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Armenia and Mesopotamia

Armenia has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. The name is connected to the Indo-European root Ar- meaning “assemble/create” which is vastly used in names of or regarding the Sun, light, or fire, found in Ararat, Aryan, Arta etc.

Armin is a given name or surname, and is an ancient Zoroastrian given name, meaning Guardian of Aryan Land and an Ancient Greek given name (the modern form of Ariobarzanes), meaning “exalting the Aryans”. In Teutonic the meaning of the name Armin is: warrior. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Armin is: High place.


Asha is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. Its Old Persian equivalent is arta-.[c] In Middle Iranian languages the term appears as ard-.[a]

In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called “the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism.” The significance of the term is complex, with a highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of ‘truth’ and ‘right(eousness)’, ‘order’ and ‘right working’. The opposite of Avestan aša is druj, “lie.”

The significance of the term is complex, with a highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of ‘truth’ and ‘right(eousness)’, ‘order’ and ‘right working’.

Armina – Armenia

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources. The earliest is from an inscription which mentions Armânum together with Ibla (Ebla) as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in ca. 2250 BC.

ArAtTa

Aratta (later Urartu/Ararat and then Armenia) is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list. It is described in Sumerian literature as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach. It is home to the goddess Inanna, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.

ArMe-Shupria/ArMani-Subartu

The land of Armani-Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Arme-Shupria (Sumerian Su-bir/Subar/Šubur) was a Proto-Armenian Hurrian-speaking kingdom located in the Armenian Highland, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper, mentioned in Bronze Age literature from the 3rd millennium BC. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit.

Some scholars suggest that Subartu is an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris and westward, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east and/or north. Its precise location has not been identified. From the point of view of the Akkadian Empire, Subartu marked the northern geographical horizon, just as Martu, Elam and Sumer marked “west”, “east” and “south”, respectively.

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

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

The country is known from Assyrian sources beginning in 1300 BC. Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia. Later, there is reference to a district in the area called Arme or Urme, which some scholars have linked to the name Armenia. Shubria was part of the Urartu confederation.

Weidner interpreted textual evidence to indicate that after the Hurrian king Shattuara of Mitanni was defeated by Adad-nirari I of the Middle Assyrian Empire in the early 13th century BC, he then became ruler of a reduced vassal state known as Shubria or Subartu. The name Subartu (Sumerian: Shubur) for the region is attested much earlier, from the time of the earliest Mesopotamian records (mid 3rd millennium BC).

Tigris

Subartu was apparently a polity in Northern Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris, an Ancient Greek form of the name borrowed from Old Persian Tigrā, itself from Elamite Tigra, itself from Sumerian Idigna or Idigina, probably from *id (i)gina “running water”, which can be interpreted as “the swift river”, contrasted to its neighbor, the Euphrates, whose leisurely pace caused it to deposit more silt and build up a higher bed than the Tigris.

The Sumerian form was borrowed into Akkadian as Idiqlat, and from there into the other Semitic languages (cf. Hebrew Ḥîddeqel, Syriac Deqlaṯ, Arabic Dijla). Another name for the Tigris used in Middle Persian was Arvand Rud, literally “swift river”. Today, however, Arvand Rud refers to the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers (known in Arabic as the Shatt al-Arab). In Kurdish, it is also known as Ava Mezin, “the Great Water”.

The name of the Tigris in languages that have been important in the region: The Tigris appears twice in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, where it is the third of the four rivers branching off the river issuing out of the Garden of Eden, and Daniel received one of his visions “when I was by that great river the Tigris”.

In Sumerian mythology, the Tigris was created by the god Enki, who filled the river with flowing water. In Hittite and Hurrian mythology, Aranzah (or Aranzahas in the Hittite nominative form) is the Hurrian name of the Tigris River, which was divinized. He was the son of Kumarbi and the brother of Teshub and Tašmišu, one of the three gods spat out of Kumarbi’s mouth onto Mount Kanzuras. Later he colluded with Anu and Teshub to destroy Kumarbi in the Kumarbi Cycle.

Van

The Great Zab or Upper Zab (Arabic:‎ al-Zāb al-Kabīr, Kurdish: Zêy Badînan or Zêyê Mezin‎, Syriac: zāba ʻalya) is an approximately 400-kilometre (250 mi) long river flowing through Turkey and Iraq. It rises in Turkey near Lake Van and joins the Tigris in Iraq south of Mosul.

