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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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Southwest Asia as a Neolithic Cultural Center


It is usually assumed that the cradle of human civilization was the so-called "Fertile Crescent". This territory is, indeed, a crescent on the fertile lands between the Mediterranean and the Iranian Plateau and is bounded on the south by the Arabian desert, and on the north ridge of Jabal Sinjar (see the map at right). But we can assume that it was the second stage in the development of human civilization. The cradle of human civilization could be regarded just the three lakes region, where we have defined the Urheimat of the Nostratic people

The locality where we placed the speakers of the Nostratic languages was very comfortable for settlements, because it had very favorable geographical and natural conditions for primitive life. The surrounding area consists of many mountain ranges, plateaus which are located between deep troughs. S. Sardarian describing geographical conditions of the country, writes:


In ancient times, due to the huge underground explosions, lava streams filled the abysses, leveled land contours and simultaneously lifted it. Alluvial deposits also gave extraordinary fertility of the land (SARDARIAN S.A., 1954: 25).


There are many mountains of typical volcanic origin, the most known of which are the Ararat and Aragats. Mt Ararat is 5156 meters height, broad and fertile Ararat valley height of 800-1000 m above sea level spread out around (photos left and below). The mountains have rather gentle, wooded slopes and deep rivers that originate outside the snow-covered peaks, nourish vegetation of the mountains and the surrounding plain. The locality due their wealth of obsidian deposits, convenience for hunting and water supplies was during the entire Quaternary very favorable habitat for Paleolithic man. Here is how Marco Polo described the area near Mount Ararat:



Below… the snow does melt, and runs down, producing such rich abundant herbage that in summer cattle are sent to pasture from a long way about, and it never fails them. The melting snow also causes a great amount of mud on the mountain. (MARCO POLO. 1986: 42)

Three large local lakes around which settled people are relatively small, for example, the deepest lake Urmia has just 15 m deep, the deepest of them, Sevan has a depth of only 60 meters. Consequently, the water in the lakes is well warmed up, what contributed to breeding fish and, consequently, the development of fisheries in the local population. However, T. Gamkrelidze and V.Ivanov write nothing about fishing at Indo-Europeans, and no common Indo-European name of the fish exists. But the Indo-Europeans did not dwell near any lake and fishing could engage only in limited extent. In contrary to them, ancient Turks and Uralians populated lake shores obviously lived by fishing. The Turkic and Finno-Ugric languages have common word for calling fish balyk and kala respectively. Perhaps the Indo-Europeans engaged more in hunting. T. Gamkrelidze and V. Ivanov assert: "Detected traces special hunting terminology suggests a developed hunting activities" (GAMKRELIDZE T., IVANOV, V.V. , 1984, 697). The similar thought about the ancient Indo-Europeans was expressed by N. Andreyev:


Present significant number of words belonging scope of hunting and gathering in PIE shows that these two occupations (along with cattle in its initial stages) were the main means of livelihood in the era of the formation of PIE. This situation allows to date the mentioned epoch at the turn of the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic (ANDREYEV N.D., 1986: 39).


There are only insufficient archaeological data to suppose the ethicity and lifestyle of the population in the area of the three lakes at Paleolithic times, as collected here late Paleolithic finds "… did not exceed the frame of small collections" (RANOV V.A., 1978: 196). The dating of existence PIE society is justified by N. Andreyev due lack in PIE language "words… which would have pointed on stall or at least paddock cattle maintenance", but the time of formation of livestock breeding, according to him, is considered to be in Mesolithic (ibid). T. Gamkrelidze and V. Ivanov assert the opposite: "Indo-European language reflected developed system of livestock with the availability of main animals" (GAMKRELIDZE T., IVANOV V.V., 1984: 868). This is an example of how understanding of the same facts can be quite different. To set the time, when around three lakes lived the speakers of the Nostratic languages ​​dwelt in the locality aroun three lakes, let us consider still other facts.

Archaeological evidences suggests that in VIII – VII mill. BC Southwest Asia was inhabited by people quite high cultural level. Even then large settlements with population of up to a thousand people emerged here. (HERRMANN JOACHIM, 1982: 41). There were in the Middle East wild species now cultivated plants – wheat, barley, legumes. Here approximately in IX thousand people begins to engage in primitive agriculture and animal husbandry, domesticating at first dog. Archaeology confirms that new forms of management were applied in places located not far from the lakes Van and Urmia:


During the VIII mill. BC small farming and pastoral groups, which only occasionally ventured down to the plain, were settling in Zagros, Sinjar and Taurus Mountains (BROMLEY Yu.V., 1986: 274).



