA, J2 and J1 for the Y-DNA) are those considered to have originated in Western Asia and to have later spread mainly in Western Eurasia. The Eurasian haplogroups R1b and R1a represent the second most frequent component of the Iraqi Y-chromosome gene pool, the latter suggests that the population movements from Central Asia/Eastern Europe into modern Iran also influenced Iraq to some degree.

Many historians and anthropologists provide strong circumstantial evidence to posit that Iraq’s Maʻdān people share very strong links to the ancient Sumerians, – the most ancient inhabitants of southern Iraq, and that Iraq’s Mandaeans and Assyrians share the strongest ethnic links to the Sumerians and Babylonians.

The Arabic speaking Beni Delphi (sons of Delphi) tribe of Iraq is believed to have Greek origins, from the Macedonian soldiers of Alexander the Great and the colonists of the Seleucid Empire.

The Assyrian Christian population are fairly closely related to other Iraqis, and also to modern Jordanians and some Near Eastern Jewish populations, yet due to religious and cultural endogamy have a very distinct genetic profile that distinguishes their population. “The Assyrians are a fairly homogeneous group of people, believed to originate from the land of old Assyria in northern Iraq [..] they are Christians and are bona fide descendants of their ancient namesakes.”

The relatively close genetic link with the indigenous Pre Arab Mesopotamian Assyrians and Mandeans indicates that many Iraqis who today speak Arabic are also to a great extent originally of Mesopotamian roots,as opposed to being ethnic Arabs.

In a 2011 study focusing on the genetics of the Maʻdān people of Iraq, researchers identified Y chromosome haplotypes shared by Marsh Arabs, Arabic speaking Iraqis, Assyrians and Mandeans “supporting a common indigenous local background.”

Studies have reported that most Irish and Britons are descendants of farmers who left modern day Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago. Genetic researchers say they have found compelling evidence that four out of five (80% of) white Europeans can trace their roots to the Ancient Near East.

In another study, scientists analysed DNA from the 8,000 year-old remains of early farmers found at an ancient graveyard in Germany. They compared the genetic signatures to those of modern populations and found similarities with the DNA of people living in today’s South Eastern Turkey and Iraq.

Evidence of genetic stratification ascribable to the Sumerian development was provided by the Y-chromosome data where the J1 P58-branch reveals a local expansion, almost contemporary with the Sumerian City State period that characterized Southern Mesopotamia. On the other hand, a more ancient background shared with Northern Mesopotamia is revealed by the less represented Y-chromosome lineage J1-M267*.

Overall the results indicate that the introduction of water buffalo breeding and rice farming, most likely from the Indian sub-continent, only marginally affected the gene pool of autochthonous people of the region. Furthermore, a prevalent Middle Eastern ancestry of the modern population of the marshes of southern Iraq implies that if the Marsh Arabs are descendants of the ancient Sumerians, also the Sumerians were most likely autochthonous and not of Indian or South Asian ancestry.

Different from the Iraqi control sample, the Marsh Arab gene pool displays a very scarce input from the northern Middle East (Hgs J2-M172 and derivatives, G-M201 and E-M123), virtually lacks western Eurasian (Hgs R1-M17, R1-M412 and R1-L23) and sub-Saharan African (Hg E-M2) contributions.

Rather than “Sumerian”, it seems that the Marsh Arabs have rather preserved a more pristine Semitic patrilineal gene pool compared to the cosmopolitan Iraqi samples that have absorbed pre-Arab and pre-Semitic population elements.

Archaeogenetics of the Near East

The emergence and dispersal of haplogroup J-P58 (aka J1e)

In search of the genetic footprints of Sumerians

Predicted haplogroups of early Middle Eastern civilizations

The emergence and dispersal of haplogroup J-P58 (aka J1e)

Correlation of Y-haplogroups J2 and J1 with Neolithic agro-pastoral economies

Y-DNA Haplogroup J

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