Ogur and Oguz
Scythians and their descendents
A.Askarov The Aryan problem
S. Kak Indo-European, Arians, and Rigveda
L.T. Yablonsky Ancient Chorasmia
B. Brentjes ”Animal Style” and Shamanism
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Archaeology and language:
Once upon a time, no one really knows how long ago, there lived a community that spoke a common language. For almost two centuries scholars have been trying to locate the time and the place, and to reconstruct the language of that community. The language is referred to as Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and is ancestral to the Germanic, Slavic, Romance, Iranian, Indic, Albanian, and Greek languages. Several recent works by archaeologists and linguists, involving the origins and eventual spread of PIE related languages from India to England, offer new perspectives on this centuries long debate. Among these the work of Renfrew (1987), Mallory (1989), and Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1984, 1995) are of great interest. Renfrew, the archaeologist, contends that the PIE settlement was located in Anatolia c. 7000-6500 BC. Its subsequent spread he attributes to a superior technology: their invention of agriculture. Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, the linguists, situate the homeland of the PIE a few millennia later in the nearby Caucasus. Mallory agrees with their fifth to fourth millennium date but places the homeland in the Pontic-Caspian steppe region.
There is an agreement that the PIE community split into two major groups from wherever
its homeland was situated, and whatever the timing of its dispersal. One headed west for Europe
and became speakers of Indo-European (all the languages of modern Europe save for Basque,
Hungarian, and Finnish) while others headed east for
Eurasia to become Indo-Iranians (see Figure 5.1). The Indo-Iranians were a community that spoke a
common language prior to their branching off into the Iranian and
Indo-Aryan languages. Iranian refers to the languages of Iran (Iranian),
Pakistan (Baluch), Afghanistan (Pashto), and Tadjikistan (Tadjik) and Indo-Aryan,
Hindi and its many related languages. In this review our concern is with the
location and dating of the Indo-Iranian community. The search for the
Indo-Europeans, within an archaeological context, is almost as old as archaeology.
In 1903 Raphael Pumpelly's (1908) highly regarded excavations at Anau, in Turkmenistan,
were motivated by a search for the Indo-Europeans.
The results, as well as the motivation for these excavations, had a profound influence on Y.G. Childe (1926).
Figure 5.1 Hypothetical development of the Indo-Iranian languages.
Recently, Colin Renfrew (1999) has reviewed the status of the origins and dispersal of the Indo-European languages. In his reconstruction he finds, "The Indo-Iranian languages however represent. . . a later development [than the earlier Proto-Indo-European whose emergence he places in Anatolia ca. 7000-6500 B.C.] and their immediate ancestor may perhaps find its material counterpart in the Cucuteni-Tripolye culture of the Ukraine" (Renfrew 1999: 280). After 3000 BC he argues for an eastward dispersal of Indo-Iranian speakers. He offers no "cause" for this dispersal but believes it unrelated to horse riding which he believes to be a later second millennium adaptation. He positions the dispersal of Indo-Iranian on to the Indian sub-continent c. 1700 BC and invokes his "elite dominance model," that is, the subordination of the local populations by an elite group of charioteers, as described in the Rigveda. This perspective, along with others, will be reviewed later.
Elena Kuzmina (1994), in search of the homeland of the
Indo-Europeans, examines the regions from the
Balkan-Carpathian-Danube to the Urals and the eastern steppes of
Kazakhstan. She sets the period in which the PIE community existed as
broadly between 4500 and 2500 BC and its subsequent spread in the
range of 3200-2200 BC. She favors an Indo-European homeland in the
Pontic-Caspian zone and advocates a series of eastward migrations to
the Urals. The migratory movement of tribes along the Don basin in
the north Caspian regions, and from the western steppes and
mountainous Crimea to the eastern steppes beyond the Urals, is seen
as resulting in the spread of a productive subsistence economy based
on cattlebreeding and wheat and barley farming. The large-scale
migrations of the PIE, she believes, were motivated by reduced food
resources, resulting from deteriorating climatic conditions, as well
as by a conscientious search for new productive lands and modes of
subsistence economy. The reliance upon migrations as the principal
agent of social change was typical of archaeological interpretations
throughout the Soviet period. To the importance of migrations can be
added a blurred distinction between ethnic, linguistic, racial, and
cultural entities; a concern for the isolation of racial/ethnic
groups by craniometric methods of physical anthropology; and the use
of linguistic paleontology to reconstruct the cultural development of
In the fourth millennium, archaeologists identify various "tribes" of the Pit Grave culture, that is, the Mariupol culture, as inhabiting the regions between the Dnieper and the Urals. The formation of cattle breeding and the domestication of the horse are taken to be major fifth/fourth millennium developments that took place on the Russian/Ukrainian steppes. These archaeological cultures are typically identified as Indo-European. Kuzmina believes that the horse was first intensively hunted for food, then domesticated as a food source, later used as a beast of burden for the pulling of wagons, and finally, toward the very end of the second millennium, used for riding.Kuzmina is insistent that the Bandkeramik farmers of the Danube played a decisive role in the spread of farming to the Dneiper basin in the fourth millennium. She portrays a complex picture of a multitude of seemingly distinctive archaeological cultures, from the Danube of southeastern Europe to the southern Urals, migrating and assimilating. The resultant picture is one in which Indo-European speaking tribes spread, following the introduction of agriculture from southeastern Europe, from the Pontic-Caspian zone to the southern Urals and beyond. These migrations are believed to be evident in a bewildering number of related archaeological cultures, all said to have varying degrees of affinity. No two authors, however, seem able to agree upon the extent of the relatedness of these cultures. Perhaps this is not surprising for there is a conspicuous absence of formal descriptions, ceramic typologies, chronological sequences and/or distributional analyses of the artifact types that are said to characterize these cultures. The principal actors on the archaeological stage are the Pit Grave culture(s) in the Pontic-Caspian steppe 4000-2800 BC, which evolved into the Catacomb Grave cuiture(s) 2800-2000 BC, which, in turn, was succeeded by the Timber Grave (Srubnaja) culture(s) 2000-1000 BC and the related Andronovo cultures 2000-900 BC. Each of these major archaeological cultures is divisible into archaeological variants and each variant has its proponent supporting their Indo-Iranian identity.
The Andronovo culture is almost universally implicated by
Russian archaeologists with the Indo-Iranians and we shall
concentrate on them. On the basis of pottery type and its technology
of production, the absence of pig, the presence of camel, horse, and
cattle, the evolution of cheek pieces, and the presence of the
chariot, Kuzmina argues for a cultural continuity of the Andronovo
extending from 2000-900 BC. There is little doubt in her mind that
the Andronovo culture is Indo-Iranian. She attempts to verify the
southern Urals as the homeland of the Indo-Iranians by an extensive
use of ethnohistoric evidence. The Iranian speaking Sakas and
Sauromatians, of the first millennium, are traced back to the
Andronovo tribes, while various Indo-Iranian texts, the Rigveda and
the Avesta, to mention but two of the many referred to, are believed
to reflect the world of the Andronovo. The ethnohistoric parallels
and the textual citations are of such general nature that they do not
convince. Thus, in the Rigveda there is an admonition against the use
of the wheel in the production of pottery. As Andronovo pottery is
handmade this is taken as evidence of their Indo-Iranian identity.
Ethnic and linguistic correlations are generally not based on
rigorous methodologies; they are merely asserted.
Kuzmina (1995) formulates a set of what she believes to be universal rules for "the methods of ethnic attribution." These are: (1) retrospective comparison, that is an ethnic identity is established for an archaeological culture by comparing it to a descendent culture whose ethnicity is established by written documents; (2) the linguistic method, which involves the ethnic attribution derived from the retrospective method and then comparing that with lexicostatistic data on the level and type of economy; (3) verification by establishing migration routes, the search for indicators of migrations, and plotting such indicators through time and space; (4) the employment of an anthropological method; which involves a study of craniometric analyses, believed to indicate a group's biological affinity; (5) verification by linguistic contact, which involves the study of linguistic substrates and toponymic correlations; and finally, (6) the reconstruction of culture and world view ("spiritual culture") derived from an analysis of the archaeological and linguistic data. This "methodology" is utilized by Kuzmina for establishing the "ethnic indicators" of the Andronovo culture as Indo-Iranian, and, more specifically, of the Fedorovo culture (a late variant of the Andronovo) as Indo-Aryan. The "ethnic indicators" are: (1) the absence of swine in the domestic diet; (2) the presence of the Bactrian camel; (3) the special significance of horsebreeding; (4) the special role of chariots; (5) a cult of the horse associated with burial contexts; (6) the technology of making vertically oriented tripartite vessels by coiling; (7) pots of unique quadrangular shape; (8) burials rites of cremation; and, (9) houses with high, gabled roofs. In an enthusiastic review of Kuzmina's volume Igor Diakonoff (1995) concludes that her methodology, which juxtaposes linguistic, archaeological, textual, and ethnological data, allows for an ethnic identification of archaeological cultures. He writes, "Hence the bearers of a certain archaeological culture can securely be identified with the bearers of a language of a certain group or with their ancestors." Such optimism remains unfounded.
Although there is a consensus among archaeologists working on
the steppes that the Andronovo culture is in the right place at the
right time, and thus is to be considered Indo-Iranian, there is
neither textual, ethnohistoric, nor archaeological evidence,
individually or in combination, that offers a clinching argument for
this consensus. Kuzmina's carefully constructed methodology simply
cannot be applied to the Andronovo culture. The Andronovo culture is
well over a thousand years distant from any textual tradition, making
any linguistic and/or ethnohistoric attribution extremely tenuous.
Furthermore, ethnicity is permeable and multidimensional. It is
difficult to accept the notion that for over a millennium the
Andronovo culture remained an unchanging entity. Finally, the
categories of "ethnic indicators" utilized by Kuzmina: horsebreeding,
horse rituals, shared ceramic types, avoidance of pig, shared burial
patterns, and architectural templates can be used to identify the
Arab, the Turk, and the Iranian; three completely distinctive ethnic
and linguistic groups. Ethnicity and language are not so easily
wedded to an archaeological signature. Material residues as well as
the units of analysis in archaeology are too frequently incongruent
with what we wish to investigate. The Arab, Turk, and Iranian may
share a laundry list of general attributes but they are neither
linguistically nor culturally similar entities.
