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Impression of a cylinder seal of the Akkadian Empire, with label: "The Divine Sharkalisharri Prince of Akkad, Ibni-Sharrum the Scribe his servant". The long-horned water buffalo depicted in the seal is thought to have come from the Indus Valley, and testifies to exchanges with Meluhha, the Indus Valley civilization. Circa 2217-2193 BC. Louvre Museum, reference AO 22303.[1][2][3][4]

Indus-Mesopotamia relations are thought to have developed during the second half of 3rd millennium BCE, until they came to a halt with the extinction of the Indus valley civilization after around 1900 BCE.[5][6] Mesopotamia had already been an intermediary in the trade of Lapis Lazuli between the South Asia and Egypt since at least about 3200 BCE, in the context of Egypt-Mesopotamia relations.[7][8]

Contents

Neolithic expansion (9,000-6,500 BCE)Edit

Neolithic fertility figurines
Fertility figurine of the Halaf culture, Mesopotamia, 6000-5100 BCE. Louvre.[9]
Fertility figurine from Mehrgarh, Indus Valley, c.3000 BCE.[10]
All part of the Neolithic ‘Venus figurines’ tradition, the abundant breasts and hips of these figurines suggest links to fertility and procreation.

A first period of indirect contacts seems to have occurred as a consequence of the Neolithic Revolution and the diffusion of agriculture after 9000 BCE. According to Asko Parpola, the Near Eastern Fertile Crescent culture of Mesopotamia migrated into the Indus Valley in Neolithic times and became the Indus Valley Civilisation.[11] It is thought that early Indus Valley sites such as Mehrgarh were influenced by the Near Eastern Neolithic,[12] with similarities between "domesticated wheat varieties, early phases of farming, pottery, other archaeological artefacts, some domesticated plants and herd animals."[13][note 1] The site of Mehrgarh is a Neolithic (7000 BCE to c. 2500 BCE) site to the west of the Indus River valley near the Bolan Pass,[14] which gave new insights on the emergence of the Indus Valley Civilization.[15][note 2] Mehrgarh is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming and herding in South Asia.[16][17][note 3]

 
Model of the diffusion of agriculture from the Fertile Crescent after 9000 BC

Jean-Francois Jarrige argues for an independent origin of Mehrgarh. Jarrige notes "the assumption that farming economy was introduced full-fledged from Near-East to South Asia,"[27][note 1] and the similarities between Neolithic sites from eastern Mesopotamia and the western Indus valley, which are evidence of a "cultural continuum" between those sites. But given the originality of Mehrgarh, Jarrige concludes that Mehrgarh has an earlier local background," and is not a "'backwater' of the Neolithic culture of the Near East."[27]

Lukacs and Hemphill suggest an initial local development of Mehrgarh, with a continuity in cultural development but a change in population. According to Lukacs and Hemphill, while there is a strong continuity between the neolithic and chalcolithic (Copper Age) cultures of Mehrgarh, dental evidence shows that the chalcolithic population did not descend from the neolithic population of Mehrgarh,[43] which "suggests moderate levels of gene flow."[43][note 4] Mascarenhas et al. (2015) note that "new, possibly West Asian, body types are reported from the graves of Mehrgarh beginning in the Togau phase (3800 BCE)."[44] According to Narasimhan et al. (2018), the IVC-population likely resulted from a mixture of Iranian agriculturalists and South Asian hunter-gatherers, and came into being between c. 4700–3000 BCE.[45][note 5]

Gallego Romero et al. (2011) state that their research on lactose tolerance in India suggests that "the west Eurasian genetic contribution identified by Reich et al. (2009) principally reflects gene flow from Iran and the Middle East."[46] They further note that "[t]he earliest evidence of cattle herding in south Asia comes from the Indus River Valley site of Mehrgarh and is dated to 7,000 YBP."[46][note 6]

Maritime relationsEdit

 
The trade routes between Mesopotamia and the Indus would have been significantly shorter due to lower sea levels in the 3rd millennium BCE.[48]
 
The Indus Valley Civilization extended westward as far as the Harappan trading station of Sutkagan Dor.[49]