This area was the heartland of Armenians, who lived in these areas right up to the late 19th century when the Ottoman Empire seized all the land from the natives. Tushpa, the capital of Urartu, was located near the shores of Lake Van, on the site of what became medieval Van’s castle, west of present-day Van city. The ruins of the medieval city of Van are still visible below the southern slopes of the rock on which Van Castle is located.

Tushpuea is an Araratian (Urartian) goddess from which the city of Tushpa derived its name. She may have been the wife of the solar god Shivini or Artinis (the present form of the name is Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”, and it persists in Armenian names to this day) as both are listed as third, in the list of male and female deities on the Mheri-Dur inscription. It is hypothesized that the winged female figures on Urartian ornaments and cauldrons depict this goddess.

Archaeological excavations and surveys carried out in Van province indicate that the history of human settlement in this region goes back at least as far as 5000 BC. The Tilkitepe Mound, which is on the shores of Lake Van and a few kilometres to the south of Van Castle, is the only source of information about the oldest culture of Van.

Under the ancient name of Tushpa, Van was the capital of the Urartian kingdom in the 9th century BC. The early settlement was centered on the steep-sided bluff now known as Van Castle (Van Kalesi), close to the edge of Lake Van and a few kilometers west of the modern city. Here have been found Urartian cuneiform inscriptions dating to the 8th and 7th centuries BC.

Great Zab

The Great Zab rises in Turkey in the mountainous region east of Lake Van at an elevation of approximately 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) amsl and joins the Tigris on its left bank in Iraq. In Turkey, the Great Zab traverses the provinces of Van and Hakkâri, whereas in Iraq it flows through Duhok Governorate and Erbil Governorate.

The Zagros Mountains have been occupied since at least the Lower Palaeolithic, and Neanderthal occupation of the Great Zab basin has been testified at the archaeological site of Shanidar Cave. Historical records for the region are available from the end of the third millennium BCE onward.

Evidence for human occupation of the Zagros reaches back into the Lower Palaeolithic, as evidenced by the discovery of many cave-sites dating to that period in the Iranian part of the mountain range. Middle Palaeolithic stone tool assemblages are known from Barda Balka, a cave-site south of the Little Zab; and from the Iranian Zagros.

A Mousterian stone tool assemblage – produced by either Neanderthals or anatomically modern humans – was recently excavated in Arbil, claimed as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history. Human settlement at Erbil can be dated back to possibly 5000 BC.

Neanderthals also occupied the site of Shanidar. This cave-site, located in the Sapna Valley, has yielded a settlement sequence stretching from the Middle Palaeolithic up to the Epipalaeolithic period. The site is particularly well known for its Neanderthal burials.

The Epipalaeolithic occupation of Shanidar, contemporary with the use of the Kebaran stone tool assemblage, is the oldest evidence for anatomically modern human occupation of the Great Zab basin. The following Protoneolithic, or Natufian, occupation is contemporary with the oldest occupation of the nearby open-air site Zawi Chemi Shanidar.

M’lefaat on the Khazir River (a tributary to the Great Zab) was a small village of hunter-gatherers dating to the 10th millennium BCE that was contemporary with the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A in the Levant. An archaeological survey of the Citadel of Arbil, in the plain south of the lower course of the Great Zab, has shown that this site was continuously occupied at least from the 6th millennium BCE upward.

The earliest historical reference to the region dates to the Ur III dynasty, when king Shulgi mentioned the city of Urbilum – the ancient name of modern-day Arbil. The great Assyrian capitals of Assur, Nineveh, Nimrud and Dur-Sharrukin were all located in the foothill zone where the Great Zab flows into the Tigris, and the Great Zab basin became increasingly integrated into the Middle Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian empires. Nimrud, the capital of the empire until 706 BCE, was located only 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) away from the confluence of the Great Zab with the Tigris.

The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II constructed a canal called Patti-Hegalli that tapped water from the Great Zab to irrigate the land around Nimrud, and this canal was restored by his successors Tiglath-Pileser III and Esarhaddon. This canal ran along the right bank of the Great Zab and cut through a rock bluff by means of a tunnel and is still visible today. After the fall of the Neo-Assyrian empire, the Medes gained control of the area, followed by the Achaemenids in 550 BCE.

