Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

  • Fredsvenn:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent
    ---
    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

    All the texts are published under Creative Common-license [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.no Navngivelse-DelPåSammeVilkår 3.0]

  • Klikk her:

    Sjur C. Papazian

    Sjur C. Papazian

  • Categories

  • Transformasjon

  • Sumerian statues

  • Pendant from Mari (modern Tell Hariri, Syria)

  • Sørvest Asia – før og nå

    Den fruktbare halvmåne er en betegnelse på et gammelt fruktbart område nord, øst og vest for den arabiske ørken i Sørvest-Asia. Mesopotamia-dalen og Nil-dalen kommer inn under dette begrepet selv om det i fjellsonen rundt Mesopotamia en naturlig avgrensning i jordbrukshistorisk forstand.

    Som resultat av en rekke unike geografiske faktorer har Den fruktbare halvmåne en imponerende historie av tidlig menneskelig jordbruksaktivitet og kulturdanning. Foruten mange arkeologiske funnsteder med rester av skjeletter og kulturelle levninger så er området først og fremst kjent for dets funnsteder knyttet til jordbrukets opprinnelse og utvikling i den neolittiske tidsalder.

    Det var her, i de skogkledde fjellskråningene i randsonen av dette området, at jordbruket oppsto i et økologisk avgrenset miljø. Den vestlige sonen og områdene rundt øvre Eufrat ga vekst til de første kjente neolittiske jordbruks-samfunnene med små, runde hus, også referert til som førkeramisk neolittisk A, som dateres til like etter 10.000 f.vt. og omfatter steder som Jeriko, som er verdens eldste by.

    Under den påfølgende PPNB fra 9 000 f.vt. utviklet disse samfunnene seg til større landsbyer med dyrking og husdyrhold som viktigste levevei, med tett bebyggelse i to-etasjers, rektangulære hus. Mennesket inngikk nå i symbiose med korn- og husdyrartene, uten mulighet til å vende tilbake til jeger- og sankersamfunnet.

    Området vest og nord for slettelandet ved Eufrat og Tigris så også framveksten av tidlige komplekse samfunn i den langt senere bronsealderen (fra ca 4 000 f.vt.). Det er også tidlige bevis for skriftkultur og tidlige statsdannelser fra samme tid i dette nordlige steppeområdet, selv om de skriftlige statsdannelsene relativt raskt flyttet sitt tyngdepunkt ned i Mesopotamia-dalen og utviklet seg der. Området har derfor hos svært mange forfattere fått betegnelsen «sivilisasjonens vugge».

    Området har opplevd en rekke omveltninger, og nye stasdannelser. Nå sist da staten Tyrkia ble dannet i etterkant av ungtyrkernes folkemord på blant annet de pontiske grekere, armenere og assyrere under den første verdenskrig. Det antas at to tredeler til tre firedeler av alle armenere i regionen døde.

    Det er nå på tide at folkemordet mot de pontiske grekere, assyrere og armenere anerkjennes, at Israels okkupasjon, bosetting og vold palestinerne opphører, samt at de ulike minoritetene i området får leve sine livi fred - uten vold og trusler fra majoritetsbefolkninger eller fra Vesten, og da spesifikt USA.

  • Sjur C. Papazian

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 78 other followers

  • Subscribe

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The origin of Easter

Posted by Fredsvenn on April 5, 2015

The Origin of Easter

The origin of Easter

Aššur, also known as Ashur, Qal’at Sherqat and Kalah Shergat, is a remnant city of the last Ashurite Kingdom. The remains of the city are situated on the western bank of the river Tigris, north of the confluence with the tributary Little Zab river, in modern-day Iraq, more precisely in the Al-Shirqat District (a small panhandle of the Salah al-Din Governorate).

Aššur is the name of the city, of the land ruled by the city, and of its tutelary deity. At a late date it appears in Assyrian literature in the forms An-sar, An-sar (ki), which form was presumably read Assur. The name of the deity is written A-šur or Aš-sùr, and in Neo-assyrian often shortened to Aš.

In the Creation tablet, the heavens personified collectively were indicated by this term An-sar, “host of heaven,” in contradistinction to the earth, Ki-sar, “host of earth.”

In view of this fact, it seems highly probable that the late writing An-sar for Assur was a more or less conscious attempt on the part of the Assyrian scribes to identify the peculiarly Assyrian deity Asur with the Creation deity An-sar.

On the other hand, there is an epithet Asir or Ashir (“overseer”) applied to several gods and particularly to the deity Asur, a fact which introduced a third element of confusion into the discussion of the name Assur. It is probable then that there is a triple popular etymology in the various forms of writing the name Assur; viz. A-usar, An-sar and the stem asdru.

The city was occupied from the mid-3rd millennium BC (Circa 2600–2500 BC) to the 14th Century AD, when Tamurlane conducted a massacre of its population.

Archaeology reveals the site of the city was occupied by the middle of the third millennium BC. This was still the Sumerian period, before the Assyrian kingdom emerged in the 23rd to 21st century BC.

The oldest remains of the city were discovered in the foundations of the Ishtar temple, as well as at the Old Palace. In the following Old Akkadian period, the city was ruled by kings from Akkad. During the “Sumerian Renaissance”, the city was ruled by a Sumerian governor.

Aššur is also the name of the chief deity of the city. He was considered the highest god in the Assyrian pantheon and the protector of the Assyrian state. In the Mesopotamian mythology he was the equivalent of Babylonian Marduk.

By the time the Neo-Sumerian Ur-III dynasty collapsed at the hands of the Elamites in ca. the 21st century BC, the local Akkadian kings, including those in Assur, had shaken off the Sumerian yoke.

An Assyrian king named Ushpia who reigned in ca. the 21st century BC is credited with dedicating the first temple of the god Assur in his home city. Like most other of the “kings who lived in tents”, his name is not regarded as Semitic, but more likely Hurrian (Armenian).

The site of Assur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger in 2003, in part due to the conflict in that area, and also due to a proposed dam, that would flood part of the site. It is about 40 miles south of the former Nimrud and 60 miles south of Nineveh.

The Assyrian Origins of Easter – Ann-Margret “Maggie” Yonan

By Ann-Margret Yonan

What does the word Easter mean? It is certainly not a Christian word or name. What does this word Easter have to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

The rebirth of Pazuzu

Posted by Fredsvenn on April 5, 2015

In Mesopotamian mythology, Pazuzu (sometimes Fazuzu or Pazuza) was the king of the demons of the wind, and son of the god Hanbi, the father of Pazuzu, Enki and Humbaba. He also represented the southwestern wind, the bearer of storms and drought.

The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”: the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to “lord”; it was originally a title given to the High Priest; ki means “earth”; but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning “mound”.

Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil, who “assigned [Humbaba] as a terror to human beings.”

A sculpture of the demon god Pazuzu is installed in two parts at the Institiute of Contemprary Art (ICA) on October 9, 2008 in London. The sculpture forms part of the Suillakku exhibition featuring the work of Italian artist Roberto Cuoghi. The work, in the Lower Gallery at the ICA, takes the form of a huge sound installation in which the artist took an imaginary journey back in time to the sixth century BC to the Mesopotamia of the ancient Assyrians. In this aural landscape visitors to the gallery will be surrounded by the voices of hundreds of people.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Abgal or Apkallu

Posted by Fredsvenn on April 5, 2015

Abgal or Apkallu (Abgallu, from ab=water, gal=big, lu=man) are seven Sumerian sages, demigods who are said to have been created by the god Enki (Akkadian: Ea) to establish culture and give civilization to mankind.

They served as priests of Enki and as advisors or sages to the earliest kings of Sumer before the flood. They are credited with giving mankind the Me (moral code), the crafts, and the arts. They were seen as fish-like men who emerged from the sweet water Abzu. They are commonly represented as having the lower torso of a fish, or dressed as a fish.

In Sumerian mythology, a me (Sumerian, conventionally pronounced [mɛ]) or ñe [ŋɛ] or parşu (Akkadian, [parsˤu]) is one of the decrees of the gods foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods.

The mes were originally collected by Enlil and then handed over to the guardianship of Enki who was to broker them out to the various Sumerian centers beginning with his own city of Eridu and continuing with Ur, Meluhha, and Dilmun. This is described in the poem, “Enki and the World Order” which also details how he parcels out responsibility for various crafts and natural phenomena to the lesser gods.

The Mes were documents or tablets which were blueprints to civilization. They represented everything from abstract notions like Victory and Counsel and Truth to technologies like weaving to writing to social constructs like law, priestly offices, kingship, and even prostitution. They granted power over, or possibly existence to, all the aspects of civilization (both positive and negative).

Not all the mes are admirable or desirable traits. Alongside functions like “heroship” and “victory” we also find “the destruction of cities”, “falsehood”, and “enmity”. The Sumerians apparently considered such evils and sins an inevitable part of humanity’s lot in life, divinely and inscrutably decreed, and not to be questioned.

According to the myth, human beings were initially unaware of the benefits of culture and civilization. The god Enki sent from Dilmun, amphibious half-fish, half-human creatures, who emerged from the oceans to live with the early human beings and teach them the arts and other aspects of civilization such as writing, law, temple and city building and agriculture. These creatures are known as the Apkallu. The Apkallu remained with human beings after teaching them the ways of civilization, and served as advisors to the kings.

Eridu, also transliterated as Eridug, could mean “mighty place” or “guidance place”. Babylonian texts talk of the creation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, “the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight”. In the Sumerian king list, Eridu is named as the city of the first kings. The king list continues:

In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alalngar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira.

The king list gave particularly long rules to the kings who ruled before a great flood occurred, and shows how the center of power progressively moved from the south to the north of the country.

Adapa, the first man fashioned, is depicted as an early culture hero. He was considered to have brought civilization to the city during the time of King Alulim. He acts as the advisor to the King of Eridu, when in the Sumerian Kinglist, the “Me” of “kingship descends on Eridu”.

In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was the home of the Abzu temple of the god Enki, the Sumerian counterpart of the Akkadian water-god Ea. Like all the Sumerian and Babylonian gods, Enki/Ea began as a local god, who came to share, according to the later cosmology, with Anu and Enlil, the rule of the cosmos. His kingdom was the sweet waters that lay below earth (Sumerian ab=water; zu=far).

Enki and later Ea were apparently depicted, sometimes, as a man covered with the skin of a fish, and this representation, as likewise the name of his temple E-apsu, “house of the watery deep”, points decidedly to his original character as a god of the waters. Around the excavation of the 18 shrines found on the spot, thousands of carp bones were found, consumed possibly in feasts to the god.

Of his cult at Eridu, which goes back to the oldest period of Mesopotamian history, nothing definite is known except that his temple was also associated with Ninhursag’s temple which was called Esaggila, “the lofty head house” (E, house, sag, head, ila, high; or Akkadian goddess = Ila), a name shared with Marduk’s temple in Babylon, pointing to a staged tower or ziggurat (as with the temple of Enlil at Nippur, which was known as E-kur (kur, hill)), and that incantations, involving ceremonial rites in which water as a sacred element played a prominent part, formed a feature of his worship.

This seems also implicated in the epic of the hieros gamos or sacred marriage of Enki and Ninhursag (above), which seems an etiological myth of the fertilisation of the dry ground by the coming of irrigation water (from Sumerian a, ab, water or semen).

The early inscriptions of Urukagina in fact go so far as to suggest that the divine pair, Enki and Ninki, were the progenitors of seven pairs of gods, including Enki as god of Eridu, Enlil of Nippur, and Su’en (or Sin) of Ur, and were themselves the children of An (sky, heaven) and Ki (earth).

The pool of the Abzu at the front of his temple was adopted also at the temple to Nanna (Akkadian Sin) the Moon, at Ur, and spread from there throughout the Middle East. It is believed to remain today as the sacred pool at Mosques, or as the holy water font in Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.

The stories of Inanna, goddess of Uruk, describe how she had to go to Eridu in order to receive the gifts of civilization. At first Enki, the god of Eridu attempted to retrieve these sources of his power, but later willingly accepted that Uruk now was the centre of the land. This seems to be a mythical reference to the transfer of power northward.

In the court of Assyria, special physicians trained in the ancient lore of Eridu, far to the south, foretold the course of sickness from signs and portents on the patient’s body, and offered the appropriate incantations and magical resources as cures.

A Gallus (pl. Galli) was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome.

Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”) was an originally Anatolian mother goddess; she has a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük (in the Konya region) where the statue of a pregnant goddess seated on a lion throne was found in a granary.

She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its state deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BCE.

In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Harvest-Mother goddess Demeter.

Attis was the consort of Cybele in Phrygian and Greek mythology. His priests were eunuchs, the Galli, as explained by origin myths pertaining to Attis and castration. Attis was also a Phrygian god of vegetation, and in his self-mutilation, death, and resurrection he represents the fruits of the earth, which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.

In many mythicist writings, the ancient Phrygo-Roman god Attis is depicted as having been born of a virgin mother on December 25th, being killed and resurrecting afterwards.

Adonis has had multiple roles, and there has been much scholarship over the centuries concerning his meaning and purpose in Greek religious beliefs. He is an annually-renewed, ever-youthful vegetation god, a life-death-rebirth deity whose nature is tied to the calendar. His name is often applied in modern times to handsome youths, of whom he is the archetype.

The Greek Adōnis was a borrowing from the Canaanite word ʼadōn, meaning “lord”, which is related to Adonai, one of the names used to refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible and still used in Judaism to the present day. Syrian Adonis is Gauas or Aos, akin to Egyptian Osiris, the Semitic Tammuz and Baal Hadad, the Etruscan Atunis and the Phrygian Attis, all of whom are deities of rebirth and vegetation (see life-death-rebirth deity). Adonis was certainly based in large part on Tammuz.

Adonis is the Hellenized form of the Phoenician word “adoni”, meaning “my lord”. It is believed that the cult of Adonis was known to the Greeks from around the sixth century BC., but it is unquestionable that they came to know it through contact with Cyprus. Around this time, the cult of Adonis is noted in the Book of Ezekiel in Jerusalem, though under the Babylonian name Tammuz.

Adonis originally was a Phoenician god of fertility representing the spirit of vegetation. It is further speculated that he was an avatar of the version of Ba’al, worshipped in Ugarit. It is likely that lack of clarity concerning whether Myrrha was called Smyrna, and who her father was, originated in Cyprus before the Greeks first encountered the myth. However, it is clear that the Greeks added much to the Adonis-Myrrha story, before it was first recorded by classical scholars.

Women in Athens would plant “gardens of Adonis” quick-growing herbs that sprang up from seed and died. The Festival of Adonis was celebrated by women at midsummer by sowing fennel and lettuce, and grains of wheat and barley. The plants sprang up soon, and withered quickly, and women mourned for the death of the vegetation god.

Adonia or Feast of Adonis was an ancient festival mourning the death of Adonis. The date is uncertain, but may have been early Spring, or summer. It was a private, rather than a state festival, and was celebrated by women exclusively.

According to Johannes Meursius, these two rituals made two distinct feasts, which were held at different times of the year, the one six months after the other; Adonis being supposed to pass half the year with Proserpine, and half with Venus.

The first Galli arrived in Rome when the Senate officially adopted Cybele as a state goddess in 204 BC. Roman citizens were prohibited from becoming Galli, which meant that they were all orientals or slaves. Under Claudius, this ban was lifted. Eventually Domitian reaffirmed that Roman citizens were forbidden to practice eviratio (castration).

The Galli castrated themselves during an ecstatic celebration called the Dies sanguinis, or “Day of Blood”, which took place on March 24. At the same time they put on women’s costume, mostly yellow in colour, and a sort of turban, together with pendants and ear-rings.

They also wore their hair long, and bleached, and wore heavy make-up. They wandered around with followers, begging for charity, in return for which they were prepared to tell fortunes. On the day of mourning for Attis they ran around wildly and disheveled. They performed dances to the music of pipes and tambourines, and, in an ecstasy, flogged themselves until they bled.

Stephanus Byzantinus said that the name came from King Gallus. Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD) says that the name is derived from the Gallus river in Phrygia. The name may be linked to the Gauls (Celtic tribes) of Galatia in Anatolia, who were known as Galli by the Romans. The word “Gallus” is also the Latin word for rooster.

While these efforts at “folk” etymologies were widespread in classical times, it has been suggested that gallu comes from the Sumerian Gal meaning “great” and Lu meaning “man”, humans or sexually ambivalent demons that freed Inanna from the underworld. They originally seem to have been consecrated to the god Enki.

Inanna (Cuneiform: (Old Babylonian) or DINGIRINANNA (Neo-Assyrian) DMUŠ; Sumerian: Inanna; Akkadian: Ištar) was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre.

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 planet Venus, which at that time was regarded as two stars, the “morning star” and the “evening star.” Because the movements of Venus appear to be discontinuous (it disappears due to its proximity to the sun, for many days at a time, and then reappears on the other horizon), some cultures did not recognize Venus as single entity, but rather regarded the planet as 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 discontinuous movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s dual nature. Inanna is related like Venus to the principle of connectedness, but this has a dual nature and could seem unpredictable.

Yet as both the goddess of love and war, with both masculine and feminine qualities, Inanna is poised to respond, and occasionally to respond with outbursts of temper. Mesopotamian literature takes this one step further, explaining Inanna’s physical movements in mythology as corresponding to the astronomical 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.

Pisces originates from some composition of the Babylonian constellations Šinunutu4 “the great swallow” in current western Pisces, and Anunitum the Lady of the Heaven, at the place of the northern fish. In the first Millennium BC texts known as the Astronomical Diaries, part of the constellation was also called DU.NU.NU (Rikis-nu.mi, “the fish cord or ribbon”).

Modern-day Aries was known as MULLÚ.ḪUN.GÁ, “The Agrarian Worker” or “The Hired Man”. The shift in identification from the constellation as the Agrarian Worker to the Ram likely occurred in later Babylonian tradition because of its growing association with Dumuzi the Shepherd.

By the time the MUL.APIN was created—by 1000 BC—modern Aries was identified with both Dumuzi’s ram and a hired laborer. The exact timing of this shift is difficult to determine due to the lack of images of Aries or other ram figures.

In ancient Egyptian astronomy, Aries was associated with the god Amon-Ra, who was depicted as a man with a ram’s head and represented fertility and creativity. Because it was the location of the vernal equinox, it was called the “Indicator of the Reborn Sun”.

During the times of the year when Aries was prominent, priests would process statues of Amon-Ra to temples, a practice that was modified by Persian astronomers centuries later. Aries acquired the title of “Lord of the Head” in Egypt, referring to its symbolic and mythological importance.

Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The House of Heaven (Sumerian: e-anna; Cuneiform: E.AN) temple in Uruk was the greatest of these, where sacred prostitution was a common practice.

In addition, according to Leick 1994 persons of asexual or hermaphroditic bodies and feminine men were particularly involved in the worship and ritual practices of Inanna’s temples. The deity of this fourth-millennium city was probably originally An.

After its dedication to Inanna the temple seems to have housed priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Akitu (New Year) ceremony, at the spring Equinox.

According to Samuel Noah Kramer in The Sacred Marriage Rite, in late Sumerian history (end of the third millennium) kings established their legitimacy by taking the place of Dumuzi in the temple for one night on the tenth day of the New Year festival.

A Sacred Marriage to Inanna may have conferred legitimacy on a number of rulers of Uruk. Gilgamesh is reputed to have refused marriage to Inanna, on the grounds of her misalliance with such kings as Lugalbanda and Damuzi.

There was a category of Mesopotamian priests called gala (Sumerian or kalu (Akkadian). These priests played the tympanum and were involved in bull sacrifice. Another category of Mesopotamian priests called assinnu, galatur, and kurgarru had a sacred function.

These transgender or eunuch priests participated in liturgical rites, during which they were costumed and masked. They played music, sang, and danced, most often in ceremonies dedicated to the goddess Inanna/Ishtar.

The gala/kalu were priests of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, significant numbers of the personnel of both temples and palaces, the central institutions of Mesopotamian city states, individuals with neither male nor female gender identities.

Originally a specialist in singing lamentations, gala appear in temple records dating back from the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. According to an old Babylonian text, Enki created the gala specifically to sing “heart-soothing laments” for the goddess Inanna. Cuniform references indicate the gendered character of the role. Lamentation and wailing originally may have been female professions, so that men who entered the role adopted its forms. Their hymns were sung in a Sumerian dialect known as eme-sal, normally used to render the speech of female gods, and some gala took female names.

Homosexual proclivities are clearly implied by the Sumerian proverb that reads, “When the gala wiped off his anus [he said], ‘I must not arouse that which belongs to my mistress [i.e., Inanna]’ “. In fact, the word gala was written using the sign sequence UŠ.KU, the first sign having also the reading giš3 (“penis”), and the second one dur2 (“anus”), so perhaps there is some pun involved.

Moreover, gala is homophonous with gal4-la “vulva”. However, in spite of all their references of their effeminate character (especially in the Sumerian proverbs), many administrative texts mention gala priests who had children, wives, and large families. On the other hand, some gala priests were actually women.

Fundamental to understanding the meaning and the function of the myth and ritual related to Attis in Rome is his relationship with the Galli. The role of prototype of the mythical castration of Attis for the institution of the “priesthood” of the Galli has almost always been emphasised, even if to different degrees.

Scholars have attempted to draw a connection between the episode of the castration of Attis and the ritual mutilation of the Galli as a reflection in myth of a secondary ritual action or conversely, as the mythical foundation of a ritual action.

This kind of interpretation appears to be too simplistic as, to some extent, it fails to consider that this connection has served different purposes in different periods. The emasculation of Attis in the “Phrygian” version of the myth is the basis for an institution that is both political and religious, the institution of his priests in Pessinous, the “non-kings”, who don’t simply coincide with the Galli.

The earliest references to the Galli come from the Anthologia Palatina although they don’t explicitly mention emasculation. More interesting is the fragment attributed to Callimachus, in which the term Gallai denotes castration that has taken place.

The high priests are well-documented from archaeology. At Pessinus, the centre of the Cybele cult, there were two high priests during the Hellenistic period, one with the title of “Attis” and the other with the name of “Battakes”. Both were eunuchs.

The high priests had considerable political influence during this period, and letters exist from a high priest Attis to the kings of Pergamon, Eumenes II and Attalus II, inscribed on stone. Later, during the Flavian period, there was a college of ten priests, not castrated, and now Roman citizens, but still using the title “Attis”.

In Rome, the head of the galli was known as the archigallus, at least from the period of Claudius on. A number of archaeological finds depict the archigallus wearing luxurious and extravagant costumes. The archigallus was always a Roman citizen chosen by the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, whose term of service lasted for life.

Being a Roman citizen, as well as being employed by the Roman State, meant that the archigallus had to preserve the traditions of Cybele’s cult while not violating Roman prohibitions in religious behavior. Hence, the archigallus was never a eunuch, as all citizens of Rome were forbidden from emasculation. The signs of his office have been described as a type of crown, possibly a laurel wreath, as well as a golden bracelet known as the occabus.

Along with the institution of the archigallus came the Phrygianum sanctuary as well as the rite of the taurobolium as it pertains to the Magna Mater, two aspects of the Magna Mater’s cultus that the archigallus held dominion over.

In the Roman Empire of the 2nd to 4th centuries, taurobolium referred to practices involving the sacrifice of a bull, which after mid-2nd century became connected with the worship of the Great Mother of the Gods; though not previously limited to her cultus, after 159 CE all private taurobolia inscriptions mention Magna Mater. Originating in Asia Minor, its earliest attested performance in Italy occurred in 134 CE, at Puteoli, in honor of Venus Caelestis, documented by an inscription.

The earliest inscriptions, of the 2nd century in Asia Minor, point to a bull chase in which the animal was overcome, linked with a panegyris in honour of a deity or deities, but not an essentially religious ceremony, though a bull was sacrificed and its flesh distributed. The addition of the taurobolium and the institution of an archigallus were innovations in the cult of Magna Mater made by Antoninus Pius on the occasion of his vicennalia, or twentieth year of reign, in 158-59.

The first dated reference to Magna Mater in a taurobolium inscription dates from 160. The vires, or testicles of the bull, were removed from Rome and dedicated at a taurobolium altar at Lugdunum, 27 November 160. Jeremy Rutter makes the suggestion that the bull’s testicles substituted for the self-castration of devotees of Cybele, abhorrent to the Roman ethos.

Public taurobolia, enlisting the benevolence of Magna Mater on behalf of the emperor, became common in Italy and Gaul, Hispania and Africa. The last public taurobolium for which there is an inscription was carried out for Diocletian and Maximian at Mactar in Numidia at the close of the 3rd century.

The best-known and most vivid description, though of the quite different taurobolium as it was revived in aristocratic pagan circles, is the notorious one that has coloured early scholarship, which was provided in an anti-pagan poem by the late 4th-century Christian Prudentius in Peristephanon: the priest of the Great Mother, clad in a silk toga worn in the Gabinian cincture, with golden crown and fillets on his head, takes his place in a trench covered by a platform of planks pierced with fine holes, on which a bull, magnificent with flowers and gold, is slain.

The blood rains through the platform onto the priest below, who receives it on his face, and even on his tongue and palate, and after the baptism presents himself before his fellow-worshippers purified and regenerated, and receives their salutations and reverence. Prudentius does not explicitly mention the taurobolium, but the ceremony, in its new form, is unmistakable from other contemporaneous sources: “At Novaesium on the Rhine in Germania Inferior, a blood pit was found in what was probably a Metroon”, Jeremy Rutter observes.

Recent scholarship has called into question the reliability of Prudentius’ description. It is a late account by a Christian who was hostile to paganism, and may have distorted the rite for effect. Earlier inscriptions that mention the rite suggest a less gory and elaborate sacrificial rite. Therefore, Prudentius’ description may be based on a late evolution of the taurobolium.
Eroded inscription commemorating a taurobolium for the Magna Mater.

The taurobolium in the 2nd and 3rd centuries was usually performed as a measure for the welfare (salus) of the Emperor, Empire, or community; H. Oppermann denies early reports that its date was frequently 24 March, the Dies Sanguinis (“Day of Blood”) of the annual festival of the Great Mother Cybele and Attis; Oppermann reports that there were no taurobolia in late March.

In the late 3rd and the 4th centuries its usual motive was the purification or regeneration of an individual, who was spoken of as renatus in aeternum, “reborn for eternity”, in consequence of the ceremony. While its efficacy was not eternal, its effect was considered to endure for twenty years, as if the magic coating of the blood wore off after that time, the initiate having taken his vows for “the circle of 20 years” (bis deni orbis). It was also performed as the fulfilment of a vow (votum), or by command of the goddess herself, and the privilege was not limited by sex or class.

In its 4th-century revival in high pagan circles, Rutter has observed, “We might even justifiably say that the taurobolium, rather than a rite effectual in itself was a symbol of paganism. It was a rite apparently forbidden by the Christian emperors and thus became a hallmark of the pagan nobility in their final struggle against Christianity and the Christian emperors.”

The place of its performance at Rome was near the site of St Peter’s, in the excavations of which several altars and inscriptions commemorative of taurobolia were discovered.

A Criobolium, substituting a ram for the bull, was also practiced, sometimes together with the taurobolium; Encyclopædia Britannica 1911, under the influence of Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough, suggested:

“The taurobolium was probably a sacred drama symbolizing the relations of the Mother and Attis (q.v.). The descent of the priest into the sacrificial foss symbolized the death of Attis, the withering of the vegetation of Mother Earth; his bath of blood and emergence the restoration of Attis, the rebirth of vegetation. The ceremony may be the spiritualized descent of the primitive oriental practice of drinking or being baptized in the blood of an animal, based upon a belief that the strength of brute creation could be acquired by consumption of its substance or contact with its blood. In spite of the phrase renatus in aeternum, there is no reason to suppose that the ceremony was in any way borrowed from Christianity.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Inanna and Tammuz

Posted by Fredsvenn on April 5, 2015

Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis. Inara’s mother is probably Hebat and her brother is Sarruma.

Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to or influenced by the pre-Sumerian goddess Inanna. Hannahannah was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat.

Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities. She is married to Teshub and is the mother of Sarruma and Alanzu, as well mother-in-law of the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka.

In the Hurrian language Hepa is the most likely pronunciation of the name of the goddess. In modern literature the sound /h/ in cuneiform sometimes is transliterated as kh. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.

The history of Hannahannah and Inara resembles that of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth, and her daughter Persephone, also called Kore or Cora (“the maiden”), in Greek myth.

Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter, and is the queen of the underworld. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic princess of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead.

Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld. The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete.

Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, is further said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysus, Iacchus, or Zagreus, usually in orphic tradition. The origins of her cult are uncertain, but it was based on very old agrarian cults of agricultural communities. In Roman mythology, she is called Proserpina, and her mother, Ceres.

Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. Her cult titles include Sito (“she of the Grain”) as the giver of food or grain and Thesmophoros (“thesmos”: divine order, unwritten law; “phoros”: bringer, bearer), “Law-Bringer,” as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.

She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon and promised to the initiated a more enjoyable prospect after death.

In the Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of circa 1400–1200 BC found at Pylos, the “two mistresses and the king” may be related with Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon. It is possible that Demeter appears in Linear A as da-ma-te.

Hebat is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”), an originally Anatolian mother goddess.

Cybele has a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük (in the Konya region) where the statue of a pregnant goddess seated on a lion throne was found in a granary dated to the 6th millennium BCE..

She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its state deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BCE.

In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Harvest-Mother goddess Demeter.

Kingu, also spelled Qingu, meaning “unskilled laborer,” was a god in Babylonian mythology, and — after the murder of his father Abzu — the consort of the goddess Tiamat, his mother, who wanted to establish him as ruler and leader of all gods before she was slain by Marduk.

Tiamat gave Kingu the 3 Tablets of Destiny, which he wore as a breastplate and which gave him great power. She placed him as the general of her army.

However, like Tiamat, Kingu was eventually slain by Marduk. Marduk mixed Kingu’s blood with earth and used the clay to mold the first human beings, while Tiamat’s body created the earth and the skies. Kingu then went to live in the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, along with the other deities who had sided with Tiamat.

Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre. She 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.

Inanna’s name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna; however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (nin) and sky (an). These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities. The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.

Inanna was the most prominent female deity in ancient Mesopotamia. As early as the Uruk period (ca. 4000–3100 BC), Inanna was associated with the city of Uruk.

In Sumerian mythology, Anu (also An; from Sumerian An, “sky, heaven”) was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as soldiers to destroy the wicked. His attribute was the royal tiara. His attendant and minister of state was the god Ilabrat.

Anu came to be regarded as the father and at first, king of the gods. Anu is so prominently associated with the E-anna temple in the city of Uruk (biblical Erech) in southern Babylonia that there are good reasons for believing this place to be the original seat of the Anu cult. If this is correct, then the goddess Inanna (or Ishtar) of Uruk may at one time have been his consort.

Uraš or Urash, in Sumerian mythology is a goddess of earth, and one of the consorts of the sky god An. She is the mother of the goddess Ninsun and a grandmother of the hero Gilgamesh.

However, Uras may only have been another name for Antum, An’s wife. The name Uras even became applied to An himself, and acquired the meaning “heaven”. Ninurta (Nin Ur: God of War) also was apparently called Uras in later times.

In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal (EREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”) was the goddess of Irkalla, the land of the dead or underworld. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, and sometimes it is given as Ninkigal, lit. “Great Lady of the Earth” or “Lady of the Great Earth”.

Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. The main temple dedicated to her was located in Kutha.

The goddess Ishtar refers to Ereshkigal as her older sister in the Sumerian hymn “The Descent of Inanna” (which was also in later Babylonian myth, also called “The Descent of Ishtar”). Inanna/Ishtar’s trip and return to the underworld is the most familiar of the myths concerning Ereshkigal.

Ereshkigal is the sister and counterpart of Inanna/Ishtar, the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year. Ereshkigal was also a queen that many gods and goddesses looked up to in the underworld. She is known chiefly through two myths, believed to symbolize the changing of the seasons, but perhaps also intended to illustrate certain doctrines which date back to the Mesopotamia period. According to the doctrine of two kingdoms, the dominions of the two sisters are sharply differentiated, as one is of this world and one of the world of the dead.

One of these myths is Inanna’s descent to the netherworld and her reception by her sister who presides over it; Ereshkigal traps her sister in her kingdom and Inanna is only able to leave it by sacrificing her husband Dumuzi in exchange for herself.

Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The House of Heaven (Sumerian: e-anna) temple in Uruk was the greatest of these, where sacred prostitution was a common practice.

In addition, according to Leick 1994 persons of asexual or hermaphroditic bodies and feminine men were particularly involved in the worship and ritual practices of Inanna’s temples.