At left: Photo from the site "Iran. Zagros Mountains"


Speakers of the Nostratic languages which had settled large space in Europe and Asia later had to stay of Asia Minor in most to VI-V mill. BC. We can assume that the Semitic-Hamitic and Dravidian people who occupied the southern areas of the Nostratic space began as the first to leave their Urheimats, settling mentioned highlands. Cartvelians, Turks and Indo-Europeans, apparently still remained on their places, you can connect with them three options of Chalkolithic Culture of the VI – V mill. BC which were determined bya known scientist ( BROMLEY Yu. V , 1986: 294) :

- In Southeast Georgia and West Azerbaijan (assuming that it was Cartvelian);

- South-East Azerbaijan (Indo-European);

- In the Ararat valley of Armenia (Turks) .

Semitic-Hamitic, settling further to the south and southwest, reached Palestine and founded here the city of Jericho, Byblos, and Shechem, and others. The speakers of an unknown Nostratic language (perhaps Hatti, Hurrians?) or Hittites built the city of Catal Hüyük (Çatal Hüyük) in South Anatolia, which numbered 2 – 3 000 inhabitants (according to other sources – 5 th.) for about 6,000 years BC. It was built of stones weighing up to two tons of limestone cliffs broken in. (KRÄMER WALTER, 1971: 57-58). That alone speaks of the level of culture and work organization builders. Accordingly, the language of these people would have to be quite advanced, at least, they were able to count.

This assumption seem to be contradicted by the fact that "… there are in the supposed habitat of PIE speakers in VI – V millennium BC no archeological culture that would explicitly relate to the Proto-Indo-European one" (GAMKRELIDZE T.V., IVANOV V.V., 1984: 891).



According to M. Andronov relocation of Dravidians to South India was held at the II-I millennium BC and in the III mill. BC Dravidian community existed somewhere in Pakistan (ANDRONOV M.S., 1982: 178). Obviously, Dravidians can be associated with site Yahya Tepe in South-eastern Iran, dating back since V mill. till the end of II mill. BC, and later cultures of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in India. In addition, we have to consider that "Proto-Dravidian community was split by the end of the IV mill. BC, when Dravidian-speaking tribes began moving in the south and south-east" (BONGRAD-LEVIN G.M., 1981: 301). Thus, at least for some time, but not later than III thousand BC Proto-Dravidians inhabited the territory of Iran and Pakistan. Then they were absent in Asia Minor at V mill BC.

These and other evidence let to suggest that the existence of Proto- Nostratic language we should assume long before VII millennium BC Start time and place of its formation is still difficult exactly to determine. However, V. Alekseev admits the possibility of existence of centers, within which there were main events of race-genetic processes. One of such two possible sites in the world he thinks to be in West Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean (ALEKSEEV V.P., 1991: 49). However, in 1947, monocenteric hypothesis was proposed by J. Roginskiy supported by other researchers (CHEBOKSAROV N.N., CHEBOKSAROVA I.A., 1985: 151). In accordance with this hypothesis, the type of modern man emerged in the Near East and the Mediterranean as a result of mixing of different representatives of the Neanderthal type. There are reasons to believe that "typological heterogeneity of Paleolithic humanity was smaller than modern one, and this is a clear argument in favor of the hypothesis monocentrism. (SHCHOKIN HEORHIY. 2002: 77).

Speakers of common Nostratic language undoubtedly stood still at a relatively low cultural level. Modern languages ​​of this language superfamily have only vague traces of common forms in the account system (see " To the Primary Formation of Numerals in the Nostratic Languages"). Common numerals appeared in separated Nostratic languages after the split of the Nostratic community, although it is possible to find traces of subsequent borrowings. Also, there are no common words related to developed forms of economic and constructing. There are among the 34 common language features found in materials of V. Illich–Svitych prevailing morphemes, pronouns and verbs meaning "to beat", "to split", "to cut", "to chop", "to drill", "to bend", "to seize", "to tear", "to knit" "to scream". Words meaning "ear", "many", "deep", "night", "edge" and similar others are present too. Noteworthy is the fact that this group is dominated by words from a technological and hunting semantics, but there are two words for signalling very necessary during hunting. As an example is given separately a small list of common lexical heritage of Nostratic languages, where may be present words appeared in the period of Nostratic community, as also since later time.

