Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    War in the Fertile Crescent

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Northern Mesopotamia III

Northern Mesopotamia III


Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period





Birecik Dam Cemetery

Mesopotamia – 3000 BC

Halaf Ware

Dalma Ware

Dalma Tepe

Scarlet Ware

Jemdet Nasr

Early Dynastic period

Teppe Hasanlu

Nakhchivan Tepe

Ceramic Traditions

Gadar River

Hajji Firuz Tepe

Kul Tepe Jolfa


Chaff-Faced Ware



Tepe Gawra

Godin Tepe

Tell Arbid



Early Kurgan culture

Maykop Culture

Uruk migrants in the Caucasus

The Maykop phenomenon

The Maikop Singularity

“Ancient Indo-Europeans”


Novotitorovka culture

Yanik Tepe

Maikop crania


PIE and North Caucasian




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. 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.

Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period

The Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (c. 5500/5400 to 5200/5000 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. It lies chronologically between the Halaf period and the Ubaid period. It is still a complex and rather poorly understood period. At the same time, recent efforts were made to study the gradual change from Halaf style pottery to Ubaid style pottery in various parts of North Mesopotamia.

Archaeologically the period has been studied anew recently by a number of scholars. The Halaf appears to have ended around 5200 BC and the northern Ubaid begins around then. There are several sites that run from the Halaf until the Ubaid.

Previously, only two such sites were well known. The first of these, Tepe Gawra, was excavated in the 1930s when stratigraphic controls were lacking, causing difficulties in re-creating the sequence. The second, Tell Aqab, remained largely unpublished. This made definitive statements about the period difficult. But with the present state of archaeological knowledge, more certainty is emerging.

Tell Arpachiyah, and Tepe Gawra are the sites where the transition from Halaf to Ubaid were quite abrupt. No transitional levels were observed at these two important sites. A. L. Perkins identified the existence of a Halaf-Ubaid Transition phase that can be seen in ceramic assemblages. Sites like Tell el-‘Oueili, and Choga Mami in the Mandali region were suggested as witnesses to this phase.

More recently, a Halaf-Ubaid Transitional phase has been attested in Syria, in such places as Tell Zeidan, Tell Aqab, Tell Kurdu, Tell Masaikh (near Terqa, also known as Kar-Assurnasirpal, pl:Kar-Aszurnasirpal), and Chagar Bazar.

Halaf-Ubaid Transitional pottery from Tell Begum, in the Shahrizor plain, is particularly plentiful. Shahrizor plain is located between the Mesopotamian plains and the Iranian plateau, so it is geographically significant.

Recent analysis (2016) indicates that, in the Ashur region, as well as on the Shahrizor Plain, the settlement intensity, as well as the overall site numbers remained rather similar throughout the Halaf and Ubaid periods.


Nineveh (Aabic: Naynawā; Syriac: Akkadian: URUNI.NU.A Ninua) was an ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia, located on the outskirts of Mosul in modern-day northern Iraq. It is located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River.

It was one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity. The area it occupied was originally settled as early as 6000 BC during the late Neolithic period. Deep sounding at Nineveh uncovered soil layers that have been dated to early in the era of the Hassuna archaeological culture.

It was the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. It was the largest city in the world for approximately fifty years until the year 612 BC when, after a bitter period of civil war in Assyria, it was sacked by a coalition of its former subject peoples, the Babylonians, Medes, Chaldeans, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians.

Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in Iraq’s Nineveh Governorate. The two main tells, or mound-ruins, within the walls are Kuyunjiq (Kuyuncuk) and Tell Nabī Yūnus. Large amounts of Assyrian sculpture and other artifacts have been excavated and are now located in museums around the world.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) occupied the site during the mid-2010s, during which time they bulldozed several of the monuments there and caused considerable damage to the others. Iraqi forces recaptured the area in January 2017.

The English placename Nineveh comes from Latin Ninive and Septuagint Greek Nineuḗ under influence of the Biblical Hebrew Nīnewēh from the Akkadian Ninua (var. Ninâ) or Old Babylonian Ninuwā. The city was also known as Ninuwa in Mari; Ninawa in Aramaic and Nainavā in Persian.

The original meaning of the name is unclear but may have referred to a patron goddess. The city was later said to be devoted to “the goddess Ishtar of Nineveh” and Nina was one of the Sumerian and Assyrian names of that goddess.

The cuneiform for Ninâ is a fish within a house (cf. Aramaic nuna, “fish”). This may have simply intended “Place of Fish” or may have indicated a goddess associated with fish or the Tigris, possibly originally of Hurrian origin. Nabī Yūnus is the Arabic for “Prophet Jonah”. 

The remains of ancient Nineveh, the mound-ruins of Kuyunjiq and Nabī Yūnus, are located on a level part of the plain near the junction of the Tigris and the Khosr Rivers within an area of 750 hectares (1,900 acres) circumscribed by a 12-kilometre (7.5 mi) brick rampart. This whole extensive space is now one immense area of ruins overlaid in parts by new suburbs of the city of Mosul.

Nineveh was an important junction for commercial routes crossing the Tigris on the great highway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West, it received wealth from many sources, so that it became one of the greatest of all the region’s ancient cities, and the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

By 3000 BC, the area had become an important religious center for the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar. The early city (and subsequent buildings) was constructed on a fault line and, consequently, suffered damage from a number of earthquakes. One such event destroyed the first temple of Ishtar, which was rebuilt in 2260 BC by the Akkadian king Manishtushu.


Archaeologists believe they have uncovered the world’s oldest city in a remote part of Syria, in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria (Al Hasakah Governorate), near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. Dating back to 6000 BC, the discovery is 2500 years older than any known similar site and will prompt a dramatic reappraisal of ancient history.

The huge settlement, called Hamoukar, is located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, an area known throughout ancient history as northern Mesopotamia. The city spread over 750 acres and is believed to have been home to up to 25000 people.

The early settlement dates back to the 5th millennium BC, and it existed simultaneously with the Ubaid and the early Uruk cultures. It was a big centre of obsidian production. This was one of the largest cities of Northern Mesopotamia, and extended to 105 ha, In the 3rd millennium.

The origins of urban settlements has generally been attributed to the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). It was in the southern Mesopotamia that Babylon and Mesopotamia were established and what has been considered to be the oldest known civilisation, the Sumerians, were identified to have lived around 3500 BC.

This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC the Mesopotamian cities such of Ur and Uruk emerged. It is now believed that Hamoukar was independently from Sumer and thriving as far back as 4000 BC. Hamoukar is thought to have been constructed between 6000BC and 4000 BC.

The discoveries have challenged conventional notions of the development of civilisation and prompt a re-think of how mankind developed in the “cradle of civilisation” between the two great Middle Eastern rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Hamoukar is at least 1,000 years older than Sumer. This means that the development of kingdoms or early states occurred before writing was invented.

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

The city flourished before the invention of writing. It also featured specialization of labor. Other contemporary early sites in this area are Chagar Bazar, Tell Arbid, and the multi-period site of Tell Brak.

Excavation by a joint Syrian-American expedition (by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities) was conducted beginning in 1999 and ending in 2010.

Thousands of clay sealings have been found on the site, indicating the existence of a complex bureaucratic system before the invention of writing. These sealings were once used to lock doors or containers and were impressed with stamp seals.

Large quantities of obsidian were found on the site, indicating the existence of the obsidian production facilities of both weapons and tools. The volcanic rock of this type does not occur in Hamoukar area, so it must have been imported. The nearest deposits are located in the area of Mount Nemrut (today’s Turkey), about 170 km north of the city. This is confirmed by chemical analysis of the obsidian.

The findings were a surprise for many archaeologists, since they indicate the existence of independent trading networks in the northern Mesopotamia outside of the influence of southern cities, such as Ur and Uruk. The obsidian workshops were spread across a large area of 280 hectares. They were in use as early as 4500 BC.

The town lay on an important trade route between Anatolia and southern Mesopotamia. Many Nineveh 5 period artifacts (early 3rd millennium) were found. The city also flourished during the later Akkadian Empire. Eye Idols made of alabaster or bone have been found in Tell Hamoukar. Eye Idols have also been found in Tell Brak, the biggest settlement from Syria’s Late Chalcolithic period.

Excavation work undertaken in 2005 and 2006 has shown that this city was destroyed around 3500 BC. This may be the evidence of the earliest urban warfare attested so far in the archaeological record of the Near East. Slings and thousands of clay bullets have been found — evidence of the siege that the city endured. Contained excavations in 2008 and 2010 tried to expand on that.

The city could have fallen victim to the Uruk expansion around 3500 BC. There are remains of an Uruk trading colony in the area. Yet, according to the archaeologist Clemens Reichel, the evidence of who exactly was responsible for the destruction of Hamoukar is not entirely clear, since the Uruk trading colony was probably also destroyed at the same time as the big battle was taking place.


Hamoukar is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border (Al Hasakah Governorate) and Turkey.

The discovery at Hamoukar indicates that some of the fundamental ideas behind cities – including specialization of labor, a system of laws and government, and artistic development – may have begun earlier than was previously believed.

The fact that this discovery is such a large city is what is most exciting to archaeologists. While they have found small villages and individual pieces that date much farther back than Hamoukar, nothing can quite compare to the discovery of this size and magnitude.

This archaeological discovery suggests that civilizations advanced enough to reach the size and organizational structure that was necessary to be considered a city could have actually emerged before the advent of a written language. Previously it was believed that a system of written language was a necessary predecessor of that type of complex city.

The Excavations have shown that this site houses the remains of one of the world’s oldest known cities, leading scholars to believe that cities in this part of the world emerged much earlier than previously thought.

Traditionally, the origins of urban developments in this part of the world have been sought in the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC many of the famous Mesopotamian cities such as Ur and Uruk emerged, giving this region the attributes of “Cradle of Civilization” and “Heartland of Cities.” Following the discoveries at Hamoukar, this definition may have to extended further up the Tigris River to include that part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.

Most importantly, archaeologists believe this apparent city was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer. Until now, the oldest cities with developed seals and writing were thought to be Sumerian Uruk and Ubaid in Mesopotamia, which would be in the southern one-third of Iraq today.

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


The Leyla-Tepe culture (ca 4350 until 4000 BC) belongs to the Chalcolithic era. It got its name from the site in the Agdam district of modern day Azerbaijan. Its settlements were distributed on the southern slopes of Central Caucasus.

Recent attention to the monuments has been inspired by the risk of their damage due to the construction of the oil pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and south caucasus gas pipeline, in the western region of Azerbaijan.

The Leyla-Tepe culture is also attested at Boyuk Kesik in the lower layers of this settlement. The inhabitants apparently buried their dead in ceramic vessels. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture, that is mostly of a much later date.

The ancient Poylu II settlement was discovered in the Agstafa District of modern day Azerbaijan during the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. The lowermost layer dates to the early fourth millennium BC, attesting a multilayer settlement of Leyla-Tepe culture.

Among the sites associated with this culture, the Soyugbulag kurgans. In 2006, a French–Azerbaijani team discovered nine kurgans or barrows at the cemetery of Soyuqbulaq from the village with the same name in the Agstafa Rayon of Azerbaijan. These kurgans date to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC, and belong to Leylatepe Culture.

It is believed that this was the result of the migration of near-eastern tribes from Mesopotamia to South Caucasus, especially to Azerbaijan.

The excavation of these kurgans, located in Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia, demonstrated an unexpectedly early date of such structures on the territory of Azerbaijan. They were dated to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC.

They were dated to the beginning of the fourth millennium BC, which makes it the oldest kurgan cemetery in Transcaucasia. Similar kurgans have been found at Kavtiskhevi, Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia.

Several other archaeological sites seem to belong to the same ancient cultural tradition as Soyuq Bulaq. They include Berikldeebi, Kavtiskhevi, Leilatepe, Boyuk Kesik, and Poylu, Agstafa, and are characterized by pottery assemblages “mainly or totally in the North Mesopotamian tradition”.

The numerous artifacts discovered at these sites have shed light on the material and spiritual culture of this ancient people during the late Eneolithic period. Amongst the finds are stone and bone tools, metal objects, and a huge cache of clay vessels. There are also anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines made of clay or bone. Grain residues were also excavated. The residents kept cattle and other domesticated animals in these settlements.

It is believed that this was the result of the migration of near-eastern tribes from Mesopotamia to South Caucasus, especially to Azerbaijan. Discovery of Soyugbulaq in 2004 and subsequent excavations provided substantial proof that the practice of kurgan burial was well established in the South Caucasus during the late Eneolithic. The roots of the Leylatepe Archaeological Culture to which the Soyugbulaq kurgans belong to, stemmed from the Ubaid culture.

The Leylatepe Culture tribes migrated to the north in the mid-fourth millennium, B.C. and played an important part in the rise of the Maikop Culture of the North Caucasus. A number of Maikop Culture kurgans and Soyugbulaq kurgans display the same northwest to southeast grave alignment.

More than that, Soyugbulaq kurgans yielded pottery forms identical to those recovered from the Maikop kurgans. These are the major factors attesting to the existence of a genetic link between the two cultures.

The culture has been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslantepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.). Other sites belonging to the same culture are in the Armenian held Karabakh valley of the partially recognized state of the Republic of Artsakh.

The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, closely associated with subsequent civilizations found on the Armenian Highlands. This is evident with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets, which closely resemble Armenian tonirs.

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture (c. 3700 BC–3000 BC), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the western Caucasus region. The culture takes its name from a royal burial found in Maykop kurgan in the Kuban River valley.

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

Leyla-Tepe pottery is very similar to the ‘Chaff-Faced Ware’ of the northern Syria and Mesopotamia. It is especially well attested at Amuq F phase. Similar pottery is also found at Kultepe, Azerbaijan.

In 2012, the important site of Galayeri, belonging to the Leyla-Tepe archaeological culture, was investigated. It is located in the Qabala District of modern day Azerbaijan. Galayeri is closely connected to early civilizations of Near East.

Structures consisting of clay layers are typical; no mud-brick walls have been detected at Galayeri. Almost all findings have Eastern Anatolian Chalcolithic characteristics. The closest analogues of the Galayeri clay constructions are found at Arslantepe/Melid VII in Temple C.

The appearance of Leyla-Tepe tradition’s carriers in the Caucasus marked the appearance of the first local Caucasian metallurgy. This is perhaps but not entirely attributed to migrants from Uruk, arriving around 4500 BCE. Recent research indicates the connections rather to the pre-Uruk traditions, such as the late Ubaid period, and Ubaid-Uruk phases.

Leyla-Tepe metalwork tradition was very sophisticated right from the beginning, and featured many bronze items. Later, the quality of metallurgy increased in both sophistication and quality with the advent of the Kura–Araxes culture (ca 4000 until 2000 BC).

Leilatepe Pottery

The rich, advanced ceramic products of the Leilatepe archaeological culture offer the opportunity to study an important aspect of the Late Chalcolithic period in the Southern Caucasus. The ceramic tradition of the Leilatepe culture society was a developed
and independent handicraft.

The culture, both as a whole, and with particular regard to its ceramic production, is linked to Eastern Anatolian- Northern Mesopotamian Late Chalcolithic traditions originating from post-Ubaid developments.

Meanwhile, the Maikop culture of the Northern Caucasus emerged from the Leilatepe culture. The spread of these cultures stage covers occurred during the first half of
the fourth millennium B.C. in Western Asia and the Caucasus.

Pottery is the main diagnostic material of the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze Ages. In this sense, the Leilatepe culture is not an exception. The unique ceramic wares of this culture indicate an influential role in the development of the potter’s wheel, and they differs radically from the pottery of preceding archaeological cultures in the South Caucasus and of the Leilatepe culture‟s contemporary neighbor’s, with whom they did not have genetic ties.

The tradition of ceramic production in the Leilatepe culture in the Late Chalcolithic period in Southeastern Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia and, once developed spread to the South Caucasus.

One of the, distinguishing features of these ceramics from those found at Eastern Anatolian Chalcolithic sites (Arslantepe VII, Amuq F) and in Northern Mesopotamia (Tell Brak), ceramics is the presence of different signs or potter‟s marks impressed on the
surface of the pots before firing.

Namely, these “potter‟s marks” are a diagnostic cultural elements that distinguishes the Leilatepe ceramics from those of coeval cultures of the first half of the fourth millennium B.C. It should be noted, however, that on the pottery of TW 15-–16 at Tell Brak does have analogous signs to those of Arslantepe.

Oates (2002) relates these layers and their pottery signs to the Northern Middle Uruk, of 3500 B.C., which can be considered a local Late Chalcolithic horizon. Such signs are generally uncommon at early Uruk sites of Southern Mesopotamia and at Middle Late Uruk settlements throughout Greater Mesopotamia.

The presence of these signs at Tell Brak is most likely the result of interaction with Eastern Anatolian communities. Another site where these signs occur during the Late Chalcolithic period is Tell Khazna in Northern Mesopotamia, but they are very rarely and consist only of cross lines.

Altogether, the tradition of marking pottery in Eastern Anatolia was not widely spread in Northern Mesopotamia. At Arslantepe VII, only wheel-made ceramics were incised or „signed‟ with marks. In the Maikop culture, only “high quality ceramics” of this category were marked. However, in the Leilatepe culture, potter‟ s marks were placed on both
wheel-made pottery and handmade chaff- and sand-tempered wares.

These marks are identical to the marks on the pottery of the Anatolian Chalcolithic and Maikop cultures. Marked pottery relating to the Leilatepe culture has been found at the Leilatepe, Beyuk Kesik I, Poylu II, Tekhut, Beyuk Kesik III and Galayeri settlements.

A single mark been was also recorded at the Berikldeebi site. Clearly, such ceramic marks have not been studied thoroughly enough, particularly because, only one mark was noted at Berikldeebi, and not by the authors of the excavation but by Korenevsky.

As a rule, the pottery of the Leilatepe culture, as well as Western Asian Chalcolithic and early Maikop pottery, fall in into the category of “high quality ceramics‟ (non-tempered or vegetal tempered clay of wheel manufacture) and have no decoration.

Simple ornamented pottery in red, brown and black colors can be has been found, that is connected to the traditions of the early Ubaid culture. Rims of “coarse ceramics” (mineral inclusions and hand-formed) were decorated with impressed fingertips and incisions.
These are the only examples in the Leilatepe culture of pottery decorated on purpose with incisions, as potter‟s marks are rarely found on “coarse ceramics”.

Marks have been detected on 13 types of pottery fragments found at the Leilatepe site.
The Leilatepe settlement Marks of the Leilatepe settlement mainly consist of eye-shaped signs (fingertips) and, single or parallel lines. A few fragments portrayed partial triangles
or arched lines. Other interesting findings at Leilatepe include the same eye-shaped signs found at Tell Brak and Arslantepe.

The repertoire of marks found at Beyuk Kesik I is richer than that of Leilatepe in number, variety, and typological diversity. A total of 38 marked shards were found. In some cases, eye-shaped signs arranged with one or more parallel or crossed lines
were detected. At Poylu II, like at Leilatepe, signs are neither so rich nor so frequent, where three of the marks with crisscrossing lines were found on 10 fragments.

Beyuk Kesik III was not excavated; only surface material was collected, and one fragment was recorded with an eye-shaped mark. Signs have also been identified on four pieces of pottery fragments from the Tekhut settlement, consisting of eye-shaped signs and parallel lines. Signs of the Leilatepe culture are abundant in Galayeri, where 53 marked pottery fragments have been found.

On the whole, the incision of signs on Anatolian, Leilatepe, and Maikop ceramics, as well
as the detection of seals on monuments of these cultures (Amuq F, Arslantepe, and Beyuk Kesik) provide firm evidence of control via the– creation of certain regulatory, management systems and the emergence of the state in those societies

Archaeological finds of the Leilatepe culture were first discovered in the mid1980s during excavations by Narimanov in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, where monuments of this culture have been revealed in the Caucasus.

The lower layer of the Berikldeebi site in Eastern Georgia also belongs to the Leilatepe culture. Extensive excavations have continued at the Leilatepe, Berikldeebi, Beyuk Kesik I, and Poylu II sites as well as the Soyugbulag kurgans.

In 2012 excavations relating to this culture began in the freshly revealed Galayeri site. The closest analogues of the Galayeri clay constructions have found at Arslantepe
VII in Temple C. In general, almost all findings at Galayeri have Eastern Anatolian
Chalcolithic characteristics.

Grave monuments of the Leilatepe culture consist of child burials in pots, earth kurgans, and kurgan-type graves outside the settlements. Except for casual exceptions all graves of the Leilatepe culture are oriented on a north-west-–south-west alignment. Such orientation is typical for the graves of Northern Mesopotamia (Tepe Gawra) and the Maikop culture of the Northern Caucasus.

The Northern Caucasian Maikop archaeological culture was formed as a result of migration of the Leilatepe culture tribes to the North. Common peculiarities for both cultures are red-pink, round-based pots bearing marks and some specific features of funeral customs. From this view point, the early Maikop sites are more typical Late Chalcolithic Leilatepe type than the early Bronze.

The early stage of Leilatepe culture coincides with the late Ubaid; on the whole, it is synchronous to the late Ubaid and early Uruk cultures.

Narimanov (1985, 1987), who discovered this culture, relates its roots to the North
Ubaid and Ubaid-Uruk monuments. Other researchers have relateds the origin of the Leilatepe culture to the Mesopotamian Uruk culture, especially to its final phase; these cultures may also have been synchronous.

Assuming synchronism as a basis of the chronological framework (the late fifth-early fourth millennia BC), we initially agreed with Narimanov‟s opinion and later
refined the connection to the late Ubaid and UbaidUruk phases.

According to Korenevskiy, the early stage of Leilatepe culture coincides with the late Ubaid; on the whole, it is synchronous to the late Ubaid and early Uruk cultures. On the other hand, considers how that the Northern Ubaid culture did not spread from Lake Urmia to the north, including Azerbaijan.

The closest analogues to the marks on the ceramics of the Leilatepe culture in the Caucasus are from the Maikop culture sites of the Northern Caucasus. Numerous parallels to these signs can be found in Western Asia, such as at Amuq F in the
Valley of the Upper Euphrates and at Arslantepe VII.

Excavations of Leilatepe sites show how marked Chalcolithic ceramics displaying traditions spread simultaneously throughout Eastern Anatolia, Northern Mesopotamia, and the Southern Caucasus. Very likely, these cultural traditions were adapted in the patterns of the Maikop culture and continued to spread in the Caucasus.


Melid (Hittite: Malidiya and possibly also Midduwa; Akkadian: Meliddu; Urartian: Melitea; Latin: Melitene) was an ancient city on the Tohma River, a tributary of the upper Euphrates rising in the Taurus Mountains. It has been identified with modern archaeological site Arslantepe near Malatya, Turkey. Earliest habitation at the site dates back to the Chalcolithic period.

Aslantepe (VII) became important in this region in the Late Chalcolithic. A monumental area with a huge mudbrick building stood on top of a mound. The building had a large building with wall decorations and its function is uncertain. By the late Uruk period development had grown to include a large temple/palace complex.

Culturally, Melid was part of the “Northern regions of Greater Mesopotamia” functioning as a trade colony along the Euphrates River bringing raw materials to Sumer (Lower Mesopotamia).

Numerous similarities have been found between these early layers at Arslantepe, and the somewhat later site of Birecik (Birecik Dam Cemetery), an Early Bronze Age cemetery in the Gaziantep region in southeastern Turkey, to the southwest of Melid.

The Birecik Dam Cemetery was used extensively for a very short period of time at the beginning of the third millennium BC. This three hectare cemetery is located several hundred meters from the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates River and is approximately 25 kilometers north of the ancient site of Carchemish.

More than 300 graves were dug into a 300 x 200 meter subsurface clay bed between 3100-2600 BC (Early Bronze IB-II), though it is thought that many more graves were destroyed by the clay mining prior to the official excavations. However, despite the large size of this cemetery no attached settlement has been found.

The burials that were excavated consisted predominantly of cist graves, though there were also a small number of cooking pot and storage jar burials. The cist burials were oriented NW-SW and most had similar dimensions. Between the graves were a number of shallow depressions and pits that were filled with various materials (such as food remains) that are thought to have been part of the burial ceremony.

Burials in this cemetery frequently included grave goods. These items consisted of: ceramic vessels, metal objects, frit and talc beads, several examples of terracotta figurines, two cylinder seals made of limestone and carnelian, a flint blade and fifteen painted cups in the Ninevite 5 style of northeastern Syria.

Ceramics were by far the most frequently item found in these burials with over 5,000 vessels found between the 312 excavated burials, and an individual tomb could contain up to 150 vessels. Due to damp soil conditions and the leaching of salt through the soil, the human remains were in very poor condition when compared to the ceramic, stone and metal objects.

In these burials, numerous similarities have been found with those at the contemporary site of Arslantepe, also in Turkey, to the northeast of Birecik. The similarities are not restricted purely to the structure, but also the type of furnishings in which metal objects predominate, especially numerous weapons and spearheads.

One striking aspect, which is wholly similar to Arslantepe, is the way in which the metal spearheads are arranged, generally along the northern and southern sides of the tomb, but always along the internal sides of the cist.

Around 3000 BCE, the transitonal EBI-EBII, there was widespread burning and destruction, after which Kura-Araxes culture pottery appeared in the area. This was a mainly pastoralist culture connected with Caucasus mountains.

In the Late Bronze Age, the site became an administrative center of a larger region in the kingdom of Isuwa. The city was heavily fortified, probably due to the Hittite threat from the west. It was culturally influenced by the Hurrians, the Mitanni and the Hittites.