The deity of this fourth-millennium city was probably originally An. After its dedication to Inanna the temple seems to have housed priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Akitu (New Year) ceremony, at the spring Equinox.

According to Samuel Noah Kramer in The Sacred Marriage Rite, in late Sumerian history (end of the third millennium) kings established their legitimacy by taking the place of Dumuzi in the temple for one night on the tenth day of the New Year festival.

A Sacred Marriage to Inanna may have conferred legitimacy on a number of rulers of Uruk. Gilgamesh is reputed to have refused marriage to Inanna, on the grounds of her misalliance with such kings as Lugalbanda and Damuzi.

Tammuz (Akkadian: Duʾzu, Dūzu; Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”) was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.

In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar.

The Levantine Adonis (“lord”), who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort.

The Aramaic name “Tammuz” seems to have been derived from the Akkadian form Tammuzi, based on early Sumerian Damu-zid. The later standard Sumerian form, Dumu-zid, in turn became Dumuzi in Akkadian. Tamuzi also is Dumuzid or Dumuzi.

Nana was a Kushan female divinity, a variation of pan-Asiatic Nana, a conflation of Sumero-Babylonian Inanna-Ishtar with a local divinity, in her Kushan form with either the indigenous (Zoroastrian) Harahvati Aredvi Sura Anahita, or the Indic Durga-Saraswati, or both. Such syncretism was common among the Kushan deities.

Anahit was the goddess of fertility and healing, wisdom and water in Armenian mythology. In early periods she was the goddess of war. By the 5th century BC she was the main deity in Armenia along with Aramazd.

The name corresponds to Avestan Anahita (Aredvi Sura Anahita), the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess. The Avestan language name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of ‘the Waters’ (Aban) and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom.

At some point prior to the 4th century BCE, this yazata was conflated with (an analogue of)[α] Semitic Ištar, likewise a divinity of “maiden” fertility and from whom Aredvi Sura Anahita then inherited additional features of a divinity of war and of the planet Venus or “Zohreh” in Arabic.

It was moreover the association with the planet Venus, “it seems, which led Herodotus to record that the [Persis][γ] learnt ‘to sacrifice to “the heavenly goddess”‘ from the Assyrians and Arabians.”

Ishtar also “apparently” gave Aredvi Sura Anahita the epithet Banu, ‘the Lady’, a typically Mesopotamian construct that is not attested as an epithet for a divinity in Iran before the common era. It is completely unknown in the texts of the Avesta, but evident in Sassanid-era middle Persian inscriptions (see the cult, below) and in a middle Persian Zend translation of Yasna 68.13.

Also in Zoroastrian texts from the post-conquest epoch (651 CE onwards), the divinity is referred to as ‘Anahid the Lady’, ‘Ardwisur the Lady’ and ‘Ardwisur the Lady of the waters’.

Because the divinity is unattested in any old Western Iranian language, establishing characteristics prior to the introduction of Zoroastrianism in Western Iran (c. 5th century BCE) is very much in the realm of speculation.

According to Boyce, it is “probable” that there was once a Perso–Elamite divinity by the name of *Anahiti (as reconstructed from the Greek Anaitis). It is then likely (so Boyce) that it was this divinity that was an analogue of Ishtar, and that it is this divinity with which Aredvi Sura Anahita was conflated.

Boyce concludes that “the Achaemenids’ devotion to this goddess evidently survived their conversion to Zoroastrianism, and they appear to have used royal influence to have her adopted into the Zoroastrian pantheon.”

According to an alternate theory, Anahita was perhaps “a daeva of the early and pure Zoroastrian faith, incorporated into the Zoroastrian religion and its revised canon” during the reign of “Artaxerxes I, the Constantine of that faith.”

All the waters of the world created by Ahura Mazda originate from the source Aredvi Sura Anahita, the life-increasing, herd-increasing, fold-increasing, who makes prosperity for all countries. This source is at the top of the world mountain Hara Berezaiti, “High Hara”, around which the sky revolves and that is at the center of Airyanem Vaejah, the first of the lands created by Mazda.

In the Bundahishn, the two halves of the name “Ardwisur Anahid” are occasionally treated independently of one another, that is, with Ardwisur as the representative of waters, and Anahid identified with the planet Venus: The water of the all lakes and seas have their origin with Ardwisur, and in contrast, in a section dealing with the creation of the stars and planets, the Bundahishn speaks of ‘Anahid i Abaxtari’, that is, the planet Venus. In yet other chapters, the text equates the two, as in “Ardwisur who is Anahid, the father and mother of the Waters”.

Jnana is a term for “knowledge” in Indian religions and Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. The idea of jnana centers on a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced. It is knowledge inseparable from the total experience of reality, especially a total or divine reality (Brahma). The root jñā- is cognate to English know, as well as to the Greek γνώ- (as in γνῶσις gnosis). Its antonym is ajñāna “ignorance”.

Dhyāna or Jhāna means meditation in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. In Buddhism, it is a series of cultivated states of mind, which lead to “state of perfect equanimity and awareness.”

Mat Zemlya, also Matka Ziemia and Mati Syra Zemlya (literally Damp Mother Earth), is the oldest deity in Slavic mythology, her identity later blended into that of Mokosh, a Slavic goddess mentioned in the Primary Chronicle, protector of women’s work and women’s destiny. She shares characteristics with Indo-Iranian Ardvi Sura Anahita “Humid Mother of the Earth.”

Mokoš is the protector of women’s work and women’s destiny. She watches over spinning and weaving, shearing of sheep, and protects women in child birth. Mokosh is the handmaiden of Mat Zemlya. Mokosh means moisture. According to Max Vasmer, her name is derived from the same root as Slavic words mokry ‘wet’ and moknut(i) ‘get wet’.

In the early Middle Ages, Mati Syra Zemlya was one of the most important deities in the Slavic world. Oaths were made binding by touching the Earth and sins were confessed into a hole in the Earth before death. She was worshipped in her natural form and was not given a human personage or likeness. Since the adoption of Christianity in all Slavic lands, she has been identified with Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Atargatis or Ataratheh was the chief goddess of northern Syria in Classical Antiquity. Ctesias also used the name Derceto for her, and the Romans called her Dea Syriae (“Syrian goddess”).

Primarily she was a goddess of fertility, but, as the baalat (“mistress”) of her city and people, she was also responsible for their protection and well-being. Her chief sanctuary was at Hierapolis, modern Manbij, northeast of Aleppo, Syria.

Michael Rostovtzeff called her “the great mistress of the North Syrian lands”. Her consort is usually Hadad. As Ataratheh, doves and fish were considered sacred by her: doves as an emblem of the Love-Goddess, and fish as symbolic of the fertility and life of the waters.

According to a third-century Syriac source, “In Syria and in Urhâi [Edessa] the men used to castrate themselves in honor of Taratha. But when King Abgar became a believer, he commanded that anyone who emasculated himself should have a hand cut off. And from that day to the present no one in Urhâi emasculates himself anymore.”

‘Atar‘atheh is seen as a continuation of Bronze Age goddesses. At Ugarit, cuneiform tablets attest the three great Canaanite goddesses ‘Aṭirat (Asherah) – described as a fecund “Lady Goddess of the Sea” – ‘Anat (Anat, Anath), and ‘Ațtart (Astarte), who shared many traits with each other and may have been worshiped in conjunction or separately during 1500 years of cultural history.

The name ‘Atar‘atheh is widely held to derive from a compound of the Aramaic form ‘Attar, which is a cognate of ‘Ațtart minus its feminine suffix -t, and ‘Attah or ‘Atā, a cognate of Anat (Cognates of Ugaritic ‘Ațtart include Phoenician ‘Aštart – Hellenized as Astarte – Old Testament Hebrew ‘Aštoreth, and Himyaritic ‘Athtar (compare the cognate Akkadian form Ištar).

Alternatively, the second half may be a Palmyrene divine name ‘Athe (i.e. tempus opportunum), which occurs as part of many compounds.

It has also been proposed that the element -gatis may relate to the Greek gados “fish”. (For example, the Greek name for “sea monster” or “whale” is the cognate term ketos). So Atar-Gatis may simply mean “the fish-goddess Atar”.

In Greek mythology, Nana was a daughter of the Phrygian river-god Sangarius, identified with the river Sakarya located in present-day Turkey.

She became pregnant when an almond from an almond tree fell on her lap. The almond tree had sprung from the spot where the hermaphroditic Agdistis was castrated, becoming Cybele, the Mother of the Gods.

Nana abandoned the baby boy, who was tended by a he-goat. The baby, Attis, depicted as having been born of a virgin mother on December 25th, being killed and resurrecting afterwards, grew up to become Cybele’s consort and lover.

In Norse mythology, Nanna Nepsdóttir or simply Nanna is a goddess associated with the god Baldr (also Balder, Baldur). Accounts of Nanna vary greatly by source. In the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, Nanna is the wife of Baldr and the couple produced a son, the god Forseti.

After Baldr’s death, Nanna dies of grief. Nanna is placed on Baldr’s ship with his corpse and the two are set aflame and pushed out to sea. In Hel, Baldr and Nanna are united again.

Baldr is a god of light and purity in Norse mythology, and a son of the god Odin and the goddess Frigg. He has numerous brothers, such as Thor and Váli.

In the 12th century, Danish accounts by Saxo Grammaticus and other Danish Latin chroniclers recorded a euhemerized account of his story. Compiled in Iceland in the 13th century, but based on much older Old Norse poetry, the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda contain numerous references to the death of Baldr as both a great tragedy to the Æsir and a harbinger of Ragnarök.

According to Gylfaginning, a book of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, Baldr’s wife is Nanna and their son is Forseti. In Gylfaginning, Snorri relates that Baldr had the greatest ship ever built, named Hringhorni, and that there is no place more beautiful than his hall, Breidablik.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 29, 2015

In Norse mythology, Njörun (Old Norse Njǫrun, sometimes modernly anglicized as Niorun) is a goddess attested in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and various kennings (including once in the Poetic Edda).

Scholarly theories concerning the name and function of Nerthus in the Germanic pantheon include etymological connections to the Norse god Njörðr and the Roman goddess Nerio, and suggestions that she may represent the earth and/or be the unnamed sister-wife of Njörðr.

Njörun is a “mysterious … figure” of whom nothing else is known; Andy Orchard suggests that she may be fictitious. Several scholars have suggested that the stem syllable in her name, Njǫr-, may represent the element *ner- as in Tacitus’ earth-goddess Nerthus (*Ner-þuz), whose name is etymologically identical with that of the Norse god Njǫrðr, and that Njörun may therefore be a name for the earth.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Nerio was an ancient war goddess and the personification of valor. She was the partner of Mars in ancient cult practices, and was sometimes identified with the goddess Bellona, an Ancient Roman goddess of war, corresponding to the Ancient Greek Enyo, and occasionally with the goddess Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy.

Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. She was born with weapons from the head of Jupiter. After impregnating the titaness Metis Jupiter recalled a prophecy that his own child would overthrow him.

Fearing that their child would grow stronger than him and rule the Heavens in his place, Jupiter swallowed Metis whole. The titaness forged weapons and armor for her child while within the father-god, and the constant pounding and ringing gave him a headache.

To relieve the pain, Vulcan used a hammer to split Jupiter’s head and, from the cleft, Minerva emerged, whole, adult, and bearing her mother’s weapons and armor. From the 2nd century BC onwards, the Romans equated her with the Greek goddess Athena.

She was the virgin goddess of music, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, and magic. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl usually named as the “owl of Minerva”, which symbolizes that she is connected to wisdom.

Bellona was called the sister of Mars, and in some sources, his wife or an associate of his female cult partner Nerio. Bellona’s main attribute is the military helmet worn on her head, and she often holds a sword, a shield, or other weapons of battle.

The name “Bellona” derived from the Latin word for “war” (bellum), and is directly related to the modern English words “belligerent” (lit., “war-waging”), “bellicose” and “antebellum”. In earlier times she was called Duellona, the name being derived from a more ancient word for “battle”.

In art, she is portrayed with a helmet on her head, usually wearing a breastplate or plate armour, bearing a sword, spear, shield, or other weaponry, sometimes holding a flaming torch or sounding the Horn of Victory and Defeat. In heraldic crests, she may be shown as a goddess with spread feathered wings bearing a helmet or coronet.

Ammianus Marcellinus, in describing the Roman defeat at the Battle of Adrianople refers to “Bellona, blowing her mournful trumpet, was raging more fiercely than usual, to inflict disaster on the Romans”.

Enyo was a goddess of war and destruction in Greek mythology, the companion and lover of the war god Ares. She is also identified as his sister, and daughter of Zeus and Hera, in a role closely resembling that of Eris (“Strife”); with Homer in particular representing the two as the same goddess. She is also accredited as the mother of the war god Enyalius, by Ares. However, the name Enyalius or Enyalios can also be used as a title for Ares himself.

Eris is the Greek goddess of chaos, strife and discord. Her name is the equivalent of Latin Discordia, which means “discord”. Eris’ Greek opposite is Harmonia, whose Latin counterpart is Concordia.

Phobos (“fear”) is the personification of fear in Greek mythology. He is the offspring of Aphrodite and Ares. He was known for accompanying Ares into battle along with the ancient war goddess Enyo, the goddess of discord Eris (both sisters of Ares), and Phobos’ twin brother Deimos (“dread”), the personification of terror.

As goddess of war, Enyo is responsible for orchestrating the destruction of cities, often accompanying Ares into battle, and depicted “as supreme in war”. During the fall of Troy, Enyo inflicted terror and bloodshed in the war, along with Eris (“Strife”), and Phobos (“Fear”) and Deimos (“Dread”), the two sons of Ares. She, Eris, and the two sons of Ares are depicted on Achilles’s shield.

Enyo was involved in the war of the Seven Against Thebes and Dionysus’s war with the Indians as well. Enyo so delighted in warfare that she even refused to take sides in the battle between Zeus and the monster Typhon:

Eris (Strife) was Typhon’s escort in the mellay, Nike (Victory) led Zeus into battle… impartial Enyo held equal balance between the two sides, between Zeus and Typhon, while the thunderbolts with booming shots revel like dancers in the sky.

The Romans identified Enyo with Bellona, and she also has similarities with the Anatolian goddess Ma, a local goddess at Ma and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele, an originally Anatolian mother goddess; she has a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük (in the Konya region) where the statue of a pregnant goddess seated on a lion throne was found in a granary dated to the 6th millennium BCE.

Cybele is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its state deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BCE.

Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities.

In Ancient Mesopotamian religion, Humbaba or Huwawa, also Humbaba the Terrible, was a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun. Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil, who “assigned [Humbaba] as a terror to human beings.” He is the brother of Pazuzu and Enki and son of Hanbi. His face is that of a lion. “When he looks at someone, it is the look of death.”

The iconography of the apotropaic severed head of Humbaba, with staring eyes, flowing beard and wild hair, is well documented from the First Babylonian Dynasty, continuing into Neo-Assyrian art and dying away during the Achaemenid rule.

The severed head of the monstrous Humbaba found a Greek parallel in the myth of Perseus and the similarly employed head of Medusa, which Perseus placed in his leather sack.

Archaic Greek depictions of the gorgoneion render it bearded, an anomaly in the female Gorgon. Judith McKenzie detected Humbaba heads in a Nabatean tomb frieze at Petra.

Humba or Khumban was the name of the most important male god in the Elamite pantheon. His name apparently means “commander” in Elamite, as it is derived from the Elamite verb huba “to command”.

Kummanni was the name of the main center the Anatolian kingdom of Kizzuwatna, the name of an ancient Anatolian kingdom in the 2nd millennium BC. Its location is uncertain, but is believed to be near the classical settlement of Coman in Cappadocia. Kummanni was the major cult center of the Hurrian chief deity, Tešup, who was married to Hebat. Its Hurrian name Kummeni simply translates as “The Shrine.”

It was situated in the highlands of southeastern Anatolia, near the Gulf of İskenderun in modern-day Turkey. It encircled the Taurus Mountains and the Ceyhan river. The center of the kingdom was the city of Kummanni, situated in the highlands. In a later era, the same region was known as Cilicia.

Puduhepa, queen of the Hittite king Hattusili III, came from Kizzuwatna, where she had been a priestess. Their pantheon was also integrated into the Hittite one, and the goddess Hebat of Kizzuwatna became very important in Hittite religion towards the end of the 13th century BC.

After the fall of the Hittite empire, several minor Neo-Hittite kingdoms emerged in the area, such as Tabal, Kammanu and Quwe. Kammanu was a Luwian – Hurrian speaking Neo-Hittite state in Armenian Highlands in the late 2nd millennium BC, formed from part of Kizzuwatna after the collapse of the Hittite Empire. Its principal city was Melid.

The kings of Kizzuwatna of the 2nd millennium BC had frequent contact with the Hittites to the north. The earliest Hittite records seem to refer to Kizzuwatna and Arzawa, the name of a region and a political entity (a “kingdom” or a federation of local powers) in Western Anatolia, collectively as Luwia.

According to ancient geographers, Comana was situated in Cappadocia (and later Cataonia). Another epithet for the city, found in inscriptions, is Hieropolis ‘sacred city’, owing to a famous temple of the Syrian Moon goddess Enyo or, in the local language: Ma (cf. Men, the moon goddess of Caria). Strabo and Julius Caesar visited it; the former enters into long details about its position in a deep valley on the Sarus (Seihoun) river.

The temple and its fame in ancient times were as the place where the rites of Ma-Enyo, a variety of the great west Asian nature-goddess, were celebrated with much solemnity. The service was carried on in a sumptuous temple with great magnificence by many thousands of hieroduli (temple slaves).

To defray expenses, large estates had been set apart, which yielded a more than royal revenue. The city, a mere apanage of the temple, was governed directly by the chief priest, who was always a member of the reigning Cappadocian family, and took rank next to the king.

The number of persons engaged in the service of the temple, even in Strabo’s time, was upwards of 6000, and among these, to judge by the names common on local tomb-stones, were many Persians.

Under the Romans the temple was reassigned to Bellona and Lycomedes established as high priest. Emperor Caracalla, made Comana a Roman colony, and the temple-city received honors from later emperors down to the official recognition of Christianity.

Comana Chryse, or the golden, appears from one of the Novellae of Justinian (Nov. 31. c. 1), to distinguish it from the Comana in Pontus. It was in the division which he named the Third Armenia, and which, he observes, contained Melitene, near the Euphrates.

At Thebes and Orchomenos, a festival called Homolôïa, which was celebrated in honour of Zeus, Demeter, Athena and Enyo, was said to have received the surname of Homoloïus from Homoloïs, a priestess of Enyo. A statue of Enyo, made by the sons of Praxiteles, stood in the temple of Ares at Athens. Among the Graeae in Hesiod there is one called Enyo.

Enyo was also the name of one of the Graeae, three sisters who shared one eye and one tooth among them, along with Deino (“Dread”) and Pemphredo (“Alarm”).

Spoils taken from enemies were sometimes dedicated to Nerio by the Romans. Nerio was later supplanted by mythologized deities appropriated and adapted from other religions.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army.

Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.

Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares (literal meaning of “battle”), the Greek god of war, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars. Ares is one of the Twelve Olympians, and the son of Zeus and Hera.

In Greek literature, he often represents the physical or violent and untamed aspect of war, in contrast to his sister the armored Athena, whose functions as a goddess of intelligence include military strategy and generalship.

The Greeks were ambivalent toward Ares: although he embodied the physical valor necessary for success in war, he was a dangerous force, “overwhelming, insatiable in battle, destructive, and man-slaughtering.” His sons Fear (Phobos) and Terror (Deimos) and his lover, or sister, Discord (Enyo) accompanied him on his war chariot.

In the Iliad, his father Zeus tells him that he is the god most hateful to him. An association with Ares endows places and objects with a savage, dangerous, or militarized quality.

His value as a war god is placed in doubt: during the Trojan War, Ares was on the losing side, while Athena, often depicted in Greek art as holding Nike (Victory) in her hand, favored the triumphant Greeks.

Ares plays a relatively limited role in Greek mythology as represented in literary narratives, though his numerous love affairs and abundant offspring are often alluded to. When Ares does appear in myths, he typically faces humiliation.

He is well known as the lover of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who was married to Hephaestus, god of craftsmanship. The most famous story related to Ares and Aphrodite shows them exposed to ridicule through the wronged husband’s clever device.

Aries (meaning “ram”) is the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30º). Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this sign between March 21 and April 21 each year. Individuals born during these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called Arians or Ariens.

According to the Tropical system of astrology, the Sun enters the sign of Aries when it reaches the northern vernal equinox, which occurs around March 21. Because the Earth takes approximately 365.25 days to go around the Sun, the precise time of the equinox is not the same each year, and generally will occur about 6 hours later each year, with a jump of a day (backwards) on leap years. Since 1900 the vernal equinox date ranged from March 20 at 08h (2000) to April 21 at 19h (1903) (all times UTC).

As of 2002, the Sun resides in the constellation Aries from April 18 to May 13 as it moves through the ecliptic. In tropical astrology, the Sun is considered to be in the sign Aries from March 21 to April 20, and in sidereal astrology, from April 15 to May 15.

The symbol of the ram is based on the Chrysomallus, the flying gold-hair winged ram held in Colchis that provided the Golden Fleece, a symbol of authority and kingship. It figures in the tale of the hero Jason and his band of Argonauts, who set out on a quest for the fleece by order of King Pelias, in order to place Jason rightfully on the throne of Iolcus in Thessaly.

Through the help of Medea, they acquire the Golden Fleece. The story is of great antiquity and was current in the time of Homer (eighth century BC). It survives in various forms, among which the details vary.

Taurus is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky. It is one of the oldest constellations, dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age when it marked the location of the Sun during the spring equinox. Its importance to the agricultural calendar influenced various bull figures in the mythologies of Ancient Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

The identification of the constellation of Taurus with a bull is very old, certainly dating to the Chalcolithic, and perhaps even to the Upper Paleolithic. Michael Rappenglück of the University of Munich believes that Taurus is represented in a cave painting at the Hall of the Bulls in the caves at Lascaux (dated to roughly 15,000 BC), which he believes is accompanied by a depiction of the Pleiades.

The name “seven sisters” has been used for the Pleiades in the languages of many cultures, including indigenous groups of Australia, North America and Siberia. This suggests that the name may have a common ancient origin.

Taurus marked the point of vernal (spring) equinox in the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age, from about 4000 BC to 1700 BC, after which it moved into the neighboring constellation Aries. The Pleiades were closest to the Sun at vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC.

In Babylonian astronomy, the constellation was listed in the MUL.APIN as GU4.AN.NA, “The Bull of Heaven”. As this constellation marked the vernal equinox, it was also the first constellation in the Babylonian zodiac and they described it as “The Bull in Front”. The Akkadian name was Alu.

In the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest works of literature, the goddess Ishtar sends Taurus, the Bull of Heaven, to kill Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. Some locate Gilgamesh as the neighboring constellation of Orion, facing Taurus as if in combat, while others identify him with the sun whose rising on the equinox vanquishes the constellation.

In early Mesopotamian art, the Bull of Heaven was closely associated with Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare. One of the oldest depictions shows the bull standing before the goddess’ standard; since it has 3 stars depicted on its back (the cuneiform sign for “star-constellation”), there is good reason to regard this as the constellation later known as Taurus.

The same iconic representation of the Heavenly Bull was depicted in the Dendera zodiac, an Egyptian bas-relief carving in a ceiling that depicted the celestial hemisphere using a planisphere.

In these ancient cultures, the orientation of the horns was portrayed as upward or backward. This differed from the later Greek depiction where the horns pointed forward. To the Egyptians, the constellation Taurus was a sacred bull that was associated with the renewal of life in spring.

When the spring equinox entered Taurus, the constellation would become covered by the Sun in the western sky as spring began. This “sacrifice” led to the renewal of the land. To the early Hebrews, Taurus was the first constellation in their zodiac and consequently it was represented by the first letter in their alphabet, Aleph.

In Greek mythology, Taurus was identified with Zeus, who assumed the form of a magnificent white bull to abduct Europa, a legendary Phoenician princess. In illustrations of Greek mythology, only the front portion of this constellation are depicted; this was sometimes explained as Taurus being partly submerged as he carried Europa out to sea. A second Greek myth portrays Taurus as Io, a mistress of Zeus.

To hide his lover from his wife Hera, Zeus changed Io into the form of a heifer. Greek mythographer Acusilaus marks the bull Taurus as the same that formed the myth of the Cretan Bull, one of The Twelve Labors of Heracles.

Taurus became an important object of worship among the Druids. Their Tauric religious festival was held while the Sun passed through the constellation. In Buddhism, legends hold that Gautama Buddha was born when the Full Moon was in Vaisakha, or Taurus. Buddha’s birthday is celebrated with the Wesak Festival, or Vesākha, which occurs on the first or second Full Moon when the Sun is in Taurus.

Kingu, also spelled Qingu, meaning “unskilled laborer,” was a god in Babylonian mythology, and — after the murder of his father Abzu — the consort of the goddess Tiamat, his mother, who wanted to establish him as ruler and leader of all gods before she was slain by Marduk.

Tiamat gave Kingu the 3 Tablets of Destiny, which he wore as a breastplate and which gave him great power. She placed him as the general of her army. However, like Tiamat, Kingu was eventually slain by Marduk.

Marduk mixed Kingu’s blood with earth and used the clay to mold the first human beings, while Tiamat’s body created the earth and the skies. Kingu then went to live in the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, along with the other deities who had sided with Tiamat.

The name Nergal, Nirgal, or Nirgali was a deity worshipped throughout Mesopotamia (Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia) with the main seat of his worship at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. Standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion, and boundary-stone monuments symbolise him with a mace surmounted by the head of a lion.

Nergal actually seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only a representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle.

Nergal evolved from a war god to a god of the underworld. He became the deity who presides over the netherworld, and who stands at the head of the special pantheon assigned to the government of the dead (supposed to be gathered in a large subterranean cave known as Aralu or Irkalla).

In Babylonian mythology, Irkalla (also Ir-Kalla, Irkalia) is the underworld from which there is no return. It is also called Arali, Kigal, Gizal, and the lower world. Irkalla is ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal and her consort, the death god Nergal.

In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In some texts the god Ninazu is the son of Nergal and Allatu/Ereshkigal.

Allatu (Allatum) is an underworld goddess modeled after the mesopotamic goddess Ereshkigal and worshipped by western Semitic peoples, including the Carthaginians. She also may be equate with the Canaanite goddess Arsay, who according to texts is the third daughter of Baal at Ugarit.

Allāt or al-Lāt was a Pre-Islamic Arabian goddess who was one of the three chief goddesses of Mecca. She is mentioned in the Qur’an (Sura 53:19), which indicates that pre-Islamic Arabs considered her as one of the daughters of Allah, along with Manāt and al-‘Uzzá.

The Nabataeans of Petra and the people of Hatra also worshipped her, equating her with the Greek Athena and Tyche and the Roman Minerva. She is frequently called “the Great Goddess” in Greek in multi-lingual inscriptions. According to Wellhausen, the Nabataeans believed al-Lāt was the mother of Hubal (and hence the mother-in-law of Manāt).

The pre-Islamic Arabs believed Manāt to be the goddess of fate. She was known by the cognate name Manawat to the Nabataeans of Petra, who equated her with the Graeco-Roman goddess Nemesis, and she was considered the wife of Hubal.

Al-‘Uzzá was also worshipped by the Nabataeans, who equated her with the Greek goddess Aphrodite Ourania (Roman Venus Caelestis). Inscriptions related to al-‘Uzzá among the Nabataeans at Petra have been interpreted to associate al-‘Uzzá with the planet Venus.

Ushas, Sanskrit for “dawn”, is a Vedic deity, and consequently a Hindu deity as well. Sanskrit uṣas is an s-stem, i.e. the genitive case is uṣásas. It is from PIE *h₂ausos-, cognate to Greek Eos and Latin Aurora. Aurora continues the name of an earlier Indo-European dawn goddess, Hausos.

Hubal was a god worshipped in pre-Islamic Arabia, notably at the Kaaba in Mecca. His idol was a human figure, believed to control acts of divination, which was in the form of tossing arrows before the statue. The direction in which the arrows pointed answered questions asked of the idol. Hubal may have been the combination of Hu, meaning “spirit” or “god”, and the Moab god Baal meaning “master” or “lord”.

In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal (EREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”) was the goddess of Irkalla, the land of the dead or underworld. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, and sometimes it is given as Ninkigal, lit. “Great Lady of the Earth” or “Lady of the Great Earth”.

Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. The main temple dedicated to her was located in Kutha, which is also the name of the capital of the Sumerian underworld, Irkalla.

Ereshkigal is the sister and counterpart of Inanna/Ishtar, the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year. Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare. According to the doctrine of two kingdoms, the dominions of the two sisters are sharply differentiated, as one is of this world and one of the world of the dead.

The goddess Ishtar refers to Ereshkigal as her older sister in the Sumerian hymn “The Descent of Inanna” (which was also in later Babylonian myth, also called “The Descent of Ishtar”).

Inanna/Ishtar’s trip and return to the underworld is the most familiar of the myths concerning Ereshkigal. In this myth Ereshkigal traps her sister, Inanna, in her kingdom and Inanna is only able to leave it by sacrificing her husband Dumuzi in exchange for herself.

The other myth is the story of Nergal, the plague god. Once, the gods held a banquet that Ereshkigal as queen of the Netherworld cannot come up to attend. They invite her to send a messenger and she sends Namtar, her vizier. He is treated well by all but disrespected by Nergal.

As a result of this, Nergal is banished to the kingdom controlled by the goddess. Versions vary at this point, but all of them result in him becoming her husband. In later tradition, Nergal is said to have been the victor, taking her as wife and ruling the land himself.

It is theorized that the story of Inanna’s descent is told to illustrate the possibility of an escape from the netherworld, while the Nergal myth is intended to reconcile the existence of two rulers of the netherworld: a goddess and a god.

The addition of Nergal represents the harmonizing tendency to unite Ereshkigal as the queen of the netherworld with the god who, as god of war and of pestilence, brings death to the living and thus becomes the one who presides over the dead.

Nanna is the goddess and wife of the god Baldr in Norse mythology. After Baldr’s death, Nanna dies of grief. Nanna is placed on Baldr’s ship with his corpse and the two are set aflame and pushed out to sea.

In Hel, Baldr and Nanna are united again. In an attempt to bring back Baldr from the dead, the god Hermóðr rides to Hel and, upon receiving the hope of resurrection from the being Hel, Nanna gives Hermóðr gifts to give to the goddess Frigg (a robe of linen), the goddess Fulla (a finger-ring), and others (unspecified).

Tammuz (Transliterated Hebrew: Tammuz, Tiberian Hebrew: Tammûz; Arabic:‎ Tammūz; Akkadian: Duʾzu, Dūzu; Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”) was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.

A number of pastoral poems and songs relate the love affair of Inanna and Dumuzid the shepherd. Hieros gamos or Hierogamy (“holy marriage”) refers to a sexual ritual that plays out a marriage between a god and a goddess, especially when enacted in a symbolic ritual where human participants represent the deities.

Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year.

In the late Babylonian astral-theological system Nergal is related to the planet Mars. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks either to the combative demigod Heracles (Latin Hercules) or to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars)—hence the current name of the planet.

In Assyro-Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta (Nin Ur: God of War).

Ninurta in Sumerian and the Akkadian mythology of Assyria and Babylonia was the god of Lagash, identified with Ningirsu with whom he may always have been identified. In older transliteration the name is rendered Ninib and Ninip, and in early commentary he was sometimes portrayed as a solar deity.

In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. In variant mythology, his mother is said to be the harvest goddess Ninhursag. The consort of Ninurta was Ugallu in Nippur and Bau when he was called Ningirsu.

Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend “Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.

In another legend, Ninurta battles a birdlike monster called Imdugud (Akkadian: Anzû); a Babylonian version relates how the monster Anzû steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil. The Tablets of Destiny were believed to contain the details of fate and the future.

Ninurta slays each of the monsters later known as the “Slain Heroes” (the Warrior Dragon, the Palm Tree King, Lord Saman-ana, the Bison-beast, the Mermaid, the Seven-headed Snake, the Six-headed Wild Ram), and despoils them of valuable items such as Gypsum, Strong Copper, and the Magilum boat. Eventually, Anzû is killed by Ninurta who delivers the Tablet of Destiny to his father, Enlil.

There are a lot of parallels with both and the story of Marduk (son of Enki) who slew Abzu (or Apsu), and delivered the Tablets of Destiny from Kingu to his father, Enki.

