According to the widely held Kurgan hypothesis, c.q. renewed Steppe hypothesis, the oldest branch were the Anatolian languages, which split from the earliest proto-Indo-European speech community (archaic PIE), which developed at the Volga basin.
The second-oldest branch, the Tocharian languages, were spoken in the Tarim Basin (present-day western China), and split-off from early PIE, which was spoken at the eastern Pontic steppe.
The bulk of the Indo-European languages developed from late PIE, which was spoken at the Yamnaya horizon, and other related cultures in the Pontic–Caspian steppe, around 4000 BCE. The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language.
Several genetic studies performed since 2015 have given support to the Kurgan theory of Marija Gimbutas regarding the Indo-European Urheimat – that Indo-European languages spread throughout Europe from the Eurasian steppes and that the Yamnaya culture were Proto-Indo-Europeans.
The people of the Yamnaya culture were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus.
Proto-Celtic and Proto-Italic probably developed in and spread from Central Europe into western Europe after Yamnaya migrations into the Danube Valley, while Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic may have developed east of the Carpathian mountains, in present-day Ukraine, moving north and spreading with the Corded Ware culture in Middle Europe (third millennium BCE).
Alternatively, a European branch of Indo-European dialects, termed “North-west Indo-European” and associated with the Beaker culture, may have been ancestral to not only Celtic and Italic, but also to Germanic and Balto-Slavic.
The Indo-Iranian language and culture probably emerged within the Sintashta culture (circa 2100–1800 BCE), at the eastern border of the Yamnaya horizon and the Corded Ware culture, growing into the Andronovo culture (ca. 1900-800 BCE) which two first phases are Fedorovo Andronovo culture (ca. 1900–1400 BCE) and Alakul Andronovo culture (ca. 1800–1500 BCE).
Indo-Aryans moved into the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (ca. 2400–1600 BCE) and spread to the Levant (Mitanni), northern India (Vedic people, ca. 1500 BCE), and China (Wusun). The Iranian languages spread throughout the steppes with the Scyths and into Iran with the Medes, Parthians and Persians from ca. 800 BCE.
A number of alternative theories have been proposed. Renfrew’s Anatolian hypothesis suggests a much earlier date for the Indo-European languages, proposing an origin in Anatolia and an initial spread with the earliest farmers who migrated to Europe. It has been the only serious alternative for the steppe-theory, but suffers from a lack of explanatory power.
The Anatolian hypothesis also led to some support for the Armenian hypothesis, which proposes that the urheimat of Proto-Indo-European was spoken during the 5th–4th millennia BC in eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia. While the Armenian hypothesis has been criticized on archeological and chronological grounds, recent genetic research has led to a renewed interest.
Recent DNA-research has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a ‘pre-proto-Indo-European’. It also lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language “no later than the 4th millennium BCE.”
The Anatolian languages, including Hittite, split off before 4000 BCE, and migrated into Anatolia at around 2000 BCE. Around 4000 BCE, the proto-Indo-European community split into Greek-Armenian-Indo-Iranians, Celto-Italo-Tocharians, and Balto-Slavo-Germanics.
At around 3000–2500 BCE, Greek moved to the west, while the Indo-Aryans, the Celto-Italo-Tocharians and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics moved east, and then northwards along the eastern slope of the Caspian Sea.
The Tocharians split from the Italo-Celtics before 2000 BCE and moved further east, while the Italo-Celtics and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics turned west again towards the northern slopes of the Black Sea. From there, they expanded further into Europe between around 2000 and 1000 BCE.
The phonological peculiarities of the consonants proposed in the glottalic theory would be best preserved in Armenian and the Germanic languages. Proto-Greek would be practically equivalent to Mycenaean Greek from the 17th century BC and closely associate Greek migration to Greece with the Indo-Aryan migration to India at about the same time (the Indo-European expansion at the transition to the Late Bronze Age, including the possibility of Indo-European Kassites).
The hypothesis argues for the latest possible date of Proto-Indo-European (without Anatolian), roughly a millennium later than the mainstream Kurgan hypothesis. In this respect, it represents an opposite to the Anatolian hypothesis in spite of the geographical proximity of the respective suggested Urheimat by diverging from the timeframe suggested there by approximately 3000 years.
Haak et al. (2015) states that “the Armenian plateau hypothesis gains in plausibility” since the Yamnaya partly descended from a Near Eastern population, which resembles present-day Armenians. Yet, they also state that “the question of what languages were spoken by the ‘Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers’ and the southern, Armenian-like, ancestral population remains open.”