The first swords known in the Early Bronze Age (c. 33rd to 31st centuries) are based on finds at Arslantepe by Marcella Frangipane of Rome University. A cache of nine swords and daggers was found; they are composed of arsenic-copper alloy. Among them, three swords were beautifully inlaid with silver.

These weapons have a total length of 45 to 60 cm which suggests their description as either short swords or long daggers. These discoveries were made back in the 1980s. They belong to the local phase VI A. Also, 12 spearheads were found.

Phase VI A at Arslantepe ended in destruction as the city was burned. Later on, some new occupants also left some bronze weapons, including swords. They were found in the rich tomb of “Signori Arslantepe” or “Signor Arslantepe”, as he was called by archaeologists. He was about 40 years old, and the tomb is radiocarbon dated to 3081-2897 (95% probabiity).

The most ancient bronze sword on record, dating from the second or third century of the 4th millennium BC. It was found in a stone tomb near Novosvobodnaya.

Birecik Dam Cemetery

The Birecik Dam Cemetery is an Early Bronze Age cemetery in the Gaziantep region in southeastern Turkey. This cemetery was used extensively for a very short period of time at the beginning of the third millennium BC.

This three hectare cemetery is located several hundred meters from the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates River and is approximately 25 kilometers north of the ancient site of Carchemish. More than 300 graves were dug into the subsurface clay bed between 3100-2600 BC (Early Bronze IB-II), and despite the large size of this cemetery no attached settlement has been found.

The Birecik Dam Cemetery was discovered during the building of the Birecik Dam as part of the GAP project, and it was subsequently excavated during two field seasons in 1997 and 1998 by archaeologists associated with the Gaziantep Museum. 312 burials were excavated in a 300 x 200 meter area during this time, though it is thought that many more graves were destroyed by the clay mining prior to the official excavations.

The burials that were excavated consisted predominantly of cist graves, though there were also a small number of cooking pot and storage jar burials. The cist burials were oriented NW-SW and most had similar dimensions. Between the graves were a number of shallow depressions and pits that were filled with various materials (such as food remains) that are thought to have been part of the burial ceremony.

Burials in this cemetery frequently included grave goods. These items consisted of: ceramic vessels, metal objects, frit and talc beads, several examples of terracotta figurines, two cylinder seals made of limestone and carnelian, a flint blade and fifteen painted cups in the Ninevite 5 style of northeastern Syria.

Ceramics were by far the most frequently item found in these burials with over 5,000 vessels found between the 312 excavated burials, and an individual tomb could contain up to 150 vessels. Due to damp soil conditions and the leaching of salt through the soil, the human remains were in very poor condition when compared to the ceramic, stone and metal objects.

In these burials, numerous similarities have been found with those at the contemporary site of Arslantepe, also in Turkey, to the northeast of Birecik. The similarities are not restricted purely to the structure, but also the type of furnishings in which metal objects predominate, especially numerous weapons and spearheads.

One striking aspect, which is wholly similar to Arslantepe, is the way in which the metal spearheads are arranged, generally along the northern and southern sides of the tomb, but always along the internal sides of the cist.

Mesopotamia – 3000 BC

The regional influence of Nineveh became particularly pronounced during the archaeological period known as Ninevite 5, or Ninevite V (2900–2600 BC). This period is defined primarily by the characteristic pottery that is found widely throughout northern Mesopotamia. Also, for the northern Mesopotamian region, the Early Jezirah chronology has been developed by archaeologists. According to this regional chronology, ‘Ninevite 5’ is equivalent to the Early Jezirah I–II period.

Research in Syria has shown that developments there were quite different from those in the Diyala river valley region or southern Iraq, rendering the traditional Lower Mesopotamian chronology useless.

During the 1990s and 2000s, attempts were made by various scholars to arrive at a local Upper Mesopotamian chronology, resulting in the Early Jezirah (EJ) 0–V chronology that encompasses everything from 3000–2000 BC.

The use of the Early Dynastic period (abbreviated ED period or ED) I–III chronology is now generally limited to Lower Mesopotamia, with the ED II sometimes being further restricted to the Diyala river valley region or discredited altogether.

Ninevite 5 was preceded by the Late Uruk period at the end of the 4th millennium. Ninevite 5 pottery is roughly contemporary to the Kura Araxes culture, also known as Early Transcaucasian Culture ware (ETC), a heavily buff-gray-black burnished pottery type, and the Jemdet Nasr ware.

A type of pottery known as Scarlet Ware, a brightly coloured pottery with pictorial representations, also belongs to this period; this colourful painted pottery is somewhat similar to Jemdet Nasr ware. Scarlet Ware was first documented in the Diyala River basin in Iraq. Later, it was also found.

Scarlet Ware is typical of Early Dynastic I and II periods. It developed around 2800 BC, and is related to the Jemdet Nasr ware in central Mesopotamia of the same period. The red colour was achieved predominantly by using haematite paint.

Along the Diyala is located one of the most important trade routes linking south Mesopotamia with the Iranian plateau. Thus, Scarlet ware was also popular in the nearby Hamrin Basin, and in Pusht-i Kuh, Luristan.

It was traded to Susa during Susa II period. Susa came within the Uruk cultural sphere during the Uruk period. An imitation of the entire state apparatus of Uruk, proto-writing, cylinder seals with Sumerian motifs, and monumental architecture is found at Susa. According to some scholars, Susa may have been a colony of Uruk.

There is some dispute about the comparative periodization of Susa and Uruk at this time, as well as about the extent of Uruk influence in Susa. Recent research indicates that Early Uruk period corresponds to Susa II period.

It is argued that the influence from the highland Iranian Khuzestan area in Susa was more significant at the early period, and also continued later on. Thus, Susa combined the influence of two cultures, from the highland area and from the alluvial plains.

An architectural link has also been suggested between Susa, Tal-i Malyan, or Anshan, and Godin Tepe at this time, in support of the idea of the parallel development of the protocuneiform and protoelamite scripts.

Anshan (Sumerian: Anzan), modern Tall-e Malyan,  was located in the Zagros Mountains in southwestern Iran, approximately 46 kilometres (29 mi) north of Shiraz and 43 kilometres (27 mi) west of Persepolis in the Beyza/Ramjerd plain, in the province of Fars. Its location serves as a landmark for Elamite studies.

It was one of the earliest urban states of the Mesopotamian area. It fell under the rule of the Persians in the 7th century BC and then became one of the early capitals of Persia. Most of what is known about Anshan has been discovered through ancient artifacts discovered in archaeological digs at Tall-e Malyan and passages in early Elamite texts.

Anshan is considered to be the origin of one of the world’s oldest known civilizations. It was occupied consistently from 4000 – 1000 BC. and was politically tied to the Elamites at Susa, as well as the Mesopotamians.

Its exact location was unknown to scholars until 1973 when artifacts, uncovered through archaeological digs at Tall-i Malyan, confirmed its location. Prior to that scholars only knew of it to be somewhere in the central Zagros mountain range.

During the Proto-Elamite period (late fourth millennium BC), this becomes one of the main cities of the Elamite region, thanks to its location on important trade routes. During the ‘Banesh period’ (3400-2800), at 50 hectares (120 acres), it was 5 times the size of Susa.

The Marv Dasht area, where the highland city of Anshan is located, is a complex of several interconnected valleys and plains. During the mid-late Banesh Period (3100-2800 BC) Anshan also had a walled area of 200 hectares. It also featured a number of subsidiary villages and campsites.

Archaeologists describe one of the earliest cultural phases in Iran as the Banesh period dated in 3400-2800 BC. Banesh, a village in Beyza District, Sepidan County, Fars Province, Iran, is the typesite for this period. 

Banesh is located 60 km north of Shiraz, the fifth-most-populous city of Iran and the capital of Fars Province, also known as Pars (Pārs) and Persis (Persia), in the southwest of Iran. Shiraz is one of the oldest cities of ancient Persia. The earliest reference to the city, as Tiraziš, is on Elamite clay tablets dated to 2000 BC.

This area was occupied from the sixth millennium BC. During the Proto-Elamite period (late fourth millennium BC), the nearby Anshan became one of the main cities of the Elamite region, thanks to its location on important trade routes.

In the Early Banesh phase, around 3300 BC, Proto-Elamite culture emerged in the Kur River (or Kor River) basin. During the Susa III period (c. 3200 BC), when Susa was reestablished, its pottery was predominantly Banesh style, also featuring characteristic Proto-Elamite administrative devices.

Banesh is part of the Marv Dasht area, which is a complex of several interconnected valleys and plains. During the mid-late Banesh Period (3100-2800 BC) Anshan was a huge city. It also featured a number of subsidiary villages and campsites.

Marvdasht is as ancient as the history of Iran and the Persian Empire. Archeological excavations have shown that civilized people had already been living in the Marvdasht Plains for millennia when Darius chose the plains of mount Rahmat for his royal residence.

Its former capital Persepolis is in the vicinity of the city, and few kilometers farther Naqsh-e-Rostam, Naqsh-e Rajab and the ruins of the ancient city of Estakhr are reminiscent of the region’s importance in historic times.

The fertile lands around the city were cultivated to make Marvdasht into the major center of Iranian agriculture, producing more wheat, maize, tomato, cucumber and other agricultural products than any other region.

Godin Tepe is an archaeological site in western Iran, situated in the valley of Kangavar in Kermanshah Province. The importance of the site may have been due to its role as a trading outpost in the early Mesopotamian trade networks. The earliest evidence for occupation at Godin comes from Periods XI through VII, spanning the Early and Middle Chalcolithic. The site was already inhabited as early as c. 5200 BC.

Halaf Ware

Archaeologists have long researched trade and cultural contacts between Mesopotamia and Iran. These contacts were established very early in history, and during the Chalcolithic period in Mesopotamia and Iran (c.60004000 BC) people established long distance trade networks.

To date, scholars have largely focused on the analysis of economic interactions between lowland Mesopotamia and highland Iran. In the fourth millennium B.C.E., lowland Mesopotamia traded items such as animal domesticates and grains in return for metal ores or worked metal from highland Iran.

The sixth- and fifth-millennium trade, through which the lowland Halaf culture, located in the Diyala River valley of Iraq, influenced the J-ware tradition of the Mahidasht valley in Iran. This contact was conducted over the Khorasan Road following the intermontane valleys and mountain passes of the Zagros range.

The Chalcolithic period in Mesopotamia and Iran (c.6000–4000 BC) is characterised by larger cities replacing small farming settlements, technological developments including wheel thrown pottery and copper metal working, and people establishing long distance trade networks.

The Halaf horizon (5900–5100 BC) is characterised archaeologically by a relatively homogenous cultural assemblage that developed out of the pre-existing local late pottery Neolithic tradition located along the dryland farming areas of the Fertile Crescent. It is found throughout western Syria, southern Turkey, and northern and central Iraq.

This culture/period/horizon is defined by a finely painted pottery, dryland farming, round and rectangular houses, and the use of stamp seals. It is named for the type-site of Tell Halaf, an archaeological site in the Al Hasakah governorate of northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border, just opposite Ceylanpınar. At its greatest extent, spread from the Mediterranean Sea to the Zagros Mountains

Max von Oppenheim excavated Tell Halaf in 19111913 and again in 19271930, providing the first archaeological definition and material diagnostics of the archaeological culture, including ceramics, bones, lithics, stone statues, terracotta figurines, sealings, and stamp seals.

The next large excavation and seminal research on the Halaf occurred at Arpachiyah in the 1930s. Other sites such as Tepe Gawra produced limited assemblages of Halaf material, but it was not until the 1970s that the excavations at Yarim Tepe in northern Iraq, Domuztepe in Turkey, and Sabi Abyad in Syria expanded the horizon from the Euphrates to the Zagros and into southeastern Turkey.

Gird-i Banahilk, in the Zagros Mountains, is located at the eastern edge of the Halaf cultural tradition. Banahilk measures approximately 1.5 hectares in area and contains a large assemblage of Halafian materials including ceramics, lithics,and seals.

The term Halaf denotes a ceramic tradition(s) or horizon(s) rather than a true period of time, since it spans different time ranges over different areas. Vessels manufactured at regional centres were exported to peripheral sites. For instance, ceramics made at Tell Arpachiyah are found at Tell Brak.

This is not to say local centres were not engaged in ceramic production; rather, assemblages at large sites were both locally made and traded over large distances. The potters were highly selective, and the fine ferruginous clays were often imported from distant sources.

The ceramics are handmade, thin walled, highly fired, and made of fine ferruginous clay. The vessel forms vary from round pots with large flaring necks to large deep bowls with angular profiles. The most diagnostic portions of these ceramics are the geometric and animal painted motifs. Most common are triangles, squares, checks, crosses, scallops, small circles, flowers, double axes, Maltese crosses, sitting birds, crouching gazelles, and even leaping leopards.

Early Halaf ceramics typically have simple designs on vessel exteriors, usually in red or black. Later assemblages have more elaborate geometric designs in red and black on a white slip, and designs also occur on the interiors of bowls. The pottery was fired in two-chamber kilns to increase temperatures in order to achieve an oxidising atmosphere, lending a slightly reddish color to the ceramics

A comparable ceramic horizon, the J-ware horizon (5200–4700 BC) arose in the Mahidasht and Kermanshah valleys of Iran. It derived from the contemporary Halaf painted ware, though it is simpler both technologically and stylistically. J-ware has been found at approximately 70 sites in the Mahidasht valley system, in the Shahabad and Hulailan valleys, and in the foothills of the northern and central Zagros.

The J-ware ceramics are finely painted, possibly deriving from the Halaf tradition, but also slipped and burnished. The ceramics are thin and mainly handmade, with fine mineral inclusions and occasional fine-to-medium straw temper. Sherd cores are typically buff and usually completely oxidised. Some vessels may have been turned on a slow wheel, as indicated by striations on the inside of the sherds.

There are three different types of surface treatment: 1) no treatment; 2) red-slipped, black-slipped, and burnished; and 3) slipped, burnished and painted. The paint is predominately red-brown, and sometimes black, grey, or white. Painted motifs imitate Halaf ceramics, and the most common motif is crosshatching in bands or triangles.

Other motifs are cables, pendant rim loops, checkerboard designs, and sigmas; sometimes multiple motifs occur on one vessel. Open bowls were typically decorated with a series of narrow horizontal bands at the rim. The forms of the ceramics consist of constricted pots with everted rims, collared jars, bowls with slightly inverted rims, or rounded, pinched, or flattened rims.

The Mahidasht region contains seventy sites that have a J-ware occupation and range up to three hectares in size. These occupations are characterised by semi-permanent hamlets located in an agriculturally rich valley system. The J-ware is unrelated to the previous late Neolithic pottery in the region, made locally, and the painted motifs display lowland Halafian technological and stylistic influence.

Henrickson (1983) hypothesises this contact as trickle trade, like later trade in the region, occurring along the Khorsan road from lower Mesopotamia to the highlands of Iran. Henrickson focuses her research on the Khorsan road as the route of exchange between Mesopotamia and Iran.

With the discoveries at Banahilk, three new routes can be proposed: one that runs south until it meets the Khorsan road, one that runs south and crosses the Zagros near Penjwen, and a third that crosses the Zagros near Banahilk and runs southward on the Iranian side of the mountains.

The first route has archaeological evidence of Halafian materials, especially in the Shahrizor plain and the site of Kani Shaie. More excavation in the region of Iraqi Kurdistan will help to elucidate more of the Halaf and J-ware interaction. The third route is known from later periods, mainly the Bronze and Iron Ages, but there is also limited archaeological evidence for Neolithic peoples traversing the Zagros.

Modern day ethnographies of the region have shown that some Kurdish populations living in the intermontane valleys practice pastoralism, moving from lowland areas in the winter to highland areas in the summer. Modern day roads also connect these places and traverse the same geographic passes as in the past.

Both the Halaf and J-ware traditions showcase semi-permanent to permanent settlements in agriculturally rich areas. The development of highly made ceramics with detailed painted motifs during the Chalcolithic period shows a rise in socio-economic complexity, the emergence of an elite, and the beginning of settlement hierarchy.

The J-ware comparanda at Gird-i Banahilk, a roughlyoval mound of 100 × 160 metres, located on the outskirts of modern day Diyana in Iraq, includes crosshatched triangles and squares, as well as pendant rim loops. Slipped J-ware is unattested in the extant Banahilk assemblage.

Patty Jo Watson first excavated Banahilk in 1954 on behalf of the Iraq-Jarmo project, then the Rowanduz Archaeological Project re-opened excavation in 2014. The assemblage mainly dates to the Halaf period, with subsequent Mitanni (second millennium BC), Ottoman (15001900 C.E.), and modern occupations.

Since the first excavations residential development has significantly altered the site. As Watson recalled: Our reason for selecting Banahilk as one of the three soundingspermitted the Iraq-Jarmo Project in 195455 was that it offered an excellent opportunity to recover and describe at one site at least the context of the well-known painted pottery first found at Tell Halaf early in this century.

In spite of 100 years of archaeological research in southwestern Asia, no one can say just what Halaf, Ubaid, Giyan V A, and the like mean in terms of whole artefact assemblages representing extinct cultures. Watson opened four major operations (AD) and two minor ones (W, TT) to explore a Halafian community in an intermontane valley of the Zagros Mountains.

In just ten days of excavation, Watson uncovered diagnostic painted pottery, geometrically-incised stamp seals, and stone footings. She also documented a scattering of artefacts of the Middle Bronze Age, Early Iron Age, and Hellenistic periods in thin strata within the upper approximately ten centimetres of deposit.

The later material resembles the main phases of occupation at Gird-i Dasht, located approximately 7 kilometres to the north. Radiocarbon dates from Watsons excavation place Banahilk between c. 4900 and 4300 BC. These were re-calibrated by Bernbeck to c. 58005100 BC.

There have been identified three phases of Halaf occupation at Banahilk based on the stratigraphic sequence. The earliest phase, phase 1, comprises the deepest locus, number 10, lying directly above sterile soila layer of reddish compact clay.

The artefact assemblage predominantly consists of Halaf sherds, with two Hassuna sherds, ground stone, chipped stone, and bone. The presence of Hassuna sherds suggests the site may have been settled as early as the terminal Hassuna period; but this remains inconclusive.

Phase 2 encompasses loci 39, where the excavators recorded interspersed lenses of compact soil with alignments of artefacts, indicating ephemeral living surfaces. The artefactual assemblage consists of Halaf sherds with higher concentrations of lithics and bone than in the lower deposit.

A fragmentary packed mud wall with stone footings was identified in this phase (locus 7), but did not connect to any baulk or other feature. Phase 3 represents topsoil, including locus 1 and 2 with a mix of Halaf material with Bronze and Iron Age surface scatter.

Although limited comparisons were made by Watson, a statistical comparative analysis between Banahilk, Arpachiyah, Girikihaciyan, Turlu, Yunus, Tell Halaf, and Tilkit Tepe was later carried out by LeBlanc and Watson. When combining the new and old excavations together a more representative picture can be made to situate Banahilk within the wider cultural landscape of so-called peripheral Halaf sites.

Exact comparanda with the J-ware horizon are limited at Banahilk, with only a few direct parallels. For instance, flared rim jars, with the characteristic painted band on the rim and wavy line below, strongly parallel J-ware from the Mahidasht region. Indeed, much of the J-ware is indistinguishable from Banahilk.

Overall, the new material from Banahilk helps advance discussions regarding the relationship between Iraq and Iran during the prehistoric periods. The high Zagros creates a natural barrier between Iraq and Iran but the intermontane valleys and passes are not insurmountable.

The trade between lowland Iraq and highland Iran during the Chalcolithic occurred over the Khorasan road, a route which “runs from the vicinity of Baghdad up into the central Zagros through a series of fertile highland valleys, including the Mahidasht and Kangavar, and eventually out onto the high plateau east of the mountains.This route was eventually incorporated into the silk road and remains a major highway today.

The ceramic assemblage from Banahilk illustrates contacts between J-ware and the northern Halafculture. Three routes with approximately the same distance can be proposed to link these traditionsfollowing modern-day routes between Banahilk and Tepe Siahbid.

The first follows the GaliAli Beg pass to the Harir plain, travels southwestward to the Rania plain, crosses to the Shahrizorplain near modern day Sulaymaniya, connects to the Diyala river and follows it until the rivermeets the Khorsan road to Tepe Siahbid. This route passes near other sites in Iraqi Kurdistan thathave limited assemblages of Halaf ware, namely Kani Shaie and sites in the Shahrizor plain.

The second route follows the Gali Ali Begpass to the Harir plain, travels southwestward to the Rania plain, crosses the Zagros near Penjwento Zenibar lake, and then runs down the valley to Seh Gabi.The third route crosses the Zagros near Banahilk, either through the Haji Omaron pass nearChoman, or the Kele Shin pass near Sidekan.

Both mountain passes end in the Ushnu-Solduzvalley of northern Iran. From there the route follows the Simineh river southward then follows theZrebar river to the southeast, ending up in the Kangavar valley.

Along the Iranian route, no Halafian material has been uncovered but a later painted ware tradition, Dalma ware (4700–4300 BC) appears in the Ushnu-Solduz valley.

The routes crossing the Zagros over the Kele Shin and Haji Omaron have been utilised for millennia, as witnessed by stelae documenting Assyrian and Urartian campaigns andarchaeological evidence showing habitation dating from the Neolithic.

Travel journals from western missionaries and Britisharmy captains document that the passes between Soran and the Ushnu-Solduz valleys were used inthe nineteenth and twentieth centuries by both travellers and pastoralists. A four-fold typology of trade, comprising trickle trade, redistributivetrade, regional organised trade, and long-distance organised trade, focused on Yarim Tepe.

Copper trade between lowland Mesopotamia and highland Iran in the late fifth and early fourth millennia BC., identify a combination of trickletrade and local redistributive trade as mechanisms for moving goods between the two areas. This type of interaction is mimicked in modern day pastoral migrations between the lowland and highland areas of Mesopotamia and Iran.

The few attested connections between the Banahilk assemblage and the J-ware assemblage suggest that during seasonal migrations people traversed the Zagros mountains, exchanging ideas and possibly goods.

Given Banahilk’s location on overland routes linking northern Mesopotamia and the IranianZagros, one might predict a “hybridised”, intermediary assemblage combining the stylisticelements of J-ware and Halaf ware. This is what seems to have occurred at Banahilk, and possiblyat other sites in northern Iraq.

Indeed, Henrickson has noted that decorative motifs from southwestern Iran exhibit close connections to the Halaf ware of northern Mesopotamia. Henrickson argues that Halaf ceramics were not directly imported across the Zagros but that J-ware may instead have been inspired as a result of cultural contact through pastoral migrations.

However, the movement does not need to have been restricted to contact between lowland Iraqand highland Iran. Later periods also see contact between highland Iraq and Iran. Some modernKurdish populations still practice pastoralism, seasonally moving their herds from lowland tohighland areas, so it is not implausible that Halaf influences may have beentransmitted as a result of seasonal migrations.

Dalma Ware

Dalma Tepe is an archeological site in western Azerbaijan. It is a small mound located about 5 km southwest of Ḥasanlū Tepe just north of the modern village of Dalmā in the Soldūz valley at the southwestern edge of Lake Urmia.

The mound rises about 4 m above the plain level and is approximately 50 m in diameter at the base. Excavations have revealed large quantities of handmade, chaff-­tempered pottery with fine grit inclusions, fired to orange or pink, frequently with a gray core. Conical clay spindle whorls were also found. 

This includes ‘Dalma plain ware’, ‘Dalma impressed ware’, and ‘Dalma red-slipped ware’, which was covered with a uniform coat of dark-red paint. There was a variety of shapes. ‘Dalma painted ware’ is decorated with large patterns of triangles in deep shades on red.

A few sherds have smoothed, undecorated surfaces and have been labeled “Dalma plain ware.” A second variety, Dalma impressed ware, was made by impressing the surface of the wet clay with fingertips, textiles, reeds, and other implements. Dalma red-­slipped ware was covered with a uniform coat of dark­-red paint; it occurred in a variety of shapes, including distinctive “decanting vessels” and horned lugs.

Dalma painted ware consists of deep globular vessels with pinched rims decorated with bold, sweeping patterns of triangles painted in plum, maroon, or brown shades on red. The small objects found at the site are mainly conical clay spindle whorls with concave bases.

Pottery similar to Dalma ware has been found at Seh Gābī and Godin (Gowdīn) Tepe (period X) in the Kangāvar valley to the south (Young and Levine, p. 11). Pottery of Dalma type has also been found in surveys between the Soldūz and Kangāvar valleys (Swiny, pp. 79-81; Young).

Dalma pottery represents Period IX in the main sequence at Ḥasanlū Tepe, and is dated to around 5000-4500 BCE. Links with Level XVI at Tepe Gawra have been identified, which, in northern Iraq, represents Ubaid 3 period. Similar pottery has been found at Seh Gābī and Godin Tepe, attributed to Period X. Kul Tepe Jolfa is another related site from the same period. It is located north of Lake Urmia.

Dalma pottery has been found at other sites in the Soldūz valley and along the western side of Lake Urmia. Contemporary and closely similar pottery was excavated at Tepe Seavan (Sīāvān) in the Margavar valley west of Urmia.

Dalma Tepe

Dalma Tepe is a small mound located about 5 km southwest of Ḥasanlū Tepe, near the modern village of Dalma. It is approximately 50 m in diameter. It was excavated by Charles Burney and T. Cuyler Young, Jr., in 1958-1961.

Large quantities of handmade, chaff-tempered pottery were found. This includes ‘Dalma plain ware’, ‘Dalma impressed ware’, and ‘Dalma red-slipped ware’, which was covered with a uniform coat of dark-red paint. There was a variety of shapes.