Kuzmina (1994) is not alone in believing that the domestication of the horse introduced a new stage in the evolution of civilization. On the steppes the horse allowed for the increasing role of cattlebreeding, the intensification of interethnic communication, the development of plough traction, and the use of carts and wagons. By the middle of the third millennium, from the Danube to the Urals, these new innovations were utilized by the tribes of the Pit Grave culture. The fourth millennium Pit Grave culture was characterized by large fortified settlements (Mihajlovka), four- and two-wheeled wagons pulled by bulls or horses, intensive cattlebreeding and farming, an extensive use of metal tools, and burials under mounds (kurgans) containing carts, wagons, and sacrificed horses. The migrations of the Pit Grave culture(s) are taken by some to be responsible for the emergence of stockbreeding and agriculture in distant Siberia (brought there by the related Afanasievo culture). Following the Pit Grave culture two great cultural entities flourished: the Timber Grave (Srubnaja) culture, which many archaeologists believe evolved from the Pit Grave culture, and the Andronovo culture, whose genesis, periodization, and cultural variants, are the subject of decade-long debates.
The Andronovo culture was first described by Teploukhov in
1927 and has been the focus of archaeological research on the
Ural/Kazakhstan steppe and Siberia ever since (for a review of the
history of research see Jettmar 1951). Kuzmina (1994) is among the
majority of Russian scholars who believe that the Andronovo forms a
single cultural entity. Increasingly, however, the concept of a
single homogenous culture covering 3 million square kilometers, and
enduring for over a millennium, has become untenable. Archaeologists
working on the steppes are involved in giving new definition, that
is, distinctive chronological and cultural phases, to the cultures of
the steppes (Kutimov 1999, and the papers in Levine et al. 1999).
Similarly, the nature of Andronovo interaction, its periodization,
and the unstructured chronology accompanying the steppic
cultural-historical community are all subjects of heated discussion.
Numerous subcultures have been defined: Petrov (also called
Sintashta-Arkhaim-Petrov = SAP), Alakul, Fedorov, Sargarin,
Cherkaskul, Petrovalka, Abashevo, Novokumak, etc. Differences in the
Andronovo subcultures are based upon variations in ceramic
decoration, house forms, settlement pattern, as well as mortuary
facilities and rituals. We still lack a comprehensive synthesis
bringing together the vast amount of information available and much
of what has been excavated is not published. Evidence for variations
in material culture is poorly documented, hypothetical population
movements are asserted not demonstrated, direct contradictions of
interpretations between different researchers are left unresolved,
and there is simply no chronological control over the cultural
variations existing within the millennium long expanse of the
Andronovo culture. Attempts are made to identify the physical types
of the different Andronovo populations, invariably by craniometric
means (Alekseev 1986, 1989). These studies are more closely related
to racial typology, that is, the more recent studies that attempt to
gauge degrees of biological affinify between populations residing in
distinctive geographical settings (Mallaspina et al. 1998).
The earliest of the Andronovo cultures would seem to be the Petrov which is closely related to, if not identical with, the Sintashta-Arkhaim culture, dated to the first centuries of the second millennium. The Petrov is succeeded by the Alakul which, in turn, is followed by the Fedorov, dated to the second half of the second millennium. Among the Andronovo cultures of the southern Urals, the Alakul and the Fedorov are most frequently assigned an Indo-Iranian identity. In the minority are those that believe in the multiethnic identity of the Andronovo tribes. Thus, V N. Chernetsov (1973) argues for an Ugric substrate among the Andronovo tribes and a specific Indo-Iranian identity for the Alakul tribe. Stokolos (1972), on the other hand, argues for an Ugric identity for the Andronovo, a local development for the Fedorov tribe, and an Indo-Iranian one for the Alakul tribe. Linguistic/ethnic identities are frequently asserted but the reasons for doing so are very rarely elucidated. Kuzmina (1994) accepts the cultural subdivisions of the Andronovo culture yet she often refers to cultural contact and migrations within the context of a singular Andronovo identity. She refers to Andronovo influence with regard to the introduction of specific axes and adzes of Andronovo type in distant Xinjiang. The relationships of the Andronovo with the cultures of Xinjiang is documented in an important paper by Jianjun and Shell (1999). P'yankova (1993, 1994, 1999) and Kuzmina (1994) are specific in connecting the second millennium agricultural communities of Central Asia, the Bactrian-Margiana Archaeological Complex (the BMAC), with the Andronovo culture. Sites of the BMAC, and the related mid-second millennium Bishkent culture, are seen by P'yankova as influenced by the Fedorovo tribes. Fedorovo ceramics, funeral rites, metal types (alloyed with tin), as well as skulls of the Andronovo anthropological type, are said to be present on a number of Central Asian sites. There is a consensus view that throughout the second millennium migratory movements of the Andronovo tribes resulted in contact with the Central Asian oases (BMAC), cultures of the Tien Shan mountains of Xinjiang, as well as with the indigenous tribes of the Altai, Tuva, and the Pamir Mountains.
The "push" motivating these migratory movements from the steppes is universally attributed to deteriorating climatic conditions. Khazanov puts it this way:.
Almost all paleoclimatologists accept that the second millennium B.C. was characterized by a dry climate which, it will appear, was at its driest at the turn of the second and first millennium B.C. . . . The fact that these dates coincide with the period of the emergence of pastoral nomadism, as has been established by archaeological data and written sources, is scarcely due to chance. It would appear that the dry climate was the first stimulus for pastoralists to abandon agriculture once and for all and become fully nomadic.
Thus, the "cause" for these large-scale migratory movements as
well as for the emergence of pastoral nomadism is environmental: the
result of increasing aridity.
Climate is no doubt relevant but it remains unlikely that it constituted the first cause for either the migratory movements or for the emergence of pastoral nomadism. It is of interest to note that Bar-Yosef and Khazanov (1992), in a review of the evidence for pastoral nomadism in the ancient Near East, doubt that a pristine stage of socioeconomic pastoral nomadism ever existed. It is more than likely that the same conclusion, one that argues for the existence of a mixed economy wherein the percentage of dependence upon farming and pastoral nomadism varies, also holds for the cultures of the steppes. It is increasingly evident that where the fauna and flora have been collected, agriculture and pastoral nomadism characterize all of the cultures of the steppes.
Warrior attributes are frequently assigned to the Pit Grave culture and are certainly evident in the Andronovo culture. Axes, spears, bow, and arrow, a rich variety of dagger types, and chariots all speak of conflict and confrontation, as do the heavily fortified communities of "The Country of Towns" (see later). Sharp definitions of rank are attested in burial sites. Kuzmina (1994) suggests that social position was defined more by social, ideological, and ritual activities than by ranking based upon property ownership. Russian archaeologists view steppe cultures as being a "transitional type" the concept of a "military democracy," derived from the work of Lewis Henry Morgan, remains popular and is expressed by the presence of a chief, council, and a peoples' assembly. Khazanov (1979), while regarding "military democracy" as a specific form of transitional, society, suitable for discussing the social forms of Central Asian pastoral nomads, has also advocated the adoption of the concept of a "chiefdom" as a transitional form preceding the origin of the state.
The Andronovo culture has also been seen as responsible for large-scale metallurgical production and as the principal agent in the exchange of metals throughout Eurasia in the second millennium. The recent discovery of stannite deposits and tin mining at Muschiston, Tadjikistan, associated with Andronovo sherds (Alimov et al. 1998), adds to the already considerable evidence for the mining of copper deposits by the Andronovo (Chernykh 1994a,b). Given the existence of an extensive Andronovo metallurgical inventory, their association with the mining of both copper and tin, evidence for the production of metal artifacts on numerous sites, and their presumed extensive migratory movements, the Andronovo are frequently seen as responsible for the dissemination of metallurgical technology. Some authors have even suggested that the pastoral nomads of the steppes, that is, the Andronovo and the even earlier Afanasiev cultures, were the agents responsible for the dissemination of metallurgical technology into China (Bunker 1998; Mei and Shell 1998; Peng 1998).
Commenting upon the vehicle burials of the earlier Pit and
Catacomb Grave cultures, Stuart Piggott (1992: 22) took the
opportunity to mention the deplorable state of archaeology in the
Soviet Union. His disparaging remarks refer specifically to the use
of outdated excavation techniques and publication standards. He
points out that over the past forty years over a hundred kurgans with
vehicles have been excavated, but fewer than half are published and
then only in the briefest form.
In this regard, of outstanding significance is the discovery, excavation, and publication of the site of Sintashta. Piggott's comments certainly do not pertain to the excellent Sintashta volume produced by V. F. Gening, G. B. Zdanovich, and V. V. Gening (1992). This volume was published in the same year in which Piggott made his unduly harsh criticism. The settlement and cemetery of Sintashta is located in the southern Urals along a river of the same name. Here ten-spoked chariots, horse sacrifices, and human burials are radiocarbon dated to the first century of the second millennium bc. This volume is exceptionally well illustrated and details the nature of a complex series of settlements and burials. Although Kuzmina (1994) identifies the third millennium Timber Grave culture as Indo-Iranian it is only in the following Andronovo culture, and specifically at the site of Sintashta, that she believes one can document a cluster of specific Indo-Iranian cultural traits: (1) a mixed economy of pastoralism and agriculture, (2) hand-made ceramics, (3) horse-drawn chariots, (4) the cultic significance of the horse, fire, and ancestor worship, and (5) the high status of charioteers.
Excavations at Sintashta were initiated in 1972 under the direction of V. I. Stepanov and resumed in 1983 under the direction of G. B. Zdanovich and V F, Gening. The site of Sintashta consists of a number of different features:.
1 The fortified settlement. The settlement of a sub-circular form is 140 meters in diameter. Its elaborate fortification system consists of an outer wall, a moat, and an inner wall having periodic buttresses believed to form towers. Entrance to the settlement is by way of two gates, each offering angled access and a movable bridge placed over a moat. The settlement is 62,000 square meters. Several 2-3 room houses were excavated containing hearths and constructed of timber, wattle, and daub, and unbaked brick. Evidence for the production of metal, as well as ceramics was found in some of the houses.
2 The large kurgan. Two hundred meters to the northwest of the
settlement a burial complex consisting of 40 graves with 60-65
inhumations was uncovered The burials were placed in pits in which
wooden structures were constructed and roofed with wooden beams.
Single and multiple burials, adults and children, were placed within
these wooden structures. The burials contained a wealth of material:
vessels, daggers, pins, awls, needles, axes, mortars, pestles, stone
tools, boneartifacts, etc. Five graves contained cheek pieces for
horses and two "battle chariots" were recovered. Twenty-five graves
had evidence for the sacrifice of horses, cattle, sheep/goat, as
well as dog. The animals, and at times only parts of the animal,
were placed directly within the burial or in associated pits. From
one to six horses were placed in individual graves. There was little
doubt in the minds of the excavators that differential wealth,
placed in particular tombs, indicated a rank ordering of social
strata. Significantly, several burials containing considerable
wealth were of females and children. In some burials the excavators
record the presence of "altars" and associated "ritual" fires.