David Reich, in his 2018 publication Who We Are and How We Got Here, noting the presence of some Indo-European languages (such as Hittite) in parts of ancient Anatolia, states that “the most likely location of the population that first spoke an Indo-European language was south of the Caucasus Mountains, perhaps in present-day Iran or Armenia, because ancient DNA from people who lived there matches what we would expect for a source population both for the Yamnaya and for ancient Anatolians.”
Yet, Reich also notes that “…the evidence here is circumstantial as no ancient DNA from the Hittites themselves has yet been published.” Nevertheless, Reich also states that some, if not most, of the Indo-European languages were spread by the Yamnaya people.
According to Kroonen et al. (2018), Damgaard et al. (2018) aDNA studies in Anatolia “show no indication of a large-scale intrusion of a steppe population”, but do “fit the recently developed consensus among linguists and historians that the speakers of the Anatolian languages established themselves in Anatolia by gradual infiltration and cultural assimilation.”
They further note that this lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language “no later than the 4th millennium BCE.”
Wang et al. (2018) note that the Caucasus served as a corridor for gene flow between the steppe and cultures south of the Caucasus during the Eneolithic and the Bronze Age, stating that this “opens up the possibility of a homeland of PIE south of the Caucasus.” However, Wang et al. also acknowledge that the latest genetic evidence supports an origin of proto-Indo-Europeans in the steppe, noting:
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.
Kristian Kristiansen, in an interview with Der Spiegel in may 2018, stated that the Yamnaya culture may have had a predecessor at the Caucasus, where “proto-proto-Indo-European” was spoken.
Robert Drews says that “most of the chronological and historical arguments seem fragile at best, and of those that I am able to judge, some are evidently wrong”. However, he argues that it is far more powerful as a linguistic model, providing insights into the relationship between the Indo-European and the Semitic and Kartvelian languages.
J. Grepin wrote in a review in the Times Literary Supplement the model of linguistic relationships is “the most complex, far reaching and fully supported of this century”.
David Anthony in a 2019 analysis criticizes the “southern” or Armenian hypothesis (citing Reich, Kristaiansen, and Wang). He finds that the Yamnaya derived mainly from Eastern European hunter-gatherers (EHG) and Caucasus hunter-gatherers (CHG), and suggests a genetic and linguistic origin of proto-Indo-Europeans (the Yamnaya) in the Eastern European steppe north of the Caucasus, from a mixture of these two groups.
He suggests that proto-Indo-European formed mainly from a base of languages spoken by Eastern European hunter-gatherers, with some influences from the languages of Caucasus hunter-gatherers.
According to Anthony, hunting-fishing camps from the lower Volga, dated 6200-4500 BCE, could be the remains of people who contributed the CHG-component, migrating from the south-east Caucasus, who mixed with EHG-people from the north Volga steppes. The resulting culture contributed to the Sredny Stog culture, a predecessor of the Yamnaya culture.
Anthony cites evidence from ancient DNA, that the Bronze Age Maykop people of the Caucasus (previously proposed as a possible southern source of language and genetics at the root of Indo-European), had little genetic impact on the Yamnaya (whose paternal lineages differ from those found in Maykop remains, but are instead related to those of pre-Yamnaya Eastern European steppe hunter-gatherers).
In addition, the Maykop (and other contemporary Caucasus samples), along with CHG, had significant Anatolian Farmer ancestry “which had spread into the Caucasus from the west after about 5000 BC”, but is little detected in the Yamnaya. Partly for these reasons, Anthony concludes that Bronze Age Caucasus groups such as the Maykop “played only a minor role, if any, in the formation of Yamnaya ancestry.”
According to Anthony, this, the absence of evidence of significant admixture (including of paternal genetic influence, often associated with language shift) from the south on the Yamnaya suggests that the roots of Proto-Indo-European (archaic or proto-proto-Indo-European) were mainly in the steppe rather than the south. Anthony considers it likely that the Maykop spoke a Northern Caucasian language not ancestral to Indo-European.
Although Armenians were known to history much earlier (for example, they were mentioned in the 6th century BC Behistun Inscription and in Xenophon’s 4th century BC history (The Anabasis), the oldest surviving Armenian-language text is the 5th century AD Bible translation of Mesrop Mashtots, who created the Armenian alphabet in 405, at which time it had 36 letters. He is also credited by some with the creation of the Caucasian Albanian alphabet.
