Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

History of the Arians

Erebuni (Yerevan) fortErebuni Fortress

Urkesh music


European DNA pages

ArmenianHistoryImage KhorVirap Eternity.jpg

Image showing spread of agriculture in Europe

Vår sivilisasjon – Solfolket

The Ur (hurrians) Ar (Aryans) in South West Asia

The Indo-European part of the Armenian nation

The following text is a lecture delivered by Dr. Alexander Jacob at the London Forum on September 1, 2012. Dr. Jacob’s approach, if correct, implies a revolution in Indo-European studies, as he treats the pre-Aryan diffusion of culture, which includes the Minoan, Egyptian, Sumerian, and Indus Valley civilizations, as part of a larger Indo-European culture.

The Origins of Indo-European Religion

The Craddle of Civilization

The Armenian Highland lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Mount Ararat, the highest peak of the region. The Armenian Highland shows traces of settlement from the Neolithic era. Archaeological surveys in 2010 and 2011 have resulted in the discovery of the world’s earliest known leather shoe, skirt, and wine-making facility at the Areni-1 cave complex.

Portasar, or Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”), is a Neolithic hilltop sanctuary erected at the top of a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, some 15 kilometers (9 mi) northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa (formerly Urfa / Edessa). It is the oldest known human-made religious structure. The site was most likely erected in the 10th millennium BC. The PPN A settlement has been dated to c. 9000 BCE. There are remains of smaller houses from the PPN B and a few epipalaeolithic finds as well. Together with Nevalı Çori, it has revolutionized understanding of the Eurasian Neolithic.

Around the beginning of the 8th millennium BCE “Potbelly Hill” lost its importance. The advent of agriculture and animal husbandry brought new realities to human life in the area. But the complex was not simply abandoned and forgotten to be gradually destroyed by the elements. Instead, each enclosure was deliberately buried under as much as 300 to 500 cubic meters (390 to 650 cu yd) of debris consisting mainly of small limestone fragments, stone vessels, and stone tools; many animal, even human, bones are also found in the burial refuse. Why the enclosures were backfilled is unknown, but it preserved them for posterity.

In the West – The Pre-Europeans (Old Europe)

File:Neolithic expansion.svg

Neolithic Europe refers to a prehistoric period in which Neolithic technology was present in Europe. This corresponds roughly to a time between 7000 BC (the approximate time of the first farming societies in Greece) and c. 1700 BC (the beginning of the Bronze Age in northwest Europe). The Neolithic overlaps the Mesolithic and Bronze Age periods in Europe as cultural changes moved from the southeast to northwest at about 1 km/year. The duration of the Neolithic varies from place to place, its end marked by the introduction of bronze implements: in southeast Europe it is approximately 4000 years (i.e., 7000 BC–3000 BC) while in Northwest Europe it is just under 3000 years (c. 4500 BC–1700 BC).

Regardless of specific chronology, many European Neolithic groups share basic characteristics, such as living in small-scale, family-based communities, subsisting on domesticated plants and animals supplemented with the collection of wild plant foods and with hunting, and producing hand-made pottery, that is, pottery made without the potter’s wheel. There are also many differences, with some Neolithic communities in southeastern Europe living in heavily fortified settlements of 3,000-4,000 people (e.g., Sesklo in Greece) whereas Neolithic groups in England were small (possibly 50-100 people) and highly mobile cattle-herders.

The details of the origin, chronology, social organization, subsistence practices and ideology of the peoples of Neolithic Europe are obtained from archaeology, and not historical records, since these people left none. Since the 1970s, population genetics has provided independent data on the population history of Neolithic Europe, including migration events and genetic relationships with peoples in South Asia. A further independent tool, linguistics, has contributed hypothetical reconstructions of early European languages and family trees with estimates of dating of splits, in particular theories on the relationship between speakers of Indo-European languages and Neolithic peoples. Some archaeologists believe that the expansion of Neolithic peoples from southwest Asia into Europe, marking the eclipse of Mesolithic culture, coincided with the introduction of Indo-European speakers, whereas other archaeologists and many linguists believe the Indo-European languages were introduced from the Pontic-Caspian steppe during the succeeding Bronze Age. A few see Indo-European languages starting in Paleolithic times.

Archeologists believe that food-producing societies first emerged in the Levantine region of southwest Asia at the close of the mini-Ice Age around 12,000 BC, and developed into a number of regionally distinctive cultures by the eighth millennium BC. Remains of food-producing societies in the Aegean have been carbon-dated to around 6500 BC at Knossos, Franchthi Cave, and a number of mainland sites in Thessaly. Neolithic groups appear soon afterwards in the Balkans and south-central Europe. The Neolithic cultures of southeastern Europe (the Balkans, Italy, and the Aegean) show some continuity with groups in southwest Asia and Anatolia (e.g., Çatalhöyük).

Current evidence suggests that Neolithic material culture was introduced to Europe via western Anatolia, and that similarities in cultures of North Africa and the Pontic steppes are due to diffusion out of Europe. All Neolithic sites in Europe contain ceramics, and contain the plants and animals domesticated in Southwest Asia: einkorn, emmer, barley, lentils, pigs, goats, sheep, and cattle. Genetic data suggest that no independent domestication of animals took place in Neolithic Europe, and that all domesticated animals were originally domesticated in Southwest Asia. The only domesticate not from Southwest Asia was broomcorn millet, domesticated in East Asia. The earliest evidence of cheese-making dates to 5500 BC in Kujawy, Poland.

Archaeologists seem to agree that the culture of the early Neolithic is relatively homogeneous, compared both to the late Mesolithic and the later Neolithic. The diffusion across Europe, from the Aegean to Britain, took about 2,500 years (6500 BC – 4000 BC). The Baltic region was penetrated a bit later, around 3500 BC, and there was also a delay in settling the Pannonian plain. In general, colonization shows a “saltatory” pattern, as the Neolithic advanced from one patch of fertile alluvial soil to another, bypassing mountainous areas. Analysis of radiocarbon dates show clearly that Mesolithic and Neolithic populations lived side by side for as much as a millennium in many parts of Europe, especially in the Iberian peninsula and along the Atlantic coast.

With some exceptions, population levels rose rapidly at the beginning of the Neolithic until they reached the carrying capacity. This was followed by a population crash of “enormous magnitude” after 5000 BC, with levels remaining low during the next 1500 years. Populations began to rise after 3500 BC, with further dips and rises occurring between 3000 and 2500 BC but varying in date between regions.

Archaeologists agree that the technologies associated with agriculture originated in the Levant/Near East and then spread into Europe. However, debate exists whether this resulted from an active migratory process from the Near East, or merely due to cultural contact between Europeans and Near Easterners. Currently, three models summarize the proposed pattern of spread:

1. Replacement model: posits that there was a significant migration of farmers from the Fertile Crescent into Europe. Given their technological advantages, they would have displaced or absorbed the less numerous hunter-gathering populace. Thus, modern Europeans are primarily descended from these Neolithic farmers.

2. Cultural diffusion: in contrast, this model supposes that agriculture reached Europe by way of a flow of ideas and trade between the Mesolithic European population and Anatolian farmers. There was no net increase in migration during this process, and therefore, modern Europeans are descended from the “original” Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers.

3. Pioneer model: recognises that models 1) and 2) above may represent false dichotomies. This model postulates that there was an initial, small scale migration of farmers from the Near East to certain regions of Europe. They might have enjoyed localized demographic expansions due to social advantages. The subsequent spread of farming technologies throughout the rest of Europe was then carried out by Mesolithic Europeans who acquired new skill through trade and cultural interaction.

Genetic studies have been utilised in the study of pre-historic population movements. On the whole, scientists agree that there is evidence for a migration during the Neolithic. However, they cannot agree on the extent of this movement. The conclusions of studies appear to be ‘operator dependent’. That is, results vary depending on what underlying mutation rates are assumed, and conclusions are drawn from how the authors ‘envisage’ their results fit with known archaeological and historic processes. Consequently, such studies must be interpreted with caution.

Perhaps the first scholar to posit a large-scale Neolithic migration, based on genetic evidence, was Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza. By applying principal component analysis to data from “classical genetic markers” (protein polymorphisms from ABO blood groups, HLA loci, immunoglobulins, etc.), Cavalli-Sforza discovered interesting clues about the genetic makeup of Europeans. Although being very genetically homogeneous, several patterns did exist. The most important one was a north-western to south-eastern cline with a Near Eastern focus. Accounting for 28% of the overall genetic diversity in the European samples in his study, he attributed the cline to the spread of agriculture from the Middle East c. 10,000 to 6,000 years ago.

Cavalli-Sforza’s explanation of demic diffusions stipulated that the clines were due to the population expansion of neolithic farmers into a scarcely populated, hunter-gathering Europe, with little initial admixture between agriculturalists and foragers. The predicted route for this spread would have been from Anatolia to central Europe via the Balkans. However, given that the time depths of such patterns are not known, “associating them with particular demographic events is usually speculative”. Apart from a demic Neolithic migration, the clines may also be compatible with other demographic scenarios (Barbujani and Bartorelle 2001), such as the initial Palaeolithic expansion, the Mesolithic (post-glacial) re-expansions., or later (historic) colonizations.

Studies using direct DNA evidence have produced varying results. A notable proponent of Cavalli-Sforza’s demic diffusion scenario is Chikhi. In his 1998 study, utilising polymorphic loci from seven hypervariable autosomal DNA loci, an autocorrelation analysis produced a clinal pattern closely matching that in Cavalli-Sforza’s study. He calculated that the separation times were no older than 10,000 years. “The simplest interpretation of these results is that the current nuclear gene pool largely reflects the westward and northward expansion of a Neolithic group”.

Although the above studies propounded a ‘significant’ Neolithic genetic contribution, they did not quantify the exact magnitude of the genetic contribution. Dupanloup performed an admixture analysis based on several autosomal loci, mtDNA and NRY haplogroup frequencies. The study was based on the assumption that Basques were modern representatives of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers’ gene pool, and Near Eastern peoples were a proxy population for Neolithic farmers. Subsequently, they used admixture analysis to estimate the likely components of the contemporary European gene pool contributed by the two parental populations whose members hybridized at a certain moment in the past. The study suggested that the greatest Near Eastern admixture occurs in the Balkans (~80%) and Southern Italy (~60%), whilst it is least in peoples of the British Isles (estimating only a 20% contribution). The authors concluded that the Neolithic shift to agriculture entailed major population dispersal from the Near East.

Results derived from analysis of the non-recombining portion of the Y- chromosomes (NRY) produced, at least initially, similar gradients to the classic demic diffusion hypothesis. Two significant studies were Semino 2000 and Rosser 2000, which identified haplogroups J2 and E1b1b (formerly E3b) as the putative genetic signatures of migrating Neolithic farmers from Anatolia, and therefore represent the Y-chromosomal components of a Neolithic demic diffusion. This association was strengthened when King and Underhill (2002) found that there was a significant correlation between the distribution of Hg J2 and Neolithic painted pottery in European and Mediterranean sites. However, studies of the ancient Y-DNA from the earlier Neolithic cave burials of Cardium pottery culture men shows they were mainly haplogroup G2a. These ‘Neolithic lineages’ accounted for 22% of the total European Y chromosome gene pool, and were predominantly found in Mediterranean regions of Europe (Greece, Italy, southeastern Bulgaria, southeastern Iberia).

However later Y-DNA based studies, exploiting an increased understanding of the phylogenetic relationships, performing micro-regional haplogroup frequency analysis, reveal a more complicated demographic history. The studies suggest that “the large-scale clinal patterns of Hg E and Hg J reflect a mosaic of numerous small-scale, more regional population movements, replacements, and subsequent expansions overlying previous ranges”. Rather than a single, large-scale ‘wave of advance’ from the Near East, the apparent Hg J2 cline is produced by distinct populations movements emanating from different part of the Aegean and Near East, over a period stretching from the Neolithic to the Classical Period. Similarly, haplogroup E1b1b was also thought to have been introduced into the Balkans by Near Eastern agriculturalists. However, Cruciani et al. (2007) recently discovered that the large majority of haplogroup E1b1b lineages in Europe are represented by the sub-clade E1b1b1a2- V13, which is rare outside Europe. Cruciani, Battaglia and King all predict that V13 expanded from the Balkans. However, there has been no consensus as to exact timing of this expansion (King and Battalia favour a neolithic expansion, possibly coinciding with the adoption of farming by indigenous Balkaners, whilst Cruciani favours a Bronze Age expansion), nor as to where V13 actually arose (but point to somewhere in the southern Balkans or Anatolia) Overall, Y-chromosome data seems to support the “Pioneer model”, whereby heterogeneous groups of Neolithic farmers colonized selected areas of southern Europe via a primarily maritime route. Subsequent expansion of agriculture was facilitated by the adoption of its methods by indigenous Europeans, a process especially prominent in the Balkans.

The data from mtDNA is also interesting. European mtDNA haplogroup frequencies show little, if any, geographic patterning, a result attributed to different molecular properties of mtDNA, as well as different migratory practices between females and males (Semino 2000). The vast majority of mtDNA lineages (60–70%) have been dated to have either emerged in the Mesolithic or Palaeolithic, whereas only 20% of mitochondrial lineages are “Neolithic”. However, this conclusion has been questioned. Any undetected heterogeneity in the founder population would result in an overestimation in the age of the current population’s molecular age. If this is true, then Europe could have been populated far more recently, e.g. during the Neolithic, by a more diverse founding population (Barbujani et al. 1998, from Richards 2000). As Chikhi states: “We argue that many mitochondrial lineages whose origin has been traced back to the Palaeolithic period probably reached Europe at a later time”. However, Richards et al. (2000) maintain these findings even when founding population heterogeneity is considered. In one such study, Wolfgang Haak extracted ancient mtDNA from what they present as early European farmers from the Linear Pottery Culture in central Europe. The bodies contained a 25% frequency of mtDNA N1a, a haplogroup which they assumed to be linked to the Neolithic. Today the frequency of this haplogroup is a mere 0.2%. Haak presented this as supportive evidence for a Palaeolithic European ancestry.

