Here we detail about the two major ages in the history of central Asia.
The two major ages are: 1. The Bronze Age 2. The Iron Age.
Age # 1. The Bronze Age:
Characteristics of the Age:
One part tin mixed with ten parts copper yields bronze. This was known to man as early as 2000 B. C. The mixture of tin and copper not only changes the colour of the metal but makes it harder also. At the present time, the tin-producing countries are Malaya, South Africa, Iran, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Spain and England (Cornwall), etc. Tin is also found in the Caucasus and in Syria.
In the Caucasus, Czechoslovakia, Spain and Cornwall, tin and copper mines are found side By side. Presumably at some time or other, the copper-makers might have mixed the tin ore with the copper ore by mistake, to find that the result was a wonderful new metal—bronze. It is most likely that the copper age persisted so, long in Egypt and Mesopotamia because of the general scarcity of tin.
The copper articles found in the Sind Valley and Sumeria (Mesopotamia) also contain a proportion of nickel. This was not due perhaps, to any deliberate intention on the part of the makers of the metal, but may rather have been because the copper ore used in these countries came from Umma, which meant that it contained a good proportion of nickel.
With the discovery of bronze, metallurgy took a big stride forward. It marked the beginning of that great age of metals which led to the modern era in which thousands of alloys are being prepared. The Caspian Sea lies opposite the southern slopes of the Caucasus and a fairly good road leads to it from the southern side of the mountains.
In the Caucasus collyrium instead of tin was used in the manufacture of bronze, while the Sumerians made use of lead. It has to be remembered that the manufacture of bellmetal, an alloy obtained by the mixing of zinc with copper, came much later, when man had already entered the Iron Age. An important difference between the settlements of the Neolithic Age and the Copper-Bronze Age is that while the neolithic settlements are self-sufficient in every respect the self-sufficiency comes to an end with the coming of the Copper-Bronze Age because metal weapons, or at least their raw materials, had to be imported from other countries.
The Bronze Age in Khwarezm:
The culture of Tajabagyab in the second millennium before Christ is considered to be a Bronze Age culture. The ruins of such places as Anka-Kala and Teshikkala show strong traces of this culture. The people of the time were pastoral or agricultural and they belonged to a matriarchal society. It is difficult. to say anything about the nature of their villages as the building materials they used were extremely fragile. The clay vessels of this period were without handles, but were decorated with colours and with engravings which were made on them while the clay was still wet.
The culture of Amirabad belongs to the first half of the millennium B. C. This is also called the pre-iron-age culture. Here, too, the people had reached the matriarchal stage and – their main occupations were, pastoral and agricultural. The remains of Janbaskala represent this culture.
The ‘Saptanada’ Semi Rechye or (Land of Seven Rivers):
Saptanada province also entered the Bronze age at about the end of the second millennium before Christ. It was called the Land of the Seven Rivers because it contained the Tuls, Chu, Hi and four others. Possibly its original name was something like Saptasindhu (Seven Rivers) and the Russians, translating from the Turkish and Mongol languages, call it nowadays Semi Rechye, which has the same meaning.
A great advantage enjoyed by this region was the existence of the neighbouring copper or gold mines of Altai. Even today the factories of Karanda to the north of Lake Balkash are the biggest in the Soviet Union.
A number of ancient towns of this region have recently been dug up, chief amongst them being Taraz (Jambul), Sarig and Balasagun (both of which are in the Chu (Water) Valley in Khirgizistan) and Koiluk (in the Ili Valley). The great Chu Canal, constructed in 1942, was taken across’ the sites of these ancient and long-abandoned settlements and thousands of relics were found while the excavations were being made. The delta of the Chu and Ili was the centre of the Bronze Age and the people of the area occupied themselves with fishing, agriculture and hunting.
The Bronze Age culture of the Andronians, Karasuks and Minusunians of the North also reveals that they lived by hunting, fishing and agriculture. The Andronian culture is considered to belong to the period 1700 to 1200 B.C. It spread from the Yenesi River to the Urals. Many objects have been found near Ust Araba which has close links with the Androniyan culture. The clay vessels were engraved with geometrical designs.
(ii) Karasuk (1200 to 800 B.C.):
In this period we find traces of the Karasuk culture in the North. A large number of graves have been found north-west of the Altai range which contained articles similar to those of Androniya.