Staying in close proximity on their Urheimat in Asia Minor, the speakers of individual Nostratic languages ​fell under mutual influences in the economic and cultural life. The most successful technical solutions, as well as attractive cultural ideas spread rapidly not only among neighbors, but could cover more space. Borrowing objects and concepts was accompanied by spread of their names. Of course, the more linguistic features had residents of neighboring areas, but it is also possible that the presence of such a community may indicate a common origin of languages ​​whose speakers now reside at a great distance. In our case, there are certain correspondences between Finno-Ugric and Sumerian languages. Evidences of this can be found in the works of different scientists

T. Gamkrelidze and V. Ivanov asserted that IE *reudh "red (metal)" may be borrowed from the Sumerian language, which ihas the word urudu "copper" and Sum. guškiu "gold" associated with Indo-European names of the metal (the closest form of arm. oski) and on the basis of these two facts, find it possible to speak about the contacts between these languages and the proximity of their habitat distribution. In connection with this we may add that the Sumerian guškiu is very similar to the Finno-Ugric names of different metals Lapp. vešš'k "copper", Est. vask "copper", Fin. vaski "iron" Mokhsa us'ke "iron" and others. Sumerian belonging to a particular language family has not yet been determined. If you try to search Sumerian-Ural parallels, one of them can immediately jump into the eyes of the Russians – a fairly common etymon sumer/somer on the former and modern Finno-Ugric language territory (the Sumer' River in Moscow Region, else the town of Shumerlya in Chuvashia, the town of Sumerichi north of Lake Onega, the city of Somero west of Helsinki, Lake Somer in the eastern part of the Baltic Sea). There are still other Sumerian-Uralic parallel: the same Sum. urudu – Komi görd, Udm. gord, Hanty wêrte, Hung. vörös (from vörözvöröt), all – "red" ; Sum. gir "oven" – Hanty kör, Mansi kur, Komi gor, Udm. kur, Est. keris "oven"; Sum. kaš "urine" – common Finnisf-Ugric *kusi "urine" (Finnish, Est. kusi, Veps. kuzi, Udm. kyz' ); Sum. kišib "an ant" – Fin. kusianen, Est. kusikas, Udm. kuz'yli "an ant"; Sum. kur "mountain" – Lapp. kurro, Mari kuryk "mountain" , Komi kyr "steep" , Mansi karys "high"; Sum. gal' "earth, place", Hung. hely – "place", Veps. kal'l' "a rock", Komi gala "limit" ; Sum. můd "blood" – Fin. mäta, Est. mada "pus" ; Sum. sub "to suck", "tobreastfeed" – Hung. szopik, Udm. s'ups'kany, Mari šupalaš "to suck".

A List of numerous Sumerian-Finno-Ugric lexical matches is given on Body Parts. Some of them can be attributed to the common Nostratic heritage, and perhaps this is why some Hungarian scientists limit relatives of Sumerian and Finno-Ugric languages only in favor of the Hungarian language. One of them is prof. Alfrėd Tóth who came to conclusion in one of his work that the Hungarian language is not belonging to the Finno-Ugric family of languages and is a direct descendant of the Sumerian (TÓTH ALFRĖD, 2007). Here is not the place to evaluate the work of professor, only need to note that he focuses solely on the Sumerian- Hungarian lexical parallels, oblivious to their presence in other Finno-Ugric languages. Taking into account that no other languages of Nostratic superfamily have similar ties to Sumerian, and that it does not belong to the Afro-Asiatic languages, we can assume that this language belongs to the Ural or Dravidian family. Possible belonging of the Sumerian (and Elamite) language to the Dravidian language family is explained because Proto-Dravidians populated area closest to Mesopotamia (unfortunately, the Dravidian–Sumerian language connection in these studies were not studyid specifically). A. Maloletko found Asiatic elements in the language and onomastics of Vasyugan Khanty. He cites two dozens of examples of Khanty words in one of his work which have matches in the languages of Asia Minor and the Caucasus. An unexplained element lat is present among hydronyms prevalent in the basin of the Vasyugan Rver which has matches in the region of Lake Van and in the headwaters of the Tigris River (MALOLETKO A.M., 1990, 81-82).

You can also find parallels between Sumerian and Finno-Ugric mythology. For example, Munci Kors-Torum, Khanty Num Kurys – the ancestor of the gods and the creator of the world (after the flood the role of the supreme deity passed to his son Numi Torum) recall the name of the Sumerian god-warrior Ningirsu (Nin-Girsu). Komi god-demiurge Yen together with enezh "heaven", Udm. Inmar "god", in(m) "heaven", Mari yimy "god" correspond exactly to Sum An – "heaven god" (AFANASIYEVA V.K., 1991. MFW. Volume 1: 75).

Another word was present in the Sumerian language for deity – dingir or diĝir which connection with Turkic tengri, tejri, tanri, tärä "god" is considered undoubted. Fin. tunturi "high forestless mountain" иand Lapp. tundar, tuoddar "a mountain". They also include here Hatt. tux "deity", Circassian tkhe "god, deity", Indo-European *deiuos "god", "heaven" (KADYRDZIEV K.S., 1983, 130-148), and it looks doubtful for phonetic reasons. In contrast, Old Germanic match *đunra "thunder", "god of thunder" can hardly be a coincidence, but its origin has another explanation.