Armenia was a monolingual country by the 2nd century BC at the latest. There are two standardized modern literary forms, Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian, with which most contemporary dialects are mutually intelligible. While Armenian constitutes the sole member of the Armenian branch of the Indo-European family, Aram Kossian has suggested that the hypothetical Mushki language may have been a (now extinct) Armenic language.
Altough its vocabulary has historically been influenced by Western Middle Iranian languages, particularly Parthian, and contains smaller inventories of loanwords from Greek, Persian, Arabic, Syriac and Mongol, and indigenous languages such as Urartian, Armenian is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages.
It is of interest to linguists for its distinctive phonological developments within that family. Armenian exhibits more satemization than centumization, although it is not classified as belonging to either of these subgroups.
Some linguists tentatively conclude that Armenian, Greek (and Phrygian) and Indo-Iranian were dialectally close to each other; within this hypothetical dialect group, Proto-Armenian was situated between Proto-Greek (centum subgroup) and Proto-Indo-Iranian (satem subgroup). Ronald I. Kim has noted unique morphological developments connecting Armenian to Balto-Slavic languages.
There are words used in Armenian that are generally believed to have been borrowed from Anatolian languages, particularly from Luwian, although some researchers have identified possible Hittite loanwords as well.
W. M. Austin (1942) concluded that there was an early contact between Armenian and Anatolian languages, based on what he considered common archaisms, such as the lack of a feminine gender and the absence of inherited long vowels.
However, unlike shared innovations (or synapomorphies), the common retention of archaisms (or symplesiomorphy) is not considered conclusive evidence of a period of common isolated development.
In 1985, Soviet linguist Igor M. Diakonoff noted the presence in Classical Armenian of what he calls a “Caucasian substratum” identified by earlier scholars, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages.
Noting that Hurro-Urartian-speaking peoples inhabited the Armenian homeland in the second millennium BC, Diakonov identifies in Armenian a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and animal and plant terms.
Some of the terms he gives admittedly have an Akkadian or Sumerian provenance, but he suggests they were borrowed through Hurrian or Urartian. Given that these borrowings do not undergo sound changes characteristic of the development of Armenian from Proto-Indo-European, he dates their borrowing to a time before the written record but after the Proto-Armenian language stage.
Loan words from Iranian languages, along with the other ancient accounts such as that of Xenophon above, initially led linguists to erroneously classify Armenian as an Iranian language. Scholars such as Paul de Lagarde and F. Müller believed that the similarities between the two languages meant that Iranian and Armenian were the same language.
The distinctness of Armenian was recognized when philologist Heinrich Hübschmann (1875) used the comparative method to distinguish two layers of Iranian words from the older Armenian vocabulary. He showed that Armenian often had 2 morphemes for the one concept, and the non-Iranian components yielded a consistent PIE pattern distinct from Iranian, and also demonstrated that the inflectional morphology was different from that in Iranian languages.
The hypothesis that Greek is Armenian’s closest living relative originates with Holger Pedersen (1924), who noted that the number of Greek-Armenian lexical cognates is greater than that of agreements between Armenian and any other Indo-European language.
Antoine Meillet (1925, 1927) further investigated morphological and phonological agreement, postulating that the parent languages of Greek and Armenian were dialects in immediate geographical proximity in the Proto-Indo-European period. Meillet’s hypothesis became popular in the wake of his book Esquisse d’une histoire de la langue latine (1936).
Georg Renatus Solta (1960) does not go as far as postulating a Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage, but he concludes that considering both the lexicon and morphology, Greek is clearly the dialect most closely related to Armenian.
Eric P. Hamp (1976, 91) supports the Graeco-Armenian thesis, anticipating even a time “when we should speak of Helleno-Armenian” (meaning the postulate of a Graeco-Armenian proto-language).
Armenian shares the augment, and a negator derived from the set phrase Proto-Indo-European language *ne h₂oyu kʷid (“never anything” or “always nothing”), and the representation of word-initial laryngeals by prothetic vowels, and other phonological and morphological peculiarities with Greek.
Nevertheless, as Fortson (2004) comments, “by the time we reach our earliest Armenian records in the 5th century AD, the evidence of any such early kinship has been reduced to a few tantalizing pieces”.
Many modern scholars have rejected the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, arguing that the linguistic proximity between the two languages has been overstated. Graeco-(Armeno)-Aryan is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family, ancestral to the Greek language, the Armenian language, and the Indo-Iranian languages. Graeco-Aryan unity would have become divided into Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian by the mid-third millennium BC.