Formerly there had been much debate about whether the westerly spread of agriculture from the Near East was driven by farmers actually migrating, or by the transfer of ideas and technologies to indigenous hunter-gatherers. However, in a very recent study in 2010, researchers have studied the genetic diversity of modern populations to throw light on the processes involved in these ancient events. The new study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, examines the diversity of the Y chromosome. Mark Jobling, who led the research, said: “We focused on the commonest Y-chromosome lineage in Europe, carried by about 110 million men, it follows a gradient from south-east to north-west, reaching almost 100% frequency in Ireland. We looked at how the lineage is distributed, how diverse it is in different parts of Europe, and how old it is.” The results suggested that the lineage R1b1b2 (R-M269), like E1b1b or J lineages, spread together with farming from the Near East. Prior archaeological and metrological studies had arrived at similar conclusions in support of the migrationist model.

Dr Patricia Balaresque, first author of the study, added: “In total, this means that more than 80% of European Y chromosomes descend from incoming farmers. In contrast, most maternal genetic lineages seem to descend from hunter-gatherers. To us, this suggests a reproductive advantage for farming males over indigenous hunter-gatherer males during the switch from hunting and gathering, to farming”.

However, recently a study has shown there to be serious flaws in the above proposed model, pointing out the overgeneralization inherit in the studies of Baleresque 2010. Furthermore, Busby et. al 2012 point out ” For this haplogroup to be so ubiquitous, the population carrying R-S127 would have displaced most of the populations present in western Europe after the Neolithic agricultural transition “. Clearly common sense dictates that this did not happen. Also they go on to show that within the european specific R-M269 sub-lineage, defined by SNP S127, there exists distinct sub-haplogroups and at this level there exists several ” geographically localized pockets, with individual R-M269 sub- haplogroups dominating “. There conclusions were that it is likely that R-S127 was already present in native european populations and grew into several geographically distinct sub-lineages across Europe before Neolithic expansion occurred.

A study of Neolithic skeletons in the Great Hungarian Plain found a high frequency of eastern Asian maternal (mtDNA) haplogroups.

There is no direct evidence of the languages spoken in the Neolithic. Some proponents of paleolinguistics attempt to extend the methods of historical linguistics to the Stone Age, but this has little academic support. Criticising scenarios which envision for the Neolithic only a small number of language families spread over huge areas of Europe (as in modern times), Donald Ringe has argued on general principles of language geography (as concerns “tribal”, pre-state societies), and the scant remains of (apparently indigenous) non-Indo-European languages attested in ancient inscriptions, that Neolithic Europe must have been a place of great linguistic diversity, with many language families with no recoverable linguistic links to each other, much like western North America prior to European colonisation.

Discussion of hypothetical languages spoken in the European Neolithic is divided into two topics, Indo-European languages and “Pre-Indo-European” languages.

Early Indo-European languages are usually assumed to have reached Europe in the Chalcolithic or early Bronze Age, e.g. with the Corded Ware or Beaker cultures (see also Kurgan hypothesis for related discussions). The Anatolian hypothesis postulates arrival of Indo-European languages with the early Neolithic. Old European hydronymy is taken by Hans Krahe to be the oldest reflection of the early presence of Indo-European in Europe.

Theories of “Pre-Indo-European” languages in Europe are built on scant evidence. The Basque language is the best candidate for a descendant of such a language, but since Basque is a language isolate, there is no comparative evidence to build upon. Theo Vennemann nevertheless postulates a “Vasconic” family, which he supposes had co-existed with an “Atlantic” or “Semitidic” (i.e. para-Semitic) group. Another candidate is a Tyrrhenian family which would have given rise to Etruscan and Raetic in the Iron Age, and possibly also Aegean languages such as Minoan or Pelasgian in the Bronze Age.

In the north, a similar scenario to Indo-European is thought to have occurred with Uralic languages expanding in from the east. In particular, while the Sami languages of the indigenous Sami people belong in the Uralic family, they show considerable substrate influence, thought to represent one or more extinct original languages. The Sami are estimated to have adopted a Uralic language less than 2500 years ago. Some traces of indigenous languages of the Baltic area have been suspected in the Finnic languages as well, but these are much more modest.

Old Europe is a term coined by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas to describe what she perceives as a relatively homogeneous and widespread pre-Indo-European Neolithic culture in Europe, particularly in Malta and the Balkans.

In her major work, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe: 6500–3500 B.C. (1982), she refers to these Neolithic cultures as Old Europe. Archaeologists and ethnographers working within her framework believe that the evidence points to migrations of the peoples who spoke Indo-European languages at the beginning of the Bronze age (the Kurgan hypothesis). For this reason, Gimbutas and her associates regard the terms Neolithic Europe, Old Europe, and Pre-Indo-European as synonymous.

Old Europe, or Neolithic Europe, refers to the time between the Mesolithic and Bronze Age periods in Europe, roughly from 7000 BC (the approximate time of the first farming societies in Greece) to ca. 1700 BC (the beginning of the Bronze Age in northwest Europe). The duration of the Neolithic varies from place to place: in southeast Europe it is approximately 4000 years (i.e., 7000–3000 BC); in North-West Europe it is just under 3000 years (ca. 4500–1700 BC).

Regardless of specific chronology, many European Neolithic groups share basic characteristics, such as living in small-scale, family-based communities, more egalitarian than the city-states and Chiefdoms of the Bronze Age, subsisting on domestic plants and animals supplemented with the collection of wild plant foods and hunting, and producing hand-made pottery, without the aid of the potter’s wheel. There are also many differences, with some Neolithic communities in southeastern Europe living in heavily fortified settlements of 3,000–4,000 people (e.g., Sesklo in Greece) whereas Neolithic groups in Britain were small (possibly 50–100 people) and highly mobile cattle-herders.

Marija Gimbutas investigated the Neolithic period in order to understand cultural developments in settled village culture in the southern Balkans, which she characterized as peaceful, matrilineal, and possessing a goddess-centered religion. In contrast, she characterizes the later Indo-European influences as warlike, nomadic, and patrilineal. Using evidence from pottery and sculpture, and combining the tools of archaeology, comparative mythology, linguistics, and, most controversially, folklore, Gimbutas invented a new interdisciplinary field, archaeomythology.

In historical times, some ethnonyms are believed to correspond to Pre-Indo-European peoples, assumed to be the descendants of the earlier Old European cultures: the Pelasgians, Minoans, Leleges, Iberians, Etruscans and Basques. Two of the three pre-Greek peoples of Sicily, the Sicans and the Elymians, may also have been pre-Indo-European. The term “Pre-Indo-European” is sometimes extended to refer to Asia Minor and Central Asia, in which case the Hurrians and Urartians are sometimes included.

How many Pre-Indo-European languages existed is not known, nor whether the ancient names of peoples believed, in ancient times or now, to have descended from the pre-ancient population, referred to speakers of distinct languages. Marija Gimbutas (1989), observing a unity of symbols marked especially on pots, but also on other objects, concluded that there may have been a single language spoken in Old Europe. She thought that decipherment would have to wait for the discovery of bilingual texts.

The idea of a Pre-Indo-European language in the region precedes Gimbutas. It went by other names, such as “Pelasgian”, “Mediterranean”, or “Aegean”. Apart from marks on artifacts, the main evidence concerning Pre-Indo-European language is in names: toponyms, ethnonyms, etc., and in roots in other languages believed to be derived from one or more prior languages, possibly unrelated. Reconstruction from the evidence is an accepted, though somewhat speculative, field of study. Suggestions of possible Old European languages include Urbian by Sorin Paliga, the Vasconic substratum hypothesis of Theo Vennemann (also see Sigmund Feist’s Germanic substrate hypothesis), and Tyrsenian languages of Helmut Rix.

The Nordwestblock (English: “Northwest Block”), is a hypothetical cultural region, that several 20th century scholars propose as a prehistoric culture, thought to be roughly bounded by the rivers Meuse, Elbe, Somme and Oise (the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, northern France and western Germany) and possibly the eastern part of England during the Bronze and Iron Ages (3rd to 1st millennia BC, up to the gradual onset of historical sources from the 1st century).

The theory was first proposed by two authors working independently, Hans Kuhn, and Maurits Gysseling, who was partly influenced by Belgian archeologist Siegfried De Laet. Gysseling’s proposal included research indicating that another language may have existed somewhere in between Germanic and Celtic in the Belgian (sic) region.

The term itself Nordwestblock was coined by Hans Kuhn, who considered the inhabitants of this area neither Germanic nor Celtic, thus attributing to the people a distinct ethnicity or culture. According to Kuhn and his followers, the region was Germanised from the beginning of the Common Era, at the latest.

Concerning the language spoken by the Iron Age Nordwestblock population, Kuhn speculated on linguistic affinity to the Venetic language, other hypotheses connect the Northwestblock with the Raetic (“Tyrsenian”) or generic Centum Indo-European (Illyrian, “Old European”).

Gysseling suspected an intermediate Belgian language between Germanic and Celtic, that might have been affiliated to Italic. According to Luc van Durme, a Belgian linguist, toponymic evidence to a former Celtic presence in the Low Countries is near to utterly absent.

Kuhn noted that since Proto-Indo-European (PIE) /b/ was very rare, and since this PIE /b/, via Grimm’s law, is the only source of regularly inherited /p/’s in words in Germanic languages, the many words with /p/’s which do occur must have some other language as source.

Similarly, in Celtic, PIE /p/ disappeared and in regularly inherited words only reappeared in p-Celtic languages as a result of the rule that PIE *kʷ became proto-Celtic *p. All this taken together means that any word in p- in a Germanic language which is not evidently borrowed from either Latin or a p-Celtic language must be a loan from another language, and these words Kuhn ascribes to the Nordwestblock language.

Linguist Peter Schrijver speculates on the reminiscent lexical and typological features of the region, from an unknown substrate whose linguistic influences may have influenced the historical development of the (Romance and Germanic) languages of the region. He assumes the pre-existence of pre-Indo-European languages linked to the archeological Linear Pottery culture and to a family of languages featuring complex verbs, of which the Northwest Caucasian languages might have been the sole survivors. Although assumed to have left traces within all other Indo-European languages as well, its influence would have been especially strong on Celtic languages originating north of the Alps and on the region including Belgium and the Rhineland.

It is uncertain when Germanic began to gain a foothold in the area. The Nordwestblock region north of the Rhine is traditionally conceived as belonging to the realms of the Northern Bronze Age, with the Harpstedt Iron Age generally assumed to represent the Germanic precedents west of the Jastorf culture.

The general development converged with the emergence of Germanic within other previously Northern Bronze Age regions to the east, maybe also involving a certain degree of Germanic cultural diffusion.

The local continuity of the Dutch areas was not substantially affected by pre-Roman (c.q. Celtic) immigration. From about the 1st century CE, this region saw the development of the “Weser-Rhine” group of West Germanic dialects which gave rise to Old Frankish from the 4th century.

The issue still remains unresolved and so far no conclusive evidence has been forwarded to support any alternative. Mallory considers the issue a salutary reminder that some anonymous linguistic groups that do not fully obey the current classification, may have survived to the dawn of historical records.

The archeological case for the Nordwestgroup hypothesis makes reference to a time depth of up to 3000 BCE. The following prehistoric cultures have been attributed to the region, compatible with but not necessarily proving the Nordwestblock hypothesis: The Bell Beaker culture (2700–2100 BCE) is thought to originate from the same geographic area, as early stages of this culture apparently derived from early Corded Ware culture elements, with the Netherlands/Rhineland region as probably the most widely accepted site of origin.

The Bell Beaker culture locally developed into the Bronze Age Barbed Wire Beaker culture (2100–1800 BCE). In the second millennium BCE, the region was at the boundary between the Atlantic and Nordic horizons, split up in a northern and a southern region, roughly divided by the course of the Rhine.

To the north emerged the Elp culture (1800-800 BCE), featuring an initial tumulus phase showing a close relationship to other Northern European tumulus groups (sharing pottery of low quality: Kummerkeramik), and a subsequent smooth local transformation to the Urnfield culture (1200–800) BCE.

The southern region became dominated by the Hilversum culture (1800–800 BCE), which apparently inherited the previous Barbed Wire Beaker cultural ties with Britain. From 800 BCE onwards, the area was influenced by the Celtic Hallstatt culture.

The current view in the Netherlands holds that subsequent Iron Age innovations did not involve substantial Celtic intrusions, but featured a local development from Bronze Age culture.

In the final centuries BC, areas formerly occupied by the Elp culture emerge as the probably Germanic Harpstedt culture west of the Germanic Jastorf culture while the southern parts become assimilated to the Celtic La Tène culture, consistent with Julius Caesar’s account of the Rhine forming the boundary between Celtic and Germanic tribes.

Later, the Roman retreat resulted in the disappearance of imported products like ceramics and coins, and a return to virtually unchanged local Iron Age production methods. To the north people continued to live in the same three-aisled farmhouse, while to the east completely new types of buildings arose. More to the south, in Belgium, archeological results of this period point to immigration from the north.

With the onset of historical records (Tacitus, 1st century), the area was generally called the border region between Celtic (Gaulish) and Germanic influence.

Tribes located in the area include the Batavians, Belgae, Chatti, Hermunduri, Cheruscii, Sicambri, Usipi, Tencteri and Usipetes. Caesar took the course of the Rhine to be the boundary between Gauls and Germans, but also mentioned that a large part of the Belgae had ancestry from east of the Rhine, and one part were even known collectively as “Germani” (the so-called “Germani cisrhenani”). The Belgae were therefore considered Gaulish (and the Usipetes Germanic, etc.) because of their position with respect to the Rhine, and not in the modern linguistic sense of the terms.

The Linear Pottery culture is a major archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic, flourishing ca. 5500–4500 BC. It is abbreviated as LBK (from German: Linearbandkeramik), is also known as the Linear Band Ware, Linear Ware, Linear Ceramics or Incised Ware culture, and falls within the Danubian I culture of V. Gordon Childe.

The densest evidence for the culture is on the middle Danube, the upper and middle Elbe, and the upper and middle Rhine. It represents a major event in the initial spread of agriculture in Europe.

The pottery after which it was named consists of simple cups, bowls, vases and jugs, without handles, but in a later phase with lugs or pierced lugs, bases and necks. They were obviously designed as kitchen dishes, or for the immediate or local transport of food and liquids

Important sites include Nitra in Slovakia; Bylany in the Czech Republic; Langweiler and Zwenkau in Germany; Brunn am Gebirge in Austria; Elsloo, Sittard, Köln-Lindenthal, Aldenhoven, Flomborn and Rixheim on the Rhine; Lautereck and Hienheim on the upper Danube; Rössen and Sonderhausen on the middle Elbe.