Sea levels have been rising about 100 meters over the last 15,000 years until modern times, with the effect that coast lines have been receding vastly. This is especially the case of the coast lines of the Indus and Mesopotamia, which were originally only separated by a distance of about 1000 kilometers, compared to 2000 kilometers today.[48] In the 3rd millennium BCE, the distance between the coasts of the Mesopotamian civilizations and the Indus would have been much shorter than it is today.[48] In particular the Persian Gulf, which is only about 30 meters deep today, would have been at least partially dry, and would have formed an extension of the Mesopotamian basin.[48]

The westernmost Harappan city was located on the Makran coast at Sutkagan Dor, near the tip of the Arabian peninsula, and is considered as an ancient maritime trading station, probably between India and the Persian Gulf.[49]

Commercial and cultural exchangesEdit

Many archaeological finds suggest that maritime trade along the shores of Africa and Asia started several millennia ago.[50]

Mesopotamian imports into the IndusEdit

Master of Animals
Uruk period Mesopotamian king as Master of Animals on the Gebel el-Arak Knife, dated circa 3300-3200 BCE. Louvre Museum, reference E 11517.[51][52]
Indus valley civilization seal, with man fighting two tigers (2500-1500 BC).[53][54]
Bull-man fighting beast
Enkidu fighting a lion, Akkadian Empire seal, Mesopotamia, circa 2200 BC.
Fighting scene between a beast and a man with horns, hooves and a tail, who has been compared to the Mesopotamian bull-man Enkidu.[55][56][57] Indus Valley Civilization seal.

In the archaeological sites of the Indus valley civilization, twenty-four stone haematite weights of the Mesopotamian barrel-shaped type were found at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa.[58]

Iconographical influencesEdit

Instances of iconographical influences appear on the seals of the Indus Valley, in which several depictions appear to have been derived from Mesopotamian models.

Indus Valley stamp sealsEdit

Some Indus seals seem to show Mesopotamian influence, as in the "Gilgamesh" motif of a man fighting two lions (2500-1500 BCE).[53][54][59]

Several Indus Valley seals show a fighting scene between a tiger-like beast and a man with horns, hooves and a tail, who has been compared to the Mesopotamian bull-man Enkidu, also a partner of Gilgamesh, and suggests a transmission of Mesopotamian mythology.[55][60][57]

Cylinder sealsEdit

A few rare cylinder seals have been found in Indus valley sites, which suggest Mesopotamian influence: they were probably made locally, but they use Mesopotamian motifs.[61] One such cylinder seal, the Kalibangan seal, shows a battle between men in the presence of centaurs.[62][63] Other seals show processions of animals.[63]

Indus imports into MesopotamiaEdit

 
Some of the beads in this necklace from the Royal Cemetery dating to the First Dynasty of Ur are thought to have come from the Indus Valley.[71]

Clove heads, thought to originate from the Moluccas in Maritime Southeast Asia were found in a 2nd millennium BC site in Terqa.[50] Evidence for imports from the Indus to Ur can be found from around 2350 BCE.[50] Various objects made with shell species that are characteristic of the Indus coast, particularly Trubinella Pyrum and Fasciolaria Trapezium, have been found in the archaeological sites of Mesopotamia dating from around 2500-2000 BCE.[72][6] Carnelian beads from the Indus were found in Ur tombs dating to 2600-2450.[73] In particular, carnelian beads with an etched design in white were probably imported from the Indus Valley, and made according to a technique of acid-etching developed by the Harappans.[74][71][75] Lapis Lazuli was imported in great quantity by Egypt, and already used in many tombs of the Naqada II period (circa 3200 BCE). Lapis Lazuli probably originated in northern Afghanistan, as no other sources are known, and had to be transported across the Iranian plateau to Mesapotamia, and then Egypt.[7][8]

Several Indus seals with Harappan script have also been found in Mesopotamia, particularly in Ur, Babylon and Kish.[76][77][78][79][80][81] The water buffalos which appears on the Akkadian cylinder seals from the time of Naram-Sin (circa 2250 BCE), may have been imported to Mesopotamia from the Indus as a result of trade.[4][1][3]

