Monday, March 25, 2024

Linguistic is a mature science and we should not expect any groundbreaking findings from a new paper.

 Linguistic is a mature science and we should not expect any groundbreaking findings from a new paper. What can do a modern linguist is to have a new interpretation of already known facts, or at best he can find a few new lexical parallels. Nielsen's paper is important because it shows that the linguistic data do not contradict to the available genetic data about the origins of Armenians. And more important it can reinforce it, giving new details.

The most important argument for Proto Armenians dwelling in the northern parts of historic Armenia is the phonetic system of Armenian which is very close to Georgian and Zan phonetic systems.
Creanza et al. 2015 analyzed more than 2000 languages and based that came to the conclusion that the phonetic systems of two neighboring languages correlates better with geographic distance than with their affiliated linguistic families. Another interesting conclusion was that an isolated language drifts. But unlike the genetics were the drift decrease the diversity, the drift in the language increases the number of phonemes.
This by the way can explain the high number of phonemes in the North Caucasian languages. Returning to the Armenian and Kartvelian we can say that similar phonetic systems mean relatively long period of coexistence.
On the other hand, this do not mean that the Kur-Araxian culture which became the substrate for the Armenian language was necessarily and predominantly Kartvelian. First the number of mutual loanwords is too small for that. Most loanwords in Armenian are from the Zan branch which can be connected to the Colchian archaeological culture. Moreover we do not know well about the phonetic system of Urartian. Given that we know about their phonology only via the cuneiform it is possible that their phonetic system was also close to the Armenian.
Another important question is the migration of IE Anatolians. If further genetic data do not show evidence that they migrated via Balkans, then the only available option left will be their origins or migration via the historic Armenia. In this scenario Kura-Araxes becomes indispensable for their spread. So, there is a need to look at the possible IE Anatolian substrate in Armenian. Nielsen mentions this.
And finally based on the available genetic and archaeological data there is little doubt that the Nakh-Daghestani linguistic family descend from a subset of Kura-Araxes. We can't now deduce the exact boundary of this subset, but we can expect that Proto-Armenian would have a contact with them also. So, another analyze of Armenian and Nakh-Daghestani connections is needed.
Returning to the Kartvelian family. Based on the current genetic and archaeological data the most likely cultures related to the Kartvelian family were the Proto-Colchian (2700-1700/1500BCE) and the Colchian culture (1700/1500-700BCE) in the western Georgia. Some Kartvelian presence in Koban culture is also possible but it's not relevant for ancient Armenian connections. What is more important is that Colchian culture axes were found in northwestern regions of historic Armenia which can explain the stronger presence of Zan loanwords in the Armenian. More ancient DNA and archaeological research from that region, will help to better understand this question.


Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The origins of Grey ware culture in Iran

 The origins of Grey ware culture in Iran

We have a decent number of ancient DNA from Urmia basin. Based on that we can say that the Urmia basin was a dynamic place. One of interesting findings is the increase of Iran/Zagros Neolithic ancestry in LBA period. (after the 1600bc). This increase started probably at the end of MBA.
The best archaeologic event that match this genetic shift is the spread of Grey ware. Initially Grey ware was considered as an Iron Age pottery but new studies of Iranian archaeologists propose a Bronze Age spread of this pottery which is found in many sites in North Iran (see the map )
Apparently the current genetic data supports their theory. The origins of this pottery was debated. North eastern Iranian origin was proposed, but a North Central Iranian origin is also possible. The closest populations to Dinkha tepe 2 are Lors and Mazandarani. If this has any predictive value then a Central Iranian origin seems more plausible.
In any case the current genetic data supports a more eastern origin of this pottery than the lake Urmia.
As for the ethnicities related to this pottery, the best candidate are the Kassites. Kassite's language remain unclassified. But it seems that they had an Aryan adstrate which is quite plausible given that Mitanni Aryans appear roughly the same period. They were also horse worshippers which also was in most likelihood an Aryan influence.
It is quite possible that Mitanni Aryans were also making the Grey ware before they moved to Syria. Where different potteries were produced by locals.