Excavations at Oslonki in Poland (dating to 4300 B.C) (Late LBK) revealed a large fortified settlement covering an area of 4,000 sq m. Nearly thirty trapezoidal longhouses and over eighty graves make it one of the richest such settlements in archaeological finds from all of central Europe. The rectangular longhouses were between 7 and 45 meters long and between 5 and 7 meters wide. They were built of massive timber posts chinked with wattle and daub mortar.

Two variants of the early Linear Pottery culture are recognized:

  • The Early or Western Linear Pottery Culture developed on the middle Danube, including western Hungary, and was carried down the Rhine, Elbe, Oder and Vistula.
  • The Eastern Linear Pottery Culture flourished in eastern Hungary.

Middle and late phases are also defined. In the middle phase, the Early Linear Pottery Culture intruded upon the Bug-Dniester culture and began to manufacture Musical note pottery. In the late phase, the Stroked Pottery Culture moved down the Vistula and Elbe.

A number of cultures ultimately replaced the Linear Pottery culture over its range, but there is no one-to-one correspondence between its variants and the replacing cultures. The culture map instead is complex. Some of the successor cultures are the Hinkelstein, Großgartach, Rössen, Lengyel, Cucuteni-Trypillian, and Boian-Maritza.

A good many C-14 dates have been acquired on the LBK, making possible statistical analyses, which have been performed on different sample groups. One such analysis by Stadler and Lennais sets 68.2% confidence limits at about 5430–5040 BC; that is, 68.2% of possible dates allowed by variation of the major factors that influence measurement, calculation and calibration fall within that range. The 95.4% confidence interval is 5600–4750 BC.

Data continues to be acquired and therefore any one analysis should be taken as a rough guideline only. Overall it is probably safe to say that the Linear Pottery culture spanned several hundred years of continental European prehistory in the late 6th and early 5th millennia BC, with local variations. Data from Belgium indicate a late survival of LBK there, as late as 4100 BC.

The earliest theory of Linear Pottery Culture origin is that it came from the Starčevo-Körös culture of Serbia and Hungary. Supporting this view is the fact that the LBK appeared earliest ca. 5600–5400 BC on the middle Danube in the Starčevo range. Presumably, the expansion northwards of early Starčevo-Körös produced a local variant reaching the upper Tisza that may have well been created by contact with native epi-Paleolithic people. This small group began a new tradition of pottery, substituting engravings for the paintings of the Balkanic cultures.

A site at Brunn am Gebirge just south of Vienna seems to document the transition to LBK. The site was densely settled in a long house pattern approximately 5550–5200. The lower layers feature Starčevo-type plain pottery, with large number of stone tools made of material from near Lake Balaton, Hungary. Over the time frame, LBK pottery and animal husbandry increased, while the use of stone tools decreased.

The Linear Pottery Culture is not the only food-producing player on the stage of prehistoric Europe. It has been necessary therefore to distinguish between it and the Neolithic, which was most easily done by dividing the Neolithic of Europe into chronological phases. These have varied a great deal. An approximation is as follows:

  • Early Neolithic. 6000–5500. The first appearance of food-producing cultures in the south of the future Linear Pottery Culture range: the Körös of southern Hungary and the Bug-Dniester culture in the Ukraine.
  • Middle Neolithic. 5500–5000. Early and Middle Linear Pottery Culture.
  • Late Neolithic. 5000–4500. Late Linear Pottery and legacy cultures.

The last phase is no longer the end of the Neolithic. A “Final Neolithic” has been added to the transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. All numbers depend to some extent on the geographic region.

The pottery styles of the LBK allow some division of its window in time. Conceptual schemes have varied somewhat. One is as follows:

  • Early. The Eastern and Western LBK cultures, originating on the middle Danube.
  • Middle. Musical Note pottery. The incised lines of the decoration are broken or terminated by punctures, or “strokes”, giving the appearance of musical notes. The culture expanded to its maximum extent. Regional variants appeared. One variant is the late Bug-Dniester culture.
  • Late. Stroked pottery. Lines of punctures are substituted for the incised lines.

In 2005, scientists successfully sequenced mtDNA coding region 15997–16409 derived from 24 7,500-7,000 year-old, human remains associated with the LBK Culture. Of those remains 22 were from locations in Germany near the Harz Mountains and the upper Rhine Valley while one was from Austria and one from Hungary. The scientists did not reveal the detailed hypervariable segment I (HVSI) sequences for all the samples but identified that 7 of the samples belonged to H or V branch of the mtDNA phylogenetic tree, 6 belonged to the N1a branch, 5 belonged to the T branch, 4 belonged to the K(U8) branch, one belonged to the J branch, and one belonged to the U3 branch. All branches are extant in the current European population.

Comparison of the N1a HVSI sequences with sequences of living individuals found three of them to correspond with those of individuals currently living in Europe. Two of the sequences corresponded to ancestral nodes predicted to exist or to have existed on the European branch of the phylogenetic tree. One of the sequences is related to European populations but with no apparent descendants amongst the modern population. The N1a evidence supports the notion that the descendants of LBK culture have lived in Europe for more than 7,000 years and have become an integral part of the current European population. The lack of mtDNA haplogroup U5 supports the notion that U5 at this time is uniquely associated with mesolithic European cultures.

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

In the East

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The original home of the Persian colonists of Yehud

The Khabur River is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory. Although the Khabur originates in Turkey, the karstic springs around Ra’s al-’Ayn are the river’s main source of water. Several important wadis join the Khabur north of Al-Hasakah, together creating what is known as the Khabur Triangle, or Upper Khabur area. From north to south, annual rainfall in the Khabur basin decreases from over 400 mm to less than 200 mm, making the river a vital water source for agriculture throughout history. The Khabur joins the Euphrates near the town of Busayrah.

Since the 1930s, numerous archaeological excavations and surveys have been carried out in the Khabur Valley, indicating that the region has been occupied since the Lower Palaeolithic period. Important sites that have been excavated include Tell Halaf, Tell Brak, Tell Leilan, Tell Mashnaqa, Tell Mozan and Tell Barri. The region has given its name to a distinctive painted ware found in northern Mesopotamia and Syria in the early 2nd millennium BCE, called Khabur ware. The region of the Khabur River is also associated with the rise of the kingdom of the Mitanni that flourished c.1500-1300 BC.

The Northeast Caucasian languages constitute a language family spoken in the Russian republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, northern Azerbaijan, and in northeastern Georgia, as well as in diaspora populations in Russia, Turkey, and the Middle East. They are also called Nakho-Dagestanian / Nakh-Dagestanian or just Dagestanian (Daghestanian), or sometimes Caspian, as opposed to Pontic for the Northwest Caucasian languages.

Some linguists think that the Northeast and Northwest Caucasian languages should be joined into a putative North Caucasian family, sometimes called Caucasic or Caucasian (even though it is not meant to include the South Caucasian (Kartvelian) family). However, this hypothesis is not well demonstrated.

There are similarities between the Northeast Caucasian family and the extinct languages Hurrian and Urartian. Hurrian was spoken in various parts of the Fertile Crescent in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. Urartian was the language of Urartu, a powerful state centered in the area of Lake Van in Turkey, that existed between 1000 BC or earlier and 585 BC.

The two extinct languages have been grouped into the Hurro-Urartian family. Diakonoff proposed the name Alarodian for the union of Hurro-Urartian and Northeast Caucasian.

The Proto-Northeast Caucasian language had many terms for agriculture, and Johanna Nichols has suggested that its speakers may have been involved in the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. They had words for concepts such as yoke, as well as fruit trees such as apple and pear that suggest agriculture was already well developed when the proto-language broke up.

Halaf culture, is a prehistoric culture which developed from Neolithic III at Tell Halaf without any strong break. The Tell Halaf site flourished from about 6100 to 5400 BCE, a period of time that is referred to as the Halaf period. The Halaf culture was succeeded in northern Mesopotamia by the Ubaid culture. The site was then abandoned for a long 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 (Turkey) 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, (see also Impression seal). 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.

The Hurrians had a reputation in metallurgy. The Sumerians borrowed their copper terminology from the Hurrian vocabulary. Copper was traded south to Mesopotamia from the highlands of Anatolia. The Khabur Valley had a central position in the metal trade, and copper, silver and even tin were accessible from the Hurrian-dominated countries Kizzuwatna and Ishuwa situated in the Anatolian highland. Gold was in short supply, and the Amarna letters inform us that it was acquired from Egypt. Not many examples of Hurrian metal work have survived, except from the later Urartu. Some small fine bronze lion figurines were discovered at Urkesh.

Tell Arpachiyah (outside modern Mosul in Ninawa Governorate Iraq) is an Ancient Near East prehistoric site that takes its name from a more recent village located about 4 miles from Nineveh. The proper name of the mound on which the site is located is Tepe Reshwa.

The site was occupied in the Halaf and Ubaid periods. It appears to have been heavily involved in the manufacture of pottery. The pottery recovered there formed the basis of the internal chronology of the Halaf period. Several Halaf structures were uncovered, including tholoi and the “Burnt House”. An array of Halaf pottery and sealings were also found, along with some Ubaid burials.

Tell Leilan is an archaeological site situated near the Wadi Jarrah in the Khabur River basin in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria, a region formerly a part of ancient Assyria. The site has been occupied since the 5th millennium BC. During the late third millennium, the site was known as Shekhna. The city originated around 5000 BC as a small farming village and grew to be a large city ca. 2600 BC, three hundred years before the Akkadian Empire.

Khabur ware is a specific type of pottery named after the Khabur River region, in northeastern Syria, where large quantities of it were found by the archaeologist Max Mallowan at the site of Chagar Bazar. The pottery’s distribution is not confined to the Khabur region, but spreads across northern Iraq and is also found at a few sites in Turkey and Iran.

Four main Khabur ware phases are established, 1-4. While the starting date for phase 1 is inconclusive, a tentative date of ca. 1900 BC is suggested based on evidence from Tell Brak. The beginning of the second, and the main, phase of Khabur ware is dated to the reign of Shamshi-Adad I (ca. 1813 BC), based on evidence from Chagar Bazar, Tell al-Rimah, Tell Taya and Tell Leilan. The third phase of Khabur ware is dated to ca. 1750, and lasts until ca. 1550. The fourth and last phase, is a period shared between Khabur ware and Nuzi ware, and ends with the its disappearance ca. 1400 BC.

The pottery is wheel-made and decorated with monochrome designs in red, brown or black. The designs found on the pottery are combinations of simple motifs, usually geometric with horizontal bands, triangles and others. Naturalistic designs become more common in its later phases. Its final phase manifests jars with button bases and tall vertical necks, a form characteristic of the painted Nuzi ware, of the Late Bronze Age, which indicates an overlap between the two wares until the disappearance of the Khabur ware.

Nuzi (or Nuzu; Akkadian Gasur; modern Yorghan Tepe, Iraq) was an ancient Mesopotamian city southwest of Kirkuk in modern Al Ta’amim Governorate of Iraq, located near the Tigris river. The site consists of one medium sized multiperiod tell and two small single period mounds.

The history of the site during the intervening period is unclear, though the presence of a few cuneiform tables from Old Assyria indicates that trade with nearby Assur was taking place. After the fall of the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni to the Hittites, Nuzi fell to the Assyrians and went into decline. Note that while Hurrian period is well known because those levels of the site were fully excavated, the earlier history is less firm because of only scanty digging. The history of Nuzi is closely interrelated with that of the nearby towns of Eshnunna and Khafajah.

Hassuna or Tell Hassuna is an ancient Mesopotamian site situated in what was to become ancient Assyria, and is now in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq west of the Tigris river, south of Mosul and about 35 km southwest of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh.

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 (32,000 m2).

At Tell Hassuna, 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.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN, around 8,500-5,500 BCE) represents the early Neolithic in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent. It succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic) as the domestication of plants and animals was in its beginnings and triggered by the Younger Dryas. The Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture came to an end around the time of the 8.2 kiloyear event, a cool spell lasting several hundred years centred around 6200 BCE.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic is divided into Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA 8,500 BCE – 7,600 BCE) and the following Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB 7,600 BCE – 6,000 BCE). These were originally defined by Kathleen Kenyon in the type site of Jericho (Palestine). The Pre-Pottery Neolithic precedes the ceramic Neolithic (Yarmukian). At ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan the culture continued a few more centuries as the so-called Pre-Pottery Neolithic C culture.

Around 8,000 BCE during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) the world’s first town Jericho appeared in the Levant. PPNB differed from PPNA in showing greater use of domesticated animals, a different set of tools, and new architectural styles.

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 8200 years before the present, or c. 6200 BCE, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries. In the following Munhatta and Yarmukian post-pottery Neolithic cultures that succeeded it, rapid cultural development continues, although PPNB culture continued in the Amuq valley, where it influenced the later development of Ghassulian culture.

The semites

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Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period which lasted between 8200 and 7900 BP. Juris Zarins has proposed that a Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex developed in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BCE, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in PPNB cultures upon animal domesticates, and a fusion with Harifian hunter gatherers in Southern Palestine, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt, which spread Proto-Semitic languages through the region. Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into Southern Iraq.

As Harifian used the Outacha retouch point technique found earlier in the Fayyum, it has been suggested that Proto-Semitic may have come from Egypt across the Sinai. The climatic recovery during the Chalcolithic, led to the development of the secondary products revolution and the Ghassulian culture, pioneering the Mediterranean mixed economy with subsistence horticulture, extensive grain farming, commercial production of olives and wine, and nomadic transhumance pastoralism. The mix has varied historically with climate change. The Ghassulians are usually accepted as being early Semitic speakers.

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.

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

Ghassulian culture replaced the Minhata and Yarmukian culture, and seems to have developed in part from a fusion of Pre-Pottery Neolithic B in the Amuq Valley, with Minhata and nomadic pastoralists of the circum Arabian nomadic pastoral complex. It was associated with the Older Peron, which began in the 5000 BCE to 4900 BCE era, and lasted to about 4100 BCE, a period of generally clement and balmy weather conditions that favored plant growth.