3 The kurgan burial. This consisted of a circular kurgan 32 meters in diameter containing three burial clusters. The first group had a great richness of grave offerings all placed within individual chambers containing numerous sacrificed horses. The second group of burials was placed within a central structure 18 meters in diameter. Within this burial a large "battle chariot" was uncovered with a very rich inventory of material remains and numerous sacrificed animals. The entire complex is interpreted as the burial of an extremely important person. A third group of burials, consisting mostly of women and children, was placed within simple shallow pits at the edge of the kurgan. These burials also contained rich grave goods and sacrificial animals.
4 A small kurgan. This kurgan was located 400 meters northwest of the Large Burial Complex. It is 12 meters in diameter and contained six adults and three children, all placed within a square wooden structure. Burial 7, a male, was particularly rich in material remains as was burial 10, a female. Both burials contained a rich inventory of metals. The male burial contained daggers and knives, the female bracelets and needles. Both burials contained sacrificial animals. The authors suggest that this burial complex contained a number of related kin.
5 A little kurgan. This kurgan was 15-16 meters in diameter and contained a single wooden chamber with five bodies. A large "battle chariot" was uncovered and near each of the deceased a rich material inventory. Four additional graves were found outside of the structure. Some Russian archaeologists believe that human sacrifice, as well as the defleshing of the dead, were components of Andronovo burial ritual. If so, perhaps these are candidates for such practice.
6 A big kurgan. This kurgan is 85 meters in diameter and is located almost immediately adjacent to the Large Burial Complex. Around the kurgan there is evidence for a 12 meters wide moat. Within the kurgan there are numerous "ritual fires" surrounding two wooden structures and a large "temple" structure of wood. Unfortunately, this impressive kurgan was looted in antiquity. The principal burial was placed within a vaulted dromos. Over the looted burial chambers an impressive "temple" was constructed.
All of the principal structures described are exceedingly well illustrated both by axiometric drawings as well as detailed plans of the structures and associated features. The book (Gening et al. 1992) is accompanied by a wealth of photographs of which a number are in color. A second volume promises to offer a detailed typology and an analysis of the finds. The settlement and cemetery of Sintashta, whose material remains closely resemble the Petrov culture, a variant of the Andronovo, is usually mentioned together with the settlement of nearby Arkhaim as the SAP culture. In the opinion of the Zdanovichs (1995) this culture is characterized by a common cultural style represented by heavily fortified communities with moats and walls forming circular or sub-rectangular settlements. The SAP burials at Sintashta are affiliated with such settlements (Zdanovich 1997). The burial sites consist of kurgans containing several burials situated around a central grave. The burial chamber consisted of several superimposed layers. At Sintashta a chariot was buried within a wooden construction at the bottom of the tomb. On the roof of the tomb were sacrificed horses; above the horses a single male was interred with a rich variety of prestige goods: daggers, axes, and ceramics.
Traces of fire were discovered around the burial. At Sintashta the excavators interpreted the entire kurgan as a "fire temple." Gennadi Zdanovich (1995, 1997) who excavated both Sintashta and Arkhaim refers to the SAP as the "Country of Towns." Nineteen settlements of the Arkhaim type are known within a region 450 by 150 square kilometers. In this "Country of Towns" fortified settlements are spaced about 20—30 kilometers from each other. The horse drawn chariot, a rich inventory of weaponry, tin-bronze alloying, and disc-like bone cheek pieces (psalia) are all believed to be innovations of the SAP culture. To some the psalia suggest the presence of horseback riding. Many specialists, including Elena Kuzmina and Marsha Levine (1999), believe that horse riding appears only toward the very end of the second millennium (for contrary opinions see later).
The search for new metal resources, the alloying of copper with tin, an intensive dependence on cattlebreeding, the construction of fortified settlements, and the development of the horse-driven chariot are all important innovations of the "Country of Towns." Less attention has been paid to the preservation and study of plant remains. At Arkhaim archaeologists recovered sowing millet (Panicum miliaceum) and Turkestan barley (Hordeum turkestan). The excavator has also argued for the presence of "irrigated fanning" in "kitchen gardens," narrow parallel beds, 3-4 meters wide, divided by deep ditches (Zdanovich 2002: 380). The site of Arkhaim is the most intensively studied and occupies an area of 20,000 square meters. [A recent booklet pertaining to the publications dealing with Arkhaim and related subjects list 381 published items between 1987 and 1997 (Zdanovich 1999a).].
The site of Arkhaim was discovered by two schoolboys on June 20,
1987. Arkhaim is a circular fortified settlement approximately 150
meters in diameter. It is estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000
people inhabited the community. The settlement is surrounded by two
concentric defensive walls constructed of adobe and clay placed
within a log frame. Within the circle, and abutting the defensive
walls, are some sixty semi-subterranean dwellings. Each house
contains hearths, cellars, wells, and some have metallurgical
furnaces. A drainage gutter with water-collecting pits was uncovered
in the circular street that surrounds the inner portion of the
settlement. In the center of the settlement was a rectangular
"plaza." Entrance into the settlement was effected by four
elaborately constructed angular passages, constructed over moats,
and terminating in an elaborate gate. Clearly, access for the
unfamiliar would have been very difficult. Today, larger fortified
settlements with far more impressive stone architecture are known
but remain unexcavated. Settlements in the "Country of Towns" are
interpreted as military forts, proto-cities, and as ceremonial and
religious centers, Russian archaeologists believe that the SAP
culture consisted of three classes: military and religious leaders,
nobles, and peasants. Today among Russian archaeologists there is a
preference to refer to this culture as a "chiefdom" rather than as a
"military democracy" (Koryakova 1996).
The discovery and "saving" of Arkhaim is of special
significance. Initially, the site of Arkhaim was to be flooded by the
construction of a reservoir to be built by the Ministry of Water
Resources of the USSR. Construction of the reservoir was scheduled
for completion in 1989 which would have completely submerged Arkhaim.
In 1989, with the rapid dissolution of the USSR and the concomitant
rise of regional authorities, the Ministry of Water Resources began
to lose its authority. In April 1991 the Council of Ministers of the
Russian Federation decided to halt the construction of the reservoir
and make Arkhaim and its environs a protected site. In subsequent
years a scientific campus was built, as were tourist facilities, and,
in 1999 an impressive Museum of Natural History and Man was under
construction. Today the site of Arkhaim has become a center for
followers of the occult and super-nationalist Russians. It has become
a theater of, and for, the absurd and dangerous. It is advocated by
some that Arkhaim was planned to reproduce a model of the universe;
it was built by the legendary King Yima, as described in the Avesta,
the sacred book of the Persians and Zoroastrians (Medvedev 1999); it
was a temple-observatory comparable to Stonehenge; it was the
birthplace of the prophet Zoroaster who at death was buried at
Sintashta; it is a model for contemporary society of harmonious
relationships between culture and the natural environment; it is the
homeland of the ancient Aryans; and the oldest example of a Slavic
state. Arkhaim also is identified with Asgard, the secret homeland of
the Germanic god Odin; it is the "city of the Aryan hierarchy and
racial purity." The swastika, which appears incised on pottery from Arkhaim,
is proclaimed as the symbol of Aryanism by Russian ultranationalists.
Russian astrologers have also been attracted to Arkhaim.
In 1991 a prominent astrologer, Tamara Globa, during the
summer solstice at Arkhaim, announced that the memory of the site was
preserved by the Indian Magi and its rediscovery was prophesied by
the medieval astrologer Paracelsus. Arkhaim attracts up to 15,000
"tourists" during annual holidays, particularly in the spring and
summer. They come to pray, tap energy from outer space, worship fire,
be cured of disease, dance, meditate, and sing. The thousands of
visitors are a ready source of income supporting Dr. Zdanovich's
research. "We Slavs," he wrote, "consider ourselves to be new
arrivals, but that is untrue. Indo-Europeans and Indo-Iranians had
been living there [in the southern Urals] since the Stone Age and had
been incorporated in the Kazaks, Bashkirs, and Slavs, such is the
common thread linking us all" (quoted in Shnirelman 1998: 37, 1999).
In a word, the Slavs have been in the southern Urals since time
immemorial, they are as primordial as all other modern ethnicities
inhabiting the region. Shnirelman (1995: 1) writes in "Alternative
Prehistory" that nationalist concerns in the former USSR are creating
"an explicitly ethnocentric vision of the past, a glorification of
the great ancestors of the given people, who are treated as if they
made the most valuable contribution to the culture of all humanity."
The wave of nationalism in Russia has given birth to numerous
publications of highly dubious merit. Thus, Kto Oni i Otkuda (Who are
They and Where From 1998) is a publication of the Library of
Ethnography and sanctioned by the Russian Academy of Sciences.
In this monograph one can read that the original homeland of the Vedas was in the Arctic and that the language with the closest affinity to Sanskrit is Russian, The dissolution of the Soviet empire has given rise to a heightened nationalism which, in turn, projects a mythical and majestic Slavic past. The archaeology of Arkhaim is playing an important role in the construction of nationalist myths. Today, wholly unwarranted claims are made for Slavs as the original Aryans, for the Slavic language as closest to Sanskrit, for a Slavic-Aryan origin in the Arctic, for the superiority of the Slavic-Aryans, etc. In discussing ethnic formation Geary states that:.
The second model of ethnogenesis drew on Central Asian steppe peoples for the charismatic leadership and organization necessary to create a people from a diverse following. . . these polyethnic confederations were if anything more inclusive than the first model [in] which ethnic formation followed the identity of a leading or royal family being able to draw together groups which maintained much of their traditional linguistic, cultural and even political organization under the generalship of a small body of steppe commanders. The economic bases of these confederations was semi-nomadic rather than sedentary. Territory and distance played little role in defining their boundaries, although elements of the confederation might practice traditional forms of agriculture and social organization quite different from those of the steppe leadership.
In a similar vein one might imagine the Andronovo consisting
of "polyethnic confederations," which took varying archaeological
expressions: Alakul, Petrov, Abashevo, "The Country of Towns," etc., each maintaining its
"traditional linguistic, cultural, and even political organization."