‘Dalma painted ware’ is decorated with large patterns of triangles in deep shades on red. Conical clay spindle whorls were also found. Dalma pottery represents Period IX at Ḥasanlū Tepe, and is dated to around 5000-4500 BCE.

Links with Level XVI at Tepe Gawra have been identified, which, in northern Iraq, represents Ubaid 3 period. Similar pottery has been found at Seh Gābī and Godin Tepe, attributed to Period X. Kul Tepe Jolfa, located north of Lake Urmia, is another related site from the same period. 

Scarlet Ware

A type of pottery known as ‘Scarlet Ware’, a brightly coloured pottery with pictorial representations, was typical of sites along the Diyala River. It developed around 2800 BC, and is related to the Jemdet Nasr ware in central Mesopotamia of the same period. The red colour was achieved predominantly by using haematite paint.

Scarlet Ware is typical of Early Dynastic I and II periods. Along the Diyala is located one of the most important trade routes linking south Mesopotamia with the Iranian plateau. Thus, Scarlet ware was also popular in Pusht-i Kuh, Luristan, and it was traded to Susa during Susa II period.

Jemdet Nasr

Jemdet Nasr is a tell or settlement mound in Babil Governorate (Iraq) that is best known as the eponymous type site for the Jemdet Nasr period (3100–2900 BC), and was one of the oldest Sumerian cities. Excavations have shown that the site was also occupied during the Ubaid, Uruk and Early Dynastic I periods.

Occupation is thought to have started at least in the Ubaid period and occupied until the Early Dynastic I period. The Ubaid occupation of the site has not been explored through excavation but is inferred from pottery dating to that period, and clay sickles and a fragment of a clay cone, that were found on the surface of Mound A.

Both the 1920s as well as the 1980s excavations have resulted in considerable quantities of Middle Uruk period (mid-4th millennium BC) pottery. It seems that during this period, both Mounds A and B were occupied. During the Late Uruk period (late 4th millennium BC), an extensive settlement must have existed at Mound B, but its nature is again hard to ascertain due to a lack of well-excavated archaeological contexts.

The Jemdet Nasr period settlement (3100–2900 BC) extended over an area of 4–6 hectares (9.9–14.8 acres) of Mound B. Some 0.4 hectares (0.99 acres) was occupied by the single, large mudbrick building that was excavated by Langdon, and where the clay tablets were found. In and around this building, kilns for firing pottery and baking bread were found, and other crafts like weaving. Many of these crafts, and also agricultural production, feature prominently in the proto-cuneiform tablets – indicating that much of the economy was centrally controlled and administered.

In the texts from Jemdet Nasr, the term “SANGA AB” appears, which may denote a high official. The building was probably destroyed by fire. There is no evidence for far-reaching trade-contacts; no precious stones or other exotic materials were found. However, the homogeneity of the pottery that is typical for the Jemdet Nasr period suggests that there must have been intensive regional contacts.

Early Dynastic period

The Early Dynastic period (abbreviated ED period or ED) is an archaeological culture in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) that is generally dated to c. 2900–2350 BC and was preceded by the Uruk and Jemdet Nasr periods. It is part of the history of Mesopotamia. It saw the development of writing and the formation of the first cities and states.

The ED itself was characterized by the existence of multiple city-states: small states with a relatively simple structure that developed and solidified over time. This development ultimately led to the unification of much of Mesopotamia under the rule of Sargon, the first monarch of the Akkadian Empire.

Despite this political fragmentation, the ED city-states shared a relatively homogeneous material culture. Sumerian cities such as Uruk, Ur, Lagash, Umma, and Nippur located in Lower Mesopotamia were very powerful and influential. To the north and west stretched states centered on cities such as Kish, Mari, Nagar, and Ebla.

The study of Central and Lower Mesopotamia has long been given priority over neighboring regions. Archaeological sites in Central and Lower Mesopotamia—notably Girsu but also Eshnunna, Khafajah, Ur, and many others—have been excavated since the 1800s.

These excavations have yielded cuneiform texts and many other important artifacts. As a result, this area was better known than neighboring regions, but the excavation and publication of the archives of Ebla have changed this perspective by shedding more light on surrounding areas, such as Upper Mesopotamia, western Syria, and southwestern Iran.

These new findings revealed that Lower Mesopotamia shared many socio-cultural developments with neighboring areas and that the entirety of the ancient Near East participated in an exchange network in which material goods and ideas were being circulated.

Dutch archaeologist Henri Frankfort coined the term Early Dynastic (ED) period for Mesopotamia, the naming convention having been borrowed from the similarly named Early Dynastic (ED) period for Egypt.

The periodization was developed in the 1930s during excavations that were conducted by Henri Frankfort on behalf of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute at the archaeological sites of Tell Khafajah, Tell Agrab, and Tell Asmar in the Diyala Region of Iraq.

The ED was divided into the sub-periods ED I, II, and III. This was primarily based on complete changes over time in the plan of the Abu Temple of Tell Asmar, which had been rebuilt multiple times on exactly the same spot.

During the 1900s, many archaeologists also tried to impose the scheme of ED I–III upon archaeological remains excavated elsewhere in both Iraq and Syria dated to 3000–2000 BC.

However, evidence from sites elsewhere in Iraq has shown that the ED I–III periodization, as reconstructed for the Diyala river valley region, could not be directly applied to other regions.

Research in Syria has shown that developments there were quite different from those in the Diyala river valley region or southern Iraq, rendering the traditional Lower Mesopotamian chronology useless.

During the 1990s and 2000s, attempts were made by various scholars to arrive at a local Upper Mesopotamian chronology, resulting in the Early Jezirah (EJ) 0–V chronology that encompasses everything from 3000–2000 BC.

The use of the ED I–III chronology is now generally limited to Lower Mesopotamia, with the ED II sometimes being further restricted to the Diyala river valley region or discredited altogether.

The ED was preceded by the Jemdet Nasr and then succeeded by the Akkadian period, during which, for the first time in history, large parts of Mesopotamia were united under a single ruler.

The entirety of the ED is now generally dated to approximately 2900–2350 BC according to the middle chronology or 2800–2230 BC according to the short chronology. The ED was divided into the ED I, ED II, ED IIIa, and ED IIIb sub-periods. ED I–III were more or less contemporary with the Early Jezirah (EJ) I–III in Upper Mesopotamia.

The exact dating of the ED sub-periods varies between scholars—with some abandoning ED II and using only Early ED and Late ED instead and others extending ED I while allowing ED III begin earlier so that ED III was to begin immediately after ED I with no gap between the two.

The ED I–III scheme is an archaeological division that does not reflect political developments, as is the case for the periods that follow it. This is because the political history of the ED is unknown for most of its duration. As with the archaeological subdivision, the reconstruction of political events is hotly debated among researchers.

The ED I (2900–2750/2700 BC) is poorly known, relative to the sub-periods that followed it. In Lower Mesopotamia, it shared characteristics with the final stretches of the Uruk (c. 3300–3100 BC) and Jemdet Nasr (c. 3100–2900 BC) periods.

ED I is contemporary with the culture of the Scarlet Ware pottery typical of sites along the Diyala in Lower Mesopotamia, the Ninevite V culture in Upper Mesopotamia, and the Proto-Elamite culture in southwestern Iran.

Scarlet Ware Pottery excavated in the Diyala River Valley Region. It is dated to either the Late Jemdet Nasr or ED I period. This particular artifact is currently located in the University of Chicago Oriental Institute.

New artistic traditions developed in Lower Mesopotamia during the ED II (2750/2700–2600 BC). These traditions influenced the surrounding regions. According to later Mesopotamian historical tradition, this was the time when legendary mythical kings such as Lugalbanda, Enmerkar, Gilgamesh, and Aga ruled over Mesopotamia. Archaeologically, this sub-period has not been well-attested to in excavations of Lower Mesopotamia, leading some researchers to abandon it altogether.

The ED III (2600–2350 BC) saw an expansion in the use of writing and increasing social inequality. Larger political entities developed in Upper Mesopotamia and southwestern Iran. ED III is usually further subdivided into the ED IIIa (2600–2500/2450 BC) and ED IIIb (2500/2450–2350 BC). The Royal Cemetery at Ur and the archives of Fara and Abu Salabikh date back to ED IIIa. The ED IIIb is especially well known through the archives of Girsu (part of Lagash) in Iraq and Ebla in Syria.

The end of the ED is not defined archaeologically but rather politically. The conquests of Sargon and his successors upset the political equilibrium throughout Iraq, Syria, and Iran. The conquests lasted many years into the reign of Naram-Sin of Akkad and built on ongoing conquests during the ED.

The transition is much harder to pinpoint within an archaeological context. It is virtually impossible to date a particular site as being that of either ED III or Akkadian period using ceramic or architectural evidence alone.

The Early Dynastic period is preceded by the Uruk Period (ca. 4000—3100 BCE) and the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3100—2900 BCE). A full list of rulers, some of them legendary, is given by the Sumerian King List (SKL). The Early Dynastic period is followed by the rise of the Akkadian Empire.

The preceding Uruk period in Lower Mesopotamia saw the appearance of the first cities, early state structures, administrative practices, and writing. Evidence for these practices was attested to during the Early Dynastic period.

The ED period is the first for which it is possible to say something about the ethnic composition of the population of Lower Mesopotamia. This is due to the fact that texts from this period contained sufficient phonetic signs to distinguish separate languages.

They also contained personal names, which can potentially be linked to an ethnic identity. The textual evidence suggested that Lower Mesopotamia during the ED period was largely dominated by Sumer and primarily occupied by the Sumerian people, who spoke a non-Semitic language isolate (Sumerian). It is debated whether Sumerian was already in use during the Uruk period.

Textual evidence indicated the existence of a Semitic population in the upper reaches of Lower Mesopotamia. The texts in question contained personal names and words from a Semitic language, identified as Old Akkadian.

However, the use of the term Akkadian before the emergence of the Akkadian Empire is problematic, and it has been proposed to refer to this Old Akkadian phase as being of the “Kish civilization” named after Kish (the seemingly most powerful city during the ED period) instead. Political and socioeconomic structures in these two regions also differed, although Sumerian influence is unparalleled during the Early Dynastic period.

Agriculture in Lower Mesopotamia relied on intensive irrigation. Cultivars included barley and date palms in combination with gardens and orchards. Animal husbandry was also practiced, focusing on sheep and goats.

This agricultural system was probably the most productive in the entire ancient Near East. It allowed the development of a highly urbanized society. It has been suggested that, in some areas of Sumer, the population of the urban centers during ED III represented three-quarters of the entire population.

The dominant political structure was the city-state in which a large urban center dominated the surrounding rural settlements. The territories of these city-states were in turn delimited by other city-states that were organized along the same principles. The most important centers were Uruk, Ur, Lagash, Adab, and Umma-Gisha. Available texts from this period point to recurring conflicts between neighboring kingdoms, notably between Umma and Lagash.

The situation may have been different further north, where Semitic people seem to have been dominant. In this area, Kish was possibly the center of a large territorial state, competing with other powerful political entities such as Mari and Akshak.

The Diyala River valley is another region for which the ED period is relatively well-known. Along with neighboring areas, this region was home to Scarlet Ware—a type of painted pottery characterized by geometric motifs representing natural and anthropomorphic figures.

In the Jebel Hamrin, fortresses such as Tell Gubba and Tell Maddhur were constructed. It has been suggested that these sites were established to protect the main trade route from the Mesopotamian lowlands to the Iranian plateau.

The main Early Dynastic sites in this region are Tell Asmar and Khafajah. Their political structure is unknown, but these sites were culturally influenced by the larger cities in the Mesopotamian lowland.

At the beginning of the third millennium BC, the Ninevite V culture flourished in Upper Mesopotamia and the Middle Middle Euphrates River region. It extended from Yorghan Tepe in the east to the Khabur Triangle in the west. Ninevite V was contemporary with ED I and marked an important step in the urbanization of the region.

The period seems to have experienced a phase of decentralization, as reflected by the absence of large monumental buildings and complex administrative systems similar to what had existed at the end of the fourth millennium BC.

Starting in 2700 BC and accelerating after 2500, the main urban sites grew considerably in size and were surrounded by towns and villages that fell inside their political sphere of influence. This indicated that the area was home to many political entities. Many sites in Upper Mesopotamia, including Tell Chuera and Tell Beydar, shared a similar layout: a main tell surrounded by a circular lower town. German archaeologist Max von Oppenheim called them Kranzhügel, or “cup-and-saucer-hills”. Among the important sites of this period are Tell Brak (Nagar), Tell Mozan, Tell Leilan, and Chagar Bazar in the Jezirah and Mari on the middle Euphrates.

Urbanization also increased in western Syria, notably in the second half of the third millennium BC. Sites like Tell Banat, Tell Hadidi, Umm el-Marra, Qatna, Ebla, and Al-Rawda developed early state structures, as evidenced by the written documentation of Ebla. Substantial monumental architecture such as palaces, temples, and monumental tombs appeared in this period. There is also evidence for the existence of a rich and powerful local elite.

The two cities of Mari and Ebla dominate the historical record for this region. According to the excavator of Mari, the circular city on the middle Euphrates was founded ex nihilo at the time of the Early Dynastic I period in Lower Mesopotamia.

Mari was one of the main cities of the Middle East during this period, and it fought many wars against Ebla during the 24th century BC. The archives of Ebla, capital city of a powerful kingdom during the ED IIIb period, indicated that writing and the state were well-developed, contrary to what had been believed about this area before its discovery. However, few buildings from this period have been excavated at the site of Ebla itself.

The territories of these kingdoms were much larger than in Lower Mesopotamia. Population density, however, was much lower than in the south where subsistence agriculture and pastoralism were more intensive.

Towards the west, agriculture takes on more “Mediterranean” aspects: the cultivation of olive and grape was very important in Ebla. Sumerian influence was notable in Mari and Ebla. At the same time, these regions with a Semitic population shared characteristics with the Kish civilization while also maintaining their own unique cultural traits.

In southwestern Iran, the first half of the Early Dynastic period corresponded with the Proto-Elamite period. This period was characterized by indigenous art, a script that has not yet been deciphered, and an elaborate metallurgy in the Lorestan region.

This culture disappeared toward the middle of the third millennium, to be replaced by a less sedentary way of life. Due to the absence of written evidence and a lack of archaeological excavations targeting this period, the socio-political situation of Proto-Elamite Iran is not well understood.

Mesopotamian texts indicated that the Sumerian kings dealt with political entities in this area. For example, legends relating to the kings of Uruk referred to conflicts against Aratta. As of 2017 Aratta had not been identified, but it is believed to have been located somewhere in southwestern Iran.

In the middle third millennium BC, Elam emerged as a powerful political entity in the area of southern Lorestan and northern Khuzestan. Susa (level IV) was a central place in Elam and an important gateway between southwestern Iran and southern Mesopotamia. Hamazi was located in the Zagros Mountains to the north or east of Elam, possibly between the Great Zab and the Diyala River, near Halabja.

This is also the area where the still largely unknown Jiroft culture emerged in the third millennium BC, as evidenced by excavation and looting of archaeological sites. The areas further north and to the east were important participants in the international trade of this period due to the presence of tin (central Iran and the Hindu Kush) and lapis lazuli (Turkmenistan and northern Afghanistan).

Settlements such as Tepe Sialk, Tureng Tepe, Tepe Hissar, Namazga-Tepe, Altyndepe, Shahr-e Sukhteh, and Mundigak served as local exchange and production centres but do not seem to have been capitals of larger political entities.

The further development of maritime trade in the Persian Gulf led to increased contacts between Lower Mesopotamia and other regions. Starting in the previous period, the area of modern-day Oman—known in ancient texts as Magan—had seen the development of the oasis settlement system.

This system relied on irrigation agriculture in areas with perennial springs. Magan owed its good position in the trade network to its copper deposits. These deposits were located in the mountains, notably near Hili, where copper workshops and monumental tombs testifying to the area’s affluence has been excavated.

Further to the west was an area called Dilmun, which in later periods corresponds to what is today known as Bahrain. However, while Dilmun was mentioned in contemporary ED texts, no sites from this period have been excavated in this area. This may indicate that Dilmun may have referred to the coastal areas that served as a place of transit for the maritime trade network.

The maritime trade in the Gulf extended as far east as the Indian subcontinent, where the Indus Valley Civilisation flourished. This trade intensified during the third millennium and reached its peak during the Akkadian and Ur III periods.

The artifacts found in the royal tombs of the First Dynasty of Ur that foreign trade was particularly active during this period, with many materials coming from foreign lands, such as Carnelian likely coming from the Indus or Iran, Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, silver from Turkey, copper from Oman, and gold from several locations such as Egypt, Nubia, Turkey or Iran.

Carnelian beads from the Indus were found in Ur tombs dating to 2600-2450, in an example of Indus-Mesopotamia relations. In particular, carnelian beads with an etched design in white were probably imported from the Indus Valley, and made according to a technique developed by the Harappans. These materials were used into the manufacture of beautiful objects in the workshops of Ur.

The First Dynasty of Ur had enormous wealth as shown by the lavishness of its tombs. This was probably due to the fact that Ur acted as the main harbour for trade with India, which put her in a strategic position to import and trade vast quantities of gold, carnelian or lapis lazuli. In comparison, the burials of the kings of Kish were much less lavish. High-prowed Summerian ships may have traveled as far as Meluhha, thought to be the Indus region, for trade.

Each city was centered around a temple that was dedicated to a particular patron deity. A city was governed by both/either a “lugal” (king) and/or an “ensi” (priest). It was understood that rulers were determined by the deity of the city and rule could be transferred from one city to another. Hegemony from the Nippur priesthood moved between competing dynasties of the Sumerian cities.

Traditionally, these included Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larsa, Sippar, Shuruppak, Kish, Uruk, Ur, Adab, and Akshak. Other relevant cities from outside the Tigris–Euphrates river system included Hamazi, Awan (in present-day Iran), and Mari (in present-day Syria but which is credited on the SKL as having “exercised kingship” during the ED II period).

Thorkild Jacobsen defined a “primitive democracy” with reference to Sumerian epics, myths, and historical records. He described a form of government determined by a majority of men who were free citizens.

There was little specialisation and only a loose power structure. Kings such as Gilgamesh of the first dynasty of Uruk did not yet hold an autocracy. Rather, they governed together with councils of elders and councils of younger men, who were likely free men bearing arms. Kings would consult the councils on all major decisions, including whether to go to war.

Jacobsen’s definition of a democracy as a relationship between primitive monarchs and men of the noble classes has been questioned. Jacobsen conceded that the available evidence could not distinguish a “Mesopotamian democracy” from a “primitive oligarchy”.

“Lugal” (Sumerian: 𒈗, a Sumerogram ligature of two signs: “𒃲” meaning “big” or “great” and “𒇽” meaning “man”) (a Sumerian language title translated into English as either “king” or “ruler”) was one of three possible titles affixed to a ruler of a Sumerian city-state. The others were “EN” and “ensi”.

The sign for “lugal” became the understood logograph for “king” in general. In the Sumerian language, “lugal” meant either an “owner” of property such as a boat or a field, or alternatively, the “head” of an entity or a family. The cuneiform sign for “lugal” serves as a determinative in cuneiform texts, indicating that the following word would be the name of a king.

The definition of “lugal” during the ED period of Mesopotamia is uncertain. The ruler of a city-state was usually referred to as “ensi”. However, the ruler of a confederacy may have been referred to as “lugal”. A lugal may have been “a young man of outstanding qualities from a rich landowning family”.

Jacobsen made a distinction between a “lugal” as an elected war leader and “EN” as an elected governor concerned with internal issues. The functions of a lugal might include military defense, arbitration in border disputes, and ceremonial and ritualistic activities. At the death of the lugal, he was succeeded by his eldest son. The earliest rulers with the title “lugal” include Enmebaragesi and Mesilim of Kish and Meskalamdug, Mesannepada, and several of Mesannepada’s successors at Ur.

“Ensi” (meaning “Lord of the Plowland”) was a title associated with the ruler or prince of a city. The people understood that the ensi was a direct representative of the city’s patron deity. Initially, the term “ensi” may have been specifically associated with rulers of Lagash and Umma. However, in Lagesh, “lugal” sometimes referred to the city’s patron deity, “Ningirsu”. In later periods, the title “ensi” presupposed subordinance to a “lugal”.

“EN” (Sumerian: 𒂗; Sumerian cuneiform for “lord” or “priest”) referred to a high priest or priestess of the city’s patron deity. It may also have been part of the title of the ruler of Uruk. “Ensi”, “EN”, and “Lugal” may have been local terms for the ruler of Lagash, Uruk, and Ur, respectively.

The centers of Eridu and Uruk, two of the earliest cities, developed large temple complexes built of mud-brick. Developed as small shrines in the earliest settlements, by the ED the temples became the most imposing structures in their cities, each dedicated to its own deity. Each city had at least one major deity. Sumer was divided into about thirteen independent cities which were divided by canals and boundary stones during the ED. 

Uruk, which was one of Sumer’s largest cities, has been estimated to have had a population of 50,000 – 80,000 at its peak. Given the other cities in Sumer and its large agricultural population, a rough estimate for Sumer’s population might have been somewhere between 800,000 and 1,500,000. The global human population at this time has been estimated to have been about 27,000,000.

Imports to Ur came from the Near East and the Old World. Goods such as obsidian from Turkey, lapis lazuli from Badakhshan in Afghanistan, beads from Bahrain, and seals inscribed with the Indus Valley script from India have been found in Ur.

Metals were imported. Sumerian stonemasons and jewelers used gold, silver, lapis lazuli, chlorite, ivory, iron, and carnelian. Resin from Mozambique was found in the tomb of Queen Puabi at Ur.

The cultural and trade connections of Ur are reflected by archaeological finds of imported items. In the ED III period, items from geographically distant places were found. These included gold, silver, lapis lazuli and carnelian. These types of items were not found in Mesopotamia.

Gold items were located in graves at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, royal treasuries and temples, indicating prestigious and religious functions. Gold items discovered included personal ornaments, weapons, tools, sheet-metal cylinder seals, fluted bowls, goblets, imitation cockle shells, and sculptures.

Silver was found as items such as belts, vessels, hair ornaments, pins, weapons, cockle shells, and sculptures. There are very few literary references or physical clues as to the sources of the silver.

Lapis lazuli has been found in items such as jewelry, plaques, gaming boards, lyres, ostrich-egg vessels, and also in parts of a larger sculpture known as Ram in a Thicket. Some of the larger objects included a spouted cup, a dagger-hilt, and a whetstone. It indicates high status.

Chlorite stone artifacts from the ED are commonly found. they include disc beads, ornaments, and stone vases. The vases rarely exceed 25 cm in height. They often have human and animal motifs and semiprecious stone inlays. They may have carried precious oils.

The contemporary sources from the Early Dynastic period do not allow the reconstruction of a political history. Royal inscriptions only offer a glimpse of the military conflicts and relations among the different city-states. Instead, rulers were more interested in glorifying their pious acts, such as the construction and restoration of temples and offerings to the gods.

For the ED I and ED II periods, there are no contemporary documents shedding any light on warfare or diplomacy. Only for the end of the ED III period are contemporary texts available from which a political history can be reconstructed. The largest archives come from Lagash and Ebla.

Smaller collections of clay tablets have been found at Ur, Tell Beydar, Tell Fara, Abu Salabikh, and Mari. They show that the Mesopotamian states were constantly involved in diplomatic contacts, leading to political and perhaps even religious alliances. Sometimes one state would gain hegemony over another, which foreshadows the rise of the Akkadian Empire.

The well-known Sumerian King List dates to the early second millennium BC. It consists of a succession of royal dynasties from different Sumerian cities, ranging back into the Early Dynastic Period. Each dynasty rises to prominence and dominates the region, only to be replaced by the next.

The document was used by later Mesopotamian kings to legitimize their rule. While some of the information in the list can be checked against other texts such as economic documents, much of it is probably purely fictional, and its use as a historical document is limited.

There may have been a common or shared cultural identity among the Early Dynastic Sumerian city-states, despite their political fragmentation. This notion was expressed by the terms kalam or ki-engir.[20] Numerous texts and cylinder seals seem to indicate the existence of a league or amphictyony of Sumerian city-states.

For example, clay tablets from Ur bear cylinder seal impressions with signs representing other cities. Similar impressions have also been found at Jemdet Nasr, Uruk, and Susa.

Some impressions show exactly the same list of cities. It has been suggested that this represented a system in which specific cities were associated with delivering offerings to the major Sumerian temples, similar to the bala system of the Ur III period.

The texts from Shuruppak, dating to ED IIIa, also seem to confirm the existence of a ki-engir league. Member cities of the alliance included Umma, Lagash, Uruk, Nippur, and Adab. Kish may have had a leading position, whereas Shuruppak may have been the administrative center. The members may have assembled in Nippur, but this is uncertain. This alliance seems to have focused on economic and military collaboration, as each city would dispatch soldiers to the league.

The primacy of Kish is illustrated by the fact that its ruler Mesilim (c. 2500 BC) acted as arbitrator in a conflict between Lagash and Umma. However, it is not certain whether Kish held this elevated position during the entire period, as the situation seems to have been different during later conflicts between Lagash and Umma. Later, rulers from other cities would use the title ‘King of Kish’ to strengthen their hegemonic ambitions and possibly also because of the symbolic value of the city.

The texts of this period also reveal the first traces of a wide-ranging diplomatic network. For example, the peace treaty between Entemena of Lagash and Lugal-kinishe-dudu of Uruk, recorded on a clay nail, represents the oldest known agreement of this kind.

Tablets from Girsu record reciprocal gifts between the royal court and foreign states. Thus, Baranamtarra, wife of king Lugalanda of Lagash, exchanged gifts with her peers from Adab and even Dilmun.