Conceivably, Proto-Armenian would have been located between Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, consistent with the fact that Armenian shares certain features only with Indo-Iranian (the satem change) but others only with Greek (s > h).
Graeco-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists for the Indo-European homeland to be located in the Armenian Highlands, the “Armenian hypothesis”. Early and strong evidence was given by Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal flection.
Used in tandem with the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, the Armenian language would also be included under the label Aryano-Greco-Armenic, splitting into proto-Greek/Phrygian and “Armeno-Aryan” (ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian).
Urartu (Ararat) is a geographical region commonly used as the exonym for the Iron Age kingdom also known by the modern rendition of its endonym, the Kingdom of Van, centered around Lake Van in the historic Armenian Highlands (present-day eastern Anatolia). The written language that the kingdom’s political elite used is referred to as Urartian, which appears in cuneiform inscriptions in Armenia and eastern Turkey.
It is unknown what language was spoken by the peoples of Urartu at the time of the existence of the kingdom, but there is linguistic evidence of contact between the proto-Armenian language and the Urartian language at an early date (sometime between the 3rd—2nd millennium BC), occurring prior to the formation of Urartu as a kingdom.
The name Urartu (Hebrew: Ararat) comes from Assyrian sources. Shalmaneser I (1263–1234 BC) recorded a campaign in which he subdued the entire territory of “Uruatri”. The Shalmaneser text uses the name Urartu to refer to a geographical region, not a kingdom, and names eight “lands” contained within Urartu (which at the time of the campaign were still disunited).
Boris Piotrovsky wrote that the Urartians first appear in history in the 13th century BC as a league of tribes or countries which did not yet constitute a unitary state. In the Assyrian annals the term Uruatri (Urartu) as a name for this league was superseded during a considerable period of years by the term “land of Nairi”.
Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) is believed to have originally been a Hurrian or Mitanni state that was subsequently annexed into the Urartian confederation. Shupria is often mentioned in conjunction with a district in the area called Arme (also referred to as Urme or Armani) which some scholars have linked to the name of Armenia.
Linguists John Greppin and Igor M. Diakonoff argued that the Urartians referred to themselves as Shurele (sometimes transliterated as Shurili or Šurili, possibly pronounced as Surili), a name mentioned within the royal titles of the kings of Urartu (e.g. “the king of Šuri-lands”).
The word Šuri has been variously theorized as originally referring to chariots, swords, the region of Shupria (perhaps an attempt by the ruling dynasty to associate themselves with the Hurrians), or the entire world.
The name Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili) is derived from the Urartian toponym Biainili (or Biaineli), which was probably pronounced as Vanele (or Vanili), and called Van in Old Armenian, hence the names “Kingdom of Van” or “Vannic Kingdom”.
The kingdom rose to power in the mid-9th century BC, but went into gradual decline and was eventually conquered by the Iranian Medes in the early 6th century BC. The geopolitical region would re-emerge as Armenia shortly after. Being heirs to the Urartian realm, the earliest identifiable ancestors of the Armenians are the peoples of Urartu.
In the 6th century BC, with the emergence of Armenia in the region, the name of the region was simultaneously referred to as variations of Armenia and Urartu. In the trilingual Behistun Inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius I, the country referred to as Urartu in Akkadian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in the Elamite language.
The mentions of Urartu in the Books of Kings and Isaiah of the Bible were translated as “Armenia” in the Septuagint. Some English language translations, including the King James Version follow the Septuagint translation of Urartu as Armenia. The identification of the biblical “mountains of Ararat” with the Mt. Ararat is a modern identification based on postbiblical tradition.
The name Ayrarat that was later used to describe lands located in the central region of the Kingdom of Armenia seems to have been of local usage as no known classical works use this word to refer to Armenia.
Scholars such as Carl Ferdinand Friedrich Lehmann-Haupt (1910) believed that the people of Urartu called themselves Khaldini after the god Ḫaldi (d,Ḫaldi, also known as Khaldi). He was the primary god of the most prominent group of Urartian tribes, which eventually evolved into the Armenian nation.
Ḫaldi was one of the three chief deities of Urartu. Along with Ḫaldi of Ardini, the other two chief deities of Urartu were Theispas of Kumenu, and Shivini of Tushpa. His wife was the goddess Arubani and/or the goddess Bagvarti.