The identification of the Andronovo as a singularity, in both a
cultural and linguistic sense, transforms the multiple and the complex into the singular and simple. In
considering the history of the peoples of the steppes, whether it be
the confederation of the Huns, Goths, or Sarmatians, Patrick Geary is
at constant pains to point out that "polyethnicity was obvious" and
that "Ethnic labels remained significant. . . but they
designated multiple and at times even contradictory aspects of
social and political identity" (Geary 1999: 117, 125). It is
difficult to imagine, and there is neither archaeological nor
textual evidence to suggest that the Bronze and Iron Age steppe
nomads were politically more centralized and/or ethnically more
monolithic, than they were when first mentioned by Greek and Roman
writers, who were well aware of their diversity.
There are two contending hypotheses for the origins of the SAP culture: (1) it is an indigenous culture, with its roots in the earlier Botai culture of northern Kazakhstan (see Kislenko and Tatarintseva 1999), or (2) its formation is the result of a migration from the west [i.e. from the Abashevo and/or the Mnogovalikovo culture(s) (themselves variants of the Timber Grave culture)]. Kuzmina appears to favor a western origin as forming "the decisive stimulus for the formation of the Andronovo culture" while the Zdanovichs appear to favor indigenous roots. The questions of origins are severely hampered by an inadequate chronological framework. There is a poverty of radiocarbon dates and a plethora of archaeological cultures, all interpreted as variants of the Andronovo culture, spread over a vast distance and extending over a millennium. Recent research in Kazakhstan is able to trace an indigenous series of archaeological cultures from the Mesolithic to the Atbasar culture of the Neolithic; all evident prior to the diffusion of the Andronovo from the west (Kislenko and Tatarintseva 1999),.
The hypothesis that the Andronovo culture, or more specifically one of its subtypes, are lndo-Iranians has met with wide acceptance among Russian archaeologists. Arguments focus upon which variant is Indo-Iranian: is it the SAP, or the Alakul, or the Fedorov? If, on the one hand, the SAP culture stems from the indigenous northern Kazakhstan roots (Botai culture), as believed by some, then the Indo-Iranians were present in the region as early as 2900 BC (uncorrected radiocarbon years from Botai). If, on the other hand, the Indo-Iranian culture was introduced from the west, sometime in the first half of the second millennium, as believed by Kuzmina and a majority of Russian scholars, then there is both an absence of evidence for such migrations and an insufficient time period to allow for them to extend over the vast territories that the Indo-Iranians are believed to have occupied.
Before the discovery of the SAP complex the Alakul culture of
southern Kazakhstan was thought to be the earliest Andronovo
culture, its "classic" expression, and, of Indo-Iranian identity.
Alakul settlements are small, usually consisting of no more than 2-4
houses. These houses, however, are on average considerably larger,
often in excess of the 200 square meters of the earlier SAP houses.
Alakul houses are subdivided into several rooms by interior walls
made of logs, wattle, and daub, or sod bricks. There is a
considerable difference between SAP mortuary practices and those of
the Alakul: large central burials become rare, horse sacrifice
declines, and the richness and variety of grave goods diminish.
Internment is usually on the left side. Weapons and tools are rarely
placed in the graves but decorative items, pendants, bracelets,
etc., abound. Burials are frequently accompanied with sheep/goat.
And, finally, in the last half of the second millennium, Alakul
burials provide evidence of cremation. Distinct similarities between
the Alakul (classic Andronovo) and the Timber Grave culture to the
west have long been argued (Gimbutas 1965) and continue to be
affirmed (Obydennov and Obydennov 1992). The Timber Grave culture
is, in turn, seen as descended from the Pit Grave culture which is
frequently cited as the "original" Indo-Iranian culture (Anthony
1991). In this view an Indo-Iranian presence is first detected in
the Pit Grave culture, continues within the context of the Timber
Grave culture, which influences, through migration, the formation of
the Andronovo culture. Among the Andronovo variants some scholars
identify the Alakul while others offer the SAP as Indo-Iranian.
Physical anthropologists add to this confusion.
Alexeev (1967) believes the Andronovo cranial type indicates a
common pre-Andronovo origin, probably from the west; while Gerasomov
(1.955), studying the same materials, concludes that the Andronovo
were descended from the Afanasiev culture, suggesting a western
The identification of the SAP as Indo-Iranian is buttressed by a number of advocates, including Kuzmina (1994) in her highly influential book. Kuzmina offers numerous parallels between the archaeological record and the Rigvedic and Avestan texts. The parallels drawn are, at best, of a most general nature and do not convince, that is, Andronovo houses were large (50-300 square meters), capable of accommodating extended families. A "reading" of the Indo-Iranian texts, the Avesta and Rigveda, attests to the existence of extended families, thus, the Andronovo were Indo-Iranian. For a more thorough reconstruction of the Indo-Iranian world, as reconstructed from the Avesta, see Windfuhr (1999). Kuzmina's perspective is shared by a majority of Russian archaeologists. She advocates a migration of the SAP from the west, bringing with them a complex social order and horse-drawn wagons. The SAP come into contact with an indigenous and more egalitarian culture, the descendants of the Tersek-Botai culture (Kiselenko and Tatarsineva 1999). The Tersek-Botai peoples, it is suggested, spoke Ugrian languages. With the passing of time further migrations coming from the west, combined with regional diversification, led to the formation of the Alakul and Fedorovo cultures (variants of the Andronovo), whose migrations, in turn, impacted upon the peoples of Central Asia and distant Xinjiang (Jianjun and Snell 1999). The extensive migrations of mobile pastoralists throughout the steppes, beginning c.2200 BC, is attributed, as noted earlier, to an increase in "desertification" and "steppification." The evidence from phytoliths, soil chemistry, and pollen analyses seem to converge in pointing to an increasing aridity throughout the first half of the second millennium. This resulted in expansive migrations in search, of pasturage (the evidence is well summarized by Hiebert 1994).
There is still a great deal of work to be done before the identification of the Indo-Iranians becomes a viable archaeological exercise. The following points are relevant conclusions:.
1 There is absolutely NO archaeological evidence for any variant of the Andronovo culture either reaching or influencing the cultures of Iran or northern India in the second millennium. Not a single artifact of identifiable Andronovo type has been recovered from the Iranian Plateau, northern India, or Pakistan
2 A great deal is made of the horse as an attribute of the
Indo-Iranians, There is NO zooarchaeological evidence for the presence of the horse
in Iran until the last centuries of the second millennium bc, and even then
such finds are exceedingly rare. In South Asia the first appearance of the
horse is at Pirak, Pakistan, and dated to c. 1.700 BC (Jarrige and Santoni 1979).
3 There is a tendency to treat the Andronovo as a single monolithic entity, ignoring the chronological and cultural variations. Recent attempts to differentiate variants of the Andronovo have done much to clarify and much to confuse. It is by no means clear what, for instance, are the specific variants in material culture that differentiate the SAP from the Alakul, or for that matter of any two variants of the Andronovo from each other.
4 The chronological situation is completely out of control. Save for a few carbon-14 dates from Sintashta, the SAP exists in a floating chronology (however see Gorsdorfef at. 1998 for the beginnings of a radiocarbon chronology). How long was the site of Arkhaim inhabited? What was the chronological duration of the "Country of Towns?" What was the date of the Alakul and/or Fedorov influence in Central Asia, that is, in the BMAC and the later Bishkent culture? The dating of the Andronovo culture, with respect to the chronology of its geographical, distribution and cultural variation is simply- non-existent.
5 If the chronological sequence is "floating" so is the
careful explication of the cultural variants of the Andronovo.
Frequently researchers emphasize local, western, and even eastern
influences upon the Andronovo by focusing upon a single attribute,
that is, burial pattern without considering temporal or typological
variations. Typological parallels are drawn in the absence of
chronological control and chronological synchronisms made on the
basis of assumed typological parallels. The fact that sites appear to
be of relatively short duration and are said to rarely overlap offers
a considerable challenge in the building of a chronological sequence.
A fine, but rare, effort toward establishing a relative chronology in
the southern Urals and adjacent eastern steppes, is put forth by Zdanovich (1984).
Kuzmina offers a date for the Petrov culture on the
basis of parallels to the burial methods and psalia found at Mycenae
and in the destruction levels at Troy. On this basis the conventional
dates for the Petrov are given as seventeenth to sixteenth century BC.
Yet, the carbon-14 dates for the supposedly contemporary
Sintashta cemetery cluster c. 1900 BC. The Sintashta chariots are by
no means the earliest ones known. There are several sealing
impressions depicting a chariot and driver in a Mesopotamia!! Early
Dynastic III glyptic, c.2500 BC (Littauer and Crouwel 1979; Green
1993: 60). Uncalibrated radiocarbon dates for the Petrov culture
routinely fall into the end of the third millennium; if calibrated,
they would move to the first half of the third millennium. Clearly,
the nascent radiocarbon chronology is indicating a substantially
greater antiquity for the Andronovo than the present conventional
relative chronology. We shall see that an identical situation existed
in the initial phases of dating the BMAC in Central Asia. The
continued dismissal of mid-third millennium radiocarbon dates for the
Andronovo culture, and an insistence on the present relative
chronology, is entirely counterproductive (Chernykh 1992).
While it is clear that language, culture, and ethnicity are not isomorphic there are times in which one can offer a reasonably convincing argument for correlations. There is, however, no convincing evidence that allows one to make an ethnic or linguistic, affiliation for any cultural variant of the Andronovo culture. Arguments, one of many "ethnohistoric" proposed by Kuzmina, suggest that the large houses of the Andronovo-Timber Grave cultures are prototypes of large Avestan houses. General similarities in material culture and vague parallels in social behavior (i.e. mortuary ritual and emphasis upon horses), drawn from the Avesta, Rigveda, and other "ethnohistoric" sources typify the manner by which Kuzmina relates the Andronovo with the Indo-Iranians. Even more tenuous are the suggestions advanced by the Genings and Zdanovich. In the Sintashta volume they correlate specific Andronovo subcultures and identify them with indo-Iranian tribes. With the recognition of Andronovo subcultures the identification of specific ones as Indo-Iranian has become an industry (Vasilyev et al. 1995). Needless to say there is no consensus on the ethnicity of any single Andronovo subculture. It has yet to be demonstrated that language expansions can be traced through similarities in material culture or that a widely distributed culture, existing for a millennium and consisting of substantial variation, means that a population shares a common or related ethnicity. There are three conclusions that can be advanced concerning the identity of the Andronovo culture (or any of its specific variants) with the Indo-Iranians:
(1) they are "in the right place at the right time." This argument, frequently implied, offers circumstantial evidence but remains thoroughly unconvincing; (2) parallels between the material culture and the environment of the Andronovo are compared to commentaries in the Rigveda and Avesta and are taken to confirm the Indo-Iranian identity of the Andronovo. The parallels are far too general to offer confidence in these correlations; (3) the later Scythians (Saka), known to be Iranian, occupy the same territory and share generalized similarities in material culture with the Andronovo. Thus, the ancestral Andronovo must be Indo-Iranian. Similarity in culture does not necessarily mean identity in language. As often as one recites the mantra that "language, culture, and 'race' are independent variables" as often the mantra is forgotten or ignored. The second chapter of the Indo-Iranian story involves its split into two branches: the Vedic or Indo-Aryan branch, inhabiting India and the Old Iranian, which moved onto the greater Iranian Plateau. Linguists generally place the date for the split of Indo-Aryan and Iranian to the late third millennium and/or the first part of the second millennium bc. Before turning to another archaeological culture identified as Indo-Iranian, one completely different from the Andronovo, it is relevant to identify the presence of the first written texts in an Indo-European language. As we shall see these texts heavily influenced the conceptions of Victor Sarianidi as to the geographical origins and Indo-Iranian identity of the BMAC.