It is only for the later parts of the ED period that information on political events becomes available, either as echoes in later writings or from contemporary sources. Writings from the end of the third millennium, including several Sumerian heroic narratives and the Sumerian King List, seem to echo events and military conflicts that may have occurred during the ED II period. For example, the reigns of legendary figures like king Gilgamesh of Uruk and his adversaries Enmebaragesi and Aga of Kish possibly date to ED II.

These semi-legendary narratives seem to indicate an age dominated by two major powers: Uruk in Sumer and Kish in the Semitic country. However, the existence of the kings of this “heroic age” remains controversial.

Somewhat reliable information on then-contemporary political events in Mesopotamia is available only for the ED IIIb period. These texts come mainly from Lagash and detail the recurring conflict with Umma over control of irrigated land.[66] The kings of Lagash kings are absent from the Sumerian King List, as are their rivals, the kings of Umma. This suggests that these states, while powerful in their own time, were later forgotten.

The royal inscriptions from Lagash also mention wars against other Lower Mesopotamian city-states, as well as against kingdoms farther away. Examples of the latter include Mari, Subartu, and Elam. These conflicts show that already in this stage in history there was a trend toward stronger states dominating larger territories. For example, king Eannatum of Lagash was able to defeat Mari and Elam around 2450 BC. Enshakushanna of Uruk seized Kish and imprisoned its king Embi-Ishtar around 2430. Lugal-zage-si, king of Uruk and Umma, was able to seize most of Lower Mesopotamia around 2450. This phase of warring city-states came to an end with the emergence of the Akkadian Empire under the rule of Sargon of Akkad.

The political history of Upper Mesopotamia and Syria is well known from the royal archives recovered at Ebla. Ebla, Mari, and Nagar were the dominant states for this period. The earliest texts indicate that Ebla paid tribute to Mari but was able to reduce it after it won a military victory.

Cities like Emar on the Upper Euphrates and Abarsal (location unknown) were vassals of Ebla. Ebla exchanged gifts with Nagar, and a royal marriage was concluded between the daughter of a king of Ebla and the son of his counterpart at Nagar. The archives also contain letters from more distant kingdoms, such as Kish and possibly Hamazi, although it is also possible that there were cities with the same names closer to Ebla.

In many ways, the diplomatic interactions in the wider Ancient Near East during this period resemble those from the second millennium BC, which are particularly well known from the Amarna letters.

Early Dynastic stone sculptures have mainly been recovered from excavated temples. They can be separated into two groups: three-dimensional prayer statues and perforated bas-reliefs. The so-called Tell Asmar Hoard is a well-known example of Early Dynastic sculpture. It was recovered in a temple and consists of standing figures with their hands folded in prayer or holding a goblet for a libation ritual. Other statues feature seated figures also in devotional postures. Male figures wear a plain or fringed dress, or kaunakes.

The statues usually represent notables or rulers. They served as ex-votos and were placed in temples to pray on behalf of the spender. The Sumerian style clearly influenced neighbouring regions, as similar statues have been recovered from sites in Upper Mesopotamia, including Assur, Tell Chuera, and Mari. However, some statues showed greater originality and had less stylistic characteristics in common with Sumerian sculpture.

Bas-reliefs created from perforated stone slabs are another hallmark of Early Dynastic sculpture. They also served a votive purpose, but their exact function is unknown. Examples include the votive relief of king Ur-Nanshe of Lagash and his family found at Girsu and that of Dudu, a priest of Ningirsu. The latter showed mythological creatures such as a lion-headed eagle.

The Stele of the Vultures, created by Eannatum of Lagash, is remarkable in that it represents different scenes that together tell the narrative of the victory of Lagash over its rival Umma. Reliefs like these have been found in Lower Mesopotamia and the Diyala region but not in Upper Mesopotamia or Syria.

Sumerian metallurgy and goldsmithing were highly developed. This is all the more remarkable for a region where metals had to be imported. Known metals included gold, silver, copper, bronze, lead, electrum, and tin. The use of binary, tertiary, and quaternary alloys were already in use during the Uruk period. Sumerians used bronze, although the scarcity of tin meant that they used arsenic instead. Metalworking techniques included lost-wax casting, plating, filigree, and granulation.

Numerous metal objects have been excavated from temples and graves, including dishes, weapons, jewelry, statuettes, foundation nails, and various other objects of worship. The most remarkable gold objects come from the Royal Cemetery at Ur, including musical instruments and the complete inventory of Puabi’s tomb. Metal vases have also been excavated at other sites in Lower Mesopotamia, including the Vase of Entemena at Lagash.

Cylinder seals were used to authenticate documents like sales and to control access by sealing a lump of clay on doors of storage rooms. The use of cylinder seals increased significantly during the ED period, suggesting an expansion and increased the complexity of administrative activities.

During the preceding Uruk period, a wide variety of scenes were engraved on cylinder seals. This variety disappeared at the start of the third millennium, to be replaced by an almost exclusive focus on mythological and cultural scenes in Lower Mesopotamia and the Diyala region.

During the ED I period, seal designs included geometric motifs and stylized pictograms. Later on, combat scenes between real and mythological animals became the dominant theme, together with scenes of heroes fighting animals. Their exact meaning is unclear. Common mythological creatures include anthropomorphic bulls and scorpion-men. Real creatures include lions and eagles. Some anthropomorphic creatures are probably deities, as they wear a horned tiara, which was a symbol of divinity.

Scenes with cultic themes, including banquet scenes, became common during ED II. Another common ED III theme was the so-called god-boat, but its meaning is unclear. During the ED III period, ownership of seals was started to be registered. Glyptic development in Upper Mesopotamia and Syria was strongly influenced by Sumerian art.

Examples of inlay have been found at several sites and used materials such as nacre (mother of pearl), white and coloured limestone, lapis lazuli, and marble. Bitumen was used to attach the inlay in wooden frames, but these have not survived in the archaeological record.

The inlay-panels usually showed mythological or historical scenes. Like bas-reliefs, these panels allow the reconstruction of early forms of narrative art. However, this type of work seems to have been abandoned in subsequent periods.

The best preserved inlaid object is the Standard of Ur found in one of the royal tombs of this city. It represents two principal scenes on its two sides: a battle and a banquet that probably follows a military victory.

The “dairy frieze” found at Tell al-‘Ubaid represents, as its name suggests, dairy activities (milking cows, cowsheds, preparing dairy products). It is our source of the most information on this practice in ancient Mesopotamia

Similar mosaic elements were discovered at Mari, where a mother-of-pearl engraver’s workshop was identified, and at Ebla where marble fragments were found from a 3-meter-high panel decorating a room of the royal palace.

The scenes of the two sites have strong similarities in their style and themes. In Mari the scenes are military (a parade of prisoners) or religious (a ram’s sacrifice). In Ebla, they show a military triumph and mythological animals.

The Lyres of Ur (or Harps of Ur) are considered to be the world’s oldest surviving stringed instruments. In 1929, archaeologists led by Leonard Woolley discovered the instruments when excavating the Royal Cemetery of Ur between from 1922 and 1934.

They discovered pieces of three lyres and one harp in Ur located in what was Ancient Mesopotamia and now is Iraq. They are over 4,500 years old from ancient Mesopotamia during the ED III. The decorations on the lyres are fine examples of the court Art of Mesopotamia of the period.

Teppe Hasanlu

Teppe Hasanlu or Tappeh Hassanlu is an archeological site of an ancient city located in northwest Iran (in the province of West Azerbaijan), a short distance south of Lake Urmia. It is the largest and arguably the most important archaeological site in the Gadar River Valley of northwestern Iran.

The nature of its destruction at the end of the 9th century BC essentially froze one layer of the city in time, providing researchers with extremely well preserved buildings, artifacts, and skeletal remains from the victims and enemy combatants of the attack. 

Hasanlu Tepe is the largest site in the Gadar River valley and dominates the small plain known as Solduz. The site consists of a 25-m-high central “citadel” mound, with massive fortifications and paved streets, surrounded by a low outer town, 8 m above the surrounding plain. The entire site, once much larger but reduced in size by local agricultural and building activities, now measures about 600 m across, with the citadel having a diameter of about 200 m.

The site was inhabited fairly continuously from the 6th millennium BC to the 3rd century AD. It is famous for the Golden bowl of Hasanlu and the Hasanlu Lovers, which were identified as two males, found by a team from the University of Pennsylvania led by Robert Dyson. The site is also known for a 3000-year old cemetery that some researchers suggest could include the burial of transgender people. 

The unexpected discovery of the famous “Gold Bowl” at Hasanlu in 1958 led to the project shifting its focus to the Iron Age levels at this site, although several other sites in the region were also excavated in order to stay in line with the project’s broader objective. These other excavations were conducted at Dinkha Tepe, Dalma Tepe, Hajji Firuz Tepe, Agrab Tepe, Pisdeli, and Seh Girdan.

The excavators originally divided the site’s occupation history into ten periods based on the nature of material finds in the different strata: the oldest, period X, stretches back to the Neolithic period, after which there was fairly continuous occupation until the early Iron Age (ca 1250-330 BC), followed by a hiatus before subsequent reoccupation; occupation finally ends in Iran’s medieval period (Hasanlu period I).

At around 1250 BC, there are some changes in the material culture at Hasanlu and in the graves excavated at Dinkha. This marks the beginning of the Iron I period, formerly identified with Hasanlu Period V but now the equivalent of Hasanlu IVc.

While this period is designated the Iron I, there is virtually no iron in use during this period — two iron finger rings are known from Hasanlu. The High Mound of Hasanlu was almost certainly fortified during this period, and an internal gateway, large residential structures, and possibly a temple were located in this citadel. The Low Mound was also occupied.

The best evidence of this coming from a house excavated in 1957 and 1959 dubbed the “Artisan’s House”. This structure derives its name from the fact that evidence for metalworking, primarily the casting of copper/bronze objects, was found there.

At the end of Hasanlu IVc/Iron I, Hasanlu was destroyed by a fire. Evidence of this destruction was discovered on the High and Low Mound. This destruction dates to around 800 BC and it marks the beginning of the Iron II period.

While the destruction was extensive, the settlement’s occupants seem to have rebuilt the citadel and the buildings of the Lower Town rapidly, cutting down the mudbrick walls of the burned structures to their stone footings and erecting new brick walls. The buildings of the Iron II settlement were based on their Iron I precursors, but were also larger and more elaborate in their layout and ornamentation. The primary example of this being the monumental columned halls of the citadel.

The continued presence in significant quantities of Assyrian goods or copies, alongside objects of local manufacture, attest to continued cultural contact with Assyria at this time; iron first appears in bulk at Hansanlu at around the same time Assyria seized control of the metal trade in Asia Minor.

While the Neo-Assyrian Empire was beginning a period of renewed power and influence in the 9th century, it is also at this time that the existence of the kingdom of Urartu, centered around Lake Van, is first attested in the Neo-Assyrian annals and related literature. By the time we hear about it, it is already a fully developed state – the circumstances attending its rise in the 2nd millennium are obscure.

Urartu’s expansion during this period brought the area south of Lake Urmia under its influence, although material finds at Hasanlu suggest that the city may have remained independent. Nevertheless, Hansanlu was catastrophically destroyed,

We know a great deal about Iron II/Hasanlu IVb because of the violent sacking and burning at around 800 BC, probably by the Urartians. Over 150 human victims were found where they had been slain. Some victims were mutilated and distributions of other bodies and the wounds they received suggest mass executions. Amid the burned remains of the settlement the excavators found thousands of objects in situ.

Hasanlu IVb is a veritable Pompeii of the early Iron Age Near East. Some have suggested that the Iron II culture of Hasanlu, which has close ties to Mesopotamia and northern Syria, indicates the settlement came under the control of a foreign power, or experienced an influx of new occupants, or perhaps made internal changes to its political system.

The Iron II settlement was fortified and was perhaps entered via a fortified road system located on the southwest side of the High Mound, although this interpretation of the archaeological remains of this area has come under increasing scrutiny in more recent analyses. Two areas of the citadel were investigated by the Hasanlu Project.

In the west, buildings that served to control access into the citadel, a possible arsenal (Burned Building VII), and a large residential structure (Burned Building III) were investigated. South of this was Burned Building (BB) I and BB I East. These buildings formed a fortified gateway into the Lower Court area. BBI was also an elite residence.

It was in this building in 1958 that the famous Gold Bowl of Hasanlu was discovered. The buildings of the Lower Court (BBII, BBIV, BBBIV East, and BBV) were arranged around a stone-paved court. Burned Building II likely served as a temple, and it was in this building that the excavators found over 70 massacred women and children — only a few adult males were found among the victims.

Following Hasanlu’s destruction, the High Mound was used as the site for a Urartian fortress. A fortification wall with towers at regular intervals was constructed around the edges of the High Mound. Hasanlu was occupied fairly continuously during Period IIIa (the Achaemenid Period) and Period II (the Seleuco-Parthian Period).

Nakhchivan Tepe

Nakhchivan Tepe is an ancient town located within Nakhchivan city, Naxçıvan Autonomous Republic, Azerbaijan. The city is located at the top of a natural hill in the Nakhchivançay valley. The settlement dates at least as far back as 5000 BC.

The existence of connections between the cultures of the South Caucasus and the Middle East (including Mesopotamia) has drawn the attention of researchers for many years. Although separate finds validated the existence of these connections, they have been confirmed by a complex of archeological materials, including from Nakhchivan Tepe, which is characterized by Dalma Tepe ceramics, a cultural assemblage that was first found in the South Caucasus at the site.

The first settlers of Nakhchivan Tepe used rooms that were partly dug into the ground, and partly constructed from mud bricks. Rooms of this kind have also been uncovered in excavation of the Ovçular Tepesi and Yeni Yol settlements.

Charcoal remains are rare, despite abundant accumulations of ash. This demonstrates that wood was very rarely used as a fuel. The majority of archaeological materials from the site are pottery and chips of obsidian, but there are also a few tools.

Rarer items include a grinding stone, a flint product and a bone tool. The majority of tools are obsidian, including a few blades for sickles, which give some information on the character of the economy.

Animal bones show that the residents generally engaged in small cattle breeding. Hunting took an insignificant place in the economy. Bones of horses and dogs are represented by single examples. No botanical remains have been found.

In the settlement layers, charcoal remains are insignificant, and washing the ashy remains from various hearths has not yielded results. Archeologists hope that this type of research in the future will reveal information on the economy of Nakhchivan Tepe.

The pottery is generally characteristic of the first half of the 5th millennium BC. Coal from the lower horizon has been dated to 4945 BC. It is generally characterized by Dalma Tepe painted and impressed ceramics.

Excluding single finds, no other entire complex of such ceramics had not been revealed in the South Caucasus. Therefore, the pottery of the settlement of Nakhchivan Tepe has important value for studying the Chalcolithic Age culture of the region.

The ceramics can be divided into two periods based on the stratigraphy of the settlement. However, the two groups coincide to a certain degree in terms of the technology of production and ornamentation. The ceramics were produced mainly by the coil method, with the application of two layers of potter clay to each other. A thin layer of clay covered the surfaces of some vessels. This was done in some cases to change the color, and, in others, for ornamental purposes.

Some products were ornamented with finger impressions, which are sometimes executed inaccurately and mixed together. The finger impressions remained after being stuck in the thin upper clay layer. This coating method also was used in the restoration and repair of ceramics. The pottery is generally made with chaff inclusions, and fired to different shades of red. Pottery with sand inclusion is represented by a single copy. Gray wares are also represented by a single piece.

The pottery from the top horizon belongs to the first period. As has already been described, this horizon is characterized by rectangular architecture. The ceramic products of this horizon can be divided into six groups: plain pottery, painted ceramics, pottery painted in red without an ornament, ceramics with impressed ornaments including fingertip impressions, pottery decorated with a stamp from the edge of a tool, and pottery decorated with an edge ornament in the form of horizontal strips.

In 2010–2016, new Chalcolithic Age monuments were reported from the Nakhchivançay and Sirabçay valleys. Together with Nakhchivan Tepe, these can be used to specify a period of Chalcolithic Age monuments of the South Caucasus. The ceramic complex of Nakhchivan Tepe is very similar to that of Dalma Tepe.

The type of painted ceramics of the Dalma Tepe are known from the settlements of Uzun Oba and Uçan Ağıl. Impressed ceramics have been attested at Uçan Ağıl by a single copy, but have not been found in other settlements. Similar ceramics have also been found in isolated copies in monuments in Karabakh. Monuments in the Lake Urmia basin generally use Syunik obsidian.

The settlements of Nakhchivan generally used Gekche obsidian from the lake basin in present-day Sevan. Even though Syunik is closer to Nakhchivan than to Gekce, in Nakhchivan, Syunik obsidian is not common. Apparently, the tribe occupying the Lake Urmia basin had connections to the obsidian deposits of the Zangezur Mountains by means of the tribes of Nakhchivan.

The recent recovery of a stone hammer in the Nakhchivançay valley with remains of copper on it demonstrates that the connections between these tribes and the Zangezur Mountains were not only for deposits of obsidian, but also for copper deposits.

Dalma Tepe ceramics were explored for the first time at the settlement of the same name by Charles Burney’s excavation in 1959, and then also in 1961 to Cuyler Young. Similar ceramics were uncovered from the settlements of Hasanlu, Haji-Firuz, and Tepe Seavan.

Dalma Tepe ceramics have been found in Iran and Iraq together with typical Halaf and Obeid ceramics. Similar ceramics have been discovered at Zagros Mountains monuments, such as at settlements of the Kangavar Valley like Seh Gabi B. and Godin Tepe.

Numerous Dalma Tepe ceramics also were found in the Mahidasht Valley among the surface materials of 16 settlements. Among these monuments is the Tepa Siahbid settlement, Choga Maran, and Tepe Kuh.

Dalma Tepe ceramics were prevalent among the superficial material at Tepe Kuh. Similar ceramics also were found in Iraq at the settlement of Jebel, Kirkuk, Tell Abad, Kheit Qasim, and Yorgan Tepe.

Such ceramics also prevailed in the Kangavar valley, but in the Mahidasht valley, the percent of Dalma Tepe ceramics decreased very sharply. Whereas in the Kangavar valley these ceramics comprised 68%, in Mahidasht the number was 24%.

This shows that this type of ceramics lessened to the south. Although it was assumed earlier that similar ceramics were widespread to the south and west of the Lake Urmia basin, it is now known that similar ceramics were also present to the north of Lake Urmia and in Nakhchivan.

In the territory of Iranian Azerbaijan, this culture also is revealed from settlements at Culfa Kültepe, Ahranjan Tepe, Lavin Tepe, Ghosha Tepe, Idir Tepe and Baruj Tepe. Now, similar ceramics have been discovered in Southern Azerbaijan at more than 100 monuments. Some of these settlements belonged to settled populations, while others belonged to nomadic tribes.

According to researchers, this culture blossomed in northwestern Iran and extended from there to the south and the west of the Lake Urmia basin. Chemical analysis of Dalma Tepe ceramics has shown that they were made locally.

Ceramic Traditions

There were two major ceramic traditions in northwestern Iran during the 3rd millen­nium B.C.E. Throughout the entire period Early Transcaucasian II-III flourished around the northern half of the Lake Urmia basin, for example, in Yanik Early Bronze I-II, Haftavan (Haftavān) VIII-VII, and Geoy (Gök) K.2-3, and down along the eastern shore.

In the early centuries it also extended south along the eastern face of the Zagros chain into central western Persia as far as the Hamadān plain and the Kangāvar valley (Godin [Gowdīn] IV), north into the Soviet Union, and west as far as the Keban region of Turkey.

Characteristic Early Transcaucasian ware is dark-gray to black, handmade, and highly burnished. Vessel shapes are simple, primarily shouldered cups and jars, conical bowls, and beakers with concave profiles. Decoration occurred only in phase II and consisted of panels or strips of geometric patterns excised and filled with white. A poorly smoothed coarse buff ware also occurred.

In the southern Urmia basin (Ošnū-Soldūz valley), on the other hand, after an apparent hiatus in ceramic manufacture Painted Orange Ware ap­peared in the second half of the 3rd millennium, contemporary with Hasanlu (Ḥasanlū) VII. The south­ern limit of its distribution remains uncertain but lay west of the territory where Early Transcaucasian II-III predominated.

The assemblage is documented only from small soundings, a few graves, and surveys. It is a thin, grit-tempered ware, buff to orange in color, sometimes with geometric or bird motifs in black paint. Characteristic shapes include globular jars with carinated shoulders, short necks, and everted rims and shallow carinated bowls. Both vessel forms and deco­ration suggest affinities with the contemporary assemblage from Godin III/6-5 in the Kangāvar valley in central western Iran.

In the first half of the 2nd millennium there were again two distinct ceramic traditions in northwestern Persia, associated respectively with Haftavan VIB, found around the northern half of Lake Urmia (Ed­wards, 1986), and with Hasanlu VI in the Ošnū-Soldūz area south of Lake Urmia. Haftavan VIB, or Urmia, ware has also been ex­cavated in Geoy C-D (Burton-Brown) and at Bastam. It can be classified in two phases, early (found as far north as the Araxes [Aras] region and the Transcaucasus) and late (extending only as far as the southern course of the Araxes.

Early VIB assemblage is a direct or indirect development from the Transcaucasian tradition, in the same geographical area, while Late VI, a more diverse, developed, assemblage, shows much weaker Transcaucasian influence. The basic vessel forms (beakers, globular jars, plates, and carinated and rounded bowls) differ in only minor ways between phases, which are most clearly differentiated in the painted decoration.

Early VIB ware is red with black paint; the primary motifs are triangles and lozenges variously subdivided and filled. Late VIB decoration tends toward polychrome (red, black, orange, cream) with great variability in the repertoire of motifs, even at a single site. Intricate geometric designs and naturalistic human figures, animals, and birds predominate.

Some scholars link changes in pottery forms to cultural contact with Assyria. The Hasanlu VI assemblage, excavated only at Dinkha Tepe, was an intrusive phenomenon unrelated to the earlier Painted Orange Ware of Hasanlu VII. It is related instead to the Khabur (Ḵābūr) ware of northern Iraq and Syria (1900­-1600 B.C.E.) and may represent the easternmost exten­sion of Old Assyrian trade contacts. 

This was a period of expansion for the Middle Assyrian kingdom, when such kings as Adad-nirari I (1295-1264 BC), Shalmaneser I (1263-1234 BC), and Tukulti-Ninurta I (1233-1197 BC) were conducting campaigns into the Zagros mountains to the south. During this time, there was occupation on the High Mound and Low Mound of Hasanlu, and graves have been excavated at Dinkha Tepe and Hasanlu.

Starting in the Middle Bronze III period or Hasanlu VIa (1600–1450 BC), there are important changes in material culture. This is best attested at the site of Dinkha Tepe, but is also present at Hasanlu. The most obvious change is the rapid abandonment of old styles of pottery, especially painted Khabur Ware, and the increased importance in producing monochrome unpainted, usually grey, sometimes red, pottery that is frequently polished or burnished with highly distinctive shapes.

This ware is known as Monochrome Burnished Ware (formerly known as the Early Western Grey Ware Horizon); however the ware occurs in a wide range of colors and thus is something of a misnomer.

Based on new findings, the current constructions of the origins of the archaeological culture in Hasanlu, which sought to link the Monochrome Burnished Ware Horizon to the migration of new peoples into western Iran in the later second millennium B.C., shows instead that the Monochrome Burnished Ware Horizon developed gradually from indigenous traditions. This reappraisal has important implications for our understanding of Indo-Iranian migrations into the Zagros region.

The characteristic pottery forms consist of a vessel with a spout that does not connect to the rim (unbridged), a shallow bowl with a small curved ridge in its interior (“worm bowl”), and a one-handled and splay-footed goblet.

These three forms occur together at several Urmia sites: Ḥasanlu, Dinkha Tepe, Kordlar, Hajji Firuz (Ḥāji Firuz), Geoy, and Haftavān. One or two of the forms occur in burials at Godin, Giyan I, and Sialk A, to the south, where they may either have been imported or in fact represent a limited southernmost extension of the culture.

They are also found at sites farther to the east, south of the Caspian and close to Tehran: at Mārlik, Khurvin (Ḵurvin), Gheytaryeh (Ḡaytariya), and Darrus. The Urmia sites are settlements and cemeteries; the others mentioned are cemetery sites, their settlements still unrecorded. In the Late Bronze Age or Hasanlu Period V, Monochrome Burnished Ware came to dominate the ceramic assemblages of the Ushnu and Solduz valleys of the southern Lake Urmia Basin.

Gadar River

The Gadar River rises in the Iranian Zagros Mountains near the point where the borders of Iran, Turkey and Iraq meet. From its source, the river first flows towards the southeast and then changes course due east through the Ushnu-Solduz valley. After leaving the valley, the river turns north and flows into marshes bordering Lake Urmia. The length of the river is approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi), its drainage basin is variously estimated as 1,900 square kilometres (730 sq mi) and 2,123 square kilometres (820 sq mi) and its discharge is 0.34 cubic metres (12 cu ft) per second. The Ushnu-Solduz valley has been occupied since many millennia, as testified by the excavations at sites like Hasanlu Tepe and Hajji Firuz Tepe.

Hajji Firuz Tepe

Hajji Firuz Tepe is an archaeological site located in West Azarbaijan province in north-western Iran and lies in the north-western part of the Zagros Mountains. Excavations have revealed a Neolithic village that was occupied in the second half of the sixth millennium BC where some of the oldest archaeological evidence of grape-based wine have been discovered in the form of organic residue in a pottery jar.

