VII.4. Aegean Early Bronze Age

In the first centuries of the 3rd millennium BC, new networks of exchange and trade developed, and social complexity increased in Northern Mesopotamia, reaching its peak in the Sumerian Early Dynastic III and Akkadian periods. The new political organisation that consisted at first of more or less independent rival city–states, out of which grew the hegemonial “empire foundation” of the Akkadian period at the end of the 24th century BC. Its centre was in southern Mesopotamia, urbanised since the 4th millennium BC (Ökse 2017).

Humid climatic conditions in the Near East had moved the border of minimal precipitation for dry-farming towards the south, creating a large arable region. No urban centres dating to these centuries are observed in the Upper Tigris, whose settlement structures reflected permanent rural settlements inhabited by egalitarian societies (Ninenvite V) until ca. 2600/2500 BC. These societies changed gradually from a sedentary life to a mobile one with seasonal activities, until the Akkadian supremacy (Ökse 2017).

Flood fills in the valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris indicate an area not suitable for sedentary life from ca. 2650 BC, which created a trend to new settlements on plateaus, or transition to pastoral economies. A settlement decline in the Upper Tigris must have occurred in concert with trade routes gaining importance in the south, and increasing pastoralism in the north. The new system connected regions such as Turkmenistan and Afghanistan in Central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Ocean as far as the Harappa Culture of the Indus Valley and north-western India, and integrated Levantine-eastern Mediterranean and Anatolian regions, previously considered marginal regions. The last to be absorbed was the area around the Aegean, i.e. western Anatolia and Greece, gradually incorporated since ca. 2750 BC, developing a western nucleus of exchange and trade ca. 2500–2250 BC (Ökse 2017).

The Early Helladic-Cycladic-Minoan II included the following advances: stratified society with many prestige and status objects of the elite, of urbanisation, a three-fold structured settlement system and population growth; quasi-monumental architecture and organised communal works; complex administration and standardised systems of measuring and weighting; economic specialisation and mass production such as wheel-made pottery; and large quantities of copper, gold, and silver, as well as the first tin–bronzes (Heyd 2013).

This period showed a climate favouring agricultural production, based on a mixed small-scale and intensive system, which included Mediterranean polyculture based on grain, wine, and olive oil, apart from figs. There is also an increase in domestic animals and in the use of secondary products like wool, milk, and cheese from the beginning of the 3rd millennium. This contributed to the constant growth of the population and enlargement of urban centres, reaching a population density that would only recur in the late Bronze Age Autarchies were replaced by specialised trading systems, and dependencies were created. Long-distance trade is inferred from exotic objects decorated in the Indus area, and coastal settlements specialised in maritime trading were built in this period. Social hierarchies developed, as well as the notion of territory, political control and ‘chiefdoms’ in general (Ökse 2017).

The new rural sites established ca. 2400/2300 BC in the Upper Tigris coincide with the period of aridity that moved the minimal border of precipitation again to the north, and probably impacted the socioeconomy of northern Mesopotamia, which forced the Akkadian kings to repopulate the Upper Tigris region, in order to establish a new agricultural system to provide for food. The new sites showed pottery similar to that produced in the Habur region, indicating a strong relation to the Akkadian territory administered from the Palace at Tell Brak (Ökse 2017).

At the end of this period ca. 2300–2200 BC, a crisis appears in Mesopotamia, then the Levant and Anatolia, and finally the Aegean region, where connections were eventually broken, and trade was cut off. Settlements shrink in size and are abandoned, and demographic levels fall. People of foreign origin take the opportunity of a serious weakening of the whole system to move into these regions in crisis, in the western Aegean during the Early Helladic III period, which lasts ca. 2200–2000 BC, reaching its lowest point ca. 2000 BC in the Middle Helladic (Ökse 2017).

vii.4. Aegeans and Anatolians

Minoans from the Lasithi plateau in the highlands of eastern Crete (ca. 2400–1700 BC) and from the coast of southern Crete (ca. 2200–2700 BC) were a homogeneous population, with an ancestry shared with Bronze Age south-western Anatolians of Harmanoren–Gondurle Hoyuk (2800–2300 BC). All Aegean populations derived most of their ancestry from an Anatolia Neolithic-related population (ca. 62-86%), but with contributions of Iran Neolithic-related ancestry (ca. 9-32%), which was already present during the Neolithic in samples from central Anatolia and in Tepecik-Çiftlik. Two Minoans from Lasithi and one Anatolian individual from the Bronze Age showed haplogroup J-M304, which was rare or non-existent in earlier populations from Greece and western Anatolia, dominated by G2-P287 (Lazaridis et al. 2017):

Minoans show hg. J2a1d-M319 (formed ca. 11000 BC, TMRCA ca. 9700 BC), with haplogroup J2a-M410 found first in the Caucasus, in the Palaeolithic individual from Kotias Klde, and later hg. J2a1-L26 is widely distributed during the Bronze Age from Central Asians in the east to Assyrians and Mycenaeans in the west, which suggests a potential expansion with CHG/Iranian farmer-related ancestry in the Chalcolithic (see §iv.4. Late Middle Easterners). The Minoan sample from southern Crete, of hg. G2a2b2a-P303 (a lineage found in central and eastern European farmers), shows thus continuity of regional male lines.

Based on subsequent migrations, the incoming population of J2a1-L26 subclades may have brought from the east languages ancestral (or related) to Tyrsenian, which would be the common substrate described for Greek and Anatolian. Their integration with other peoples, such as Assyrians in the Bronze Age, proves that the high demographic density and advanced political organisation of Near Eastern cultures may have allowed for different lineages to become integrated into different communities speaking diverse languages, depending on the ruling elites of each period and region.

The south-western Anatolian BA sample shows J1a2b-Z1828 (formed ca. 16000 BC, TMRCA ca. 6100 BC), which was also found in the Levantine Bronze Age (Lazaridis et al. 2017). This hints at ancestral southern Anatolian populations which were probably responsible for the introduction of Levant-related ancestry in the region.

In Anatolia, the first attestation of Anatolian languages is believed to occur in typical masculine personal names found among inscriptions from Armi (ca. 2500–2300 BC) a regional state which enjoyed a privileged relationship with Ebla, a Semitic-speaking Kingdom from south-eastern Anatolia and the northern Levant. The kingdom of Armi was possibly located in the Upper Tigris, in a recently Semiticised area related to silver and copper trade with the north (Bonechi 1990; Archi 2011).

In the late 3rd millennium, the heartland of Hittites probably lay in the upper reaches of the Halys River, in a zone between the Luwian heartland to the southwest, in the Lower Land south of the Tuz Gölü central Anatolia, and the Hattians to the north on the central Anatolian plateau. This tentative location is based on the mixed influence of Hattic and Luwian on early Hittite, and on the presence of Hattic loanwords in prehistoric Hittite through an intermediary Luwian language. Poor evidence exists of the Luwian presence in west Anatolia, with few scraps of evidence suggesting that early forms of Carian and Lydian may have been the spoken languages of the area (Melchert 2011).