Anzû, before misread as Zû, also known as Imdugud, is a lesser divinity or monster in several Mesopotamian religions. He was conceived by the pure waters of the Apsu and the wide Earth, or as son of Siris. Anzû was seen as a massive bird who can breathe fire and water, although Anzû is alternately seen as a lion-headed eagle (like a reverse griffin).

Stephanie Dalley, in “Myths from Mesopotamia,” writes that “The Epic of Anzu’ is principally known in two versions: an Old Babylonian version of the early second millennium [BC], giving the hero as Ningursu; and “The Standard Babylonian” version, dating to the first millennium BC, which appears to be the most quoted version, with the hero as Ninurta.

In Sumerian and Akkadian mythology, Anzû is a divine storm-bird and the personification of the southern wind and the thunder clouds. This demon—half man and half bird—stole the “Tablets of Destiny” from Enlil and hid them on a mountaintop. Anu ordered the other gods to retrieve the tablets, even though they all feared the demon. According to one text, Marduk killed the bird; in another, it died through the arrows of the god Ninurta.

Also in Babylonian myth, Anzû is a deity associated with cosmogeny. Anzû is represented as stripping the father of the gods of umsimi (which is usually translated “crown” but in this case, as it was on the seat of Bel, it refers to the “ideal creative organ”).

Regarding this, Charles Penglase writes that “Ham is the Chaldean Anzû, and both are cursed for the same allegorically described crime,” which parallels the mutilation of Uranus by Cronus and of Set by Horus.

In the astral-theological system Ninurta was associated with the planet Saturn, or perhaps as offspring or an aspect of Saturn. In his capacity as a farmer-god, there are similarities between Ninurta and the Greek Titan Kronos, whom the Romans in turn identified with their Titan Saturn.

The worship of Nergal does not appear to have spread as widely as that of Ninurta, but in the late Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused the two divinities, which were invoked together as if they were identical.

Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning “the son of Enlil”. As God of the plague, he was invoked during the “plague years” during the reign of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma, when this disease spread from Egypt.

Apollo, known in Greek-influenced Etruscan mythology as Apulu, is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman religion and Greek and Roman mythology. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis, one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities.

The Roman equivalent of Artemis is Diana, the goddess of the hunt, the moon and birthing, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals. Diana, daughter of Jupiter and Latona, was born with her twin brother Apollo on the island of Delos.

Diana (pronounced with long ‘ī’ and ‘ā’) is an adjectival form developed from an ancient *divios, corresponding to later ‘divus’, ‘dius’, as in Dius Fidius, Dea Dia and in the neuter form dium meaning the sky.

It is rooted in Indoeuropean *d(e)y(e)w, meaning bright sky or daylight, from which also derived the name of Vedic god Dyaus and the Latin deus, (god), dies, (day, daylight), and ” diurnal”, (daytime). On the Tablets of Pylos a theonym διϝια (diwia) is supposed as referring to a deity precursor of Artemis.

Some scholars believe that the name Artemis, and indeed the goddess herself, were originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: “Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals”. The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter.

In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress were sacred to her. In later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithyia in aiding childbirth.

Apollo’s sister Artemis, who was the Greek goddess of hunting, is identified with Britomartis (Diktynna), the Minoan “Mistress of the animals”. In her earliest depictions she is accompanied by the “Mister of the animals”, a male god of hunting who had the bow as his attribute. We don’t know his original name, but it seems that he was absorbed by the more powerful Apollo, who stood by the “Mistress of the animals”, becoming her brother.

Britomartis, also known as Diktynna (“hunting nets”), was the Minoan goddess of mountains and hunting. The oldest aspect of the Cretan goddess was as Mother of Mountains, who appears on Minoan seals with the demonic features of a Gorgon, accompanied by the double-axes of power and gripping divine snakes. Her terror-inspiring aspect was softened by calling her Britomartis, the “good virgin”, a euphemism to allay her dangerous aspect.

She is among the Minoan goddess figures that passed through the Mycenaeans’ culture into classical Greek mythology, with transformations that are unclear in both transferrals. The goddess addressed as “Britomartis” was worshipped in Crete as an aspect of Potnia, the “Mistress”. For the Greeks, Britomartis was a mountain nymph (an oread) whom Greeks recognized also in Artemis and in Aphaea, the “invisible” patroness of Aegina.

The ideal of the kouros (a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, healing, plague, music, poetry, and more.

Being a deity of the desert, god of fire, which is one of negative aspects of the sun, god of the underworld, and also being a god of one of the religions which rivaled Christianity and Judaism, Nergal was sometimes called a demon and even identified with Satan.

According to Collin de Plancy and Johann Weyer, Nergal was depicted as the chief of Hell’s “secret police”, and worked as “an honorary spy in the service of Beelzebub”.

In Hellenistic times, especially during the 3rd century BCE, as Apollo Helios he became identified among Greeks with Helios, Titan god of the sun, and his sister Artemis similarly equated with Selene, Titan goddess of the moon.

Proto-Indo-European religion has a solar chariot, the sun as traversing the sky in a chariot. In Germanic mythology this is Sol, in Vedic Surya, and in Greek Helios (occasionally referred to as Titan) and (sometimes) as Apollo.

A number of non-Greek etymologies have been suggested for the name. The Hittite form Apaliunas (dx-ap-pa-li-u-na-aš) is attested in the Manapa-Tarhunta letter, perhaps related to Hurrian Aplu, a god of plague, in turn likely from Akkadian Aplu Enlil meaning simply “the son of Enlil”, a title that was given to the god Nergal, who was linked to Shamash, Babylonian god of the sun.

According to the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica the Shamash cults at Sippar and Larsa so overshadowed local Sun-deities elsewhere as to lead to an absorption of the minor deities by the predominating one.

In the systematized pantheon these minor Sun-gods become attendants that do his service. Such are Bunene, spoken of as his chariot driver and whose consort is Atgi-makh, Kettu (“justice”) and Mesharu (“right”), who were then introduced as attendants of Shamash.

Other Sun-deities such as Ninurta and Nergal, the patron deities of other important centers, retained their independent existences as certain phases of the Sun, with Ninurta becoming the Sun-god of the morning and spring time and Nergal the Sun-god of the noon and the summer solstice. In the wake of such syncretism Shamash was usually viewed as the Sun-god in general.

The role of Apollo as god of plague is evident in the invocation of Apollo Smintheus (“mouse Apollo”) by Chryses, the Trojan priest of Apollo, with the purpose of sending a plague against the Greeks (the reasoning behind a god of the plague becoming a god of healing is of course apotropaic, meaning that the god responsible for bringing the plague must be appeased in order to remove the plague).

Apollo and his sister Artemis can bring death with their arrows. The conception that diseases and death come from invisible shots sent by supernatural beings, or magicians is common in Germanic and Norse mythology.

In Greek mythology Artemis was the leader (“hegemon”) of the nymphs, who had similar functions with the Nordic Elves. The “elf-shot” originally indicated disease or death attributed to the elves, but it was later attested denoting arrow-heads which were used by witches to harm people, and also for healing rituals.

The Vedic Rudra has some similar functions with Apollo. The terrible god is called “The Archer”, and the bow is also an attribute of Shiva. Rudra could bring diseases with his arrows, but he was able to free people of them, and his alternative Shiba, is a healer physician god. However the Indo-European component of Apollo, does not explain his strong relation with omens, exorcisms, and with the oracular cult.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Pagan myhology – Nerthus

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 29, 2015

In Norse Paganism, Njörðr, the sea god of the Norse peoples, is a god among the Vanir. Njörðr, father of the deities Freyr and Freyja by his unnamed Vanir sister, was in an ill-fated marriage with the goddess Skaði, lives in Nóatún and is associated with sea, seafaring, wind, fishing, wealth, and crop fertility.

In Greek mythology, Nereus was the eldest son of Pontus (the Sea) and Gaia (the Earth), who with Doris fathered the Nereids or Dorides, as they were also called, sea nymphs (female spirits of sea waters), and Nerites, a minor sea deity, son of Nereus and Doris (apparently their only male offspring), with whom Nereus lived in the Aegean Sea.

The Nereids numbered, according to one account, fifty; to another, a hundred. They dwelt in a splendid cave at the bottom of the sea, and rode on dolphins or other creatures of the deep. Like all nymphs, the Nereides were playful, given to splashing about in the water, swimming, or sitting on rocks at the sea’s edge, drying their wonderful tresses.

Nereus and Proteus (the “first”) seem to be two manifestations of the god of the sea who was supplanted by Poseidon, called the “God of the Sea”, when Zeus overthrew Cronus.

Nereus was the ancient sea god, who ruled before Poseidon. Represented as an old man with a look of dignity, Nereus lost his dominion over the sea when the Earth was divided among Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, and the latter was alotted the kingdom of the deep, but Nereus obtained a position under Poseidon, and also the power of prophecy.

Given Poseidon’s connection with horses as well as the sea, and the landlocked situation of the likely Indo-European homeland, Nobuo Komita has proposed that Poseidon was originally an aristocratic Indo-European horse-god who was then assimilated to Near Eastern aquatic deities when the basis of the Greek livelihood shifted from the land to the sea, or a god of fresh waters who was assigned a secondary role as god of the sea, where he overwhelmed the original Aegean sea deities such as Proteus and Nereus.

Conversely, Walter Burkert suggests that the Hellene cult worship of Poseidon as a horse god may be connected to the introduction of the horse and war-chariot from Anatolia to Greece around 1600 BC. In any case, the early importance of Poseidon can still be glimpsed in Homer’s Odyssey, where Poseidon rather than Zeus is the major mover of events.

Nereus was father to Thetis, one of the Nereids and known as the goddess of water, who in turn was mother to the great Greek hero Achilles, and Amphitrite, who married Poseidon.

Zeus was strongly attracted to Thetis, but on learning that the marriage would bring forth a son who would surpass his father in might, Zeus relinquished his wish, and gave Thetis in marriage to Peleus, to whom she bore Achilles, and thereafter returned to her sisters of the sea.

Poseidon was said to have had many lovers of both sexes. His consort was Amphitrite, a nymph and ancient sea-goddess, daughter of Nereus and Doris, an Oceanid, a sea nymph in Greek mythology, whose name represented the bounty of the sea.

Njord was particularly associated with wealth, fertility, the sea, and seafaring in historical Germanic religion. A saying among the Norse peoples held especially wealthy people to be “as rich as Njord.”

The tale in which Njord features most prominently is The Marriage of Njord and Skadi. Skadi, a giantess, had come to the Aesir seeking restitution for the slaying of her father. As part of the settlement, they agreed that she could have any of the gods she desired as her husband. She chose Njord by mistake, thinking him to be Baldur.

Their marriage was short and unpleasant. Half of their time was spent in Skadi’s home in the snowy mountains, which Njord couldn’t tolerate; the other half was spent in Njord’s home, Nóatún (“The Place of Ships”), which was located on the beach. Skadi couldn’t tolerate Njord’s home, either, so the two parted ways.

In Norse mythology, the sister-wife of Njörðr is the unnamed wife and sister of the god Njörðr, with whom he is described as having had the (likewise incestuous) twin children Freyr and Freyja.

This shadowy goddess is attested in the Poetic Edda poem Lokasenna, recorded in the 13th century by an unknown source, and the Heimskringla book Ynglinga saga, a euhemerized account of the Norse gods composed by Snorri Sturluson also in the 13th century but based on earlier traditional material. The figure receives no further mention in Old Norse texts.

The situation is further complicated in that narratives describing the birth of Freyr and Freyja contradictorily cite the birth of the siblings occurring either after or before Njörðr left Vanaheimr to live among the Æsir.

In addition, the goddess Skaði is referred to as the mother of Freyr and Freyja in the Poetic Edda poem Skírnismál whereas otherwise she is a described as having been in an ill-fated relationship with Njörðr without direct association with the Freyr and Freyja.

Much earlier, in his 1 CE work Germania, Tacitus describes rituals surrounding a deity by the name of Nerthus, a theonym that is etymologically ancestral to Old Norse Njörðr. However, the figure described by Tacitus is female.

Based on this scholars have suggested a Proto-Germanic hermaphroditic deity or a gender aspectual pair (similar to Freyja and Freyr), identified the obscure Old Norse goddess name Njörun as a potential name for the otherwise unnamed goddess, and in some cases identified a potential reflex of a narrative about Njörðr and his sister-wife in Saxo Grammaticus’s 12th-century work Gesta Danorum.

In Norse mythology, Nóatún (Old Norse “ship-enclosure”) is the abode of the god Njörðr, described in the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning as located “in heaven”.

Njörðr has been the subject of an amount of scholarly discourse and theory, often connecting him with the figure of the much earlier attested Germanic goddess Nerthus.

The name Njörðr corresponds to that of the older Germanic fertility goddess Nerthus, and both derive from the Proto-Germanic *Nerþuz. The original meaning of the name is contested, but it may be related to the Irish word nert which means “force” and “power”.

It has been suggested that the change of sex from the female Nerthus to the male Njörðr is due to the fact that feminine nouns with u-stems disappeared early in Germanic language while the masculine nouns with u-stems prevailed.

However, other scholars hold the change to be based not on grammatical gender but on the evolution of religious beliefs; that *Nerþuz and Njörðr appear as different genders because they are to be considered separate beings. The name Njörðr may be related to the name of the Norse goddess Njörun.

In Norse mythology, Njörun (Old Norse Njǫrun, sometimes modernly anglicized as Niorun) is a goddess attested in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and various kennings (including once in the Poetic Edda).

Scholarly theories concerning her name and function in the pantheon include etymological connections to the Norse god Njörðr and the Roman goddess Nerio, and suggestions that she may represent the earth and/or be the unnamed sister-wife of Njörðr.

Njörun is a “mysterious … figure” of whom nothing else is known; Andy Orchard suggests that she may be fictitious. Several scholars have suggested that the stem syllable in her name, Njǫr-, may represent the element *ner- as in Tacitus’ earth-goddess Nerthus (*Ner-þuz), whose name is etymologically identical with that of the Norse god Njǫrðr, and that Njörun may therefore be a name for the earth. Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon additionally suggests a connection with the Roman goddess Nerio.

The possible etymological connection with Njǫrðr and Nerthus suggests that Njörun may be a preserved name for the sister-wife of Njörðr, who is highly unusual in the Old Norse context in being unnamed.

As was noted by Albert Morey Sturtevant, Njǫrun and Gefjon are the only female names recorded in Old Norse texts that have the suffix -un. Two other god-goddess pairs distinguished by suffix are preserved in the Old Norse corpus, Ullr and Ullin and Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn, and there is a possible third example in Old High German Phol and Volla.

In Germanic paganism, Nerthus is a goddess associated with fertility. Nerthus is attested by Tacitus, the first century AD Roman historian, in his ethnographic work Germania.

In Germania, Tacitus records that the remote Suebi tribes were united by their veneration of the goddess at his time of writing and maintained a sacred grove on an (unspecified) island and that a holy cart rests there draped with cloth, which only a priest may touch.

The priests feel her presence by the cart, and, with deep reverence, attend her cart, which is drawn by heifers. Everywhere the goddess then deigns to visit, she is met with celebration, hospitality, and peace.

All iron objects are locked away, and no one will leave for war. When the goddess has had her fill she is returned to her temple by the priests. Tacitus adds that the goddess, the cart, and the cloth are then washed by slaves in a secluded lake. The slaves are then drowned.

The name Nerthus is generally held to be a Latinized form of Proto-Germanic *Nerþuz, which is the Proto-Germanic precursor to the Old Norse deity name Njörðr, who is a male deity in works recorded in the 13th century.

Various scholarly theories exist regarding the goddess and her potential later traces amongst the Germanic peoples, including that the figure may be identical to the unnamed sister-wife of Njörðr mentioned in two Old Norse sources.

Nerthus is often identified with the van Njörðr who is attested in various 13th century Old Norse works and in numerous Scandinavian place names. The connection between the two is due to the linguistic relationship between Njörðr and the reconstructed Proto-Germanic *Nerþuz, Nerthus being the feminine, Latinized form of what Njörðr would have looked like around the first century.

This has led to theories about the relation of the two, including that Njörðr may have once been a hermaphroditic deity or that the name may indicate the otherwise forgotten sister-wife in a divine brother-sister pair like the Vanir deities Freyja and Freyr.

While developments in historical linguistics ultimately allowed for the identification of Nerthus with Njörðr, various other readings of the name were in currency prior to the acceptance of this identification, most commonly the form Hertha. This form was proposed as an attempt to mirror the Old Norse goddess name Jörð ‘earth’.

Writing on this topic in 1912, Raymond Wilson Chambers says “strange has been the history of this goddess Nerthus in modern times. Sixteenth century scholars found irresistible the temptation to emend the name of ‘Mother Earth’ into Herthum, which nineteenth century scholars further improved into Hertham, Ertham.

For many years this false goddess drove out the rightful deity from the fortieth chapter of the Germania”. Up until its superseding, the name Hertha had some influence. For example, Hertha and Herthasee play major roles in German novelist Theodor Fontane’s 1896 novel Effi Briest.

Njörðr is often identified with the goddess Nerthus, whose reverence by various Germanic tribes is described by Roman historian Tacitus in his 1st CE century work Germania. The connection between the two is due to the linguistic relationship between Njörðr and the reconstructed *Nerþuz, “Nerthus” being the feminine, Latinized form of what Njörðr would have looked like around 1 CE.

This has led to theories about the relation of the two, including that Njörðr may have once been a hermaphroditic god or, generally considered more likely, that the name may indicate an otherwise unattested divine brother and sister pair such as Freyr and Freyja.

Consequently, Nerthus has been identified with Njörðr’s unnamed sister with whom he had Freyja and Freyr, which is mentioned in Lokasenna.

Nerthus’s name also suggests a connection with the Vanir deities. The Old Norse name of the god Njord is exactly what the Proto-Germanic name Nerthus would look like if it were rendered in Old Norse.

As philologist Rudolf Simek summarizes, “Remains of cult carts and models of the same are known from finds from the Iron Age and rock carvings confirm the tradition of cult processions as early as the Bronze Age in southern Scandinavia.”

These traits – the cart that ritually processes from village to village and the laying down of arms during this time – are traits that were powerfully associated with the Vanir gods and goddesses, deities who presided over “peace and plenty,” during the Viking Age. Nerthus can comfortably be grouped with the Vanir, or can at least be considered to be something of a “proto-Vana” goddess.

Given Tacitus’s identification of Nerthus with Terra Mater (“Mother Earth”), it’s also tempting to identify Nerthus with Jord (Old Norse “Earth”), the obscure mother of Thor.

In Norse mythology, Skaði (sometimes anglicized as Skadi, Skade, or Skathi) is a jötunn and goddess associated with bowhunting, skiing, winter, and mountains. Scholars have theorized a potential connection between Skaði and the god Ullr (who is also associated with skiing and appears most frequently in place names in Sweden).

Skaði is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and in Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and in the works of skalds.

Skaði is alternately referred to as Öndurguð (Old Norse “ski god”) and Öndurdís (Old Norse “ski dís”, often translated as “lady”). A dís (“lady”, plural dísir) is a ghost, spirit or deity associated with fate who can be both benevolent and antagonistic towards mortal people. The dísir, like the valkyries, norns, and vættir, are almost always referred to collectively.

Dísir may act as protective spirits of Norse clans. Their original function was possibly that of fertility goddesses who were the object of both private and official worship called dísablót, and their veneration may derive from the worship of the spirits of the dead.

In all sources, Skaði is the daughter of the deceased giant Þjazi (Tjasse), and Skaði married the god Njörðr as part of the compensation provided by the gods for killing her father Þjazi.

In Heimskringla, Skaði is described as having split up with Njörðr and as later having married the god Odin, and that the two produced many children together.

Skaði have a particular relationship with the jötunn Loki. In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Skaði is responsible for placing the serpent that drips venom onto the bound Loki.

The etymology of the name Skaði is uncertain, but may be connected with the original form of Scandinavia. Some place names in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden, refer to Skaði.

Scandinavia may be related to the name Skaði (potentially meaning “Skaði’s island”) or the name may be connected to an Old Norse noun meaning “harm”. Skaði has inspired various works of art.

The Old Norse name Skaði, along with Sca(n)dinavia and Skáney, may be related to Gothic skadus, Old English sceadu, Old Saxon scado, and Old High German scato (meaning “shadow”).

Scholar John McKinnell comments that this etymology suggests Skaði may have once been a personification of the geographical region of Scandinavia or associated with the underworld.

Georges Dumézil disagrees with the notion of Scadin-avia as etymologically “the island of the goddess Skaði.” Dumézil comments that the first element Scadin must have had—or once had—a connection to “darkness” “or something else we cannot be sure of”.

Dumézil says that, rather, the name Skaði derives from the name of the geographical region, which was at the time no longer completely understood. In connection, Dumézil points to a parallel in Ériu, a goddess personifying Ireland that appears in some Irish texts, whose name he says comes from Ireland rather than the other way around.

Alternatively, Skaði may be connected with the Old Norse noun skaði (“harm”), source of the Icelandic and Faroese skaði (“harm, damage”) and cognate with obsolete English scathe, which survives in unscathed and scathing.

Nerthus

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Hybrid creatures in mythology

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 28, 2015

Ninurta with his thunderbolts pursues Anzû stealing the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil’s sanctuary

Hybrids are mythological creatures combining body parts of more than one real species. They can be classified as partly human hybrids (such as mermaids or centaurs), and non-human hybrids combining two or more animal species (such as the griffin or the chimera). Hybrids are often zoomorphic deities in origin who acquire an anthropomorphic aspect over time.

Partly human hybrids appear in petroglyphs or cave paintings from the Upper Paleolithic, in shamanistic or totemistic contexts. Ethnologist Ivar Lissner theorized that cave paintings of beings combining human and animal features were not physical representations of mythical hybrids, but were instead attempts to depict shamans in the process of acquiring the mental and spiritual attributes of various beasts or power animals.

Religious historian Mircea Eliade has observed that beliefs regarding animal identity and transformation into animals are widespread. The iconography of the Vinca culture of Neolithic Europe in particular is noted for its frequent depiction of an owl-beaked “bird goddess”.

Examples of humans with animal heads (theriocephaly) in the Ancient Egyptian pantheon include jackal-headed Anubis, cobra-headed Amunet, lion-headed Sekhmet, falcon-headed Horus etc. Most of these deities also have a purely zoomorphic and a purely anthropomorphic aspect, both of which the hybrid representation seeks to capture at once.

The hybrid iconography then develops as an attempt to represent both aspects. Similarly, the Gaulish Artio sculpture found in Berne shows a juxtaposition of a bear and a woman figure, interpreted as representations of the theriomorphic and the anthropomorphic aspect of the same goddess.

Non-human hybrids also appear in Ancient Egyptian iconography, as in Ammit (combining the crocodile, the lion, and the hippopotamus). Mythological hybrids become very popular in Luwian and Assyrian art of the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age.

The angel (human with birds’ wings) the mermaid (part human part fish: Enki, Atargatis, Apkallu) and the Shedu all trace their origins to Assyro-Babylonian art. In Mesopotamian mythology the urmahlullu, or lion-man served as a guardian spirit, especially of bathrooms. The Old Babylonian Lilitu demon, particularly as shown in the Burney Relief (part woman part owl) prefigures the harpy/siren motif.

Luwian and Assyrian motifs are imitated in Archaic Greece, during the Orientalizing Period (9th to 8th centuries BC), inspiring the monsters of classical Greek mythology such as the Chimera, the Harpy, the Centaur, the Griffin, the Hippocampus, Talos, Pegasus, etc.

The motif of the winged man appears in the Assyrian winged genie, and is taken up in the Biblical Seraphim and Chayot, the Etruscan Vanth, Hellenistic Eros-Amor, and ultimately the Christian iconography of angels.

Assyrian hybrids also entered Persian art, as in the Faravahar or the Buraq. The motif of otherwise human figures sporting horns may derive from partly goat hybrids (as in Pan and the Devil in Christian iconography) or as partly bull hybrids (Minotaur).

The Gundestrup cauldron and the Pashupati figure have stag’s antlers (horned helmet). The Christian representation of Moses with horns, however, is due to a mistranslation of the Hebrew text of Exodus 34:29-35 by Jerome.

The most prominent hybrid in Hindu iconography is elephant-headed Ganesha. Both Nāga and Garuda are non-hybrid mythical animals (snake and bird, respectively) in their early attestations, but become partly human hybrids in later iconography.

List of hybrid creatures in mythology

Mythological hybrid

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Painted pottery culture

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 27, 2015

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Mesopotamia_Per%C3%ADodo_6.PNG

File:Halafpottery.jpg

From the source of the Tigris, a tributary, the Khabur, flows northeast. Here sites such as Tell Halaf and Tell Brak, have revealed evidence of settled life from as early as the 7th millennium.

The Halaf culture is also characterized by a distinctive type of pottery, found from south-east Turkey across to Iran, but which may have its origins in the region of the River Khabur (modern Syria).

Named for the site of Tell Halaf in northern Syria, Halaf-style pottery has a wide distribu­tion from the Syrian Euphrates to the Taurus Mountains of Turkey to the Greater ‘Lab in northeastern Iraq. Halaf pottery was extremely well made and beautifully decorated which probably explains why it spread so far. 

The Halaf culture was eventually absorbed into the so-called Ubaid culture, with changes in pottery and building styles.

Painted Pottery

Painted Pottery Cultures are the general name accepted in the literature for archaeological cultures of the late Neolithic period and of the Aeneolithic period. The name is based on the characteristic feature of the cultures—painted decorative pottery.

The painted pottery cultures are characterized by the predominance of farming using the hoe, combined with stock raising, fishing, and hunting; the appearance of copper tools at a time when flint prevailed; large, usually pisé, houses; and clay female statuettes.

The oldest settlements with painted pottery existed in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Painted pottery cultures later appeared in what is now the Ukraine and Moldavia (Tripol’e culture), Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia, the Caucasus, Iran (Sialk), Middle Asia (Anau and Namazga-Tepe), India, and China (Yangshao).

Fainted ceramic traditions were widespread across southwestern Asia in the Early Chalcolithic period (roughly 5500 to 5000 B.C.), distributed from the central plateau of modern-day Turkey, across northern Syria, through Iraq and highland Iran to western Turkmenistan and the borders of the Kara Kum Desert.

Roughly contemporary painted ceramic tra­ditions in the southern Mesopotamian lowlands include the Chogha Miami Transitional (CAT), the Ubaid l (or “Hajji Mohammed”), and Ubaid 2 tradi­tions. In Susiana, well-known painted ceramics of comparable date from the sites of Chogha Mish and affarabad arc termed “Susiana a-b.”

On the Anatolian plateau, sites like Hacilar, atal Hüyük West and Can Hasan illumi­nate an independent Early Chalcolithic tradition with striking red-on-cream painted pottery, including some anthropomorphic vessels.

East of Cheshmeh Alai, the distribution of related Early Chalcolithie painted pottery traditions fol­lows the piedmont region of the Elburz Mountains and is found, for example, at the site of Tepe Hissar, near modern-day Damghan.

The painted pottery cultures were created by different tribes. The similarities of the cultures were probably determined by the tribes being at the same stage of economic and social development and living under similar geographical conditions.

The common source for all these pottery cultures was probably the Old European Culture found in Mesopotamia and Iran that preceded the Yangshao culture in the west of the present province of Honan, China, that takes its name from a prehistoric settlement where Swedish investigators discovered it, by 2000 years.

Typical of this culture is its wonderfully fine pottery, apparently used as gifts to the dead. It is painted in three colours, white, red, and black. The patterns are all stylized, designs copied from nature being rare.

After the discovery of this culture, its pottery was compared with the painted pottery of the West, and a number of resemblances were found, especially with the pottery of the Lower Danube basin and that of Anau, in Turkestan.

Two areas are important, a northern and a southern. In the north Pumpelly conducted excavations at Anau near Askabad in Turkistan in 1904. He found four different cultures called respectively Anau I., II., III., IV.

The last culture was of Iron Age date. In the earliest period copper was relatively rare, but pottery was abundant, and the pots were handmade, painted, often polished and decorated with geometrical designs. In Anau II copper is abundant, but most of the ware is monochrome. It is therefore mostly with Anau I that parallels with the Chinese pottery must be found.

There are certain agreements; lattice work designs are common to both and in the straight-line patterns there appears to be a close parallelism. At Anau, however, curves are very rare and circles do not occur. There is therefore a disagreement in what appears to be one of the most marked characteristics of the eastern Chinese ware.

Pots which resemble the Anau I have been found near Nachitzevan in Transcaucasia, a site which can be dated at probably about 2500 BC., and the artifacts in which represented a highly developed Copper Age.

In the southern area parallels can be found with the Chinese pottery in Mesopotamia, Persia and Baluchistan. The Persian sites include Susa, the capital of ancient Elam, and the mounds of Pusht-i-Kuh west of Susa, the most important site being Tepe Mussain.

The earliest pottery from Susa may be divided into two classes, of which the first and most ancient shows certain resemblances with the eastern Chinese pottery, but it should be noted that copper implements are found in all strata at Susa.

A closer parallel is found, however, at Tepe Mussain, which in date probably coincides with the transition from Susa I to Susa II. In the pottery from this site all the motives are found which occur in the eastern Chinese pottery, except the meander, which is limited to the finds from Kansu.

The finds of painted pottery from Mesopotamia, notably at Kish and Jemdet-Nazr, in the north and south provide the necessary link between Anau and the Persian sites. The pottery from Baluchistan resembles very closely the Honan pottery, and indeed is closer to it than any other of the western material except possibly some of the Mesopotamian wares.

The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture is a Neolithic–Eneolithic archaeological culture (ca. 4800 to 3000 BC) in Eastern Europe. It extends from the Carpathian Mountains to the Dniester and Dnieper regions, centered on modern-day Moldova and covering substantial parts of western Ukraine and northeastern Romania, encompassing an area of some 350,000 km2 (140,000 sq mi), with a diameter of some 500 km (300 mi; roughly from Kiev in the northeast to Brasov in the southwest).

Most Cucuteni-Trypillian pottery was hand coiled from local clay. Long coils of clay were placed in circles to form first the base and then the walls of the vessel. Once the desired shape and height of the finished product was built up the sides would then be smoothed to create a seamless surface.

This technique was the earliest form of pottery shaping and the most common in the Neolithic; however, there is some evidence that they also used a primitive type of slow-turning potter’s wheel, an innovation that did not become common in Europe until the Iron Age.

We are now able to divide this painted pottery into several sub-types of specific distribution, and we know that this style existed from c. 2200 BC. on.  In general, it tends to disappear as does painted pottery in other parts of the world with the beginning of urban civilization and the invention of writing.

Swedish archaeologist, Johan Gunnar Andersson (1874 – 1960), has come to a conclusion that the pottery of China came from the west, after comparing the Yangshao, Anau and Tripilja culture. Rene Grousset (1885 – 1952), a French historian, has also explored the possibilities of China pottery having Siberia and Ukraine origin.

The Chinese Neolithic stage was first demonstrated by Andersson in 1921 when he revealed the now famous ‘Yangshao’ culture-objects with a pottery painted in bold, and ‘primitive’ style. Similar objects to these Honan province ‘Yangshao’ culture were later found in Kansu and elsewhere. Early, Middle, Late and Transitional phases are now recognized.

The connection of this early Chinese ware with the pottery of Anau, with that of Tripolye in South Russia and with that of the Baltic ‘passage graves’ seems fairly clear. This western material may be, perhaps, dated to about 2200 to 1800 BC.

These Chinese Neolithic men enjoyed a fairly high culture, with domesticated animals, and probably also with features recalling those of the ‘circumpolar9 peoples of to-day, e.g., shaman-complex, totemism and mask-complex. Traces of early and bar­barous things, but half-hidden, can be perceived, streaking down far into historical times of North China.

And, although we cannot, of course, assert that these Neolithic dwellers along the banks of the Wei and the Yellow Rivers contributed much or little to the Chinese ‘Shang’ civilization, we can assert that the Chinese Neolithics were in touch with, and doubtless influenced by, cultures much farther west in the Eurasiatic continent.

The beginning

Anatomically modern Homo sapiens are demonstrated at the area of Mount Carmel, during the Middle Paleolithic dating from about c. 90,000 BC. This move out of Africa seems to have been unsuccessful and by c. 60,000 BC in Palestine/Israel/Syria, especially at Amud, classic Neanderthal groups seem to have profited from the worsening climate to have replaced Homo sapiens, who seem to have been confined once more to Africa.