Akkadian Empire records mention timber, carnelian and ivory as being imported from Meluhha by Meluhhan ships, Meluhha being generally considered as the Mesopotamian name for the Indus Valley.[73][6]

‘The ships from Meluhha, the ships from Magan, the ships from Dilmun, he made tie-up alongside the quay of Akkad’

— Inscription by Sargon of Akkad (ca.2270-2215 BCE)[82][83]

After the collapse of the Akkadian Empire, Gudea, the ruler of Lagash, is recorded as having imported "translucent carnelian" from Meluhha.[73] Various inscriptions also mention the presence of Meluhha traders and interpreters in Mesopotamia.[73] About twenty seals have been found from the Akkadian and Ur III sites, that have connections with Harappa and often use Harappan symbols or writing.[73]

Indian genes in ancient MesopotamiaEdit

It has long been suggested that the Sumerians, who ruled in Lower Mesopotamia from circa 4500 to 1900 BC and who spoke a non-Indo-European and non-Semitic language, may have initially come from India and may have been related to the original Dravidian population of India.[106][107] This appeared to historian Henry Hall as the most probable conclusion, particularly based on the portrayal of Sumerians in their own art and "how very Indian the Sumerians were in type".[106] Recent genetic analysis of ancient Mesopotamian skeletal DNA tends to confirm a significant association.[108] The Sumerians progressively lost control to Semitic states from the northwest, starting with the Akkadian Empire, from circa 2300 BC.

MethodologyEdit

 
Comparative population sizes circa 2500 BCE.[109][110]

A genetic analysis of the ancient DNA of Mesopotamian skeletons was made on the excavated remains of four individuals from ancient tombs in Tell Ashara (ancient Terqa) and Tell Masaikh (near Terqa, also known as ancient Kar-Assurnasirpal), both in the middle Euphrates valley in the east of modern Syria.[108] The two oldest skeletons were dated to 2,650-2,450 BC and 2,200-1,900 BC respectively, while the two younger skeletons were dated to circa 500 AD.[108] All the studied individuals carried mtDNA haplotypes corresponding to the M4b1, M49 and/or M61 haplogroups, which are believed to have arisen in the area of the Indian subcontinent during the Upper Paleolithic, and are absent in people living today in Syria.[108] These haplogroups are still present in people inhabiting today’s Tibet, Himalayas (Ladakh), India and Pakistan, and are restricted today to the South, East and Southeast Asia regions.[108] The data suggests a genetic link of the region with the Indian subcontinent in the past that has not left traces in the modern population of Mesopotamia.[108]

Other studies have also shown connections between the populations of Mesopotamia and population groups now located in Southern India, such as the Tamils.[111][112]

AnalysisEdit

 
Sculpture of the head of Sumerian ruler Gudea, c. 2150 BC

The genetic analysis suggests that a continuity existed between Trans-Himalaya and Mesopotamia regions in ancient time, and that the studied individuals represent genetic associations with the Indian subcontinent.[108] It is likely that this genetical connection was broken as a result of population movements during more recent times.[108]

The fact that the studied individuals comprised both males and a female, each living in a different period and representing different haplotypes, suggests that the nature of their presence in Mesopotamia was long-lasting rather than incidental.[108] The close ancestors of the specimens could fall within the population founding Terqa, a historical site that probably constructed during the early Bronze Age, at a time only slightly preceding the dating of the skeletons.[108]

The studied indivuals could also have been the descendants of much earlier migration waves who brought these genes from the Indian subcontinent.[108] It cannot be excluded that among them were people involved in the founding of the Mesopotamian civilizations.[108] For instance, it is commonly accepted that the founders of Sumerian civilization may have come from outside the region, but their exact origin is still a matter of debate.[108] The migrants could have entered Mesopotamia earlier than 4,500 years ago, during the lifetime of the oldest studied individual.[108] Alternatively, the studied individuals may have belonged to groups of itinerant merchants moving along a trade route passing near or through the region.[108]