The site was originally selected in order to investigate the early periods that had been attested in the occupation sequence of nearby Hasanlu, an archeological site of an ancient city located in northwest Iran (in the province of West Azerbaijan), a short distance south of Lake Urmia. Hasanlu Tepe is the largest site in the Gadar River valley and dominates the small plain known as Solduz.

Hajji Firuz Tepe lies in the Gadar River valley in West Azarbaijan province, north-western Iran. The Gadar River valley falls within both the modern and ancient distribution zones of the wild grape (Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris) and of the terebinth.

The plain in which Hajji Firuz Tepe is located lies in the north-western part of the Zagros Mountains at an elevation of 1,300–1,350 metres (4,270–4,430 ft) amsl. The Gadar River flows through it toward the east to eventually end in marshes bordering Lake Urmia.

The area is an important crossroads, with routes leading in all directions, including an easy route toward the west, crossing the Zagros Mountains via Rowanduz and Arbil toward the Mesopotamian Plains. 

The tell, or settlement mound, is of roughly oval shape measuring 200 by 140 metres (660 by 460 ft) at its base and reaching an elevation of 10.3 metres (34 ft) above the plain, but archaeological deposits also continue to an unknown depth below the modern surface of the plain.

Although the excavations focused primarily on the Neolithic occupation layers of the site, evidence for later occupation was also attested. On different parts of the tell, material from the Chalcolithic, Late Bronze Age/Iron Age and Islamic periods was recovered, although the Neolithic occupation seems to have been the most significant occupation. 

The Neolithic occupation has been divided in 12 phases, named A–L from latest to earliest. Recent studies indicate that the Hajji Firuz period in northwest Iran can be dated c. 6000–5400 cal BC. Then, there was a short gap in chronology, or perhaps a transitional period.

The Dalma tradition then emerged; new radiocarbon dates for this tradition are c. 5000–4500 cal BC. Dalma seems like the result of a long local sequence of development from the Hajji Firuz period.

Dalma Tepe is a small mound located about 5 km southwest of Ḥasanlū Tepe, near the modern village of Dalma. It is approximately 50 m in diameter. Large quantities of handmade, chaff-tempered pottery were found. Dalma pottery represents Period IX at Ḥasanlū Tepe, and is dated to around 5000-4500 BCE.

This includes ‘Dalma plain ware’, ‘Dalma impressed ware’, and ‘Dalma red-slipped ware’, which was covered with a uniform coat of dark-red paint. There was a variety of shapes. ‘Dalma painted ware’ is decorated with large patterns of triangles in deep shades on red.

Links with Level XVI at Tepe Gawra have been identified, which, in northern Iraq, represents Ubaid 3 period. Similar pottery has been found at Seh Gābī and Godin Tepe, attributed to Period X. Kul Tepe Jolfa is another related site from the same period. It is located north of Lake Urmia.

The evidence for winemaking consisted of six 9-litre (2.4 US gal) jars that were embedded in the floor of what archeologists suspect was a kitchen area in a mudbrick building that was inhabited some time between 5400–5000 BC.

Inside was yellowish deposits that chemical analysis showed contained residue of tartaric acid and calcium tartrate. Additionally, analysis found deposit of resin, identified as from the terebinth tree (Pistacia terebinthus) that grew wild in the area.

It is possible that the resin was used as a preservative, in a manner similar to the Greek wine Retsina still being produced today, suggesting that winemaking in Hajji Firuz Tepe was deliberately taking place over 7,000 years ago.

While the residue in the jar is not definitive proof of winemaking, it does provide strong evidence for the possibility. Grapes are unique in being one of the few natural sources for tartaric acid, which is the most abundant acid in wine and often crystallizes into deposits that are left in containers that have held wine.

Grapes also have a natural propensity to break down into alcohol by a process that we now know as fermentation where the yeast on the grape skins metabolize the sugar in the grapes into alcohol.

This happens most readily in a close container that is kept in room temperature. Whether or not the action was deliberate, storing grapes in jars that were then embedded in the floor would have created conditions favorable for wine production.

The presence of the terebinth resin deposits in the same container as the wine give a stronger indication that winemaking was perhaps deliberate in Hajji Firuz Tepe. Resin has had a long history of being used as ancient sealant and preservative, even before it became associated with winemaking by the ancient Greeks.

The volume that was stored (54 litres (14 US gal)) also seems to indicate large scale production beyond just household storage of a food product for sustenance. Additionally, archaeologists found clay stoppers, corresponding in size to the opening of the jars, nearby that also suggest a deliberate attempt at long term preservation and protection from air exposure.

The Zagros Mountains, which separate modern day Iran from Armenia, Iraq and Turkey, is home to many wild species of grapevines in the Vitis family. While wild vines are distinguished by separate male and female vines, the potential for pollination and the production of grapes could have easily happened, providing the inhabitants access to grapes.

Several archaeological sites in the Zagros Mountains have uncovered similar findings as Hajji Firuz Tepe of jars containing tartaric deposits and wine residues. South of Hajji Firuz Tepe is Godin Tepe, a site that appears to have been inhabited just after the neolithic period (around 3500–3000 BC).

Archaeologists there have discovered even more evidence of large scale winemaking with 30-litre (7.9 US gal) and 60-litre (16 US gal) wine jars as well as large basins containing wine residue, indicating that they might have been used for treading grapes as an early wine press. The residue on the jars was also found on the side of the containers, rather than the bottom, indicating that these jars were kept on their side, most likely for long term storage.

Kul Tepe Jolfa

Kul Tepe Jolfa, also known as Gargar Tepesi, is an ancient archaeological site in the Jolfa County of Iran, located in the city of Hadishahr (also Romanized as Hādīshahr, Hādī Shahr, Gargar, Alamdar), a city in the Central District of Jolfa County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, about 10 km south from the Araxes River. About 50km away is the related site of Kultepe, Azerbaijan.

Kul Tepe is a multi-period tell about 6 ha in extent, and 19 m high. It is located 967 m above sea level. It dates to Chalcolithic period (5000–4500 BC). Occupation continues into the late Bronze Age. Pottery sherds have also been recovered from the Bronze Age and Urartian periods. The early site belongs to the Early Trans-Caucasian or Kura-Araxes culture, which spread through the Caucasus and the Urmia Basin.

Material was found from the Dalma period (5000–4500 BC), and then following to the Pisdeli period, Chaff-Faced Ware horizons, and Kura-Araxes I and II periods. This is the Early Trans-Caucasian or Kura-Araxes culture, which spread through the Caucasus and the Urmia Basin around 3500 BC. Later, the Middle and Late Bronze Age (Urmia Ware), and Iron and Urartian/Achaemenid periods are also attested.

Dava Goz is another related site in the area that was recently excavated. It is located about 5km north of Dizaj Diz, Iran. This is a small and very old site that begins in the Late Neolithic/Transitional Chalcolithic period. Similar to Hajji Firuz Tepe it may have started c. 6000 BC.

Chaff-faced and chaff-tempered pottery with combed surfaces is a typical Late Chalcolithic pottery of Southern Azerbaijan. It is found in Kultepe, Azerbaijan and elsewhere in the Nakhichevan region, and in the Lake Urmia region of north-western Iran. But it is also common in other areas of the Middle East, such as in northern Syria and Mesopotamia. It is very well attested at Amuq.

The emerging picture suggests that the Chaff-Faced Ware system, whose focus was the highlands, was progressively challenged during the 4th millennium in the north as in the south, by the Kura-Araxes and Uruk expansions, respectively.

After a period of coexistence with both, the Chaff-Faced Ware culture was superseded in the highlands by the Kura-Araxes phenomenon, whose driving forces probably had some decisive advantage over its regional neighbours. Judging by the importance of metallurgy and mining activities in the Kura-Araxes world, this advantage could have been technological.


Aratashen (until 1978 Zeyva Hayi – meaning “Armenian Zeyva”, Zeyva, Bol’shaya Zeyva and Nerkin-Zeyva) is a town in the Armavir Province of Armenia. It is located on the Ararat plain, one of the largest of the Armenian Plateau. A neolithic-chalcolithic tell is located south of the town.

The Ararat plain stretches west of the Sevan basin, at the foothills of the Geghama mountains. In the north, the plain borders on Mount Aragats, and Mount Ararat in the south. It is divided into two sections by the Aras River, the northern part located in Armenia, and the southern part in Turkey.

The Ararat plain and the Sevan basin experience abundant sunshine and are the sunniest areas in Armenia, receiving about 2,700 hours of sunshine a year. The shortest duration of sunshine is in mid-mountain areas of the forest zone (about 2,000 hours). In the foothills, there is rarely a sunless day between the months of June and October.

The Ararat plain makes up 4% of Armenia’s total land area, and yet it yields 40% of Armenia’s farm production. This area has been occupied since the Neolithic or the Early Chalcolithic times. There’s evidence of very early metallurgy at Aratashen, going back to the first half of the sixth millennium BCE.

In the Neolithic level IId of Aratashen, dated to the beginnings of the sixth millennium BCE, several fragments of copper ores (malachite and azurite) and 57 arsenical copper beads were discovered.

Close to Aratashen, at Khatunark, one fragment of copper ore (malachite) has been discovered in a level dated to the first half of the sixth millennium BCE. This artefact, together with those found at Aratashen, suggest the nascent emergence of metallurgy in the Ararat region already during the Late Neolithic.

The first occupation phase at Aratashen was preceramic, going back to 6500 BCE. At Aratashen, first pottery appears at the end of the fifth millennium BC, or before 4000 BC. At this time, the plain of Ararat was in contact with the contemporary populations of northern Mesopotamia, and also with those of the ‘Sioni culture’ of the Kura basin.

Parallels are found in the southeastern Trans-Caucasia, and in the northeastern Mesopotamia, especially based on the construction techniques and the lithic and bone tools. Also the pottery, after it appears, is somewhat similar.

The best parallels are with Kul Tepe of Nakhichevan to the south, and with the northern Near East, such as the lower levels of Hajji Firuz Tepe, at Dalma Tepe, and at Tilki Tepe. At Aratashen and Khatunakh/Aknashen, there are similarities to the contemporary sites of Kultepe I, and Alikemek-Tepesi.

The later period pottery of Aratashen is becoming close to that of the Sioni culture, which locally succeeded the Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture. Here we already see the features of the later Kura-Araxes culture pottery.

The Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture, that developed in the neighbouring Kura basin and the Karabakh steppe, does not have close parallels with the early Aratashen artifacts.

Chaff-Faced Ware

Following the discovery of ceramic assemblages related to “Chaff-Faced Ware” (CFW) in Transcaucasia, this article ques-tions the origins of this ware production, which is often implicitly associated with Upper Mesopotamia and Northern Syria. After athorough comparison of CFW assemblages attested from the Caucasus down to the Fertile Crescent, it is argued that the presence of CFW over this wide territory does not result, counter to a frequent opinion, from the migrations of Mesopotamian groups into Trans-caucasia: rather, it developed from a local evolution dating back at least to 4500 BC. The territory spanned by CFW thus constitutes some kind of oikoumene, whose centre of gravity is probably located in the Highlands, between the Euphrates and the Kura Basins,but not in the Fertile Crescent.

This analysis opens new perspectives, as the study of the processes at work in the development of the first urban societies of the Fertile Crescent should now be focussed on this oikoumene as a whole, and not only on Northern Syro-Mesopotamia, in order tounderstand this fundamental evolution in all its complexity.

Recent research in Transcaucasia has revealed the existenceof several Late Chalcolithic, often single-period sites, charac-terized by “Chaff-Faced Ware” (CFW) mostly of Amuq F type.CFW was first described by the Braidwoods after their excavations in the Amuq Plain to the north of Antakya (Antioch) and was attributed to Phase F in their chronological sequence.

The geographic extension of CFW is usually associated,explicitly or not, with Northern Syria and Upper Mesopota-mia; it is deemed to typify the “indigenous” Late Chalcolithic faciès in contrast to “foreign” Uruk pottery assemblages. 

Both repertoires are indeed attested along the northern Fertile Crescent during the LC3-LC4 period, either together or on sep-arate sites but research carried out at Arslantepe (Phase VII) over the last two decades has shown that the Amuq F horizonprobably developed at an earlier date, at least from the beginning of the 4th millennium onwards, thus spanning part of the LC2 period as well.

CFW has thus become one of the key ele-ments in any discussion of the origins and mechanisms at workin the rise of early complex societies in Upper Mesopotamiaand beyond, as it occurs in a context of incipient urbanisationand administrative development.

Therefore its presence, at times exclusive, on a number of settlements in the South Caucasus, especially in the Araxes orthe Kura Basins, raises important questions: if the distribu-tion of CFW is not restricted to Northwest Syria and NorthMesopotamia, where is the focus of the CFW province? How and where did it originate?

Not only are these issues essential to our understanding of the significance of CFW sites in Transcaucasia but they also call in question current assump-tions about the broad interregional dynamics in the Near East at the time of the Uruk expansion.

In a previous paper, I put forward several hypotheses sug-gesting that the occurrence of “Mesopotamian” sites in Trans-caucasia probably indicated that the highlands were actually part of the North Mesopotamian oikoumene.

After a brief presentation of the evidence from the Kura and Araxes Basins,I will now take advantage of the new data yielded by the cur-rent excavations of Ovçular Tepesi in Nakhchivan, and surveyresults from Eastern Anatolia, to proceed further with this analysis.



Ever since their discovery at the beginning of the eight-ies’, CFW sites in the Kura Basin have been interpreted as theresult of migrations from Mesopotamia. In a famous note pub-lished in 1985, I. Narimanov made comparisons between the CFW from Leyla Tepe and the evidence from Yarim Tepe III in Northern Iraq: he explained the parallels between the twoassemblages by the migration of “Ubaidian tribes” into Trans-caucasia, which he dated to the first half of the 4th millen-nium BC.

Ever since our first assessment of Transcaucasian-Mesopotamian relationships, information on the Late Chal-colithic period in the Caucasus has greatly increased with thepublication of several excavation reports.

These data, togetherwith the results from the renewed excavations of Ovçular Tepesi, open new perspectives for analysing the cultural con-text leading to the emergence of CFW in the South Caucasus.

At least six sites yielding CFW pottery of Syro-Mesopotamian type have now been excavated in several partsof Transcaucasia: Berikldeebi in Georgia, Böyük Kesik, Leyla Tepe, Poylu, and Soyuq Bulaq in Azerbaijan and Tekhut in Armenia.

Apart from Tekhut, which is located in the Mid-dle Araxes Basin near Erevan, all these sites are located inthe Kura Basin. A small settlement (Alxan Tepe) characterizedby Amuq F material, was also found by T. Akhundov in theLower Araxes Basin (Mugan steppe), but this site has not been excavated yet.

It is interesting to note that most of the paral-lels between the Transcaucasian and the Syro-MesopotamianCFW relate to the Amuq F repertoire. The best published evi-dence comes from Böyük Kesik and Leyla Tepe.

As in the North Syro-Mesopotamian assemblages, thepottery from these sites mostly comprises chaff-tempered,chaff-faced bowls and jars, pinkish or buff in colour, whichare described as wheel-thrown.

The paste is generally fullyoxidized at Leyla Tepe, but the case is different with BöyükKesik, where many sherds are reported to have a dark core.Yellowish, pinkish or greenish slip is said to be frequent; but cases of red slip as well as burnishing are also reported forBöyük Kesik.

Just as in the Amuq, wide-necked jars with modelled or channelled rims are fairly common. Typically, all the illustrated CFW jars have a sharp inner angle at the junction between the body and the collar. 

Bowls with out-flaring walls and beaded-rims strongly recalling Arslantepe VIIexamples are also attested, together with a series of small cari-nated bowls. As the carinated bowls are not described, how-ever, it is not clear whether these vessels are red-slipped andburnished like their Arslantepe VII counterparts.

Lastly, a series of potter’s marks, some of which are strikingly similar to examples from Arslantepe VII or Tell Brak, have been found at Böyük Kesik, but also on the nearby site of Poylu, as well as in Tekhut in Armenia.

Judging by the pub-lished material, these potter’s marks are equally distributed on jars and bowls, usually on the outside surface. As in Arslan-tepe VII and Tell Brak, they often appear as complex motivescombining impressed dots and incised lines. All examples butone have been applied on a wet paste.

Apart from the CFW pottery of Amuq F type, we should also note the presence at both Leyla Tepe and Böyük Kesik of a few types that recall the Upper Tigris Region rather than theAmuq or the Malatya areas. A few “casseroles” reminiscentof North Mesopotamian assemblages have been found both atBöyük Kesik and Leyla Tepe.

Curiously enough these “casse-roles” are made in «céramique grossière», which is described as mostly grit-tempered, and not in CFW. Similar vesselsare documented in the Middle Euphrates Basin at Kurban Höyük and Hacınebi, where they belong to the earlier partof the sequence (Hacınebi A and Kurban VI—Area C01). Two sherds, one from Böyük Kesik and the other from Leyla Tepe, obviously come from “double-mouthed” jars, a vessel type thatis also attested in the Amuq F assemblage.

It is important to note in passing that the similarities betweenthe “Leyla Tepe culture” and North Syro-Mesopotamiansites are not restricted to pottery: parallels have also been drawn between building techniques, architectural plans, stampseals, and funerary customs.

Lastly, to the wealth of information now available for Transcaucasia, we can also add some new data retrieved fromthe Northern Caucasus, where a series of sites belonging tothe Majkop culture are described as having links with Upper-Mesopotamia and Anatolia. With the exception of a few seals, however, comparisons only apply to the pottery.

Analogies are mostly based on shape similarities and the presence of potter’s marks. Yet, if some morphological parallels may be drawn between the Majkop pottery and a few isolated vessels from different sites of the Fertile Crescent, the Majkop repertoireas a whole does not really compare with any of the Upper-Mesopotamian assemblages, except possibly that from Hammam et-Turkman V.

What is more, it has to be stressed thatexcept for a series of large pithoi, most of the Majkop pottery retrieved from the Kuban Basin is neither chaff-tempered norchaff-faced. The Majkop assemblage thus stands outside ourscope here, even if comparisons between the Majkop and theCFW repertoires may indirectly be useful for understandingcultural dynamics at an interregional level.

To conclude, the CFW technological province no doubtincludes Transcaucasia, but the case with the Northern Cauca-sus is more ambiguous. The Majkop culture is probably related to the dynamics at work south of the Caucasus range althoughin some way it stands outside the main cultural stream.

On the other hand, close cultural links between Transcau-casia, Eastern Anatolia and Northern Syro-Mesopotamia areevident, questioning again the processes at work in the emer-gence of the CFW horizon in the Fertile Crescent and beyond.

Where did the CFW originate? Are we faced with the migra-tion of North Mesopotamian groups into Transcaucasia, assuggested by a number of authors or should our interpreta-tion of the Late Chalcolithic highland culture(s) be entirely reconsidered ?

In point of fact, these questions open onto totally differ-ent vistas if the problem is viewed from another angle: whatif the close relationships observed between Transcaucasia andUpper Mespotamia did not result from migrations from Southto North but instead from cultural dynamics anchored in the North?

If the Ovçular culture, which is at home over a wideregion extending from Lake Van up to the Kura Basin, hasorganic links with the Amuq F/Leyla Tepe horizon, what isthe situation in the Upper Euphrates and Northern Syro-Mesopotamia? Do the late 5th millennium ceramic assem-blages attested along the Fertile Crescent have any link with the CFW tradition?

Note that all these decora-tion types are characteristic at Ovçular of the earlier architec-tural phase (Phase I) and tend to disappear after 4200 BC: theyare rare or absent in the subsequent occupation levels.

Thus, chronological, technological and morphological indicators strongly suggest that the CFW from Ovçular could be an ancestor to the later Amuq F/Leyla Tepe repertoire: according to this hypothesis, the overall CFW assemblage should be divided into an early (Ovçular) and a late (Amuq F/ Leyla Tepe) component.

This hypothesis is actually supported by the discovery of some early CFW types at Böyük Kesik, where the full array of Amuq F/Leyla Tepe pottery is also exemplified: beside wide-necked jars with everted rims, which recall shapes frequentat Ovçular Tepesi, vessels decorated with a row of knobs or aplain, annular coil are also attested.

Even if the present strati-graphic evidence from Böyük Kesik does not afford a closestudy of its cultural evolution from early to late CFW, strong technological continuity between the two repertoires makes itlikely that they are organically linked: at Böyük Kesik, lateCFW (= Amuq F/Leyla Tepe) appears as a development fromearly CFW (= Ovçular).

Whatever the link between early and late CFW at Böyük Kesik, it follows from this analysis that the CFW traditionin Transcaucasia is certainly rooted in the local substratum:its evolution can be traced back at least as far as the secondhalf of the 5th millennium, suggesting that the CFW culture attested on Leyla Tepe sites (Berikldeebi, Böyük Kesik, LeylaTepe, Soyuq Bulak and Tekhut) is not a foreign intrusion. If this analysis were to be confirmed, the hypothesis of migrationfrom south to north would be ruled out.

From this point on, two scenarios are possible: eitherthe CFW originated somewhere in the highlands and spreadtowards Upper Mesopotamia in a second step, which involvesa revised and reversed version of the migration theory, nowfrom north to south. Or the CFW cultural province developed  simultaneously over both the highlands and the lowlands, hereconsidered as a single, large territory. Does the available evi-dence favour one hypothesis over the other?


To conclude, whether in Mesopotamia, Anatolia or Trans-caucasia, Hacınebi A/B1, Amuq F or Leyla Tepe assemblagesdeveloped from a long tradition of CFW productions rootedin late 5th millennium cultures. The general picture (table 1)is nevertheless fairly complex, and more work is neededbefore the evolution of each component is thoroughly clari-fied: in areas located north of the Oriental Taurus, the emer-gence of CFW seems in certain cases (Korucutepe, Tülintepe)to develop from a dark-and-chaff-faced component rooted inthe local substratum. This situation can compare with the cul-tural evolution attested in the Araxes or even the Kura Valleys,except that in these two regions the earliest CFW productionsare not dark-faced.South of the Oriental Taurus, the earliest occurrence of CFW also dates back to the second half of the 5th millennium,but in these regions, it seems to replace former pottery pro-ductions associated with the Late Ubaid horizon. This curioussituation may be explained by the various dynamics affectingEastern and Southeastern Anatolia, as it appears that around4500 BC, the Oriental Taurus range in some way marked a cul-tural frontier between areas located under the Late Ubaid andother zones (DFBW?) of influence. Even if Late Ubaid siteshave occasionally been found in the Upper-Euphrates Basin, this region basically belongs to a non-Ubaid (DFBW?) culturalprovince, while the Ubaid purview was restricted to UpperMesopotamia and the Taurus piedmonts.During the second half of the 5th millennium, this culturalpattern changed with the ebb of Ubaid components and therise of the chaff-faced productions. It is possible that the earli-est stages of the CFW evolution north of the Oriental Taurusrange developed when the South was still under the influenceof the Ubaid world.
At all events, from
4300 BC onwards,this newly formed CFW entity or
included Upper-Mesopotamia, Eastern Anatolia and the South Caucasus.
The available data gives little insight into the socio-economic or political significance of this cultural entity, but it

should be stressed that it encompasses widely different territo-ries over about a thousand years: wide valleys and low steppesin Upper Mesopotamia; wide valleys and highlands in theUpper Euphrates Basin; high valleys and highlands in EasternAnatolia; highlands, wide valleys and low steppes in the Kuraand Araxes Basins.Actually, the comparison of settlement patterns through-out these various regions is quite interesting: a majority of small, single-period sites with little archaeological accumu-lation, which characterizes most of the South Caucasus andthe Eastern Anatolian highlands, form a striking contrastwith the Upper Euphrates Valley and Upper Mesopotamia,which are typified by often large, multi-period tells with thickarchaeological deposits. This suggests the existence of dif-fering functions among the sites, as well as socio-economicregional specificities and possibly complementary subsistencestrategies: considering the available data, it seems plausibleto suggest the existence of sedentary settlements in the low plains interacting with camp sites located in the highlands.

If migrations are to be accounted for in the diffusion of late CFWin the South Caucasus and Eastern Anatolia, these were proba-bly restricted to seasonal movements in a dimorphic economicsystem, associating pastoral nomads with sedentary agricul-turists. In any case, it is within this system that late CFW tradi-tions developed from a similar cultural background

Following the publication of considerable data relating tothe Late Chalcolithic period in the Caucasus over the last fewyears, a number of assumptions concerning the relationshipsbetween the Caucasus and Upper Mesopotamia must now berevised.

In particular, it has become clear that the various CFW sites recently discovered in the Kura or Araxes Basins shouldnot be considered as “alien” within their Caucasian environ-ment. They are part of a local evolution, together with othercultural components, since the settlement pattern of the highlands during the 4500-3500 BC period is characterized bycultural duality or probably even by multiculturality; a pattern which is also attested in Upper Mesopotamia duringmost of the 4th millennium BC.

According to the present interpretation, the Amuq F/LeylaTepe culture in the South Caucasus is indeed related to Meso-potamia but it is not a Mesopotamian culture per se. Rather, the centre of gravity of this culture probably lies somewhere in the highlands between the Upper Euphrates and the Kura Rivers.

The CFW cultural horizon encompasses the highlandsand Upper Mesopotamia, which are thus part of the same oikoumene. However, it should be stressed that the CFW sitesattested over this vast territory probably had different functions and were constituents of a complex economic system. This territory was also pervious to other cultural elements (DFBW, Late Sioni, Kuro-Araxes), which somehow interactedwith the local CFW communities.