A second move out of Africa is demonstrated by the Boker Tachtit Upper Paleolithic culture, from 52–50,000 BC, with humans at Ksar Akil XXV level being modern humans. This culture bears close resemblance to the Badoshan Aurignacian culture of Iran, and the later Sebilian I Egyptian culture of c. 50,000 BC. Stephen Oppenheimer suggests that this reflects a movement of modern human (possibly Caucasian) groups back into North Africa, at this time.

It would appear this set the date by which Homo sapiens Upper Paleolithic cultures begin replacing Neanderthal Levalo-Mousterian, and by c. 40,000 BC Palestine was occupied by the Levanto-Aurignacian Ahmarian culture, lasting from 39–24,000 BC. This culture was quite successful spreading as the Antelian culture (late Aurignacian), as far as Southern Anatolia, with the Atlitan culture.

After the Late Glacial Maxima, a new Epipaleolithic culture appears in Southern Palestine. Extending from 18–10,500 BC, the Kebaran culture shows clear connections to the earlier Microlithic cultures using the bow and arrow, and using grinding stones to harvest wild grains, that developed from the c. 24,000–17,000 BC Halfan culture of Egypt, that came from the still earlier Aterian tradition of the Sahara. Some linguists see this as the earliest arrival of Nostratic languages in the Middle East.

Kebaran culture was quite successful, and may have been ancestral to the later Natufian culture (10,500–8500 BC), which extended throughout the whole of the Levantine region. These people pioneered the first sedentary settlements, and may have supported themselves from fishing, and from the harvest of wild grains plentiful in the region at that time.

The Neolithic Era, or Period, from néos, “new”, and líthos, “stone”, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 10,200 BC, according to the ASPRO chronology, in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world and ending between 4,500 and 2,000 BC.

Domestication of sheep and goats reached Egypt from the Near East possibly as early as 6,000 BC. The first indisputable evidence for domestic plants and animals in the Nile valley is not until the early fifth millennium BC in northern Egypt and a thousand years later further south with cereals either indigenous or obtained through exchange. The primary stimulus for agriculture and domesticated animals (as well as mud-brick architecture and other Neolithic cultural features) in Egypt was from the Middle East.

In southeast Europe agrarian societies first appeared in the 7th millennium BC, attested by one of the earliest farming sites of Europe, discovered in Vashtëmi, southeastern Albania and dating back to 6,500 BC. Anthropomorphic figurines have been found in the Balkans from 6000 BC, and in Central Europe by c. 5800 BC (La Hoguette).

Among the earliest cultural complexes of this area are the Sesklo culture in Thessaly, which later expanded in the Balkans giving rise to Starčevo-Körös (Cris), Linearbandkeramik, and Vinča. Through a combination of cultural diffusion and migration of peoples, the Neolithic traditions spread west and northwards to reach northwestern Europe by around 4500 BC.

A 2010 study of ancient DNA suggested the LBK population had affinities to modern-day populations from the Near East and Anatolia, such as an overall prevalence of G2. The study also found some unique features, such as the prevalence of the now-rare Y-haplogroup F* and mitochondrial haplogroup frequencies.

The earliest Neolithic site in South Asia is Mehrgarh, dated to 7500 BC, in the Kachi plain of Baluchistan, Pakistan; the site has evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats).

In South India, the Neolithic began by 3000 BC and lasted until around 1400 BC when the Megalithic transition period began. South Indian Neolithic is characterized by Ashmounds since 2500 BC in Karnataka region, expanded later to Tamil Nadu.

Traditionally considered the last part of the Stone Age, the Neolithic followed the terminal Holocene Epipaleolithic period and commenced with the beginning of farming, which produced the “Neolithic Revolution”.

The beginning of the Neolithic culture is considered to be in the Levant (Jericho, modern-day West Bank) about 10,200–8,800 BC. It developed directly from the Epipaleolithic Natufian culture in the region, whose people pioneered the use of wild cereals, which then evolved into true farming.

The Natufian period was between 12,000 and 10,200 BC, and the so-called “proto-neolithic” is now included in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPNA) between 10,200 and 8,800 BC. As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas are thought to have forced people to develop farming. By 10,200–8,800 BC, farming communities arose in the Levant and spread to Asia Minor, North Africa and North Mesopotamia.

Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt, and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 6,900–6,400 BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.

It ended when metal tools became widespread (in the Copper Age or Bronze Age; or, in some geographical regions, in the Iron Age). The Neolithic is a progression of behavioral and cultural characteristics and changes, including the use of wild and domestic crops and of domesticated animals.

In the Middle East, cultures identified as Neolithic began appearing by in the 10th millennium BC. Early development occurred in the Levant (e.g. Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) and from there spread eastwards and westwards. Neolithic cultures are also attested in southeastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia by c. 8,000 BC.

In 1981 a team of researchers from the Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, including Jacques Cauvin and Oliver Aurenche divided Near East neolithic chronology into ten periods (0 to 9) based on social, economic and cultural characteristics. In 2002 Danielle Stordeur and Frédéric Abbès advanced this system with a division into five periods.

Natufian (1) between 12,000 and 10,200 BC, Khiamian (2) between 10,200-8,800 BC, PPNA: Sultanian (Jericho), Mureybetian, early PPNB (PPNB ancien) (3) between 8,800-7,600 BC, middle PPNB (PPNB moyen) 7,600-6,900 BC, late PPNB (PPNB récent) (4) between 7,500 and 7,000 BC and a PPNB (sometimes called PPNC) transitional stage (PPNB final) (5) where Halaf and dark faced burnished ware begin to emerge between 6,900-6,400 BC.

They also advanced the idea of a transitional stage between the PPNA and PPNB between 8,800 and 8,600 BC at sites like Jerf el Ahmar and Tell Aswad.

Natufians

The Natufian in Upper Mesopotamia, contemporaneous with the Zarzian in the Zagros, is attested over a much wider region and is characterized by open-air sites which were semi-permanently occupied. In the Zagros, this period has been excavated at Zawi Chemi Shanidar and M’lefaat.

Natufian culture also demonstrates the earliest domestication of the dog, and the assistance of this animal in hunting and guarding human settlements may have contributed to the successful spread of this culture.

In the area of the Syrian Upper Euphrates, villages of Natufian hunter-gatherers that were occupied since the 11th millennium BC have been excavated at Abu Hureyra and Mureybet.

In the northern Syrian, eastern Anatolian region of the Levant, Natufian culture at Cayonu and Mureybet developed the first fully agricultural culture with the addition of wild grains, later being supplemented with domesticated sheep and goats, which were probably domesticated first by the Zarzian culture of Northern Iraq and Iran (which like the Natufian culture may have also developed from Kebaran).

Heavy Neolithic

Heavy Neolithic (alternatively, Gigantolithic) is a style of large stone and flint tools (or industry) associated primarily with the Qaraoun culture in the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon, dating to the Epipaleolithic or early Pre-pottery Neolithic at the end of the Stone Age. The type site for the Qaraoun culture is Qaraoun II.

The term “Heavy Neolithic” was translated by Lorraine Copeland and Peter J. Wescombe from Henri Fleisch’s term “gros Neolithique”, suggested by Dorothy Garrod (in a letter dated February 1965) for adoption to describe the particular flint industry that was identified at sites near Qaraoun in the Beqaa Valley. The industry was also termed “Gigantolithic” and confirmed as Neolithic by Alfred Rust and Dorothy Garrod.

Gigantolithic was initially mistaken for Acheulean or Levalloisian by some scholars. Diana Kirkbride and Henri de Contenson suggested that it existed over a wide area of the fertile crescent. Heavy Neolithic industry occurred before the invention of pottery and is characterized by huge, coarse, heavy tools such as axes, picks and adzes including bifaces.

There is no evidence of polishing at the Qaraoun sites or indeed of any arrowheads, burins or millstones. Henri Fleisch noted that the culture that produced this industry may well have led a forest way of life before the dawn of agriculture.

Jacques Cauvin proposed that some of the sites discovered may have been factories or workshops as many artifacts recovered were rough outs. James Mellaart suggested the industry dated to a period before the Pottery Neolithic at Byblos (10,600 to 6900 BC according to the ASPRO chronology) and noted “Aceramic cultures have not yet been found in excavations but they must have existed here as it is clear from Ras Shamra and from the fact that the Pre-Pottery B complex of Palestine originated in this area, just as the following Pottery Neolithic cultures can be traced back to the Lebanon.”

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and B

The early Neolithic human occupation of Mesopotamia is, like the previous Epipaleolithic period, confined to the foothill zones of the Taurus and Zagros Mountains and the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period (10,000–8700 BC) saw the introduction of agriculture, while the oldest evidence for animal domestication dates to the transition from the PPNA to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB, 8700–6800 BC) at the end of the 9th millennium BC.

This transition has been documented at sites like Abu Hureyra and Mureybet, which continued to be occupied from the Natufian well into the PPNB. The so-far earliest monumental sculptures and circular stone buildings from Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey date to the PPNA/Early PPNB and represent, according to the excavator, the communal efforts of a large community of hunter-gatherers.

The Neolithic period is traditionally divided to the PPNA and PPNB and Pottery phases. PPNA developed from the earlier Natufian cultures of the area. This is the time of the agricultural transition and development of farming economies in the Near East, and the region’s first known megaliths (and Earth’s oldest known megalith, other than Gobekli Tepe, which is in the Northern Levant and from an unknown culture) with a burial chamber and tracking of the sun or other stars.

In addition, the Levant in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic was involved in large scale, far reaching trade. Obsidian found in the Chalcolithic levels at Gilat, Israel have had their origins traced via elemental analysis to three sources in Southern Anatolia: Hotamis Dağ, Göllü Dağ, and as far east as Nemrut Dağ itself 500 km East of the other two sources. This is indicative of a very large trade circle reaching as far as the Northern Fertile Crescent at Nemrut Dağ and as far North as Hotamis Dağ.

PPNA denotes the first stage in early Levantine and Anatolian Neolithic culture, dating around 8000 to 7000 BC. Archaeological remains are located in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent. The time period is characterized by tiny circular mud brick dwellings, the cultivation of crops, the hunting of wild game, and unique burial customs in which bodies were buried below the floors of dwellings.

The PPNA and the following PPNB were originally defined by Kathleen Kenyon in the type site of Jericho (Palestine). During this time, pottery was not in use yet. They precede the ceramic Neolithic (Yarmukian). PPNA succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic).

Sedentism of this time allowed for the cultivation of local grains, such as barley and wild oats, and for storage in granaries. Sites such as Dhra′ and Jericho retained a hunting lifestyle until the PPNB period, but granaries allowed for year-round occupation.

The Neolithic 1 (PPNA) period began roughly 10,000 years ago in the Levant. A temple area in southeastern Turkey at Göbekli Tepe dated around 9,500 BC may be regarded as the beginning of the period. This site was developed by nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes, evidenced by the lack of permanent housing in the vicinity and may be the oldest known human-made place of worship.

At least seven stone circles, covering 25 acres (100,000 m2), contain limestone pillars carved with animals, insects and birds. Stone tools were used by perhaps as many as hundreds of people to create the pillars, which may have supported roofs.

Other early PPNA sites dating to around 9,500 to 9,000 BC have been found in Jericho, Israel (notably Ain Mallaha, Nahal Oren, and Kfar HaHoresh), Gilgal in the Jordan Valley, and Byblos, Lebanon. The start of Neolithic 1 overlaps the Tahunian and Heavy Neolithic periods to some degree.

The major advance of Neolithic 1 was true farming. In the proto-Neolithic Natufian cultures, wild cereals were harvested and perhaps early seed selection and re-seeding occurred. The grain was ground into flour. Emmer wheat was domesticated, and animals were herded and domesticated (animal husbandry and selective breeding).

In the 21st century, remains of figs were discovered in a house in Jericho dated to 9,400 BC. The figs are of a mutant variety that cannot be pollinated by insects, and therefore the trees can only reproduce from cuttings. This evidence suggests that figs were the first cultivated crop and mark the invention of the technology of farming. This occurred centuries before the first cultivation of grains.

Settlements became more permanent with circular houses, much like those of the Natufians, with single rooms. However, these houses were for the first time made of mudbrick. The settlement had a surrounding stone wall and perhaps a stone tower (as in Jericho). The wall served as protection from nearby groups, as protection from floods, or to keep animals penned. There are also some enclosures that suggest grain and meat storage.

This period of cultivation is considered “pre-domestication”, but may have begun to develop plant species into the domesticated forms they are today. Deliberate, extended-period storage was made possible by the use of “suspended floors for air circulation and protection from rodents”. This practice “precedes the emergence of domestication and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years”.

Granaries are positioned in places between other buildings early on 9500 BC. However beginning around 8500 BC, they were moved inside houses, and by 7500 BC storage occurred in special rooms. This change might reflect changing systems of ownership and property as granaries shifted from a communal use and ownership to become under the control of households or individuals.

It has been observed of these granaries that their “sophisticated storage systems with subfloor ventilation are a precocious development that precedes the emergence of almost all of the other elements of the Near Eastern Neolithic package—domestication, large scale sedentary communities, and the entrenchment of some degree of social differentiation”. Moreover, “Building granaries may … have been the most important feature in increasing sedentism that required active community participation in new life-ways”.

By 8500–7500 BC, the PPN A culture developed out of the earlier local tradition of Natufian in Southern Palestine, dwelling in round houses, and building the first defensive site at Jericho (guarding a valuable fresh water spring). This was replaced in 7500 BC by PPNB, dwelling in square houses, coming from Northern Syria and the Euphrates bend.

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

The Neolithic 2 (PPNB) began around 8,800 BC according to the ASPRO chronology in the Levant (Jericho, Israel). As with the PPNA dates there are two versions from the same laboratories noted above. But this terminological structure is not convenient for southeast Anatolia and settlements of the middle Anatolia basin. This era was before the Mesolithic era.

Settlements have rectangular mud-brick houses where the family lived together in single or multiple rooms. Burial findings suggest an ancestor cult where people preserved skulls of the dead, which were plastered with mud to make facial features. The rest of the corpse may have been left outside the settlement to decay until only the bones were left, then the bones were buried inside the settlement underneath the floor or between houses.

The Neolithic 3 (PN) began around 6,400 BC in the Fertile Crescent. By then distinctive cultures emerged, with pottery like the Halafian (Turkey, Syria, Northern Mesopotamia) and Ubaid (Southern Mesopotamia). This period has been further divided into PNA (Pottery Neolithic A) and PNB (Pottery Neolithic B) at some sites.

The Chalcolithic period began about 4500 BC, then the Bronze Age began about 3500 BC, replacing the Neolithic cultures.

During the period of 8500–7500 BC, another hunter-gatherer group, showing clear affinities with the cultures of Egypt (particularly the Outacha retouch technique for working stone) was in Sinai.

This Harifian culture may have adopted the use of pottery from the Isnan culture and Helwan culture of Egypt (which lasted from 9000 to 4500 BC), and subsequently fused with elements from the PPNB culture during the climatic crisis of 6000 BC to form what Juris Zarins calls the Syro-Arabian pastoral technocomplex, which saw the spread of the first Nomadic pastoralists in the Ancient Near East.

These extended southwards along the Red Sea coast and penetrating the Arabian bifacial cultures, which became progressively more Neolithic and pastoral and extending north and eastwards, to lay the foundations for the tent-dwelling Martu and Akkadian peoples of Mesopotamia.

In the Amuq valley of Syria, PPNB culture seems to have survived, influencing further cultural developments further south. In the following Munhatta and Yarmukian post-pottery Neolithic cultures that succeeded it, rapid cultural development continues, although PPNB culture continued in the Amuq valley, where it influenced the later development of Ghassulian culture.

Nomadic elements fused with PPNB to form the Minhata Culture and Yarmukian Culture which were to spread southwards, beginning the development of the classic mixed farming Mediterranean culture, and from 5600 BC were associated with the Ghassulian culture of the region, the first chalcolithic culture of the Levant. This period also witnessed the development of megalithic structures, which continued into the Bronze Age.

During the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period, it was common to separate the skull from the skeleton before burial. In several sites in the Levant such skulls had facial features modeled in layers of plaster. They were found in separate burials below house floors, probably reflecting a form of ancestor worship that may have reinforced the sense of land ownership during a period that witnessed a shift to sedentary villages.

Cardium Pottery or Cardial Ware

Cardium Pottery or Cardial Ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the cockle, an edible marine mollusk, formerly Cardium edulis, now Cerastoderma edule. These forms of pottery are in turn used to define the Neolithic culture which produced and spread them, mostly commonly called the “Cardial Culture”.

The alternative name Impressed Ware is given by some archaeologists to define this culture, because impressions can be with sharp objects other than cockle shell, such as a nail or comb.

This pottery style gives its name to the main culture of the Mediterranean Neolithic: Cardium Pottery Culture or Cardial Culture, or Impressed Ware Culture, which eventually extended from the Adriatic sea to the Atlantic coasts of Portugal and south to Morocco.

Older Neolithic cultures existed already at this time in eastern Greece and Crete, apparently having arrived from the Levant, but they appear distinct from the Cardial or Impressed Ware culture. The ceramic tradition in the central Balkans also remained distinct from that along the Adriatic coastline in both style and manufacturing techniques for almost 1,000 years from the 6th millennium BC.

Early Neolithic impressed pottery is found in the Levant, and certain parts of Anatolia, including Mezraa-Teleilat, and in North Africa at Tunus-Redeyef, Tunisia. So the first Cardial settlers in the Adriatic may have come directly from the Levant.

Of course it might equally well have come directly from North Africa, and impressed-pottery also appears in Egypt. Along the East Mediterranean coast Impressed Ware has been found in North Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.

Jarmo

The Fertile Crescent was inhabited by several distinct, flourishing cultures between the end of the last ice age (c. 10,000 BC) and the beginning of history. One of the oldest known Neolithic sites in Mesopotamia is Jarmo, settled around 7000 BC and broadly contemporary with Jericho (in the Levant) and Çatal Hüyük (in Anatolia).

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

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

It was one of the oldest agricultural communities in the world, dating back to 7090 BCE. Jarmo is broadly contemporary with such other important Neolithic sites such as Jericho in the southern Levant and Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia.

Jarmo was used to explain the origins of food production by Robert Braidwood, as the site dates to the later 7th millennium BC and there was carbonized wheat and barley. Its radiocarbon dates place it amongst the world’s earliest food-producing settlements. Goat and dog bones show domestication. The first 11 of its 16 levels had no pottery, though clay-lined pits were baked in situ.

Square houses of pisé were built with clay ovens and grain pits which included flint and obsidian chipped stone tools, stone bowls, and clay figurines. Flaked and ground stone were freely used for tools and utensils. It is the type site of the Jarmoan culture.

The excavations exposed a small village, covering an area of 12,000 to 16,000 m², and which has been dated (by carbon-14) to 7090 BC, for the oldest levels, to 4950 BC for the most recent. The entire site consists of twelve levels. Jarmo appears to be two older, permanent Neolithic settlements and, approximately, contemporary with Jericho or the Neolithic stage of Shanidar.

The high point is likely to have been between 6,200 and 5,800 BC. This small village consisted of some twenty five houses, with adobe walls and sun-dried mud roofs, which rested on stone foundations, with a simple floor plan dug from the earth. These dwellings were frequently repaired or rebuilt. In all, about 150 people lived in the village, which was clearly a permanent settlement.

In the earlier phases there is a preponderance of objects made from stone, silex- using older styles- and obsidian. The use of this latter material, obtained from the area of Lake Van, 200 miles away, suggests that some form of organized trade already existed, as does the presence of ornamental shells from the Persian Gulf. In the oldest level baskets have been found, waterproofed with pitch, which is readily available in the area.

Jarmo is part of the first village communities in the world that also includes Catal Huyuk in modern Turkey. This is where the first domestication of wild wheats, and construction of village communities happened. The earliest pottery, organised religion and many other firsts also originate with these “northern mesopotamian / south east anatolian” cultures.

Many sources indicate that with the retreat of the gulf starting about 6000BC encouraged people to move down from Catal Huyuk and Jarmo into the “new” areas of southern Iraq where the village communities evolved into the city states of the “Ubaid” and Sumerian era.

Halaf culture

Around 6,400 BC the Halaf culture appeared in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Syria, Anatolia, and Northern Mesopotamia and subsisted on dryland agriculture.

In the period 6500–5500 B.C., a farming society emerged in northern Mesopotamia and Syria which shared a common culture and produced pottery that is among the finest ever made in the Near East. This culture is known as Halaf, after the site of Tell Halaf in northeastern Syria where it was first identified.

The Halaf potters used different sources of clay from their neighbors and achieved outstanding elaboration and elegance of design with their superior quality ware. Some of the most beautifully painted polychrome ceramics were produced toward the end of the Halaf period. This distinctive pottery has been found from southeastern Turkey to Iran, but may have its origins in the region of the River Khabur (modern Syria).

How and why it spread so widely is a matter of continuing debate, although analysis of the clay indicates the existence of production centers and regional copying. It is possible that such high-quality pottery was exchanged as a prestige item between local elites. The Halaf culture also produced a great variety of amulets and stamp seals of geometric design, as well as a range of largely female terracotta figurines that often emphasize the sexual features.

Among the best-known Halaf sites are Arpachiyah, Sabi Abyad, and Yarim Tepe, small agricultural villages with distinctive buildings known as tholoi. These rounded domed structures, with or without antechambers, were made of different materials depending on what was available locally: limestone boulders or mud and straw.

Halaf and dark faced burnished ware is the earliest form of pottery developed in the western world and is predominantly found at archaeological sites in Lebanon, Israel and southwest Syria. Other types of pottery were produced around the same time including coarse impressed ware, dark faced unburnished ware and washed impressed ware but these were less prevalent. DFBW has long been considered the forbear of the more polished examples such as Ancient Greek pottery.

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

While the period is named after the site of Tell Halaf in north Syria, excavated by Max von Oppenheim between 1911 and 1927, the earliest Halaf period material was excavated by John Garstang in 1908 at the site of Sakce Gözü, then in Syria but now part of Turkey.

Small amounts of Halaf material were also excavated in 1913 by Leonard Woolley at Carchemish, on the Turkish/Syrian border. However, the most important site for the Halaf tradition was the site of Tell Arpachiyah, now located in the suburbs of Mosul, Iraq.

The Halaf period was succeeded by the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period which comprised the late Halaf (c. 5400-5000 BC), and then by the Ubaid period.

Previously, the Syrian plains were not considered as the homeland of Halaf culture, and the Halafians were seen either as hill people who descended from the nearby mountains of southeastern Anatolia, or herdsmen from northern Iraq.

However, those views changed with the recent archaeology conducted since 1986 by Peter Akkermans, which have produced new insights and perspectives about the rise of Halaf culture. A formerly unknown transitional culture between the pre-Half Neolithic’s era and Halaf’s era was uncovered in the Balikh valley, at Tell Sabi Abyad (the Mound of the White Boy).

Currently, eleven occupational layers have been unearthed in Sabi Abyad, levels from 11 to 7 are considered pre-Halaf, from 6 to 4 transitional, and from 3 to 1 early Halaf. No hiatus in occupation is observed except between levels 11 and 10.

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

Although no Halaf settlement has been extensively excavated some buildings have been excavated: the tholoi of Tell Arpachiyah, circular domed structures approached through long rectangular anterooms. Only a few of these structures were ever excavated.

They were constructed of mud-brick sometimes on stone foundations and may have been for ritual use (one contained a large number of female figurines). Other circular buildings were probably just houses.

The best known, most characteristic pottery of Tell Halaf, called Halaf ware, produced by specialist potters, can be painted, sometimes using more than two colors (called polychrome) with geometric and animal motifs. Other types of Halaf pottery are known, including unpainted, cooking ware and ware with burnished surfaces. There are many theories about why the distinctive pottery style developed.

The theory is that the pottery came about due to regional copying and that it was exchanged as a prestige item between local elites is now disputed. The polychrome painted Halaf pottery has been proposed to be a “trade pottery”—pottery produced for export—however, the predominance of locally produced painted pottery in all areas of Halaf sites including potters settlement questions that theory.

Around 5500 BC a distinctive style of pottery spread across the whole of northern Mesopotamia. They were made by hand (the potter’s wheel had not yet been invented) and decorated with very fine geometric designs in one or two colours. The painted pottery was then fired, and generally to a high standard.

It is not yet understood how this style spread over such an enormous area. It was made locally in many places, but may also have been exchanged because of its beauty and prestige value. Perhaps itinerant potters may have moved across the region producing examples and starting a fashion in different areas.

The high quality of the firing means that many examples of Halaf pottery have survived and have been found by archaeologists. This plate and bowl, typical examples of the Halaf style, come from Arpachiyah in northern Mesopotamia, one of the most important sites for understanding the period and its pottery. Arpachiyah was excavated by Max Mallowan in 1933.

The earliest history of pottery production in the Near East can be divided into four periods, namely: the Hassuna period (7000-6500 BC), the Halaf period (6500-5500 BC), the Ubaid period (5500-4000 BC), and the Uruk period (4000-3100 BC).

The invention of the potter’s wheel in Mesopotamia sometime between 6,000 and 4,000 BC (Ubaid period) revolutionized pottery production. Specialized potters were then able to meet the expanding needs of the world’s first cities.

Pottery making began in the Fertile Crescent from the 7th millennium BC. The earliest forms, which were found at the Hassuna site, were hand formed from slabs, undecorated, unglazed low-fired pots made from reddish-brown clays. Within the next millennium, wares were decorated with elaborate painted designs and natural forms, incising and burnished.

The supposedly sophisticated forms and technological and decorative aspects suggested to archaeologists that it must have been received as an imported, technological advance from adjacent regions to the north and was not developed locally. The evidence for this hypothesis, however, remains equivocal for lack of documentation in the archaeological record. This hypothesis also does not take into account the bulk of simple, rudely fashioned vessels that were part of the ceramic repertoire of this period.

Neolithic pottery may well have arrived as a full-blown technological set from more northerly regions. Pottery appears to have become ubiquitous in the southern Levant by late in the 6th millennium and remained as an integral part of human material culture up to the present. Some local potters showed particular skill in their production, which suggests, as is the case with flint knappers, real craft specialization.

That is related to skills in finding and preparing raw materials, fashioning pots, decorating them, and controlling the pyrotechnology needed to turn them into pottery. Some aspects of pottery, form, fabric, modes of decoration are relatively reliable diagnostic indicators of chrono-cultural identities of human society. Pottery, mostly in the form of sherds, often makes up the bulk of material culture artifacts found on excavated sites dating from the PN period.

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

In addition, the Halaf communities made female figurines of partially baked clay and stone and stamp seals of stone. The seals are thought to mark the development of concepts of personal property, as similar seals were used for this purpose in later times. The Halaf people used tools made of stone and clay. Copper was also known, but was not used for tools.

Dryland farming was practiced by the population. This type of farming was based on exploiting natural rainfall without the help of irrigation. Emmer wheat, two-rowed barley and flax were grown. They kept cattle, sheep and goats.

Halaf culture ended by 5000 BC after entering the so called Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period. Many Halafians settlements were abandoned, and the remaining ones showed Ubaidian characters. The new period is named Northern Ubaid to distinguish it from the proper Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia, and two explanations were presented for the transformation.

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

Hassuna culture

The Hassuna culture is a Neolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia dating to the early sixth millennium BC. It is named after the type site of Tell Hassuna in Iraq. Other sites where Hassuna material has been found include Tell Shemshara.

By around 6000 BC people had moved into the foothills (piedmont) of northernmost Mesopotamia where there was enough rainfall to allow for “dry” agriculture in some places. These were the first farmers in northernmost Mesopotamia. They made Hassuna-style pottery (cream slip with reddish paint in linear designs). Hassuna people lived in small villages or hamlets ranging from 2 to 8 acres (3.2 ha).

At Tell Hassuna, a tell or settlement mound, in the Nineveh Province (Iraq) approximately 35 kilometres (22 mi) southwest of modern Mosul, along the west bank of the Tigris River, adobe dwellings built around open central courts with fine painted pottery replace earlier levels with crude pottery. Hand axes, sickles, grinding stones, bins, baking ovens and numerous bones of domesticated animals reflect settled agricultural life.

Female figurines have been related to worship and jar burials within which food was placed related to belief in afterlife. The relationship of Hassuna pottery to that of Jericho suggests that village culture was becoming widespread.

Around 6,000 BC., people began moving to the foothills of northern Mesopotamia and practicing methods of dry agriculture. These people were the first known farmers, and Hassuna became one of the most ancient centers for the principal forms of producing economies, such as the cultivation of soil and raising livestock.

Evidence of this is shown in the oldest layers of Hassuna. The occupants of Hassuna also led the way in improving agriculture, settling the river valleys, the beginning of irrigation, and progress in all branches of production and culture.

Around 6,000 BC., at Tell Hassuna, adobe dwellings built around open central courts with fine painted pottery replaced earlier levels with crude pottery. Hand axes, sickles, grinding stones, bins, baking ovens and numerous bones of domesticated animals reflect settled agricultural life.

Stone tools found at Tell Hassuna do not seem to be as advanced as tools found at other sites of the Hassuna culture, such as Jarmo, and were typically made of flint and obsidian. Female figurines were also used in relation to worship and jar burials, within which food was placed due to belief in the afterlife.

Samarra culture

The Samarra culture is a Chalcolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia that is roughly dated to 5500–4800 BCE. It partially overlaps with Hassuna and early Ubaid. Samarran material culture was first recognized during excavations by German Archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld at the site of Samarra. Other sites where Samarran material has been found include Tell Shemshara, Tell es-Sawwan and Yarim Tepe.

At Tell es-Sawwan, evidence of irrigation—including flax—establishes the presence of a prosperous settled culture with a highly organized social structure. The culture is primarily known for its finely made pottery decorated against dark-fired backgrounds with stylized figures of animals and birds and geometric designs.

This widely exported type of pottery, one of the first widespread, relatively uniform pottery styles in the Ancient Near East, was first recognized at Samarra. The Samarran Culture was the precursor to the Mesopotamian culture of the Ubaid period.

Choga Mami is a Samarran settlement site in Diyala province in Iraq in the Mandali region. It shows the first canal irrigation in operation at about 6000 BCE. It is no longer clear which way cultural developments were flowing in the 6500 to 4500 BCE period.

The site, about 70 miles northeast of Baghdad, has been dated to the late 6th millennium BCE. It was occupied in several phases from the Samarran culture to the Ubaid. Buildings were rectangular and built of mud brick, including a guard tower at the settlement’s entrance.

Irrigation supported livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) and arable (wheat, barley and flax) agriculture. Artifacts found at Choga Mami include Samarran painted pottery and elaborate clay female figurines.

Tell Shemshara is an archaeological site located along the Little Zab in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, northeastern Iraq. The site was excavated between 1957 and 1959 by Danish and Iraqi archaeologists and was inundated by Lake Dukan until recently. The excavations showed that the site was occupied, although not continuously, from the Hassuna period (early sixth millennium BCE) until the 14th century CE.

A small archive recovered from the Middle Bronze Age layers (early second millennium BCE) revealed that, at least in that period, the site was called Shusharra and was the capital of a small, semi-independent polity called māt Utêm or “land of the gatekeeper” ruled by a man called Kuwari.

Tell Shemshara sits along the Little Zab, a tributary of the Tigris. Its strategic location in the northeastern corner of the Ranya Plain in the Zagros Mountains gave Shemshara control over travelling routes in all directions, particularly toward the north and east.

Shemshara is a tell or settlement mound, that can be divided in two parts; a high main mound and an elongated lower mound. The main mound is 60 metres (200 ft) in diameter and 19 metres (62 ft) high, whereas the lower town is 270 metres (890 ft) long and 6 metres (20 ft) high. Shemshara is now partially submerged under Lake Dukan.

The excavations at the main mound revealed 16 occupation layers, ranging in date from the Hassuna period (early sixth millennium BCE) to the 14th century CE. Layers 16–9 dated to the Hassuna period. This occupation was characterized by rows of stones that are interpreted by the excavators as foundations for mudbrick walls, a pebble floor and a clay basin in the final occupation layer. Pottery, which has only been found in abundance in layers 13–9, shows stylistic links with that of Hassuna and Tell es-Sawwan.

Obsidian was the preferred material for stone tools, with flint making up only 15 percent of the total assemblage. Whereas the flint was procured locally, the obsidian was obtained from two sources in eastern Turkey – one as yet unidentified, the other one being the volcanic Nemrut Dağ more than 300 kilometres (190 mi) away from Shemshara.

A unique piece in this assemblage is a dagger of over 35.5 centimetres (14.0 in) in length, broken in four pieces due to a fire. Other artefacts that have been found at the site include stone bowls, bracelets and quern-stones and small objects made of bone.