Little Zab

The region enters history at the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, when Arbil is mentioned as Urbilum by king Shulgi of the Ur III dynasty. From that time onward, the Little Zab basin became increasingly entangled in the affairs of the successive Mesopotamian empires that sought control over the Zagros Mountains.

In the early second millennium BCE, king Shamshi-Adad of Upper Mesopotamia waged war to the land of Qabra, which was probably located along the lower course of the Little Zab, and installed garrisons in the conquered towns. The archive of clay tablets found at Tell Shemshara (ancient Shusharra) shows that the local governor switched allegiance and became a vassal of Shamshi-Adad.

During the 14th century BCE, the region was part of the Mitannian kingdom, with sites like Nuzi and Tell al-Fakhar, south of the Little Zab, yielding clay tablet archives for this period.

During the late second–early first millennia BCE, the lower Little Zab basin belonged to the heartland of the Middle Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian empires. After the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, control of the Zagros shifted first to the Medes and in 550 BCE to the Achaemenid Empire.

The last Achaemenid ruler Darius III was defeated by Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela in northern Iraq and after Alexander’s death in 323, the area fell to his Seleucid successors.

Zarzian culture

Both open-air and cave sites are attested for the Zarzian culture, an archaeological culture of late Paleolithic and Mesolithic in Southwest Asia which straddles the Upper and Epipalaeolithic periods. The period of the culture is estimated about 18,000-8,000 years BC. It was preceded by the Baradostian culture in the same region and was related to the Imereti culture of the Caucasus.

Andy Burns states “The Zarzian of the Zagros region of Iran is contemporary with the Natufian but different from it. The only dates for the entire Zarzian come from Palegawra Cave, and date to 17,300-17,000BP, but it is clear that it is broadly contemporary with the Levantine Kebaran, with which it shares features. It seems to have evolved from the Upper Palaeolithic Baradostian.”

There are only a few Zarzian sites and the area appears to have been quite sparsely populated during the Epipalaeolithic. Faunal remains from the Zarzian indicate that the temporary form of structures indicate a hunter-gatherer subsistence strategy, focused on onager, red deer and caprines. Better known sites include Palegawra Cave, Shanidar B2 and Zarzi.” The Zarzian culture seems to have participated in the early stages of what Kent Flannery has called the broad spectrum revolution.

The Zarzian culture is found associated with remains of the domesticated dog and with the introduction of the bow and arrow. It seems to have extended north into the Gobustan (Kobystan) region and into Eastern Iran as a forerunner of the Hissar and related cultures.

After the Zarzian, the focus of human occupation shifted from cave-sites, which continue to be used as secondary or seasonal occupation sites up to today, to open-air sites and it was in this period that the trend toward domestication of plants and animals set in. Domestication of the goat probably occurred first in this area of the Zagros.

The Broad Spectrum Revolution 

The Broad Spectrum Revolution (BSR) hypothesis, proposed by Kent Flannery in a 1968 paper presented to a London University symposium, suggested that the emergence of the Neolithic in Southwest Asia was prefaced by increases in dietary breadth among foraging societies. The broad spectrum revolution followed the ice age around 13000 BC in the Middle East and 10,000 BC in Europe.

During this time, there was a transition from focusing on a few main food sources to gathering/hunting a “broad spectrum” of plants and animals. Flannery’s hypothesis, meant to help explain the adoption of agriculture, suggest (following Lewis Binford’s equilibrium model) that population growth in optimal habitats led to demographic pressure within nearby marginal habitats as daughter groups migrated.

The search for more food within these marginal habitats forced foragers to diversify the types of food sources harvested, broadening the subsistence base outward to include more fish, small game, water fowl, invertebrates likes snails and shellfish, as well as previously ignored or marginal plant sources.

Most importantly, Flannery argues that the need for more food in these marginal environments led to the deliberate cultivation of certain plant species, especially cereals. In optimal habitats, these plants naturally grew in relatively dense stands, but required human intervention in order to be efficiently harvested in marginal zones. Thus, the broad spectrum revolution set the stage for domestication and rise of permanent agricultural settlement.

Jarmo

Jarmo (Qal’at Jarmo) is an archeological site located on the foothills of Zagros Mountains east of Kirkuk city. It was one of the oldest agricultural communities in the world, dating back to 7090 BCE. Jarmo is broadly contemporary with such other important Neolithic sites such as Jericho in the southern Levant and Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia.