We find traces of another culture during this period which is called the Minusun culture, A large lumber of graves representing this culture have been found where bronze ornaments, knives, swords, axes and other things lie buried with the human skeletons. This extended as far as the banks of the Yenesi river. It is probable that the centre of this tribe was situated North-East of Central Asia and that it had contacts with the Khakasi people near Lake Baikal.
Just about the time when the above-mentioned three civilisations were dying out, there is clear evidence of the Scythians in the North. This leads one to suppose that the tribes referred to above were the ancestors of the Scythians. In the Neolithic and pre-Neolithic Ages, not only in the South but in the North, we find traces of the Munda-Dravid race right up to Sinkiang (the Terim Valley).
From the seventh and eighth centuries B. C. we find that the Scythian branch of the Indo-European race predominates, in Central Asia. – It would not be surprising were we to find that- it was these three tribes which put an end in the Bronze Age to the domination of the Munda-Dravid race in Central Asia and that,, taking its place, they appeared in the Northern areas and Sinkiang as the Scythians and iii the Southern regions as the Aryans.
It would also appear that the Indo-European race did not exist in Central Asia before the middle of the third millennium B. C. ‘ On this supposition it seems reasonable to conclude that a branch of this rate entered India in the middle of the second millennium before Christ.
Southern Kurgan, in Anau is a relic of the Copper-Bronze Age but we still find a predominance of copper- over bronze at this stage. About the people too it cannot be said clearly whether they belonged to the Munda- Dravid race, like the people of the Neolithic Age, or to that of the Indo- European.
From the middle of the Mesolithic Age to the Bronze Age we find evidence of four human races. In the mid-Paleolithic Age in the North we find the Musters in the Pyasi Bhumi (the Thirsty Land ) region and the Altai region as well as in Sogdh and Tukhar ( the middle Oxus Galley ) in the South. Remains of the man of 12,000 years ago were found in the North in Kipchiak and Saptanada and in the South in the Sir valley, Sogdh and Khwarezm (Mesolithic Age).
In the Copper Age the Munda-Dravid race predominated from Anau and Khwarezm to the Saptanada. In the Bronze Age the ancestors of the Aryans and the Scythians spread throughout the North and the South. It is not possible to say anything definite about the Musters and the men of the Mesolithic Age. (it is possible that the Mesolithic man of this region was the ancestor of the Munda-Dravid race and it is also possible that he may be the ancestor of the Indo-European race of people, who, in the beginning of the Neolithic age, were forced to flee to Europe.
In the latter case, the Munda- Dravid people, being of Mediterranean origin, must have entered Central Asia from the south or south-east. In the Bronze Age we find a- branch of the Indo-European race returning to the land of their ancestors. It was they who gave birth to the Scythians and the Aryans. What happened to the Munda- Dravid people after the return of the Indo-European?
It is possible that, as was later to be repeated in Indian history, some of the Munda-Dravid people stayed on as slaves and were absorbed by the conquering race while those, who refused to accept slavery, fled to the unoccupied regions. We find till this day remnants of this race, which once extended from Altai to the Sinkiang in the Komis, living in the forests north of the Volga, the Estonians living on the Eastern shores of the Baltic and the Finns of Finland.
At one time the entire Moscow and Leningrad regions were occupied by people whose branches we find in present times in the Estonians, the Finns and the Komis. The resemblance between the Finnish and Dravidian languages is another proof of the fact that the Finns are a branch of the Dravid race that fled to the North as a result of the conflict between the Scythian-Aryans on the one hand and the Dravids on the other.
Thus, instead of calling them Munda-Dravid, we can as well call this Central Asian race of the Neolithic Age the Finno-Dravid race. Although the complexion of these Finno-Dravid people is as fair as that of the Europeans and they are golden-haired and no black hair is seen” among them, yet if we see a photograph of a Komi today we feel that we are looking at a pure South Indian Dravid. They have slender figures and are short of stature.
There are ample materials for the study of Finno-Dravid anthropology, not only in India but in the Soviet Union, and we should like to draw the attention of the scholars in our country towards this subject.