Whereas the main mound seems to have been abandoned after the Hassuna occupation, scarce archaeological material from the Uruk (fourth millennium BCE) and Jemdet Nasr periods (early third millennium BCE) has been found on the lower town.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture

Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures.

The Shulaveri-Shomu culture begins after the 8.2 kiloyear event which was a sudden decrease in global temperatures starting ca. 6200 BC and which lasted for about two to four centuries.

Shulaveri culture predates the Kura-Araxes culture and surrounding areas, which is assigned to the period of ca. 4000 – 2200 BC, and had close relation with the middle Bronze Age culture called Trialeti culture (ca. 3000 – 1500 BC). Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.

In around ca. 6000–4200 B.C the Shulaveri-Shomu and other Neolithic/Chalcolithic cultures of the Southern Caucasus use local obsidian for tools, raise animals such as cattle and pigs, and grow crops, including grapes.

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

Ubaid culture

It as well as other early Neolithic sites, such as Samarra and Tell Halaf were in northern Mesopotamia; later settlements in southern Mesopotamia required complicated irrigation methods.

The first of these was Eridu, settled during the Ubaid period culture by farmers who brought with them the Samarran culture from the north. This was followed by the Uruk period and the emergence of the Sumerians.

The Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall and later by Leonard Woolley.

The Ubaid period is divided into three principal phases. The forst period, sometimes called Eridu (5300–4700 BC), a phase limited to the extreme south of Iraq, on what was then the shores of the Persian Gulf.

This phase, showing clear connection to the Samarra culture to the north, saw the establishment of the first permanent settlement south of the 5 inch rainfall isohyet. These people pioneered the growing of grains in the extreme conditions of aridity, thanks to the high water tables of Southern Iraq.

The second period, Ubaid 2 (4800–4500 BC), saw the development of extensive canal networks from major settlements. Irrigation agriculture, which seems to have developed first at Choga Mami (4700–4600 BC) and rapidly spread elsewhere, form the first required collective effort and centralised coordination of labour in Mesopotamia.

Ubaid 3/4, sometimes called Ubaid I and Ubaid II — In the period from 4500–4000 BC saw a period of intense and rapid urbanisation with the Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia and was adopted by the Halaf culture. Ubaid artifacts spread also all along the Arabian littoral, showing the growth of a trading system that stretched from the Mediterranean coast through to Oman.

During the Ubaid Period (5000-4000 BC.), the movement towards urbanization began. “Agriculture and animal husbandry [domestication] were widely practiced in sedentary communities”. There were also tribes that practiced domesticating animals as far north as Turkey, and as far south as the Zagros Mountains.

Ubaid culture originated in the south, but still has clear connections to earlier cultures in the region of middle Iraq. The appearance of the Ubaid folk has sometimes been linked to the so-called Sumerian problem, related to the origins of Sumerian civilisation.

Whatever the ethnic origins of this group this culture saw for the first time a clear tripartite social division between intensive subsistence peasant farmers, with crops and animals coming from the north, tent-dwelling nomadic pastoralists dependent upon their herds, and hunter-fisher folk of the Arabian littoral, living in reed huts.

Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oikumene that resulted from Ubaid expansion, contrasting it to the colonial expansionism of the later Uruk period. “A contextual analysis comparing different regions shows that the Ubaid expansion took place largely through the peaceful spread of an ideology, leading to the formation of numerous new indigenous identities that appropriated and transformed superficial elements of Ubaid material culture into locally distinct expressions”.

The Ubaid house is a dwelling used by the Ubaid culture of the Neolithic era. The Ubaid house is the predecessor of the Ubaid temple as well as Sumerian domestic and temple architecture.

In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvium although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period.

The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation.

At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”. This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron.

In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.

Tell Zeidan is an archaeological site of the Ubaid culture in northern Syria, from about 5500 to 4000 BC. The dig consists of three large mounds on the east bank of the Balikh River, slightly north of its confluence with the Euphrates River, and is located about 5 km (3.1 mi) east of the modern Syrian city of ar-Raqqah (or Raqqa).

Leyla-Tepe culture

The Leyla-Tepe culture is a culture of archaeological interest from the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 BC.

The Leyla-Tepe culture includes a settlement in the lower layer of the settlements Poilu I, Poilu II, Boyuk-Kesik I and Boyuk-Kesik II. They apparently buried their dead in ceramic vessels.

Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture, an archaeological culture that was widespread in the second century B.C. to the eighth century A.D. in the basins of the Kura and Araks rivers in Transcaucasia, particularly in Caucasian Albania.

The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslan-tepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.).

The Leyla-Tepe culture is a culture of archaeological interest from the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 B.C. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture.

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

Maykop culture

After the discovery of the Leyla-Tepe culture in the 1980s it was suggested that elements of the Maykop culture migrated to the south-eastern slopes of the Caucasus in modern Azerbaijan.

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture (ca. 3700 BC—3000 BC.), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Western Caucasus region of Southern Russia.

An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.

In the south it borders the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it. To the north is the Yamna culture, including the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.

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

New data revealed the similarity of artifacts from the Maykop culture with those found recently in the course of excavations of the ancient city of Tell Khazneh in northern Syria, the construction of which dates back to 4000 BC.

In 2010, nearly 200 Bronze Age sites were reported stretching over 60 miles between the Kuban and Nalchik rivers, at an altitude of between 4,620 feet and 7,920 feet. They were all “visibly constructed according to the same architectural plan, with an oval courtyard in the center, and connected by roads.”

Its inhumation practices were characteristically Indo-European, typically in a pit, sometimes stone-lined, topped with a kurgan (or tumulus). Stone cairns replace kurgans in later interments. The Maykop kurgan was extremely rich in gold and silver artifacts; unusual for the time.

Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, whose views are highly controversial, suggest that the Maykop culture (or its ancestor) may have been a way-station for Indo-Europeans migrating from the South Caucasus and/or eastern Anatolia to a secondary Urheimat on the steppe. This would essentially place the Anatolian stock in Anatolia from the beginning, and only in this instance, agrees with Colin Renfrew’s Anatolian hypothesis.

Considering that some attempt has been made to unite Indo-European with the Northwest Caucasian languages, an earlier Caucasian pre-Urheimat is not out of the question. However, most linguists and archaeologists consider this hypothesis incorrect, and prefer the Eurasian steppes as the genuine IE Urheimat.

Tepe Sialk

Tepe Sialk is a large ancient archeological site (a tepe or Persian tappeh, “hill” or “mound”) in a suburb of the city of Kashan, Isfahan Province, in central Iran, close to Fin Garden.

The culture that inhabited this area has been linked to the Zayandeh River Culture (literally “Zāyandé-Rūd Civilization”), a hypothetical pre-historic culture that is theorized to have flourished around the Zayandeh River in Iran in the 6th millennium BC.

The Sialk ziggurat was built around the 3000 BC. A joint study between Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization, the Louvre, and the Institut Francais de Recherche en Iran also verifies the oldest settlements in Sialk to date back to 5500–6000 BC.

Archaeologists speculate that a possible early civilization existed along the banks of the Zayandeh River, developing at the same time as other ancient civilizations appeared alongside rivers in the region, such as the Sumerian civilization in Iraq and the Indus Valley civilization in ancient India.

During the 2006 excavations, the Iranian archaeologists uncovered some artifacts that they linked to those from Sialk and Marvdasht. Previous archeological excavations in the Zayandeh River basin unearthed a 50,000 year old cave containing Human and Animal remains.

“Following archaeological studies, we are going to excavate two historical hills, one of which is alongside Zayaneh River midway, and the other in the Gav khooni swamp.” said Mohsen Javeri, head of archaeological studies of the Cultural Heritage of Isfahan.

According to Javeri, both of the selected hills of the site for belong to the pre-historic period, but their exact date is not yet known. During the 2004 excavations within the perimeters of Isfahan city, it was determined that the city dates back to earlier than the 6th millennium BC.

Susa

Painted ceramic vessels from Susa in the earliest first style are a late, regional version of the Mesopotamian Ubaid ceramic tradition that spread across the Near East during the fifth millennium BC. Susa I style was very much a product of the past and of influences from contemporary ceramic industries in the mountains of western Iran.

In politics, Susa was the capital of a state called Šušan, which occupied approximately the same territory of modern Khūzestān Province centered on the Karun River. Control of Šušan shifted between Elam, Sumer, and Akkad. Šušan is sometimes mistaken as synonymous with Elam, but it was a distinctly separate cultural and political entity.

Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region. Based on C14 dating, the foundation of a settlement there occurred as early as 4395 BCE (a calibrated radio-carbon date). Archeologists have dated the first traces of an inhabited Neolithic village to c 7000 BCE. Evidence of a painted-pottery civilization has been dated to c 5000 BCE.

Like its Chalcolithic neighbor Uruk, Susa began as a discrete settlement in the Susa I period (c 4000 BCE). The founding of Susa corresponded with the abandonment of nearby villages.

Potts suggests that the city may have been founded to try to reestablish the previously destroyed settlement at Chogha Mish, the site of a Chalcolithic settlement in Western Iran, located in the Khuzistan Province on the Susiana Plain, dating back to 6800 BC. and continuously from the Neolithic up to the Proto-Literate period.

Chogha in the Luri language means hill and mish means Ewe. Chogha Mish was a regional center during the late Uruk period of Mesopotamia and is important today for information about the development of writing. At Chogha Mish, evidence begins with an accounting system using clay tokens, over time changing to clay tablets with marks, finally to the cuneiform writing system.

Susa was firmly within the Uruk cultural sphere during the Uruk period. An imitation of the entire state apparatus of Uruk, proto-writing, cylinder seals with Sumerian motifs, and monumental architecture, is found at Susa. Susa may have been a colony of Uruk. As such, the periodization of Susa corresponds to Uruk; Early, Middle and Late Susa II periods (3800–3100 BCE) correspond to Early, Middle, and Late Uruk periods.

By the middle Susa II period, the city had grown to 25 ha. Susa III (3100–2900 BCE) corresponds with Uruk III period. Ambiguous reference to Elam appear also in this period in Sumerian records. Susa enters history during the Early Dynastic period of Sumer. A battle between Kish and Susa is recorded in 2700 BCE.

Shortly after Susa was first settled 6000 years ago, its inhabitants erected a temple on a monumental platform that rose over the flat surrounding landscape. The exceptional nature of the site is still recognizable today in the artistry of the ceramic vessels that were placed as offerings in a thousand or more graves near the base of the temple platform.

Nearly two thousand pots were recovered from the cemetery most of them now in the Louvre. The vessels found are eloquent testimony to the artistic and technical achievements of their makers, and they hold clues about the organization of the society that commissioned them.

BMAC

The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (or BMAC, also known as the Oxus civilization) is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age civilisation of Central Asia, dated to ca. 2300–1700 BCE, located in present day northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centered on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River).

There is archaeological evidence of settlement in the well-watered northern foothills of the Kopet Dag during the Neolithic period. This region is dotted with the multi-period hallmarks characteristic of the ancient Near East, similar to those southwest of the Kopet Dag in the Gorgan Plain in Iran.

At Jeitun (or Djeitun), mudbrick houses were first occupied c. 6000 cal. BCE. The inhabitants were farmers who kept herds of goats and sheep and grew wheat and barley, with origins in southwest Asia.

The discovery of a single tiny stone seal (known as the “Anau seal”) with geometric markings from the BMAC site at Anau in Turkmenistan in 2000 led some to claim that the Bactria-Margiana complex had also developed writing, and thus may indeed be considered a literate civilization.

It bears five markings strikingly similar to Chinese “small seal” characters, but such characters date from the Qin reforms of roughly 100 AD, while the Anau seal is dated by context to 2,300 BCE. It is therefore an unexplained anomaly. The only match to the Anau seal is a small jet seal of almost identical shape from Niyä (near modern Minfeng) along the southern Silk Road in Xinjiang, assumed to be from the Western Han dynasty.

BMAC materials have been found in the Indus civilisation, on the Iranian plateau, and in the Persian Gulf. Finds within BMAC sites provide further evidence of trade and cultural contacts. They include an Elamite-type cylinder seal and an Harappan seal stamped with an elephant and Indus script found at Gonur-depe.

The relationship between Altyn-Depe and the Indus Valley seems to have been particularly strong. Among the finds there were two Harappan seals and ivory objects. The Harappan settlement of Shortugai in Northern Afghanistan on the banks of the Amu Darya probably served as a trading station.

Hamoukar

The first cities started developing in southern Mesopotamia during the 4th millennium BC. With these cities, ties of religion began to replace ties of kinship as the basis for society. During the Uruk phase, colonists and traders from Southern Iraq established important quarters in settlements throughout the northern part of the Levantine region (e.g. Amuq).

In Southern Iraq each city had a patron god, worshipped in a massive central temple called a ziggurat, and was ruled by a priest-king (ishakku). Society became more segmented and specialized and capable of coordinate projects like irrigation and warfare.

Along with cities came a number of advances in technology. By around the 31st century BC, writing, the wheel, and other such innovations had been introduced. By then, the Sumerian Peoples of south Mesopotamia were all organized into a variety of independent City-states, such as Ur and Uruk, which by around 26th century BC had begun to coalesce into larger political units.

By accommodating the conquered people’s gods, religion became more polytheistic and government became somewhat more secular; the title of lugal, big man, appears alongside the earlier religious titles, although his primary duty is still the worship of the state gods. This process came to its natural conclusion with the development of the first empires around the 24th century BC.

Hamoukar is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria (Al Hasakah Governorate), near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. Most importantly, archaeologists believe that Hamoukar was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer.

The origins of urban settlements has generally been attributed to the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC the Mesopotamian cities such of Ur and Uruk emerged.

In 2007, following the discoveries at Hamoukar, some archiologists have argued that the Cradle of Civilization could have extended further up the Tigris River and included the part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.

Archaeological discovery suggests that civilizations advanced enough to reach the size and organizational structure that was necessary to be considered a city and could have emerged before the advent of a written language.

Previously it was believed that a system of written language was a necessary predecessor of that type of complex city. Until now, the oldest cities with developed seals and writing were thought to be Sumerian Uruk and Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia.

The evidence at Hamoukar indicates that some of the fundamental ideas behind cities—including specialization of labor, a system of laws and government, and artistic development—may have begun earlier than was previously believed. The discovery of a large city is exciting for archaeologists.

While they have found small villages and individual pieces that date much farther back than Hamoukar, nothing compares to the discovery of this size. Discoveries have been made here that have never been seen before, including materials from Hellenistic and Islamic civilizations.

Excavation by a joint Syrian-American expedition (by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities) has been conducted since 1999.

Excavation work undertaken in 2005 and 2006 has shown that this city was destroyed by warfare by around 3500 BC – probably the earliest urban warfare attested so far in the archaeological record of the Near East. Contiuned excavations in 2008 and 2010 expand on that.

Eye Idols made of alabaster or bone have been found in Tell Hamoukar. Eye Idols have also been found in Tell Brak, the biggest settlement from Syria’s Late Chalcolithic period.

Yarmukian culture

The Yarmukian culture (ca. 6400–6000 BC) was a Neolithic culture of the ancient Levant. It was the first culture in prehistoric Palestine and one of the oldest in the Levant to make use of pottery. The Yarmukian derives its name from the Yarmouk River which flows near its type site at Sha’ar HaGolan, a kibbutz at the foot of the Golan Heights.

The greatest technological innovation of the Sha’ar HaGolan Neolithic was the manufacture of pottery. This industry, which appears here for the first time in Israel, gives this cultural stage its name of Pottery Neolithic. The pottery vessels are in a variety of shapes and sizes and were put to various domestic uses.

The Yarmukian culture was a Neolithic culture of the ancient Levant. It was the first culture in prehistoric Palestine and one of the oldest in the Levant to make use of pottery. The Yarmukian derives its name from the Yarmouk River which flows near its type site at Sha’ar HaGolan, a kibbutz at the foot of the Golan Heights.

The greatest technological innovation of the Sha’ar HaGolan Neolithic was the manufacture of pottery. This industry, which appears here for the first time in Israel, gives this cultural stage its name of Pottery Neolithic. The pottery vessels are in a variety of shapes and sizes and were put to various domestic uses.

Ghassulian culture

Ghassulian refers to a culture and an archaeological stage dating to the Middle Chalcolithic Period in the Southern Levant (c. 3800–c. 3350 BC). Considered to correspond to the Halafian culture of North Syria and Mesopotamia, its type-site, Tulaylat al-Ghassul, is located in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea in modern Jordan and was excavated in the 1930s. It seems that Ghassulian culture was an extension Zarin’s Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex coupled with the Amuq valley’s relic PPNB culture.

The Ghassulian stage was characterized by small hamlet settlements of mixed farming peoples, and migrated southwards from Syria into Palestine Canaan. Houses were trapezoid-shaped and built mud-brick, covered with remarkable polychrome wall paintings.

Their pottery was highly elaborate, including footed bowls and horn-shaped drinking goblets, indicating the cultivation of wine. Several samples display the use of sculptural decoration or of a reserved slip (a clay and water coating partially wiped away while still wet). The Ghassulians were a Chalcolithic culture as they also smelted copper. Funerary customs show evidence that they buried their dead in stone dolmens.

Ghassulian culture has been identified at numerous other places in what is today southern Israel, especially in the region of Beersheba. The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt and may have had trading affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan culture in Crete.

The Ghassulian period created the basis of the Mediterranean economy which has characterised the area ever since. A Chalcolithic culture, the Ghassulian economy was a mixed agricultural system consisting of extensive cultivation of grains (wheat and barley), intensive horticulture of vegetable crops, commercial production of vines and olives, and a combination of transhumance and nomadic pastoralism.

Y Chromosome J Haplogroups trace post glacial period expansion from Turkey and Caucasus into the Middle East confirms what I have argued about, i.e., that the West Asian highlands are responsible for the spread of haplogroup J, including, it seems into the Middle East itself. The chronology presented probably assumes the evolutionary mutation rate; also, the lack of haplogroup J in Europe pre-5ka argues for a late expansion.

Out of this West Asian highlander population came the two dominant groups of West Eurasian prehistory, the Indo-Europeans and the Semites, their spread associated with a “metallurgical edge” in technology and social complexity during the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age.

The latter probably picked their language from a T- or E-bearing population of the southern Levant as these two haplogroups might link the Proto-Semites with their African Afroasiatic brethren.

The interaction between african afroasiatic speakers and PPNB agro-pastoralists fits within the spectrum of Juris Zarins Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex which supposedly spread Semitic throughout the area.

It is also simplistic to assume that these PPNB populations simply shifted their language, as PS is hypothesized to have had early ergative features (some of which can be observed in Aramaic)… Typologically, this is proves to be an interesting link to Northeast Caucasian languages which also exhibit extensive properties (and whose speakers have high J-M267 frequencies).

The J1 people who stayed behind in the north (and didn’t mix with the E/T Afroasiatics) continued to speak their own languages (perhaps some type of Northeast Caucasian-type language or others that are now extinct).

Pre-Pottery Neolithic C

Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period. Juris Zarins has proposed that a Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex developed in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BCE, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in PPNB cultures upon domesticated animals, and a fusion with Harifian hunter gatherers in the Southern Levant, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt. Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into southern Iraq.

Kura–Araxes culture

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 northward in Caucasus 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. It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

Archaeological evidence of inhabitants of the Kura–Araxes culture had shown that ancient settlements were found along the Hrazdan river, 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.

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.

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. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.

They are also remarkable for the production of wheeled vehicles (wagons and carts), which were sometimes included in burial kurgans. 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.

Trialeti culture

The Trialeti culture, named after Trialeti region of Georgia, is attributed to the first part of the 2nd millennium BC. In the late 3rd millennium BC, settlements of the Kura-Araxes culture began to be replaced by early Trialeti culture sites.

The Trialeti culture was a second culture to appear in Georgia, after the Shulaveri-Shomu culture which existed from 6000 to 4000 BC. The Trialeti culture shows close ties with the highly developed cultures of the ancient world, particularly with the Aegean, but also with cultures to the south, such as probably the Sumerians and their Akkadian conquerors.

The site at Trialeti was originally excavated in 1936–1940 in advance of a hydroelectric scheme, when forty-six barrows were uncovered. A further six barrows were uncovered in 1959–1962.

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

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

In a historical context, their impressive accumulation of wealth in burial kurgans, like that of other associated and nearby cultures with similar burial practices, is particularly noteworthy.

Further developments

The Akkadians invaded the valley under Sargon I and established their supremacy over the Sumerians, and extended their control into Syria as far as the coast. The Ebla archive mentions the cities of Hazor and Jerusalem amongst other sites of the region. They were followed by the extension of Khirbet Kerak ware cultures, showing affinities with the Caucasus, and possibly linked to the later appearance of the Hurrians.

This was synchronous with the empires of Ur during the 22nd and 21st centuries BC and the Old Babylonian Kingdom during the 18th and 17th centuries BC, both of which did not extend as far as the Levant. During this time the Kingdom of Yamkhad on the Euphrates, and of Qatna on the Orontes, were important city states of the Syrian region.

Parallel developments were meanwhile occurring in Egypt, which by the 32nd century BC had been unified to form the Old Kingdom of Egypt, and amongst the peoples of the Indus Valley in north-western India. All of these civilizations lie in fertile river valleys where agriculture is relatively easy once dams and irrigation are constructed to control the flood waters.

This started to change around the end of the 3rd millennium BC as cities started to spread to the nearby hilly country: among the Assyrians in north Mesopotamia, the Canaanites in Syria-Palestine, to the Minoans in Crete, and to the Hittites in eastern Anatolia. Around this same time various immigrants, such as the Hittites in Anatolia and Mycenaean Greeks, started appearing around the peripheries of civilization.

These groups are associated with the appearance of the light two-wheeled war chariot and typically with Indo-European languages. Horses and chariots require a lot of time and upkeep, so their use was mainly confined to a small nobility. These are the “heroic” societies familiar to us from epics like the Iliad and the Ramayana.

Around the 17th and 16th centuries BC most of the older centres had been overrun. Babylonia was conquered by the Kassites, and the civilization of the Indus Valley was on decline probably due to climate. Another group, the Mitanni, subjugated Assyria and for a time menaced the Hittite kingdom, but was defeated by the two around the middle of the 14th.

Various Achaean kingdoms developed in Greece, most notably that of Mycenae and by the 15th century BC were dominant over the older Minoan cities. And the Semitic Hyksos used the new technologies to occupy Egypt, but were expelled, leaving the empire of the New Kingdom to develop in their wake. From 1550 until 1100, much of the Levant was conquered by Egypt, which in the latter half of this period contested Syria with the Hittite Empire.

At the end of the 13th century BC, all of these powers suddenly collapsed. Cities all around the eastern Mediterranean were sacked within a span of a few decades by assorted raiders. The Achaean kingdoms disappeared, and the Hittite empire was destroyed. Egypt repelled its attackers with only a major effort, and over the next century shrank to its territorial core, its central authority permanently weakened. Only Assyria and Egypt escaped significant damage.

Re-excavating Cheshmeh Ali

Pottery Southwest Asia

Pottery

Halaf culture

The pottery of ancient Tell Halaf of Mesopotamia and my ceramics

https://i1.wp.com/xingyimax.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/expo01.jpg

Map of late neolithic China

China

Until recently we were dependent for the beginnings of Chinese history on the written Chinese tradition. According to these sources China’s history began either about 4000 BC. or about 2700 BC. with a succession of wise emperors who “invented” the elements of a civilization, such as clothing, the preparation of food, marriage, and a state system; they instructed their people in these things, and so brought China, as early as in the third millennium BC., to an astonishingly high cultural level.

However, all we know of the origin of civilizations makes this of itself entirely improbable; no other civilization in the world originated in any such way. As time went on, Chinese historians found more and more to say about primeval times. All these narratives were collected in the great imperial history that appeared at the beginning of the Manchu epoch. That book was translated into French, and all the works written in Western languages until recent years on Chinese history and civilization have been based in the last resort on that translation.

Modern research has not only demonstrated that all these accounts are inventions of a much later period, but has also shown why such narratives were composed. The older historical sources make no mention of any rulers before 2200 B.C., no mention even of their names. The names of earlier rulers first appear in documents of about 400 B.C.; the deeds attributed to them and the dates assigned to them often do not appear until much later. Secondly, it was shown that the traditional chronology is wrong and another must be adopted, reducing all the dates for the more ancient history, before 900 BC.

Finally, all narratives and reports from China’s earliest period have been dealt a mortal blow by modern archaeology, with the excavations of recent years. There was no trace of any high civilization in the third millennium BC., and, indeed, we can only speak of a real “Chinese civilization” from 1300 BC. onward. The peoples of the China of that time had come from the most varied sources; from 1300 BC. they underwent a common process of development that welded them into a new unity.

In this sense and emphasizing the cultural aspects, we are justified in using from then on a new name, “Chinese”, for the peoples of China. Those sections, however, of their ancestral populations who played no part in the subsequent cultural and racial fusion, we may fairly call “non-Chinese”. This distinction answers the question that continually crops up, whether the Chinese are “autochthonons”. They are autochthonons in the sense that they formed a unit in the Far East, in the geographical region of the present China, and were not immigrants from the Middle East.

Yangshao

A Most painted pottery in China was made some 3,000 to 5,000 years ago in the Yellow River Valley in Southwest Qinghai, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces and Northern Henan Province.

After the discovery of the Yangshao culture (5000 BC to 3000 BC), a Neolithic culture that existed extensively along the Yellow River in China, its pottery was compared with the painted pottery of the West, and a number of resemblances were found, especially with the pottery of the Lower Danube basin and that of Anau, in Turkestan.

The Yangshao culture crafted pottery. Typical of this culture is its wonderfully fine pottery, apparently used as gifts to the dead. It is painted in three colours, white, red, and black.  The patterns are all stylized, designs copied from nature being rare.

Yangshao artisans created fine white, red, and black painted pottery with human facial, animal, and geometric designs. Unlike the later Longshan culture, the Yangshao culture did not use pottery wheels in pottery-making. Excavations found that children were buried in painted pottery jars.

In 1957, the so-called “Miaodigou branch of the Yangshao culture” became known with excavation of a primitive site at Miaodigou in Sanmenxia City, Henan Province, which archeologists believe existed during the transition of the Yangshao culture to the Longshan culture. Painted pottery utensils found at Miaodigou were produced around 3,900 years BC. Flying birds, distorted bird patterns done with crude lines and frogs in a style of realism are the main patterns on them.

Fish and distorted fish patterns, sometimes with fishing net patterns, characterize pottery utensils found at Banpo in Shaanxi Province. Archeologists believe these represent another branch of the Yangshao culture, which is earlier than the Miaodigou branch. Images of frogs are painted on the inner side of pottery basins found at Banpo, and deer are the only animal figures on Banpo pottery ware.

The archaeological site of Banpo village (4800-4200 BC), near Xi’an, is one of the best-known ditch-enclosed settlements of the Yangshao culture and is the type site associated with Yangshao Culture. Another major settlement called Jiangzhai was excavated out to its limits, and archaeologists found that it was completely surrounded by a ring-ditch.

Banpo Culture originating from the middle reaches of the Yellow River is part of the Yangshao Culture of the Neolithic Age. The culture is so named because it was founded in Banpo Village in Xian, Shaanxi Province. The culture lasted from 6,800 to 6,300 years ago and reflects the geographical situation of northern China at that time.

Residents in Banpo lived in villages in clans or tribes. Agriculture, fishing and hunting were their main ways of acquiring food. The dwelling place for a clan was surrounded by a moat as a way to prevent invasion by wild animals. Houses were square or round in shape and were built so that some of the building extended under the ground.

Banpo Culture is renowned for its fine painted potteries. The pottery-painting skills displayed here are listed the top among all the cultures at that time. Not only are the pottery wares of different kinds but they are also meticulously painted with unusual patterns. Human faces, fish, deer, plants and other geometric figures are commonly seen on the wares, which were usually dyed red with black-lined patterns.

The most representative design is a basin with human face and fish patterns found in Banpo, Xian that is the crystal of art and characters of that time. Judging from the patterns painted on the pottery, archaeologists have concluded that the fish symbol was regarded as a good omen by clans that time.

At the time, the Banpo people decorated their pottery simply, and the most striking designs are images of fish, which are ubiquitous. The fish, which were arranged in symbolic patterns, must have been totems of the ancient Banpo people.

As for the burying custom, people were buried in the common cemetery. Adornments were usually buried together with the dead body. As for the children, after they died, they would be put into urns and then buried in dwelling areas. As women played a significant role in society during that period, there were more sacrificial articles buried in the girls’ graves than those of young boys.

Both Banpo and Jiangzhai also yielded incised marks on pottery which a few have interpreted as numerals or perhaps precursors to the Chinese script, but such interpretations are not widely accepted.

Primitive Chinese artists used black, white and red paint to decorate red pottery utensils, such as basins, jars and plates. The designs on painted pottery comes in two types: abstract patterns and realistically drawn figures of animals, insects and humans.

There are a dozen patterns depicted on Chinese painted pottery — the most common being rippling, rotary, circular, saw-tooth and net-mesh designs. The lines are smooth and neat, symmetrical and balanced, adhering to specific rules.

The painted pottery unearthed in Majiayao in Gansu Province, reveals many rippling and rotary designs drawn with smooth and balanced strokes that engender a quiet and gentle mood. The designs shed precious light on primitive life in Chinese society of men fishing and hunting, and women doing housework and collecting vegetables and fruits. The early society was free of segregation and slavery, and its painted designs, too, embodied a peaceful and harmonious beauty.

The Banshan and Machang painted pottery, which succeeded the Majiayao, had changed. More saw-tooth, circling and frog-shaped strokes appeared, appearing wilder, bolder and more enigmatic. Chinese primitive society was breaking up during that period and social reforms were in progress.

The resulting turbulence and unrest were reflected in the designs. It is not simply a fanciful notion to read such meanings into the painted pottery designs since all paintings and drawing designs in later, and better-documented Chinese dynasties, reflect the social moods and trends of their respective eras.

Realistic pottery designs are more attractive. Animal designs on the painted pottery unearthed in Banpo Village in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, have simple but descriptive patterns, such as swimming fish, running deer and barking dogs.

The designs demonstrate that ancient Chinese artists were skilled in depicting the movement of animals. On a painted pottery basin unearthed in Datong County, Qinghai Province, there is an image of five dancing people in a line, hand in hand. The design can be viewed as both an ancient picture and ornamentation.

Primitive Banpo artists began using pictorial designs for decorative purposes and expressing abstract thoughts. For example, they divided fish designs into separate parts the head, body and fins — alternating straight lines with curves, triangles and circles.

The innovation was a significant step in the development of Chinese painting. On a painted pottery basin from Banpo Village, for instance, we see the design of a human face with a fish body.

According to archeologists, such patterns may have been used for decorating utensils or for sacrificial rites in the spring season for a good harvest. If this is the case, Banpo pottery designs would be the earliest religious artwork in all of art history.

We are now able to divide this painted pottery into several sub-types of specific distribution, and we know that this style existed from c. 2200 BC. on.  In general, it tends to disappear as does painted pottery in other parts of the world with the beginning of urban civilization and the invention of writing.

The typical Yangshao culture seems to have come to an end around 1600 or 1500 BC., but it continued in some more remote areas, especially of Kansu, perhaps to about 700 BC.

The Kansu Yang-shao Neolithic pottery culture derives from the later phases of the Yang-shao culture. This finer western Yang-shao group is more artistic and by any standards the more technologically, advanced.

It consists of both funeary wares and pottery for general use. Most come from cemeteries at Pan-Shan and Ma-Chang in Kansu Province. They are difficult to date accurately, but a date in the 3rd millennium BC is generally accepted.

The painted funerary urns are the most refined and richly decorated of all Yang-shao wares. The fine textured body is buff or reddish-brown. The pots were built up by hand by the coiling method, and in order to rotate them, especially in the final stages when the lip was finished, they were sometimes set on a piece of matting which could easily be turned on a flat surface of earth or on a large flat stone. Pieces exist with impressions of these rotating mats on their bases.

However the fast potter’s wheel was never used. The urns are all ovoid or globular, some quite imposing forms. Most are brush painted with bold, abstract, swirling patterns in black, white, red, and purple-brown pigments. Other good examples of Kansu painted ware found in graves include jugs, jars, bowls and cups in made in fine quality clay then painted and burnished. These pots were fired in simple updraft kilns to about 1020°C.

Remnants of this painted pottery have been found over a wide area from Southern Manchuria, Hopei, Shansi, Honan, Shensi to Kansu; some pieces have also been discovered in Sinkiang.  Thus far, it seems that it occurred mainly in the mountainous parts of North and North-West China.