Scripts and languagesEdit

 
Akkadian Empire cylinder seal with inscription: "Shu-ilishu, interpreter of the Meluhhan language".[115] Louvre Museum, reference AO 22310.[116]

Similarities between Proto-Elamite (circa 3000 BCE) and especially Linear Elamite (2300-2000 BCE) scripts with the Indus script have been noted, although it has not been possible to decipher any of them.[117][118] Proto-Elamite only starts to be readable from around 2300 BCE, when Elamite adopted the cuneiform system.[117] These Elamite scripts are said to be "technically similar" to the Indus script.[117] On comparing the Linear Elamite to the Indus script, a number of similar symbols have also been found.[118]

The Meluhhan language was not readily understandable at the Akkadian court, since interpretators of the Meluhhan language are known to have resided in Mesopotamia, particularly through an Akkadian seal with the inscription "Shu-ilishu, interpreter of the Meluhhan language".[119][120][121]

ChronologyEdit

 
Indus-type statuette, found in Susa in the 2600-1700 BCE site of the Tel of the Acropolis at Susa. Louvre Museum, reference Sb 80.[122]
Etched carnelian beads
Indus valley civilization etched carnelian bead, Mohenjo-daro.[123]
Etched carnelian bead excavated in Susa, dated 2600-1700 BCE.

Sargon of Akkad (circa 2300 or 2250 BCE), was the first Mesopotamian ruler to make an explicit reference to the region of Meluhha, which is generally understood as being the Baluchistan or the Indus area.[50] Sargon mentions the presence of Meluhha, Magan, and Dilmun ships at Akkad.[50]

These dates correspond roughly to the Mature Harappan phase, dated from around 2600 to 2000 BCE.[50] The dates for the main occupation of Mohenjo-Daro are about Mohenjo-daro from 2350 to 2000/1900 BCE.[50]

It has been suggested that the early Mesopotamian Empire preceded the emergence of the Harappan civilization, and that trade and cultural exchanges may have facilitated the emergence of Harappan culture.[50] Alternatively, it is possible that the Harappan culture had already emerged by the time trade with Mesopotamia started.[50] Uncertainties in dating make it impossible to establish a clear order at this stage.[50]

Exchanges seem to have been most significant during the Akkadian Empire and Ur III periods, and to have waned afterwards together with the disappearance of the Indus valley civilization.[58]

Comparative sizesEdit

The Indus Valley Civilization only flourished in its most developed form between 2400 and 1800 BC until it became extinct, but at the time of these exchanges, it was a much larger entity than the Mesopotamian civilization, covering an area of 1.2 million square meters with thousands of settlements, compared to an area of only about 65.000 square meters for the occupied area of Mesopotamia, while the largest cities were comparable in size at about 30-40.000 inhabitants.[124]

There were altogether about 1,500 Harappan cities, amounting to a population of perhaps 5 million at the maximum time of their florescence.[125] In contrast, the total population of Mesopotamia in 2,500 BC was around 290,000.[126]

Large-scale exchanges recovered with the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley, circa 500 BCE.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b According to Gangal et al. (2014), there is strong archeological and geographical evidence that neolithic farming spread from the Near East into north-west India.[12][28] Gangal et al. (2014):[12] "There are several lines of evidence that support the idea of connection between the Neolithic in the Near East and in the Indian subcontinent. The prehistoric site of Mehrgarh in Baluchistan (modern Pakistan) is the earliest Neolithic site in the north-west Indian subcontinent, dated as early as 8500 BCE.[18][29]

