Bronze Age Map: Central Asia

Needless to say that in this trying times my upcoming The Bronze Age World wall map was not progressing at the desired pace. Nevertheless, since the last update I could add a greater number of features; cities, mountains and rivers, to the Hittite Empire, Elam and most importantly Central Asia.
Unlike on my previous maps, the Bronze Age World ancillary map will cover a much larger area than the main map to include many important cultures and territories that found themselves outside of the highly detailed area, but should not be left out. One of them is Central Asia, the source of invaluable tin and gemstones like Lapislazuli for the middle eastern civilizations and itself the site of many fascinating early cultures and cities.

Bronze Age Map

WIP: The ancillary map will cover an huge area and once finished will give a complete picture

over all cultures that interacted with the civilizations on the main map.

In 1250 BCE the Bronze Age in Central Asia was already all but over and the great cities of the first urban societies mostly ruins in the desert. Yet semi nomadic groups of the Andronovo cultural sphere, fore bearers of the later steppe nomads, still operated the tin mines found in an arc from eastern Kazakhstan to later Sogdia. 

One remarkable exception was the city excavated at the site of Jarkutan in ancient Bactria and modern Uzbekistan. Founded in about 1500 BCE it flourished until the tenth century BCE. At the heart of the city stood one of the first fire temples. Its features showing parallels with both later Zoroastrianism and the Oxus sanctuary of the Classical to Kushan eras. Jarkutan itself was the late offspring of the earlier Oxus civilization, also more commonly known as Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC).
The BMAC had its origins in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic Jeitun and Anau cultures that developed at the river oases of the northern Kopet Dag foothills, with the latter already being in contact with neighboring regions such as Tepe Sialk in central Iran or modern Afghanistan. It was also here that the Bactrian Camel was first domesticated in about 3000 BCE. The irrigation based, urban BMAC culture later spread throughout Central Asia, situated at the center of an extended trade network connecting the Indus valley civilization, Mesopotamia, the Hindukush and the towns of the Sintashta culture far to the north near modern Orenburg.

Bronze Age Central Asia

 WIP: Central Asia in about 1250 BCE. Excerpt of the ancillary map that will be

part of my upcoming DIN A0 sized wall map The Bronze Age World

Near the southern end of the Ural mountain range, the territory inhabited by the Sintashta culture was doted with about two dozen carefully planned circular towns. Most well preserved among them is the remarkable settlement of Arkaim. These people exploited their mineral rich environment and traded with Central Asia via the vast steppe in between. Here the chariot, that dominated the Bronze Age battlefields in the second part of 2nd millennium BCE, was first attested archaeologically. It was also in this part of the world but more than one thousand years earlier, that earliest evidence for the use of horses beyond another source of meat, by the nearby Botai-Terssek culture in northern Kazakhstan, was unearthed.


Just as most cities of the BMAC sphere the towns of Sintashta were abandoned after 1700 BCE. The steppes were now the domain of the increasingly mobile people of the Andronovo cultural sphere, paving the way for the true horse nomads of the Iron Age.

With an increasingly dryer climate the rivers receded and new settlements as Yaz Tepe in Margiana were founded further upstream, replacing abandoned BMAC centers such as Gonur Tepe, where immigrants from the Andronovo sphere mixed with the remaining local population.

 

In the third millennium BCE to the east and south of the BMAC a chain of cities connected Elam with Central Asia. They all belonged to early Elamite cultural sphere, mainly manifesting itself in the use of the proto-elamite writing system. The sites around Tepe Yahya might have belonged to the semi legendary country Aratta from Mesopotamian sources. They too were all abandoned, either already at the end of the millennium or within the first centuries of the second.
In north western Iran other sites abandoned at this time, like the once prosperous early third millennium city Tepe Sialk, were resettled in the last centuries of the 2nd millennium. The immigrants probably being the antecedents of the Iran age Medes and Persians.

Bibliography

  • C. Baumer, The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Steppe Warriors, Volume 1, Bloombsbury Publishing (2012)
  • N. N. Chegini, M. Momenzadeh, H. Parzinger, E. Pernicka, T. Stoellner, R. Vatandoust, G. Weisgerber: Preliminary report on archaeometallurgical investigations around the prehistoric site of Arisman near Kashan, western Central Iran, Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan 32 (2000), 281-318.
  • J. Garner: Bronze Age tin mines in central Asia, in Archaeometallurgy in Europe III: Proceedings of the 3rd Internationale Conference Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, June 29 - July 1,2011, Der Anschnitt - Beihefte (2015).
  • H. Koch: Frauen und Schlangen: Geheimnisvolle Kultur der Elamer in Alt-Iran, Kulturgeschichte der Antiken Welt Band 114, Phillipp von Zabern (2007).
  • D. T. Potts: The Archaeology of Elam: Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State, Cambridge University Press (2004).

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