Kansu painted ware is superior in technique to much of the later pre-Han pottery of dynastic times so far known. Kansu is the gateway to China from the West, and urns related in style have been found as far west as the Ukraine and intereseting, if superficial, resemblances to the painted pottery found at Anau, Susa, and other Western Asiatic sites of later neolithic date.

The people of this culture lived in villages near to the rivers and creeks. They had various forms of houses, including underground dwellings and animal enclosures. They practiced some agriculture; some authors believe that rice was already known to them. They also had domesticated animals.

Their implements were of stone with rare specimens of bone. The axes were of the rectangular type. Metal was as yet unknown, but seems to have been introduced towards the end of the period. They buried their dead on the higher elevations, and here the painted pottery was found. For their daily life, they used predominantly a coarse grey pottery.

Some authors claim that such resemblances are fortuitous and believe that the older layers of this culture are to be found in the eastern part of its distribution and only the later layers in the west. It is, they say, these later stages which show the strongest resemblances with the West.

Other authors believe that the painted pottery came from the West where it occurs definitely earlier than in the Far East; some investigators went so far as to regard the Indo-Europeans as the parents of that civilization.

As we find people who spoke an Indo-European language in the Far East in a later period they tend to connect the spread of painted pottery with the spread of Indo-European-speaking groups.

As most findings of painted pottery in the Far East do not stem from scientific excavations it is difficult to make any decision at this moment. We will have to wait for more and modern excavations.

From our knowledge of primeval settlement in West and North-West China we know, however, that Tibetan groups, probably mixed with Turkish elements, must have been the main inhabitants of the whole region in which this painted pottery existed.

Whatever the origin of the painted pottery may be it seems that people of these two groups were the main users of it. Most of the shapes of their pottery are not found in later Chinese pottery.

According to research on Neolithic skeletal remains on Yangshao culture sites such as the Miaozigou (3490 BC) and Jiangjialiang (4000-3000 BC), it found that they cluster as Northern Chinese, while research from Yangshao sites (Pan-p’o, Pao-chi, and Hua-hsien) led Yen Yen to believe that they are close to modern day southern Chinese, Indonesians and some Indo-Chinese.

In another case, Yan Yin considered that the Baoji group was similar to the Banpo group and the Huaxian group in their physical characteristics, and these three groups were near to “modern South-Asian Race of Mongoloid.”

A separate interpretation on a book written about Yen Yen’s research of Miaodigou Yangshao culture found they were of the “North Asian Mongolian group”, and “By the Yangshao period (3000 BC – 5000 BC), the skull measurements are ‘physically Chinese’ and ‘modern’.”

Other research suggests there has been significant change in the physical characteristics of the inhabitants of China from the Neolithic to modern times, citing admixture, human migration, extinction of ancient lineages and micro-evolution as causes.

Research, that included Yangshao samples, conducted by Chen Dehzen concluded that “in the Neolithic Man of China, both in the Northern group and in the Southern group there exist so-called Negro-Australoid racial traits.”

The archaeological site of Banpo village, near Xi’an, is one of the best-known ditch-enclosed settlements of the Yangshao culture. Another major settlement called Jiangzhai was excavated out to its limits, and archaeologists found that it was completely surrounded by a ring-ditch.

Both Banpo and Jiangzhai also yielded incised marks on pottery which a few have interpreted as numerals or perhaps precursors to the Chinese script, but such interpretations are not widely accepted.

The Yangshao culture takes its name from a prehistoric settlement in the west of the present province of Henan, where the first excavated representative village of this culture was discovered in 1921 by the Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson (1874–1960). The culture flourished mainly in the provinces of Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi.

The subsistence practices of Yangshao people were varied. They cultivated millet extensively; some also cultivated wheat or rice. The exact nature of Yangshao agriculture, small-scale slash-and-burn cultivation versus intensive agriculture in permanent fields, is currently a matter of debate. However, Middle Yangshao settlements such as Jiangzhi contain raised-floor buildings that may have been used for the storage of surplus grains.

The Yangshao people kept such animals as pigs, chickens and dogs, as well as sheep, goats, and cattle, but much of their meat came from hunting and fishing. Their stone tools were polished and highly specialized. They may also have practiced an early form of silkworm cultivation.

The Yangshao people mainly cultivated millet, but some settlements grew rice. They also grew vegetables like turnips, cabbage, yams and other vegetables. The Yangshao people domesticated chickens, ducks, pigs, dogs and cattle.

Millet and rice was made into gruel for the morning while millet was made into dumplings. Meat, most of which was obtained by hunting or fishing, was eaten on only special occasions and rice was ground into flour to make cakes.

Although early reports suggested a matriarchal culture, others argue that it was a society in transition from matriarchy to patriarchy, while still others believe it to have been patriarchal. The debate hinges around differing interpretations of burial practices.

The Yangshao culture produced silk to a small degree and wove hemp. Men wore loin cloths and tied their hair in a top knot. Women wrapped a length of cloth around themselves and tied their hair in a bun. The wealthy could wear silk.

Houses were built by digging a rounded rectangular pit a few feet deep. Then they were rammed, and a lattice of wattle was woven over it. Then it was plastered with mud. The floor was also rammed down.

Next, a few short wattle poles would be placed around the top of the pit, and more wattle would be woven to it. It was plastered with mud, and a framework of poles would be placed to make a cone shape for the roof. Poles would be added to support the roof. It was then thatched with millet stalks. There was little furniture; a shallow fireplace in the middle with a stool, a bench along the wall, and a bed of cloth. Food and items were placed or hung against the walls. A pen would be built outside for animals.

Archaeological sites reveal that prehistoric cultures such as the Yangshao Culture and Longshan Culture (3000 BC to 2000 BC) were active in what is now northern Henan since the Neolithic Era.

Early studies indicated that the Longshan (3000 BC to 2000 BC) and Yangshao cultures were one and the same. It is now widely accepted that the Longshan culture is in fact a later development of the Yangshao culture.

Some scholars also mentions the Longshan culture to be a successor of the Dawenkou culture (4100- 2600 BC), a name given by archaeologists to a group of Neolithic communities who lived primarily in Shandong, but also appeared in Anhui, Henan and Jiangsu, China.

Shaanxi

The name Shaanxi means “Land west of Shan”. Shǎn was the ancient name for the narrow mountain pass where the Yellow River flows from the Loess Plateau down to the North China Plain. It is now known as Sanmenxia, a prefecture-level city in western Henan Province, China.

Shaanxi is considered one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. Thirteen feudal dynasties established their capitals in the province during a span of more than 1,100 years, from the Zhou Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty.

The province’s principal city and current capital, Xi’an, is one of the four great ancient capitals of China and is the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, which leads to Europe, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.

Under the Han Dynasty, the Northern Silk Road was expanded to advance exploration and military purposes to the west. This Northern Silk Road is the northernmost of the Silk Roads and is about 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) in length. It connected the ancient Chinese capital of Xi’an to the west over the Wushao Ling Pass to Wuwei and emerging in Kashgar before linking to ancient Parthia.

Henan

Widely regarded as the Cradle of Chinese civilization along with Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, Henan is known for its historical prosperity and periodic downturns. The economic prosperity resulted from its extensive fertile plains and its location at the heart of the country.

However, its strategic location also means that it has suffered from nearly all of the major wars in China. In addition, the numerous floods of the Yellow River have caused significant damage from time to time. Kaifeng, in particular, has been buried by the Yellow River’s silt seven times due to flooding.

Henan is located in the central part of China. Henan is the birthplace of Chinese civilization with over 3,000 years of recorded history, and remained China’s cultural, economical, and political center until approximately 1,000 years ago.

Numerous heritages have been left behind including the ruins of Shang Dynasty capital city Yin and the Shaolin Temple. Four of the Eight Great Ancient Capitals of China, Luoyang, Anyang, Kaifeng, and Zhengzhou are located in Henan.

Although the name of the province means “south of the river”, approximately a quarter of the province lies north of the Yellow River, also known as the “Huang He”. Henan is often referred to as Zhongyuan or Zhongzhou, which literally means “central plains” or “midland”, although the name is also applied to the entirety of China proper.

The Peiligang culture (7000 to 5000 BC) is the name given by archaeologists to a group of Neolithic communities in the Yi-Luo river basin in Henan Province. Over 100 sites have been identified with the Peiligang culture, nearly all of them in a fairly compact area of about 100 square kilometers in the area just south of the river and along its banks.

The culture is named after the site discovered in 1977 at Peiligang, a village in Xinzheng County. Archaeologists think that the Peiligang culture was egalitarian, with little political organization. This culture typically had separate residential and burial areas, or cemeteries, like most Neolithic cultures.

The culture practiced agriculture in the form of cultivating millet and animal husbandry in the form of raising pigs, cattle and poultry. The people hunted deer and wild boar, and fished for carp in the nearby river, using nets made from hemp fibers.

The culture is also one of the oldest in ancient China to make pottery. Common artifacts include stone arrowheads, spearheads and axe heads; stone tools such as chisels, awls and sickles for harvesting grain; and a broad assortment of pottery items for such purposes as cooking and storing grain.

The Dadiwan culture (5800-5400 BC) was a Neolithic culture located primarily in modern Gansu and western Shaanxi. The culture takes its name from the earliest layer found at the type site at Dadiwan. The remains of millet and pigs were found in sites associated with the culture. The culture shared several similarities with the Cishan and Peiligang cultures.

The type site at Dadiwan was discovered at Qin’an County, Gansu and excavated from 1975 to 1984. Dadiwan was built on a mountain slope south of the Qingshui River near the Wei River. The oldest layer of the site is from the Dadiwan culture, the middle layer is from the Yangshao culture and the youngest layer is from the Longshan culture.

Archaeological sites reveal that prehistoric cultures such as the Yangshao Culture and Longshan Culture were active in what is now northern Henan since the Neolithic Era. The more recent Erlitou culture has been controversially identified with the Xia Dynasty, the first and largely legendary Chinese dynasty that was established, roughly, in the 21st century BC. Virtually the entire kingdom existed within what is now north and central Henan.

The Xia Dynasty collapsed around the 16th century BC following the invasion of Shang, a neighboring vassal state centered around today’s Shangqiu in eastern Henan. The Shang Dynasty (16th-11th centuries BC) was the first literate dynasty of China. Its many capitals are located at the modern cities of Shangqiu, Yanshi, and Zhengzhou. Their last and most important capital, Yin, located in modern Anyang, is where the first Chinese writing was created.

The Majiayao culture and part of the Qijia culture also took root in Gansu from 3100 BC to 2700 BC and 2400 BC to 1900 BC respectively. The State of Qin, later to become the founding state of the Chinese empire, grew out from the southeastern part of Gansu, specifically the Tianshui area. The Qin name itself is believed to have originated, in part, from the area.

The Yuezhi, an ancient Indo-European people originally settled in the arid grasslands of the eastern Tarim Basin area, in what is today Xinjiang and western Gansu, originally lived in the very western part of Gansu until they were forced to emigrate by the Xiongnu, n ancient Eurasian nomadic people who formed a state or confederation centered in modern Mongolia, around 177 BCE.

After the Yuezhi were defeated by the Xiongnu, in the 2nd century BC, a small group, known as the Little Yuezhi, fled to the south, while the majority migrated west to the Ili Valley, where they displaced the Sakas (Scythians).

Driven from the Ili Valley shortly afterwards by the Wusun, the Yuezhi migrated to Sogdia and then Bactria, where they are often identified with the Tókharoi (Τοχάριοι) and Asioi of Classical sources. They then expanded into northern South Asia, where one branch of the Yuezhi founded the Kushan Empire.

The Kushan empire stretched from Turfan in the Tarim Basin to Pataliputra on the Gangetic plain at its greatest extent, and played an important role in the development of the Silk Road and the transmission of Buddhism to China.

In the 11th century BC, the Zhou Dynasty of Shaanxi arrived from the west and overthrew the Shang Dynasty. The capital was moved to Chang’an, and the political and economical center was moved away from Henan for the first time. In 722 BC, when Chang’an was devastated by Xionites invasions, the capital was moved back east to Luoyang.

This began the Spring and Autumn Period, a period of warfare and rivalry. What is now Henan and all of China was divided into a variety of small, independent states, constantly at war for control of the central plain.

Although regarded formally as the ruler of China, the control that Zhou king in Luoyang exerted over the feudal kingdoms had virtually disappeared. Despite the prolonged period of instability, prominent philosophers such as Confucius emerged in this era and offered their ideas on how a state should be run. Laozi, the founder of Taoism, was born in northern Chu, part of modern day Henan.

Later on, these states were replaced by seven large and powerful states during the Warring States period, and Henan was divided into three states, the Wei to the north, the Chu to the south, and the Han in the middle. In 221 BC, state of Qin forces from Shaanxi conquered all of the other six states, ending 800 years of warfare.

Longshan

The Longshan culture, sometimes encountered as Lung-shan after its previous romanization, was a late Neolithic culture in China, centered on the central and lower Yellow River and dated from about 3000 BC to 2000 BC.

The Longshan culture is named after the town of Longshan (lit. “Dragon Mountain”) in the east of the area under the administration of the city of Jinan, Shandong Province, where the first archaeological find (in 1928) and excavation (in 1930 and 1931) of this culture took place at the Chengziya Archaeological Site.

The distinctive feature of the Longshan culture was the high level of skill in pottery making, including the use of pottery wheels. The Longshan culture was noted for its highly polished black pottery (or egg-shell pottery).

This type of thin-walled and polished black pottery has also been discovered in the Yangtze River valley and as far as today’s southeastern coast of China. It is a clear indication that Neolithic agricultural sub-groups of the greater Longshan Culture had spread out across ancient boundaries of China.

Life during the Longshan culture marked a transition to the establishment of cities, as rammed earth walls and moats began to appear; the site at Taosi is the largest walled Longshan settlement.

Rice cultivation was clearly established by that time. Small-scale production of silk by raising and domesticating the silkworm Bombyx mori in early sericulture was also known.

Remains found at archaeological sites suggest that the inhabitants used a method of divination based on interpreting the crack patterns formed in heated cattle bones.

The Neolithic population in China reached its peak during the Longshan culture. Towards the end of the Longshan culture, the population decreased sharply; this was matched by the disappearance of high-quality black pottery found in ritual burials.

The early period of the Longshan culture is considered to be 3000 to 2600 BC, while the late period is 2600 to 2000 BC. A variety of geographic regions of China are involved among the various sub-periods of the Longshan civilisation, particularly for the Late Longshan period.

For example the middle reaches of the Jing River and Wei River evince settlement known as the Shaanxi Longshan. The We’i River valley would participate in key historic events in China as the North Silk Road developed in that same area.

According to recent research on neolithic skeletal remains, two Longshan cultures Miaodigou (4000 BC to 3000 BC) and Chengzierqi (3500 BC) located in Henan and Shandong respectively cluster with the Yangshao people of Shaanxi.

While the other four Yangshao culture sites the Miaozigou (3490 B.C.), Jiangjialiang(4000-3000 BC) from Inner Mongolia and Hebei cluster as Ancient Northern Chinese while the Liuwan (2590-1990 BC) and Yangshan of Qinghai cluster with Ancient Northwestern Chinese.

Another research paper on craniofacial dimensons states that “it may be said that the degree in likeness to Bao Ji is shown strong in Indonesia, moderate in the South China and Tibetan B series, and least in the rest, when judging from the values of their intergrouping variations.”

Dawenekou

The Dawenkou culture (4100 BC to 2600 BC) is a name given by archaeologists to a group of Neolithic communities who lived primarily in Shandong, but also appeared in Anhui, Henan and Jiangsu, China. The culture co-existed with the Yangshao culture. Turquoise, jade and ivory artefacts are commonly found at Dawenkou sites. The earliest examples of alligator drums appear at Dawenkou sites.

Archaeologists commonly divide the culture into three phases: the early phase (4100-3500 BC), the middle phase (3500-3000 BC) and the late phase (3000-2600 BC). The type site at Dawenkou, located in Tai’an, Shandong, was excavated in 1959, 1974 and 1978.

Only the middle layer at Dawenkou is associated with the Dawenkou culture, as the earliest layer corresponds to the Beixin culture and the latest layer corresponds to the early Shandong variant of the Longshan culture.

The physical similarity of the Jiahu people, the site of a Neolithic settlement based in the central plain of ancient China, near the Yellow River, to the later Dawenkou (4300-2600 BC) indicates that the Dawenkou might have descended from the Jiahu, following a slow migration along the middle and lower reaches of the Huai river and the Hanshui valley. According to some scholars, the Dawenkou culture may have a link with a pre-Austronesian language.

Some scholars have asserted that the racial type of the Dawenkou bore resemblance to the Polynesian cranium type. Others suggested they were more similar to Southern Chinese and Southern Mongoloids.

Other research, which included samples from Dawenkou, has shown that during the neolithic, some Australoid like-traits were present in populations of both northern and southern China.

Other researchers claim Dawenkou remains showed a degree of seperation with other neolithic cultures in northern China such as the Yangshao, who bore resemblance to modern day Southern Chinese, Indonesians and some Indo-Chinese.

Based on the evidence from grave goods, the early phase was highly egalitarian. Graves built with earthen ledges became increasingly common during the latter parts of the early phase. During the middle phase, grave goods began to emphasize quantity over diversity.

During the late phase, wooden coffins began to appear in Dawenkou burials. The culture became increasingly stratified, as some graves contained no grave goods while others contained a large quantity of grave goods.

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age is a time period characterized by the use of bronze, proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the three-age Stone-Bronze-Iron system, as proposed in modern times by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, for classifying and studying ancient societies.

An ancient civilization is defined to be in the Bronze Age either by smelting its own copper and alloying with tin, or by trading for bronze from production areas elsewhere. Copper-tin ores are rare, as reflected in the fact that there were no tin bronzes in Western Asia before trading in bronze began in the third millennium BC.

Worldwide, the Bronze Age generally followed the Neolithic period, but in some parts of the world, the Copper Age served as a transition from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age

Straddling the Neolithic and early Bronze Age, the Chalcolithic era (c. 5500 – 3000 BCE) is defined by the first metal implements made with copper. This age is represented in Anatolia by sites at Hacilar, Beycesultan, Canhasan, Mersin Yumuktepe, Elazig Tepecik, Malatya Degirmentepe, Norsuntepe, and Istanbul Fikirtepe.

Bronze metallurgy had spread to Anatolia from the Transcaucasian Kura-Araxes culture in the late 4th millennium BCE. While Anatolia was well endowed with copper ores, there was no evidence of substantial workings of the tin required to make bronze in Bronze-Age Anatolia.

The Bronze Age (c. 3300 – 1200 BC) is characterised by the use of copper and its tin alloy, bronze, for manufacturing implements. Asia Minor was one of the first areas to develop bronze making.

Although the first habitation appears to have occurred as early as the 6th millennium BC during the Chalcolithic period, functioning settlements trading with each other occurred during the 3rd millennium BC.

A settlement on a high ridge would become known as Büyükkaya, and later as the city of Hattush, the center of this civilization. Later, still, it would become the Hittite stronghold of Hattusha and is now Boğazköy.

Remnants of Hattian civilization have been found both under the lower city of Hattusha and in the higher areas of Büyükkaya and Büyükkale, Another settlement was established at Yarikkaya, about 2 km to the northeast.

The discovery of mineral deposits in this part of Anatolia allowed the Anatolians to develop metallurgy, such as the implements found in the royal graves at Alaca Höyük, about 25 km from Boğazköy, which it preceded, dating from 2400-2200 BC.

Other Hattian centers include Hassum, Kanesh, Purushanda, and Zalwar. During this time the Hattians engaged in trade with city states such as those of Sumer, which needed timber products from the Amanus mountains.

Anatolia had remained in the prehistoric period until it entered the sphere of influence of the Akkadian Empire in the 24th century BC under Sargon I, particularly in eastern Anatolia.

However the Akkadian Empire suffered problematic climate changes in Mesopotamia, as well as a reduction in available manpower that affected trade. This led to its fall around 2150 BCE at the hands of the Gutians. The interest of the Akkadians in the region as far as it is known was for exporting various materials for manufacturing.

In Mesopotamia, the Mesopotamia Bronze Age began about 2900 BC and ended with the Kassite period. The usual tripartite division into an Early, Middle and Late Bronze Age is not used. Instead, a division primarily based on art-historical and historical characteristics is more common. The cities of the Ancient Near East housed several tens of thousands of people.

Elam was an ancient civilization located to the east of Mesopotamia. In the Old Elamite period (Middle Bronze Age), Elam consisted of kingdoms on the Iranian plateau, centered in Anshan, and from the mid-2nd millennium BC, it was centered in Susa in the Khuzestan lowlands. Its culture played a crucial role in the Gutian Empire and especially during the Achaemenid dynasty that succeeded it.

The Oxus civilization was a Bronze Age Central Asian culture dated to ca. 2300–1700 BC and centered on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus). In the Early Bronze Age the culture of the Kopet Dag oases and Altyn-Depe developed a proto-urban society. This corresponds to level IV at Namazga-Depe.

Altyn-Depe was a major centre even then. Pottery was wheel-turned. Grapes were grown. The height of this urban development was reached in the Middle Bronze Age c. 2300 BC, corresponding to level V at Namazga-Depe. This Bronze Age culture is called the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC).

The Kulli culture, similar to those of the Indus Valley Civilization, was located in southern Balochistan (Gedrosia) ca. 2500–2000 BC. Agriculture was the economical base of this people. At several places dams were found, providing evidence for a highly developed water management system.

Konar Sandal is associated with the hypothesized “Jiroft culture”, a 3rd millennium BC culture postulated on the basis of a collection of artifacts confiscated in 2001.

The Bronze Age on the Indian subcontinent began around 3300 BC with the beginning of the Indus Valley civilization. Inhabitants of the Indus Valley, the Harappans, developed new techniques in metallurgy and produced copper, bronze, lead and tin.

The Indian Bronze Age was followed by the Iron Age Vedic Period. The Harappan culture, which dates from 1700 BC to 1300 BC, overlapped the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age; thus it is difficult to date this transition accurately.

In Ancient Egypt, the Bronze Age begins in the Protodynastic period, c. 3150 BC. The archaic early Bronze Age of Egypt, known as the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt, immediately follows the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt, c. 3100 BC. It is generally taken to include the First and Second Dynasties, lasting from the Protodynastic Period of Egypt until about 2686 BC, or the beginning of the Old Kingdom.

The Aegean Bronze Age began around 3200 BC, when civilizations first established a far-ranging trade network. This network imported tin and charcoal to Cyprus, where copper was mined and alloyed with the tin to produce bronze.

Bronze objects were then exported far and wide, and supported the trade. Isotopic analysis of tin in some Mediterranean bronze artifacts points to the fact that they may have originated from Great Britain.

Knowledge of navigation was well developed at this time, and reached a peak of skill not exceeded (except perhaps by Polynesian sailors) until 1730 when the invention of the chronometer enabled the precise determination of longitude.

The Minoan civilization based in Knossos appears to have coordinated and defended its Bronze Age trade. Illyrians are also believed to have roots in the early Bronze Age. Ancient empires valued luxury goods in contrast to staple foods, leading to famine.

The Altai Mountains in what is now southern Russia and central Mongolia have been identified as the point of origin of a cultural enigma termed the Seima-Turbino Phenomenon.

It is conjectured that changes in climate in this region around 2000 BC and the ensuing ecological, economic and political changes triggered a rapid and massive migration westward into northeast Europe, eastward into China and southward into Vietnam and Thailand across a frontier of some 4,000 miles.

This migration took place in just five to six generations and led to peoples from Finland in the west to Thailand in the east employing the same metal working technology and, in some areas, horse breeding and riding.

It is further conjectured that the same migrations spread the Uralic group of languages across Europe and Asia: some 39 languages of this group are still extant, including Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and Lappish.

However, recent genetic testings of sites in south Siberia and Kazakhstan (Andronovo horizon) would rather support a spreading of the bronze technology via Indo-European migrations eastwards, as this technology was well known for quite a while in western regions.

The Horse and charriot

The chariot is a type of carriage using animals (almost always horses) to provide rapid motive power. Chariots were used for war as “battle taxis” and mobile archery platforms, as well as other pursuits such as hunting or racing for sport, and as a chief vehicle of many ancient peoples, when speed of travel was desired rather than how much weight could be carried.

Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built by the Proto-Indo-Europeans, and also in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two-wheeled conveyance drawn by two or more horses that were hitched side by side.

The car was little more than a floor with a waist-high semicircular guard in front. The chariot, driven by a charioteer, was used for ancient warfare during the Bronze and the Iron Ages. Armor was limited to a shield. After it had been superseded by other vehicles for military purposes, the chariot was used for travel and in processions, games, and races.

The word “chariot” comes from Latin carrus, which was a loan from Gaulish. A chariot of war or of triumph was called a car. In ancient Rome and other ancient Mediterranean countries a biga required two horses, a triga three, and a quadriga required four horses abreast. Obsolete terms for chariot include chair, charet and wain.

The critical invention that allowed the construction of light, horse-drawn chariots was the spoked wheel. The earliest spoke-wheeled chariots date to ca. 2000 BC and their use peaked around 1300 BC. Chariots ceased to have military importance in the 1st century AD, but chariot races continued to be popular in Constantinople until the 6th century.

The horse drawn wheeled vehicle probably originated in Mesopotamia about 3000 BC. The earliest depiction of vehicles in the context of warfare is on the Standard of Ur in southern Mesopotamia, c. 2500 BC. These are more properly called wagons or carts and were still double-axled and pulled by oxen or tamed asses before the introduction of horses c. 2000 BC.

Although sometimes carrying a spearman along with the charioteer (driver), such heavy wagons, borne on solid wooden wheels and covered with skins, may have been part of the baggage train (e.g., during royal funeral processions) rather than vehicles of battle in themselves. The Sumerians had also a lighter, two-wheeled type of cart, pulled by four asses, but still with solid wheels. The spoked wheel did not appear in Mesopotamia until the mid-2000s BC.

Chariot burials are tombs in which the deceased was buried together with his chariot, usually including his (more rarely, her) horses and other possessions. An instance of a person being buried with their horse (without the chariot) is called horse burial.

The earliest chariots known are from around 2,000 BC, in burials of the Sintashta-Petrovka culture in modern Russia in a cluster along the upper Tobol river, southeast of Magnitogorsk. They contained spoke-wheeled chariots drawn by teams of two horses.

The practice of horse burial is bound to the historical territory covered by the domesticated horse, which initially was the Eurasian Steppe, ca. 4000–3500 BCE. Early cultures with a mythology that would support horse sacrifice and horse burial are those in or bordering those areas—Turkic cultures, Chinese cultures, and Indo-Aryan cultures.

They include Tall al-Ajjul (Gaza strip, dating back to 2100 BC), Central Iran, where horse burials are attested in the second millennium BC, Marlik (in Iran, from the late second millennium BCE), and Gordium (in Phrygia, with horse burials attested possibly after 700 BCE).

A horse burial from Bactria provides evidence of the migration in the second millennium BCE of horse cultures from Central Asia into Turkmenistan. A horse burial in Deir el-D’aba, Egypt, evidences the introduction of the horse to Egypt by the Hyksos, in the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt (1650–1550 BCE).

The earliest proven horse burial in the Old World dates back to the fifth or fourth millennium BC and is found in S ’​ezzhee, in a cemetery on the Volga from the Samara culture. Thousands of years later, Herodotus described the practice among the Scythians.

Horse burials are well-known from Ancient China as well, beginning with the Shang Dynasty. Particularly notable is the tomb of Duke Jing of Qi (reigned 547–490 BCE), which contained a separate pit with the remains of possibly over 600 horses. Later burials, especially from the T’ang dynasty, featured the well-known pottery horses.

The domestication of the horse was an important step toward civilization, and the clearest evidence of early use of the horse as a means of transport is from chariot burials dated c. 2000 BC. An increasing amount of evidence supports the hypothesis that horses were domesticated in the Eurasian Steppes (Dereivka centered in Ukraine) approximately 4000-3500 BC.

The invention of the wheel most likely took place in Europe. Evidence of wheeled vehicles appears from the mid 4th millennium BC, near-simultaneously in the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture), Central Europe and Mesopotamia.

The Maykop people lived sedentary lives, and horses formed a very low percentage of their livestock, which mostly consisted of pigs and cattle. Archaeologists have discovered a unique form of bronze cheek-pieces, which consists of a bronze rod with a twisted loop in the middle and a thread through her nodes that connects with bridle, halter strap and headband. Notches and bumps on the edges of the cheek-pieces were, apparently, to fix nose and under-lip belts.

The earliest well-dated depiction of a wheeled vehicle (here, a wagon with two axles and four wheels), is on the Bronocice pot, a ca. 3500–3350 BC clay pot excavated in a funnelbeaker settlement in southern Poland.

Some scholars argue that the chariot was most likely a product of the ancient Near East early in the 2nd millennium BC. Archaeologist Joost Crouwel writes that “Chariots were not sudden inventions, but developed out of earlier vehicles that were mounted on disk or cross-bar wheels.

This development can best be traced in the Near East, where spoke-wheeled and horse-drawn ‘true’ chariots are first attested in the earlier part of the second millennium BC…” and were illustrated on a Syrian cylinder seal dated to the 18th or 17th century BC.

The earliest fully developed true chariots known are from the chariot burials of the Andronovo (Timber-Grave) sites of the Sintashta-Petrovka Proto-Indo-Iranian culture in modern Russia and Kazakhstan from around 2000 BC.

The Sintashta culture, also known as the Sintashta-Petrovka culture or Sintashta-Arkaim culture, is a Bronze Age archaeological culture of the northern Eurasian steppe on the borders of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, dated to the period 2100–1800 BCE.

The Sintashta economy came to revolve around copper metallurgy. Copper ores from nearby mines (such as Vorovskaya Yama) were taken to Sintashta settlements to be processed into copper and arsenical bronze.

This occurred on an industrial scale: all the excavated buildings at the Sintashta sites of Sintashta, Arkaim and Ust’e contained the remains of smelting ovens and slag. Much of this metal was destined for export to the cities of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) in Central Asia.

The metal trade between Sintashta and the BMAC for the first time connected the steppe region to the ancient urban civilisations of the Near East: the empires and city-states of Iran and Mesopotamia provided an almost bottomless market for metals. These trade routes later became the vehicle through which horses, chariots and ultimately Indo-Iranian-speaking people entered the Near East from the steppe.

The Andronovo culture is strongly associated with the Indo-Iranians (Aryans) and is often credited with the invention of the spoke-wheeled chariot around 2000 BCE. The association between the Andronovo culture and the Indo-Iranians is supported by their lifestyle, by the distribution of Iranian place names across the Andronovo horizon and by the historical evidence of dominance by various Iranian peoples, including Saka (Scythians), Sarmatians and Alans, throughout the Andronovo horizon during the 1st millennium BC.

The Andronovo dead were buried in timber of stone chambers under both round and rectangular kurgans (tumuli). Burials were accompanied by livestock, wheeled vehicles, cheek-pieces for horses, and weapons, ceramics and ornaments.

Among the most notable remains are the burials of chariots, dating from around 2,000 BC and possibly earlier. The chariots are found with paired horse-teams; and the ritual burial of the horse in a “head and hooves” cult has also been found.

The earliest known chariots have been found in Sintashta burials, and the culture is considered a strong candidate for the origin of the technology, which spread throughout the Old World and played an important role in ancient warfare. Sintashta settlements are also remarkable for the intensity of copper mining and bronze metallurgy carried out there, which is unusual for a steppe culture.

Because of the difficulty of identifying the remains of Sintashta sites beneath those of later settlements, the culture was only recently distinguished from the Andronovo culture. It is now recognised as a separate entity forming part of the ‘Andronovo horizon’.

The Sintashta culture emerged from the interaction of two antecedent cultures. Its immediate predecessor in the Ural-Tobol steppe was the Poltavka culture, an offshoot of the cattle-herding Yamnaya horizon (3600–2300 BC) that moved east into the region between 2800 and 2600 BCE.

Significantly, animal grave offerings were made (cattle, sheep, goats and horse), a feature associated with Proto-Indo-Europeans. The earliest remains in Eastern Europe of a wheeled cart were found in the “Storozhova mohyla” kurgan (Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, excavated by Trenozhkin A.I.) associated with the Yamna culture.

The people of the Sintashta culture are thought to have spoken Proto-Indo-Iranian, the ancestor of the Indo-Iranian language family. This identification is based primarily on similarities between sections of the Rig Veda, an Indian religious text which includes ancient Indo-Iranian hymns recorded in Vedic Sanskrit, with the funerary rituals of the Sintashta culture as revealed by archaeology. There is however linguistic evidence of a list of common vocabulary between Finno-Ugric and Indo-Iranian languages.