Of all the gods of the Urartian pantheon, the most inscriptions are dedicated to Ḫaldi. He was portrayed as a man with or without wings, standing on a lion. He was a warrior god to whom the kings of Urartu would pray for victories in battle.
The temples dedicated to Khaldi were adorned with weapons such as swords, spears, bows and arrows, and shields hung from the walls and were sometimes known as “the house of weapons”.
The Urartian Kings used to erect steles dedicated to Ḫaldi in which they inscribed the successes of theimilitary campaigns, the buildings built, and also the agricultural activities that took place during their reign.
According to Urartologist Paul Zimansky, Haldi was not a native Urartian god but apparently an obscure Akkadian deity (which explains the location of the main temple of worship for Haldi in Musasir, believed to be near modern Rawandiz, Iraq).
He was not initially worshipped by Urartians, at least as their chief god, as his cult does not appear to have been introduced until the reign of by the Urartian King Ishpuini, who acquired it ca. 800 BC.
His principle shrine was at Ardini (Muṣaṣir in Assyrian; KURMu-ṣa-ṣir and variants, including Mutsatsir, Akkadian for Exit of the Serpent/Snake), an ancient city of Urartu attested in Assyrian sources of the 9th and 8th centuries BC.
According to Michael C. Astour, Haldi could be etymologically related to the Hurrian word “heldi”, meaning “high”. An alternate theory postulates that the name could be of Indo-European (possibly Helleno-Armenian) or Old Armenian origin, meaning “sun god” (compare with Greek Helios and Latin Sol).
Some sources claim that the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenians, Hayk the Great or The Great Hayk, also known as Hayk Nahapet; Hayk the “head of family” or patriarch, is derived from Ḫaldi, but other theories about the etymology of Hayk are more widely accepted.
Hayk is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. His story is told in the History of Armenia attributed to the Armenian historian Moses of Chorene (or Movses Khorenatsi, c. 410 – c. 490). The name of the patriarch, Hayk, is not exactly homophonous with the name for “Armenia”, Hayk’. Hayk’ is the nominative plural in Classical Armenian of hay, the Armenian term for “Armenian.”
Some claim that the etymology of Hayk’ from Hayk is impossible and that the origin of the term Hay (“Armenian”) is verifiable. Anyway, Hayk and Haig are usually connected to hay and hayer, the nominative plural in Modern Armenian, the self-designation of the Armenians.
Armen Petroyan believes that the name Hayk can “very plausibly” be derived from the Indo-European *poti- ‘master, lord, master of the house, husband’. Hayk would then be an etiological founding figure, like e.g. Asshur for the Assyrians, etc.
One of Hayk’s most famous scions, Aram, settled in Eastern Armenia from the Mitanni kingdom (Western Armenia), when Sargon II mentions a king of part of Armenia who bore the (Armenian-Indo-Iranian) name Bagatadi (which, like the Greek-based “Theodore” and the Hebrew-based “Jonathan,” means “god-given”).
Mitanni was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from c. 1500 to 1300 BC. While the Mitanni kings were Indo-Aryan, they used the language of the local people, which was at that time a non-Indo-European language, Hurrian.
Kammenhuber suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.
A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.
The Hurro-Urartian languages are an extinct language family of the Ancient Near East, comprising only two known languages: Hurrian and Urartian. The poorly attested Kassite language may have belonged to the Hurro-Urartian language family.
Hurrian was the language of the Hurrians (occasionally called “Hurrites”), and was spoken in the northern parts of Mesopotamia and Syria and the southeastern parts of Anatolia between at least last quarter of the third millennium BC and its extinction towards the end of the second millennium BC.
Urartian was probably spoken by the majority of the population in the mountainous areas around Lake Van and the upper Zab valley. It branched off from Hurrian at approximately the beginning of the second millennium BC.
It has also been proposed that two little known groups, the Nairi and the Mannae, might have been Hurrian speakers, but as little is known about them, it is hard to draw any conclusions about what languages they spoke. Furthermore, the Kassite language was possibly related to Hurro-Urartian.
Francfort and Tremblay on the basis of the Akkadian textual and archaeological evidence, proposed to identify the kingdom of Marhashi and Ancient Margiana. The Marhashite personal names seems to point towards an Eastern variant of Hurrian or another language of the Hurro-Urartian language family.
The Mitanni kingdom was referred to as the Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni by the Egyptians, the Hurri by the Hittites, and the Hanigalbat by the Assyrians. The different names seem to have referred to the same kingdom and were used interchangeably, according to Michael C. Astour.
