Problems Associated with the Expansion of Aryan Culture and Language

Civilization: The Age of Masked Gods and Disguised Kings – Volume I

To fully understand modernity, we need to trace and understand the origin of the Indo-European civilization on which modernity is built. Historiography usually defines core cultures with reference to the time and location within which they exist. Historical conceptualization without reference to origin is, however, delusive and irresponsible. Instead of producing meaningful interpretation of historical knowledge, it produces misconceptions.

I received some criticism on my analysis of the source of modern civilization as set out in Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilization (the published form of the argument for my submission before the Court of Human Rights of the Council of Europe). I have been criticized for being excessively reductionist in postulating the Euphrates and Tigris basin, and hence the Sumerian civilization, as the foundation of modernity. After thorough consideration of this criticism, I still maintain that this postulation is valid. Just as today’s dominant civilization—capitalist modernity—rests upon Indo-European cultural roots, the Indo-European culture rests upon Aryan cultural roots and its Sumerian and Egyptian branches.

Of course the issues we are trying to analyze are not solely a matter of culture and civilization. But, if we do not determine the relative contribution culture and civilization made to social development, historiography will indeed be no more than “the trivia of the past” from which nothing meaningful can be learnt. Such numerical records of the succession of religions, dynasties, kings, wars and peoples are no more than ideological efforts to disguise social development and to prepare the social memory and mind for exploitation by the rulers. Without correctly identifying the main source of our civilization and its branches, we will not be able to understand today’s society nor solve its problems. Even if we wish to understand and end the atrocities in today’s Iraq, we need to acknowledge that our knowledge of sociology and historiography has failed. Only then may we be able to propose a new framework for historical and sociological analysis that will render meaningful results. All I am trying to do here is to make a small contribution to end this human tragedy.

A further point of criticism against my analysis was my claim that Kurds are descendants of the Aryan language and cultural group—it was felt that, because Hitler laid claim to the notion of Aryanism, it may have a “racist” connotation. Let me just ask this in return: Because Hitler’s political party was the National Socialist Party, does this mean we should abandon the word socialism? Fascism quite successfully utilized various scientific and ideological notions for its own benefit, but this doesn’t mean that we should abandon science and ideology. I have no intentions of fostering a nationalism based on Aryan language and culture. On the contrary, I have argued strongly against nationalism.

I am compelled to summarize the arguments I set out in Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilization:

