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Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta




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Map of Anatolia and Mesopotamia showing Copper and Tin deposits and ancient sites

Haplogroup G2a

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Ancient DNA of early Neolithic Cardial Pottery men in cave burials have been found to be mainly of Y-DNA haplogroup G2a.

Y-DNA haplogroup J2

Y-DNA haplogroup J1

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Y-DNA haplogroup R1b

Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1b


Ar-at-ta (Aratta)

The Location of Aratta

Iraq map

Map of Sumer


Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta is a legendary Sumerian account, of preserved, early post-Sumerian copies, composed in the Neo-Sumerian period (ca. 21st century BC). It is one of a series of accounts describing the conflicts between Enmerkar, king of Unug-Kulaba (Uruk), and the unnamed king of Aratta (probably somewhere in modern Iran or Armenia). It is also notable for its possible parallels to the Tower of Babel narrative of Genesis. The confusion of tongues (confusio linguarum) is the initial fragmentation of human languages described in the Book of Genesis 11:1–9, as a result of the construction of the Tower of Babel.

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

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

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

Four main Khabur ware phases are established, 1-4. While the starting date for phase 1 is inconclusive, a tentative date of ca. 1900 BC is suggested based on evidence from Tell Brak.

The beginning of the second, and the main, phase of Khabur ware is dated to the reign of Shamshi-Adad I (ca. 1813 BC), based on evidence from Chagar Bazar, Tell al-Rimah, Tell Taya and Tell Leilan.

The third phase of Khabur ware is dated to ca. 1750, and lasts until ca. 1550.

The fourth and last phase, is a period shared between Khabur ware and Nuzi ware, and ends with the its disappearance ca. 1400 BC.

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 until its extinction towards the end of the second millennium BC. There have been various Hurrian-speaking states, of which the most prominent one was the kingdom of Mitanni (1450–1270 BC).

Urkesh or Urkish (modern Tell Mozan) is a tell, or settlement mound, located in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria. It was founded during the fourth millennium BC possibly by the Hurrians on a site which appears to have been inhabited previously for a few centuries. In the middle of the millennium, Tell Mozan was the location of a Mitanni religious site.

The Hurro-Urartian languages are an extinct language family of the Ancient Near East, comprising only two known languages: Hurrian and Urartian, both of which were spoken in the Taurus mountains area.

Hurro-Urartian was related neither to the Semitic nor to the Indo-European language families of the region. Proponents of linguistic macrofamilies have suggested that Hurro-Urartian is part of an “Alarodian” phylum, together with Northeast Caucasian and further as “Macro-Caucasian”, but these theories are without support in mainstream linguistics.

Urartian, Vannic, and (in older literature) Chaldean (Khaldian, or Haldian) is attested from the late 9th century BC to the late 7th century BC as the official written language of the state of Urartuthat was located in the region of Lake Van, with its capital near the site of the modern town of Van, in the Armenian Highland, modern-day Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey, and was probably spoken by the majority of the population in the mountainous areas around Lake Van and the upper Zab valley. It must have branched off from Hurrian approximately at the beginning of second millennium BC.

First attested in the 9th century BCE, Urartian ceased to be written after the fall of the Urartian state in 585 BCE, and presumably it became extinct due to the fall of Urartu. It must have been replaced by an early form of Armenian, perhaps during the period of Achaemenid Persian rule, although it is only in the fifth century CE that the first written examples of Armenian appear.

The Sumerians were a non-Semitic people, and spoke a language isolate; a number of linguists believed they could detect a substrate language beneath Sumerian, names of some of Sumer’s major cities are not Sumerian, revealing influences of earlier inhabitants.

However, the archaeological record shows clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the Early Ubaid period (5300 – 4700 BC C-14) settlements in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerian people who settled here farmed the lands in this region that were made fertile by silt deposited by the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

It is speculated by some archaeologists that Sumerian speakers were farmers who moved down from the north, after perfecting irrigation agriculture there. The Ubaid pottery of southern Mesopotamia has been connected via Choga Mami Transitional ware to the pottery of the Samarra period culture (c. 5700 – 4900 BC C-14) in the north, who were the first to practice a primitive form of irrigation agriculture along the middle Tigris River and its tributaries.

The connection is most clearly seen at Tell Awayli (Oueilli, Oueili) near Larsa, excavated by the French in the 1980s, where 8 levels yielded pre-Ubaid pottery resembling Samarran ware.

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

The culture is primarily known by its finely-made pottery decorated against dark-fired backgrounds with stylized figures of animals and birds and geometric designs. This widely-exported type of pottery, one of the first widespread, relatively uniform pottery styles in the Ancient Near East, was first recognized at Samarra. The Samarran Culture was the precursor to the Mesopotamian culture of the Ubaid period.

The Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC)[1] is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The tell (mound) west of nearby Ur in southern Iraq’s Dhi Qar Governorate has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture, which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of southern Mesopotamia. The Ubaid culture had a long duration beginning before 5300 BC and lasting until the beginning of the Uruk period, c. 4000 BC. The adoption of the wheel and the beginning of the Chalcolithic period fall into the Ubaid period.

The Ubaid period is divided into three principal phases:

  1. 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.

  2. 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 seem 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.

  3. 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 replacing (after a hiatus) 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.

Farming peoples spread down into southern Mesopotamia because they had developed a temple-centered social organization for mobilizing labor and technology for water control, enabling them to survive and prosper in a difficult environment.

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

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.

The most important archaeological discoveries in Sumer are a large number of tablets written in cuneiform. Sumerian writing is the oldest example of writing on earth. Although pictures – that is, hieroglyphs were first used, symbols were later made to represent syllables. Triangular or wedge-shaped reeds were used to write on moist clay.

A large body of hundreds of thousands of texts in the Sumerian language have survived, such as personal or business letters, receipts, lexical lists, laws, hymns, prayers, stories, daily records, and even libraries full of clay tablets. Monumental inscriptions and texts on different objects like statues or bricks are also very common. Many texts survive in multiple copies because they were repeatedly transcribed by scribes-in-training. Sumerian continued to be the language of religion and law in Mesopotamia long after Semitic speakers had become the ruling race.

The Sumerian language is generally regarded as a language isolate in linguistics because it belongs to no known language family; Akkadian, by contrast belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages. There have been many failed attempts to connect Sumerian to other language groups. It is an agglutinative language; in other words, morphemes (“units of meaning”) are added together to create words, unlike analytic languages where morphemes are purely added together to create sentences.

Understanding Sumerian texts today can be problematic even for experts. Most difficult are the earliest texts, which in many cases do not give the full grammatical structure of the language.

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

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

Prehistoric Human Migrations Studied Using Genetic Analyses

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