The Ghassulian phase seems to have been formative for the Canaanite civilization – in which a chalcolithic structure pioneered a Mediterranean mixed economy, involving the intensive subsistence production of horticultural fruit and vegetables, extensive farming of grains and cereals, transhumance and nomadic pastoral systems of animal husbandry, and commercial production (as in Crete) of wine and olives.

The Sumerians

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The Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The tell (mound) of al-`Ubaid west of nearby Ur in southern Iraq’s Dhi Qar Governorate has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture, which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of southern Mesopotamia. The Ubaid culture had a long duration beginning before 5300 BC and lasting until the beginning of the Uruk period, c. 4000 BC. The adoption of the wheel and the beginning of the Chalcolithic period fall into the Ubaid period.

The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification and decreasing egalitarianism. Bogucki describes this as a phase of “Trans-egalitarian” competitive households, in which some fall behind as a result of downward social mobility. Morton Fried and Elman Service have hypothesised that Ubaid culture saw the rise of an elite class of hereditary chieftains, perhaps heads of kin groups linked in some way to the administration of the temple shrines and their granaries, responsible for mediating intra-group conflict and maintaining social order. It would seem that various collective methods, perhaps instances of what Thorkild Jacobsen called primitive democracy, in which disputes were previously resolved through a council of one’s peers, were no longer sufficient for the needs of the local community.

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.”

During the Ubaid Period [5000 B.C.– 4000 B.C.], 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.

Sāmarrā is a city in Iraq. It stands on the east bank of the Tigris in the Salah ad-Din Governorate, 125 kilometers (78 mi) north of Baghdad.

The remains of ancient Samarra were first excavated between 1911 and 1914 by the German Archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld. Since 1946, the notebooks, letters, unpublished excavation reports and photographs have been in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Though the present archaeological site covered by mudbrick ruins is vast, the site of Samarra was only lightly occupied in ancient times, apart from the Chalcolithic Samarran Culture (ca 5500–4800 BC) identified at the rich site of Tell Sawwan, where evidence of irrigation—including flax— establishes the presence of a prosperous settled culture with a highly organized social structure. The culture is primarily known by 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.

A city of Sur-marrati, refounded by Sennacherib in 690 BC according to a stele in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, is insecurely identified with a fortified Assyrian site of Assyrian at al-Huwaysh, on the Tigris opposite to modern Samarra.

Ancient toponyms for Samarra noted by the Samarra Archaeological Survey are Greek Souma (Ptolemy V.19, Zosimus III, 30), Latin Sumere, a fort mentioned during the retreat of the army of Julian the Apostate in 363 AD (Ammianus Marcellinus XXV, 6, 4), and Syriac Sumra (Hoffmann, Auszüge, 188; Michael the Syrian, III, 88), described as a village.

Sumer (from Akkadian Šumeru; Sumerian ki-en-ĝir, approximately “land of the civilized kings” or “native land”was an ancient civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq, during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age.

Although the earliest historical records in the region do not go back much further than ca. 2900 BC, modern historians have asserted that Sumer was first settled between ca. 4500 and 4000 BC by a non-Semitic people who may or may not have spoken the Sumerian language (pointing to the names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc. as evidence). These conjectured, prehistoric people are now called “proto-Euphrateans” or “Ubaidians”, and are theorized to have evolved from the Samarra culture of northern Mesopotamia (Assyria).

The Ubaidians were the first civilizing force in Sumer, draining the marshes for agriculture, developing trade, and establishing industries, including weaving, leatherwork, metalwork, masonry, and pottery. However, some scholars such as Piotr Michalowski and Gerd Steiner, contest the idea of a Proto-Euphratean language or one substrate language.

The Sumerians were a non-Semitic people, and spoke a language isolate; a number of linguists believed they could detect a substrate language beneath Sumerian, names of some of Sumer’s major cities are not Sumerian, revealing influences of earlier inhabitants. However, the archaeological record shows clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the Early Ubaid period (5300 – 4700 BC C-14) settlements in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerian people who settled here farmed the lands in this region that were made fertile by silt deposited by the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

It is speculated by some archaeologists that Sumerian speakers were farmers who moved down from the north, after perfecting irrigation agriculture there [note there is no consensus among scholars on the origins of the Sumerians]. The Ubaid pottery of southern Mesopotamia has been connected via Choga Mami Transitional ware to the pottery of the Samarra period culture (c. 5700 – 4900 BC C-14) in the north, who were the first to practice a primitive form of irrigation agriculture along the middle Tigris River and its tributaries. The connection is most clearly seen at Tell Awayli (Oueilli, Oueili) near Larsa, excavated by the French in the 1980s, where 8 levels yielded pre-Ubaid pottery resembling Samarran ware. Farming peoples spread down into southern Mesopotamia because they had developed a temple-centered social organization for mobilizing labor and technology for water control, enabling them to survive and prosper in a difficult environment.

Others have suggested a continuity of Sumerians, from the indigenous hunter-fisherfolk traditions, associated with the Arabian bifacial assemblages found on the Arabian littoral. The Sumerians themselves claimed kinship with the people of Dilmun, associated with Bahrein in the Persian Gulf. Juris Zarins has suggested that they may have been the people living in the region of the Persian Gulf before it flooded at the end of the Ice Age.

During the third millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism. The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the third millennium as a sprachbund.

Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate), but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia (Babylonia and Assyria) until the 1st century AD.

The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit.

Subartu was apparently a polity in Northern Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris. Most scholars accept Subartu as an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east, north or west of there. Its precise location has not been identified. From the point of view of the Akkadian Empire, Subartu marked the northern geographical horizon, just as Martu, Elam and Sumer marked “west”, “east” and “south”, respectively.

The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites). Similarly, the earliest references to the “four quarters” by the kings of Akkad name Subartu as one of these quarters around Akkad, along with Martu, Elam, and Sumer. Subartu in the earliest texts seem to have been farming mountain dwellers, frequently raided for slaves.

Eannatum of Lagash was said to have smitten Subartu or Shubur, and it was listed as a province of the empire of Lugal-Anne-Mundu; in a later era Sargon of Akkad campaigned against Subar, and his grandson Naram-Sin listed Subar along with Armani (Armenians), -which has been identified with Aleppo-, among the lands under his control. Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Hammurabi also claimed victories over Subar.

Three of the 14th century BC Amarna letters, Akkadian cuneiform correspondence found in Egypt, mention Subari as a toponym. All are addressed to Akenaten; in two (EA 108 and 109), Rib-Hadda, king of Byblos, complains that Abdi-Ashirta, ruler of Amurru, had sold captives to Subari, while another (EA 100), from the city of Irqata, also alludes to having transferred captured goods to Subari.

There is also a mention of “Subartu” in the 8th century BC Poem of Erra (IV, 132), along with other lands that have harassed Babylonia. In Neo-Babylonian times (under Nabopolassar, Nebuchadrezzar II and Nabonidus), Subartu was used as a generic term for Assyria. The term was still current under Cambyses II, who mentions Subarian captives.

Subartu may have been in the general sphere of influence of the Hurrians. There are various alternate theories associating the ancient Subartu with one or more modern cultures found in the region, including Armenian or Kurdish tribes. Some scholars, such as Harvard Professor Mehrdad Izady, claim to have identified Subartu with the current Kurdish tribe of Zibaris inhabiting the northern ring around Mosul up to Hakkari in Turkey.


Elam was an ancient civilization centered in the far west and southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of what is now Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq. The modern name Elam is a transcription from Biblical Hebrew, corresponding to the Sumerian elam(a), the Akkadian elamtu, and the Elamite haltamti. Elamite states were among the leading political forces of the ancient near east. In classical literature, Elam was more often referred to as Susiana, a name derived from its capital, Susa.

Situated just to the east of Mesopotamia, Elam was part of the early urbanization during the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age). The emergence of written records from around 3000 BC also parallels Mesopotamian history, where slightly earlier records have been found.

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 short lived Gutian Empire of the 22nd century BC, and from the 6th century BC, during the Persian Achaemenid dynasty that succeeded Elam, when the Elamite language remained among those in official use. Elamite is generally accepted to be a language isolate.

The Elamites called their country Haltamti, Sumerian ELAM, Akkadian Elamû, female Elamītu “resident of Susiana, Elamite”. Additionally, it is known as Elam in the Hebrew Bible, where they are called the offspring of Elam, eldest son of Shem (see Elam in the Bible; Genesis 10:22, Ezra 4:9), although in actuality the Elamites spoke a non-Semitic language isolate.

The high country of Elam was increasingly identified by its low-lying later capital, Susa. Geographers after Ptolemy called it Susiana. The Elamite civilization was primarily centered in the province of what is modern-day Khuzestān and Ilam in prehistoric times. The modern provincial name Khuzestān is derived from the Persian name for Susa: Old Persian Hūjiya “Elam”, in Middle Persian Huź “Susiana”, which gave modern Persian Xuz, compounded with -stån “place” (cf. Sistan “Saka-land”).

Knowledge of Elamite history remains largely fragmentary, reconstruction being based on mainly Mesopotamian (Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian) sources. The history of Elam is conventionally divided into three periods, spanning more than two millennia. The period before the first Elamite period is known as the proto-Elamite period:

  • Proto-Elamite: c. 3200 BC – 2700 BC (Proto-Elamite script in Susa)
  • Old Elamite period: c. 2700 BC – 1600 BC (earliest documents until the Eparti dynasty)
  • Middle Elamite period: c. 1500 BC – 1100 BC (Anzanite dynasty until the Babylonian invasion of Susa)
  • Neo-Elamite period: c. 1100 BC – 539 BC (characterized Assyrian and Median influence. 539 BC marks the beginning of the Achaemenid period)

Proto-Elamite civilization grew up east of the Tigris and Euphrates alluvial plains; it was a combination of the lowlands and the immediate highland areas to the north and east. At least three proto-Elamite states merged to form Elam: Anshan (modern Fars), Awan (probably modern Luristan), and Shimashki (modern Kerman).

References to Awan are generally older than those to Anshan, and some scholars suggest that both states encompassed the same territory, in different eras. To this core Shushiana (modern Khuzestan) was periodically annexed and broken off. In addition, some Proto-Elamite sites are found well outside this area, spread out on the Iranian plateau; such as Warakshe, Sialk (now a suburb of the modern city of Kashan) and Jiroft in Kerman Province.

The state of Elam was formed from these lesser states as a response to invasion from Sumer during the Old Elamite period. Elamite strength was based on an ability to hold these various areas together under a coordinated government that permitted the maximum interchange of the natural resources unique to each region. Traditionally, this was done through a federated governmental structure.

The Proto-Elamite city of Susa was founded around 4000 BC in the watershed of the river Karun. It is considered to be the site of Proto-Elamite cultural formation. During its early history, it fluctuated between submission to Mesopotamian and Elamite power.

The earliest levels (22–17 in the excavations conducted by Le Brun, 1978) exhibit pottery that has no equivalent in Mesopotamia, but for the succeeding period, the excavated material allows identification with the culture of Sumer of the Uruk period.

Proto-Elamite influence from the Persian plateau in Susa becomes visible from about 3200 BC, and texts in the still undeciphered Proto-Elamite writing system continue to be present until about 2700 BC. The Proto-Elamite period ends with the establishment of the Awan dynasty.

The earliest known historical figure connected with Elam is the king Enmebaragesi of Kish (c. 2650 BC?), who subdued it, according to the Sumerian king list. Elamite history can only be traced from records dating to beginning of the Akkadian Empire in around 2300 BC onwards.

The Proto-Elamite states in Jiroft and Zabol, present a special case because of their great antiquity. Archaeologists have suggested that a close relationship between the Jiroft civilisation and the Elamite civilisation is evidenced by striking similarities in art and culture, as well as by Elamite language writings found in Jiroft—possibly extending the Elamite presence to as early as 7000 BC.

The Old Elamite period began around 2700 BC. Historical records mention the conquest of Elam by Enmebaragesi the Sumerian king of Kish in Mesopotamia. Three dynasties ruled during this period. We know of twelve kings of each of the first two dynasties, those of Awan (or Avan; c. 2400–2100 BC) and Simash (c. 2100–1970 BC), from a list from Susa dating to the Old Babylonian period. Two Elamite dynasties said to have exercised brief control over parts of Sumer in very early times include Awan and Hamazi; and likewise, several of the stronger Sumerian rulers, such as Eannatum of Lagash and Lugal-anne-mundu of Adab, are recorded as temporarily dominating Elam.

The Avan dynasty was partly contemporary with that of the Mesopotamian emperor Sargon of Akkad, who not only defeated the Awan king Luhi-ishan and subjected Susa, but attempted to make Akkadian the official language there. From this time, Mesopotamian sources concerning Elam become more frequent, since the Mesopotamians had developed an interest in resources (such as wood, stone, and metal) from the Iranian plateau, and military expeditions to the area became more common. With the collapse of Akkad under Sargon’s great great-grandson, Shar-kali-sharri, Elam declared independence under the last Avan king, Kutik-Inshushinak (c. 2240–2220 BC), and threw off the Akkadian language, promoting in its place the brief Linear Elamite script. Kutik-Inshushinnak conquered Susa and Anshan, and seems to have achieved some sort of political unity. Following his reign, the Awan dynasty collapsed as Elam was temporarily overrun by the Guti, a people speaking a Language Isolate, from what is now north west Iran.

About a century later, the Sumerian king, Shulgi of Ur retook the city of Susa and the surrounding region. During the first part of the rule of the Simashki dynasty, Elam was under intermittent attack from Mesopotamians and Gutians, alternating with periods of peace and diplomatic approaches. Shu-Sin of Ur, for example, gave one of his daughters in marriage to a prince of Anshan. But the power of the Sumerians was waning; Ibbi-Sin in the 21st century did not manage to penetrate far into Elam, and in 2004 BC, the Elamites, allied with the people of Susa and led by king Kindattu, the sixth king of Simashk, managed to sack Ur and lead Ibbi-Sin into captivity—thus ending the third dynasty of Ur. The Akkadian kings of Isin, successor state to Ur, did manage to drive the Elamites out of Ur, rebuild the city, and to return the statue of Nanna that the Elamites had plundered. The succeeding dynasty, the Eparti (c. 1970–1770 BC), also called “of the sukkalmahs” because of the title borne by its members, was contemporary with the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia. This period is confusing and difficult to reconstruct. It was apparently founded by Eparti I. During this time, Susa was under Elamite control, but Mesopotamian states such as Larsa continually tried to retake the city. Around 1850 BC Kudur-mabug, apparently king of another Akkadian state to the north of Larsa, managed to install his son, Warad-Sin, on the throne of Larsa, and Warad-Sin’s brother, Rim-Sin, succeeded him and conquered much of southern Mesopotamia for Larsa.

