Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Van-Urmia ware (or Urmia ware) culture.

 The Van-Urmia ware (or Urmia ware) culture. Other names used in post Sovietic countries are Karmir Vank or Kyzil Vank culture. This name is derived from a site in Nakhichevan.

This pottery appeared in Middle Bronze Age after the Kura-Araxes culture. Probably after the 2200/2000BC and ends around 1400/1200BC. It was initially related to the developments in South Caucasus MBA cultures like Trialeti Vanadzor but later evolved on it's own.
The main information about this culture comes from North West Iran. Haftavan tepe and Geoy tepe. Unfortunately despite the large number of ancient DNA from that region we don't have any sample that can be securely linked to Urmia ware tradition.
The reason for this is that in Middle and Late Bronze Age period there were other potteries circulating in Urmia basin. One of them from Dinkha tepe is related to Khabur ware. A type of pottery prominent in North Mesopotamia. Ancient DNA confirmed it's link with Mesopotamia. (See links in comments).
This means that the map attached shouldn't be taken at face value. The situation both in TVC and Van-Urmia lands was more complicated than it is painted.
Nevertheless despite the absence of any ancient DNA we can make some deductions with indirect methods.
As I previously noted the TVC>Lchashen group practically didn't have any R1b-Y4364. Only one case was found in Karashamb while the absolute majority was R1b-L584.
But modern Armenians do have both Y4364 and L584 which means that this branch was "hiding" in a different culture and place.
The best candidate for harbouring Y4364 is the Van-Urmia culture. There are some lines of evidences for this. First R1b-Y4364 was found in Iron Age period in North West Iran. Modern distribution also favours more southern distribution of Y4364. It's age also fits to that period. Van-Urmia folk also migrated to west.
But this R1b branch is not the only haplotype that can be linked to Van Urmia ware. The other one is the J2a-YP879. It's age and specific distribution in Armenians do favour the idea that it formed in Middle Bronze Age Van basin and expanded from there. Indeed it was found in Iron Age Urartian period.
With time we will learn more about other haplotypes also. Now the most interesting thing is that despite having common origins TVC and Van-Urmia were not interested to have contacts with each other. No single case of I2c2 was found in NW Iran despite the fact that it was prominent in TVC lands. This is a strong indication that TVC/Lchashen group and Van-Urmia had different identities.
Here is a list of various possibilities.
1. Van-Urmia was proto-Urartian. Not in a sense of kingdom but as ancestral to Urartian language speakers.
2. Van-Urmia was an IE culture which was speaking a sister language related to Lchashen/Etiuni. In this scenario proto Urartian would be an offshoot of Khabur ware that moved to North.
3. Other possibilities are more complicated scenarios. Like mix of Hurro-Urartian and IE with possible influences from other neighbouring languages. The presence of terms starting with R, like city Riyar or land Ruisa with his king Rasu indicates a presence of non-HU, non-Hittite and non-Armenic groups in the Van basin.
Over time with more samples we will learn more about Van-Urmia culture and it's descendants in Iron Age. It's quite possible that Mannaeans are also descending ultimately from this culture.
* The map is from Raffaelel Biscione's "The Roots of the Urartian Kingdom"

See also...

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