Age # 2. The Iron Age:
When we enter the Bronze Age, difference between the Aryans and the Scythians in a geographical sense becomes quite clear. The Scythians of this period lived north of the River Jaxartes and the Aral Sea, while to the south lived the Aryans. The Aryans spread at first from Sogdh (Jarphasan Valley) and Khwarezm to the Hindu Kush and Khurasan Mountains, but soon went as far as the Persian Gulf and the-banks of the Ganges and the Indus.
We learn from Greek historians that the Scythians called the nomadic tribes that lived between the Danube and the Tyanshan “Scooth, Shaka or Scyth“. However unpleasant a meaning this might have had in Greek or, being derived from it, in English, it has no such meaning in Scythian.
According to the Greek writers the Scythians called themselves Skols or Sokols. Darius in his Bahistun inscriptions has called them Shaka and in this matter India has followed the Persians. Many writers try to differentiate between the Scythians living north of the Black Sea and the nomadie Shakas living north of the Jaxartes River.
It is but natural that nomadic peoples spread over such vast areas should develop some differences, but we cannot accept the theory that they belonged to two different races. Greek historians of the fifth century B.C. also admitted that the nomads who spread from the Black Sea to the River Jaxartes were the same in manners and customs, in their eating habits and their clothes. Their weapons were also similar. The River Don is considered to be the boundary between the Eastern and Western Scythians.
Shakadvipa (The Scythian Island):
We can call that part of Eurasia which lies between the Danube and the Tyanshan-Altai mountain range and which in the beginning of the bronze age was the land of the Scythians “Shakadvipa“, to -use the Indian term. We can also call it Shakan-Shakanbaija using, the old Persian terminology and Shakas tan using the later one. But in the second century B.C. the Eastern part of Persia itself began to be called Shakastan or Shistan because it was inhabited by the Scythians or Shakas.
We can call this region ancient Shakastan and, using the same terminology, can allude to the region south of the Urals and the Sir Darya (river) as Aryadvipa ( Aryan Island ), Aryanabaija or Aryastan. Later there was a small province in Avesta which modern historians have referred to at various times as Khorasan, Bactria, Azerbaijan or Khwarezm. Hence, to avoid confusion, it is best to refer to this region as Aryadvipa.
The distinction between Aryadvipa and Shakadvipa did not continue very long. As early as 134 B.C. the Scythians were forced to leave the eastern part of Shakadvipa and in the next three centuries the Huns were to” reach the banks of the Danube and to scatter the Scythians in all directions. As a result of this offensive Eastern Shakadvipa was converted into Hundvipa, and even in the part of Shakadvipa West of the Don, the Goths and the Sarmatians (descendants of the Scythians) were forced to leave their homelands and flee northwards and westwards.
We also know that the fact of the Scythians having to leave the Eastern part of Shakadvipa led to such important consequences as the destruction of the Greek Bactrian kingdom and the Greek kingdom in India. It also led to the lasting influence of the Scythians on the social and political life of India.
The difference between the Aryans and Scythians was merely this that while the one had golden hair and fair complexion the other had not. When the Indo-European people were forced to leave Central Asia towards the end of the Mesolithic Age or in the beginning of the Neolithic, either as a result of the ravages of Nature or as a result of the advent of the Finno-Dravid race (Mohenjodaro), the difference between Centum and Saturn in their language had not yet appeared, nor had there been any difference between the western Indo-Europeans and the Scythian-Aryans.
As no name has been definitely fixed upon for the Greek, Roman, Gothic and Celtic peoples, we shall call them the Western Indo-European peoples. All are agreed that the Indo-European peoples of Central Asia went to Europe and that this took place in the Neolithic Age. Agriculture is a characteristic of the Neolithic Age, but we do not find the same terminology for agricultural implements or grains in the Centum and Satum languages. Leaving aside the centum language, even in the Satum languages the same terminology is not found for agricultural implements.
Hence it does not seem to be correct to state that it was in the Neolithic Age that the Indo-European peoples left Central Asia, or that the differences between Centum and Satum appeared and that the Scythians and the Aryans became divided into two distinct peoples. Yet if we fix a date earlier than the Neolithic Age for these divisions, though it would seem correct philologically, certain other facts become difficult to explain. In fixing the precise time, the deserts of Central Asia can perhaps be of great help to historians.