The implications of this model are far-reaching: first, itputs the emergence of the first urban societies from the Tigristo the Euphrates Basins into a new perspective, as the high-lands from Eastern Anatolia and the South Caucasus shouldnow be included in the analysis of the urban development atwork in Upper Mesopotamia and beyond.

What is more, it follows from the above that the cultural entity that confrontedthe Uruk expansion from ca 3600 BC onward, was a wide andcomplex territory extending from the Caucasus down to the Mesopotamian lowlands.

It may thus seem remarkable that very few remains clearlyidentifiable with the Uruk culture have been found north of the Upper Euphrates Basin. This fact may be explained by thesimultaneous expansion of the Kura-Araxes cultures from the South Caucasus into Eastern Anatolia and the Levant, which,according to recent data from the excavations of OvçularTepesi, began as early as the end of the 5th millennium BC.

In any case, it seems clear that the demise of the CFW culture,which in each region started at a different time throughout the 4th millennium, is concurrent with the development of the Kuro-Araxes phenomenon.

To sum up, the emerging picture suggests that the CFW system, whose focus was the highlands, was progressively challenged during the 4th millennium in the North as in theSouth, respectively by the Kuro-Araxes and the Uruk expansions. After a period of coexistence with both, the CFW culturewas superseded in the highlands by the Kuro-Araxes phenom-enon, whose driving forces probably had some decisive advan-tage over its regional neighbours: judging by the importanceof metallurgy and mining activities in the Kuro-Araxes world,this advantage could be technology







 Following the discovery of ceramic assemblages related to “Chaff-Faced Ware” (CFW) in Transcaucasia, this article ques-tions the origins of this ware production, which is often implicitly associated with Upper Mesopotamia and Northern Syria. After athorough comparison of CFW assemblages attested from the Caucasus down to the Fertile Crescent, it is argued that the presence of CFW over this wide territory does not result, counter to a frequent opinion, from the migrations of Mesopotamian groups into Trans-caucasia: rather, it developed from a local evolution dating back at least to 4500 BC. The territory spanned by CFW thus constitutes some kind of 
 , whose centre of gravity is probably located in the Highlands, between the Euphrates and the Kura Basins,but not in the Fertile Crescent.This analysis opens new perspectives, as the study of the processes at work in the development of the first urban societies of the Fertile Crescent should now be focussed on this
as a whole, and not only on Northern Syro-Mesopotamia, in order tounderstand this fundamental evolution in all its complexity




The 1100-kilometre long Caucasus mountain ranges extend between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and are bounded by the rivers Kuban and Terek in the north and the Kura and Araxes rivers in the south. The rich archaeological record suggests extensive human occupation since the Upper Palaeolithic.

A Neolithic lifestyle based on food production began in the Caucasus after 6000 BC. As a region rich in natural resources such as ores, pastures and timber, the Caucasus gained increasing importance to the economies of the growing urban centres in northern Mesopotamia. In the 4th millennium BCE the archaeological record attests to the presence of the Maykop and Kura-Araxes, two major cultural complexes of the Bronze Age (BA) in the region.

The Maykop culture is well known for its large and rich burial mounds, especially at the eponymous Maykop site, which reflect the rise of a new system of social organization, while the Kura-Araxes is found on both flanks of the Caucasus mountain range, demonstrating a connection between north and south.

Contact between the near East, the Caucasus, the Steppe and central Europe is documented, both archaeologically and genetically, as early as the 5th millennium BC.

This increased in the 4th millennium BCE along with the development of new
technologies such as the wheel and wagon, copper alloys, new weaponry, and new breeds of domestic sheep. Such contact was critical in the cultural and genetic formation of the Yamnaya complex on the Eurasian Steppe—with about half of BA Steppe ancestry thought to derive from the Caucasus.

In the 3rd millennium BC, increased mobility associated with wheeled transport and the intensification of pastoralist practices led to dramatic expansions of populations closely related to the Yamnaya, accompanied by the domestication of horses allowing more
efficient keeping of larger herds.

These expansions ultimately contributed a substantial fraction to the ancestry of present-day Europe and South Asia. Thus, the Caucasus region played a crucial role in the prehistory and formation of Eurasian genetic diversity.

Recent ancient DNA studies have resolved several longstanding questions regarding cultural and population transformations in prehistory. One important feature is a cline of European hunter-gatherer (HG) ancestry that runs roughly from West to East (hence WHG and EHG.

This ancestry differs from that of Early European farmers, who are more closely related to farmers of northwest Anatolia and also to pre-farming Levantine individuals. The near East and Anatolia have long-been seen as the regions from which European farming and animal husbandry emerged.

In the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic, these regions harboured three divergent populations, with Anatolian and Levantine ancestry in the west, and a group with a distinct ancestry in the east. The latter was first described in Upper Pleistocene individuals from Georgia (CHG) and then in Mesolithic and Neolithic individuals from Iran.

The following millennia, spanning the Neolithic to BA, saw admixture between these ancestral groups, leading to a pattern of genetic homogenization of the source populations.

North of the Caucasus, Eneolithic and BA individuals from the Samara region (5200–4000
BCE) carry an equal mixture of EHG- and CHG/Iranian ancestry, so-called ‘steppe ancestry’ that eventually spread further west, where it contributed substantially to present-day Europeans, and east to the Altai region as well as to South Asia.

To understand and characterize the genetic variation of Caucasian populations, present-day groups from various geographic, cultural/ethnic and linguistic backgrounds have been analyzed previously. Yunusbayev and colleagues described the Caucasus region as an asymmetric semipermeable barrier based on a higher genetic affinity of southern Caucasus groups to Anatolian and near Eastern populations and a genetic discontinuity between these and populations of the North Caucasus and the adjacent Eurasian steppes.

While autosomal and mitochondrial DNA data appear relatively homogeneous across the entire Caucasus, the Y chromosome diversity reveals a deeper genetic structure attesting
to several male founder effects, with striking correspondence to geography, ethnic and linguistic groups, and historical events.

Gene flow in the Caucasus during times when the exploitation of resources of the
steppe environment intensified was potentially triggered by the cultural and technological innovations of the Late Chalcolithic and EBA around 4000–3000 BCE. The spread of steppe ancestry into central Europe and the eastern steppes during the early 3rd millennium BCE was a striking migratory event in human prehistory

Individuals from our Caucasian time transect form two distinct genetic clusters that were stable over 3000 years and correspond with eco-geographic zones of the steppe and mountain regions. This finding is different from the situation today, where the Caucasus mountains separate northern from southern Caucasus populations.

Data from the Caucasus region cover a 3000-year interval of prehistory, during which we observe a genetic separation between the groups in the northern foothills and those groups of the bordering steppe regions in the north (i.e. the ‘real’ steppe). This is in correspondence with eco-geographic vegetation zones that characterise the socio-economic basis of the associated archaeological cultures.

When compared to present-day human populations from the Caucasus, which show a clear separation into North and South Caucasus groups along the Great Caucasus mountain range, our new data highlight a different situation during the BA.

Individuals buried in kurgans in the North Caucasian piedmont zone are more closely related to ancient individuals from regions further south in today’s Armenia, Georgia and Iran results in two main observations.

First, sometime after the BA present-day North Caucasian populations must have received additional gene-flow from steppe populations that now separates them from southern Caucasians, who largely retained the BA ancestry profile. The archaeological and historic records suggest numerous incursions during the subsequent Iron Age and Medieval times.

The Caucasus was no barrier to human movement in prehistory. Instead the interface of the steppe and northern mountain ecozones could be seen as a transfer zone of cultural innovations from the south and the adjacent Eurasian steppes to the north.

The latter is best exemplified by the two Steppe Maykop outlier individuals, which carry additional Anatolian farmer-related (AF) ancestry, for which the contemporaneous piedmont Maykop individuals present likely candidates for the source of this ancestry.

This might also explain the regular presence of ‘Maykop-style artefacts’ in burials that
share Steppe Eneolithic traditions and are genetically assigned to the Steppe group. Hence the diverse ‘Steppe Maykop’ group indeed represents the mutual entanglement of Steppe and Caucasus groups and their cultural affiliations in this interaction sphere.

Concerning the influences from the south, our oldest dates from the immediate Maykop predecessors Darkveti-Meshoko (Eneolithic Caucasus) indicate that the Caucasus genetic profile was present north of the range ~6500 BP, 4500 calBCE.

This is in accordance with the Neolithization of the Caucasus, which had started in the flood plains of South Caucasian rivers in the 6th millennium BCE, from where it spread across to the West/ Northwest during the following millennium.

It remains unclear whether the local CHG ancestry profile (Kotias Klde and Satsurblia in today’s Georgia) was also present in the North Caucasus region before the Neolithic. However, if we take the CHG ancestry as a local baseline and the oldest Eneolithic Caucasus individuals from our transect as a proxy for the local Late Neolithic ancestry, we notice a substantial increase in AF ancestry.

This in all likelihood reflects the process of Neolithization, which also brought this type of ancestry to Europe. As a consequence, it is possible that Neolithic groups could have reached the northern foothills earlier. Hence, additional sampling from older individuals would be desirable to fill this temporal and spatial gap.

The North Caucasus piedmont region was genetically connected to the south at the time of the eponymous grave mound of Maykop. Even without direct ancient DNA data from northern Mesopotamia, our results suggest an increased assimilation of Chalcolithic individuals from Iran, Anatolia, and Armenia and those of the Eneolithic Caucasus during 6000–4000 calBCE, and thus likely also intensified cultural connections.

It is possible that the cultural and genetic basis of Maykop were formed within this sphere of interaction. In fact, the Maykop phenomenon was long understood as the terminus of expanding Mesopotamian civilisations. It has been further suggested that along with these influences the key technological innovations in western Asia that had revolutionised the late 4th millennium BCE had ultimately also spread to Europe.

An earlier connection in the late 5th millennium BCE, however, allows speculations about an alternative archaeological scenario: was the cultural exchange mutual and did e.g. metal rich areas such as the Caucasus contribute substantially to the development and transfer of these innovations.

Within the 3000-year interval covered in this study, we observe a degree of genetic continuity within each cluster, albeit occasionally interspersed by subtle gene-flow between the two clusters as well as from outside sources.

Moreover, our data show that the northern flanks were consistently linked to the Near East and had received multiple streams of gene flow from the south during the Maykop, Kura-Araxes, and late phase of the North Caucasus culture.

Interestingly, this renewed appearance of the southern genetic make-up in the foothills corresponds to a period of climatic deterioration (known as 4.2 ky event) in the steppe zone, that put a halt to the exploitation of the steppe zone for several hundred years.

Further insight arises from individuals that were buried in the same kurgan but in different time periods, as highlighted in the two kurgans Marinskaya 5 and Sharakhalsun 6.

Here, we recognize that the distinction between Steppe and Caucasus is not strict but rather reflects a shifting border of genetic ancestry through time, possibly due to climatic/vegetation shifts and/or cultural factors linked to subsistence strategies
or social exchange.

Thus, the occurrence of Steppe ancestry in the northern foothills likely coincides with the range expansion of Yamnaya pastoralists. However, more time-stamped data from
this region will be needed to provide details on the dynamics of this contact zone.

An important observation is that Eneolithic Samara and Eneolithic steppe individuals directly north of the Caucasus had initially not received AF gene flow. Instead, the Eneolithic steppe ancestry profile shows an even mixture of EHG- and CHG ancestry, suggesting an effective cultural and genetic border between the contemporaneous Eneolithic populations, notably Steppe and Caucasus.

Due to the temporal limitations of our dataset, we currently cannot determine whether this ancestry is stemming from an existing natural genetic gradient running from EHG far to the north to CHG/Iran in the south or whether this is the result of Iranian/CHG-related ancestry reaching the steppe zone independently and prior to a stream of AF ancestry, where they mixed with local hunter-gatherers that carried only EHG ancestry.

All later steppe groups, starting with Yamnaya, deviate from the EHG-CHG admixture cline towards European populations in the West. We show that these individuals had received AF ancestry, in line with published evidence from Yamnaya individuals from Ukraine (Ozera) and Bulgaria.

In the North Caucasus, this genetic contribution could have occurred through
immediate contact with Caucasus groups or further south. An alternative source, explaining the increase in WHG-related ancestry, would be contact with contemporaneous Chalcolithic/ EBA farming groups at the western periphery of the Yamnaya distribution area, such as Globular Amphora and Cucuteni–Trypillia from Ukraine, which have been shown to carry AF ancestry. Archaeological arguments are consonant with both scenarios.

Contact between early Yamnaya and late Maykop groups is suggested by Maykop impulses seen in early Yamnaya complexes. A western sphere of interaction is evident from striking resemblances of imagery inside burial chambers of Central Europe and
the Caucasus, and similarities in geometric decoration patterns in stone cist graves in the Northern Pontic steppe, on stone stelae in the Caucasus, and on pottery of the Eastern Globular Amphora Culture, which links the eastern fringe of the Carpathians and the Baltic Sea40.

This overlap of symbols implies a late 4th millennium BCE communication and interaction network that operated across the Black Sea area involving the Caucasus, and later also early Globular Amphora groups in the Carpathians and east/central Europe.

The role of early Yamnaya groups within this network is still unclear. However, this interaction zone predates any direct influence of Yamnaya groups in Europe or the succeeding formation of the Corded Ware and its persistence opens the possibility of subtle gene-flow from farmers at the eastern border of arable lands into the steppe, several centuries before the massive range expansions of pastoralist groups that reached
Central Europe in the mid-3rd millennium BCE.

A surprising discovery was that Steppe Maykop individuals from the eastern desert steppes harboured a distinctive ancestry component that relates them to Upper Palaeolithic Siberians and Native Americans. This is exemplified by the more commonly East Asian features such as the derived EDAR allele, which has also been observed in HG from Karelia and Scandinavia.

The additional affinity to East Asians suggests that this ancestry is not derived directly from ANE but from a yet-to-be-identified ancestral population in north-central Eurasia with a wide distribution between the Caucasus, the Ural Mountains and the Pacific coast20, of which we have discovered the so far southwestern-most and also youngest genetic representatives.

The insight that the Caucasus mountains served as a corridor for the spread of CHG ancestry north but also for subtle later gene-flow from the south allows speculations on the postulated homelands of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) languages and documented gene-flows that could have carried a consecutive spread of both across West Eurasia.

This also opens up the possibility of a homeland of PIE south of the Caucasus, and could offer a parsimonious explanation for an early branching off of Anatolian languages, as shown on many PIE tree topologies.

Geographically conceivable are also Armenian and Greek, for which genetic data support an eastern influence from Anatolia or the southern Caucasus10,54, and an Indo-Iranian offshoot to the east. However, latest ancient DNA results from South Asia suggest an LMBA spread via the steppe belt.

Irrespective of the early branching pattern, the spread of some or all of the PIE branches would have been possible via the North Pontic/Caucasus region and from there, along with pastoralist expansions, to the heart of Europe. This scenario finds support from the well attested and widely documented ‘steppe ancestry’ in European populations and the postulate of increasingly patrilinear societies in the wake of these expansions.

However, during the early BA we also observe subtle gene flow from the Caucasus as well as the eastern European farming groups into the steppe region, which predates the massive expansion of the steppe pastoralists that followed in the 3rd millennium BCE.

Archaeogenetic studies have described the formation of Eurasian ‘steppe ancestry’ as a
mixture of Eastern and Caucasus hunter-gatherers. However, it remains unclear when and where this ancestry arose and whether it was related to a horizon of cultural innovations in the 4th millennium BCE that subsequently facilitated the advance of pastoral societies in Eurasia.

Genome-wide SNP data from 45 prehistoric individuals along a 3000-year temporal transect in the North Caucasus show a genetic separation between the groups of the Caucasus and those of the adjacent steppe. The northern Caucasus groups are genetically similar to contemporaneous populations south of it, suggesting human movement across the mountain range during the Bronze Age.

The steppe groups from Yamnaya and subsequent pastoralist cultures show evidence for previously undetected farmer-related ancestry from different contact zones, while Steppe Maykop individuals harbour additional Upper Palaeolithic Siberian and Native American related ancestry


Kültəpə (also Aşağı Gültəpə, Gültəpə, Kyul’tepe, Kul’tepe, and Kultepe) is a village and municipality in the Babek Rayon of Nakhchivan. In 1951, archeologist Osman Habibulla began excavation in the settlement, clarifying the stratigraphy and cultural strata of the area. The tell was much disturbed in the past.

As excavators had found, the town features a cultural layer with the total depth of 22 m. The earliest 9 m of this belongs to the Neolithic Age. Some Halaf culture artifacts have been found. On top of that are the remains of the Bronze Age, and then the Early Iron Age. At each of these layers a variety of artifacts were found: pottery dishes, cattle-breeding and agricultural implements, adornments, weapons etc.

In the Eneolithic layer the excavators discovered remains of buildings, as well as burial places. A total of 85 burial places were investigated in the Eneolithic layer. In 31 of those excavators found pottery dishes, items made of bones and stone, and beads.

These buildings were round as well as rectangular-shaped, and were made of mudbrick. The diameter of the round constructions was around 6–8 meters. The rectangular ones are about 15 sq. m in size. These structures were typically connected with agriculture.

Soviet scientists decided that Kultepe is the place where the first items made of copper-arsenic alloys, dating back to the 4th millennium BC, were found in the South Caucasus. The local method of arsenic copper production was confirmed by results of chemical investigation and casting forms and the remains of casting discovered there.

Some archaeologists speak of the ancient Alikemek-Kul’tepe culture of southeastern Caucasus, that followed the Shulaveri-Shomu culture, and covered the transition from the Neolithic to Chalcolithic periods (c. 4500 BC).

Alikemek-Kul’tepe culture covered the Ararat Plain, Nakhichevan, the Mil’skoj and Mugan Steppes and the region around Lake Urmia in north-western Iran. Aratashen (following level II) was also part of this culture.

Kültepe 2 is located about 1.5 km north of Kultepe 1, or about 10 km north of Nakhchivan (city) on the west bank of the river between the villages of Kültepe and Didivar.

The site is nearly 10 ha in extent; it was occupied during the Early (Kura-Araxes culture), and Middle Bronze Age. It may have been c. 5 hectares, and over the later period the settlement extended to the full 10 ha, so this is a very large site in the area.


Archaeological site Alikemek-Tepesi is an ancient settlement located on the bank of the Aras river in the Mugan plain, a plain along the Aras (river) in northwestern Iran and the southern part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The highest density of irrigation canals is in the section of the Mugan plain which lies in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The soil of this plain is very fertile. The settlement is located in Jalilabad District in Azerbaijan. It is belonging to the Chalcolithic period, dating to c. 5000 BC. Early levels belonged to Shulaveri-Shomu culture.

Materials from this site are very close to the materials obtained from monuments of northwestern Iran (Dalma ware). The artifacts of the lower level are similar to those at Kültəpə I in Nakhchivan. In the upper levels, there is also pottery of the northern Ubaid period type.

There was numerous earthenware found during the excavations. More than 300 samples of painted pottery covered with monochrome drawings were found. Most of the brown and red drawings are triangles, rhombuses, containing straight and curved lines. Many items from Alikemek-Tepesi are considered as locally produced.

Some archaeologists speak of the ancient Alikemek-Kul’tepe culture of southeastern Caucasus, which followed the Shulaveri-Shomu culture, and covered the transition from the Neolithic to Chalcolithic periods (c. 4500 BC).

“Situated respectively at the border of the Mugan Steppe and in Nakhichevan (Azerbaijan), the settlements of Alikemek and Kul’tepe I were excavated in the 1950s–1970s and are not dated with certainty. They probably represent a relatively long period and occupation seems to have started early (probably during the sixth millennium BCE).

Tepe Gawra

Tepe Gawra (Kurdish for “Great Mound”) is an ancient Mesopotamian settlement in the Mosul region of northwest Iraq that was occupied between 5000 and 1500 BC.  The tell or settlement mound at Tepe Gawra is 120 metres (390 ft) in diameter and 22 metres (72 ft) high.

Tepe Gawra lies near the ancient site of Nineveh, 2 miles (3.2 km) from Khorsabad and 15 miles (24 km) northeast of the modern city of Mosul. Tell Arpachiyah is a contemporary neolithic site nearby.

Excavations at Tepe Gawri revealed 16 levels showing that the Tepe Gawra site was occupied from approximately 5000 BC to 1500 BC. The site contains remains from the Halaf period, the Ubaid period, and the Uruk period (4000–3100 BC).

Tepe Gawra contains material relating to the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period c. 5,500–5,000 BC. Tepe Gawra illustrates the transition from early Chalcolithic farming villages to complex settlements with mud-brick houses, stamp seals, the first metal objects, and monumental architecture. 

The Gawra Period (3500–2900 BC) is named for the site. Prior to the Gawra Period, however, the site seems to have been influenced by the Ubaid culture (c. 5200–c. 3500) of southern Mesopotamia.

That influence is seen, for example, in an Ubaidian-inspired temple at Gawra—the earliest example of a building with its walls decorated with pilasters and recesses—a Mesopotamian temple type that remained dominant throughout the following centuries.

In classical architecture, a pilaster is an architectural element used to give the appearance of a supporting column and to articulate an extent of wall, with only an ornamental function. It consists of a flat surface raised from the main wall surface, usually treated as though it were a column, with a capital at the top, plinth (base) at the bottom, and the various other column elements. In contrast to a pilaster, an engaged column or buttress can support the structure of a wall and roof above.

In discussing Leon Battista Alberti’s use of pilasters, which Alberti reintroduced into wall-architecture, Rudolf Wittkower wrote: “The pilaster is the logical transformation of the column for the decoration of a wall. It may be defined as a flattened column which has lost its three-dimensional and tactile value.”

A pilaster appears with a capital. and entablature, also in “low-relief” or flattened against the wall. Generally, a pilaster often repeats all parts and proportions of an order column; however, unlike it, a pilaster is usually devoid of entasis.

Pilasters often appear on the sides of a door frame or window opening on the facade of a building, and are sometimes paired with columns or pillars set directly in front of them at some distance away from the wall, which support a roof structure above, such as a portico. These vertical elements can also be used to support a recessed archivolt around a doorway. The pilaster can be replaced by ornamental brackets supporting the entablature or a balcony over a doorway. When a pilaster appears at the corner intersection of two walls it is known as a canton.

As with a column, a pilaster can have a plain or fluted surface to its profile and can be represented in the mode of numerous architectural styles. During the Renaissance and Baroque architects used a range of pilaster forms. In the giant order pilasters appear as two storeys tall, linking floors in a single unit.

The fashion of using this element from ancient Greek and Roman architecture was adopted in the Italian Renaissance, gained wide popularity with Greek Revival architecture, and continues to be seen in some modern architecture.

Pilaster is frequently also referred to as a non-ornamental, load-bearing architectural element in non-classical architecture where a structural load must be carried by a wall or column next to a wall and the wall thickens to accommodate the structural requirements of the wall.

According to Daniel Potts, the earliest evidence for gold or electrum use in the Near East comes from Ur and Tepe Gawra; a few small artifacts, such as wire and beads, have been found at these sites. At Tepe Gawra, the use of gold and electrum continued into the Early Dynastic period, starting about 2900 BC.

Several objects from levels 12 to 8 (mid-fourth to early-third millennium BC) at Tepe Gawra were made of arsenical copper, which is quite early for Mesopotamia. Similar objects are also found in Fara (Shuruppak), also dating from Jamdat Nasr period.

Godin Tepe

Godin Tepe is an archaeological site in western Iran, situated in the valley of Kangavar in Kermanshah Province. The importance of the site may have been due to its role as a trading outpost in the early Mesopotamian trade networks. The earliest evidence for occupation at Godin comes from Periods XI through VII, spanning the Early and Middle Chalcolithic. The site was already inhabited as early as c. 5200 BC.

Because Godin has such a deep stratigraphy, it was decided that a related site of Seh Gabi nearby should also be studied. Seh Gabi is located 6 km northeast of Godin Tepe in the Kangavar valley. The deeper levels were easier to reach there.

Originally, the excavations at Godin concentrated on levels II (ended c. 500 BC?) to V (c. 3200 BC-3000 BC), but the transition from the Neolithic to Chalcolithic was studied primarily at Seh Gabi.

The earliest pottery found was of the painted pottery traditions, including J ware (Godin pre-XI), and impressed Dalma ware, belonging to Godin XI/X. J ware is related to Halaf culture pottery. Dalma ware is very similar to the pottery traditions from the highlands north of Godin, especially from the area of Lake Urmia.

Level VIII is dated 4200-4000 BCE, contemporary with Terminal Ubaid period. According to Mitchell Rothman, at this time, during the Late Chalcolithic 1 period (LC 1), some substantial trading networks emerged in the area for trade in metals, and in precious or semi-precious stones.

During the time of Godin VIII, the LC 1, a real increase in the movement of these goods is evident across the region. For example, lapis lazuli, a semi-precious blue stone known to occur naturally only in the Badakshan area of northeastern Afghanistan, began to appear in LC1 sites in significant amounts.

Thus, the importance of Godin Tepe may have been due to its position serving the early trade from the east, from as far as Afghanistan, and to the Mesopotamian flood plain. For example, lapis-lazuli was brought from Badakhshan in Afghanistan to Mesopotamia.

During the 1973 campaign, level V was excavated through a deep cut from the citadel. It was occupied during the period 3200 BC-3000 BC. At the end of level V there was a clear gap in the settlement sequence. There were signs of fire, such as room 22 whose roof was burned. The houses were in general well-preserved and contained many artefacts, but objects made of the precious metal were lacking. The archaeological evidence support the idea the settlement was abandoned quickly, but in an orderly manner.