A theme of flood is spread in different versions among the peoples of all continents (FRAZER J.G., 1986, 96-147). The most kmown is the Great flood described in Genesis of the Old Testament. The legends narrate almost always that righteous escape on an island, a tree, or on any floating craft. The wide-spread of this legend can not be random and should be based on a real event, so there were numerous hypotheses about the cause of the flood. At the beginning of the millennium has become popular hypothesis about the flooding of low-lying areas around the Black Sea due to the transgression beacuase of raising its level, caused by the break of the wall separated the sea from the waters of the oceans in the place of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. The rise of global sea level began at the end of the last ice age as a result of the melting of glaciers, have concentrated large masses of water, which was to fall into the ocean, raising its level considerably above the Black Sea one. Detailed and interesting evidence of this give W. Pitman and W. Ryan (PITMAN WALTER, RYAN WILLIAM. 1999).

However, during that flood water can not flood the Armenian plateau, so there was another cause, and this is acknowledged by the authors and advocates of the Black Sea deluge theory. They believe that the Bible legend was caused by flooding of Persian Gulf due to the same rise of the ocean level:


Flooding was not catastrophic, but very great: the length of the Persian Gulf is about 1000 km. In addition, the Biblical evidence that "all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights" looks more like a tropical monsoon rains in the Indian Ocean than the flood in temperate climates of the Northern Black Sea Coast. (ZALIZNIAK L.L. 2005, 8).


In any case, the flood could not happen just around Mount Ararat, although its name is somewhat similar to Turk. aral "an island". Using Old Turkic art "Plateau Mountain" (NADELIAYEV V.M. a. o., 1999) Ararat has been determined very accurately – "an island mountain". However, the Bible does not speak of Mount Ararat, but about the "mountains of Ararat", so we can conclude that Noah's ark landed not optional on the Mount Ararat and it received its name later as a memory of the flood, when people settled near it.

The existence of three large lakes nearby Mount Ararat fit very good with their three Noah's sons. Perhaps, the tradition preserved the memory of the three ancestors of the tribes, who settled around these lakes. A legend of Adam, too, can have a real basis. The word Adam meaning "a man" is present in almost all Turkic languages and also in Iranian, Caucasian, Finno-Ugric. All researchers believed that it if of Persian-Arabic origin, but in the Chuvash word etem has a form can not be explained by borrowing. Mari aydems "a man" also can not be explained by borrowing, in contrast to the Udm. adyami "the same". The Khanty language has the word átamá meaning "people", as in form and in meaning it does not seem to be borrowed from Turkic. Chuvash has other words of this root: Atam – the name of a deity, a few unexplained geographical names – village Chavash-Etem, Tutar-Atem, the Etem-Shive River. Chuvash expression "Etem yurtna shaman" (a small bone to bewitch), according to V. Sergeyev, reminds Biblical themes, he explains it as "a bone has loved by Adam" (SERGEYEV V.I., 1981: 105). Ossetian adäm means "people". Words of this root and similar sense ("a man", "a husband") are spread throughout the Caucasus: Georg. adamiani, Lak. adamina, Avar. adan, Agul. idemi, Ahv. ande, Bats. admiā, Buduh. idmi, Darg. adam, Lezgi itim, Rutul edemi, Chechn. adam, etc. Perhaps some of them are borrowed from the Arabic or Turkic languages, but not all, as it is evidenced by the variety of forms. Presumably Germanic words meaning "a son-in-law" Ger Eidam, OE. ethum, Old Frisian athom could be originated from this root. Hence, there is reason to believe that adam is ancient Nostratic word meaning "a man". It is believed that on – Heb. adamah has original meaning "earth", "red". Such prosaic explanation for the name of a person is somewhat doubtful. A man in the imagination of primitive people could differ from the animal that has a soul. In this regard, the word adam in sense "a man" can also be compared with Ger. Atem "breath, spirit" and other Germanic words of this roots and the same meaning. F. Kluge (A. KLUGE FRIIEDRICH, 1989) compares Germanic words with Old Ind atma "breath ,soul" ("Hauch, Seele"). J. Pokorny (A. POKORNY J., 1949-1959) relates Germ Atem to PIE *etmen "breath" and gives matches to it in the Indian and Celtic languages. G. Frisk (A. FRISK H., 1970) classifies here Gr ατμοσ " steam" . Obviously Iranian words dam "breath" are belonging to this group. Consequently, the definition of man as a creature that has a soul is more believable than its origin linked to the earth. Such explanation might be supposed later by scholars of the Bible.