The Mitanni dynasty ruled over the northern Euphrates-Tigris region between c. 1475 and c. 1275 BC. Eventually, Mitanni succumbed to Hittite and later Assyrian attacks and was reduced to the status of a province of the Middle Assyrian Empire.
The Mitanni controlled trade routes down the Khabur to Mari and up the Euphrates from there to Carchemish. For a time they also controlled the Assyrian territories of the upper Tigris and its headwaters at Nineveh, Erbil, Assur and Nuzi.
The Nuzi texts are ancient documents found during an excavation of Nuzi, 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 texts are mainly legal and business documents. They have also been viewed as evidence for the age and veracity of certain parts of the Old Testament, especially of the Patriarchal age, but this is no longer widely accepted.
Their allies included Kizuwatna in southeastern Anatolia; Mukish, which stretched between Ugarit and Quatna west of the Orontes to the sea; and the Niya, which controlled the east bank of the Orontes from Alalah down through Aleppo, Ebla and Hama to Qatna and Kadesh. To the east, they had good relations with the Kassites.
The land of Mitanni in northern Syria extended from the Taurus mountains to its west and as far east as Nuzi (modern Kirkuk) and the river Tigris in the east. In the south, it extended from Aleppo across (Nuhasse) to Mari on the Euphrates in the east. Its centre was in the Khabur River valley, with two capitals: Taite and Washukanni, called Taidu and Ussukana respectively in Assyrian sources.
The whole area supported agriculture without artificial irrigation and cattle, sheep and goats were raised. It is very similar to Assyria in climate, and was settled by both indigenous Hurrian and Amoritic-speaking (Amurru) populations.
Their sphere of influence is shown in Hurrian place names, personal names and the spread through Syria and the Levant of a distinct pottery type. There have been various Hurrian-speaking states, of which the most prominent one was the kingdom of Mitanni (1450–1270 BC).
Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which existed in many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi.
Robert Drews writes that the name maryannu, although plural, takes the singular marya, which in Sanskrit means ‘young warrior’, and attaches a Hurrian suffix. He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age, most would have spoken either Hurrian or Indo-Aryan, but by the end of the 14th century, most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.
Bearers of names in the Hurrian language are attested in wide areas of Syria and the northern Levant that are clearly outside the area of the political entity known to Assyria as Hanilgalbat.
There is no indication that these persons owed allegiance to the political entity of Mitanni; although the German term Auslandshurriter (“Hurrian expatriates”) has been used by some authors.
In the 14th century BC numerous city-states in northern Syria and Canaan were ruled by persons with Hurrian and some Indo-Aryan names. If this can be taken to mean that the population of these states was Hurrian as well, then it is possible that these entities were a part of a larger polity with a shared Hurrian identity.
This is often assumed, but without a critical examination of the sources. Differences in dialect and regionally different pantheons (Hepat/Shawushka, Sharruma/Tilla etc.) point to the existence of several groups of Hurrian speakers.
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.
Altogether, the early trans-Caucasian culture enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, and mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and as far as Syria.
The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Kura–Araxes culture is sometimes known as Shengavitian, Karaz (Erzurum), Pulur, and Yanik Tepe (Iranian Azerbaijan, near Lake Urmia) cultures.
It gave rise to the later Khirbet Kerak-ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire. The tell of Khirbet Kerak lies where the Sea of Galilee empties into the Jordan river and the terrain rises by c. 15 meters above the level of the lake.
Khirbet Kerak ware is a type of Early Bronze Age Syro-Palestinian pottery first discovered at this site. It is also found in other parts of the Levant, including Jericho, Beth Shan, Tell Judeideh, and Ugarit. Khirbet Kerak culture appears to have been a Levantine version of the Early Transcaucasian Culture.
Khirbet Kerak (Khirbet al-Karak, “the ruin of the fortress”) or Beth Yerah (Hebrew: “House of the Moon (god)”) is a tell (archaeological mound) located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee in modern-day Israel.
The tell spans an area of over 50 acres—one of the largest in the Levant—and contains remains dating from the Early Bronze Age (c. 3000 BCE – 2000 BCE) and from the Persian period (c. 450 BCE) through to the Early Islamic period (c. 1000 CE).
Beth Yerah means “House of the Moon (god)”. Though it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible or other Bronze or Iron Age sources, the name may preserve, at least in part, the Canaanite toponym of Ablm-bt-Yrh, “the city/fort (qrt) of his-majesty Yarih”.
