Kura-Araxes culture of the Armenian Highlands - 2007

Kura-Araxes culture, Armenian Highlands (copper- stone age)

The Kura-Araxes culture was a important Chalcolithic (copper-stone age) and bronze age culture that flourished in the Caucasus, eastern Anatolia and northwestern Iran from about 4000 B.C. to 2200 B.C. after which they were presumably overrun and absorbed by the Hurrians, who swept down from the north Caucasus around 2200 BC. This is all quite unknown from any classical historic records, their name (given by modern archaeologists) comes from the Kura and Araxes river valleys where they developed. The territory they inhabited is located in modern Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran.

In its earliest phase, metal was scant, but it would later display "a precocious metallurgical development which strongly influenced surrounding regions" JP Mallory, EEIC, pp. 341-42. They built mud-brick houses, originally round, but later developing into a square design. The economy was based on farming and livestock-raising. They grew grain and various orchard crops, and are known to have used implements to make flour. They raised cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and in its later phases, horses.

Their pottery was distinctive. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs for ornamentation. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Palestine, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya. 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.

Their metal goods were widely distributed, recorded in the Volga, Dnieper and Don-Donets systems in the north, into Syria and Palestine in the south, and west into Anatolia. The culture is closely linked to the approximately contemporaneous Maykop culture of Transcaucasia. They are also remarkable for the production of wheeled vehicles (wagons and carts).

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 heterogenous ethno-linguistic population. Hurrian and Urartian elements are quite probable. One can also argue for at least an outpost of an early Semitic language, and certainly the presence of an early representative of the Kartvelian languages is not unreasonable. And certainly, an Indo-European element was likely present.

In certain theories for locating the Urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language, this culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages, and even as an earlier Urheimat. The Soviet scholars Gamkrelidze and Ivanov attempt to place this Urheimat in Armenia, but this theory has few supporters. Lord Renfrew's hypothesis of an Anatolian homeland has even less support, but the idea of locating the Anatolian-speakers in the Caucasus, with the remainder of the Indo-European stock having descended into the Ponto-Caspian steppe to a secondary Urheimat sometime before 4000 BC is not without supporters.

Source: http://www.geocities.com/komblema/observe.htm


An extremely poor metal inventory has been documented for the early phase of the Kura-Araxes culture. This period corresponds to the Didube-Kiketi and the Sioni (Iori River valley)-Gremi (Alazani River valley) groups and is referred to as the Late Chalcolithic period of central Trans-Caucasia.

In central Trans-Caucasia, the Kura-Araxes culture is dated mainly to the fourth to first quarter of the third millennium. In broad terms, the period represents the Late Chalcolithic and first phase of the Early Bronze Age. The best known sites with fixed stratigraphy of the Kura-Araxes culture of central Trans-Caucasia are Khizanaant Gora, Kvatskhelebi (near Kareli) and Tsikhia Gora (near Kaspi) in the central and Amiranis Gora (Akhaltsikhe) in the south-western parts of the region.

It is a widespread view that the metal from the Caucasian ore deposits together with certain types of metal artifacts were distributed to many regions of the Ancient World from the early stages of metallurgical production. Technological impulses coming primarily from northern Caucasian metallurgical centres were distributed from the river Volga to the Dniepr and even as far as the Carpathian mountains.[17] Trans-Caucasian metal products were widely distributed to the south throughout Anatolia and Syria-Palestine.

So much so, that any research on Anatolian metallurgy should integrate the evidence of copper ore and arsenic deposits of the Caucasian region.[18] Caucasian metallic ores and metallurgical traditions appear in the Near East corresponding to the arrival of the Trans-Caucasian population bearing the Kura-Araxes cultural traditions.[19] Migration routes from their Trans-Caucasian homeland took them south, west, south-west and south-east, into southern Palestine, central Anatolia and central Iran.