Archaeological research in Anau and Khwarezm has proved that the Mediterranean races entered Aryadvipa, but there is no evidence of their having influenced Shakadvipa. About this time, perhaps in the Mesolithic or Neolithic Age, the Scythian-Aryan branch of the Indo-European race succeeded in re-establishing a home in Central Asia, Here the Aryans came into contact with the Mediterranean people, similar in kind and as well-developed as the one whose remains we find in the Sind Valley and Mesopotamia.
It was as a result of this contact that the Aryans were able to make a- rapid enough progress to cross over from the Bronze to the Iron Age, while it was the absence of this contact that accounts for the Scythians not having been able to make the same amount of social progress.
In the seventh and eighth centuries B. G., when there was an abundance of iron implements in the Aryan lands, the Scythians were still using bronze swords, spearheads and arrow-heads. Greek historians, writing about the Scythians wh6 fought in Darius’s army against the Greeks state that in the lands where the Scythians lived there was no silver or iron, hence these metals were not used by them, but because there was an abundance of copper android, they used bronze for their weapons and gold for decoration.
After this and prior to the attacks of the’ Huns, the Scythians living on the borders of the Black Sea gave up their nomadic life to a large extent and settled down to cultivation. The people of the western part of Shakadvipa however did not give up their nomadic life till the Huns drove them out.
When the great soldier traveller Changkian reached their kingdom of Bactria, he found that the Scythians who were lords of a huge kingdom were still living in tents and moving with their horses and cattle from place to place for pasture. In short, they were still sticking to their nomadic ways. The nomadic tribes looked down on the settlers who took to cultivation as cowards.
It was to avoid this epithet that Timur, even after becoming a world conqueror and acquiring towns like Samarkand with its huge palaces, continued to play the nomad. This playing at a nomadic life was not entirely useless; for there is no doubt that the life of the nomad fits him for that of the soldier, ever ready for battle.
The only difference between the soldier and the nomad is that whereas even a free soldier has to forsake .the company of his family, the nomad takes his entire family with him (old and young, men and women) and they are an inseparable part of the nomad army. Nomads can get ready for attack at a moment’s notice and can, if the fortunes of war so dictate, take to flight just as readily.
They find an easy prey for loot and plunder in the towns and villages of their enemies, whereas those who defeat the nomads in battle get no reward. That is why for thousands of years the nomads were unconquerable in battle and when the Chinese had repeatedly failed to repel the Hun invaders in battle, they were forced to build the Great Wall as a defence. Cyrus died in battle against the great Messagetae Nomads while his heir, Darius, who attacked the Western Scythians in 516 B. G, had cause to regret his action. The Greeks fared no better against them.
The Scythian People:
The life of the Nomad, while- it has great advantages when it comes to war and politics, is a great handicap from the social and cultural point of view. It was an indication of social stagnation that while other races crossed over to the Iron Age the Scythians continued to remain in the Bronze Age.
We know that the development of a language follows the social development of a community. Very few traces of the Scythian language have reached us and even those that have, are of the era after Christ. But it is clear from the language of their descendants that the reason why their language remains synthetic and has not become analytical is due to this stagnation of their ancestors.
The language of the Indian Aryans began to change as soon as they entered India when the dental sounds hitherto unknown to the Satum people began to be used even in the Rig Veda, Whereas the basic change in our (Indian Aryan) language was completed in the sixth and seventh centuries A. D. the present-day descendants of the Scythians, the Slavs (Russians and other nationalities) still use a synthetic language.
In these languages the suffixes are an inseparable part of the different forms of the nouns or verbs and the use of auxiliary words is unknown to them till this day. As a result of this we find that from the point of view of language the Slav group of languages is closer to Sanskrit than any of our living languages today.
Darius was an Aryan king. Advancing through Europe along the shores of the Caspian Sea he made an unsuccessful attack on the Scythians in 516 B.C. Greek historians, quoting Scythian traditions, state that the first king of the Scythians ruled about a thousand years before this attack. There is no doubt that as long as the Scythians remained in their Shakadvipa they must have had kings. Imitating others they might have spoken of their nomad chieftains or leaders as Kings.
Women had a special place in the life of the Scythians. In fact in the fourth and fifth centuries B. C. the Scythians living east of the Don were called the Sarmatians because among them the women were all in all (Mata – Women; Sarve-Sarva—All in all; hence Sarvamata or Sarmata). Women not only took the place of the dead chieftains but even commanded their armies.
