Kura–Araxes culture

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Kura–Araxes culture
Geographical range South Caucasus, Armenian Highlands, North Caucasus
Period Bronze Age
Datescirca 3,400 B.C.E. — circa 2,000 B.C.E.
Major sites Shengavit
Preceded by Shulaveri-Shomu culture
Followed by Trialeti culture
Kura-Araxes pottery fragments and obsidian from the Shengavit Settlement Shengavit`i t`angrane 1.JPG
Kura-Araxes pottery fragments and obsidian from the Shengavit Settlement

The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC, [1] which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end; in some locations it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC. [2] The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC. [3] ).

Caucasus An area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea

The Caucasus or Caucasia is an area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus mountain range, which has historically been considered a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

Contents

Altogether, the early trans-Caucasian culture enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, [4] 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. [5] [6]

Iran Islamic Republic in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With 82 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), making it the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the capital, largest city, and leading economic and cultural center.

North Caucasus Geographic region

The North Caucasus or Ciscaucasia is the northern part of the Caucasus region between the Sea of Azov and Black Sea on the west and the Caspian Sea on the east, in Russia. Geographically, the Northern Caucasus includes the Russian republics and krais of the North Caucasus. As part of the Russian Federation, the Northern Caucasus region is included in the North Caucasian and Southern Federal Districts and consists of Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai, and the constituent republics, approximately from west to east: the Republic of Adygea, Karachay–Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia–Alania, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and the Republic of Dagestan.

Turkey Republic in Western Asia

Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. East Thrace, located in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorous strait and the Dardanelles. Turkey is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to its northwest; Georgia to its northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. Istanbul is the largest city, but more central Ankara is the capital. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the country's citizens identify as Turkish. Kurds are the largest minority; the size of the Kurdish population is a subject of dispute with estimates placing the figure at anywhere from 12 to 25 per cent of the population.

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. [7] It gave rise to the later Khirbet Kerak-ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

Kura (Caspian Sea) River in Caucasia

The Kura is an east-flowing river south of the Greater Caucasus Mountains which drains the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus east into the Caspian Sea. It also drains the north side of the Lesser Caucasus while its main tributary, the Aras drains the south side of those mountains. Starting in northeastern Turkey, it flows through Turkey to Georgia, then to Azerbaijan, where it receives the Aras as a right tributary, and enters the Caspian Sea at Neftçala. The total length of the river is 1,515 kilometres (941 mi).

Shengavit Settlement archaeological site in present-day Yerevan, Armenia

The Shengavit Settlement is an archaeological site in present-day Yerevan, Armenia located on a hill south-east of Yerevan Lake. It was inhabited during a series of settlement phases from approximately 3000 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. The town occupied an area of six hectares. It appears that Shengavit was a societal center for the areas surrounding the town due to its unusual size, evidence of surplus production of grains, and metallurgy, as well as its monumental 4 meter wide stone wall. Three smaller village sites of Moukhannat Tepe, Khorumbulagh, and Tairov have been identified and were located outside the walls of Shengavit. Its pottery makes it a type site of the Kura-Araxes or Early Transcaucasian Period and the Shengavitian culture area.

Erzurum Metropolitan municipality in Erzurum Province, Turkey

Erzurum is a city in eastern Anatolia. It is the largest city in and eponymous capital of Erzurum Province. It is situated 1757 meters (5766 feet) above sea level. Erzurum had a population of 361,235 in the 2000 census, increasing to 367,250 by 2010.

Early history

The formative processes of the Kura-Araxes cultural complex, and the date and circumstances of its rise, have been long debated.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture preceded the Kura–Araxes culture in the area. There were many differences between these two cultures, so the connection was not clear. Later, it was suggested that the Sioni culture of eastern Georgia possibly represented a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.

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.

At many sites, the Sioni culture layers can be seen as intermediary between Shulaver-Shomu-Tepe layers and the Kura-Araxes layers. [8] This kind of stratigraphy warrants a chronological place of the Sioni culture at around 4000 BCE. [9]

Nowadays scholars consider the Kartli area, as well as the Kakheti area (in the river Sioni region) as key to forming the earliest phase of the Kura–Araxes culture. [9] To a large extent, this appears as an indigenous culture of Caucasus that was formed over a long period, and at the same time incorporating foreign influences.

Kartli Historical Region in Georgia

Kartli is a historical region in central-to-eastern Georgia traversed by the river Mtkvari (Kura), on which Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, is situated. Known to the Classical authors as Iberia, Kartli played a crucial role in the ethnic and political consolidation of the Georgians in the Middle Ages. Kartli had no strictly defined boundaries and they significantly fluctuated in the course of history. After the partition of the kingdom of Georgia in the 15th century, Kartli became a separate kingdom with its capital at Tbilisi. The historical lands of Kartli are currently divided among several administrative regions of Georgia.