In the fifteenth century BC in a treaty between a Hittite and
Mitanni king the latter swears an oath by a series of gods who are
major Indic deities: Mi-U-ra (Indic Mitra), Aru-na (Varuna),
In-da-ra (Indra), and Na-sa-at-tiya. In another text a man named
Kikkuli, counts from one to nine in Indic numerals and is referred
to as an assussanni (Sanskrit asvasani-), a trainer of horses and
chariotry. And, in yet another text, Indo-Aryan words are used to
describe the color of horses.
Finally, the Mitanni word "marya" is precisely the same word as the "marya" referred to in the Rigveda and meaning "warrior." This evidence leads to the consensus view, namely, that an Indo-Aryan speaking elite of chariot warriors imposed themselves on a native Hurrian population to form a ruling dynasty that endured for several centuries. The date of the appearance of these Indic speakers bears on the origins and expansion of the Indo-Iranians. By the sixteenth/fifteenth centuries bc, as evidenced in the earlier texts from northern Syria and Turkey, a separate Indo-Aryan language already had diverged from a putative Indo-Iranian linguistic entity. Thus, the split of the indo-Iranian languages (into Iranian and Indo-Aryan) must predate the fifteenth/fourteenth centuries bc, perhaps by as much as 500 years. Roman Ghirshman (1977) attempted to identify the arrival of the Indo-Aryans in the region of the Hurrians (northern Syria) by affiliating them with a certain type of widely distributed ceramic - Habur Ware, as well as with black and grey wares. This untenable argument was elegantly dispelled by Carol Kramer (1977) in her essay on "Pots and People.".
The ethnic and linguistic identity of the Andronovo remains elusive but much discussed. A great deal is made of the importance of the horse within the Andronovo cultural context. But when did they actually begin to ride the horse? Was the development of horse-riding a stimulus to the development of multi-animal (sheep, goat, cattle) pastoralism? What was their relative dependence upon pastoral transhumance compared to sedentary agriculture? And what plants did they harvest? In the absence of settlement archaeology, save for the newly discovered "Country of Towns" we have virtually no understanding of the demographic setting on the steppes. Khazanov (1983: 333) contrasts the dramatic increase in the animals a shepherd can control when riding horseback, up to 2,000 sheep, compared with less than 500 on foot. When did pastoral transhumance on horseback emerge? And to what extent did the fragile environment of the steppes, with such critical factors as severe winters, the relative unavailability of water, and the failure of rainfall in as many as six out of ten years, contribute to the importance of out migration (diffusion)? (Khazanov 1983). These are but several fundamental questions that remain to be answered. High on that list is: When did horseback riding begin? David Anthony (2000) supports an early date, late fourth/early third millennium, while Levine (1999) finds conclusive evidence only in the late second millennium. Interestingly, in Mesopotamia the King of Man, c. 1800 BC, is admonished not to ride a horse, lest he jeopardize his status: "You are the King of the Hanaeans and King of the Akkadians. You should not ride a horse. Let my king ride a chariot or on a mule and he will thereby honor his head" (Malamat 1989).
A major contender for Indo-Iranian identity, and a relatively
new actor on the archaeological stage of Central Asia, is a cultural
complexity of great significance. The BMAC was discovered and named
by Victor Sarianidi (1976: 71) following his excavations in
Afghanistan in the late 1970s (for a bibliography of significant BMAC
publications see Klochkov 1999).
Bactria was the name given by the Greeks to the regions of northern Afghanistan, the territory around the Amu Darya River, while Margiana (Margush) was a Persian province of the Achaemenid empire, whose capital was Merv, in present-day Turkmenistan. Victor Sarianidi (1998a,b) in two important volumes not only has identified the BMAC as Indo-Iranian but isolated, within the archaeological record, what he believes to be distinctive Proto-Zoroastrian cultural characteristics.
In the mid-1970s Soviet archaeologists undertook extensive surveys and excavations in Afghanistan. Following five years of excavation at the important site of Delbarjin (Kushan/Buddhist) a new publication was initiated specifically to report on these excavations and surveys: Drevnii Baktria (Ancient Bactria). In the first volume Sarianidi (1976) published his excavations in the Dashly Oasis. In the following year (Sarianidi 1977) he published the first extensive synthesis of his work in Afghanistan. His excavations at Dashly III uncovered a "rotund building" which was interpreted as a temple. The Dashly III culture was reconstructed along Mesopotamian lines; there was a temple community presided over by a "chief priest," which eventually gave way to kingship as the communal sector became privatized. The large round building, which had an outer buttressed wall, was the focus of the community, with radial streets leading to the "temple." The "temple," with dozens of rooms indicating domestic functions, was believed to house 150-200 people. Numerous bronze compartmented seals were recovered but no sealings. The seals were attributed the same function as in Mesopotamia; for securing doors as well as stored and transported goods. Sarianidi concluded that the Dashly III settlements were self-sufficient communities, managed as temple estates. He specifically draws a parallel between them and the Uruk community of Mesopotamia. Already in this first publication he rather cautiously, a caution that will later be abandoned, suggests that at Dashly III there are a few elements that find ready parallel in the Rigveda and Avesta: cattlebreeding, fire temples, circular and rectangular fortresses, animal burials, and the presence of camel (Sarianidi 1984).
There are fundamental differences between Sarianidi's (1990)
first book, Drevnosti Strani Margush detailing the BMAC, and his most
recent publication, Margiana and Protozoroastrianism (1998b). In many
respects Drevnosti Strani Margush is both more extensively
illustrated and more fully documented than his later volume. Excavations at Takhirbai (1000-750 BC), Togolok
21 (1250-1000 BC), Gonur [Dashly III/Namazga VI] (1500-1250 BC), and Kelleli [=
Hissar 111] (1700-1500 BC) offer an extraordinarily rich
documentation of material remains, architectural exposure, as well
as a chronological sequence. The very extensive horizontal exposure
on each of these sites, a signature of Soviet archaeology, is almost
as impressive as the monumental architecture discovered on each of
the settlements, identified as either a temple, fort, or palace. The
site of Gonur, believed by Sarianidi to be the "capital" of the BMAC
in Margiana throughout the Bronze Age, contains all three and
remains the focus of Sarianidi's archaeological excavations to this
day. The palace at North Gonur measures 150 X 140 square meters, the
temple at Togolok is 140 X 100 square meters, the fort at Kelleli 3
is 125 X 125 square meters, while the house of a local ruler at Adji
Kui is 25 X 25 square meters.
Each of these formidable structures has been fully excavated - plus a great deal more. The temples, forts, and palaces all have impressive fortification walls, gates, and buttresses. It is not always clear why one structure is identified as a temple and another a palace. There is no clear signature, architectural template, within the BMAC. In fact, each building is unique, save for the fact that all are fortified by impressive walls and gates. Although Sarianidi offers ample illustrations he rarely offers specific provenience, room, or feature, in which an object was recovered. However, when a complex feature is excavated, as in the so-called "priestess burial" at Togolok 1, where two bulls and a driver may have been sacrificed, he offers a full contextual analysis. The majority of the objects often are ascribed simply to a major feature, that is, the palace at North Gonur. In Drevnosti Strani Margush the author advocates a late second millennium chronology for the BMAC, derives its origin as the result of a migration from southeastern Iran, and identifies it as Indo-Iranian; with objects, beliefs, and rituals ancestral to later Zoroastrianism. An impressive series of illustrations offer specific parallels in the pottery, seals, stone bowls, and metal types found in the BMAC with sites in Baluchistan, as well as with the specific sites, that is, Tepe Yahya, Shahdad, and the Jhukar culture of late Harappan times. There is absolutely no doubt, as amply documented by Pierre Amiet (1984), of the existence of BMAC material remains recovered from Susa, Shahdad, and Tepe Yahya. There is, however, every reason to doubt that because these parallels exist that the BMAC originates in southeastern Iran. This is extremely unlikely for the BMAC materials are intrusive in each of the sites on the Iranian Plateau as they are also on sites of the Arabian Peninsula (Potts 1994).
In Drevnosti Strani Margush (p. 62) and Margiana and Protozoroastrianism (p. 42) Sarianidi addresses the nature and extent of cultural influence that characterized the BMAC and the steppe cultures, the Andronovo. Even though steppe ceramics have been found on the sites of Togolok 1 and 21, Kelleli, Taip, Gonur, and Takhirbai, Sarianidi is adamant in opposing any significant Andronovo influence on the BMAC. Kuzmina and Lapin (1984) suggest that drought caused the drying up of the delta of the Murghab River, making possible an incursion from the steppes by the Andronovo warrior tribes and an end to the BMAC. By the middle of the second millennium all BMAC sites are abandoned - the reason(s) accounting for this dramatic process and/or event remain entirely elusive. Sarianidi finds neither merit nor evidence for attributing the steppe culture(s) as the agents that brought about the abandonment. In Drevnosti Strani Margush he states, "Contrary to the archaeological evidence is the statement that pottery of steppe character was "plentiful" on the sites of south Turkmenistan. Pottery of the Andronovo type do not exceed 100 fragments in all of south Turkmenistan" (my translation p. 63). As rigorous approaches to data retrieval were not practiced such a figure must be merely impressionistic.
The question of the nature and the extent of interaction that
characterized the steppic cultures, the generic Andronovo culture,
and the sedentary farmers of Central Asia, specifically the BMAC, is
of fundamental importance.