It is quite probable that the lure of the economical importance of Arslantepe VI A (Malatya) as well as Late Uruk enclaves and outposts, such as Hassek Höyük 5, Habuba Kabira-Tell Qanas, Jebel Aruda and Tepecik 3, attracted the attention of these northern invaders, the bearers of the Kura-Araxes culture, who ultimately brought about the violent destruction of these sites. The same fate befell the Late Uruk colony in Godin Tepe V, in central Iran. Their presence in the Hamadan valley severed commercial {p. 544:} routes to the east. After a short interval, Godin IV emerged with characteristic Kura-Araxes material culture of the Yanik Tepe I type.[20]

Elsewhere in the northern part of the Near East, in the second half of the fourth millennium, the same sequence of events took place. Late Uruk period sites were destroyed by Kura-Araxes people who introduced their own red-black, hand-made and burnished pottery. They brought with them a copper metallurgy with high-arsenic content and metal artifacts peculiar to them. ‘Wattle and daub’ houses and a distinctive type of hearths are hallmarks of their presence. The intrusive Kura-Araxes culture is evident at Arslantepe VI B, where they caused an interruption to the stratigraphic sequence. Subsequently, they were followed by a locally developed, Reserved-Slip pottery horizon.[21]

Copper artifacts with a high arsenical content, cast in open and two-piece moulds, appeared in the Elâzığ region of Turkey when Kura-Araxes (‘Early Transcaucasian’) groups became culturally dominant there at the beginning of Early Bronze Age.[22] Besides the Red-Black Ware of the east Anatolian type, the Kura-Araxes presence can be detected through the architectural remains in the Arslantepe VI B (subsequent to the Arslantepe VI A). Houses had a double line of post-holes, which is typical of Kura-Araxes buildings.[23]

It is difficult to refute that the appearance of the Arslantepe VI B1 village, built upon the razed ruins of Arslantepe VI A dwellings, epitomizes the recession of the Late Uruk cultures while coinciding with the expansion of the Trans-Caucasian groups.[24] Based on this evidence, we can date the appearance of Trans-Caucasian population in the Malatya- Elâzığ area to the Late Uruk period. What remains unclear is whether the first vestages of the Kura-Araxes culture in the territories south of the Taurus range were also contemporary with the Late Uruk period.

Kurban Höyük is located in the Karababa basin, north-west of Urfa and on the left bank of the Euphrates. Here, in the Late Chalcolithic (Period VI), which corresponds to Tell Judeidah (Amuq) Phases F-F/G, three fragments of the Kura-Araxes pottery (‘Karaz Ware’) were discovered. They are all diagnostic and consist of a dense brownish clay with varying amounts of fine grit and chaff temper. One of them is uniformly black, but two have bichrome surfaces, with orange interior and black exterior.[25] All resemble Kura-Araxes pottery shapes.[26] Karaz Ware would appear to have been long-lived in the Karababa region because, in the subsequent Early Bronze Age levels (Phases V and IV) of Kurban Höyük, a few fragments of the same {p. 545:} ware were also discovered.[27] These finds support the evidence for long-term presence of Trans-Caucasian elements in the regions adjacent to the upper flow of the Euphrates.

Single sherds of Karaz Ware were also found in other Late Uruk sites such as at Samsat, ca. 7 km upstream from Kurban Höyük, but on the right bank of the river, and at Jebel Aruda, a mountaintop settlement that appears to have been an administrative and religious centre of Late Uruk settlements of the area.[28]

A few sherds of the Karaz Ware were found in Hassek 5 dated to the Late Uruk period; the site is on the left bank of the Euphrates near Urfa. That these finds of Karaz Ware at Hassek were not accidental, as formerly believed, is strongly suggested by the discovery of a red-slipped pot with four handles, typical of Uruk Ware, next to an ovoid pot with a plastic, chevron design common to the Kura-Araxes pottery.[29] Both were found in the Room 2 of Building 2 in level 5.[30] The colour of the latter varies from dark-grey to brown-grey and is characteristic of the East Anatolian-Trans-Caucasian black-burnished pottery. An exact parallel — in shape and decoration — to this pot was discovered in Tepecik 3; the site lies east of Elâzığ and is thought to be a Late Uruk outpost.[31]

The relief decoration of a stag with horns on the central part of the vessel also occurs on other ’Kura-Araxes’ vessels at sites such as Geoy Tepe, Pulur (Sakyol) and Kvatskhelebi.[32] The rounded body shape with slightly flaring, high neck has been recorded at Amiranis Gora, Nakhidrebis Chala, Ghrmakhevistavi and Keti, among other sites.[33] A similar pot, but with a wider, spherical body and decorated with cord impression was found in the Ukraine, in the Mikhailovka I settlement (on Pidpilna, a tributary of the lower Dniepr) dated to the late fourth millennium. This settlement has affinities on the one hand, with the Maikop culture of northern Caucasia, and on the other, with the Usatovo barrows near Odessa.[34]

Source: http://www.geocities.com/komblema/observe.htm

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