The pottery of level V show influences from the Uruk culture, with parallels at Susa, Uruk (IV) and Nippur The typical Jemdet Nasr tall storage jars, known from Nippur, and the bevelled rim bowls of Uruk are missing however. Cuyler-Young suggested the existence of Elamite trading posts at the site during this period, established by merchants from Susa.

Thirteen seal impressions and two cylinder seals were found at level V. They were obviously produced locally, as shown by the discovery of an uncarved cylinder. The seal impressions show a parallel with Uruk, Susa and other sites in Khuzestan. They were partly decorated with drill holes. Steatite served as raw material for these, sometimes treated with tempering.

At level V some 43 clay tablets were found of which 27 were preserved in one piece. They contained primarily accounts, like those discovered at temporary Proto-Elamite and Uruk period sites in western Iran and Mesopotamia.

Traces of wine and beer found in ceramics dated to c. 3100-2900 BC and along with the findings at Hajji Firuz Tepe, provide evidence of the early production of those beverages in the Zagros Mountains. Some Kura-Araxes culture potsherds also seem to appear in association with wine making.

Level IV (3000-2650 BC) represents the “invasion” of the northern Yanik-culture (or “Transcaucasian Early Bronze I culture”, also known as Kura-Araxes culture), well known from Yanik Tepe, Iran, near Lake Urmia. (Nevertheless, some other Kura-Araxes potsherds were found in yet deeper layers going back to late fourth millennium BCE.)

The only notable architectural remains of this period consist of a number of plastered hearths .T.Cuyler Young Jr. defined three main groups of pottery for Level IV. Two of these groups belong to Transcaucasian Early Bronze Age Culture. One of these groups bears two types of coarse ware tempered with coarse grit. One of these types is characterized by a grey-black burnished surface mostly with contrasting colours in the interior and exterior of the vessels.

This type of coarse ware was used for producing bowls entirely. Conical bowls decorated with incised and excised designs are common; the incised designs are occasionally filled with a whitish paste. The second type of coarse ware is lighter in colour, often tan or pinkish buff. The surface of the vessels is either burnished or plain. Besides bowls there are jars with protruding rims and concave or recessed necks .

The second group of Transcaucasian Pottery found at Godin Tepe was classified as Common Ware. The fabric of this group was tempered by medium-fine grit and was not well-fired. This group of pottery has the same colour range like the coarse ware. The surfaces are highly burnished though the vessels with a light interior and dark exterior are predominant. The forms consist entirely of cups, including the recessed neck types. The decoration is similar in style and technique to the previous coarse wares, but the excised designs are less common.

Level III (c. 2600 BC-1500/1400 BC) shows connections with Susa and most of Luristan, and it has been suggested that it belonged to the Elamite confederacy. A pottery link to Lagash has been established which may affect the chronology of this layer. Near 1400 BC, Godin Tepe was abandoned and was not re-occupied until c. 750 BC.

Level II is represented by a single structure, a fortified, mud brick walled architectural complex (133 m x 55 m) occupied by a Mede chief. The columned halls are in the same architectural tradition of the later Persian halls (Pasargadae, Susa, Persepolis), first documented at Hasanlu (V). The Level II pottery (only wheel-made micaceous buff ware) have strong parallels with Iron Age sites as Bābā Jān Tepe(I), Jameh Shuran (IIa), Tepe Nush-i Jan and Pasargadae.

Godin was again abandoned during the 6th century BC, perhaps as a result or in anticipation of the expansion of Cyrus the Great (c. 550 BC) (Brown 1990) or due to the interruption of a social stratification and secondary State formation process after the fall of Assyria.

Tell Arbid

The history and identity of Tell Arbid have been emerging as the result of recent excavations. It is now clear that the most prosperous period for the ancient Arbid was the 3rd millennium BC.

The site was heavily occupied during the Early Dynastic period that started c. 2900 BC, primarily during Ninevite 5 (2900-2600 BC). In northern Mesopotamia this is equivalent to the Early Jezirah I–II period. The ruins of an extensive city dated to the Ninevite 5 period cover almost the entire site.

Other contemporary sites in this area of Khabur River basin are Hamoukar and Chagar Bazar. Later, the occupation continued during the Early Dynastic III period (Early Jezirah III, 2600-2350 BC). The site was occupied only sporadically in the Akkadian, Mitanni, Neo-Babylonian and the Hellenistic period.

The site comprises a large main tell and 4 smaller mounds, together covering about 38 hectares with a height of around 30 meters. The main tell consists primarily of Mittani, Akkadian, Early Dynastic, and Ninevite 5 layers with the later two including monumental buildings.


Ashtarak is a town and urban municipal community in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia, located on the left bank of Kasagh River along the gorge, northwest of the capital Yerevan. It is the administrative centre of the Aragatsotn province. It is an important crossroad of routes for the Yerevan–Gyumri–Vanadzor rectangle.

According to Movses Khorenatsi, Armanak, the son of the patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation Hayk, along with his clan, settled in the area of modern-day Aragatsotn.

Historically, the area of modern-day Ashtark was part of the Aragatsotn canton of Ayrarat province of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia. The town is one of the oldest settlements in Armenia with many historical and cultural monuments that demonstrate the unique aspects of Armenian architecture.

The exploration of the early kurgan culture in Armenia is in its primary stage. One of the landmarks within this Middle Bronze Age (MBA) culture is the tombs of Nerkin Naver. In a number of Indo-European languages, among them Armenian, theword “Nav” is associated with death and graves.

The names of the two large Bronze Age and Early Iron Age cemeteries Nerkin Naver and Verin Naver, at about 1 to 1.5 km away from eachother, can be translated as “Lower Graves” and “Upper Graves”.

The name Naver was also used in the Middle Ages: from inscriptions dated to the tenth century AD it isknown that the crops from the orchards within the area — called Naver — were givento the local monastery. So it is assumed that for as long as 4000 to 4500 years this areahas been called Naver.

In many ancient European languages “Nav” or “Nef” not only meant a ship, but also a grave. Apparently, in ancient times this concept was associated not only with sea voyages. It also had a sacred meaning: ships carried the souls of the dead to the netherworld.

The Bronze  necropolises of Nerkin Naver (“upper graves”) and Verin Naver (“lower graves”), dating to 23rd-10th centuries BC, are located just outside of modern Ashtarak. Nerkin Naver was used as burial grounds for high-ranking individuals, while Verin Naver was intended for peasants.

In Verin Naver there has been excavated an area of 7000 m2, and 70 burial mounds of common people have been discovered, while in Nerkin Naver there were excavated only 8 princely burial mounds, seven of which have already been studied. It is believed that they were constructed by an Indo-European culture, potentially early Armenians.

Verin Naver is a necropolis cvering an area of 100 hectares, it is located 3 km west of the city of Ashtarak, on the southern slope of Mount Aragats. A large number of its tombs were destroyed during agricultural and construction works.

Nerkin Naver is located 3.5 km west of Ashtarak on the southern slopes of Mount Aragats. And although the tumuli field was discovered in 1978, excavations began only in 2002. The necropolis is preserved almost in its original form. Here, archaeologists have discovered the oldest pagan temple dating to the period of Urartu.

The remains of the dead were cremated. In Nerkin Naver, traces of some kind of sacrifices were found, including 114 human teeth and phalanges. The funeral ceremonies were not accompanied by human sacrifices and that the participants of the ceremony “left something of their own in the burial ground.

At the site, archaeologists unearthed ceramic utensils, bronze rapiers, arrowheads, elegant gold products, and quartz glass. It still remains a mystery how people could have made sheets of gold as thin as foil and blow elegant beads out of glass.

The construction techniques of the ancient settlers are no less surprising. The masons of the 1500 BC used three-layer masonry, which today is known as the Midis masonry. At the same time, the discovered burial grounds belong to the class of Indo-European burials since their funeral ceremonies are extremely similar.

In addition, magnificent archaic ceramics was found which was made with unique technology of ornamentation. This technology is characteristic of the culture of Central Europe. This technology is characteristic of the cultures of the Eastern European and Southern Russian steppes.

The excavation of the largest kurgan (50 m in diameter and 2 m high), begun in 2011 and completed in July 2012, revealed two burial chambers (Grave IA and Grave IB). Inside the burial chamber, gold jewelry, carnelian beads, Egyptian faience, and glass were found, along with a microlithic point of green obsidian, sourced to the southern parts of the Armenian Highlands, specifically Mount Nemrut near Lake Van.

Also found in the burial chamber were the bronze pommel of a dagger handle depicting a six-pointed “star of David” and black-burnished pottery, common to the early stage of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1600-1400 BC).

“The collected material suggests that Armenia is the ancestral home of Indo-European civilization,” says Director of the Scientific and Research Institute of Historical and Cultural Heritage of the RA Ministry of Culture, candidate of historical sciences Hakob Simonyan.

“This is the most ancient burial site, where information about the Aryan way of life and Aryan thinking is recorded. Here we find evidence of goods production, which was unique for those times. The findings provide a new interpretation of the development of civilizations,” Simonyan says.

In the burial site there were also found lots of gold decorations, weapons, bones of revered animals, well-ornamented black- and red-glossed pitchers. This was a “traditional” set typical for the graves of that period.

However, the sensational findings mark out his necropolis from others of this kind. This message canned in centuries gives a fair idea about the role and significance of the ancient Armenian civilization.

“Here we find all types of Indo-European burials: cremation (for VIPs), gnawing of corpses by specially trained dogs (for retinue of the king) and the simple burials (for peasants). The latter were buried on their side: men on the right and women on the left,” continues Simonyan.

“And in every royal grave we usually find bones of two sacrificed horses. But the most striking thing that we found here is the iron bits, whose composition, according to chemical analysis, is similar to the oldest metal products from Dorak and Alagja-Uyuk (Asia Minor, the end of 3000 B.C.). In fact, this is the third such discovery in the world, dating back to the 23c. B.C.

In the burial mound N2 there has been discovered a black hydria (a large jar), on the “shoulders” of which there are depicted six pairs of chariot wheels. The wheels have 4 spokes. It is typical of the earliest chariot wheels.

Another startling discovery is the red-glossed pitcher. It shows a herd of thoroughbred domesticated horses. An eloquent proof of it is their hair-cut manes and braided tails. An image of a herd of such antiquity is unique in the whole Near East.

This information is a weighty argument in favor of the fact that Armenia, among other things, is the home of horse breeding. Excavations revealed also fine pieces of jewelry and beads of colored glass. Some products are made of quartz.

However, it’s striking, taking into consideration that the melting temperature of quartz is 1700 °C. How our ancestors did it remains a mystery. Such quality of glass is exclusive throughout the ancient East of 3000 B.C.

Glass beads were also found in the ancient settlement of Shengavit (4000-3000 B.C.) and were over 1000 years older than these findings. Patterns on gold products are quite similar to the ornaments on ceramics. And because ceramics is of local production, it would be logical to assume that gold jewelry is the handiwork of the same local craftsmen.”

Many facts indicate that Armenia at that time was involved in international trade relations. Examples of this are Mesopotamian clam shells, agaltomelit beads (deposits of this stone are found only in Korea, China and Japan), lapis lazuli beads from Badahshan (Central Asia), imported goods from the East Coast of the Mediterranean Sea, etc. Hence, it can be concluded that trade relations were already regulated by certain legal norms, such as purchase contracts, exchange contracts, etc.

Another finding of special importance is the rapier, which was the first professional military weapon. It dates back to the XXIII c. B.C. Spectral analysis showed that the found rapier is made of tin bronze. The content of tin in the rapier is 11-12%.

It’s the classic formula. According to isotopic analysis, the copper ore is of Armenian origin. It was extracted from Alaverdi (Lori Region). The tin is imported (presumably from Central Asia). It should be noted that all these artifacts have something in common with the samples obtained from the ancient city of Shengavit.

There is also observed rapid development of crafts and technology (pottery, metallurgy, wine-making). In this regard, involved in the excavation works in Shengavit, Mitchell S. Rothman, Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania declared that all these data suggest that approximately in 3000 B.C. the culture of ancient Armenia spread across the world.

“Armenia is the missing piece of the mosaic of building civilizations of the ancient world. Shengavit and Naver have completed those missing “chains” that we faced while studying the ancient culture of Mesopotamia,” says Rothman.


A series of tombs (N1 to N7) contained a large variety of archaeological artefacts, evidencing the high status of the persons that were buried in the tombs. The tombs were dated to the 23rd–18th century BC and bones of sacrificed horses were found in graves N1, N3, N5 and N7. Subsequent excavations of other tombs revealed the burial of a human and the carcass of a complete horse in tomb N9.

Another ancient find discovered at the tumulus number 9 is a claw of a large predator, presumably a lion, lying under the head of the deceased. The lion’s claw was found under the head of a buried man.

According to the Armenian national epic (Daredevils of Sasun), the skin of a lion was placed under the head of one of the heroes of the epic, Lion Mher. This is, in fact, a prototype of Mher Aryutsadzev (lion-like). The discovery from the oldest layer proves that the historical epic had a real basis.

As a result of the excavation of the tumulus number 9, the oldest specimen of a sacrificed horse was found. This finding is important for revealing the cultural and historical reality of not only Armenia but also the entire region.

Under a layer of earth, archaeologists discovered the remains of a rider and half a horse. Radiocarbon analysis determined the exact date of the burial. This find dates back to the 26th – 25th centuries BC, which is the oldest horse grave known to date.

Three obsidian tips and a silicon gear instrument, which are characteristic of the Early Bronze Age, testify to such a respectable age of the deceased and his horse. The archaeological find indicates that the inhabitants of this area bred horses for military purposes.

An osteometrical and osteomorphological study was carried out on the horse skeleton of tomb N9 and showed that this female individual with a shoulder height of about 144 cm can be considered as a medium-large horse (according to Vitt’s classification) with semi-thick legs.

Based on the metrical comparison with data of other archaeological horses from Armenia and beyond, and with data of Prezwalskii horses, the Nerkin Naver horse was identified as a domestic horse. Given the archaeological context, this is one of the oldest horse sacrifices known to us so far in Armenia.

According to the accompanying artefacts, including flint blades, obsidian arrow-points, ceramic shards with a black surface and a red interior (therefore contemporary to the Shengavitian or Kura-Araxes culture), two vessels with dotted ornament and encrusted with white paste, a golden disk, etc, this tomb was built in the Early Bronze Age III (first half of the third millennium BC) or the very beginning of the Middle Bronze Age.

Remains ofsacrificed horses and bronze models and details of chariots were found at several sites in Armenia, e.g. at Lchashen (15th–14th century BC), Lori Berd (15th–14th century BC),Verin Naver (16th–14th century BC).

This evidences that the tradition of horse sacrificewas well-rooted in the funeral rites in the region. The grave field of Nerkin Naver, is anotherillustration of horse sacrifices in royal tombs and considering the C14 dates of the oldest(N5B) and youngest tomb (N3) probably lasted for about a millennium or even more.

The finds at Nerkin Naver, discovered in burials and not in settlements, are undeniable facts toprove the domestication and the use of the horse in ancient Armenia, since the sacrifice ofhorses occur in closed graves.

The morphological and metrical traits of the horse remains from Nerkin Naver suggest that — despite some similarities in dimension and proportion with the Przewalskii horse— the Nerkin Naver horse was very similar to the horses of the well-known Eneolithic sites of Derejivka and Botai, and identical to the horse remains from other archaeological sitesdated to the Bronze and Iron Age in Armenia.

It is possible that these horses shared thesame genetic group. Considering also the funeral rituals and the detailed analysis of theother archaeological artefacts that were found at Nerkin Naver, it was concluded that theanimal from Tomb N9 was domestic.

It can be stated that horse sacrifices were performed in the tombs of upper class people(such as kings) in ancient Armenia. This phenomenon must have lasted for centuries but atthe same time the funeral rites underwent changes.

While in tomb N9 a complete horse wasburied, other tombs dated to the last quarter of the third millennium/beginning of the sec-ond millennium BC contained only partial skeletons, as described in the hymns of the Vedas.

Their presence in these high status tombs can possibly be related to their use formilitary purposes. In addition, other material evidence was found in the graves that could be related to horses, such as the symbolic portrayal of chariots in the form of wheels, thehorse bit, the portrayal of horses on vessels, and the evidence of feeding horses with straw(which might point towards the keeping of these animals in enclosures).

It can hence beargued that Armenia was one of the oldest centres of horse-breeding. It has been suggested that the Bronze Age Trialeti-Vanadzor culture and sites such as the burial complexes at Verin and Nerkin Naver are indicative of an Indo-European presence in Armenia by the end of the 3rd millennium BCE.

Here horses were sacrificed in the late autumn as evidenced by the flower seeds preserved in the dung. The hero-king buried in this grave wore a lion skin, which, according to the tradition of the Old World had to be hunted by that person.)….}

The complex of Nerkin Naver includes ritual structures of the early stage of the Middle Bronze Age: a necropolis, walls, caves, also cultural layers of the period of the Van Kingdom (7th – 6th cc. BC).

The necropolis spreads over a territory known as Nerkin Naver near the village of Parpi in the region of Aragatsotn, on the southern edge of a flat and stony piece of land protruding over a gorge. It occupies a territory of six hectares and consists of more than thirty burial mounds and catacombs that are 0.5-2.5 metres in height and 5-30 metres in diametre.

The excavations uncovered black polished and coloured clay vessels, bronze weapons, gold and silver ornaments, facing plates, various many-coloured beads of agate, sardion, gisher and glass, stone tools, etc. Remains of about thirty kinds of sacrificed animals (horses, bulls, rams, goats, dogs, etc.) were found as well. Stone idols were also descended into the tombs….}

The Middle and Late Bronze Age marked a sharp difference from the earlier Shengavit culture. Old sites are mostly abandoned, and new sites begin. The main feature was the advent of large numbers of sometimes very rich burials often covered by large barrows known as Kurgans, the actual burials being made in deep pits, called pit burials.

Some of these burials contain the remains of wagons or carts. The earlier ones were four wheeled wagons, presumably hauled by oxen, the later ones were chariots pulled by horses. It is a matter of considerable debate as to when the changeover took place, and when horse drawn chariots were first introduced.

There is much discussion as to how far these changes, particularly the introduction of the Kurgan burials and the wagons come from the north, from Russia where Kurgan burials had long been established. Traditionally this was seen as the coming of the Indo-Europeans though modern discussion is far less certain about this.

The type site for this period is Trialeti in Georgia to the north, where forty two barrows were excavated from 1936 – 40 in advance of a hydroelectric scheme, and a further six were excavated from 1959 – 62: the ground was waterlogged, and the remains of two wagons were preserved in pit graves, with traces of two others.

The earliest progenitor of this period is a huge burial excavated at Maikop in southern Russia in 1897 with a rich assemblage of material including two golden bulls and two silver vessels with animal friezes.

The Bronze Age of the Caucasus can be divided into two parts, the Middle Bronze Age from around 2,500 to 1500BC, and the Late Bronze Age from 1500 down to 900 BC.

The earlier part contains a number of very rich burials, but the actual cultures appear to be localised, as if there was a number of rich chieftains, all trying to outdo each other in the lavishness of their funerals.

One of the richest cemeteries of the earlier part of the Middle Bronze Age, around 23rd to 21 centuries BC, was that excavated at Karashamb. The main tomb (right) was surrounded by numerous satellite burials.

The superb silver cup (of Iranian origin???) is now one of the treasures of the National Museum.

A similar cemetery of the 23rd to 20th century BC has recently been excavated by Hakob Simonyan at Nerkin Naver (Upper Naver) where a fine range of pottery was discovered

However Hakob Simonyan has been excavating a similar cemetery of the 23rd to 20th century BC at Nerkin Naver (Upper Naver) where a fine range of pottery was discovered.

This Middle Bronze Age culture is very localised – several different ‘cultures’ can be a distinguished which vary according to which scholar you follow….}

Early Kurgan culture

The so called ‘Early Kurgan culture’ is one of the most original and impressive cultures in the Armenian highlands and the South Caucasus of the Bronze Age. According to the latest discoveries, it followed the Shengavitian (Kura-Araxes) culture and spread from the basin of the river Araxes to the southern slopes of the Great Caucasian Mountains.

Monuments of this type are mostly discovered within the territory of present Georgia (the basin of the river Kura, e.g. Trialeti, Tsalka and Javaghk; the valley of the rivers Iori and Alazani, e.g. the Martkopi-Alazanian group monuments and the territory of present Azerbaijan (region of Gandzak/Ganja).

Within Armenia about 10 monuments of this culture have been detected. These are the grave mounds of Sissian, the “Gold tomb” of Vanadzor (former Kirovakan), the early tombs of Lori Berd, the tombs in the basin of Lake Sevan (in Lchashen and Kanagegh), the great grave mound of Karashamb and the grave mounds of Aruch, Mayisyan, Oshakan, Aghavnatum, Verin Naver and Nerkin Naver.

The Middle and Late Bronze Age marked a sharp difference from the earlier Shengavit culture. Old sites are mostly abandoned, and new sites begin. The main feature was the advent of large numbers of sometimes very rich burials often covered by large barrows known as Kurgans, the actual burials being made in deep pits, called pit burials.

Some of these burials contain the remains of wagons or carts. The earlier ones were four wheeled wagons, presumably hauled by oxen, the later ones were chariots pulled by horses. It is a matter of considerable debate as to when the changeover took place, and when horse drawn chariots were first introduced.

There is much discussion as to how far these changes, particularly the introduction of the Kurgan burials and the wagons come from the north, from Russia where Kurgan burials had long been established. Traditionally this was seen as the coming of the Indo-Europeans.

The type site for this period is Trialeti in Georgia to the north, where forty two barrows were excavated from 1936 – 40 in advance of a hydroelectric scheme, and a further six were excavated from 1959 – 62: the ground was waterlogged, and the remains of two wagons were preserved in pit graves, with traces of two others.

Maykop Culture

The Maykop culture (c. 3700 BC–3000 BC) was a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the western Caucasus region of Southern Russia. Radiocarbon dates for various monuments of the Maykop culture are from 3950 – 3650 – 3610 – 2980 BC. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.

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 kurgan in the Kuban River valley.

According to genetic studies on ancient DNA published in 2018, the Maikop population came from the south, probably from western Georgia and Abkhazia, and was descended from the Eneolithic farmers who first colonized the north side of the Caucasus.

In the south, the Maykop culture bordered 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.

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.

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. 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.

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

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

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

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

In the early 20th century, researchers established the existence of a local Maykop animal style in the artifacts found. 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 Maykop people lived sedentary lives, and horses formed a very low percentage of their livestock, which mostly consisted of pigs and cattle. 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.

All subsequent cultures used the terraces for agricultural purposes. The vast majority of pottery found on the terraces 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. Some of the earliest wagon wheels in the world are found in Maykop culture area. The two solid wooden wheels from the kurgan of Starokorsunskaya in the Kuban region have been dated to the second half of the fourth millennium.

Archaeologists have discovered a unique form of bronze cheek-piece, which consists of a bronze rod with a twisted loop in the middle that threads through the nodes and connects to the bridle, halter strap, and headband. Notches and bumps on the edges of the cheek-pieces were, apparently, to attach nose and under-lip straps.

Maykop is a good candidate for the founders of the Northwest Caucasian language family. However, in the Armenian hypothesis of Indo-European origins the Kura Araxes culture, and perhaps that of the Maykop culture, is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages.

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.

Uruk migrants in the Caucasus

According to the text Uruk Migrants in the Caucasus by Konstantine Pitskhelauri the period between the 4th and 3rd millennia B.C. was the time of great cataclysmic events in the Caucasus; its cultural advances were influenced by changes within its boundaries as well as interactions with the outside world.

At the end of the 5th and in the 4th millennia B.C. large masses of Uruk migrants had settled in the South, and later in the North Caucasus. Assimilation of cultures of the newcomers and residents, as a result, caused their “explosive” development paving the way to the formation of the Maikop culture in the North Caucasus and the Kura-Araxes culture in the South Caucasus.

The most significant occurrence of this epoch was the appearance of a large number of peoples of Mesopotamian cultural identity who contributed to speeding up the rhythm of its cultural development, adding “explosive” character to its progress.

During this period the South Caucasus experienced two powerful waves of Middle Eastern expansion: the first at the time of Late Neolithic culture of Sioni in the 4th-5th millennia B.C., and the second at the period of Tsopi culture in the Late Neolithic Age, at the end of the 5th and the first half of the 4th millennium B.C., which is known as the Uruk expansion era.

Later, in the second half of the 4th and throughout the 3 rd millennium B.C., during the Early Bronze Age the Kura-Araxes culture of the Caucasus spread throughout the greater part of the Caucasus, Eastern Anatolia, northern parts of Iran, Middle East and even Europe.

In this context, recent archaeological finds in the Southern and Northeastern Caucasus gave yet another, entirely new nuance to scientific researches into the ancient past of the Caucasus. They made it clear that incursion of these peoples into the Caucasus was not a onetime event, but continued for a significantly long period. 

Reasoning by the topography of the archaeological finds in Mesopotamia, it becomes clear that large masses of migrant settlers from that area did not move straight along the route to Transcaucasia in order to reach the destination faster. Actually, they settled down in every region of the Caucasus, in the mountains and flatlands, in areas where they could maintain a lifestyle familiar to them.

It seems obvious that from that period on, two cultures of the Caucasus that had been at different stages of development could coexist peacefully on the basis of their mutual participation in metallurgical manufacturing; it was this type of communal economy that gave impetus to a speedy development of the local culture. This is well illustrated by the metallurgical items of the Kura-Araxes culture, which is significantly more advanced in comparison with the preAeneolithic culture.