Jarmo is one of the oldest sites at which pottery has been found, appearing in the most recent levels of excavation, which dates it to the 7th millennium BC. This pottery is handmade, of simple design and with thick sides, and treated with a vegetable solvent. There are clay figures, zoomorphic or anthropomorphic, including figures of pregnant women which are taken to be fertility goddesses, similar to the Mother Goddess of later Neolithic cultures in the same region.

Agricultural activity is attested by the presence of stone sickles, cutters, bowls and other objects, for harvesting, preparing and storing food, and also by receptacles of engraved marble. In the later phases instruments made of bone, particularly perforating tools, buttons and spoons, have been found. Further research has shown that the villagers of Jarmo grew wheat of two types, emmer and einkorn, a type of primitive barley and lentils (it is common to record the domestication of grains, less so of pulses).

Their diet, and that of their animals, also included species of wild plant, peas, acorns, carob seeds, pistachios and wild wheat. Snail shells are also abundant. There is evidence that they had domesticated goats, sheep and dogs. On the higher levels of the site pigs have been found, together with the first evidence of pottery.

The excavations exposed a small village, covering an area of 12,000 to 16,000 m², and which has been dated (by carbon-14) to 7090 BC, for the oldest levels, to 4950 BC for the most recent. The entire site consists of twelve levels. Jarmo appears to be two older, permanent Neolithic settlements and, approximately, contemporary with Jericho or the Neolithic stage of Shanidar. The high point is likely to have been between 6,200 and 5,800 BC.

This small village consisted of some twenty five houses, with adobe walls and sun-dried mud roofs, which rested on stone foundations, with a simple floor plan dug from the earth. These dwellings were frequently repaired or rebuilt. In all, about 150 people lived in the village, which was clearly a permanent settlement.

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

Pottery occurs from the early occupation levels onward; in its later phases it resembles pottery from Hassuna. The early occupation of Tell Shemshara, in the Ranya Plain, can also be dated to this period. The excavations showed that the site was occupied, although not continuously, from the Hassuna period (early sixth millennium BCE) until the 14th century CE.

Tell Shemshara

Tell Shemshara sits along the Little Zab, a tributary of the Tigris. Its strategic location in the northeastern corner of the Ranya Plain in the Zagros Mountains gave Shemshara control over travelling routes in all directions, particularly toward the north and east. It is a primarily Ubaid, Hassuna, and Samarra culture occupation with some later Babylonian graves. It is considered the type site for the Samarran culture, the precursor of the Ubaid culture.

The excavations at the main mound revealed 16 occupation layers, ranging in date from the Hassuna period (early sixth millennium BCE) to the 14th century CE. Layers 16–9 dated to the Hassuna period. This occupation was characterized by rows of stones that are interpreted by the excavators as foundations for mudbrick walls, a pebble floor and a clay basin in the final occupation layer.

Pottery, which has only been found in abundance in layers 13–9, shows stylistic links with that of Hassuna and Tell es-Sawwan, an important Samarran period archaeological site in Saladin Province, Iraq, located 110 kilometres (68 mi) north of Baghdad, and south of Samarra.

Tell es-Sawwan

The inhabitants of Tell es-Sawwan were farmers who used irrigation from the Tigris to support their crops, as rainfall was unreliable. They used stone and flint tools similar to those of the Hassuna culture. Their prosperity, probably based on the dependability of irrigated crops, is evidenced by the presence of fine Samarran ware and beautiful, translucent marble vessels.

Underfloor graves of adults and children contained terracotta and alabaster statuettes of women and men, in various poses; some of these had the eyes and pointed heads typical of the Ubaid period.

Obsidian was the preferred material for stone tools, with flint making up only 15 percent of the total assemblage. Whereas the flint was procured locally, the obsidian was obtained from two sources in eastern Turkey – one as yet unidentified, the other one being the volcanic Nemrut Dağ, a 2,134 m (7,001 ft) high mountain in southeastern Turkey more than 300 kilometres (190 mi) away from Shemshara.

Nemrut Dağ is notable for the summit where a number of large statues are erected around what is assumed to be a royal tomb from the 1st century BC. King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene built on the mountain top a tomb-sanctuary flanked by huge statues 8–9 m (26–30 ft) high of himself, two lions, two eagles and various Greek, Armenian, and Iranian gods. Antiochus was half Armenian, a distant member of the Orontid Dynasty and half Greek.

