Caravanserais inhabited by the ancient Aryan traders along the Aryan trade roads

Map of caravanserais inhabited by the ancient Aryan traders along the Aryan trade roads

The Red Squares show the Map of caravanserais which were concentrated mainly in IRAN, Armenia, Turkey, and China in the East along the Aryan trade roads. The map is developed by Prof. Lebigre and Dr E.Thompoulos (EVCAU researchers at The Ecole d’Architecture Paris Val de Seine (EAPVS) and courtesy of K.E Eduljee).

What is a Caravanserai

Consider at Caravanserai


List of caravanserais

The Caravanserai of Zor


The beginning of trade

Tell Hassuna is a tell or settlement mound in the Nineveh Province (Iraq). It is the type site for the Hassuna culture (early sixth millennium BCE). Tell Hassuna is located approximately 35 kilometres (22 mi) southwest of modern Mosul, along the west bank of the Tigris River.

Hassuna was one of the earliest cultures in Northern Mesopotamia. Settlements began forming in the north, such as Hassuna, Jarmo, Samarra, and Tell Halaf. The architecture at Hassuna was built of packed mud, with the width varying from 20 to 50 centimeters. The mud-brick technique may perhaps have been developed in Southern Mesopotamia, where mud-bricks were common in the first half of 6th millennium BC.

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

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

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

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

The Samarra culture is a Chalcolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia that is roughly dated to 5500–4800 BCE. It partially overlaps with Hassuna and early Ubaid.

Samarran material culture was first recognized during excavations by German Archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld at the site of Samarra. Other sites where Samarran material has been found include Tell Shemshara, Tell es-Sawwan and Yarim Tepe.

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

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

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.

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.

The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification and decreasing egalitarianism. Bogucki describes this as a phase of “Trans-egalitarian” competitive households, in which some fall behind as a result of downward social mobility.

Morton Fried and Elman Service have hypothesised that Ubaid culture saw the rise of an elite class of hereditary chieftains, perhaps heads of kin groups linked in some way to the administration of the temple shrines and their granaries, responsible for mediating intra-group conflict and maintaining social order.

It would seem that various collective methods, perhaps instances of what Thorkild Jacobsen called primitive democracy, in which disputes were previously resolved through a council of one’s peers, were no longer sufficient for the needs of the local community.

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

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

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

The Uruk period (ca. 4000 to 3100 BC) existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was followed by the Sumerian civilization.

The late Uruk period (34th to 32nd centuries) saw the gradual emergence of the cuneiform script and correspond to the Early Bronze Age; it may also be called the Protoliterate period. It was during this period that pottery painting declined as copper started to become popular, along with cylinder seals.

The archaeological transition from the Ubaid period to the Uruk period is marked by a gradual shift from painted pottery domestically produced on a slow wheel to a great variety of unpainted pottery mass-produced by specialists on fast wheels. The Uruk period is a continuation and an outgrowth of Ubaid with pottery being the main visible change.

By the time of the Uruk period (c. 4100–2900 BCE calibrated), the volume of trade goods transported along the canals and rivers of southern Mesopotamia facilitated the rise of many large, stratified, temple-centered cities (with populations of over 10,000 people) where centralized administrations employed specialized workers.

It is fairly certain that it was during the Uruk period that Sumerian cities began to make use of slave labor captured from the hill country, and there is ample evidence for captured slaves as workers in the earliest texts. Artifacts, and even colonies of this Uruk civilization have been found over a wide area—from the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and as far east as Central Iran.

The Uruk period civilization, exported by Sumerian traders and colonists (like that found at Tell Brak), had an effect on all surrounding peoples, who gradually evolved their own comparable, competing economies and cultures. The cities of Sumer could not maintain remote, long-distance colonies by military force.

Sumerian cities during the Uruk period were probably theocratic and were most likely headed by a priest-king (ensi), assisted by a council of elders, including both men and women. It is quite possible that the later Sumerian pantheon was modeled upon this political structure.

There was little evidence of institutionalized violence or professional soldiers during the Uruk period, and towns were generally unwalled. During this period Uruk became the most urbanised city in the world, surpassing for the first time 50,000 inhabitants.

The ancient Sumerian king list includes the early dynasties of several prominent cities from this period. The first set of names on the list is of kings said to have reigned before a major flood occurred. These early names may be fictional, and include some legendary and mythological figures, such as Alulim and Dumizid.

The end of the Uruk period coincided with the Piora oscillation, a dry period from c. 3200 – 2900 BCE that marked the end of a long wetter, warmer climate period from about 9,000 to 5,000 years ago, called the Holocene climatic optimum.