As Ablm (Heb. Abel), this location is mentioned in the 14th century BCE Epic of Aqhat, a Canaanite myth from Ugarit, an ancient city in what is now Syria, and is thought to be a reference to the Early Bronze Age structure extant at Khirbet Kerak. The 2009 discovery at the tell of a stone palette with Egyptian motifs, including an ankh, points to trade/political relations with the First dynasty of Egypt, at approximately 3000 BCE.
The Leyla-Tepe culture of ancient Caucasian Albania 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, from 4350 until 4000 B.C.
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.
The Yamnaya culture, also known as the Yamnaya Horizon, Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC.
Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition: Ямна (romanization: yamna) is a Ukrainian adjective that means ‘related to pits (yama)’, and these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers.
A kurgan is a type of tumulus or mounds of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves, often characterized by containing a single human body along with grave vessels, weapons and horses.
Originally in use on the Pontic-Caspian steppe, kurgans spread into much of Central Asia and Eastern, Western and Northern Europe during the 3rd millennium BC. The Russian noun, already attested in Old East Slavic, comes from an unidentified Turkic language, compare Modern Turkish kurğan, which means “fortress”.
Popularised by its use in Soviet archaeology, the word is now widely used for tumuli in the context of Eastern European and Central Asian archaeology. The word tumulus is Latin for ‘mound’ or ‘small hill’, which is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *teuh2- with extended zero grade *tum-, ‘to bulge, swell’ also found in tomb, tumor, tumescent, thumb, thigh, and thousand.
Kurgans were built in the Eneolithic, Bronze, Iron, Antiquity and Middle Ages, with ancient traditions still active in Southern Siberia and Central Asia. Archeologists divide kurgan cultures into different sub-cultures, such as Timber Grave, Pit Grave, Scythian, Sarmatian, Hunnish and Kuman-Kipchak.
The structures of the earlier Neolithic period from the 4th to the 3rd millenniums BC, and Bronze Age until the 1st millennium BC, display continuity of the archaic forming methods. They were inspired by common ritual-mythological ideas.
The earliest kurgans date to the 4th millennium BC in the Caucasus, and researchers associate these with the Indo-Europeans. More recently, some very ancient kurgans have been discovered at Soyuqbulaq in Azerbaijan. These kurgans date to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC, and belong to Leylatepe Culture.
Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as small 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.
According to the material culture examples found in the sites depict that the main activities of the population were farming and breeding. Sulaveri-Shomu culture is distinguished by circular mud-brick architectures, domestic animals breeding and cultivating cereals.
Handmade pottery with engraved decorations, blades, burins and scrapers made of obsidian, tools made of bone and antler, besides rare examples of metal items, remains of plant, such as wheat, pips, barley and grape, as well as animal bones (pigs, goats, dogs and bovids) have been discovered during the excavations.
The earliest evidence of domesticated grapes in the world has been found in the general “Shulaveri area”, near the site of Shulaveri gora, in Marneuli Municipality, in southeastern Republic of Georgia. Specifically, the most recent evidence comes from Gadachrili gora, near the village of Imiri in the same region; carbon-dating points to the date of about 6000 BC.
Shulaveri culture predates the Kura-Araxes culture which flourished in this area around 4000–2200 BC. Later on, in the middle Bronze Age period (c. 3000–1500 BC), the Trialeti culture emerged. Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.
Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasis on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).
Anthropomorphic figurines of mainly seated women found in the sites represent the items used for religious purposes relating to the fertility cult. Similar figurines have been found in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük (7500 BC to 5700 BC) in Anatolia, where statues of plump women, sometimes sitting, have been found in excavations dated to the 6th millennium BC and identified by some as a mother goddess.
The technology and typology of bone-based instruments in the Shulaveri culture are similar to those of the Middle East Neolithic material culture. A quern with 2 small hollows found in Shomutepe is similar to the one with more hollows detected in Khramisi Didi-Gora.
The similarities between the macrolithic tools and the use of ochre also bring Shulaveri-Shomu culture closer to the culture of Halaf. Pestles and mortars found in Shulaveri-Shomu sites and Late Neolithic layers of Tell Sabi Abyad, an archaeological site in the Balikh River valley in northern Syria, are also similar to each other.