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

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

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

The archaeological fieldwork in the Ranya Plain showed that this area was occupied during the Ubaid, Uruk and Ninevite V periods – roughly from the middle 6th to the mid-3rd millennium BCE. Evidence for these periods comes from the Citadel of Arbil as well.

Ubaid

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

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

Ubaid 1, sometimes called Eridu (5300–4700 BC), a phase limited to the extreme south of Iraq, on what was then the shores of the Persian Gulf. This phase, showing clear connection to the Samarra culture to the north, saw the establishment of the first permanent settlement south of the 5 inch rainfall isohyet. These people pioneered the growing of grains in the extreme conditions of aridity, thanks to the high water tables of Southern Iraq.

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

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

The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation. At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”. This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron.

In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period. Halaf culture ended by 5000 BC after entering the so called Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period. Many Halafians settlements were abandoned, and the remaining ones showed Ubaidian characters. The new period is named Northern Ubaid to distinguish it from the proper Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia.

There are two explanations were presented for the transformation. The first maintain an invasion and a replacement of the Halafians by the Ubaidians, however, there is no hiatus between the Halaf and northern Ubaid which exclude the invasion theory. The most plausible theory is a Halafian adoption of the Ubaid culture.

Previously, the Syrian plains were not considered as the homeland of Halaf culture, and the Halafians were seen either as hill people who descended from the nearby mountains of southeastern Anatolia, or herdsmen from northern Iraq. However, those views changed with the recent archaeology conducted since 1986 by Peter Akkermans, which have produced new insights and perspectives about the rise of Halaf culture. A formerly unknown transitional culture between the pre-Half Neolithic’s era and Halaf’s era was uncovered in the Balikh valley, at Tell Sabi Abyad (the Mound of the White Boy).

Currently, eleven occupational layers have been unearthed in Sabi Abyad, levels from 11 to 7 are considered pre-Halaf, from 6 to 4 transitional, and from 3 to 1 early Halaf. No hiatus in occupation is observed except between levels 11 and 10. The new archaeology demonstrated that Halaf culture was not sudden and was not the result of foreign people, but rather a continuous process of indigenous cultural changes in northern Syria, that spread to the other regions.

Hamoukar

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

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

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

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

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

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

The discovery of a large city is exciting for archaeologists. While they have found small villages and individual pieces that date much farther back than Hamoukar, nothing compares to the discovery of this size.

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

Tell Brak

Eye Idols made of alabaster or bone have been found in Tell Hamoukar. Eye Idols have also been found in Tell Brak (Nagar, Nawar), an ancient city in Syria. Its remains constitute a tell located in the Upper Khabur region, near the modern village of Tell Brak, 50 kilometers north-east of Al-Hasaka city, Al-Hasakah Governorate.

It is the biggest settlement from Syria’s Late Chalcolithic period. Tell Brak is the modern name of the tell, while the city’s most ancient name is unknown. During the second half of the third millennium BC, the city was known as Nagar and later on, Nawar.

Starting as a small settlement in the seventh millennium BC, Tell Brak evolved during the fourth millennium BC into one of the biggest cities in Northern Mesopotamia, and interacted with the cultures of southern Mesopotamia.

Tell Brak is the modern name of the tell, whose earliest period (A), is dated to the proto Halaf culture c. 6500 BC, when a small settlement existed. Many objects dated to that period were discovered including the Halaf pottery. By 5000 BC, Halaf culture transformed into Northern Ubaid, and many Ubaid materials were found in Tell Brak.

Excavations and surface survey of the site and its surroundings, unearthed a large platform of patzen bricks that dates to late Ubaid, and revealed that Tell Brak developed as an urban center slightly earlier than better known cities of southern Mesopotamia, such as Uruk.

Tell Brak was a religious center from its earliest periods, its famous “Eye Temple” is unique in the Fertile Crescent, and its main deity, Belet-Nagar, was revered in the entire Khabur region, making the city a pilgrimage site. The culture of Tell Bral was defined by the different civilizations that inhabited it, and it was famous for its glyptic style, equids and glass. When independent, the city was ruled by a local assembly or by a monarch.

In southern Mesopotamia, proper Ubaid evolved into the Uruk period. The new culture used military and commercial means to expand its civilization. Northern Mesopotamia entered the period designated Late Chalcolithic / Northern Uruk period, during which, Tell Brak, whose original name is unknown, started to expand.