Shengavit culture

The Shengavit Settlement is an archaeological site in present day Yerevan, Armenia located on a hill south-east of Lake Yerevan. It was inhabited during a series of settlement phases from approximately 3200 BC cal to 2500 BC cal in the Kura Araxes (Shengavitian) Period of the Early Bronze Age and irregularly re-used in the Middle Bronze Age until 2200 BC cal.

A popular press source unfortunately has been cited misstating information from a 2010 press conference in Yerevan. In that conference Rothman described the Uruk Expansion trading network, and the likelihood that raw materials and technologies from the South Caucasus had reached the Mesopotamian homeland, which somehow was misinterpreted to say that Armenian culture was a source of Mesopototamian culture, which is not true. The Kura Araxes (Shengavitian) cultures and societies are a unique mountain phenomenon, evolved parallel to but not the same as Mesopotamian cultures.


Most importantly, archaeologists believe that Hamoukar was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer. The origins of urban settlements has generally been attributed to the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC the Mesopotamian cities such of Ur and Uruk emerged.

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

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

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

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

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

Trade patterns of karū

Karum (Akkadian: kārum “quay, port, commercial district”, plural kārū, from Sumerian kar “fortification (of a harbor), break-water”) is the name given to ancient Assyrian trade posts in Anatolia (modern Turkey) from the 20th to 18th centuries BC.

Early references to karū come from the Ebla tablets; in particular, a vizier known as Ebrium concluded the earliest treaty fully known to archaeology, known variously as the “Treaty between Ebla and Aššur” or the “Treaty with Abarsal” (scholars have disputed whether the text refers to Aššur or to Abarsal, an unknown location). In either case, the other city contracted to establish karū in Eblaite territory (Syria), among other things.

Sargon the Great, who likely destroyed Ebla soon after this, is said in a much later Hittite account to have invaded Anatolia to punish Nurdaggal the king of Burushanda for mistreating the Akkadian and Assyrian merchant class in the karū there. However, this is not given the weight of a contemporary source.

During the second millennium BC, Anatolia was under the sovereignty of Hatti city states and, later, the Hittites. By 1960 BC, Assyrian merchants had established the karū, small colonial settlements next to Anatolian cities which paid taxes to the rulers of the cities.

There were also smaller trade stations which were called mabartū (singular mabartum). The number of karū and mabartū was probably around twenty. Among them were Kültepe (Kanesh in antiquity) in modern Kayseri Province; Alişar Hüyük (Ankuva (?) in antiquity) in modern Yozgat Province; and Boğazköy (Hattusa in antiquity) in modern Çorum Province. (However, Alişar Hüyük was probably a mabartum.) But after the establishment of the Hittite Empire, the karū disappeared from Anatolian history.

In the second millennium BC, money was not yet invented, and Assyrian merchants used gold for wholesale trade and silver for retail trade. Gold was considered eight times more valuable than silver. But there was one more metal, amutum, which was even more valuable than gold. Amutum is thought to be the newly discovered iron and was forty times more valuable than silver. The most important Anatolian export was copper, and the Assyrian merchants sold tin and clothing to Anatolia.

Assyria had long held extensive contact with Hattian, Hittite and Hurrian cities on the Anatolian plateau in Asia Minor. The Assyrians who had for centuries traded in the region, and possibly ruled small areas bordering Assyria, now established significant colonies in Cappadocia (e.g., at Kanesh (modern Kültepe) from 2008 BC to 1740 BC).

These colonies were attached to Hattian cities in Anatolia, but physically separate, and had special tax status. They must have arisen from a long tradition of trade between Assyria and the Anatolian cities, but no archaeological or written records show this. The trade consisted of metals (copper or tin and perhaps iron; the terminology is not entirely clear) being traded for textiles from Assyria.

Erishum I (c. 1974–1935 BC) vigorously expanded Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor during his long reign, the major ones appearing to be at Kanesh, Ḫattuša (Boğazköy) (the future capital of the Hittite Empire) and Amkuwa (Alisar Höyük), together with a further eighteen smaller colonies.

He created some of the earliest examples of Written Law, conducted extensive building work in the form of fortifying the walls of major Assyrian cities and the erection of temples dedicated to Ashur and Ishtar. It is from his reign that the continuous limmum lists are known, however there are references to the eponym-books for his predecessors having been destroyed at some point.


The main centre of karum trading was at the ancient town of Kanesh, also known as Kültepe (Turkish: Ash Hill), an archaeological site located in the Kayseri Province in Turkey.

The nearest modern city to Kültepe is Kayseri, about 20 km southwest. It consists of a tell, the actual Kültepe, and a lower town where an Assyrian settlement was found. Its name in Assyrian texts from the 20th century BC was Kaneš (spoken: Kah nesh), the later Hittites called it Anisa or mostly Neša, occasionally Anisa.