As we have noted both archaeological entities are distinctive in their material culture, both are chronologically synchronous, and both have been identified as Indo-Iranian. Decades ago, in his excavations at Takhirbai 3, V. M. Masson (1992) suggested that in the first half of the second millennium a high degree of interaction characterized the relations of the steppe nomads and the sedentary farmers of Bactria and Margiana. This has been resoundingly confirmed by the highly productive archaeological surveys undertaken recently by the Turkman-Russian-Italian surveys in Margiana (Gubaev et al, 1998). Erdosy (1998: 143) has recently observed that "the greatest desideratum is a clearer understanding of spatial relationships, the one area of archaeological research that has been seriously neglected by Soviet scholarship." The archaeological surveys in the Murghab have documented hundreds of settlements of the BMAC, post-BMAC, and sites containing what the archaeologists refer to as "Incised Coarse Ware" (ICW). The ICW (readily identified as a generic Andronovo ceramic) appears on sites of BMAC, post-BMAC, as well as on settlements exclusively containing ICW. There can be little doubt that the interaction of peoples from the steppes with their sedentary Central Asian neighbors was both extensive and intensive. The fortified settlements of the "Country of Towns" and the well fortified settlements of the BMAC suggest that the interaction was not always peaceful. In a more recent publication Sarianidi (1999) acknowledges this interaction and offers a new slant: "Andronovo type vessels [were found] only in the rooms that were used for the preparation of soma-haoma type drinks in Margiana." Thus, Sarianidi concludes that the BMAC are Indo-Aryan and the Andronovo are Iranian. Both are proto-Zoroastrian sharing common cultic rituals. Clearly, the Turkman-Russian-Italian surveys in the Murghab indicate that the region was what Mary Louise Pratt (1992: 6-7) calls a "contact zone," "the space in which peoples geographically and historically separated come into contact with each other and establish on-going relations, usually involving conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and intractable conflict," relations characterized by "radically asymmetrical relations of power." The relationship that characterized the peoples from the steppes with BMAC, and post-BMAC cultures, remains undefined. The fact that both fortified their settlements is suggestive. Again, the surveys in the Murghab suggest that archaeological cultures, no less than modern ones, are not separated "cultures" or "ethnic groups," or what Geertz (2000: 234) calls "lumps of sameness marked out by limits of consensus" but permeable mosaics of interacting similarities and differences.
The Turkman—Russian—Italian surveys in the Murghab have offered a
resounding confirmation of the complex interaction that
characterized the region throughout the Bronze Age. Evidence for the
interaction of settled farmers and the Andronovo culture also come
from the excavations in southern Tadjikistan at the site of
Kangurttut (Vinogradova 1994). In this settlement archaeologists
recovered Andronovo ceramics, knives, and daggers, including molds
for the production of classic Andronovo type daggers. The site is
radiocarbon dated to the middle of the second millennium and said to
be associated with the Mollali phase of the Sapalli culture, that is
the very end of the BMAC.
The excavator suggests that the "infiltration process of the Andronovo tribes to the south was relatively slow" and that it was characterized by a peaceful process, such that a "settling down and dissolution of steppe population into that of farming oases could take place" (Vinogradova 1994: 46).
The transition to the Iron Age is one of both continuity and discontinuity. In the second half of the second millennium the Yaz culture emerges, the earliest of Iron Age cultures, and with it an increasing sedentarization of nomads, the emergence of monumental architecture, newly founded settlements, and the emergence of painted pottery with parallels to Susa in Iran and Pirak in Baluchistan. Within the Iron Age, and its widely distributed grey wares, the Yaz culture is frequently cited as a candidate for Indo-Iranian identity (Young 1967; Ghirshman 1977).
The extensive metallurgy of the steppes as well as that of the BMAC is well documented. The types that characterize each of the regions are entirely distinctive. Sarianidi (1990) offers an important analysis of BMAC metals and an appendix on the analysis of specific botanical remains. In her study of the metals, N. N. Terekhova concludes that techniques of casting and forging were utilized in the production of objects manufactured from copper - arsenides, native copper and copper-tin bronze. In the latter category twenty-six objects were analyzed having 1-10 percent tin: N. R, Meyer-Melikyan analyzed floral remains recovered from the monumental complex at Togolok 21. "The samples are floral remains: fragments of stems, often with leaves, pollen grains, anterophors, microsporangia, and scraps of megasporia skin and parts of fruit" (p. 203) which were found in large pithoi in rooms 23 and 34. She concludes that the remains belong to the Ephedra genus. Sarianidi is thus afforded the opportunity of following a number of scholars who believe that ephedra was the essential ingredient in the sacred drink, haoma or soma. This mildly intoxicating drink is referred to in the sacred books of the Indo-Iranians: the Rigveda and the Avesta. As previously noted presence of ephedra at Gonur is taken by Sarianidi as further testimony for both Indo-Iranian and Protozoroastrian identity of the BMAC. On numerous sites Sarianidi identifies altars, fire temples, the importance of fire in mortuary rituals, fractional burials, burials in vessels, cremation, and in chamber 92 at Gonur a "dakhma" is identified. A "dakhma" refers to a communal burial structure, associated with Zoroastrian mortuary practice, in which the dead are exposed.
The use of ephedra to produce haoma, the presence of fire temples, fire altars (which Sarianidi directly compares to "pavi" — Zoroastrian altars), and specific mortuary rituals (animal sacrifice), are all advanced in Drevni Strani Margush to bolster the Indo-Iranian and Protozoroastrian identity of the BMAC. This hypothesis underscores Sarianidi's recent book Margiana and Protozoroastrianism.
Much of Margiana and Protozoroastrianism, in both text and
illustration, is derived, if not directly translated, from his
earlier work (Sarianidi 1990). There are, however, several important
revisions as well as the inclusion of new data, particularly from the
excavations at Gonur. Most significantly, in his recent book
Sarianidi (1999) accepts, albeit uneasily, the higher chronology for
the BMAC, already advanced in the mid-1980s by a number of scholars.
A series of radiocarbon dates, collected by Fredrik Hiebert (1.994) at Gonur on behalf of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, offers unequivocal evidence for the dating of the BMAC to the last century of the third millennium and the first quarter of the second millennium. A new series of radiocarbon dates from Tepe Yahya IVB-4, where BMAC imports were recovered, confirms the late third millennium dating for the beginnings of the BMAC (Lamberg-Karlovsky 2001). The BMAC, rather than dating to the second half of the second millennium, is to be dated to the end of the third and beginning of the second millennium. Sarianidi (1999: 78) now writes "that the first colonists from the west appeared in Bactria and Margiana at the transition of the III—II millennia B.C." (p. 78). However, his insistence upon the late dating of Gonur to 1500-1200 BC continues to fly in the face of his own carbon-14 dates which average 300-500 years earlier.
Of equal significance is Sarianidi's new perspective on the origins of the BMAC. Animal burials, camel and ram, were recovered from Gonur and other BMAC sites. At North Gonur the "Tomb of the Lamb" contained a decorated metal macehead, silver and bronze pins with elaborately decorated heads, an ornamental ivory disc, and numerous "faience" and bone pieces of in-lay. Sarianidi interprets this as evidence for the transition from human to animal sacrifice, even though there is no unequivocal evidence, either on the steppes or in Central Asia, for human sacrifice.
Mortuary rituals, architectural parallels (particularly in what he calls "temples"), and above all, stylistic similarities in cylinder seals, all converge to suggest to Sarianidi that Bactria and Margiana were colonized by the immigrants from the Syro-Anatolian region (1998a: 76, 142). This argument is given greater weight in Myths of Ancient Bactria and Margiana on its Seals and Amulets (hereafter, Myths), Sarianidi directs a migration of "tribes" from, the regions of Syro-Anatolia in two directions: (1) Across the Zagros to Elam and Susa, where there are numerous BMAC parallels (Amiet 1984), and from there to Shahdad and Yahya, where again BMAC materials are found (Hiebert and Lamberg-Kalovsky 1992), and finally toward Baluchistan. (2) A second wave went north of Lake Urmia, skirted the Elburz Mountains, colonized Hissar in Period 111B, and finally went on to settle in the oases of Bactria and Margiana.
There is scant evidence to support the notion of an extensive
migration from Syro-Anatolia to Bactria-Margiana at any point in the
archaeological record!. Architectural similarities are exceedingly
generalized and where parallels are drawn they pay little attention
to time/space systematics. Thus, a text from Qumran referring to
animal sacrifice is paralleled to the "Tomb of the Lamb" at Gonur,
while a "Ligabue vessel," said to come from an illegal excavation at
Shahdad, finds a (vague) parallel in the Aegean and "proves the real
historical link of the tribes that immigrated from the west with the
Mycenean-Minoan world" to Bactria-Margiana (Sarianidi 1998a: 44). For
Sarianidi the evidence derived from the BMAC seals is conclusive. He
believes that the seals used motifs and subject composition that have
an "undisputed Hittite-Mitannian origin" (1998a: 143).
One gets the impression that Sarianidi chose the Syro-Anatolian region as the homeland of the BMAC in order to situate it within the geographical region in which the first Indo-Aryan texts, discussed earlier, were recovered. This presumably strengthens his Indo-Aryan claim for the BMAC (1999). His book Myths is devoted to convincing the reader that the BMAC seals derive their thematic inspiration and style from the Syro-Anatolian region. For another expansive catalog of BMAC and related seals see Baghestani (1997).Myths is an extremely important and valuable publication. A total of 1,802 seals are illustrated, describing (1) seal type: cylindrical, flat, three-sided prisms, compartmented; (2) material: stone, copper, silver, shell, faience, gypsum, clay; (3) size; description of scene; and (4) provenience. Of the 1,802 seals less than 250 have an archaeological provenience; the largest provenienced corpus is from Gonur where almost a hundred were recovered. Most of the seals are attributed to their places of sale: the Kabul Bazaar, the Anahita Gallery; or museums: the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art; or private collectors: Ron Garner, Jonathan Rosen. There are less than two dozen sealings and ten sealed bullae (some baked) listed as coming from Gonur and/or Togolok. Given the extensive areas excavated, with particular attention to elite quarters, this is a very limited number of sealings. Nevertheless, the presence of bullae and sealings does suggest economic functions and security concerns similar, at least in part, to Mesopotamian seal/sealing practices. With reference to writing, I. S. Klotchkov (1998) has made the intriguing suggestion that signs on a potsherd recovered from Gonur contain Elamite linear script. This find remains the only evidence for writing(?) within the BMAC.