The manners, customs, and clothing habits of the Scythians which we find at the dawn of history had come down from very old times. Chinese and Greek writers are agreed that the main food and drink of the Scythians was meat and milk. The drinking of fresh warm blood with the meat must have been one of their common habits. We find that it was a practice amongst them to drink the fresh blood of enemies slain in battle and to use their skulls as drinking vessels.
Both these practices were prevalent amongst the Huns also, although they were a Mongoloid race. One of the secrets of the great success of the Mongol soldiers of Chengis Khan was their use of horses from the backs of which they could discharge their arrows and with blood drawn from the arteries of these horses they could quench their thirst. Thus Refreshed, they could continue the battle.
The marriage customs of the Scythians were also very primitive. Several brothers would share the same wife and a group of men could be considered the common husbands of a group of women—that is to say group marriage was prevalent amongst them. Just as among the Egyptian nobles the Scythian burials were performed with great pomp and splendour. By the side of the chief who had died were buried all the things he had used when he was alive, which meant not only all kinds of weapons, ornaments, food and drink, but his horses and slaves. Among the ancient Scythians it was the custom to bury their dead, especially their chieftains.
Their graves have been found to the north of the Caucasus and even in the Altai Mountains. Even in the graves of commoners it was considered important to bury cooking utensils as well as the food and drink. The continuance of this practice among a branch of the Scythians, the Khasas, till as late as the beginning of the Christian era, is evident from the burial-places of the Khasas people which have been found in the Ladakh Hills.
Besides burial, another practice which was prevalent was the hanging of the corpse on a tree so that the flesh might be eaten by birds. The bones would then be collected and buried. This practice is still in vogue among the Parsis, but instead of hanging the body on a tree, it is placed on the Dakhma to be eaten by vultures.
According to Greek writers there were times when instead of hanging the entire corpse to be eaten by birds, the flesh was separated from the bones so that they were available for immediate burial. There was also the custom among some of the Scythians of burning the corpse, and of the wife accompanying her dead husband.
In the eighth and ninth centuries A. D., before the Russians had embraced Christianity, this practice was prevalent amongst them also, as was witnessed by an Arab traveller. It was the Scythians, in fact, who introduced the practice of Sati (the burning of the widow along with the husband ) in India.
The clothing worn by the Scythians was the same all over the Eurasian continent. On their heads they wore the pointed cap which can be seen on Scythian coins as well as in the clay images of the 2nd and 3rd centuries found in Mathura and Amaravati. They wore trousers, a loose cloak and boots made of felt or leather reaching to their knees.
A long straight sword hung from their belts. Chinese writers have made special mention of their long noses and brown hair, while Sanskrit writers have referred to the Scythians, Greeks, Pahlavs and Bahliks as being red-faced. Scythian women were famous in India for a beauty which the ancient Indian doctors ascribed to their copious consumption of onions.
Vagbhatta writes in his “Astanghriday” (Uttartantr) thus:
“Yasyopayogena shakangananam lavanyasaradi-vinirmitanam”
The supreme God of the Scythians was the Sun. This is clear, pot only from Greek sources, but from the fact that images of the Sun with boots such as were worn by the Scythians are found widely in India as well as from the fact that the Russians, before they were converted to the Christian faith, used to worship the Sun.’ Besides the “Sun”, “Diu” was one of the Gods of the Scythians corresponding to the Vedic Dyo and the Greek Zeus. Mother Earth was worshipped by the name of Apiya.
They called the Sun “Svaliyu” and if we keep in mind their predilection for using “1” for “r” the similarity, with “Surya” becomes obvious. The ‘God “Svaliyu” was the son of “Diu” the father and “Apiya” the mother. “Puk” -was another important deity corresponding to the “Bhug” of the Vedas, “Bug” of the Persians and “Bog” of the Russians. The king or the chief was called by the Scythians “Pukpur”, which is another form of “Bhugpur” (Bhug-putr i.e. son of Bhug). In Persian and Arabic, the Chinese Emperor is called Phugpur which is derived from Pukpur.
The Chinese Emperors as we know were called Sons of God (Svargaputra), The Moon god was called” by the Scythians “Artimpet” (“Arthi-pati”). Vrindu was one of their goddesses and Viropat (Virapati) was one among” their gods. Very few examples of the old Scythian language remain today.