Kaneš, inhabited continuously from the Chalcolithic period to Roman times, flourished as an important Hattic, Hittite and Hurrian city, which contained a colonised large merchant quarter (kârum) of the Old Assyrian Empire from ca. 21st to 18th centuries BC.

A late (c 1400 BC) witness to an old tradition includes a king of Kaneš called Zipani among seventeen local city-kings who rose up against the Akkadian Naram-Sin (ruled c.2254-2218 BC).

It is the site of discovery of the earliest traces of the Hittite language, and the earliest attestation of any Indo-European language, dated to the 20th century BC. The native term for the Hittite language was nešili “language of Neša”. The Hittite kingdom was centred on the lands surrounding Hattusa and Neša, known as “the land Hatti” (Ha-at-ti).

The king of Zalpuwa, Uhna, raided Kanes, after which the Zalpuwans carried off the city’s “Sius” idol. Pithana, the king of Kussara, conquered level Ia Neša “in the night, by force”, but “did not do evil to anyone in it.”

Neša revolted against the rule of Pithana’s son, Anitta, but Anitta quashed the revolt and made Neša his capital. Anitta further invaded Zalpuwa, captured its king Huzziya, and recovered the Sius idol for Neša.

In the 17th century BC, Anitta’s descendents moved their capital to Hattusa (which Anitta had cursed), thus founding the line of Hittite kings. These people named their language Nešili, “the language of Neša”.

The quarter of the city that most interest historians is the Kârum Kaneš, “merchant-colony city of Kaneš” in Assyrian. During the Bronze Age in this region, the Kârum was a portion of the city that was set aside by local officials for the early Assyrian merchants to use without paying taxes, as long as the goods remained inside the kârum.

The term kârum means “port” in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the time, although it was extended to refer to any trading colony whether or not it bordered water.

Several other cities in Anatolia also had kârum, but the largest was Kaneš. This important kârum was inhabited by soldiers and merchants from Assyria for hundreds of years, who traded local tin and wool for luxury items, foodstuffs and spices, and, woven fabrics from the Assyrian homeland and from Elam.

The remains of the kârum form a large circular mound 500 m in diameter and about 20 m above the plain (a Tell). The kârum settlement is the result of several superimposed stratigraphic periods. New buildings were constructed on top of the remains of the earlier periods; thus, there is a deep stratigraphy from prehistoric times to the early Hittite period.

The findings have included numerous baked-clay tablets, some of which were enclosed in clay envelopes stamped with cylinder seals.

The documents record common activities such as trade between the Assyrian colony and the city state of Assur and between Assyrian merchants and local people. The trade was run by families rather than by the state.

These Kültepe texts are the oldest documents from Anatolia. Although they are written in Old Assyrian, the Hittite loanwords and names in these texts constitute the oldest record of any Indo-European language. Most of the archaeological evidence is typical of Anatolia rather than of Assyria, but the use of both cuneiform and the dialect is the best indication of Assyrian presence.


Aryans started trading between themselves and with their neighbors as early as the Stone Ages. The Aryan trade routes were known as the Silk Roads and Aryan trade extended from the Iranian plateau and the Indus valley, to Armenia and Asia Minor (Turkey), and to China in the East.

The principle method ancient Aryan Traders used to travel and carry their goods along the trade routes was the caravan (From Persian karvan). Trading also required special infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and inns and most importantly security along the routes: Isidorus Characenus & Herodotus (in Histories 5.52) have both mentioned the existence of “Caravanserais “, the established stops and rest-places for the traders and their animals.

Caravanserais (Persian: karvansara) were the inns at which the Aryan traders and travelers stayed overnight while conducting their trade. In Asia Minor (Turkey), they were called kervansaraylar, and Isidorus calls them Stations.

The Caravanserais were built at specific distances to cover a day’s journey, which was about thirty to fifty kilometers, apart, And provided board and lodging as well as courtyards for the animals and storage areas for their goods.

Xenophon (Cyropedia: 8.6, 17) ascribes the institution of way-stations or rest-stations to King Cyrus the Great, who, having found out what distance a horse could cover in a day, divided the roads into corresponding stages depending on the terrain, and at these junctions built stations consisting of stables and rooms, and stationed horses, couriers and men in charge.

Herodotus, in his Histories gives an account of the Persian Royal Roads and caravanseries which ran from Sardes to Susa. The distance between the rest stations along the road varied depending of the terrain and its difficulty level. Because of the animals, the distance between caravan stations (4 parasangs, or 24 km) was shorter than the distance of a day’s march by say a soldier (30-40 km), A parasang is equivalent to about 6-8 km, perhaps an hour’s travel by caravan.

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