Kakheti Mkhare in Georgia

Kakheti is a region (mkhare) formed in the 1990s in eastern Georgia from the historical province of Kakheti and the small, mountainous province of Tusheti. Telavi is its capital. The region comprises eight administrative districts: Telavi, Gurjaani, Qvareli, Sagarejo, Dedoplistsqaro, Signagi, Lagodekhi and Akhmeta. Kakheti is bordered by the Russian Federation to the Northeast, Azerbaijan to the Southeast, and Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Kvemo Kartli to the west. Kakheti has a strong linguistic and cultural identity, since its ethnographic subgroup of Kakhetians speak Kakhetian dialect.

There are some indications (such as at Arslantepe) of the overlapping in time of the Kura-Araxes and Uruk cultures; such contacts may go back even to the Middle Uruk period. [10]

Some scholars have suggested that the earliest manifestation of the Kura-Araxes phenomenon should be dated at least to the last quarter of the 5th millennium BC. This is based on the recent data from Ovçular Tepesi, a Late Chalcolithic settlement located in Nakhchivan by the Arpaçay river. [11]

Expansion

External images
Searchtool.svg Distribution of archeological cultures in Europe and Caucasus around 3000 BCE
Searchtool.svg Near East and surrounding regions in late 3rd Millenium

Rather quickly, elements of Kura–Araxes culture started to proceed westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into the area of Lake Van, and below the Urmia basin in Iran, such as to Godin Tepe. Finally, it proceeded into the present-day Syria (Amuq valley), and as far as Palestine.

Its territory corresponds to large parts of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, and parts of Iran and Turkey. [5] [6] [12]

At Sos Hoyuk, in Erzurum Province, Turkey, early forms of Kura-Araxes pottery were found in association with local ceramics as early as 3500-3300 BC. During the Early Bronze Age in 3000-2200 BC, this settlement was part of the Kura-Araxes phenomenon. [13]

At Arslantepe, Turkey, around 3000 BCE, there was widespread burning and destruction, after which Kura-Araxes pottery appeared in the area. [14]

According to Geoffrey Summers, the movement of Kura-Araxes peoples into Iran and the Van region, which he interprets as quite sudden, started shortly before 3000 BC, and may have been prompted by the 'Late Uruk Collapse' (end of the Uruk period), taking place at the end of Uruk IV phase c. 3100 BC. [15]

Settlements

Archaeological evidence of inhabitants of the Kura–Araxes culture showed that ancient settlements were found along the Hrazdan river, as shown by drawings at a mountainous area in a cave nearby. [16] Structures in settlements have not revealed much differentiation, nor was there much difference in size or character between settlements, [3] facts that suggest they probably had a poorly developed social hierarchy for a significant stretch of their history. Some, but not all, settlements were surrounded by stone walls. [3] They built mud-brick houses, originally round, but later developing into subrectangular designs with structures of just one or two rooms, multiple rooms centered around an open space, or rectilinear designs. [3]

At some point the culture's settlements and burial grounds expanded out of lowland river valleys and into highland areas. [17] Although some scholars have suggested that this expansion demonstrates a switch from agriculture to pastoralism and that it serves as possible proof of a large-scale arrival of Indo-Europeans, facts such as that settlement in the lowlands remained more or less continuous suggest merely that the people of this culture were diversifying their economy to encompass crop and livestock agriculture. [17]

Shengavit Settlement is a prominent Kura-Araxes site in present-day Yerevan area in Armenia. It was inhabited from approximately 3200 BC cal to 2500 BC cal. Later on, in the Middle Bronze Age, it was used irregularly until 2200 BC cal. The town occupied an area of six hectares, which is large for Kura-Araxes sites.

Kura-Araxes mounds

In the 3rd millennium B.C., one particular group of mounds of the Kura–Araxes culture is remarkable for their wealth. This was the final stage of culture's development. These burial mounds are known as the Martqopi (or Martkopi) period mounds. Those on the left bank of the river Alazani are often 20–25 meters high and 200–300 meters in diameter. They contain especially rich artefacts, such as gold and silver jewelry. [18]

Economy

The economy was based on farming and livestock-raising (especially of cattle and sheep). [19] They grew grain and orchard crops, and are known to have used implements to make flour. They raised cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and in later phases, horses. [19]

Before the Kura-Araxes period, horse bones were not found in Transcaucasia. Later, beginning about 3300 BCE, they became widespread, with signs of domestication. [20]

There is evidence of trade with Mesopotamia as well as Asia Minor. [19] It is, however, considered above all to be indigenous to the Caucasus, and its major variants characterized (according to Caucasus historian Amjad Jaimoukha) later major cultures in the region. [19]

Metallurgy

Early expansion of the Kuro-Araxes culture (light shading) shown in relation to subsequent cultures in the area, such as Urartu (dark shading). Influencedurartu1.PNG
Early expansion of the Kuro-Araxes culture (light shading) shown in relation to subsequent cultures in the area, such as Urartu (dark shading).

In the earliest phase of the Kura–Araxes culture, metal was scarce. In comparison, the preceding Leilatepe culture's metalwork tradition was far more sophisticated. [21]

The Kura–Araxes culture would later display "a precocious metallurgical development, which strongly influenced surrounding regions". [22] They worked copper, arsenic, silver, gold, [3] tin, and bronze. [17]

Their metal goods were widely distributed, from the Volga, Dnieper and Don-Donets river systems in the north to Syria and Palestine in the south and Anatolia in the west.