Notable Eparti dynasty rulers in Elam during this time include Sirukdukh (c. 1850 BC), who entered various military coalitions to contain the power of the Mesopotamian states; Siwe-Palar-Khuppak, who for some time was the most powerful person in the area, respectfully addressed as “Father” by Mesopotamian kings such as Zimrilim of Mari, and even Hammurabi of Babylon, and Kudur-Nahhunte, who plundered the temples of Akkad. But Elamite influence in Mesopotamia did not last. Around 1760 BC, Hammurabi drove out the Elamites, overthrew Rim-Sin of Larsa, and established Babylonian dominance in Mesopotamia. Little is known about the latter part of this dynasty, since sources again become sparse with the Kassite rule of Babylon (from c. 1595 BC).

The Middle Elamite period began with the rise of the Anshanite dynasties around 1500 BC. Their rule was characterized by an “Elamisation” of Susa, and the kings took the title “king of Anshan and Susa”. While the first of these dynasties, the Kidinuids continued to use the Akkadian language frequently in their inscriptions, the succeeding Igihalkids and Shutrukids used Elamite with increasing regularity. Likewise, Elamite language and culture grew in importance in Susiana. The Kidinuids (c. 1500–1400) are a group of five rulers of uncertain affiliation. They are identified by their use of the older title, “king of Susa and of Anshan”, and by calling themselves “servant of Kirwashir”, an Elamite deity, thereby introducing the pantheon of the highlands to Susiana.

Elamite is traditionally thought to be a language isolate, and completely unrelated to the neighbouring Semitic, Sumerian (also an Isolate), and the later Indo-European Iranian languages that came to dominate the region. It was written in a cuneiform adapted from the Semitic Akkadian script of Assyria and Babylonia, although the very earliest documents were written in the quite different “Linear Elamite” script.

In 2006, two even older inscriptions in a similar script were discovered at Jiroft to the east of Elam, leading archaeologists to speculate that Linear Elamite had originally spread from further east to Susa. It seems to have developed from an even earlier writing known as “proto-Elamite”, but scholars are not unanimous on whether or not this script was used to write Elamite or another language, and it has not yet been deciphered. Several stages of the language are attested; the earliest date back to the third millennium BC, the latest to the Achaemenid Empire.

Proto-Elamite is the oldest known writing system from Iran. It was used during a brief period of time (ca. 3100 – 2900 BC); clay tablets with Proto-Elamite writing have been found at different sites across Iran. The Proto-Elamite script is thought to have developed from early cuneiform (proto-cuneiform). The Proto-Elamite script consists of more than 1,000 signs and is thought to be partly logographic. Since it has not yet been deciphered, it is not known whether the language it represents is Elamite or another language. It has been suggested[who?] that some early writing systems, including Proto-Elamite, may not relate to spoken languages in the way that modern writing systems do.

Linear Elamite is a writing system from Iran attested in a few monumental inscriptions only. It is often claimed that Linear Elamite is a syllabic writing system derived from Proto-Elamite, although this cannot be proven. Linear Elamite was used for a very brief period of time during the last quarter of the third millennium BC. Linear-Elamite has not been deciphered. Several scholars have attempted to decipher Linear Elamite, most notably Walther Hinz and Piero Meriggi.

The Elamite Cuneiform script was used from about 2500 to 331 BC, and was adapted from the Akkadian Cuneiform. The Elamite Cuneiform script consisted of about 130 symbols, far fewer than most other cuneiform scripts.

The Elamites practised polytheism. Knowledge about their religion is scant, but at one point they had a pantheon of gods headed by the sky god Khumban. Other deities included the goddess Kiririsha and the gods Inshushinak and Jabru. Inshushinak (In-shushi-nak – An-Susa-Nakh) was one of the major gods of the Elamites and the protector deity of Susa. The ziggurat at Choqa Zanbil is dedicated to him.

Khumban is the Elamite god of the sky. His sumerian equivalent is Anu. Several Elamite kings, mostly from the Neo-Elamite period, were named in honour of Khumban. Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky), and father of the storm-god Teshub. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, and by the Ugaritians with El.

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.

In Akkadian mythology Humbaba (Assyrian spelling) or Huwawa (Sumerian spelling), 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.

Elymais or Elamais (Graecized form of the more ancient name, Elam) was a semi-independent state of the 2nd century BC to the early 3rd century AD, frequently a vassalary under Parthian control, and located at the head of the Persian Gulf in the present-day region of Khuzestan, Iran (Susiana). It was reportedly these people were great archers and natives of Susa, which lies to the east of Elymais territory. Most of the Elymais were probably descendants of the ancient Elamites, who once had control of that area in the past. The provinces of Elymais were Massabatice (later Masabadhan), Corbiane and Gabiane.

Nothing is known of their language, even though “Elamite” was still used by the Achaemenid Empire 250 years before the Elymais came into existence. A number of Aramaic inscriptions are found in Elymais. The kingdom of Elymais survived until its extinction by Sassanid invasion in early 3rd century AD.

A “Jiroft culture” has been postulated as an early Bronze Age (late 3rd millennium BC) archaeological culture, located in what is now Iran’s Sistan and Kermān Provinces. The hypothesis is based on a collection of artifacts that were confiscated in Iran and accepted by many to have derived from the Jiroft area in south central Iran, reported by online Iranian news services, beginning in 2001.

The proposed type site is Konar Sandal, near Jiroft in the Halil River area. Other significant sites associated with the culture include; Shahr-e Sukhteh (Burnt City), Tepe Bampur, Espiedej, Shahdad, Tal-i-Iblis and Tepe Yahya.

The proposition of grouping these sites as an “independent Bronze Age civilization with its own architecture and language”, intermediate between Elam to the west and the Indus Valley Civilization to the east, is due to Yousef Majidzadeh, head of the archaeological excavation team in Jiroft. He speculates they may be the remains of the lost Aratta Kingdom, but his conclusions have met with skepticism from some reviewers. Other conjectures (e.g. Daniel T. Potts, Piotr Steinkeller) have connected the Konar Sandal with the obscure city-state of Marhashi, that apparently lay to the east of Elam proper.

Many artifacts associated with Jiroft were recovered from looters described as “destitute villagers” who had scavenged the area south of Jiroft before 2001, when a team led by Yousef Majidzadeh began excavations. The team uncovered more than two square kilometers of remains from a city dating back to at least the late 3rd millennium BC.

The looted artifacts and some vessels recovered by the excavators were of the so-called “intercultural style” type of pottery known from Mesopotamia and the Iranian Plateau, and since the 1960s from nearby Tepe Yahya in Baft. The “Jiroft civilization” hypothesis proposes that this “intercultural style” is in fact the distinctive style of a previously unknown, long-lived civilization.

This is not universally accepted. Archaeologist Oscar Muscarella of the Metropolitan Museum of Art criticizes that the excavators resorted to sensationalist announcements while being more slow in publishing scholarly reports, and their claims that the site’s stratigraphy shows continuity into the 4th millennium as overly optimistic. Muscarella does nevertheless acknowledge the importance of the site.

One of the most notable archaeological excavations done in Kerman Province was one done by a group led by Professor Joseph Caldwell from Illinois State Museum in 1966 (Tal-i-Iblis) and Lamberg-Karlovsky from Harvard University in 1967 (Tepe Yahya Sogan Valley, Dolatabad). Archeological excavations in Jiroft led to the discovery of several objects belonging to the fourth millennium BC.

According to Majidzadeh, geophysical operations by French experts in the region indicate the existence at least 10 historical and archaeological periods in the region belonging to different civilizations who lived in this area during different periods of time in history. According to the French experts who studied this area, the evidence remained from these civilizations may be traced up to 11 metres under the ground. “What is obvious is that the evidence of Tal-i-Iblis culture in Bardsir can be traced in all parts of the region. Tal-i-Iblis culture, known as Ali Abad period (fourth millennium BC) was revealed by Joseph R. Caldwell, American archaeologist,” said Majidzadeh.

Shahr-e Sūkhté, meaning “[The] Burnt City”), also spelled as Shahr-e Sukhteh and Shahr-i Shōkhta, is an archaeological site of a sizable Bronze Age urban settlement, associated with the Jiroft culture. It is located in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, the southeastern part of Iran, on the bank of the Helmand River, near the Zahedan-Zabol road. A proposal is submitted to include it in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

The reasons for the unexpected rise and fall of the Burnt City are still wrapped in mystery. Artifacts recovered from the city demonstrate a peculiar incongruity with nearby civilizations of the time and it has been speculated that Shahr-e-Sookhteh might ultimately provide concrete evidence of a civilization east of prehistoric Persia that was independent of ancient Mesopotamia.

Konar Sandal is a Bronze Age archaeological site, situated just south of Jiroft, Kermān Province, Iran. It consists of two mounds a few kilometers apart, called Konar Sandal A and B with a height of 13 and 21 meters, respectively. At Konar Sandal B, a two-story, windowed citadel with a base of close to 13.5 hectares was found.

The site is associated with the hypothesized “Jiroft culture”, a 3rd millennium BC culture postulated on the basis of a collection of artifacts confiscated in 2001.

Marhaši (Mar-ḫa-ši) in earlier sources Waraḫše) was a 3rd millennium BC polity situated east of Elam, on the Iranian plateau. It is known from Mesopotamian sources, and its precise location has not been identified. An inscription attributed to Lugal-Anne-Mundu of Adab (albeit in much later copies) mentions it among the seven provinces of his empire, between the names of Elam and Gutium. This inscription also recorded that he confronted their governor (ensi), Migir-Enlil of Marhashi, who had led a coalition of 13 rebel chiefs against him.

Sentral Asia – India

File:Mohenjo-daro Priesterkönig.jpeg

Indus civilization map

Haplogroup J2 is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. Its present geographic distribution argue in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent. This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE) from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of agriculture in the Levant (which seems to have been linked to haplogroup G and perhaps also E1b1b). A second expansion of J2 could have occured with the advent of metallurgy (also from Anatolia and Mesopotamia) and the rise of some of the oldest civilisations.

Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. This is the case of the Hattians, the Hurrians, the Etruscans, the Minoans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and their Carthaginian offshoot), the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.

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

The presence of Haplogroup J2 in India, including the subclades M410 and M241 has been an often overlooked clue to the origins of M172. Sengupta et al, in 2005 worked to explain the presence of M172 in India. Their paper provides an immediate acknowledgement of the proposed spread of proto-Elamo-Dravidian speaking peoples into India originating from the Indus Valley and southwest Persia.

The idea that M172 may have been carried into India with proto-Elamo-Dravidian groups is supported by the frequencies of Haplogroup J in one of the only remaining Dravidian Speaking ethnic groups in the Iranian Plateau, the Brahui. 28% of the Brahui, an ethnic Dravidian speaking group from Western Pakistan were found to carry the mutation defining Haplogroup J. Overall Haplogroup J2 in India represented 9.1% of this very populous nation.

In Pakistan, M172 accounted for 11.9% of the Y-Chromosomes typed. Sengupta’s paper broke down the frequencies of Haplogroup J2 into various caste and language groups. J2 was found to be significantly higher among Dravidian castes at 19% than among Indo-European castes at 11%.

J2a-M410 in particular may be a strong candidate for a proposed migration of proto-Dravidian peoples from the Iranian Plateau or the Indus Valley since J2a M410 is a very high component of the haplogroup J2 chromosomes found in Pakistan. Over 71% of the M172 found in Pakistan was M410+.

Another interesting characteristic in the distribution of M172 and more specifically, M410, in India was its higher frequencies in Upper Caste Dravidians. M410+ chromosomes were found in 13% of Upper Caste Dravidians. Sengupta goes on to suggest an Indian origin of Dravidian speakers but from a Y chromosome perspective, the paper seems to acknowledge M172 arriving in India from Middle Eastern and Indus Valley Civilizations.

Despite an apparent exogenous frequency spread pattern of J2a toward North and Central India from the west, it is premature to attribute the spread to a simplistic demic expansion of early agriculturists from the Middle East….it may also reflect subsequent Bronze Age Harappans of uncertain provenance.

Subclades of M172 such as M67 and M92 were not found in either Indian or Pakistani samples which also might hint at a partial common origin. And while there may be multiple events and origins for M172 lineages in India, it does seem likely that the Indus Valley and Elamo-Dravidian speaking groups may be the origin of some of the M172 found in India today.

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

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilization (3300–1300 BCE; mature period 2600–1900 BCE) that was located in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of what is now mainly present-day Pakistan and northwest India. Flourishing around the Indus River basin, the civilization extended east into the Ghaggar-Hakra River valley and the upper reaches Ganges-Yamuna Doab; it extended west to the Makran coast of Balochistan, north to northeastern Afghanistan and south to Daimabad in Maharashtra. The civilization was spread over some 1,260,000 km², making it the largest known ancient civilization.

The Indus Valley is one of the world’s earliest urban civilizations, along with its contemporaries, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. At its peak, the Indus Civilization may have had a population of well over five million. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley developed new techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin). The civilization is noted for its cities built of brick, roadside drainage system, and multistoried houses.

The Indus Valley Civilization is also known as the Harappan Civilization, as the first of its cities to be unearthed was located at Harappa, excavated in the 1920s in what was at the time the Punjab province of British India (now in Pakistan). Excavation of Harappan sites has been ongoing since 1920, with important breakthroughs occurring as recently as 1999. There were earlier and later cultures, often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan, in the same area of the Harappan Civilization. The Harappan civilisation is sometimes called the Mature Harappan culture to distinguish it from these cultures. Up to 1999, over 1,056 cities and settlements have been found, out of which 96 have been excavated, mainly in the general region of the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra river and its tributaries. Among the settlements were the major urban centres of Harappa, Lothal, Mohenjo-daro (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Dholavira, Kalibanga, and Rakhigarhi.

