It is especially West Asia that has been explored archaeologically. In
addition, the very varied natural conditions and great distances mean that we
have a differentiated and incomplete picture of cultural development.
Ancient and Middle Paleolithic finds are known from several places in Asia,
best investigated are those in the eastern Mediterranean (by Jerusalem, Aleppo,
Karkemish, etc.) that can be put into the better known European-North African
context. In India, there are finds of an older paleolithic character, partly
with the spot industry in the northern regions and Bakindia, and partly with
nuclear tools in the central and southern parts of the country. They belong to
the older Ice and Middle Ages, which have also been found in the Central Asian
high mountain area.
Particularly important are the skeletal finds from Zhoukoudian near Beijing
in northern China and at Trinil in Java. In both places, remains of a primitive
human race belonging to the so-called paleoanthropic type have been found and
must be dated to an early period of paleolithic time. The Beijing finds have
also provided primitive quartz staining tools.
Younger Paleolithic and Mesolithic cultures are richer represented and
somewhat better known, especially in West Asia. From the last Ice Age, a number
of late Acheuléen sites are known here. Important findings are the cave
settlements in the Carmel Mountains in Palestine and Zarzi in Northern
Iran. Late Paleolithic discoveries have also been made in Siberia.
Mesolithic cultures with microliths (flint implements) are known from Siberia
(Afontova by Jenisej), Mongolia, India (the Windy Mountains), Malaya, Indochina
and Indonesia. For a large part, these can be difficult to determine; in the
more remote regions of Southeast Asia, such stone-age cultures seem to have
stayed very far down in time. The cave paintings from the Vindhyas mountains in
India, which are stylistically related to the art of hunting from the last ice
age and post-glacial period in Europe and Africa, should therefore perhaps be
given a relatively late date. In Western Asia, they form a number of local
groups; the discoveries consist of settlements by rivers and in oases, in caves
and as kitchen meetings.
The most famous is the natufien culture in Palestine. Livestock were still
unknown here, but gravel and grindstone were found to cut and grind wild grain
and grass. It has nowhere been possible to follow a safe line of development
from Mesolithic to Neolithic cultures, despite the fact that residuals from the
two cultural forms are often found directly above each other. However, it is
believed that agriculture, livestock breeding and village settlement have grown
in the area between Egypt and Iran.
Neolithic Age and Bronze Age
The oldest Neolithic finds are located in northern Syria, northern Iraq and
western Iran (Jericho, Samara, Jarmo, Hassuna, Sialk) and probably date back to
the 8th millennium BC. See
Countryaah.com for all countries in Middle East. The special settlement conditions in Western Asia, where
villages and towns were erected by dried or burnt clay in the same places over
the millennia, have yielded the distinctive town mounds (tell, carpet, kurgan,
etc.) that can be more than 20 m high.
Among the most important and best investigated are Troy, Alaca Hüyük, Mersin
(Asia Minor), Ras Shamra, Jericho (Syria and Palestine), Halaf, Nineveh, Uruk,
Susa, Ur (Iraq), Sialk, Hissar, Bakun (Iran), Anau (West Turkestan),
Rana-Ghundai (Northwest India).
These may contain distinct cultural layers and ruins from early prehistoric
to modern times, and thus, for Mesopotamia and neighboring regions it has been
possible to divide the prehistory from ca. 6000 to approx. 3000 BC in four main
sections: (1) The Halaf period of cold-hammered copper utensils and painted
ceramics; (2) The Al Ubaid period with some bronze tools and the first major
temple buildings; (3) The period of turmoil which, with unpainted pottery,
engraved cylinder seals and the first writing, marks a cultural breach and
probably an invasion of foreign people; (4) The Jemdet-Nasr period, which shows
a fusion of the former cultural elements and lies on the border of historical
Immediately after 3000 BC follows the dynastic era with the first
historically-situated city-states and kings. During this time, the village
communities develop into cities, with a number of technical inventions, and
improvements occur: melting and casting of metal, turning of pots, plows, etc.
The same development can be followed throughout Western Asia from Asia Minor to
Iran, but the prehistoric era lasts here down through the ancient Bronze Age, to
ca. 2000 BC or longer. Before and during the oldest Hittite kingdom, a rich
Bronze Age culture flourished in Asia Minor, exerting a strong influence on
contemporary European cultures.
Blue. can be mentioned the rich royal tombs of Troy and Alaca Hüyük. The
numerous surveys of city highlands in Syria and Palestine have provided
important links between Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultural areas. The oldest
finds from North-West Indian village cultures (Quetta, Nal, Amri, Zob) date back
to Persian cultures and date back to the 4th millennium BC. The rich Indus
culture of the third millennium forms a parallel to the contemporary urban
communities in Mesopotamia, but is still prehistoric, since it was not possible
to interpret the inscriptions from the finds. It is known since the 1920s from a
number of city mounds, the most important being Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa with
large, fortified urban facilities, temples and palaces.
Neolithic finds from the as yet unexplored Central Asia (Anau) and from the
Henan province of China have yielded painted ceramics akin to the oldest West
Asian. Neolithic cultures in China are still little known. The rich Chinese
ancient Bronze Age culture down to the third millennium is still prehistoric and
has exerted a strong influence on cultural development elsewhere in East and
Southeast Asia. Younger stone age finds with pottery are known from kitchen
meetings in Japan and Bakindia, Indochina and Indonesia.
The first use of iron appears in Asia Minor as early as the end of the third
millennium (Alaca Hüyük), but becomes common only in historical times (from the
middle of the second millennium) in Western, and later in East Asia. Already in
the Bronze Age (about 2000 BC) the Indus culture is in decline; The following
centuries to the beginning of the historical period of the 400s are little known
in India. In Japan, an actual Bronze Age is missing; from the earliest Iron Age
(c. 500 BC – 500 AD) date a number of burial mounds with stone chambers.
In Northern Siberia, prehistoric cultures have lived just down in modern
times, from which are specialized fishing communities with stone-bronze age
implements, later iron implements, related to younger trapping cultures in
Northeastern Europe and North America, see Arctic Stone Age and North
America (Prehistory). By the way, Siberia can exhibit a rich Bronze and Iron
Age, among other things. Ananino culture in Western Siberia and eastern Russia
and the eastern, Minusian Bronze Age. Typical are round or square burial mounds
(baskets), often with boulders and with burial sites for unburned dead in wooden
chests, with a distinctive pottery and bronze animal figures.