Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Kelteminar & Botai Cultures (plus a few bonus ones)

Kazakhstan is another European nation that has received too little attention on both the blog and the podcast. For this reason, we're going to step back into the prehistoric and look at two of the earliest modern human cultures to grace this country which is the largest land-locked country in the world. But, before we get into these cultures we might want to explain why Kazakhstan is European.

Kazakhstan is largely populated by Kazakh people, one of the many Turkic descendants in the Eurasian world. But I've decided to include Kazakhstan in our discussion of Europe over countries like its neighbors Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan for more reasons than they happen to be a bit further west. One reasons we've included Kazakhstan is because of its association with the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Of course both Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were part of the Soviet Empire, but not nearly as many European ethnic people were forcefully moved east into Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as they were to Kazakhstan. Another reason for the inclusion is their link to the more ancient Turkish nomadic group of Cuman people who we mentioned in our post on Transnistria. Again, Cumania had stretches into the other to -stan countries but not isn't as deeply rooted. The reason for the importance of Cuman people is that they influenced more western places like Bulgaria, Moldova and the Ukraine. But the primary reason we've chosen to include Kazakhstan is because a lot of lists of European countries include them and we're just trying to cover as much European history as possible so we'll throw them in there for good measure.

Other than human ancestors it seems the earliest people to inhabit Kazakhstan was the Kelteminar Culture. Confusingly, in light of the preceding paragraph, the Kelteminar Culture was a sedentary culture of fishermen that settled around the Aral Sea in modern Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Eurasia is killing me.

The Kelteminar Culture lasted from roughly 6000 BC - 3000 BC (or before or after, the evidence is scant). What we do know though is they built larger houses, probably to house multi-generational families. They hunted and gathered. But, they were not nomadic. They subsisted primarily on fishing. But unlike the Vinča culture in Serbia, another fishing community they made mother goddess statues rather than fish-man goddesses.

The Kelteminar Culture was primarily a neolithic culture but began to dabble in copper working and thus, became a Chalcolithic culture. As they advanced in metallurgy they became a Bronze Age culture that exported its wares throughout the Caucuses and Eastern and Central Europe (as well as western Asia).

BMAC Bronze Bullhead
The Kelteminar Culture left its legacy in a number of subsequent Bronze Age cultures. The subsequent Zamin-Babis tribes took the Kelteminar Culture, evolved it and moved eastward into Asia. This is sometimes referred to as the Suyargan Culture that came into existence around 2000 BC. The Suyargan Culture was a small part of the Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex that stretched into Asia so we won't cover it much. But, the BMAC for short was a pretty technologically advance Bronze Age amalgamation of various cultures in the region. We won't go into it much but the BMAC was a bit of an interlocutor between European civilizations and other eastern civilizations with artifacts traveling through its territory from Europe to the Indus Valley and back the other way. Not our normal sphere of topic but interesting none the less.

Mummified boot dating to 1800 BC

Boot used to ride through Kazakhstan in 2007.
Ancient Kazakhstan is one of the places in the Eurasian region where horsemanship first laid down its roots. One of the earliest cultures to ride horses in the region was the Botai Culture that lasted from around 3700 BC - 3100 BC. The Botai and the Kelteminar are connected through a cultural interchange of sorts, each influencing the other. The Botai were primarily agricultural compared to the Kelteminar's seafood preference. What makes the Botai especially unique is their use of domesticated horses. While they may not have been the first to break the wild horses of the Eurasian steppe, their use of domesticated horses as far back as 3500 BC makes them a prime candidate for 'first' status on this issue. Incredibly, some of the horse riding equipment first developed by the Botai is remarkably similar to the equipment used today, see the pictures of the boots to the left. The Botai domestication of horses marked a huge step in the advancement of human culture. For this reason alone, the Botai, and Kazakhstan in general has had a major impact on the development of Europe.


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