The Harappan language is not directly attested and its affiliation is uncertain since the Indus script is still undeciphered. A relationship with the Dravidian or Elamo-Dravidian language family is favored by a section of scholars.

The IVC has been tentatively identified with the toponym Meluhha known from Sumerian records. It has been compared in particular with the civilizations of Elam (also in the context of the Elamo-Dravidian hypothesis) and with Minoan Crete (because of isolated cultural parallels such as the ubiquitous goddess worship and depictions of bull-leaping). The mature (Harappan) phase of the IVC is contemporary to the Early to Middle Bronze Age in the Ancient Near East, in particular the Old Elamite period, Early Dynastic to Ur III Mesopotamia, Prepalatial Minoan Crete and Old Kingdom to First Intermediate Period Egypt.

After the discovery of the IVC in the 1920s, it was immediately associated with the indigenous Dasyu inimical to the Rigvedic tribes in numerous hymns of the Rigveda. Mortimer Wheeler interpreted the presence of many unburied corpses found in the top levels of Mohenjo-Daro as the victims of a warlike conquest, and famously stated that “Indra stands accused” of the destruction of the IVC. The association of the IVC with the city-dwelling Dasyus remains alluring because the assumed timeframe of the first Indo-Aryan migration into India corresponds neatly with the period of decline of the IVC seen in the archaeological record. The discovery of the advanced, urban IVC however changed the 19th century view of early Indo-Aryan migration as an “invasion” of an advanced culture at the expense of a “primitive” aboriginal population to a gradual acculturation of nomadic “barbarians” on an advanced urban civilization, comparable to the Germanic migrations after the Fall of Rome, or the Kassite invasion of Babylonia. This move away from simplistic “invasionist” scenarios parallels similar developments in thinking about language transfer and population movement in general, such as in the case of the migration of the proto-Greek speakers into Greece, or the Indo-Europeanization of Western Europe.

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). Its sites were discovered and named by the Soviet archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi (1976). Bactria was the Greek name for the area of Bactra (modern Balkh), in what is now northern Afghanistan, and Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Margu, the capital of which was Merv, in modern-day southeastern Turkmenistan.

Sarianidi’s excavations from the late 1970s onward revealed numerous monumental structures in many sites, fortified by impressive walls and gates. Reports on the BMAC were mostly confined to Soviet journals, until the last years of the Soviet Union, so the findings were largely unknown to the West until Sarianidi’s work began to be translated in the 1990s.

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

At Jeitun (or Djeitun) mudbrick houses were first occupied c. 6000 cal. BCE. These farming people were herding domesticated goats and sheep and growing wheat and barley, all with origins in South-West Asia. Jeitun has given its name to the whole Neolithic of the northern foothills of the Kopet Dag. At the late Neolithic site of Chagylly Depe, farmers increasingly grew crops associated with irrigation in an arid environment, such as hexaploid bread wheat, which became predominant in the Chalcolithic.

During the Copper Age there was a growth of population in this region. Vadim Mikhaĭlovich Masson, who led the South Turkmenistan Complex Archaeological Expedition from 1946, sees signs of a movement from Central Iran at this time, bringing metallurgy and other innovations, but feels that the newcomers soon blended with the Jeitun farmers. By contrast a re-excavation of Monjukli Depe in 2010 found a distinct break in settlement history between the late Neolithic and early Chalcolithic eras there.

Major Chalcolithic settlements sprang up at Kara-Depe and Namazga-Depe. In addition there were smaller settlements at Anau, Dashlyji and Yassy-depe. Settlements similar to the early level at Anau also appeared further east – in the ancient Delta of the River Tedzen, the site of the Geoksiur Oasis. About 3500 BCE the cultural unity of the culture split into two pottery styles: colourful in the west (Anau, Kara-Depe and Namazga-Depe) and more austere in the east at Altyn-Depe and the Geoksiur Oasis settlements. This may reflect the formation of two tribal groups. Around 3000 BCE it seems that people from Geoksiur migrated into the Murghab Delta, where small, scattered settlements appeared, and reached further east into the Zerafshan Valley in Transoxiana. In both areas pottery typical of Geoksiur was in use. In Transoxiana they settled at Sarazm near Pendjikent. To the south the foundation layers of Shahr-i Shōkhta on the bank of the Helmand River in south-eastern Iran contained pottery of the Altyn-Depe and Geoksiur type. Thus the farmers of Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan were connected by a scattering of farming settlements.

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 BCE, corresponding to level V at Namazga-Depe. It is this Bronze Age culture which has been given the BMAC name.

The inhabitants of the BMAC were sedentary people who practised irrigation farming of wheat and barley. With their impressive material culture including monumental architecture, bronze tools, ceramics, and jewellery of semiprecious stones, the complex exhibits many of the hallmarks of civilization. The complex can be compared to proto-urban settlements in the Helmand basin at Mundigak in western Afghanistan and Shahr-i Shōkhta in eastern Iran, or at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley.

Sarianidi regards Gonur as the “capital” of the complex in Margiana throughout the Bronze Age. The palace of North Gonur measures 150 metres by 140 metres, the temple at Togolok 140 metres by 100 metres, the fort at Kelleli 3 125 metres by 125 metres, and the house of a local ruler at Adji Kui 25 metres by 25 metres. Each of these formidable structures has been extensively excavated. While they all have impressive fortification walls, gates, and buttresses, it is not always clear why one structure is identified as a temple and another as a palace. Mallory points out that the BMAC fortified settlements such as Gonur and Togolok resemble the qala, the type of fort known in this region in the historical period. They may be circular or rectangular and have up to three encircling walls. Within the forts are residential quarters, workshops and temples.

Models of two-wheeled carts from c. 3000 BCE found at Altyn-Depe are the earliest complete evidence of wheeled transport in Central Asia, though model wheels have come from contexts possibly somewhat earlier. Judging by the type of harness, carts were initially pulled by oxen, or a bull. However camels were domesticated within the BMAC. A model of a cart drawn by a camel of c. 2200 BCE was found at Altyn-Depe.

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.

There is evidence of sustained contact between the BMAC and the Eurasian steppes to the north, intensifying c. 2000 BCE. In the delta of the River Amu Darya where it reaches the Aral Sea, its waters were channeled for irrigation agriculture by people whose remains resemble those of the nomads of the Andronovo Culture. This is interpreted as nomads settling down to agriculture, after contact with the BMAC. The culture they created is known as Tazabag’yad. About 1800 BCE the walled BMAC centres decreased sharply in size. Each oasis developed its own types of pottery and other objects. Also pottery of the Andronovo-Tazabag’yab culture to the north appeared widely in the Bactrian and Margian countryside. Many BMAC strongholds continued to be occupied and Andronovo-Tazabagyab coarse incised pottery occurs within them (along with the previous BMAC pottery) as well as in pastoral camps outside the mudbrick walls. In the highlands above the Bactrian oases in Tajikistan, kurgan cemeteries of the Vaksh and Bishkent type appeared with pottery that mixed elements of the late BMAC and Andronovo-Tazabagyab traditions.

As argued by Michael Witzel and Alexander Lubotsky, there is a proposed substratum in Proto-Indo-Iranian which can be plausibly identified with the original language of the BMAC. Moreover, Lubotsky points out a larger number of words apparently borrowed from the same language, which are only attested in Indo-Aryan and therefore evidence of a substratum in Vedic Sanskrit. Some BMAC words have now also been found in Tocharian. Michael Witzel points out that the borrowed vocabulary includes words from agriculture, village and town life, flora and fauna, ritual and religion, so providing evidence for the acculturation of Indo-Iranian speakers into the world of urban civilization.

Archaeological cultures associated with Indo-Iranian migrations (after EIEC). The Andronovo, BMAC and Yaz cultures have often been associated with Indo-Iranian migrations. The GGC, Cemetery H, Copper Hoard and PGW cultures are candidates for cultures associated with Indo-Aryan migrations.

The Bactria-Margiana complex has attracted attention as a candidate for those looking for the material counterparts to the Indo-Iranians, a major linguistic branch that split off from the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Sarianidi himself advocates identifying the complex as Indo-Iranian, describing it as the result of a migration from southeastern Iran. Bactrian Margiana material has been found at Susa, Shahdad, and Tepe Yahya in Iran, but Lamberg-Karlovsky does not see this as evidence that the complex originated in southeastern Iran. “The limited materials of this complex are intrusive in each of the sites on the Iranian Plateau as they are in sites of the Arabian peninsula.”

Western archaeologists are more inclined to see the culture as begun by farmers in the Near Eastern Neolithic tradition, but infiltrated by Indo-Iranian speakers from the Andronovo culture in its late phase, creating a hybrid. In this perspective, Proto-Indo-Aryan developed within the composite culture before moving south into the Indian subcontinent. As James P. Mallory phrased it

It has become increasingly clear that if one wishes to argue for Indo-Iranian migrations from the steppe lands south into the historical seats of the Iranians and Indo-Aryans that these steppe cultures were transformed as they passed through a membrane of Central Asian urbanism. The fact that typical steppe wares are found on BMAC sites and that intrusive BMAC material is subsequently found further to the south in Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, India and Pakistan, may suggest then the subsequent movement of Indo-Iranian-speakers after they had adopted the culture of the BMAC.

However, eminent archaeologists like B. B. Lal have seriously questioned the BMAC and Indo-Iranian connection, and thoroughly disputed the proclaimed relations.

While others maintain there is insufficient evidence for any ethnic or linguistic identification of the BMAC solely based on material remains, in the absence of written records.

Vedic Sanskrit has a number of linguistic features which are alien to most other Indo-European languages. Prominent examples include: phonologically, the introduction of retroflexes, which alternate with dentals; morphologically, the formation of gerunds; and syntactically, the use of a quotative marker (“iti”). Such features, as well as the presence of non-Indo-European vocabulary, are attributed to a local substratum of languages encountered by Indo-Aryan peoples in Central Asia and within the Indian subcontinent.

A substantial body of loanwords has been identified in the earliest Indian texts. Non-Indo-Aryan elements (such as -s- following -u- in Rigvedic busa) are clearly in evidence. While some loanwords are from Dravidian, and other forms are traceable to Munda[2] or Proto-Burushaski, the bulk have no sensible basis in any of these families, suggesting a source in one or more lost languages. The discovery that some loan words from one of these lost sources had also been preserved in the earliest Iranian texts, and also in Tocharian convinced Michael Witzel and Alexander Lubotsky that the source lay in Central Asia and could be associated with the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC). Another lost language is that of the Indus Valley Civilization, which Witzel initially labelled Para-Munda, but later the Kubhā-Vipāś substrate.

Retroflex phonemes are now found throughout the Burushaski, Nuristani, Dravidian and Munda families. They are reconstructed for proto-Burushaski, proto-Dravidian and (to a minimal extent) for proto-Munda, and are thus clearly an areal feature of the Indian subcontinent. They are not reconstructible for either Proto-Indo-European or Proto-Indo-Iranian, and they are also not found in Mitanni-Indo-Aryan loan words.

The acquisition of the phonological trait by early Indo-Aryan is thus unsurprising, but it does not immediately permit identification of the donor language. Since the adoption of a retroflex series does not affect poetic meter, it is impossible to say if it predates the early portions of the Rigveda or was a part of Indo-Aryan when the Rigvedic verses were being composed; however, it is certain that at the time of the redaction of the Rigveda (ca. 500 BC), the retroflex series had become part of Sanskrit phonology. There is a clear predominance of retroflexion in the Northwest (Nuristani, Dardic, Khotanese Saka, Burushaski), involving affricates, sibilants and even vowels (in Kalasha), compared to other parts of the subcontinent. It has been suggested that this points to the regional, northwestern origin of the phenomenon in Rigvedic Sanskrit.

Bertil Tikkanen is open to the idea that various syntactical developments in Indo-Aryan could have been the result of adstratum rather than the result of substrate influences. However Tikkanen states that “in view of the strictly areal implications of retroflexion and the occurrence of retroflexes in many early loanwords, it is hardly likely that Indo-Aryan retroflexion arose in a region that did not have a substratum with retroflexes.”

In 1955 Burrow listed some 500 words in Sanskrit that he considered to be loans from non-Indo-European languages. He noted that in the earliest form of the language such words are comparatively few, but they progressively become more numerous. Though mentioning the likelihood that one source was lost Indian languages extinguished by the advance of Indo-Aryan, he concentrated on finding loans from Dravidian. Kuiper identified 383 specifically Ṛgvedic words as non-Indo-Aryan — roughly 4% of its vocabulary. Oberlies prefers to consider 344-358 “secure” non-Indo European words in the Rigveda. Even if all local non-Indo-Aryan names of persons and places are subtracted from Kuiper’s list, that still leaves some 211-250 “foreign” words, around 2% of the total vocabulary of the Rigveda.

These loanwords cover local flora and fauna, agriculture and artisanship, terms of toilette, clothing and household. Dancing and music are particularly prominent, and there are some items of religion and beliefs. They only reflect village life, and not the intricate civilization of the Indus cities, befitting a post-Harappan time frame. In particular Indo-Aryan words for plants stem in large part from other language families, especially from the now lost substrate languages.

Mayrhofer identified a “prefixing” language as the source of many non-Indo-European words in the Rigveda, based on recurring prefixes like ka- or ki-, that have been compared by Michael Witzel to the Munda prefix k- for designation of persons, and the plural prefix ki seen in Khasi, though he notes that in Vedic, k- also applies to items merely connected with humans and animals.

Witzel remarks that these words span all of local village life. He considers that they were drawn from the lost language of the northern Indus Civilization and its Neolithic predecessors. As they abound in Austroasiatic-like prefixes, he initially chose to call it Para-Munda, but later the Kubhā-Vipāś substrate.

The Indo-Europeanist and Indologist Thieme has questioned Dravidian etymologies proposed for Vedic words, most of which he gives Indo-Aryan or Sanskrit etymologies, and condemned what he characterizes as a misplaced “zeal for hunting up Dravidian loans in Sanskrit”. Das even contended that there is “not a single case” in which a communis opinio has been found confirming the foreign origin of a Rigvedic word”. Kuiper answered that charge. Burrow in turn has criticized the “resort to tortuous reconstructions in order to find, by hook or by crook, Indo-European explanations for Sanskrit words”. Kuiper reasons that given the abundance of Indo-European comparative material — and the scarcity of Dravidian or Munda — the inability to clearly confirm whether the etymology of a Vedic word is Indo-European implies that it is not.