Phase Brak (E), witnessed the building of the city’s walls, and Tell Brak expansion beyond the mound to form a lower town. The city continued to expand during phase (F). Four mass graves dating to c. 3800–3600 BC were discovered in the surroundings of the tell, and they suggest that the process of urbanization was accompanied by internal social stress, and an increase in the organization of warfare.

Northern Mesopotamia evolved independently from the south during the Late Chalcolithic / early and middle Northern Uruk (4000-3500 BC). This period was characterized by a strong emphasis on holy sites, among which, the “Eye Temple” was the most important in Tell Brak.

The first half of phase (F) (designated LC3), saw the erection of the “Eye temple”, which was named for the thousands of small alabaster “Eye idols” figurines discovered in it. Those idols were also found in area TW.

Interactions with the Mesopotamian south grew during the second half of phase (F) (designated LC4) c. 3600 BC, and an Urukean colony was established in the city. With the end of Uruk culture c 3000 BC, Tell Brak’s Urukean colony was abandoned and deliberately leveled by its occupants. Tell Brak contracted during the following phases (H) and (J), and became limited to the mound.

By late Northern Uruk and especially after 3200 BC, northern Mesopotamia came under the full cultural dominance of the southern Uruk culture, which affected Tell Brak’s architecture and administration.

The southern influence is most obvious in the level named the “Latest Jemdet Nasr” of the “Eye Temple”, which had southern elements such as cone mosaics. The Uruk infiltration was peaceful, and it is first noted in the context of feasting, as commercial deals during that period were ratified through feasting.

Evidence exist for an interaction with the Mesopotamian south during phase (H), represented by the existence of materials similar to the ones produced during the southern Jemdet Nasr period. The city remained a small settlement during the Ninevite 5 period, with a small temple and associated sealing activities.

The city contracted at the beginning of the third millennium BC, before expanding again around c. 2600 BC, when it became known as Nagar, and was the capital of a regional kingdom that controlled the Khabur river valley.

Leyla-Tepe culture 

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

The Leyla-Tepe culture includes a settlement in the lower layer of the settlements Poilu I, Poilu II, Boyuk-Kesik I and Boyuk-Kesik II. They apparently buried their dead in ceramic vessels. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture, an archaeological culture that was widespread in the second century B.C. to the eighth century A.D. in the basins of the Kura and Araks rivers in Transcaucasia, particularly in Caucasian Albania.

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

Maykop Culture

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture (3700 BC-3000 BC), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Western Caucasus region of Southern RussiaIt extending along the area from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan and southwards to the Kura River. Radiocarbon dates for various monuments of the Maykop culture are from 3950 – 3650 – 3610 – 2980 BC.

The culture takes its name from a royal burial found in Maykop kurgan in the Kuban River valley. In the south it borders the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it. To the north is the Yamna culture, including the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.

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

New data revealed the similarity of artifacts from the Maykop culture with those found recently in the course of excavations of the ancient city of Tell Khazneh in northern Syria, the construction of which dates back to 4000 BC. After the discovery of the Leyla-Tepe culture in the 1980s 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 culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region. The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets.

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. 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 between the Kuban and Nalchik rivers, at an altitude of between 4,620 feet and 7,920 feet. They were all “visibly constructed according to the same architectural plan, with an oval courtyard in the center, and connected by roads.”

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.

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.

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.

The Maykop people lived sedentary lives, and horses formed a very low percentage of their livestock, which mostly consisted of pigs and cattle. Archaeologists have discovered a unique form of bronze cheek-pieces, which consists of a bronze rod with a twisted loop in the middle and a thread through her nodes that connects with bridle, halter strap and headband. Notches and bumps on the edges of the cheek-pieces were, apparently, to fix nose and under-lip belts.

The culture has been described as, at the very least, a “kurganized” local culture with strong ethnic and linguistic links to the descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It has been linked to the Lower Mikhaylovka group and Kemi Oba culture, and more distantly, to the Globular Amphora and Corded Ware cultures, if only in an economic sense.

However, it recognized that this culture may be a product of at least two traditions: the local steppe tradition embraced in the Novosvobodna culture and foreign elements from south of the Caucasus which can be charted through imports in both regions.

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

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

Although there are no proofs of lexical borrowing between PIE and North Caucasian, there are a few undeniable areal-typological parallels in phonology and grammar. Some features generally attribut