    Neolithic domesticated crops in Mehrgarh include more than 90% barley and a small amount of wheat. There is good evidence for the local domestication of barley and the zebu cattle at Mehrgarh [19],[30] [20],[31] but the wheat varieties are suggested to be of Near-Eastern origin, as the modern distribution of wild varieties of wheat is limited to Northern Levant and Southern Turkey [21].[32] A detailed satellite map study of a few archaeological sites in the Baluchistan and Khybar Pakhtunkhwa regions also suggests similarities in early phases of farming with sites in Western Asia [22].[33] Pottery prepared by sequential slab construction, circular fire pits filled with burnt pebbles, and large granaries are common to both Mehrgarh and many Mesopotamian sites [23].[34] The postures of the skeletal remains in graves at Mehrgarh bear strong resemblance to those at Ali Kosh in the Zagros Mountains of southern Iran [19].[30] Clay figurines found in Mehrgarh resemble those discovered at Teppe Zagheh on the Qazvin plain south of the Elburz range in Iran (the 7th millennium BCE) and Jeitun in Turkmenistan (the 6th millennium BCE) [24].[35] Strong arguments have been made for the Near-Eastern origin of some domesticated plants and herd animals at Jeitun in Turkmenistan (pp. 225–227 in [25]).[36]

    The Near East is separated from the Indus Valley by the arid plateaus, ridges and deserts of Iran and Afghanistan, where rainfall agriculture is possible only in the foothills and cul-de-sac valleys [26].[37] Nevertheless, this area was not an insurmountable obstacle for the dispersal of the Neolithic. The route south of the Caspian sea is a part of the Silk Road, some sections of which were in use from at least 3,000 BCE, connecting Badakhshan (north-eastern Afghanistan and south-eastern Tajikistan) with Western Asia, Egypt and India [27].[38] Similarly, the section from Badakhshan to the Mesopotamian plains (the Great Khorasan Road) was apparently functioning by 4,000 BCE and numerous prehistoric sites are located along it, whose assemblages are dominated by the Cheshmeh-Ali (Tehran Plain) ceramic technology, forms and designs [26].[37] Striking similarities in figurines and pottery styles, and mud-brick shapes, between widely separated early Neolithic sites in the Zagros Mountains of north-western Iran (Jarmo and Sarab), the Deh Luran Plain in southwestern Iran (Tappeh Ali Kosh and Chogha Sefid), Susiana (Chogha Bonut and Chogha Mish), the Iranian Central Plateau (Tappeh-Sang-e Chakhmaq), and Turkmenistan (Jeitun) suggest a common incipient culture [28].[39] The Neolithic dispersal across South Asia plausibly involved migration of the population ([29][40] and [25], pp. 231–233).[36] This possibility is also supported by Y-chromosome and mtDNA analyses [30],[41] [31]."[42]
  2. ^ According to Ahmad Hasan Dani, professor emeritus at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, the discovery of Mehrgarh "changed the entire concept of the Indus civilisation […] There we have the whole sequence, right from the beginning of settled village life."[15]
  3. ^ Excavations at Bhirrana, Haryana, in India between 2006 and 2009, by archaeologist K.N. Dikshit, provided six artefacts, including "relatively advanced pottery," so-called Hakra ware, which were dated at a time bracket between 7380 and 6201 BCE.[18][19][20][21] These dates compete with Mehrgarh for being the oldest site for cultural remains in the area.[22]

    Yet, Dikshit and Mani clarify that this time-bracket concerns only charcoal samples, which were radio-carbon dated at respectively 7570–7180 BCE (sample 2481) and 6689–6201 BCE (sample 2333).[23][24] Dikshit further writes that the earliest phase concerns 14 shallow dwelling-pits which "could accommodate about 3–4 people."[25] According to Dikshit, in the lowest level of these pits wheel-made Hakra Ware was found which was "not well finished,"[25] together with other wares.[26]
  4. ^ They further noted that "the direct lineal descendents of the Neolithic inhabitants of Mehrgarh are to be found to the south and the east of Mehrgarh, in northwestern India and the western edge of the Deccan plateau," with neolithic Mehrgarh showing greater affinity with chalocolithic Inamgaon, south of Mehrgarh, than with chalcolithic Mehrgarh.[43]
  5. ^ See also Tony Joseph, How We, The Indians, Came To Be, the quint
  6. ^ Gallego romero et al. (2011) refer to (Meadow 1993):[46] Meadow RH. 1993. Animal domestication in the Middle East: a revised view from the eastern margin. In: Possehl G, editor. Harappan civilization. New Delhi (India): Oxford University Press and India Book House. p 295–320.[47]

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