  1. Both the formation of a language and its being the foundation of a deep rooted culture depends on the historical and geographical preconditions. The period 10,000 to 4,000 BCE defines the “long term” (la longue durée) in which this language and cultural group institutionalized itself. During this period various inventions such as pottery, the plough, animals for farming, the wheel, weaving, manual grinders, arts and religion were institutionalized. A rich list of plant and animal products enabled the great increase in the population. Metals were not only used for tools, it was used to make rich works of art during the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age). We are still discovering examples of these today—houses and religious architecture made of hewn stone and many tools made of metals have been recovered from the archaeological sites of Bradostiyan at the skirts of Zagros, Çayönü (Diyarbakir) and finally Göbeklitepe (near Urfa) which is said to date back 11,000 years.
       The cultural tools and words used even today by the local people to name these tools shed light on the identity of the core region. Words such as geo (location), ard (location, soil, field), jin (woman, life), roj (the sun), bra (brother), mur (death), sol (shoes), neo (new), ga (ox), gran (large, heavy), mesh (to walk), guda (god) are still used in European languages. These words are also used by Middle Eastern and Central Asian peoples such as the Kurds, Persians, Balochi and others—clues that the Aryan language and cultural group is not of European or Indian origin. Sumerian tablets and other archaeological findings prove that this culture has existed at least around six thousand years ago, when Europe and India were still in the “Old Stone Age.”
  2. While I do not wish to deny the rich contribution of the Semitic language and cultural group, I cannot envisage that around 4,000 BCE the shepherd culture could have led to urban civilization culture.
       Although the civilization of the Egyptian Pharaohs is in the Semitic region, one cannot find evidence of contributions from the Semitic culture. The Egyptian documents also show that the Semitic culture is foreign to them. There are no similarities in the language structures. The Semitic culture takes its initial place in the written history around 2,500 BCE with the Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Canaan and Hebrew identities. The Arabic identity can be seen much later in history—around 500 BCE. Conceptualizations such as Arameans, Amorites and Habirus have first been used by the Sumerians and the Egyptians. It is thought that Phoenicians, Palestinians and even Hebrews have been integrated into the Semitic language and culture group at a later stage (as with the Egyptian Pharaoh culture). There is evidence that they initially had been immersed in the Aryan culture, but that they lost this identity under waves of Semitic migration.
       The Sumerian sources and various archaeological records indicate that Semitic language and culture groups have attacked or migrated to the Aryan language and cultural region, possibly as far back as 5,000 BCE. Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Arameans and Arab colonies especially left their traces in Upper Mesopotamia. However, Assyrian and Arabic influences are much greater than the others. (When combined with Islam, it meant a greater force of assimilation, as Islam and Arabization are intertwined.) The Aryan language and culture group was able to resist these efforts of colonization, assimilation and incursion by counter attack, incursion, colonization and assimilation. The initial founders of the Sumerian civilization, leaders of the Egyptian civilization as well as the Hyksos and the Hebrews are examples of this.37
       I think that the most acceptable interpretation is that the initial leaders of the Sumerians migrated to Lower Mesopotamia, carrying the Aryan core culture with them and transforming it to a more advanced level. This Aryan culture reached its peak in the Upper Mesopotamian region—Tell Halaf—around 6,000–4,000 BCE. Thus, the Sumerians should be viewed as responsible for the cultural expansion of the Tell Halaf era instead of some migrating groups. It does not make sense to look for Central Asian or Caucasian influences, as at the beginning of the Sumerian civilization (around 5,000 BCE): these areas were still in the Stone Age and had just begun encountering the Aryan culture. At the time, they simply had no means to sustain a culture such as that of the Sumerians. Physically, they would not have been able to overcome the Aryans.
       Just as European culture is propagated all around the world today, the Aryan language and culture too was propagated around the world, especially after it completed its institutionalization and experienced a population boom (especially in the Tell Halaf period between 6,000–4,000 BCE). Just as today a variety of poor cultural groups and laborers are lured to the safety that Europe offers, at the time such groups arrived in the Fertile Crescent and the Sumerian zone.
  3. Thus, the Arian culture established and institutionalized itself at the Fertile Crescent. From there it moved further to the east—to the regions that are today called Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. I must emphasize that it was not the groups of people that migrated but the culture itself. Initial signs of this culture are encountered around 7,000 BCE in the Iranian plateaus and the culture was effective in India around 4,000 BCE. Its influence reached the Turkmenistan plateaus around 5,000 BCE. There is a school of thought that claims the previous cultural layer there had been of African Stone Age descent.38 Cultural remnants seem to substantiate this thesis. Just as in Egypt and Sumer, there is no theoretical or empirical evidence of a culture in this region that is solely the product of local development.
       Although some of my critics find this line of argumentation too reductionist, we should keep in mind that a limited number of cultural revolutions took place in history and that those were achieved only with the greatest difficulty. Furthermore, though European culture is quite unique in the world, the above-mentioned culture did have similarities with European culture and with the culture of the Fertile Crescent. In the third place, there is no theoretical evidence or archaeological remains indicating that groups that have lived according to the same habits for hundreds of thousands of years or groups that are at the threshold of being annihilated suddenly could come up with a fundamental cultural revolution. Hence we can assume that there was a cultural expansion to the east around 3,000 BCE leading to the urban civilization centered on Susa to the west of Iran in the Elam region. This expansion we can assume originated from Sumer. Further east, the establishment of the cities of Harappa and Moenjo-daro (at the shores of the Punjab River in today’s Pakistan) in around 2,500 BCE, also embodied Sumerian influences. It is impossible to reason that they were the original institutions of some other cultural structures. If this were the case, then one would need to question why thousands of other groups at much more fertile geographical locations were unable to develop a civilization or a grand cultural revolution.
       Undoubtedly, each and every region would have made its own contributions. Expansion and local acceptance of the culture is intertwined and mostly voluntary. Expansion is not that of the exploitative groups but rather of the more advanced material and moral values of production. The expansionist cultures that have demonstrated their abilities in this regard have always been seen as “sacred miracles of the gods.” It is important that we do not confuse cultural expansion that elevates the value of life both morally and materially with that of colonialism, occupation and forced assimilation. In fact, only a small number of cultural expansions have been achieved through brutal attacks, colonialism, and forced assimilation. The majority were accepted because they brought an advanced quality of life. However, because of the narrow nationalistic conceptualizations of history, the concept of cultural expansion is still not well understood. It is important not to fall into the traps of nationalism, which lead to denial, exaggeration, disguise and distortion—especially here, where we are attempting to establish a meaningful method of obtaining and interpreting knowledge.
  4. The relationship between the Aryan language and culture groups and that of the Indo-European language and culture groups may be one of the main problems of historiography and therefore it is important to determine this relationship. There has been much speculation on this topic but a common interpretation has not been attained. In the 19th century, when it became clear that the Indo-European languages had much in common, much research was done. Various interpretations were made in relation to the main source of these groups. Some said the source was Greek or Indian while others claimed it to be North European or Germanic.
       Establishing that all modern humans originated from the East African Rift and that the Neolithic-agricultural revolution took place in the Fertile Crescent excludes many possible hypotheses. The next step is to establish which language and culture group was the original group in the Fertile Crescent during the Neolithic. As argued above, the proto-Kurdish, Persian, Afghan and Balochi groups gained prominence as the Aryan groups of the time. Furthermore, a better understanding of the language structure of the Hurrians—the proto-Kurds—broadened our insight of the Aryan language and cultural identity. Thus, I postulate that this is the language and culture that formed the core of the Neolithic revolution, and that this language and culture formed the center of the Aryan language and culture group.
       It can be assumed that, similar to the expansion to the south and east, there would have been an expansion to the north and west—toward Europe. This wave of expansion is estimated to have begun around 5,000 BCE and to have been completed in 4,000 BCE in Eastern Europe and around 2,000 BCE in Western Europe. This is now the main opinion and many important historians, including V. Gordon Childe, date the beginning of European history to this timeframe. Prior to this period is the period of “Old Stone Age.” It is estimated that around thirty thousand years ago Homo Sapiens became the dominant species in the region between the South of France and Spain with roots in Northern Africa. Thus, its expansion around the world was most probably during the Mesolithic period or the middle part of the stone age.

