Livius.Org Photo by either Marco Prins or Jona Lendering.
We have previously looked at the Sumerian and Akkadian languages, and their cuneiform script. Cuneiform is still the earliest, uncontested, and decipherable script in world history. We have a huge amount of cuneiform records, resulting from the fortunate baking of royal and other clay archives across Mesopotamia–while the residents suffered the misfortune of having their palaces and administrative buildings burned by invaders. Sumerian was the indigenous language of Mesopotamia in the time of the Raising Up Pharaoh novels: 5,203 BP. Some time earlier than that, in the novels, Mesopotamia had been overrun in an event remembered as “when the kings came.” These fictional, foreign-speaking kings imposed a nobility across Mesopotamia and Levant, much in the spirit of the French-speaking Normans, after conquering the English-speaking Anglo-Saxons in 1066 AD. In the novels, I don’t emphasize differences between the language of the native Sumerians and the language of the superimposed elites, for the elites and wannabes were already bilingual, or even trilingual, also speaking Bedouin. The less erudite of all three groups spoke to the other two groups in a pidgin, or not at all.
These assimilated invaders, by definition, came from somewhere outside Mesopotamia. As the storyteller, I chose to import them from the steppes north of the Caspian Sea, which sweep west through the Caucasus and down to the north coast of the Black Sea. I didn’t invent such an invader out of the air. There was such a people group, but the history of this invasion long predated the invention of Cuneiform, so the Sumerians couldn’t have recorded it. By the time of these novels, the invaders had been largely assimilated into the much larger Sumerian population, and the invaders’ elites had become a diminishing force in local culture. So, let’s take a look at these invaders.
Over four centuries ago, Europeans began to notice what is now recognized: one-half the languages spoken on earth are linguistically related . These have since been labelled Indo-European (IE) languages, and their native speakers represent at least 27% of the world’s population. These IE languages descended from an original tongue, called the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language. Since PIE was already spreading from its homeland throughout Eurasia at the time of my novels, 5,203 BP, I define the still-ruling but less forceful elites of Mesopotamia and the Levant as PIE speakers, much like the vanishing Normans in Victorian England.
Let’s look at that homeland from whence PIE spread. The Kurgan Hypothesis regarding the Yamna culture (also see Yamna Culture in Google excerpt from The Encyclopedia on Indo-European Culture) is the best explanation I’ve found regarding the homeland of the PIE speakers. The domestication of the horse occurred early in the Yamna culture, well before the setting of the Raising Up Pharaoh novels. Beside the Kurgan grave evidence, another characteristic artifact of these early PIE speakers was the horse burial. And, once these PIE speakers had domesticated the horse, it would have been natural to involve the horses in warfare, first in drawing baggage sleds and carts a lot faster than by hand, then using adventurous youths who were “natural” horsemen as mounted scouts–and as these “naturals” increased in number, as a tactical mount for raiding. Archaeologists have evidence that the wheel appeared more-or-less simultaneously in Mesopotamia, the Caucasus, and in central Europe around the time of the novels. The model of a sophisticated cart from the Harappa (Indus Valley) civilization in the National Museum in New Delhi could quickly be modified to be used as a solid-wheeled chariot–quite agile–but the lighter spoked-wheeled war chariot didn’t dominate warfare until after 4,000 BP.
You have now seen evidence of a major cultural “invasion” of Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Levant by PIE speakers over a period including the time-frame of the Raising Up Pharaoh novels. This people group provided a distinct, mainly cultural, influence on Mesopotamia and the Levant 5,203 years ago. The PIE folks provided me with the essential 3rd party influence–a catalyst of leadership–in uniting elements of the indigenous Mesopotamians and Bedouins to carry out my purposes in the novels.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the Bedouin tribes.