At present the situation has changed drastically. On the basis of a whole series of radiocarbon analyses, it has been proved that burial mounds of the ancient pit-grave culture are of a significantly later period in comparison with Maikop archaeological sites. This allows scholars to assume that the tradition of building this type of burial mounds emerged precisely in the Maikop culture. Its ties with Levant and Mesopotamian antiquities point to its earlier origin.

At the same time, a whole range of chronological data obtained with radiocarbon analysis has established that the settlements and burial mounds of the South Caucasus containing Uruk artefact are coexistent with the Maikop culture [13: 149-153] and, accordingly, the ancient pit-grave culture and its burial mounds belong to a later period.

Therefore, today we cannot possibly ascribe the emergence of this kind of burial mounds in the Maikop culture as well as similar contemporaneous sites in the South Caucasus to the influence of the steppe zone cultures. Moreover, there were no adverse conditions that would have prevented emergence of this type of burial mounds in the Caucasus itself

UPDATE: Also relevant a book chapter on The Caucasus – donor and recipient of materials to and from the ancient near east, and a talk by EN Chernykh in a recent conference on the topic of Caucasus as the Bridge Between the Settled Farming and the Pastor.

Uruk migrants in the Caucasus

The Caucasus – donor and recipient of materials to and from the ancient near east

The Maykop phenomenon

Origins of the Maykop phenomenon by Mariya Ivanova seems to argue against the “Uruk expansion from Mesopotamia” hypothesis and point towards Central Asia, with the author finding parallels of the Maykop culture in the Kura valley and Lake Urmia area. That would certainly fit the bill of a more “eastern” PIE homeland if we accept, as many do, an IE identity for at least elements within the Maikop culture.

Graves and settlements of the 5th millennium BC in North Caucasus attest to a material culture that was related to contemporaneous archaeological complexes in the northern and western Black Sea region. Yet it was replaced, suddenly as it seems, around the middle of the 4th millennium BC by a “high culture” whose origin is still quite unclear.

This archaeological culture named after the great Maikop kurgan showed innovations in all areas which have no local archetypes and which cannot be assigned to the tradition of the Balkan-Anatolian Copper Age.

The favoured theory of Russian researchers is a migration from the south originating in the Syro-Anatolian area, which is often mentioned in connection with the socalled “Uruk expansion”. However, serious doubts have arisen about a connection between Maikop and the Syro-Anatolian region. The foreign objects in the North Caucasus reveal no connection to the upper reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris or to the floodplains of Mesopotamia, but rather seem to have ties to the Iranian plateau and to South Central Asia.

Recent excavations in the Southwest Caspian Sea region are enabling a new perspective about the interactions between the “Orient” and Continental Europe. On the one hand, it is becoming gradually apparent that a gigantic area of interaction evolved already in the early 4th millennium BC which extended far beyond Mesopotamia; on the other hand, these findings relativise the traditional importance given to Mesopotamia, because innovations originating in Iran and Central Asia obviously spread throughout the Syro-Anatolian region independently thereof.

Origins of the Maykop phenomenon

The Maikop Singularity

According to The Maikop Singularity: The Unequal Accumulation of Wealth on the Bronze Age Eurasian Steppe? by Philip L. Kohl the Maikop parallels with northern Mesopotamia or, more broadly, with the ancient Near East, and the seemingly consistent and growing number of calibrated radiocarbon determinations (currently more than 40 such dates; E. N. Chernykh personal communication) not only date the Maikop phenomenon more securely but also suggest some connections -albeit hard to specify- with larger historical processes, such as the north Mesopotamian, and later Uruk expansion into eastern Anatolia.

The calibrated radiocarbon dates suggest that the Maikop culture seems to have had a formative influence on kurgan burial rituals and what now appears to be the later Pit-Grave (Yamnaya) culture on the Eurasian steppe (Chernykh and Orlovskaya 2004a: 97).

In other words, the fact that such a symbolic Mesopotamian practice is attested in the richest known “royal,” or chiefly, Maikop burial must have significance not only for the earlier dating of the Maikop culture, but also for determining aspects of its cultural affiliation and formation.

Other scholars have focused on the northern steppe component of the Maikop culture. … V. A. Trifonov (2004: 58-60) in a reappraisal and comparison of the so-called royal tomb at Arslantepe with the Novosvobodnaya-phase Maikop burials, reverses the arrow of cultural transmission and borrowing and argues for an eastern Anatolian Chalcolithic origin of the Novosvobodnaya tombs, such as documented at Korucutepe. Thus, if Trifonov is correct, and if the calibrated radiocarbon dates securely place Maikop chronologically before the emergence of the Pit-Grave (Yamnaya) horizon, then somewhat counterintuitively, the origins of raising large barrows or kurgans above the broad, flat expanse of the steppes may not have been indigenous but may have been derived from eastern Anatolia or the northern periphery of the greater ancient Near East.

It is probably futile to seek a single source from which the Maikop culture emerged.

The Maikop Singularity

“Ancient Indo-Europeans”

I had seen bits and pieces of SA Grigoriev’s ideas in various publications, but it’s nice to see this work in its entirety (although the reproduction of the maps doesn’t seem to be very good). From the conclusion:

The Indo-European problem is a complex one, combining linguistic and archaeological evidence. In linguistics Gamkrelidze and Ivanov have suggested a system and a fundamental solution. Convincing linguistic models uniquely localising the Indo-European homeland in the Balkans, or even in the North Pontic area or Central Europe, are lacking.

Often criticism of Gamkrelidze and Ivanov has been reduced to no more than a statement that archaeological evidence in favour of it is absent. As we see, this does not correspond to reality (and, by the way, did not correspond to reality before the publication of this book).

There are a number of facts to prove the connections of North Eurasian and European cultures with the Near East, whilst convincing examples to demonstrate the reverse connections do not now exist.

There is a purely historiographic tradition, not substantiated by facts. For the long years this tradition flourished it proved impossible to flesh it out with arguments, although skilled scholars attempted to do so. Therefore, hypotheses about the northern origin of the Indo-Europeans have practically nothing which can be used today in support, either linguistic or archaeological.

The archaeological model suggested here is not complete in many respects. Many parallels may raise doubts, as it has not always been possible to back them up with completely identical artefacts. But in the consideration of distant migrations and subsequent cultural transformations, such complete similarity may be wanting.

Interestingly, Grigoriev’s reconstruction does not seem to agree with G&I’s model in all its details, as the latter suggested the Halafian culture as the archaeological manifestation of the Proto-Indo-European community (picture from Wikipedia on the right).

For reasons of my own (i.e., finding the hiding place of the “West Asian” autosomal component which was introduced to Europe by Indo-Europeans) it might be worth seeking a more “eastern” PIE homeland.

In any case it would be wonderful to get some archaeogenetic data from the Near East. Irrespective of one’s opinion on the IE problem, most everyone would agree that this is a critical region for understanding the prehistory of Eurasia.

Stanislav Grigoriev’s “Ancient Indo-Europeans”


Shortly after the advent of the Kura–Araxes complex in the mid–4th millennium, the western Caucasus developed its own tradition of dolmens, or megalithic buildings for the dead, as early as 3250 BC. They are often associated with the megalithic traditions of western Europe, and seen thus as a global phenomenon, although they were restricted in this region to a small area in the north-eastern Pontic coast.

Dolmens were built of well-squared, heavy stone slabs, placed on their edges and fitted together with precision, positioned to maximise the sunlight on the façade; most facing southwards, some eastwards. Most dolmens were used for multiple interments, and included men and women, young and old, and funerary provisions.

The latest stage of the Maikop–Novosvobodnaya historical community is represented by the Novosvobodnaya dolmens, with a span ca. 3300–2800 BC, overlapping with the beginning of west Caucasian dolmens. Unlike the Maikop barrow burials, two rich tombs at Novosvobodnaya were constructed of stone slabs, in a plan that resembles those of the Dolmen tradition, but with distinct characteristics: the interior design and plans differ, with a pair of slabs placed close enough to form a narrow gap, separating two compartments, a paved burial chamber and an antechamber. Masonry is more precise, and large slabs form the roof and overhang the entrance, which faces south-east. The entire structure is concealed beneath a barrow of stones defined by a kerb.

They were not used for collective burials, and the deceased were placed on the right side of the chamber, accompanied by a rich assemblage, although it did not reach the high level of Maikop kurgans. During this period, there is a decline in the number of objects made of precious metals, and an increase in copper objects, with an improvement in copperworking seen in elaborate forms of weapons and tools. Jewellery and metal (golden, but also silver) beads, on the other hand, increase in this late phase.

Ceramic evolves from the limited Maikop repertoire to tall-necked jars with incised decoration. New sets of woodworking and leatherworking tools appear, and the lack of impurity in the copper points to an origin of the metal ores in the Balkans. Spearheads from the northern Caucasus are similar to those from the Kura–Araxes culture found in the southern Caucasus and Arslantepe. Their subsistence economy is assumed to be based on stockbreeding of ovicaprids, cattle, and pigs.

The other tradition of the area, the Colchian culture, probably developed from indigenous groups that occupied the wetlands and lowlands for over two millennia.

Novotitorovka culture

Novotitorovka culture, 3300–2700 BC, a Bronze Age archaeological culture of the North Caucasus immediately to the north of and largely overlapping portions of the Maykop culture facing the Sea of Azov, running from the Kerch Strait eastwards, almost to the Caspian, roughly coterminous with the modern Krasnodar Krai region of Russia.

It is distinguished by its burials, particularly by the presence of wagons in them and its own distinct pottery, as well as a richer collection of metal objects than those found in adjacent cultures, as is to be expected considering its relationship to the Maykop culture.

It is grouped with the larger Indo-European Yamna culture complex, and in common with it, the economy was semi-nomadic pastoralism mixed with some agriculture.

Yanik Tepe

Yanik Tepe (Persian: یانیق تپه‎) is a Chalcolithic and Bronze Age archaeological site in East Azarbaijan, Iran.
Site description
The site is located in Tabriz County, east of Lake Urmia and about 30 kilometres southwest of the city of Tabriz.[1].
Yanik Tepe is a relatively large tell (8 hectares) which rises 16.6 metres above the surrounding plain. It is one of the main protohistoric sites excavated in the region after the Second World War, along with Göy Tepe (Geoy Tepe) and Haftavan Tepe. Excavations at Yanik Tepe were conducted by Charles A. Burney from 1960 to 1962.[2] His excavations revealed a sequence spanning the Chalcolithic (4th millennium BC) to the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC).
The Early Transcaucasian II-III culture flourished around the northern half of the Lake Urmia basin during the 3rd millennium BC. Yanik Tepe is one of the sites that yield clear evidence for this culture.[3]
Bone object
Bone object found in the Bronze Age layers of Yanik Tepe
A bone object found in the Bronze Age layers of the site was originally interpreted by Burney as an amulet.[citation needed] In 2011, ophthalmologist Sahihi Oskooei claimed that it was instead the world’s oldest eyewear, made to correct optical problems.[4][dubious – discuss] Similar objects have been found in excavations at Çatalhöyük, where they may have been used as belt hooks.[5]

Kura–Araxes Culture

By 2900 BC, the Kura–Araxes culture was spread throughout much of south-west Asia, which suggests that they competed against northern Mesopotamian societies. The widespread dissemination of this material culture, along with the small size of most sites, the ephemeral nature of their settlements, and their presence in both fertile lowlands and seasonally-inhospitable highlands, suggest that they were formed, at least in part, by mobile pastoralists.

Kura–Araxes groups primarily inhabited mountains and intermontane valleys of the surrounding highland zone, and they had access to metals, precious and semi-precious stones, stones for tool making, wood, and animal products; resources that were abundant in the mountain area, and essential for Mesopotamian societies.

Metallurgical sites like Köhne Shahar suggest that a developing complex of exchange networks and interaction with specialised craft economies facilitated the culture’s expansion, by filling a supply vacuum created by the collapse of Uruk colonies.

In Arslantepe, around 3000 BC, the Palatial system collapsed, apparently by a big fire that destroyed the palace and the whole centralised state forever, including the Mesopotamian-type society, administrative system, and officials. This event seems to be related to the gradual expansion of Kura–Araxes pastoralists, whose seasonal occupation of the site eventually turned into a permanent residence for their chiefs.

New settlements were established, with an outstanding area on top of the mound, consisting of a likely chief hut (ca. 2900 BC) separated from the rest of the settlement by a timber palisade, and an imposing mudbrick building with a reception hall, and store rooms full of vessels and foodstuffs. Pottery had simple shapes, resembling those of north-eastern Anatolian and southern Caucasian origin, no longer central Anatolian, although decoration and technology corresponded to the previous tradition.

The changes from a seasonal occupation to a rural village with mudbrick houses and pottery of the post-Uruk tradition happened ca. 2800 BC, with both communities—the traditional, sedentary one, and the pastoral itinerant community from north-east Anatolia and the southern Caucasus—apparently negotiating, interacting, and clashing, with either side alternatively succeeding, taking control and possession of the mound. The identity of the two groups must have been clearly perceived, and no evidence is found to suggest cultural inclusion or mixing, whereas episodes of conflict are evident.

The social instability and political upheaval are also noticed by the emergence in the region of human sacrifice, usually a resource of hierarchical social structures that accompanied early state-formation processes. In the vacuum of political centralisation that followed the withdrawal of Uruk material and the appearance of Kura–Araxes, instability among smaller polities must have created thus the necessary environment for the introduction of human sacrifice. With the appearance of vast administrative state systems in southern Mesopotamia in the next millennium, this practice disappeared again from the archaeological record.

Kura–Araxes culture

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

The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread 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.

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. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs for ornamentation. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya.

The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes, and most certainly, had extensive trade contacts. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.

They are also remarkable for the production of wheeled vehicles (wagons and carts), which were sometimes included in burial kurgans. Inhumation practices are mixed. Flat graves are found, but so are substantial kurgan burials, the latter of which may be surrounded by cromlechs. This points to a heterogeneous ethno-linguistic population.

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

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

Hurrian and Urartian elements are quite probable, as are Northeast Caucasian ones. Some authors subsume Hurrians and Urartians under Northeast Caucasian as well as part of the Alarodian theory.

The presence of Kartvelian languages was also highly probable. Influences of Semitic languages and Indo-European languages are also highly possible, though the presence of the languages on the lands of the Kura–Araxes culture is more controversial. 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.


Maikop crania

In sum, the results of the multivariate analysis suggest that Maikop people are distinct from all the contemporary and later Eastern European groups of the steppe and forest-steppe zones.

This provides an additional argument in favor of the hypothesis that Maikop burials in Kalmykia attest not merely to the cultural impact of the Maikop community on the steppe tribes (Munchaev, 1994: 168); rather, they were left by a separate group which was unrelated to the local Pit Grave population by origin.

The Southern Caucasoid trait combination revealed by the Maikop series is somewhat similar to that shown by the contemporaneous groups of the Northern Caucasus and southern Turkmenia. Clearly, this does not imply a direct connection with any of these regions.

The Near Eastern parallels are no less suggestive. Thus, a small series from Al-Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia, dating from the 4th millennium BC, is characterized by dolichocrany (cranial index, 72.6), a high face, medium wide, high and sharply protruding nose, and wide palate. Regrettably, the number of measurements is too small to warrant a reliable comparison with the Maikop series.

However, the isolated position of the Maikop group in Eastern Europe, its vague resemblance to the Southern Caucasoids of the Caucasus and Southwestern Central Asia, and the Near Eastern cultural affinities of Maikop and Novosvobodnaya (Munchaev, 1994: 170) indirectly point to Near Eastern provenance.

Analysis of Maikop crania (Kazarnitsky 2010)


Bioarchaeological Analysis Mutual Relations of Populations Armenian Highlands and Eurasia Using Craniological and Dental Nonmetric Traits published in Asian Culture and History Vol. 4, No. 2; July 2012, by Anahit Yu. Khudaverdyan is a multidimensional craniometric analysis of more than 254 ethnic groups of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages from the territory of Eurasia.

On the basis of the received information, cluster analysis was done and has shown the genetic condensations of ethnoses and vectors of relatives or, conversely, distinctions between them. Craniometric and odontologic investigation of the Bronze Age is interesting and in connection with discussion about the origin of Indo-Europeans and about the place of their ancestral home.

Different aspects of the problem of the ancestral home of Indo-Europeans are far from completely resolved and generate lively debate in the pages of scientific publications. New anthropological data allowed identification of alien Mediterranean characteristics influencing various ethnic Eurasian groups and revealed evidence of a migratory stream from the Armenian highlands and the Caucasus. This research provided new evidence of patterns of ethnic contact and intermixture in Western Eurasia.

From the paper on the craniological results one can see a clear link between the Armenian highlands samples and the Western Europe samples (the Arcvakar sample – 17 close phenetic links are revealed). The samples from the Georgia (Samtavro /Late Bronze Age – II period) and Iran (Tepe Gissar III), Uzbekistan (Sapallitepe) are identified as the samples with closest affinities samples from Ukraine (Shirochanski) and Poland, Germany (Corded Ware culture) in particular.

This suggests that some of the European genes do actually stem from this area. So, mediterranean connections from Armenian highlands, Georgia and Central Asia are distinctly fixed in Western Europe and in the Middle-Late Bronze Age.

If true, it is suggested that the dispersal of the Indo-European languages have been accompanied by migration and some gene flow from the Armenian highlands homeland to the various historical seats of the Indo-European languages. The different rates of genetic drift and external gene flow may have contributed to the morphological differentiation and diversification amongst the different Eurasian populations.

Cluster analysis has revealed a craniological series having analogies (on a complex of craniometric, odontologic characters) with representatives of the population of the Armenian highlands, the Caucasus, the Near East and Central Asia. The initial starting area (or one of the intermediate areas), as indicated by the anthropological data, would seem to be the Armenian highlands, and the Caucasus as a whole.

Craniological and dental signatures of Out-of-Armenia

PIE and North Caucasian

Quite consistent with Dienekes idea that Proto-Indo-European is related to the West Asian autosomal component.  This component occurs at a a level  greater than 50% level in modern North Caucasian speakers, is absent in Europe prior to 5,000 years ago, and occurs at levels greater or equal to 10% in most present-day Indo-European speakers from Europe.

In the text Areal Typology of Proto-Indo-European: The Case for Caucasian Connections Ranko Matasović re-examines the evidence for early contacts between Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and the languages of the Caucasus. Although he were not able to find certain proofs of lexical borrowing between PIE and North Caucasian, there are a few undeniable areal-typological parallels in phonology and grammar.

Some features generally attributed to PIE are not found in the majority of languages of North and Northeastern Eurasia, while they are common, or universally present, in the languages of the Caucasus (especially North Caucasus). Those features include the high consonant-to-vowel ratio, tonal accent, number suppletion in personal pronouns, the presence of gender and the morphological optative and, possibly, the presence of glottalized consonants and ergativity.


The Trialeti culture, also known as the Trialeti-Vanadzor [Kirovakan] culture, is named after the Trialeti region of Georgia and the city of Vanadzor in Armenia. It is attributed to the 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC. Trialeti culture emerged in the areas of the preceding Kura-Araxes culture. Some scholars speculate that it was an Indo-European culture.

The earliest Shulaveri-Shomu culture existed in the area from 6000 to 4000 BC. The Kura-Araxes culture followed after. The flourishing stage of the Trialeti culture began near the end of the third millennium BC.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as parts of northern Iran. 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 Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC.

Late in the history of this culture, its people built kurgans of greatly varying sizes, containing widely 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.

The typical red-black ware of Kura–Araxes culture originated in eastern Anatolia, and then moved on to the Caucasus area. But then these cultural influences came back to Anatolia mixed in with other cultural elements from the Caucasus.

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

The flourishing stage of the Trialeti culture began near the end of the third millennium BC. Black-burnished and monochrome painted wares vessels from the cemeteries of Ani, and Küçük Çatma (Maly Pergit), both in the Kars Province of Turkey, and Sos Höyük IV in Erzurum Province resemble those of Trialeti.

During the final phase of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1700–1500 BC), in addition to the Trialeti-Vanadzor period culture, three other geographically overlapping material culture horizons predominate in the South Caucasus (Transcaucasia) and eastern Anatolia: Karmir-Berd (a.k.a. Tazakend), Karmir-Vank (a.k.a. Kizil Vank, Van-Urmia), and Sevan-Uzerlik (a.k.a. Sevan-Artsakh).

At that time, there was already strong social differentiation indicated by rich mound burials. There are parallels to the Early Kurgan culture. Cremation was practised. Painted pottery was introduced. Tin-based bronze became predominant.

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, and east. For example, a cauldron found in Trialeti is nearly identical to the one from Shaft Grave 4 of Mycenae in Greece.

Grave Circle A is a 16th-century BC royal cemetery situated to the south of the Lion Gate, the main entrance of the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae in southern Greece. This burial complex was initially constructed outside the walls of Mycenae and ultimately enclosed in the acropolis when the fortification was extended during the 13th century BC.

This burial complex was constructed outside the fortification walls of Mycenae and together with Grave Circle B represent one of the major characteristics of the early phase of the Mycenaean civilization.

Trialeti-Vanadzor painted monochrome and polychrome pottery is very similar to that in the other areas of the Near East. In particular, similar ceramics are known as Urmia ware (named after Lake Urmia in Iran). Also, similar pottery was produced by the Uzarlik culture, and the Karmirberd-Sevan culture.

There appears to be the new abundance of metals in this period. Arsenical coppers were dominating the record, while copper and tin-bronzes were represented to a rather limited degree.

The launch of tin bronze production in South Caucasia is associated with the appearance of the so-called Early Kurgans, whereas artifacts of the Kura-Araxes (Early Transcaucasian) culture were made exclusively of copper-arsenic alloy.


Martkhopi is a village in Gardabani District of Georgia. It is located on the left side of Ialno range, in the gorges of the rivers Alikhevi and Tevali, and is at an altitude of 770 meters. The region of Martqopi played a big role during the third millennium BC. It is distinguished by many rich burial kurgans, representing the early stage of the Early Kurgan culture of Central Transcaucasia.

Close to village in the Ulevari valley archaeologists discovered bronze-age graves. Several rich burial kurgans have been discovered in the area. They represent the early stage of the Early Kurgan culture of Central Transcaucasia. The Martqopi Culture may be dated before 2550 BC.

This Early Kurgan period, known as Martkopi-Bedeni, has been interpreted as a transitional phase and the first stage of the Middle Bronze Age. To the earliest group belong the kurgans or barrows of the Martqopi/Ulevari and Samgori valleys (east of Tbilisi), and the earliest among the Trialeti culture.

The somewhat later kurgans are of Bedeni type. They are represented by the kurgans of the Bedeni plateau (near Trialeti), and also those of the Alazani valley (in Kakheti, eastern part of East Georgia).

This stage of the Early Bronze Age seems to represent the final stage of the Kura-Araxes culture. According to recent dating, the transition to the Early Kurgan period was around the mid of the 3rd millennium — somewhat between the 27th to 24th century BC.

Martqopi kurgans are somewhat similar, and are contemporary to the earliest among the Trialeti kurgans. Together, they represent the early stage of the Early Kurgan culture of Central Transcaucasia.

This Early Kurgan period, known as Martkopi-Bedeni, has been interpreted as a transitional phase and the first stage of the Middle Bronze Age. In fact, the black burnished pottery of especially early Trialeti kurgans is similar to Kura-Araxes pottery.

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

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

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

The Trialeti pottery style is believed to have developed into the Late Bronze Age Transcaucasian ceramic ware found throughout much of what is now eastern Turkey. This pottery has been connected to the expansion of the Mushki.

Armenia, cradle of Indo-European civilization




Dizə (also, Diza and Dize) is a village and municipality in the Sharur District in Nakhchivan. It is located on the left bank of the Arpachay (Akhurian) River, on the Sharur plain. On the other side of the river is the village of Oglanqala. Its population is busy with gardening, vegetable-growing, grain-growing and animal husbandry.

In the ancient Iranian languages the word of dizə means “wall, fence,” “fortified town”, “fortress wall”, “fortress”, “fortified”. It passed in to several Turkic languages, including Azerbaijani language and is used in meaning as “village”. It shows similaritiers with Kultepe, Azerbaijan, Makhta Kultepe and other Chalcolithic era sites.

This is a strategic point at the foot of the highlands; the site is at the crossroads of major trade routes linking the Iranian plateau to Anatolia (east to west), and the Caucasus to North Mesopotamia (north to south).

Ovçular təpəsi (Ovcular Tepesi, Hunters hill) is located just to the north of Dize village, on the left bank of the Arpachay River. It is a settlement from the 5th-3rd millenniums BC. It is located on a natural hill. The area is about 10 hectares.

The characteristic feature of the site is that the Kura-Araxes layer is not covered by any cultural layers of later periods. During the excavations of VH Aliyev and AK Seyidov, the remains of two buildings were found at a depth of 0.6 m. The residents engaged in agriculture, cattle breeding, fishing, and other farming activities. In 2010, some Ubaid period materials were found. 

At Ovcular, three large copper axes were found in an infant burial jar, coming from Late Chalcolithic occupation levels (4400–3950 BC). Also, pieces of copper ore, crucible remains, and some small metal artifacts were found. Such large copper tools are not known anywhere else in southwestern Asia. Metallurgy was being practiced here, and at other sites in the area.

Dizə Necropolis – the archaeological monument of the first Bronze Age in the west of the same named village in the Sharur region. It was discovered during the farm work in 1969. The materials of destructed of two graves were collected and as a result of the research one of the graves were studied. The remained a part of the walls of the grave chamber were built from river stone with mud and floor also were plastered with mud.

According to the remains of bones, can say that two people were buried here. They were in wrapped position and their heads to the south side. Mug and containers of bank-type were found from the grave. Discovered samples of the material culture shows that the site belongs to the Kura-Araxes culture.

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