The discussion of the seals is divided into Group 1, The
Anthropomorpha, including scenes depicting seated deities on thrones,
animals, or dragons; the mistress of animals, kneeling deities and
heroes in combat; Group 2, serpents and dragons; Group 3, fabulous
creatures, including winged lions, griffins; Group 4, animals and
birds; Group 5, Arthropoda and Plants, including scorpions, snakes,
poppies, tulips, and ephedra; Group 6, Individual Seals and Amulets,
seals of such individuality as to defy classification. In discussing
each of these groups Sarianidi emphasizes both the general and the
specific parallels to seals in Syro-Anatolia. There is no doubt that
a few BMAC seals, less than half-a-dozen, find parallel, in theme
and/or style with those of Syro-Anatolian type. Sarianidi is
relentless in his effort to convince the reader that the origins of
the BMAC are to be found in the Hittite-Mitannian world. Generalized
parallels are interpreted as evidence for specific BMAC origins.
Thus, generic birds appear associated with seated "deities" on seals
from the Elamite, Mesopotamian, and the Syro-Anatolian world. Yet,
Sarianidi emphasizes only the Syro-Anatolian parallels, which have,
at best, very generalized similarities. There is nothing in the style
of the BMAC seals illustrating birds that privileges its derivation
from any of the above regions. Nevertheless, Sarianidi not only
derives the birds depicted on BMAC seals as Syro-Anatolian but
associates the bird with Varaghna, the symbol of might and victory in
the Avesta; "I suppose that this image was generated in the local
Indo-Iranian milieu before Zarathustra" (1998b: 23).
The vast majority of the BMAC seals contain motifs, styles, and even material, entirely foreign to the repertoire of seals from Syro-Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the Gulf, and the Indus. The BMAC seals are of a thoroughly distinctive type and are to be seen as indigenous to the Central Asian Bronze Age world and not as derivative from any other region. BMAC seals have been found in the Indus civilization, on the Iranian Plateau, at Susa and in the Gulf. Amiet (1984) and T. Potts (1994) have documented the wide ranging distribution of BMAC materials. It is in the context of a wide ranging distribution of BMAC artifacts that the specific parallels to the Syro-Anatolian region are to be appreciated. The wide scatter of a limited number of BMAC artifacts does not privilege any area as a "homeland" for the BMAC. An extremely limited number of parallels between the BMAC and Syro-Anatolia signify the unsurprising fact that, at the end of the third and beginning of the early second millennium, interregional contacts in the Near East brought people from the Indus to Mesopotamia and from Egypt to the Aegean into contact.
A distant BMAC "homeland," followed by an expansive migration to Central Asia, is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. Nevertheless, the origins of the BMAC remains a fundamental issue. Although some scholars advance the notion that the BMAC has indigenous roots, the fact remains that the material culture of the BMAC is not easily derived from the preceding Namazga IV culture, thus suggesting its intrusive nature. The wide scatter of BMAC materials from southeastern Iran to Baluchistan and Afghanistan suggests that the beginnings of the BMAC could lie in this direction, an area of enormous size and an archaeological terra nullius. In fact, the BMAC of Central Asia may turn out to be its most northern extension while its heartland might be found in the vast areas of unexplored Baluchistan and Afghanistan.
Ahmed Ali Askarov (1977), and in a later publication with T.
S. Shirinov (1993), is responsible for excavating two important BMAC
settlements in Uzbekistan: Sapalli depe and Djarkutan. The recent
syntheses of these excavations (Askarov and Shirinov 1993) offers an
abundance of illustrations of the architecture, ceramics, and
material remains recovered from BMAC sites. The walled settlement of
Djarkutan covers an area of approximately 100 hectares and features a
fortress, almost completely excavated, of more than 3 hectares. The
material inventory as well as the architecture firmly places
Djarkutan and Sapalli depe within the BMAC cultural context. Askarov
follows the late chronology of Sarianidi, placing Djarkutan within
the second half of the second millennium bc. He also follows
Sarianidi in identifying the presence of palaces, temples, and "fire
altars" as having to do with a proto-Zoroastrian world. Special
attention is paid to a large structure at Djarkutan, over 50 X 35
square meters, identified as a "fire temple," The structure contains
extensive storage facilities with a large paved central room having
at its center a raised podium believed to be the seat of the "sacred
fire." Other rooms also contained "fire altars." The
proto-Zoroastrian nature of this impressive building is explicitly
stated. At both Djarkutan and Sapelli depe extensive areas uncovered
dozens of structures and numerous graves.
There is little attribution of materials to specific rooms and/or structures. One obtains only a vague notion as to how many building levels exist within a single site. My own visits to the sites of Gonur, Togolok, and Djarkutan clearly confirm that each of these sites has multiple building levels. The publications, however, present the data as being essentially from a single period of time. Even though Sarianidi points out that Gonur had 3 meters of accumulation, and Taip 2.5 meters, the stratigraphic complexity and/or periodization of these sites are left unexplored. Thus, the internal development and chronology of the BMAC still awaits definition. Askarov takes the opportunity of reconstructing the social stratification at Djarkutan, from an aristocracy to slavery, all within a state structured society. He identifies both sites as inhabited by Indo-Iranian tribes which, he believes, played an important role in the later formation of Uzbek, Tadjik, and Turkman nationalities.
The settlement pattern around Djarkutan and Sapalli mirrors that of the sites excavated by Sarianidi. A large settlement with impressive "temples" and/or "palaces" is surrounded by smaller agricultural villages. After Sapalli was abandoned, for reasons unknown, the site, particularly the region about the "temple," was utilized as a cemetery. A total of 138 graves were excavated. Raffaele Biscione and L. Bondioli (1988) studied these graves to great benefit. Females outnumber males by 3:2. There is also a difference in the amount of wealth placed in the tombs; females are given an average of 15.5 objects while males are given 7.5 objects. There are no differences in the types of materials placed in the tombs; both male and female tombs contain numerous ceramics, metals, and stone vessels. Two male tombs, however, stand out from all the rest. In these the dead are buried in wooden coffins and are accompanied, by the greatest number of goods. The authors draw attention to the fact that the general lack of gender distinction, with regard to accompanying grave wealth, mirrors a similar pattern on the steppes where the pattern of gender equality remains a characteristic of Scythian burials of the late first millennium.
Striking evidence for BMAC-Steppe interaction is reported from
the salvage excavation of an elite tomb discovered along the upper
Zerafshan River, Tadjikistan (Bobomulloev 1999). Excavation of this
tomb yielded the burial of a single male, accompanied by a ram, horse
bits (psalia), identical to those recovered from Sintashta, a bronze
pin, terminating with a horse figurine, and, numerous ceramics of
BMAC type. This striking association of steppic and BMAC material in
a single tomb underscores the existence of a paradox. On the steppes
there is ample evidence for the use of horses, wagons, and chariots
but an exceedingly sparse presence of BMAC material remains. While
within BMAC communities there is only scanty evidence for the
presence of steppic ceramics and a complete absence of the use and/or
presence of horses, their equipment, or their depiction. Such an
assymetry in the distribution of these highly distinctive cultures
would seem to suggest a minimum of contact between the two. The fact
that representative communities of both cultures, that is, Arkhaim
and Gonur, are heavily fortified suggests the recognition and need
within each community to prepare for conflict.
The extent of the conflict that existed within these distinctive cultures, as well as between them, remains an unknown but important question to be addressed. The asymmetry, that is the almost complete absence for evidence of contact between the BMAC and the steppes is made the more enigmatic by the evidence of settlement survey. The Turkman-Russian-Italian surveys indicate that numerous sites of steppe culture are situated near BMAC settlements. The mutually exclusive evidence for the material remains of one culture to be wholly absent from its neighboring "others" suggests intentional avoidance. Clearly this situation, should it be correctly interpreted, requires theoretical insights beyond our present abilities.
In the second century BC Zhang Qian, a Chinese envoy stationed in the western provinces, compared the nature of the agrarian and nomadic polities in Xinjiang. More recently Nicola DiCosmo (2000) suggests that the Iron Age settlements of Xinjiang are similar to the BMAC sites with respect to size, fortifications, oasis environments, subsistence patterns, and processes of nomadic-sedentary interaction. Zhang Qian wrote of twenty-four such "walled towns" in Xinjiang that served as "capitals." DiCosmo (2000), in turn, refers to these nomadic settlements as "city-states." Their size varied greatly. On the one hand, the state of Wutanzli consisted of 41 households: 231 individuals, of which 57 were capable of bearing arms. On the other hand, the state of Yanqi was among the most populous: 4,000 households, with 32,100 individuals and an army of 6,000. Chinese sources identify these political entities as "guo," traditionally rendered in English as "state." Each "guo" was characterized as a political formation with a recognizable head, a bureacratic hierarchy, and a military organization. The Chinese texts indicate that the pastoral-nomads maintained a larger military ratio than their agrarian neighbors. Within Eurasia, pastoral-nomadic states, city-states, and even empires, is a common conceptual framework. In the late Iron Age the scale of nomadic "empire" is attested by the Wusun, who inhabited the Tarim Basin of Xinjiang. They had a population of 630,000 people and an army of 188,800 (quoted in DiCosmo 2000: 398). To the Wusun can be added the pastoral-nomadic Saka, Yuezhi, Xiongnu, and the later Mongol confederations; each of which affected the political organization of Eurasia on a continental scale. The relationships that characterized the nomadic and sedentary communities, as recorded in the Chinese texts, were typically hostile. Why? Chinese sources answer the question: insufficient food supplies resulted in competition and conflict over agricultural resources. When nomadic polities were strong they extracted tribute from their more sedentary neighbors; thus, assuring the need for an extensive military presence in return for a sufficient and regular food supply (see also Jettmar 1997).
Skeletal remains from sites of the BMAC have been studied and
compared to those of the Harappan civilization. This study has
concentrated upon cranial non-metric variations and concluded that
the populations of the BMAC and Harappa were "profoundly" different
(Hemphill 1999). The authors believe their study documents a
"general movement of gene flow from west to east, from western Iran
to the oases of Central Asia" (1995: 863).
It is the view of these authors that the BMAC either originated in, or passed through, Iran. The use of "cranial non-metric variation," that is to say the presence or absence of certain non-metric features on the skull, cannot be referred to as "gene flow" and hardly merits the sweeping conclusions advanced. There is absolutely no evidence that genes are involved in governing the presence or the absence of the cranial features studied. There are numerous non-genetic factors that account for cranial features and their variation, that is, diet. To speak of "gene flow" suggests a degree of understanding of the genetic structure of the architecture of the skull that we simply do not have!.