Goods

Pottery Saxsi kup, T@p@yatagi.JPG
Pottery

Their pottery was distinctive. The spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. [3] It was painted black and red, using geometric designs. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya. [23] The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes and, most certainly, had extensive trade contacts. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians. [19]

Viticulture

Viticulture and wine-making were widely practised in the area from the earliest times. Viticulture even goes back to the earlier Shulaveri-Shomu culture.

The earliest evidence of domesticated grapes in the world has been found at Gadachrili Gora, near the village of Imiri, Marneuli Municipality, in southeastern Republic of Georgia; carbon-dating points to the date of about 6000 BC. [24] [25]

Grape pips dating back to the V-IVth millennia B.C. were found in Shulaveri; others dating back to the IVth millennium B.C. were found in Khizanaant Gora—all in this same 'Shulaveri area' of the Republic of Georgia. [26]

A theory has been suggested by Stephen Batiuk that the Kura-Araxes folk may have spread Vitis vinifera vine and wine technology to the “Fertile Crescent”—to Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean. [27] The spread of wine-goblet form, such as represented by the Khirbet Kerak ware, is clearly associated with these peoples. The same applies to the large ceramic vessels used for grape fermentation.

Culture

The culture is closely linked to the approximately contemporaneous Maykop culture of Ciscaucasia. As Amjad Jaimoukha puts it,

"The Kura-Araxes culture was contiguous, and had mutual influences, with the Maikop culture in the Northwest Caucasus. According to E.I. Krupnov (1969:77), there were elements of the Maikop culture in the early memorials of Chechnya and Ingushetia in the Meken and Bamut kurgans and in Lugovoe in Serzhen-Yurt. Similarities between some features and objects of the Maikop and Kura-Araxes cultures, such as large square graves, the bold-relief curvilinear ornamentation of pottery, ochre-coloured ceramics, earthen hearth props with horn projections, flint arrowheads, stone axes and copper pitchforks are indicative of a cultural unity that pervaded the Caucasus in the Neolithic Age." [28]

Late in the history of this culture, its people built kurgans of greatly varying sizes, containing widely varying amounts and types of metalwork, with larger, wealthier kurgans surrounded by smaller kurgans containing less wealth. [2] This trend suggests the eventual emergence of a marked social hierarchy. [2] Their practice of storing relatively great wealth in burial kurgans was probably a cultural influence from the more ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent to the south. [2]

According to Giulio Palumbi (2008), the typical red-black ware of Kura–Araxes culture originated in eastern Anatolia, and then moved on to the Caucasus area. But then these cultural influences came back to Anatolia mixed in with other cultural elements from the Caucasus. [29]

Burial customs

Inhumation practices are mixed. Flat graves are found but so are substantial kurgan burials, the latter of which may be surrounded by cromlechs. This points to a heterogeneous ethno-linguistic population (see section below).[ citation needed ]

Analyzing the situation in the Kura-Araxes period, T.A. Akhundov notes the lack of unity in funerary monuments, which he considers more than strange in the framework of a single culture; for the funeral rites reflect the deep culture-forming foundations and are weakly influenced by external customs. There are non-kurgan and kurgan burials, burials in ground pits, in stone boxes and crypts, in the underlying ground strata and on top of them; using both the round and rectangular burials; there are also substantial differences in the typical corpse position. [30] Burial complexes of Kura–Araxes culture sometimes also include cremation. [31]

Here one can come to the conclusion that the Kura–Araxes culture developed gradually through a synthesis of several cultural traditions, including the ancient cultures of the Caucasus and nearby territories.

Ethno-linguistic makeup

Hurrian and Urartian language elements are quite probable, as are Northeast Caucasian ones. Some authors subsume Hurrians and Urartians under Northeast Caucasian as well as part of the Alarodian theory although this is far from being universally accepted, and some scholars reject this connection. [32] The presence of Kartvelian languages was also highly probable.[ citation needed ] Influences of Semitic languages and Indo-European languages are highly possible, though the presence of the languages on the lands of the Kura–Araxes culture is more controversial.

In the Armenian hypothesis of Indo-European origins, this culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages. [33] [34] [35] [36] [37]

The expansion of Y-DNA subclade R-Z93 (R1a1a1b2), according to Mascarenhas et al. (2015), is compatible with "the archeological records of eastward expansion of West Asian populations in the 4th millennium BCE, culminating in the so-called Kura-Araxes migrations in the post-Uruk IV period." [38] According to Pamjav et al. (2012), "Inner and Central Asia is an overlap zone" for the R -Z280 and R -Z93 lineages, implying that an "early differentiation zone" of R-M198 "conceivably occurred somewhere within the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region as they lie between South Asia and Eastern Europe". [39] According to Underhill et al. (2014/2015), R1a1a1, the most frequent subclade of R1a, split into R-Z282 (Europe) and R-Z93 (Asia) at circa 5,800 before present, [40] in the vicinity of Iran and Eastern Turkey. According to Underhill et al. (2014/2015), "[t]his suggests the possibility that R1a lineages accompanied demic expansions initiated during the Copper, Bronze, and Iron ages." [41]

See also

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