I am not about to embark on an examination of the European Neolithic and the agricultural revolution. But because of the importance of what the main source is, we need to shed some light on it. Again, I propose that the expansion to the west was not physical or colonial but cultural. However, Europe is unique in that it had absorbed the Neolithic period with all its creative aspects. It digested an accumulation of around ten thousand years in a short period of time. Just as Western Europe has turned the modern world into a cultural expansion region over the past four hundred years, it was once the region of expansion of, initially, the Neolithic culture from the Fertile Crescent, then the Roman civilization and finally the Christian revolution. The expansive bases for all these three big revolutions in Europe were cultural more than anything else. Expansion was not based on colonization, imperialism and forced assimilation alone. It has mostly been achieved through the acceptance of the more advanced cultures as “god’s gift.” As a result, the foundation for the later “Big Revolutions” of Europe has already been laid (such as the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, Political, Industrial, and Scientific Revolutions). Europe did not have special talents with which it created these big revolutions. They resulted from the core and peripheral cultures. On the other hand, the retreat of the Ice Age brought weather conditions quite suitable for all kinds of development. The synthesis of all these conditions has paved the way for a civilization that has determined our future.

37 The Hyksos were a group of mixed Semitic-Asiatics who settled in northern Egypt during the 18th century BCE. In about 1630 they seized power and Hyksos kings ruled Egypt as the 15th dynasty (c. 1630-1521 BCE).

38 See “The Indian Stone Age Sequence” by Bridget Allchin in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 93, No. 2 (July-Dec. 1963).

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