The site consists of four prehistoric mounds that are numbered Tell Sabi Abyad I to IV. Extensive excavations showed that these sites were inhabited already around 7500 to 5500 BC, although not always at the same time; the settlement shifted back and forth between these four sites. The earliest pottery of Syria was discovered here; it dates at ca. 6900-6800 BC, and consists of mineral-tempered, and sometimes painted wares.
The pottery of Tell Sabi Abyad is somewhat similar to what was found in the other prehistoric sites in Syria and south-eastern Turkey; for example in Tell Halula, tr:Akarçay Tepe Höyük, de:Mezraa-Teleilat, and Tell Seker al-Aheimar. Yet in Sabi Abyad, the presence of painted pottery is quite unique.
Archaeologists discovered what seems like the oldest painted pottery here. Remarkably, the earliest pottery was of a very high quality, and some of it was already painted. Later, the painted pottery was discontinued, and the quality declined.
Pottery found at the site includes Dark Faced Burnished Ware and a Fine Ware that resembled Hassuna Ware and Samarra Ware. Bowls and jars often had angled necks and ornate geometric designs, some featuring horned animals.
The site has revealed the largest collection of clay tokens and sealings yet found at any site, with over two hundred and seventy-five, made by a minimum of sixty-one stamp seals. Such exchange devices were first found in level III of Mureybet during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and are well known to have developed in the Neolithic.
The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B horizon is present; later the site shows an uninterrupted sequence from the pre-pottery to ceramic phase. In the Halaf period, Tell Sabi Abyad had a fully developed farming economy with animal domestication of predominantly goats, but also sheep, cattle and pigs.
A small number of gazelle were also hunted, although evidence for hunting and fishing is not well attested at the site. Trees that would have grown at the time included poplar, willow and ash. Domesticated emmer wheat was the primary crop grown, along with domesticated einkorn, barley and flax. A low number of peas and lentils were found compared to similar sites.
Mureybet (romanized: muribit, lit. ‘covered’) is a tell, or ancient settlement mound, located on the west bank of the Euphrates in Raqqa Governorate, northern Syria. It was occupied between 10,200 and 8,000 BC and is the eponymous type site for the Mureybetian culture, a subdivision of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA).
Climate and environment of Mureybet during the time of its occupation were very different from the modern situation. When Mureybet became occupied around 10,200 BC, climate was slightly colder and more humid than today, an effect of the onset of the Younger Dryas climate change event.
Annual precipitation increased slightly from 230 millimetres (9.1 in) during the Natufian to 280 millimetres (11 in) during the Mureybetian occupation phases. The vegetation consisted of an open forest steppe with species like terebinth, almond and wild cereals.
In its early stages, Mureybet was a small village occupied by hunter-gatherers. Hunting was important and crops were first gathered and later cultivated, but they remained wild. During its final stages, domesticated animals were also present at the site.
The excavations have revealed four occupation phases I–IV, ranging from the Natufian up to the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) and dating to 10,200–8,000 BC, based on AMS radiocarbon dates. Phase IA (10,200–9,700 BC) represents the Natufian occupation of Mureybet.
Phases IB, IIA and IIB (9,700–9,300 BC) make up the Khiamian, a poorly understood and sometimes disputed sub-phase straddling the transition from the Natufian to the PPNA. Mureybet is the only site where Khiamian deposits are associated with architectural remains.
Phases IIIA and IIIB (9,300–8,600 BC) represent the Mureybetian, a subphase of the PPNA that was named after Mureybet and is found in the area of the Middle Euphrates. Architecture diversified, with rectangular, multi-cellular buildings appearing next to the round buildings that were already known from the previous phases.
Walls were built from cigar-shaped stones that were created by percussion and that were covered with earth. Semi-subterranean structures also continued to be used and they are compared to similar structures found at nearby and contemporary Jerf el-Ahmar, where the structures are interpreted as special buildings with a communal function.
The earliest known writing for record keeping evolved from a system of counting using small clay tokens. The earliest use of small clay tokens for counting were found in phase III. It coincided with a period of explosive rapid growth of the use of cereals in the Near East.
The last occupation phases, IVA (8,600–8,200 BC) and IVB (8,200–8,000 BC) date to the Early and Middle PPNB, respectively. No domesticated cereals were found, but this may be an effect of very small archaeobotanical sample that was retrieved from these phases.
Hunting focused on equids, followed by aurochs. It could not be determined whether any domesticated animals were exploited in Mureybet. Mud-built walls of rectangular structures were uncovered in phase IVB. Domesticated sheep and goat were exploited in this period, and domesticated cattle may also have been present.