Colin Masica could not find etymologies from Indo-European or Dravidian or Munda or as loans from Persian for 31 percent of agricultural and flora terms of Hindi. He proposed an origin in unknown Language “X”. Southworth also notes that the flora terms did not come from either Dravidian or Munda. Southworth found only five terms which are shared with Munda, leading to his suggestion that “the presence of other ethnic groups, speaking other languages, must be assumed for the period in question”.

Terms borrowed from an otherwise unknown language include those relating to cereal-growing and bread-making (bread, ploughshare, seed, sheaf, yeast), water-works (canal, well), architecture (brick, house, pillar, wooden peg), tools or weapons (axe, club), textiles and garments (cloak, cloth, coarse garment, hem, needle) and plants (hemp, cannabis, mustard, Soma plant). Lubotsky pointed out that the phonological and morphological similarity of 55 loanwords in Proto-Indo-Iranian and in Sanskrit indicates that a substratum of Indo-Iranian and a substratum of Indo-Aryan represent the same language, or perhaps two dialects of the same language. He concludes that the language of the original population of the towns of Central Asia, where Indo-Iranians must have arrived in the second millennium BCE, and the language spoken in Punjab (see Harappan below) were intimately related. However an alternative interpretation is that 55 loanwords entered common Proto-Indo-Iranian during its development in the Sintashta culture in distant contact with the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex, and then many more words with the same origin enriched Old Indic as it developed among pastoralists who integrated with and perhaps ruled over the declining BMAC.

Witzel initially used the term “Para-Munda” to denote a hypothetical language related but not ancestral to modern Munda languages, which he identified as “Harappan”, the language of the Indus Valley Civilization. To avoid confusion with Munda, he later opted for the term “Kubhā-Vipāś substrate”. He argues that the Rigveda shows signs of this hypothetical Harappan influence in the earliest level and Dravidian only in later levels, suggesting that speakers of Harappan were the original inhabitants of Punjab and that the Indo-Aryans encountered speakers of Dravidian not before middle Rigvedic times. Krishnamurti deems the evidence too meagre for this proposal. Regarding Witzel’s methodology in claiming Para-Munda origins, Krishnamurti states: “The main flaw in Witzel’s argument is his inability to show a large number of complete, unanalyzed words from Munda borrowed into the first phase of the Ṛgveda. This statement, however, confuses Proto-Munda and Para-Munda and neglects the several hundred “complete, unanalyzed words” from a prefixing language, adduced by Kuiper and Witzel.

A concern raised in the identification of the substrate is that there is a large time gap between the comparative materials, which can be seen as a serious methodological drawback. One issue is the early geographical distribution of the South Asian languages. It should not be assumed that the present-day northern location of Brahui, Kurukh, and Malto reflects the position of their ancestor languages at the time of Indo-Aryan development. Another problem is that modern literary languages may present a misleading picture of their prehistoric ancestors. The first completely intelligible, datable, and sufficiently long and complete epigraphs that might be of some use in linguistic comparison are the Tamil inscriptions of the Pallava dynasty of about 550 C.E. and the early Tamil Brahmi inscriptions starting in the second century BC. Similarly there is much less material available for comparative Munda and the interval in their case is at least three millennia. However reconstructions of Proto-Dravidian and Proto-Munda now help in distinguishing the traits of these languages from those of Indo-European in the evaluation of substrate and loan words.

A concern raised in the identification of the substrate is that there is a large time gap between the comparative materials, which can be seen as a serious methodological drawback. One issue is the early geographical distribution of the South Asian languages. It should not be assumed that the present-day northern location of Brahui, Kurukh, and Malto reflects the position of their ancestor languages at the time of Indo-Aryan development. Another problem is that modern literary languages may present a misleading picture of their prehistoric ancestors. The first completely intelligible, datable, and sufficiently long and complete epigraphs that might be of some use in linguistic comparison are the Tamil inscriptions of the Pallava dynasty of about 550 C.E. and the early Tamil Brahmi inscriptions starting in the second century BCE. Similarly there is much less material available for comparative Munda and the interval in their case is at least three millennia.

However reconstructions of Proto-Dravidian and Proto-Munda now help in distinguishing the traits of these languages from those of Indo-European in the evaluation of substrate and loan words.

There are an estimated thirty to forty Dravidian loanwords in Vedic. Those for which Dravidian etymologies are certain include kulāya “nest”, kulpha “ankle”, daṇḍa “stick”, kūla “slope”, bila “hollow”, khala “threshing floor”. However Witzel finds Dravidian loans only from the middle Rigvedic period, suggesting that linguistic contact between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian speakers only occurred as the Indo-Aryans expanded well into and beyond the Punjab.

While Dravidian languages are primarily confined to the South of India today, there is a striking exception: Brahui (which is spoken in parts of Baluchistan). It has been taken by some as the linguistic equivalent of a relict population, perhaps indicating that Dravidian languages were formerly much more widespread and were supplanted by the incoming Indo-Aryan languages. Certainly some Dravidian place-names are found in now Indo-Aryan regions of central India. However it has now been demonstrated that the Brahui could only have migrated to Balochistan from central India after 1000 CE. The absence of any older Iranian (Avestan) loanwords in Brahui supports this hypothesis. The main Iranian contributor to Brahui vocabulary, Balochi, is a western Iranian language like Kurdish, and moved to the area from the west only around 1000 CE.

As noted above, retroflex phonemes in early Indo-Aryan cannot identify the donor language as specifically Dravidian. Krishnamurti argues the Dravidian case other features: “Besides, the Ṛg Veda has used the gerund, not found in Avestan, with the same grammatical function as in Dravidian, as a non-finite verb for ‘incomplete’ action. Ṛg Vedic language also attests the use of iti as a quotative clause complementizer.” However, such features are also found in the indigenous Burushaski language of the Pamirs and cannot be attributed only to Dravidian influence on the early Rigveda.

Post-Vedic words such as nāraṅgaḥ “orange” (first attested in the Sushruta Samhita, ca. 4th century AD) are often taken to be straightforward loans from Dravidian into Sanskrit. Since they belong to a later period, they are unsuited to establish the origin of the loans in Rigvedic Sanskrit.

Kuiper identified one of the donor languages to Indo-Aryan as Proto-Munda. Munda linguist Gregory D. Anderson states: “It is surprising that nothing in the way of quotations from a Munda language turned up in (the hundreds and hundreds of) Sanskrit and middle-Indic texts. There is also a surprising lack of borrowings of names of plants/animal/bird, etc. into Sanskrit (Zide and Zide 1976). Much of what has been proposed for Munda words in older Indic (e.g. Kuiper 1948) has been rejected by careful analysis. Some possible Munda names have been proposed, for example, Savara (Sora) or Khara, but ethnonymy is notoriously messy for the identification of language groups, and a single ethnonym may be adopted and used for linguistically rather different or entirely unrelated groups”.

 In the North – The Armenians (Urartu – Hurrians) & The Indo-Europeans

Leyla-Tepe culture – archaeological culture of the eneolithic era, was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern territory of Azerbaijan, Agdam district), dated 4350-4000 BC.

Monuments Leyla-Tepe culture were first allocated in the 80-s years of the last century the well-known archaeologist I.G. Narimanov.

Activation of the study of the monuments connected with the risk of their damage in connection with the construction of the oil pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and south caucasus gas pipeline, in the western region of Azerbaijan.

Leyla-Tepe culture include a settlement in the Leyla-Tepe, the lower layer of the settlement Poilu I, Poilu II, Boyuk-Kesik I, Boyuk-Kesik II, and the other at the same time.. along also revealed the burial in ceramic vessels. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgia – Jar-Burial Culture.

Leyla-Tepe culture – genetically well linked with the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements of the district of Eastern Anatolia (Arslan-tepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.). Settlement Leylatepe typical переднеазиатское settlement – extremely hoarding, dwellings are being built right next to each other (mud-brick village with mud smoke outlets). According to some Russian scientists, media Leyla-Tepe culture were the founders of the Maykop culture, which migrated to the northern slopes of the Central Caucasus, and later, due to unfavorable climatic conditions.

The Syrian expedition of the archaeologists of the Russian academy of sciences revealed the similarity of the artifacts of Maykop culture and Leyla-Tepe culture with those found recently in the course of excavations of the ancient city of Tel Khazneh l in northern Syria, the construction of which dates from the 4th millennium bc. Correspondingly, it is supposed that the monuments of the Leyla-Tepe culture, the evidence on the migration to the South and then the North Caucasus tribes media Ubaid period of the Middle East.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands. It is thought to be a critical element in identifying the origins of both the Georgian and Armenian peoples. 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).[3] 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 emphasys on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).

The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture, was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end, but it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread to Georgia by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), and during the next millennium it proceeded westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van, and finally down to the borders of present day Syria. Altogether, the early Trans-Caucasian culture, at its greatest spread, enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km.

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

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 (see section below). Late in the history of this culture, its people built kurgans of greatly varying sizes, containing greatly varying amounts and types of metalwork, with larger, wealthier kurgans surrounded by smaller kurgans containing less wealth. This trend suggests the eventual emergence of a marked social hierarchy. Their practice of storing relatively great wealth in burial kurgans was probably a cultural influence from the more ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent to the south.

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

In the Armenian hypothesis of Indo-European origins, this culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages.

The culture is closely linked to the approximately contemporaneous The Maykop culture (also spelled Maikop), ca. 3700 BC—2500 BC, of Transcaucasia. The Maykop culture was a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Western Caucasus region of Southern Russia.

It extends along the area from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan and southwards to the Kura River. The culture takes its name from a royal burial found in Maykop in the Kuban River valley.

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.

After the discovery of the Leyla-Tepe culture in the 80s of the last century it was suggested that elements of the Maykop culture migrated to the south-eastern slopes of the Caucasus in modern Azerbaijan.

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

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. The Maykop culture is believed to be one of the first use the wheel.

The construction of artificial terrace complexes in the mountains is evidence of their sedentary living, high population density, and high levels of agricultural and technical skills. The terraces were built around the fourth millennium BC. and all subsequent cultures used them for agricultural purposes. The vast majority of pottery found on the terasses are from the Maykop period, the rest from the Scythian and Alan period. The Maykop terraces are among the most ancient in the world, but they are little studied. The longevity of the terraces (more than 5000 years) allows us to consider their builders unsurpassed engineers and craftsmen.

The Maykop nobility enjoyed horse riding and probably used horses in warfare. It should be noted that 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 culture has been described as, at the very least, a “kurganized” local culture with strong ethnic and linguistic links to the descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It has been linked to the Lower Mikhaylovka group and Kemi Oba culture, and more distantly, to the Globular Amphora and Corded Ware cultures, if only in an economic sense.

Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, whose views are somewhat 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 at least 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.

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 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 the Caucasian language. In fact, the black burnished pottery of especially early Trialeti kurgans is similar to Kura-Araxes pottery.

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

The Yamna culture, “Pit [Grave] Culture”, is a late copper age/early Bronze Age culture of the Southern Bug/Dniester/Ural region (the Pontic steppe), dating to the 36th–23rd centuries BC. The name also appears in English as Pit Grave Culture or Ochre Grave Culture.

Characteristic for the culture are the inhumations in kurgans (tumuli) in pit graves with the dead body placed in a supine position with bent knees. The bodies were covered in ochre. Multiple graves have been found in these kurgans, often as later insertions. Significantly, animal grave offerings were made (cattle, sheep, goats and horse), a feature associated with Proto-Indo-Europeans (including Proto-Indo-Iranians).

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 Yamna culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) in the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas.

It is one candidate for the Urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language, along with the preceding Sredny Stog culture, now that archaeological evidence of the culture and its migrations has been closely tied to the evidence from linguistics and Andronovo aDNA.

Pavel Dolukhanov argues that the emergence of the Pit-Grave culture represents a social development of various local Bronze Age cultures, representing “an expression of social stratification and the emergence of chiefdom-type nomadic social structures”, which in turn intensified inter-group contacts between essentially heterogeneous social groups.

It is said to have originated in the middle Volga based Khvalynsk culture and the middle Dnieper based Sredny Stog culture. In its western range, it is succeeded by the Catacomb culture; in the east, by the Poltavka culture and the Srubna culture.

The Yamna culture was preceded by the Sredny Stog culture, Khvalynsk culture and Dnieper-Donets culture, while succeeded by the Catacomb culture and the Srubna culture.

The Catacomb culture, ca. 2800–2200 BC, refers to an early Bronze Age culture occupying essentially what is present-day Ukraine. It is seen more as a term covering several smaller related archaeological cultures.

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 Catacomb culture was preceded by the Yamna culture and succeeded by the western Corded Ware culture. The Catacomb culture in the Pontic steppe was succeeded by the Srubna culture from ca the 17th century BC.

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 (see also Tashtyk culture).

The economy was essentially stock-breeding, although traces of grain have been found. There seem to have been skilled specialists, particularly metal-workers.

The origin of the Catacomb Culture is disputed. Jan Lichardus enumerates three possibilities: a local development departing from the previous Yamna Culture only, a migration from Central Europe, or an oriental origin.

The culture is 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).

Georgian language

At the end of the 3rd millennium BC, there is evidence of considerable economic development and increased commerce among the tribes. In western Georgia, a unique culture known as Colchian developed between 1800 and 700 BC, and in eastern Georgia the kurgan (tumulus) culture of Trialeti reached its zenith around 1500 BC.

The prehistory of Georgia is the period between the first human habitation of the territory of modern-day nation of Georgia and the time when Assyrian and Urartian, and more firmly, the Classical accounts, brought the proto-Georgian tribes into the scope of recorded history.

Like most native Caucasian peoples, the Georgians do not fit into any of the main ethnic categories of Europe or Asia. The Georgian language, the most pervasive of the Kartvelian languages, is neither Indo-European, Turkic nor Semitic.

The present day Georgian or Kartvelian nation is thought to have resulted from the fusion of aboriginal, autochthonous inhabitants with immigrants who infiltrated into South Caucasus from the direction of Anatolia in remote antiquity.