While its origin as a creole of different tribes in the Ural region may make it inaccurate to ascribe the Sintashta culture exclusively to Indo-Iranian ethnicity, interpreting this culture as a blend of two cultures with two distinct languages is a reasonable hypothesis based on the evidence.

Poltavka culture (2700-2100 BC), an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture of the middle Volga from about where the Don-Volga canal begins up to the Samara bend, with an easterly extension north of present Kazakhstan along the Samara River valley to somewhat west of Orenburg.

It is like the Catacomb culture preceded by the Yamna culture, while succeeded by the Sintashta culture. It seems to be seen as an early manifestation of the Srubna culture. There is evidence of influence from the Maykop culture to its south.

This culture is at least partially derived from the earlier Yamna culture. It built heavily fortified settlements, engaged in bronze metallurgy on an industrial scale and practiced complex burial rituals reminiscent of Hindu rituals known from the Rigveda and the Avesta.

Chariots figure prominently in Indo-Iranian mythology. Chariots are also an important part of both Hindu and Persian mythology, with most of the gods in their pantheon portrayed as riding them.

The Sanskrit word for a chariot is rátha- (m.), which is cognate with Avestan raθa- (also m.), and in origin a substantivisation of the adjective Proto-Indo-European *rot-h₂-ó- meaning “having wheels”, with the characteristic accent shift found in Indo-Iranian substantivisations.

This adjective is in turn derived from the collective noun *rot-eh₂- “wheels”, continued in Latin rota, which belongs to the noun *rót-o- for “wheel” (from *ret- “to run”) that is also found in Germanic, Celtic and Baltic (Old High German rad n., Old Irish roth m., Lithuanian rãtas m.).

The Sintashta-Petrovka chariot burials yield the earliest spoke-wheeled true chariots. The Andronovo culture over the next few centuries spread across the steppes from the Urals to the Tien Shan, likely corresponding to the time of early Indo-Iranian cultures. Chariots figure prominently in the Rigveda, evidencing their presence in India in the 2nd millennium BC.

Afanesevo

The Afanasievo culture (3500-2500 BC) is the earliest Eneolithic archaeological culture found until now in south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains.

Afanasevan sites have also been claimed for Mongolia and Western China, and a possible connection to the Europoid mummies of Xinjiang and the Indo-European Tocharians has been proposed.

Conventional archaeological understanding tended to date at around 2000–2500 BC. However radiocarbon gave dates as early as 3705 BC on wooden tools and 2874 BC on human remains. The earliest of these dates have now been rejected, giving a date of around 3300 BC for the start of the culture.

The Afanasevo culture is primarily known for its cemeteries. Approximately ten settlements and fifty cemeteries are known. The remains are of the Europoid physical type.

The Afanasevo economy included cattle, sheep, and goat. Horse remains, either wild or domestic, have also been found. The Afanasevo people became the first food-producers in the area. Tools were manufactured from stone (axes, arrowheads), bone (fish-hooks, points) and antler.

Among the antler pieces are objects that have been identified as possible cheek-pieces for horses. Artistic representations of wheeled vehicles found in the area have been attributed to the Afanasevo culture. Ornaments of copper, silver and gold have also been found.

Although far from the European steppe, the Afanasevo culture shares a significant number of traits with its distant European neighbors. This includes burials in a supine flexed position, the use of ocher, animal remains in graves, pointed-based pots, censers (circular bowls on legs), a Europoid physical type along with both horses and a suspected presence of wheeled vehicles.

While kurgans general are to be found on the western steppe, it is likely that the Afanasevo tombs were covered by low mounds. Afanasevo cemeteries include both single and small collective burials with the deceased usually flexed on his back in a pit.

The burial pits are arranged in rectangular, sometimes circular, enclosures marked by stone walls. It has been argued that the burials represent family burial plots with for or five enclosures contituting the local social group.

These chacracteristics have made scholars link the Afanasevo with the cultures of the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, specifically the Sredny Stog, Yamna, Catacomb and Poltavka cultures. As a result the Afanasevo is often regarded as the easternmost extension of the European steppe cultures.

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

Because of its eastern geographical location and early existence, the Afanasevans have been connected to the Tarim Mummies and the Tocharian languages.

The Tarim mummies are a series of mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1800 BCE to the first centuries BCE. The mummies, particularly the early ones, are frequently associated with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin, although the evidence is not totally conclusive and many centuries separate these mummies from the first attestation of the Tocharian languages in writing. Victor H. Mair’s team concluded that the mummies are Europoid, likely speakers of Indo-European languages.

The earliest Tarim mummies, found at Qäwrighul and dated to 1800 BCE, are of a Europoid physical type whose closest affiliation is to the Bronze Age populations of southern Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and the Lower Volga.

Many of the mummies have been found in very good condition, owing to the dryness of the desert and the desiccation it produced in the corpses. The mummies share many typical Europoid body features (elongated bodies, angular faces, recessed eyes), and many of them have their hair physically intact, ranging in color from blond to red to deep brown, and generally long, curly and braided.

Their costumes, and especially textiles, may indicate a common origin with Indo-European neolithic clothing techniques or a common low-level textile technology. Chärchän man wore a red twill tunic and tartan leggings. Textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber, who examined the tartan-style cloth, discusses similarities between it and fragments recovered from salt mines associated with the Hallstatt culture.

A 2008 study by Jilin University that the Yuansha population has relatively close relationships with the modern populations of South Central Asia and Indus Valley, as well as with the ancient population of Chawuhu.

In 2007 the Chinese government allowed a National Geographic Society team headed by Spencer Wells to examine the mummies’ DNA. Wells was able to extract undergraded DNA from the internal tissues.

The scientists extracted enough material to suggest the Tarim Basin was continually inhabited from 2000 BCE to 300 BCE and preliminary results indicate the people, rather than having a single origin, originated from Europe, Mesopotamia, Indus Valley and other regions yet to be determined.

In 2009, the remains of individuals found at a site in Xiaohe were analyzed for Y-DNA and mtDNA markers. They suggest that an admixed population of both west and east origin lived in the Tarim basin since the early Bronze Age.

The maternal lineages were predominantly East Eurasian haplogroup C with smaller numbers of H and K, while the paternal lines were all West Eurasian R1a1a. The geographic location of where this admixing took place is unknown, although south Siberia is likely.

It has been asserted that the textiles found with the mummies are of an early European textile type based on close similarities to fragmentary textiles found in salt mines in Austria, dating from the second millennium BCE.

Anthropologist Irene Good, a specialist in early Eurasian textiles, noted the woven diagonal twill pattern indicated the use of a rather sophisticated loom and said that the textile is “the easternmost known example of this kind of weaving technique.”

Mair claims that “the earliest mummies in the Tarim Basin were exclusively Caucasoid, or Europoid” with east Asian migrants arriving in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin around 3,000 years ago while the Uyghur peoples arrived around the year 842.

In trying to trace the origins of these populations, Victor Mair’s team suggested that they may have arrived in the region by way of the Pamir Mountains about 5,000 years ago.

Mair has claimed that: The new finds are also forcing a reexamination of old Chinese books that describe historical or legendary figures of great height, with deep-set blue or green eyes, long noses, full beards, and red or blond hair. Scholars have traditionally scoffed at these accounts, but it now seems that they may be accurate.

Chinese historian Ji Xianlin says China “supported and admired” research by foreign experts into the mummies. “However, within China a small group of ethnic separatists have taken advantage of this opportunity to stir up trouble and are acting like buffoons. Some of them have even styled themselves the descendants of these ancient ‘white people’ with the aim of dividing the motherland. But these perverse acts will not succeed”.

Barber addresses these claims by noting that “[The Loulan Beauty] is scarcely closer to ‘Turkic’ in her anthropological type than she is to Han Chinese. The body and facial forms associated with Turks and Mongols began to appear in the Tarim cemeteries only in the first millennium BCE, fifteen hundred years after this woman lived.

Due to the “fear of fuelling separatist currents”, the Xinjiang museum, regardless of dating, displays all their mummies, both Tarim and Han, together.

Physical anthropologists propose the movement of at least two Europoid physical types into the Tarim Basin. Mallory and Mair associate these types with the Tocharian and Iranian (Saka) branches of the Indo-European language family, respectively.

However, archaeology and linguistics professor Elizabeth Wayland Barber cautions against assuming the mummies spoke Tocharian, noting a gap of about a thousand years between the mummies and the documented Tocharians: “people can change their language at will, without altering a single gene or freckle.”

I. E. Hemphill’s biodistance analysis of cranial metrics has questioned the identification of the Tarim Basin population as European, noting that the earlier population has close affinities to the Indus Valley population, and the later population with the Oxus River valley population.

Because craniometry can produce results which make no sense at all (e.g. the close relationship between Neolithic populations in Ukraine and Portugal) and therefore lack any historical meaning, any putative genetic relationship must be consistent with geographical plausibility and have the support of other evidence.

Han Kangxin, who examined the skulls of 302 mummies, found the closest relatives of the earlier Tarim Basin population in the populations of the Afanasevo culture situated immediately north of the Tarim Basin and the Andronovo culture that spanned Kazakhstan and reached southwards into West Central Asia and the Altai.

The Afanasevo culture is the earliest Bronze Age settlers of the Tarim and Turpan basins. It displays cultural and genetic connections with the Indo-European-associated cultures of the Eurasian Steppe yet predates the specifically Indo-Iranian-associated Andronovo culture enough to isolate the Tocharian languages from Indo-Iranian linguistic innovations like satemization.

Hemphill & Mallory (2004) confirm a second Europoid physical type at Alwighul (700–1 BCE) and Krorän (200 CE) different from the earlier one found at Qäwrighul (1800 BCE) and Yanbulaq (1100–500 BCE).

This study confirms the assertion of Han [1998] that the occupants of Alwighul and Krorän are not derived from proto-European steppe populations, but share closest affinities with Eastern Mediterranean populations. Further, the results demonstrate that such Eastern Mediterraneans may also be found at the urban centers of the Oxus civilization located in the north Bactrian oasis to the west.

Affinities are especially close between Krorän, the latest of the Xinjiang samples, and Sapalli, the earliest of the Bactrian samples, while Alwighul and later samples from Bactria exhibit more distant phenetic affinities. This pattern may reflect a possible major shift in interregional contacts in Central Asia in the early centuries of the second millennium BCE.

Mallory and Mair associate this later (700 BCE–200 CE) Europoid physical type with the populations who introduced the Iranian Saka language to the western part of the Tarim basin.

Mair concluded: From the evidence available, we have found that during the first 1,000 years after the Loulan Beauty, the only settlers in the Tarim Basin were Caucasoid. East Asian peoples only began showing up in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, Mair said, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, largely based in modern day Mongolia, around the year 842.

The possible presence of speakers of Indo-European languages in the Tarim Basin by about 2000 BCE could, if confirmed, be interpreted as evidence that cultural exchanges occurred among Indo-European and Chinese populations at a very early date.

It has been suggested that such activities as chariot warfare and bronze-making may have been transmitted to the east by these Indo-European nomads. Mallory and Mair also note that: “Prior to c. 2000 BC, finds of metal artifacts in China are excedeedingly few, simple and, puzzlingly, already made of alloyed copper (and hence questionable).”

While stressing that the argument as to whether bronze technology travelled from China to the West or that “the earliest bronze technology in China was stimulated by contacts with western steppe cultures”, is far from settled in scholarly circles, they do suggest that the evidence to date favours the latter scenario.

However the culture and technology in the northwest region of Tarim basin was less advanced than that in the East China of Yellow River-Erlitou (2070 BCE ~ 1600 BCE) or Majiayao culture (3100 BCE ~ 2600 BCE), which are earliest bronze-using cultures in China, implies that the northwest region did not use copper or any metal until bronze technology was introduced to this region by the Shang Dynasty about 1600 BC.

The earliest bronze artifacts in China are found at the Majiayao culture site (dating from between 3100 and 2700 BC), and it is from this location and time period that Chinese Bronze Age spread. Bronze metallurgy in China originated in what is referred to as the Erlitou period, which some historians argue places it within the range of dates controlled by the Shang dynasty. Others believe the Erlitou sites belong to the preceding Xia dynasty.

The U.S. National Gallery of Art defines the Chinese Bronze Age as the “period between about 2000 BC and 771 BC,” a period that begins with Erlitou culture and ends abruptly with the disintegration of Western Zhou rule.

Though this provides a concise frame of reference, it overlooks the continued importance of bronze in Chinese metallurgy and culture. Since this was significantly later than the discovery of bronze in Mesopotamia, bronze technology could have been imported rather than discovered independently in China. However, there is reason to believe that bronzework did develop inside China separately from outside influence.

The Chinese official Zhang Qian, who visited Bactria and Sogdiana in 126 BCE, made the first known Chinese report on many regions to the west of China. He believed he discerned Greek influences in some of these kingdoms. He names Parthia “Ānxī”, a transcription of “Arshak” (Arsaces), the name of the founder of Parthian dynasty.

Zhang Qian clearly identifies Parthia as an advanced urban civilization that farmed grain and grapes, and manufactured silver coins and leather goods. Zhang Qian equated Parthia’s level of advancement to the cultures of Dayuan in Ferghana and Daxia in Bactria.

The supplying of Tarim Basin jade to China from ancient times is well established, according to Liu (2001): “It is well known that ancient Chinese rulers had a strong attachment to jade. All of the jade items excavated from the tomb of Fuhao of the Shang dynasty, more than 750 pieces, were from Khotan in modern Xinjiang. As early as the mid-first millennium BCE the Yuezhi engaged in the jade trade, of which the major consumers were the rulers of agricultural China.”

The Afanasevo culture was succeeded by the Bronze Age Okunev culture, which is considered as an extension of the local non-Indo-European forest culture into the region.

Okunev Culture, dated to the first half of the 2nd millennium BC in Minusinsk Hollow of southern Siberia, is named after the Okunev settlement in southern Khakassia, where the culture was discovered by Sergei Teploukhov in 1928.

The similarity between some of the objects from the Okunev burial grounds and objects found in sites in the vicinity of the middle Ob River and the Lake Baikal region indicate that the bearers of the Okunev culture came to southern Siberia from the northern taiga regions.

While the Afanasevo culture is considered Indo-European, the Okunev culture is generally regarded as an extension of the local non-Indo-European forest culture into the region.

The Okunev culture is represented by burial structures, which were composed of small, rectangular surface enclosures made of stone slabs placed vertically in the ground. Withing these encloseres were graves that were also lined with stone slabs. The skeletons were of the Mongoloid physical type, and were buried on their backs with legs bent at the knees.

The region was subsequently occupied by the Andronovo, Karasuk, Tagar and Tashtyk cultures, respectively. In the initial Sintastha-Petrovka phase, the Andronovo culture is limited to the northern and western steppes in the southern Urals-Kazakhstan.

Towards the middle of the 2nd millennium in the Alakul Phase (2100-1400 BC), the Fedorovo Phase (1400-1200) and the final Alekseyevka Phase (1400-1000), the Andronovo cultures begin to move intensively eastwards, expanding as far east as the Upper Yenisei in the Altai Mountains, succeeding the non-Indo-European Okunev culture.

In southern Siberia and Kazakhstan, the Andronovo culture was succeeded by the Karasuk culture (1500–800 BCE), a group of Bronze Age societies who ranged from the Aral Sea to the upper Yenisei in the east and south to the Altai Mountains and the Tian Shan in Central Asia.

On its western border, it is succeeded by the Srubna culture, which partly derives from the Abashevo culture, The Abashevo was the easternmost of the Russian forest zone cultures that descended from Corded Ware ceramic traditions.

The Karasuk tribes have been described by archaeologists as exhibiting pronounced Europoid features. George van Driem has suggested a connection with the Yeniseian and Burushaski people, proposing a Karasuk languages group.

In 2009, a genetic study of ancient Siberian cultures, the Andronovo culture, tha Karasuk culture, the Tagar culture and the Tashtyk culture, was published in Human Genetics.

Four individuals of the Karasuk culture of four different sites from 1400 BC to 800 BC were surveyed. Extractions of mtDNA from two individuals were determined to possess the Western Eurasian U5a1 and U4 lineages.

Extractions of Y-DNA from two individuals were both determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1, which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans. The individuals surveyed were all determined to be Europoid and light-eyed.

Six Tashtyk remains of 100–400 AD from Bogratsky region, Abakano-Pérévoz I, Khakassia were surveyed. Extractions of mtDNA from four individuals was determined to belong to the Western Eurasian HV, H, N9a, and T1, while the other carried the East Asian haplogroup C.

Extractions of Y-DNA from the remains of one individual were determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup Western Eurasian R1a1, which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans. All individuals surveyed were determined to be Europoid, and were except from one individual exclusively light-eyed and light-haired.

Haplogroup R1a was found in the remains of the Corded Ware culture and Urnfield culture; as well as the burial of the remains of the Andronovo culture, the Pazyryk culture, Tagar culture and Tashtyk culture, the inhabitants of ancient Tanais, in the Tarim mummies, the aristocracy Xiongnu.

Chinese Bronze Age

Historians disagree about the dates of a “Bronze Age” in China. The difficulty lies in the term “Bronze Age”, as it has been applied to signify a period in history when bronze tools replaced stone tools, and, later, were themselves replaced by iron ones. The medium of the new “Age” made that of the old obsolete.

In China, however, any attempt to establish a definite set of dates for a Bronze Age is complicated by the arrival of iron smelting technology, and the persistence of bronze objects.

The earliest bronze artifacts have been found in the Majiayao culture site (between 3100 and 2700 BC), and from then on, the society gradually grew into the Bronze Age.

Bronze metallurgy in China originated in what is referred to as the Erlitou period, which some historians argue places it within the range of dates controlled by the Shang dynasty. Others believe the Erlitou sites belong to the preceding Xia dynasty.

Metallurgy in China has a long history. The earliest metal objects in China date to around 3,000 BC. Recent evidence indicates that the earliest metal objects in China go back to the late fourth millennium BCE. The majority of early metal items found in China come from the North-Western Region (mainly Gansu and Qinghai).

“The earliest sites that have yielded metal objects date to the late fourth and third millennia BCE. Quite early metal-using communities are found in Qijia and Siba sites in Gansu, with comparable sites in Xinjiang in the west, and others in Shandong, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia in the east and north, and in the Central Plain in the lowest levels at Erlitou.”

Although bronze artifacts were exhumed in the archeological sites of the Majiayao culture (2700-2300 BC) it is still widely believed that China’s Bronze Age began during the Xia dynasty from around 2100 BC.

“The Qijia culture (c. 2500-1900 B.C.) of Qinghai, Gansu and western Shaanxi has yielded copper and bronze utilitarian items and gold, copper and bronze personal ornaments. The earliest dates for metal in this region are found at a Majiayao site at Linjia, Dongxiang, Gansu (KGXB 1981).”

“Their dates range from 2900 – 1600 BCE. These metal objects represent the Majiayao type of the Majiayao culture (3100 – 2700 BCE), Zongri culture (3600 – 2050 BCE), Machang type (2300 – 2000 BCE), Qijia Culture (2050 – 1915 BCE), and Siba Culture (2000 – 1600 BCE).”

At Dengjiawan, within the Shijiahe site complex, belonging to the Shijiahe culture, in Hubei province, some pieces of copper were discovered, making these the earliest copper objects discovered so far in southern China.

The remains of copper ore (malachite) and some artefacts were discovered in one Shijiahe settlement. This was at Dengjiawan, within the Shijiahe site complex. Some pieces of copper were discovered, making these the earliest copper objects discovered so far in southern China.

The Erlitou culture, Shang Dynasty and Sanxingdui culture of early China used bronze vessels for rituals as well as farming implements and weapons. By 1500 BC, excellent bronzes were being made in China in large quantities, partly as a display of status, and as many as 200 large pieces were buried with their owner for use in the afterlife, as in the Tomb of Fu Hao, a Shang queen.

The Erlitou culture (1900 to 1500 BC), an Early Bronze Age urban society and archaeological culture may have evolved from the matrix of Longshan culture. The culture was named after the site discovered at Erlitou in Yanshi, Henan Province. Originally centered around Henan and Shanxi Province, the culture spread to Shaanxi and Hubei Province.

A major goal of archaeology in China has been the search for the capitals of the Xia, the dynasty established by the legendary Yu the Great (2200 – 2100 BC), and Shang dynasties described in traditional accounts as inhabiting the Yellow River valley.

Yu the Great was a legendary ruler in ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character.

The dates proposed for Yu’s reign precede the oldest known written records in China, the oracle bones of the late Shang dynasty, by nearly a millennium. Stories about his life and reign were transmitted orally in various areas of China, and first recorded in texts from the Western Zhou period (c. 1045–771 BC).

Many were collected in Sima Qian’s famous Records of the Grand Historian. Yu and other “sage-kings” of Ancient China were lauded for their virtues and morals by Confucius and other Chinese teachers.

Chinese archaeologists generally identify the Erlitou culture as the site of the Xia dynasty, but there is no firm evidence, such as writing, to substantiate such a linkage.

After the rise of the Erligang culture (1500-1300 BC.), a Bronze Age urban civilization and archaeological culture in China, the site at Erlitou diminished in size but remained inhabited.

The primary site was discovered at Erligang, within the modern city of Zhengzhou, Henan, in 1951. Later investigations showed that the Erligang site was part of an ancient city surrounded by a roughly rectangular wall with a perimeter of about 7 kilometres (4 mi). The walls were of rammed earth construction, a technique dating back to Chinese Neolithic sites of the Longshan culture (c. 3000–2000 BC).

Erligang bronzes developed from the style and techniques of the earlier Erlitou culture, centred 85 km to the west of Zhengzhou. Erligang was the first archaeological culture in China to show widespread use of bronze vessel castings. Bronze vessels became much more widely used and uniform in style than at Erlitou.

Many Chinese archaeologists believe that the ancient city of Zhengzhou was one of the early capitals of the Shang dynasty mentioned in traditional histories. However many scholars and Western archaeologists have pointed out unlike the later Anyang settlement, no written records have been found at Erligang to link the archaeological remains with the official history.

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

Archaeological work at the Ruins of Yin (near modern-day Anyang), which has been identified as the last Shang capital, uncovered eleven major Yin royal tombs and the foundations of palaces and ritual sites, containing weapons of war and remains from both animal and human sacrifices. Tens of thousands of bronze, jade, stone, bone, and ceramic artifacts have been obtained.

The Anyang site has yielded the earliest known body of Chinese writing, mostly divinations inscribed on oracle bones – turtle shells, ox scapulae, or other bones. More than 20,000 were discovered in the initial scientific excavations during the 1920s and 1930s, and over four times as many have been found since.

Around 2000 BC, the legendary sage-kings Zhuanxu and Emperor Ku are said to have established their capitals in the area around Anyang from where they ruled their kingdoms. Their mausoleums are today situated in Sanyang village south of Neihuang County.

The inscriptions provide critical insight into many topics from the politics, economy, and religious practices to the art and medicine of this early stage of Chinese civilization.

Chinese bronze casting and pottery advanced during the Shang dynasty, with bronze typically being used for ritually significant, rather than primarily utilitarian, items. As far back as c. 1500 BC, the early Shang dynasty engaged in large-scale production of bronze-ware vessels and weapons.

The earliest bronze artifacts have been found in the Majiayao culture site (between 3100 and 2700 BC), and from then on, the society gradually grew into the Bronze Age.

Bronze metallurgy in China originated in what is referred to as the Erlitou period, which some historians argue places it within the range of dates controlled by the Shang dynasty. Others believe the Erlitou sites belong to the preceding Xia dynasty.

The Chinese Bronze Age began in the Xia Dynasty (ca. 2070 – ca. 1600 BC), and bronze ritual containers form the bulk of collections of Chinese antiquities, reaching its zenith during the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC) and the early part of the Zhou Dynasty (1045–256 BC).

The U.S. National Gallery of Art defines the Chinese Bronze Age as the “period between about 2000 BC and 771 BC,” a period that begins with Erlitou culture and ends abruptly with the disintegration of Western Zhou rule.

Though this provides a concise frame of reference, it overlooks the continued importance of bronze in Chinese metallurgy and culture. Since this is significantly later than the discovery of bronze in Mesopotamia, bronze technology could have been imported rather than discovered independently in China.

While there may be reason to believe that bronzework developed inside China separately from outside influence, the discovery of European mummies in Xinjiang suggests a possible route of transmission from the West.

The Shang Dynasty of the Yellow River Valley rose to power after the Xia Dynasty. While some direct information about the Shang Dynasty comes from Shang-era inscriptions on bronze artifacts, most comes from oracle bones—turtle shells, cattle scapulae, or other bones, which bear glyphs that form the first significant corpus of recorded Chinese characters.

Iron is found from the Zhou Dynasty, but its use is minimal. Chinese literature dating to the 6th century BC attests a knowledge of iron smelting, yet bronze continues to occupy the seat of significance in the archaeological and historical record for some time after this.

Historian W. C. White argues that iron did not supplant bronze “at any period before the end of the Zhou dynasty (256 BC)” and that bronze vessels make up the majority of metal vessels all the way through the Later Han period, or to 221 BC.

The Chinese bronze artifacts generally are either utilitarian, like spear points or adze heads, or “ritual bronzes”, which are more elaborate versions in precious materials of everyday vessels, as well as tools and weapons.

Examples are the numerous large sacrificial tripods known as dings in Chinese; there are many other distinct shapes. Surviving identified Chinese ritual bronzes tend to be highly decorated, often with the taotie motif, which involves highly stylized animal face(s). These appear in three main motif types: those of demons, of symbolic animals, and of abstract symbols.

Many large bronzes also bear cast inscriptions that are the great bulk of the surviving body of early Chinese writing and have helped historians and archaeologists piece together the history of China, especially during the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC).

The bronzes of the Western Zhou Dynasty document large portions of history not found in the extant texts that were often composed by persons of varying rank and possibly even social class. Further, the medium of cast bronze lends the record they preserve a permanence not enjoyed by manuscripts.

These inscriptions can commonly be subdivided into four parts: a reference to the date and place, the naming of the event commemorated, the list of gifts given to the artisan in exchange for the bronze, and a dedication. The relative points of reference these vessels provide have enabled historians to place most of the vessels within a certain time frame of the Western Zhou period, allowing them to trace the evolution of the vessels and the events they record.

This production required a large labor force that could handle the mining, refining, and transportation of the necessary copper, tin, and lead ores. This in turn created a need for official managers that could oversee both hard-laborers and skilled artisans and craftsmen.

The Shang royal court and aristocrats required a vast amount of different bronze vessels for various ceremonial purposes and events of religious divination. Ceremonial rules even decreed how many bronze containers of each type a nobleman or noblewoman of a certain rank could own.

With the increased amount of bronze available, the army could also better equip itself with an assortment of bronze weaponry. Bronze was also used for the fittings of spoke-wheeled chariots, which appeared in China around 1200 BC.

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

The Horse and chariot in China

Later chariot burials are found in China. The most noted of these was discovered in 1933 at Hougang, Anyang in central China’s Henan Province, dating from the rule of King Wu Ding of the Yin Dynasty (c. 1,200 BC). A Western Zhou (9th century BC) chariot burial was unearthed at Zhangjiapo, Chang’an in 1955.

The chariot first appeared in China during the reign of Wu Ding, a king of the Shang dynasty in ancient China, whose reign lasted from approximately 1250-1192 BC. Oracle bone inscriptions suggest that the western enemies of the Shang used limited numbers of chariots in battle, but the Shang themselves used them only as mobile command vehicles and in royal hunts.

It is little doubt that the chariot entered China through the Central Asia and the Northern Steppe, possibly indicating some form of contact with the Indo-Europeans. Recent archaeological finds have shown that the late Shang used horses, chariots, bows and practiced horse burials that are similar to the steppe peoples to the west.

Other possible cultural influences resulting from Indo-European contact may include fighting styles, head-and-hoof rituals, art motifs and myths. These influences have led one scholar, Christopher I. Beckwith, to speculate that Indo-Europeans “may even have been responsible for the foundation of the Shang Dynasty,” though he admits there is no direct evidence. A crucial factor in the Zhou conquest of the Shang may have been their more effective use of chariots.

The earliest archaeological evidence of chariots in China, a chariot burial site discovered in 1933 at Hougang, Anyang in Henan province, dates to the rule of King Wu Ding of the late Shang Dynasty (c. 1200 BC).

Oracle bone inscriptions suggest that the western enemies of the Shang used limited numbers of chariots in battle, but the Shang themselves used them only as mobile command vehicles and in royal hunts.

During the Shang Dynasty, members of the royal family were buried with a complete household and servants, including a chariot, horses, and a charioteer. A Shang chariot was often drawn by two horses, but four-horse variants are occasionally found in burials.

Jacques Gernet claims that the Zhou dynasty, which conquered the Shang, made more use of the chariot than did the Shang and “invented a new kind of harness with four horses abreast”.

The crew consisted of an archer, a driver, and sometimes a third warrior who was armed with a spear or dagger-axe. From the 8th to 5th centuries BC, the Chinese use of chariots reached its peak. Although chariots appeared in greater numbers, infantry often defeated charioteers in battle.

Massed chariot warfare became all but obsolete after the Warring-States Period (476–221 BC). The main reasons were increased use of the crossbow, the adoption of standard cavalry units, and the adaptation of mounted archery from nomadic cavalry, which were more effective.

Chariots would continue to serve as command posts for officers during the Qin and Han dynasties, while armored chariots were also used during the Han Dynasty against the Xiongnu Confederation in the Han–Xiongnu War, specifically at the Battle of Mobei.

Shaft graves and masks

A Shaft and chamber tomb is a type of chamber tomb used by some ancient peoples for burial of the dead. It is a type of deep rectangular burial structure, similar in shape to the much shallower cist grave, containing a floor of pebbles, walls of rubble masonry, and a roof constructed of wooden planks.

They consist of a shaft dug into the outcrops of rock with a square or round chamber excavated at the bottom where the dead were placed. These chambers can consist of a single shaft and chamber or sometimes quite elaborate.

Examples include those at Xemxija in Malta which are Neolithic and Dayeh-va-dokhtar tombs in Fars province of Iran. They were also employed by the Ancient Egyptians.

The first shaft and chamber tomb by the Egyptians known is the tomb at Mastaba. This was a simple tomb with two shafts with a square chamber at the bottom of each shaft. But a new tomb in archeology is the Tomb of Osiris.

The tomb of Osiris is a great example of this type of tomb. Some say that this tomb dates back to 760-525 BC. It’s hard to quite put an exact date but researchers were able to narrow it down by similar tombs. The Tomb of Osiris has three major shafts and has said to have eight chambers.

The practice of digging shaft tombs was a widespread phenomenon with prominent examples found in Mycenaean Greece and in Bronze Age China. Shaft graves were utilized by elites from the Shang Dynasty (or Yin Dynasty) of northern China.

Mycenaean shaft graves originated and evolved from rudimentary Middle Helladic cists, tumuli, and tholos tombs with features derived from Early Bronze Age traditions developed locally in mainland Greece.

Middle Helladic burials would ultimately serve as the basis for the royal Shaft Graves containing a variety of grave goods, which signified the elevation of a native Greek-speaking royal dynasty whose economic power depended on long-distance sea trade.

The Catacomb culture (ca. 2800–2200 BC) refers to a group of related cultures in the early Bronze Age occupying essentially what is present-day Ukraine. It was preceded by the Yamna culture. The Catacomb culture in the Pontic steppe was succeeded by the Srubna culture from ca. the 17th century BC.

The culture was the first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and shows a profuse use of the polished battle axe, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East.

The linguistic composition of the Catacomb culture is unclear. Within the context of the Kurgan hypothesis expounded by Marija Gimbutas, an Indo-European component is hard to deny, particularly in the later stages. Placing the ancestors of the Greek, Armenian and Paleo-Balkan dialects here is tempting, as it would neatly explain certain shared features.

More recently, the Ukrainian archaeologist V. Kulbaka has argued that the Late Yamna cultures of ca. 3200–2800 BC, esp. the Budzhak, Starosilsk, and Novotitarovka groups, might represent the Greek-Armenian-“Aryan”(=Indo-Iranian) ancestors (Graeco-Aryan, Graeco-Armenian), and the Catacomb culture that of the “unified” (to ca. 2500 BC) and then “differentiated” Indo-Iranians.