Russian scholars working in the Eurasiatic steppes are nearly unanimous in their belief that the Andronovo, and its variant expressions, are Indo-Iranians. Similarly, Russian and Central Asian scholars working on the BMAC all share the conviction that the BMAC is Indo-Iranian. The BMAC and the Andronovo are contemporary but their archaeological cultures and environmental settings are vastly different. Passages from the Avesta and the Rigveda are quoted by different authors to support the Indo-Iranian identity of both the BMAC and the Andronovo. The passages are sufficiently general as to permit the Plains Indians of North America an Indo-Iranian identity! Furthermore, archaeology offers virtually no evidence for BMAC influence on the steppe and only scant evidence for an Andronovo presence within the settlement of the BMAC. There is little archaeological evidence within the settlements to support the notion that the Andronovo and the BMAC experienced a significant and/or sustained contact. Yet, settlement surveys indicate that the distinctive communities were close neighbors, exploiting the same environment. There is certainly no evidence to support the notion that the BMAC and the Andronovo shared a common ancestor. To date the horse has not been identified in the BMAC and the very diagnostic metal inventories that characterize both cultures are entirely absent in the other. There is simply no compelling archaeological evidence to support, or for that matter to deny, the notion that either one, both, or neither are Indo-Iranians.
Indo-Iranian is a linguistic construct that formed a shared
culture prior to its separation into Iranian and Indic branches. One
branch of the Indo-Iranians went to Iran and another to northern
India. The date of their arrival in these new homelands is typically
taken to be in the second millennium bc. One conclusion can be
readily stated: there is not a single artifact of Andronovo type that
has been identified in Iran or in northern India! The same cannot be
said of the BMAC. There is ample evidence for the presence of BMAC
materials on the Iranian Plateau and Baluchistan: Susa, Shahdad,
Yahya, Khurab, Sibri, Miri Qalat, Deh Morasi Ghundai, Nousharo, etc.
(for a review see Hiebert and Lamberg-Karlovsky 1992). It is
impossible, however, to trace the continuity of the BMAC material
culture into the first millennium and relate it to the known cultures
of Iranian speakers - the Medes or the Achaemenids (or their presumed
Iron Age ancestors, see Young 1967; Ghirshman 1977).
Within the entirety of the second millennium the only intrusive archaeological culture that directly influences Iran and northern India is the BMAC. However, it remains impossible to link the BMAC with the development of later second and first millennium archaeological cultures on the Iranian Plateau.
The archaeological quest for the identity of the Indo-Iranians
remains elusive. When Indo-Iranians are identified in the
archaeological record it is by allegation not by demonstration. It is
interesting to note that the emphasis in the archaeological (and
linguistic) literature has focused entirely upon the Indo-Iranians.
What of the other major linguistic families believed to be inhabiting
the same regions, the Altaic, Ugric, and Dravidian? The
cultural-historical condition becomes inordinately complicated when
one introduces the other languages that have an equal claim to be
present in the same regions as the Indo-Iranian language. Thus, there
is an equally valid quest in searching for the homeland and
subsequent migration of the Altaic languages (Turkish, Mongolian),
Ugric (Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian) - see Gamkrelidze and Ivanov for
a full listings of these language families and Elamo-Dravidian. Each
of these three language families have their roots on the Eurasiatic
steppes and/or in Central Asia. The fact that these language
families, compared to Indo-European, are of far less interest to the
archaeologist with regard to the study of homeland(s) and/or
subsequent spread, may have a great deal to do with the fact that it
is primarily speakers of Indo-European who address this topic in
search of their own roots. The archaeologist A. L. Netchitailo (1996)
cuts to the chase by referring to all archaeological cultures on the
steppes as belonging to what he calls "the European community." Such
a view can be interpreted as inclusive, in which Altaic and Ugrian
speakers become European, or exclusive, in which case the former
played no role on the steppes. Both views are wrong! One of the
variants of the Andronovo culture and the BMAC may have spoken
Indo-Iranian but they may have just as readily spoken a Dravidian
and/or an Altaic language. Contemporary methodologies, be they
linguistic or archaeological, are virtually non-existent for
determining which language a remote archaeological culture spoke.
Simplified notions of the congruence between an archaeological
culture and an ethnic group is no more than mere speculation, often
one with a political agenda. Archaeology has a long way to go before
its methodology allows one to establish which cultural markers,
pottery, architecture, burials, etc., are most reliable for
designating ethnic identity. Some scholars, both linguists and
archaeologists, subscribe to the notion that the Dravidians migrated
from the Iranian highlands to South Asia where they came into
contact with the Indus civilization (Witzel 1999), others even
suggest that the horse and the camel were introduced into Iran by
Dravidians (Allchin 1995: 31; Kenoyer 1998: 78). Which archaeological
culture in Iran/Central Asia can be identified with the Dravidians?
Could the BMAC be Dravidians pushed onto the Iranian Plateau by
Altaic and/or Indo-Iranian steppe nomads? Indeed, the BMAC could have
been Indo-Iranian as well as Dravidian, or Altaic, or any combination of the three! If, say the BMAC are Dravidians,
then where and what archaeological cultures represent the others? There are either
too many languages and too few archaeological cultures to permit for
a ready fit between archaeology and language, or too few languages
and too many archaeological cultures.
Archaeologists and linguists share a difficulty in confronting and identifying processes of convergence and divergence. Migrations result in linguistic and cultural divergence, giving rise to the family tree model of language formation, while seriation, the establishment of a "genetic" relationship between two objects within distinctive material cultures, indicates cultural divergence within the archaeological record. Convergence, that is the coming together of two distinctive languages and/or cultures, is a more recent linguistic concern. Within archaeology, convergence is completely ignored. Archaeological cultures either progress in linear fashion, change due to internal social processes (rarely demonstrated), or more typically are altered by external factors (population pressure, climate change, migration/diffusion, etc.). Migrations, once a fashionable explanation for cultural divergence, have, in recent years, lost their appeal. The Australian linguist R. M. W. Dixon (1997) has given new life to the importance of linguistic convergence, first advocated by Trubetskoy (1939). Dixon convincingly argues that migrations, which trigger linguistic (and cultural) divergence, is a rare "event"; the more normal situation being processes of linguistic (and cultural?) convergence:.
Over most of human history there has been an equilibrium situation. In a given geographical area there would have been a number of political groups, of similar size and organization, with no one group having undue prestige over the others. Each would have spoken its own language or dialect. They would have constituted a long-term linguistic area, with the languages existing in a state of relative equilibrium
The extract would seem to describe the archaeological cultures of
the steppes, from the Pit Grave culture(s) to the Andronovo
culture(s). Given the increasingly large number of divisions and
subdivisions of the generic Andronovo culture(s), with evidence for
"no one group having undue prestige over the others," there is
neither reason nor evidence to believe that they all shared an
Indo-Iranian language. From the common roots of the millennia-long
Andronovo culture(s) [and before that the related Timber Grave
culture(s)], processes of both convergence and divergence
[archaeologically indicated by the eastward migrations of the
Andronovo culture(s)] allow for the presence of not only the
Indo-Iranian languages but for other language families as well, that
is, Altaic and Uralic. Clearly, the convergence of cultures, that
is, the assimilation of local populations by an in-coming peoples,
is very poorly developed within the archaeological discipline. The
variations in distinction between cultural/linguistic and
convergence/ divergence processes is explained in the diagram below.
The problem of identifying cultural and/or linguistic convergence/divergence within an archaeological and/or linguistic framework is highlighted by Henning's (1978) attempt to identify the Guti as the "First Indo-Europeans." At c.2200 BC the Guti invade Mesopotamia and bring down the powerful Akkadian Empire. They are identified in the texts as mountain people, probably from northwestern Iran, who ruled Mesopotamia for approximately 100 years. In Mesopotamia archaeologists are unable to identify a single fragment of material culture as belonging to the Guti. Nor do the Akkadian (western Semitic) texts contain any loan words identifiable as Indo-European. Thus, the Guti, save for their name and their activities as recorded in the Mesopotamian texts, are all but invisible. Henning (see also Narain 1987) suggests that the Guti, following their conquest of Mesopotamia, migrated to the east where Chinese texts refer to them as the Yue-chih (the Guti being argued as the phonological equivalent of Yue-chih in Chinese). In the first half of the second millennium there is not a sherd of archaeological evidence for a migration from Mesopotamia to China nor is their a material culture within the realms of the Yue-chih that finds a parallel with a material culture of the Mesopotamian-Gutian world. This does not negate the Guti = Yue-chih identity, it merely underscores the fact that convergence and/or divergence, in a linguistic and/or a cultural context, can almost obliterate the ability to distinguish previously distinctive entities, whether cultural or linguistic.In an interesting "Afterword" to Sarianidi's Margiana and Protozorvastrianism J. P. Mallory confronts the issue, "How do we reconcile deriving the Indo-Iranians from two regions [the steppes (Andronovo) and the Central Asian oases (BMAC)j so different with respect to environment, subsistence and cultural behavior?" (p. 181). He offers three models, each of interest, none supported by archaeological evidence; that is, the BMAC were the Indo-Iranians and they came to dominate the steppe lands, serving as the inspiration for the emergence of the fortified settlements, such as Sintashta, in the southern Urals. Thus, an external source is provided for the development of the "Country of Towns" and with it a linguistic affiliation. The author admits to the unlikely nature of this model. His conclusion is "that the nucleus of Indo-Iranian linguistic developments formed in the steppe lands and, through some form of symbiosis in Bactria-Margiana, pushed southwards to form the ancient languages of Iran and India" (p. 184).
It is that "form of symbiosis" that is so utterly elusive! Linguist too frequently and too adroitly, assign languages to archaeological cultures, while archaeologists are often too quick to assign their sherds a language. Dennis Sinor (1999: 396), a distinguished linguist and historian of Central Asia offers advice that more might heed: "1 find it impossible to attribute with any degree of certainty any given language to any given prehistoric civilization." The books under review here offer archaeological data of great interest and importance. . . all authors identify the archaeological cultures with which they are working as lndo-Iranian. Linguists cannot associate an archaeological culture with the words and grammar they deal with and archaeologists cannot make their sherds utter words. Doing either is mere assertion. We need a third arbiter, which may or may not offer degrees of resolution to the relationships between archaeological culture and language. Perhaps that arbiter will be in our genes - the study of DNA. Equally likely is that our biological history is a sufficient mosaic that ambiguity will characterize our DNA "fingerprint" as well.References
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Ogur and Oguz
Scythians and their descendents
A.Askarov The Aryan problem
S. Kak Indo-European, Arians, and Rigveda
L.T. Yablonsky Ancient Chorasmia
B. Brentjes ”Animal Style” and Shamanism