The history of the Georgian language reveals some interesting patterns of cross-cultural interaction. Georgian can be traced back to a ancestral language— Proto-Kartvelian—that it shares with its close relatives: Mingrelian, Svan and Laz.

Spoken in the second millennium BCE, Proto-Kartvelian must have interacted closely with Proto-Indo-European, the ancestral tongue to most European languages, as well as those of Iran and northern India. This connection is indicated by the so-called ablaut patterns (like the English sing-sang-sung), which Proto-Kartvelian probably borrowed from Proto-Indo-European, alongside many specific words.

The most notable among these loanwords is the reconstructed Proto-Kartvelian m.k.erd ‘breast’, which is said to be a cognate to the Indo-European kerd ‘heart’ (cf. the Latin cardio—and even the English heart).

While the connection of Georgian to Indo-European languages is solid, if distant, several scholars have searched for linkages to other languages, most notoriously Basque, a non-Indo-European “outlier” language in Europe.

To this day, no proven connection has been demonstrated between Basque and any currently spoken languages; as a result,  Basque remains a perfect isolate, an “orphan” language with no ties to any language family. But the idea that Basque might be related to some other languages, in particular Georgian and other  languages of the Caucasus, has ignited a lot of interest among Vasconists (i.e. scholars of Basque) and Caucasianists alike.

By the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BC, ironworking had made its appearance in the South Caucasus, and the true Iron Age began with the introduction of tools and weapons on a large scale and of superior quality to those hitherto made of copper and bronze, a change which in most of the Near East may not have come before the tenth or ninth centuries BC.

During this period, as linguists have estimated, the ethnic and linguistic unity of the Proto-Kartvelians finally broke up into several branches that now form the Kartvelian family. The first to break away was the Svan language in northwest Georgia, in about the 19th century BC, and by the 8th century BC, Zan, the basis of Mingrelian and Laz, had become a distinct language. On the basis of language, it has been established that the earliest Kartvelian ethnos were made up of four principally related tribes: the Georgians (“Karts”), the Zans (Megrelo-Laz, Colchians), and the Svans – which would eventually form the basis of the modern Kartvelian-speaking groups.

Finno-Ugric language

Map of early Bronze Age cultures in Europe - Eupedia

Maps of Neolithic and Bronze Age migrations in Europe and the Near East

Finno-Ugric, Finno-Ugrian or Fenno-Ugric is a traditional group of languages in the Uralic language family that comprises the Finno-Permic and Ugric language families. The three most spoken members are Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian.

Linguistic roots common to both branches of the traditional Finno-Ugric language tree (Finno-Permic and Ugric) are extremely distant. About two hundred words with common roots in all main Finno-Ugric languages have been identified by philologists including fifty-five about fishing, fifteen about reindeer, and three about commerce.

The term Finno-Ugric, which originally referred to the entire family, is sometimes used as a synonym for the more recent term Uralic, which includes the Samoyedic languages, as commonly happens when a language family is expanded with further discoveries.

Attempts at reconstructing a Proto-Finno-Ugric protolanguage—that is, a common ancestor of all Uralic languages except for the Samoyedic languages—are largely indistinguishable from Proto-Uralic, suggesting that Finno-Ugric may not be a historical grouping but a geographical one, with Samoyedic being distinct due to lexical borrowing rather than actually being historically divergent. It has been suggested that the area where Proto-Finno-Ugric was spoken reached between the Baltic Sea and the Ural mountains.

Traditionally, the main set of evidence for the genetic proposal of Proto-Finno-Ugric has come from vocabulary. A large amount of vocabulary (e.g., the numerals “one”, “three”, “four” and “six”; the body-part terms “hand”, “head”) is only reconstructed up to the level of Proto-Finno-Ugric level, while only words with a Samoyedic equivalent have been reconstructed for Proto-Uralic. This methodology has been criticised, as no coherent explanation other than inheritance has been presented for the origin of most of the Finno-Ugric vocabulary (though it does include a number of old loanwords from Proto-Indo-European or its immediate successors). The Samoyedic group has undergone a longer period of independent development, and its divergent vocabulary could be due to mechanisms of replacement such as language contact. (The Finno-Ugric group is usually dated to approximately 4000 years of age, the Samoyedic a little over 2000.) Proponents of the traditional binary division note, however, that the invocation of extensive contact influence on vocabulary is at odds with the grammatical conservatism of Samoyedic.

The relation of the Finno-Permic and the Ugric groups is adjudged remote by some scholars. On the other hand, with a projected time depth of only 3 or 4 thousand years, the traditionally accepted Finno-Ugric grouping would be far younger than many major families such as Indo-European or Semitic, and would be about the same age as, for instance, the Eastern subfamily of Nilotic. But the grouping is far from transparent or securely established. The absence of early records is a major obstacle. As for the Finno-Ugric Urheimat, most of what has been said about it is speculation.

The Pit–Comb Ware culture AKA Comb Ceramic culture was a northeast European culture of pottery-making hunter-gatherers. It existed from around 4200 BC to around 2000 BC. The name is derived from the most common type of decoration on its ceramics, which looks like the imprints of a comb.

The distribution of the artifacts found includes Finnmark (Norway) in the north, the Kalix River (Sweden) and the Gulf of Bothnia (Finland) in the west and the Vistula River (Poland) in the south. In the east the Comb Ceramic pottery of northern Eurasia extends beyond the Ural mountains to the Baraba steppe adjacent to the Altai-Sayan mountain range, merging with a continuum of similar ceramic styles. It would include the Narva culture of Estonia and the Sperrings culture in Finland, among others. They are thought to have been essentially hunter-gatherers, though e.g. the Narva culture in Estonia shows some evidence of agriculture. Some of this region was absorbed by the later Corded Ware horizon.

The Pit–Comb Ware culture is one of the few exceptions to the rule that pottery and farming coexist in Europe. In the Near East farming appeared before pottery, then when farming spread into Europe from the Near East, pottery-making came with it. However in Asia, where the oldest pottery has been found, pottery was made long before farming. It appears that the Comb Ceramic Culture reflects influences from Siberia and distant China.

It is hypothesized that the Comb Ware people may have spoken Paleo-European (pre-Finno-Ugric) or an early Uralic language. However some toponyms and hydronyms may indicate also a non-Uralic, non-Indo-European language at work in some areas.

 The Armenians


There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources.

The name Armenian was firstly recorded on an inscription which mentions Armani together with Ebla, from territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in ca. 2250 BC, identified with the Syrian city of Aleppo. To this day the Assyrians still refer to the Armenians by the name Armani. The word is also thought to be related to the Mannaeans and to the biblical Minni.

Minni is also a Biblical name of the region, appearing in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 51:27) alongside Ararat and Ashchenaz, probably the same as the Minnai of Assyrian inscriptions, corresponding to the Mannai. Armenia is interpreted by some as ḪARMinni, that is, “the mountainous region of the Minni”. The name is connected to the Indo-European root Ar- meaning “assemble/create” which is vastly used in names of or regarding the Sun, light, or fire, found in Ararat, Aryan, Arta etc.

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. The name has also been claimed as a variant of Urmani (or Urmenu), attested epigraphically in an inscription of Menuas of Urartu.

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

The earliest attestations of the exonym Armenia date around the 6th century BC. In his trilingual Behistun Inscription, Darius I the Great of Persia refers to Urashtu (in Babylonian) as Armina (in Old Persian) and Harminuya (in Elamite).

In Greek “Armenians” is attested from about the same time, perhaps the earliest reference being a fragment attributed to Hecataeus of Miletus (476 BC). Herodotus, in c.440 BC, said “the Armenians were equipped like Phrygians, being Phrygian colonists”.

Historically, the name Armenian has come to internationally designate this group of people. It was first used by neighbouring countries of ancient Armenia. Traditionally, it was derived from Armenak or Aram (the great-grandson of Hayk’s great-grandson, and another leader who is, according to Armenian tradition, the ancestor of all Armenians).

Armenian tradition has an eponymous ancestor, Aram, a lineal descendent of Hayk, son of Harma and father of Ara the Beautiful (according to classical Armenian historian Moses of Chorene). Aram is sometimes equated with Arame of Urartu, the earliest known king of Urartu. The endonym Hayk’ (from Classical Armenian) in the same tradition is traced to Hayk himself.

The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan, translated as the land of Haik. The term Hayastan bears resemblance to the ancient Mesopotamian god Haya (ha-ià) and another western deity called Ebla Hayya, related to the god Ea (Enki or Enkil in Sumerian, Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian) and the indoeuropean suffix ‘-stan’ (land).

There have been further speculations as to the existence of a Bronze Age tribe of the Armens (Armans, Armani, Armenner), either identical to or forming a subset of the Hayasa-Azzi. In this case, Armenia would be an ethnonym rather than a toponym. The names Armen and Arman, feminine Arminé, are common given names by Armenians. Armin is also a Persian given name.

Armenians call themselves Hye. The earliest forms of the word Hayastan, an ethonym the Armenians (Hayer) use to designate their country, come from Hittite sources of the Late Bronze Age, such as the kingdom of Hayasa-Azzi.

The word has traditionally been linked to the name of the legendary founder of the Armenian nation, Hayk, which is also a popular Armenian name. The historical enemy of Hayk (the legendary ruler of Armenia), Hayastan, was Bel, or in other words Baal (Akkadian cognate Bēlu). The word “Bel” is named in the Bible at Isaiah 46:1 and Jeremiah 50:2 and 51:44.

It is also further postulated that the name Hay comes from the name of an Armenian tribe, the Hayasa. Hayasa-Azzi or Azzi-Hayasa was a Late Bronze Age confederation formed between two kingdoms of Anatolia, Hayasa located South of Trabzon and Azzi, located North of the Euphrates and to the South of Hayasa. The Hayasa-Azzi confederation were in conflict with the Hittite Empire in the 14th century BC, leading up to the collapse of Hatti around 1290 BC.

Hittite inscriptions deciphered in the 1920s by the Swiss scholar Emil Forrer testify to the existence of a mountain country, the Hayasa and/or the Azzi, lying around Lake Van. Several prominent authorities agree in placing Azzi to the north of Ishuwa. Others see Hayasa and Azzi as identical.

The similarity of the name Hayasa to the endonym of the Armenians, Hayk or Hay and the Armenian name for Armenia, Hayastan has prompted the suggestion that the Hayasa-Azzi confereration was involved in the Armenian ethnogenesis. Thus, the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1962 posited that the Armenians derive from a migration of Hayasa into Shupria in the 12th century BC.

This is open to objection due to the possibility of a mere coincidental similarity between the two names and the lack of geographic overlap, although Hayasa (the region) became known as Lesser Armenia (Pokr Hayastan in modern Armenian) in coming centuries.

The mentioning of the name Armenian can only be securely dated to the 6th century BC with the Orontid kings and very little is known specifically about the people of Azzi-Hayasa per se. The most recent edition of Encyclopædia Britannica does not include any articles on Hayasa or Azzi-Hayasa likely due to the paucity of historical documentation about this kingdom’s people.

Brittanica’s article on the Armenians confirms that they were descendents of a branch of the Indo-European peoples but makes no assertion that they formed any portion of the population of Azzi-Hayasa.

Some historians find it sound to theorize that after the Phrygian invasion of Hittites, the theoretically named Armeno-Phrygians would have settled in Hayasa-Azzi, and merged with the local people, who were possibly already spread within the western regions of Urartu.


In the Bronze Age, several states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power) and Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia). Between 1500 – 1200 BC, the Hayasa-Azzi existed in the western half of the Armenian Highland, often clashing with the Hittite Empire. Between 1200 – 800 BC, much of Armenia was united under a confederation of kingdoms, which Assyrian sources called Nairi (“Land of Rivers” in Assyrian”).

The Iron Age Kingdom of Urartu (Assyrian for Ararat) (1000–600 BC) then successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, was founded in 782 BC by king Argishti I. Each of the aforementioned nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people.

The Kingdom of Urartu flourished in the Caucasus and eastern Asia Minor between the 9th century BC and 585 BC in the Armenian Highland. The founder of the Urartian Kingdom, Aramé, united all the principalities of the Armenian Highland and gave himself the title “King of Kings”, the traditional title of Urartian Kings. The Urartians established their sovereignty over all of Taron and Vaspurakan. The main rival of Urartu was the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, was founded in 782 BC by king Argishti I. A minority view also suggests that the Indo-European homeland may have been located in the Armenian Highland.

The kingdom of Urartu was replaced by the Orontid dynasty in the early 6th century BC. Following Persian and Macedonian rule, the Artaxiad dynasty from 190 BC gave rise to the Kingdom of Armenia which rose to the peak of its influence under Tigranes II.

The Hayasan nobility (given they were truly Armenian) would have assumed control of the region and the people would have adopted their language to complete the amalgamation of the proto-Armenians, giving birth to the nation of Armenia as we know it today.

At its zenith (95–65 BC), the state extended from the Caucasus all the way to what is now central Turkey, Lebanon, and northern Iran. The imperial reign of Tigranes the Great is thus the span of time during which Armenia itself conquered areas populated by other peoples. Later it briefly became part of the Roman Empire (AD 114–118).

The Arsacid Kingdom of Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as its religion in 301 AD. It had formerly been adherent to Iranian and Hellenistic paganism – Zoroastrianism, the Ancient Greek religion and then the Ancient Roman religion.

Later on, in order to further strengthen Armenian national identity, Mesrop Mashtots invented the Armenian alphabet, in 405 AD. This event ushered the Golden Age of Armenia, during which many foreign books and manuscripts were translated to Armenian by Mesrop’s pupils. Armenia lost its sovereignty for the first time in 428 AD to the Byzantine and Persian empires.

The Armenians later fell under Byzantine, Persian, and Islamic hegemony, but reinstated their independence with the Bagratuni Dynasty kingdom of Armenia. After the fall of the kingdom in 1045, and the subsequent Seljuk conquest of Armenia in 1064, the Armenians established a kingdom in Cilicia, where they prolonged their sovereignty to 1375.

Greater Armenia was later divided between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. In the early 20th century Armenians suffered in the genocide inflicted on them by the Turkish Donmeh led by Ataturk, in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed and many more dispersed throughout the world via Syria and Lebanon. Armenia, from then on corresponding to much of Eastern Armenia, regained independence in 1918, with the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Armenia, and in 1991, the Republic of Armenia.

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