Grigoryev’s (1998) version of the Armenian hypothesis connects Catacomb culture with Indo-Aryans, because catacomb burial ritual had roots in South-Western Turkmenistan from the early 4th millennium (Parkhai cemetery). The same opinion is supported by Leo Klejn in his various publications.

The name Catacomb culture comes from its burial practices. These are similar to those of the Yamna culture, but with a hollowed-out space off the main shaft, creating the “catacomb”. Animal remains were incorporated into a small minority of graves.

In certain graves there was the distinctive practice of what amounts to modelling a clay mask over the deceased’s face, creating an obvious if not necessarily correct association to the famous gold funeral mask of Agamemnon.

A death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a person’s face following death. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. It is sometimes possible to identify portraits that have been painted from death masks, because of the characteristic slight distortions of the features caused by the weight of the plaster during the making of the mold.

In other cultures a death mask may be a clay or another artifact placed on the face of the deceased before burial rites. The best known of these are the masks used by ancient Egyptians as part of the mummification process, such as Tutankhamun’s mask.

The Tashtyk culture was an archaeological culture that flourished in the Yenisei valley in Siberia from the first to the fourth century CE. Located in the Minusinsk Depression, environs of modern Krasnoyarsk, eastern part of Kemerovo Oblast, it was preceded by the Tagar culture.

The Tashtyk culture was first surveyed by the Russian archaeologist Sergei Teploukhov. Teploukhov suggested that it had been initially Indo-European dominated, only to become overcome by the Yenisei Kirghiz around the 3rd century AD. The Yenisei Kirghiz are often associted with the Tashtyk culture.

Tashtyk settlements and hill-forts have been unearthed throughout the Yenisei region, particularly the Sayan canyon area. Their most imposing monuments were immense barrows-crypt structures; these have yielded large quantities of clay and metal vessels and ornaments.

In addition, numerous petrographic carvings have been found. Some of the graves contained leather models of human bodies with their heads wrapped in tissue and brightly painted.

Inside the models there were small leather bags probably symbolising the stomach and containing burned human bones. Scaled-down replicas of swords, arrows and quivers were placed nearby. The animal motives of the Tashtyk belonged to the Scytho-Altaic style, while they were also under significant Chinese influence.

During his excavations of the Oglahty cemetery south of Minusinsk, Leonid Kyzlasov discovered a number of mummies with richly decorated plaster funerary masks showing Western Eurasian features, though this would not rule out some East Asian admixture, as revealed by ancient DNA (see below). There were also intact fur hats, silk clothes, and footwear (now in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg).

Majiayao

The Majiayao culture (3100-2700 BC) is a name given by archaeologists to a group of Neolithic communities who lived primarily in the upper Yellow River region in eastern Gansu, eastern Qinghai and northern Sichuan, China.

The archaeological site was first found by Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson in 1924. It was located near a village called Majiacun and named Majiayao culture. The earliest discoveries of bronze objects in China occur at Majiayao sites.

“A Majiayao Type bronze knife, 12.5 cm in length, a tin-copper piece cast in a joint mould, dated to 2900–2740 BCE … is the earliest known object made in cast bronze.”

This indicates that China entered Bronze age during Majiayao culture. The Majiayao culture represents the first time that Upper Yellow River region was widely occupied by agricultural communities and it famous for its painting pottery which regarded as peak of pottery manufacturing at that time.

Many believed that Majiayao was a branch of Yangshao Culture and it derived from immigrant farmers of Yangshao in farther east and mixed with local indigenous foragers.

However, Xia Nai, the founder of modern archaeology in People’s Republic of China, believes that there are lots of differences between Yangshao Culture and Majiayao Culture and he thought Majiayao site is one of the delegate of new culture in Gansu.

According to G. Dong, Majiayao culture originated in the westward spread of Yangshao culture (7000-5000 cal BP) to Gansu and Qinghai Provinces from neighboring Central north China, blending with local cultures in Gansu and Qinghai Provinces, developing the local “Yangshao” culture with unique local characteristics (Yan, 1989).

Majiayao Culture’s most representative artifacts are the painted pottery. Compared with Yangshao pottery, Majiayao potters used pure black color during the early Majiayao Culture, and then mixed black and red on pottery until late Majiayao Culture. The manufacture of large amounts of painted pottery means there were professional craftsmen to produce it, which indicates the appearance of social division of labor.

At the end of the third millennium B.C., Qijia culture succeeded Majiayao culture at sites in three main geographic zones: Eastern Gansu, Middle Gansu, and Western Gansu/Eastern Qinghai.

Scholars come to a conclusion that the development of Majiayao culture was highly related to climate changes. A group of scholars from Lanzhou University have researched climate changes during Majiayao culture and the results indicates that the climate was wet during 5830-4900 BP, which promoted the development of early and middle Majiayao culture in eastern Qinghai Province.

However, during 4900-4700 BP, the climates were drought in this area, which maybe responsible for the decline and eastward movement of prehistoric culture during the period of transition from early-mid to late Majiayao culture.

The transition from Yangshao to Majiayao coincides, climatically, with the Piora Oscillation, an abrupt cold and wet period in the climate history of the Holocene Epoch; it is generally dated to the period of c. 3200 to 2900 BCE.

The Piora Oscillation has also been linked to the domestication of the horse. In Central Asia, a colder climate favored the use of horses: “The horse, since it was so adept at foraging with snow on the ground, tended to replace cattle and sheep.”

The Piora period seems associated with a period of colder drier air over the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, and may have depressed rainfalls as far afield as the Middle East. It is also associated with a sudden onset of drier weather in the central Sahara.

In the Middle East, the surface of the Dead Sea rose nearly 100 meters (300 feet), then receded to a more usual level. A few commentators have associated the climate changes of this period with the end of the Uruk period, as a Dark Age associated with the floods of the Gilgamesh epic and Noah’s flood of the Book of Genesis.

The cause or causes of the Piora Oscillation are debated. A Greenland ice core, GISP2, shows a sulfate spike and methane trough c. 3250 BCE, suggesting an unusual occurrence — either a volcanic eruption or a meteor or an asteroid impact event.

Other authorities associate the Piora Oscillation with other comparable events, like the 8.2 kiloyear event, that recur in climate history, as part of a larger 1500-year climate cycle.

The Qijia culture

The Qijia culture (2400 BC – 1900 BC), named after the Qijiaping Site in Gansu Province, was an early Bronze Age culture distributed around the upper Yellow River region of Gansu (centered in Lanzhou) and eastern Qinghai, China. It is regarded as one of the earliest bronze cultures.

Prior to Qijia culture, in the same area there existed Majiayao culture that was also familiar with metalwork. At the end of the third millennium B.C., Qijia culture succeeded Majiayao culture at sites in three main geographic zones: Eastern Gansu, Middle Gansu, and Western Gansu/Eastern Qinghai.

Johan Gunnar Andersson discovered the initial site at Qijiaping in 1923. Qijia culture was a sedentary culture, based on agriculture, and breeding pigs, which were also used in sacrifices.

Archeological evidence points to plausible early contact between the Qijia culture and Central Asia. Qijia culture produced some of the earliest bronze and copper mirrors found in China. Extensive domestication of horses are found at many Qijia sites.

Qijia culture is distinguished by a presence of numerous domesticated horses, and practice of oracle divination, the metal knives and axes recovered apparently point to some interactions with Siberian and Central Asian cultures, in particular with the Seima-Turbino complex.

Techniques of pottery-making are marked by a fine red ware and a coarse reddish-brown ware. There are also a few pieces of grey ware. They are handmade, there being no evidence of wheel-made ware. While the Qijia culture pottery has its own stylistic characteristics, it also shares many traits in common with the Longshan culture in Shaanxi. Some elements of the Majiayao culture are also present. During the late stages of the culture, the Qijia culture retreated from the west and suffered a reduction in population size.

Qijia culture produced some of the earliest bronze and copper mirrors found in China. Extensive domestication of horses are found at many Qijia sites. In 2002, the oldest intact noodles yet discovered were located at Lajia, estimated at over 4,000 years old. The noodles were made from foxtail and broom millet.

The archaeological sites at Lajia, an archaeological site located in Minhe County, Haidong Prefecture in Northwest China’s Qinghai province, Huangniangniangtai, Qinweijia, and Dahezhuang are associated with the Qijia culture. Qijia sites were also found in Ningxia province and Inner Mongolia. Archaeologists believe that Lajia was abandoned after being devastated by an earthquake and subsequent flood.

A total of over 350 sites of the Qijia culture have been found superimposed on the Majiayao culture. A large quantity of metal ware, mostly copper objects, including some bronzes, have been excavated from various sites in Gansu province and at Gamatai in Qinghai province.

25 pieces of metalwork were analyzed for their composition. Those made from copper were the most numerous, accounting for 64 per cent of the total. The rest represented various copper alloys, including tin.

Techniques of pottery-making are marked by a fine red ware and a coarse reddish-brown ware. There are also a few pieces of grey ware. They are handmade, there being no evidence of wheel-made ware.

While the Qijia culture pottery has its own stylistic characteristics, it also shares many traits in common with the Longshan culture in Shaanxi. Some elements of the Majiayao culture are also present.

Seima-Turbino complex

The Seima-Turbino complex refers to a pattern of burial sites dating around 1500 BC found across northern Eurasia, from Finland to Mongolia, which has suggested a common point of cultural origin, advanced metal working technology, and unexplained rapid migration.

The buried were nomadic warriors and metal-workers, travelling on horseback or two-wheeled chariots. The name derives from the Seima (Sejma) cemetery at the confluence of the Oka River and Volga River, first excavated around 1914, and the Turbino cemetery in Perm, first excavated in 1924.

These cultures are noted for being nomadic forest and steppe societies with metal working, sometimes without having first developed agricultural methods. The development of this metalworking ability appears to have taken place quite quickly.

The Altai Mountains in what is now southern Russia and central Mongolia have been identified as the point of origin of the cultural enigma of Seima-Turbino Phenomenon.

The culture spread from these mountains to the west. Although they were the precursor to the much later Mongol invasions, these groups were not yet strong enough to attack the important social sites of the Bronze Age.

It is conjectured that changes in climate in this region around 2000 BC and the ensuing ecological, economic and political changes triggered a rapid and massive migration westward into northeast Europe, eastward into China and southward into Vietnam and Thailand across a frontier of some 4,000 miles.

This migration took place in just five to six generations and led to peoples from Finland in the west to Thailand in the east employing the same metal working technology and, in some areas, horse breeding and riding.

However, further excavations and research in Ban Chiang, an archeological site located in Nong Han district, Udon Thani Province, Thailand, and Ban Non Wat, a village in central Thailand, in the Non Sung district, Nakhon Ratchasima Province, located near the small city of Phimai, argue the idea that Seima-Turbino brought metal workings into Southeast Asia is based on inaccurate and unreliable radiocarbon dating, and remains a hotly debated theory among archaeologists.

It is further conjectured that the same migrations spread the Uralic group of languages across Europe and Asia: some 39 languages of this group are still extant, including Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and Lappish.

However, recent genetic testings of sites in south Siberia and Kazakhstan (Andronovo horizon) would rather support a spreading of the bronze technology via Indo-European migrations eastwards, as this technology was well known for quite a while in western regions.

Thailand

There are myriad sites in Thailand dating to the Bronze (1500 BC-500 BC) and Iron Ages (500 BC-AD 500). The most thoroughly researched of these sites are located in the country’s Northeast, especially in the Mun and Chi River valleys. The Mun River in particular is home to many ‘moated’ sites which comprise mounds surrounded by ditches and ramparts. The mounds contain evidence of prehistoric occupation.

Ban Non Wat is a village in central Thailand, in the Non Sung district, Nakhon Ratchasima Province, located near the small city of Phimai. It has been the subject of recent (2002–present) excavation. The cultural sequence encompasses 11 prehistoric phases, which include 640 burials.

The earliest is a series of flexed burials thought to represent hunter-gatherers. These were partially contemporary with the initial Neolithic settlement by rice farmers who also raised pigs, hunted a wide range of animals, fished and collected shellfish.

There followed a late Neolithic, six Bronze Age and three phases of the Iron Age. This unique sequence has been dated with 76 radiocarbon determinations treated with Bayesian analyses. These reveal that the initial Neolithic settlement took place in the 17th century BC, while the Bronze Age began in the late 11th century BC. The transition into the Iron Age took place in about 420 BC.

The excavations have been run by Charles Higham, and now by Dr. Nigel Chang and are partially funded by the Earthwatch institute. They are considered by some to be amongst the richest archaeological digs under current excavation.

The discovery of remarkably wealthy early Bronze Age burials illustrates profound cultural changes with the advent of copper base metallurgy. WIth the Iron Age, a new range of exotic ornaments accompanied the dead, including carnelian, agate and glass.

Later in the Iron Age, the site was surrounded by banks and two moats, which involved the reticulation of water from the adjacent river round the site. The rice fields surrounding the village, although yet to be exhaustively studied, are thought to have been irrigated thousands of years ago, and preliminary dating has supported this theory.

Many of the artifacts recovered have suggested an ongoing link with the Khmer culture, unsurprising given the site’s proximity to one end of the Ancient Khmer Highway, at the Phimai Historical Park.

Ban Chiang has been on the UNESCO world heritage list since 1992. Discovered in 1966, the site attracted enormous publicity due to its attractive red painted pottery. Villagers had uncovered some of the pottery in prior years without insight into its age or historical importance.

In August 1966 Steve Young, an anthropology and government student at Harvard College, was living in the village conducting interviews for his senior honors thesis. Young, a speaker of Thai, was familiar with the work of William Solheim and his theory of possible ancient origins of civilization in Southeast Asia.

One day while walking down a path in Ban Chiang with his assistant, an art teacher in the village school, Young tripped over a root of a Kapok tree and fell on his face in the dirt path. Under him were the exposed tops of pottery jars of small and medium sizes.

Young recognized that the firing techniques used to make the pots were very rudimentary but that the designs applied to the surface of the vessels were unique and wonderful. He took samples of pots to Princess Phanthip Chumbote who had the private museum of Suan Pakkad in Bangkok and to Chin Yu Di of the Thai Government’s Fine Arts Department. Later, Elisabeth Lyons, an art historian on the staff of the Ford Foundation, sent sherds from Ban Chiang to the University of Pennsylvania for dating.

During the first formal scientific excavation in 1967, several skeletons, together with bronze grave gifts, were unearthed. Rice fragments have also been found, leading to the belief that the Bronze Age settlers were probably farmers.

The site’s oldest graves do not include bronze artifacts and are therefore from a Neolithic culture; the most recent graves date to the Iron Age. Pots and sherds from the site are now found in museums across the world, including the Museum für Indische Kunst in Berlin and the British Museum in London.

The first datings of the artifacts using the thermoluminescence technique resulted in a range from 4420 BCE to 3400 BC, which would have made the site the earliest Bronze Age culture in the world.

However, with the 1974/75 excavation, sufficient material became available for radiocarbon dating, which resulted in more recent dates—the earliest grave was about 2100 BC, the latest about 200 AD.

Bronze making began circa 2000 BC, as evidenced by crucibles and bronze fragments. Bronze objects include bracelets, rings, anklets, wires and rods, spearheads, axes and adzes, hooks, blades, and little bells.

However, the date of 2100 BC was obtained by Joyce White on the basis of six AMS radiocarbon dating crushed potsherds containing rice chaff temper and one on the basis of rice phytoliths. The potsherds came from mortuary offerings.

This method of dating is now known to be unreliable, because the clay from which the pots were made might well itself contain old carbon. Specialists in radiocarbon dating now encourage that the method is not employed.

A new dating initiative for this site has now been undertaken by Professor Thomas Higham of the AMS dating laboratory at Oxford University, in conjunction with Professor Charles Higham of the University of Otago.

This has involved dating the bones from the people who lived at Ban Chiang and the bones of animals interred with them. The resulting determinations have been analysed using the Bayesian statistic OxCal 4.0, and the results reveal that the initial settlement of Ban Chiang took place by Neolithic rice farmers in about 1500 BC, with the transition to the Bronze Age in about 1000 BC.

These dates are a mirror image of the results from the 76 determinations obtained from a second and much richer Bronze Age site at Ban Non Wat. The mortuary offerings placed with the dead at Ban Chiang during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages were in fact, few and poor.

Vietnam

The Hồng Bàng period (Vietnamese: thời kỳ Hồng Bàng), also called the Hồng Bàng Dynasty, was a period in Vietnamese history spanning from the political union in 2879 BC of many tribes of the northern Red River Valley to the conquest by An Dương Vương in 258 BC.

The Vietnamese name is the reading of Chinese characters assigned to this dynasty in early Vietnamese-written histories in Chinese. The meaning is a mythical giant bird.

The history of the Hồng Bàng period is split according to the ruling dynasty of each Hùng king. The dating of events is still a subject of research. The conservative dates are not supported by any reliable absolute date for a span of about two and a half millennia.

The Red River valley formed a natural geographic and economic unit, bounded to the north and west by mountains and jungles, to the east by the sea and to the south by the Red River Delta.

The need to have a single authority to prevent floods of the Red River, to cooperate in constructing hydraulic systems, trade exchange, and to fight invaders, led to the creation of the first Vietnamese states approximately 2879 BC.

The Phùng Nguyên culture of Vietnam (c. 2,000 – 1,500 BC) is a name given to a culture of the Bronze Age in Vietnam during the Hong Bang Dynasty which takes its name from an archeological site in Phùng Nguyên, 18 km (11 mi) east of Việt Trì discovered in 1958. It was during this period that rice cultivation was introduced into the Red River region from southern China. The most typical artifacts are pediform adzes of polished stone.

Another truly influential part of history in Vietnam occurred during the late Bronze Age, when the Đông Sơn culture dramatically advanced the civilization.

The Đông Sơn culture (literally “East Mountain culture”, but from the name of Đông Sơn village archaeological site) was a Bronze Age culture in ancient Vietnam centered at the Red River Valley of northern Vietnam during the late period of the Hong Bang Dynasty.

It was the last great culture of Văn Lang (as Vietnam was known then) and continued well into the next Vietnamese state of Âu Lạc. Its influence flourished to other parts of Southeast Asia, including the Maritime Southeast Asia from about 1000 BC to 1 BC.

The Đông Sơn people, who are also known as Lạc or Lạc Việt, were skilled at cultivating rice, keeping buffaloes and pigs, fishing and sailing with long dug-out canoes. They also were skilled bronze casters, which is evidenced by the Đông Sơn drums found widely in Southeast Asia and Southern China.

Similar artefacts have been found in Cambodia along the Mekong River dating back to the 4th millennium BC. Đông Sơn influence is seen throughout Southeast Asia, from the moko drum of Alor in Indonesia, which are suspected of originating with Đông Sơn bronze drums, to the design of keris knives. To the south of the Đông Sơn culture was the proto-Cham Sa Huynh culture.

The origins of Đông Sơn culture may be traced back to ancient bronze castings. The traditional theory is based on the assumption that bronze casting in eastern Asia originated in northern China. However, this idea has been discredited by archaeological discoveries in north-eastern Thailand in the 1970s.

The casting of bronze began in Southeast Asia first and with the Chinese second, not vice versa. The Đông Sơn and other southeast Asian cultures were known to have used lost-wax bronze casting techniques from a very early time – perhaps predating the first millennium BCE.

This interpretation is supported by the work of modern Vietnamese archaeologists. They have found that the earliest bronze drums of Đông Sơn are closely related in their basic structural features and decorative design to the pottery of the Phùng Nguyên culture.

It is uncertain whether the bronze drums were made for religious ceremonies, to rally men for war, or for another secular activity. The various discerning images and arrow points engraved on the drums have led to speculation that the drums may have been used as a local seasonal calendar.

The bronze drums were made in significant proportions in Vietnam and parts of southern China and were then traded to the south and west to places such as Java and Bali.

Thus it became valued by people with very different cultures. The Đông Sơn bronze drums exhibit the advanced techniques and the great skill in the lost-wax casting of large objects, the Co Loa drum would have required the smelting of between 1 and 7 tons of copper ore and the use of up to 10 large casting crucibles at one time. Most scholars agree the Đông Sơn drums display an artistic level reaching perfection that few cultures of the time could rival.

The discovery in the late 17th century of large, elaborately incised “Dum” drums in mainland and maritime southeast Asia first alerted Western scholars to the existence in the region of distinctive early bronze-working cultures.

Ranging in height from a few inches to over six feet, up to four feet in diameter, and often of considerable weight, such drums are the most widely dispersed products of the Đông Sơn culture.

Examples produced in Vietnam, in addition to works made locally, have been found in south China, in mainland Southeast Asia, and in Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Irian Jaya. Many bronze drums of the Đông Sơn period have been reported in South and Southwest China, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Indonesia.

In Vietnam, approximately 140 drums were discovered in many locations throughout Vietnam from the high land region of the north to the plains of the south and as far as to the Phu Quoc island, in the Gulf of Thailand.

The function of these drums, often found in burials, remains unclear: they may have been used in warfare or as part of funerary or other ceremonial rites. Models of the drums, produced in bronze or clay, were made to be included in burials.

This small bronze example has the rounded top, curved middle, and splayed base often found in drums from Vietnam. The central loop and the four small frogs on the tympanum are characteristic features of examples produced from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD.

The starburst pattern in the center of the tympanum, a standard motif on Đông Sơn drums, is surrounded by a row of linked concentric circles and crosshatching. These designs are repeated around the side of the top section and just above the base. On the center of the drum, four stylized scenes showing warriors.

Painted Pottery Culture: 5000-2500 BC

More about Taiji Symbols of Ukraine Pavilion at Expo 2010

Painted Pottery Cultures

Archaeological Researches in Sinkiang

Archaeological Researches in Sinkiang (intro)

Chinese civilization and the majestic Scythia

China – Archaeology

Bronze Age

Pathways and highways: routes in Bronze Age Eurasia

China Archaeology

Seima-Turbino Phenomenon

Qijia culture

Majiayao culture

Yangshao culture

Banpo painted pottery

Banpo Culture

A History of China

China

Banpo Museum

Classic Work of Painted Pottery

Banpo and the Yangshao Culture

Chinese Painted Pottery

China Pottery History

History of China

History of China

People and fish on the Banpo colored pottery

Painted Patterns on Yangshao Pottery

The Painted Pottery of the Yangshao Culture

Painted Pottery Road, Sino-Western Cultural Exchanges

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

The world’s oldest masks: 9,000-year-old stone ‘portraits of the dead’

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 27, 2015

The Israel Museum has had two of the masks in its collection for years. One was found in a cave at Nahal Hemar in the Judean Desert (pictured) and the other from Horvat Duma in the nearby Judean Hills

Nahal Hemar is an archeological cave site in Israel, on a cliff, near the Dead Sea, just northwest of Mt. Selom. The cave was excavated in 1983 by Ofer Bar-Yosef and David Alon.

The excavations here are considered to be one of the most conspicuous Pre-Pottery Neolithic assemblages ever found in the Levant. The Find consisted of wooden artifacts, fragments of baskets and plaster assemblages.

The objects found in the cave included: rope baskets, embroidered fabrics, nets, wooden arrow heads, bone and flint utensils, and decorated human skulls. Originally, these objects were thought be covered in asphalt form near construction projects, it was actually determined that the objects were covered in ancient glue, dated to around 8310-8110 BC.

The glue was determined to be collagen based and believed to be from animal skins. The glue that coated the objects were believed to waterproof the objects or used as an adhesive. Glue similar to this was found in Egypt, but the glue found in Nahal Hemar are two times as old as the glue in Egypt.

Nahal Hemar

The world’s oldest masks: 9,000-year-old stone ‘portraits of the dead’

Nahal Hemar cave – Ancient Hebrew Research Center

Oldest Glue Discovered – Archaeology Magazine Archive

Object Lesson: The Nahal Hemar Mask

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Is it really anything to celebrate?

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 27, 2015

ISRAEL-TEL AVIV-ZOMBIE WALK

Israeli take part in Zombie Walk to celebrate Jewish Purim festival in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Feb. 23, 2013. Purim, one of Judaism’s most colorful and popular holidays, was celebrated this year between sunset Saturday, 23 February, and sunset Sunday, 24 February, in most area of Israel. (Xinhua/Yin Dongxun)

Zombie Walk to celebrate Jewish Purim festival in Israel

Purim («lots») is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire, with the aid of the Iranian king Xerxes , from destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman, a story recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther (Megillat Esther).

According to the Book of Esther, in the Hebrew Bible, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia), planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his adopted daughter Queen Esther. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.

Purim is celebrated by giving reciprocal gifts of food and drink (mishloach manot), giving charity to the poor (mattanot la-evyonim), a celebratory meal (se’udat Purim), and public recitation of the Scroll of Esther (kriat ha-megillah), additions to the prayers and the grace after meals (al hannisim). Other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.

Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (Adar II in leap years), the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies. In cities that were protected by a surrounding wall at the time of Joshua, Purim is instead celebrated on the 15th of the month on what is known as Shushan Purim, since fighting in the walled city of Shushan continued through the 14th. Today, only Jerusalem celebrates Purim on the 15th.

The Book of Esther begins with a six-month (180 day) drinking feast given by King Ahasuerus, for the army of Persia and Media, for the civil servants and princes in the 127 provinces of his kingdom, at the conclusion of which a seven-day drinking feast for the inhabitants of Shushan (Susa), rich and poor, with a separate drinking feast for the women organised by the Queen Vashti in the pavilion of the Royal courtyard.

At this feast Ahasuerus gets thoroughly drunk and, at the prompting of his courtiers, orders his wife Vashti to display her beauty before the nobles and populace, wearing her royal crown. She refuses, and Ahasuerus decides to remove her from her post. He then orders all young women to be presented to him, so he can choose a new queen to replace Vashti. One of these is Esther, who was orphaned at a young age and was being fostered by her uncle Mordecai. She finds favor in the king’s eyes, and is made his new wife. Esther does not reveal that she is Jewish.

Shortly afterwards, Mordecai discovers a plot by two courtiers Bigthan and Teresh to kill Ahasuerus. They are apprehended and hanged, and Mordecai’s service to the king is recorded in the daily record of the court.

Ahasuerus appoints Haman as his prime minister. Mordecai, who sits at the palace gates, falls into Haman’s disfavor as he refuses to bow down to him. Having found out that Mordecai is Jewish, Haman plans to kill not just Mordecai but the entire Jewish minority in the empire. Obtaining Ahasuerus’ permission and funds to execute this plan, he casts lots («purim») to choose the date on which to do this – the thirteenth of the month of Adar.

When Mordecai finds out about the plans he orders widespread penitence and fasting. Esther discovers what has transpired; she requests that all Jews of Shushan fast and pray for three days together with her, and on the third day she seeks an audience with Ahasuerus, during which she invites him to a feast in the company of Haman.

During the feast, she asks them to attend a further feast the next evening. Meanwhile, Haman is again offended by Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him; he builds a gallows for Mordecai, with the intention to hang him there the very next day.

That night, Ahasuerus suffers from insomnia, and when the court’s daily records are read to him to help him fall asleep, he learns of the services rendered by Mordecai in the earlier plot against his life. Ahasuerus asks whether anything was done for Mordecai and is told that he received no recognition for saving the king’s life.

Just then, Haman appears, and King Ahasuerus asks him what should be done for the man that the King wishes to honor. Thinking that the King is referring to Haman himself, Haman says that the honoree should be dressed in the king’s royal robes and led around on the king’s royal horse. To Haman’s horror, the king instructs Haman to do so to Mordecai.

Later that evening, Ahasuerus and Haman attend Esther’s second banquet, at which she reveals that she is Jewish and that Haman is planning to exterminate her people, which includes her. Ahasuerus instead orders Haman hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. The previous decree against the Jews could not be annulled, so the King allows Mordecai and Esther to write another decree as they wish. They decree that Jews may preemptively kill those thought to pose a lethal risk.

As a result, on 13 Adar, five hundred attackers and Haman’s ten sons are killed in Shushan. Throughout the empire 75,000 of the Jews’ enemies are killed (Esther 9:16). On the 14th, another 300 are killed in Shushan. No spoils are taken.

Mordecai assumes the position of second in rank to Ahasuerus, and institutes an annual commemoration of the delivery of the Jewish people from annihilation.

Adolf Hitler banned and forbade the observance of Purim. In a speech made on November 10, 1938, (the day after Kristallnacht), Julius Streicher surmised that just as «the Jew butchered 75,000 Persians» in one night, the same fate would have befallen the German people had the Jews succeeded in inciting a war against Germany; the «Jews would have instituted a new Purim festival in Germany.»

Nazi attacks against Jews often coincided with Jewish festivals. On Purim 1942, ten Jews were hanged in Zduńska Wola to avenge the hanging of Haman’s ten sons. In a similar incident in 1943, the Nazis shot ten Jews from the Piotrków ghetto. On Purim eve that same year, over 100 Jewish doctors and their families were shot by the Nazis in Częstochowa. The following day, Jewish doctors were taken from Radom and shot nearby in Szydłowiec.

In an apparent connection made by Hitler between his Nazi regime and the role of Haman, he stated in a speech made on January 30, 1944, that if the Nazis were defeated, the Jews could celebrate «a second Purim». Indeed, Julius Streicher was heard to sarcastically remark «Purimfest 1946″ as he ascended the scaffold after Nuremberg.

There is a tradition in the Hasidic Chabad movement that supposedly Joseph Stalin died as a result of some metaphysical intervention of the seventh Chabad leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, during the recitation of a discourse at a public Purim Farbrengen. Stalin was suddenly paralysed on 1 March 1953, which corresponds to Purim 1953, and died 4 days later. Due to Stalin’s death, nation-wide pogroms against Jews throughout the Soviet Union were averted, as Stalin’s infamous doctors’ plot was halted.

As early as 1907, Stalin wrote a letter differentiating between a «Jewish faction» and a «true Russian faction» in bolshevism. Stalin’s secretary Boris Bazhanov stated that Stalin made anti-Semitic outbursts even before Vladimir Lenin’s death. Anti-Semitic trends in the Kremlin’s policies were fueled by the exile of Leon Trotsky. After dismissing Maxim Litvinov as Foreign Minister in 1939, Stalin immediately directed Vyacheslav Molotov to «purge the ministry of Jews».

According to historian Yakov Yakovlevich Etinger, many Soviet state purges of the 1930s were anti-Semitic and after more intense anti-Semitic policy toward the end of World War II, Stalin in 1946 reportedly said privately that «every Jew is a potential spy.» Furthermore, after purportedly ordering the development of bombers capable of reaching America, supposedly convinced that Harry Truman was Jewish, Stalin reportedly remarked in private that «we will show this Jewish shopkeeper how to attack us!»

Nevertheless, during the period 1945 to 1947, overt anti-Semitism had been suppressed in the USSR, because Stalin was considered the savior of the Jews, the man who defeated Hitler and had liberated the Eastern European concentration camps from the Nazis. Moreover, during those years Stalin needed the Jews for propaganda purposes, and some of the old Bolsheviks were Jewish, including Leon Trotsky, Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, Lazar Kaganovich, Maxim Litvinov, Yakov Sverdlov, Polina Zhemchuzhina (the wife of Molotov), etc.

Jewish communists Abram Slutsky, Sergei Shpigelglas, and Genrikh Yagoda, had led the intelligence and security organs of the Bolsheviks and subsequently the Soviet state, and there were still many Jewish cadres in the cultural organs, the Party, the intelligence services, and the security apparatus. Thirdly, Stalin had initially supported the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.

With the beginning of the Cold War, the State of Israel allying with the West, and Stalin’s suspicions of any form of Jewish nationalism (and indeed nationalism in general), the Soviet regime eliminated the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in 1948 and launched a campaign against rootless cosmopolitans.

Also, in the course of his career, Stalin became increasingly suspicious towards physicians. In his later years, he refused to be treated by doctors, and would only consult with veterinarians about his health. After trials of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee 13 members were secretly executed on Stalin’s orders in the Night of the Murdered Poets.

The Doctors’ plot in 1952–53 was the most dramatic anti-Jewish episode in the Soviet Union during Joseph Stalin’s regime, accusing a group of prominent Moscow doctors, predominantly Jews, as conspiratorial assassins of Soviet leaders.

This was accompanied by trials and anti-Semitic publications in the media. Scores of Soviet Jews were promptly dismissed from their jobs, arrested, sent to the Gulag, or executed. The doctors’ plot was to be the catalyst of Stalin’s campaigns against Soviet Jews, but was ultimately stopped short by Stalin’s sudden death in March 1953.

After the death of Stalin, the new Soviet leadership stated a lack of evidence and the case was dropped. In 1956, the Soviet leadership declared that the case was fabricated.

Purim

Doctors’ Plot

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 78 other followers

%d bloggers like this: