Saturday, April 29, 2023

Bronze Age Populations

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

During the Bronze Age (c.3000 B.C. to 1100 B.C.) ancient states emerged along the Nile, the Indus River, and in the Ancient Near East. These were located in ore rich regions near major water systems where early systems of irrigation developed. This was one of the first regions inhabited by humans outside of Africa and also the region connecting Africa and Eurasia. The region’s location at the crossroads of migratory routes contributes to its importance in understanding populations of the Bible. 

"The Bronze Age was a highly dynamic period involving large-scale population migrations and replacements, responsible for shaping major parts of present-day demographic structure in both Europe and Asia." (Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia | Nature)

Much has been written about the late "Bronze Age Collapse" which occurred in parts of Eurasia and the eastern Mediterranean, but not in the Nile Valley which was rising to prominence as a unified Egyptian empire. Studies of the Ancient Pyramid Texts (2200 B.C.) reveal a sophisticated social structure and vital economy the length of the Nile. The Egyptians had outposts in Arabia, Canaan, Mesopotamia, and as far north as Mount Silpius in Turkey where they built Meroe (IO) on the Orontes.

Meroe on the Orontes was about 2800 miles from the shrine city of Meroe on the Nile. Both were under the control of the ancient sea-faring Egyptians who built sea-worthy ships. Meroe was the farthest outpost of the Egyptian Empire and at its peak the city would have had Amurru.

Amurru is the name of the northernmost district of Egypt's empire, and it included the coastal region from Ugarit to Byblos. The Orontes marked the northern boundary of Amur-ru. Meroe on the Orontes was one of the northern-most Egyptian outposts.

Most late Bronze Age historians focus on the hypothesized "Sea Peoples" that attacked ancient Egypt and other regions in the East Mediterranean between 1200–900 B.C. In this article we will look at earlier developments such as the dispersal of the early Hebrew, the dispersed descendants of Nilotic rulers, and the significance of the Egypt-Mesopotamia-Dilmun trade.

The Dispersed Hebrew

The prestigious Hebrew ruler-priest caste was in the service of the early lords of the earth, great kingdom builders like Nimrod, the son of Kush (Gen. 10). Before Abrham's time they had already dispersed out of the Nile Valley into Arabia, Canaan, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Iran, and the Indus Valley. Their influence extended into regions where they traded, even as far as Southeast Asia. 

The practice of sending away non-ascendant sons also drove the dispersion of the early Hebrew. The pattern is evident in Genesis 25:6 where we are told that Abraham gave gifts to all his other sons and sent them away from his proper heir, Isaac. Wherever the Hebrew went they carried their belief in the High God who had a son known as HR in ancient Egyptian, meaning "Most High One".

Early Horite and Sethite Hebrew maintained shrines along the major rivers and controlled trade on their section of the rivers. Their practice of building twin settlements on opposite sides of the river made it possible to assess tariffs on cargo. The Nilotic twin cities of Nekhen and Nekheb, and the twin cities of Pe and Dep are examples. Pe and Dep merged into the city that the Greeks later called Buto.

Ancient trade routes 

The routes of migration were also early trade routes controlled by regional rulers. The Sumerian rulers had a long-established trade with Dilmun (Bahrain) and with port cities in the Indus valley. Ships sailed southeast on the Tigris or Euphrates to the Persian Gulf, making stops at the port city of Dilmun (Bahrain), passing the Oman Peninsula, and entering the Arabian Sea. From there the ships sailed northeast on the Indus River to Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.

As early as 7000 B.C., the island of Bahrain, identified by the Sumerians as Dilmun, served as a major trade depot with its own commercial seal. Ships coming from Dilmun and ports east traveled to the Sumerian cities of Ur, Erech, and Nippur. The city of Eridu, regarded as the oldest Sumerian city, was an important trade center as early as 5000 B.C. 

Thomas Geoffrey Bibby (1917-2001) lead excavations at Dilmun in the 1950s. Bibby discovered artifacts that show that Dilmun (Bahrain) was the capital of an independent kingdom and the center of trade between ancient Sumeria and the Indus River Valley. The Bronze Age civilization at Dilmun lasted two thousand years.

Genetic Studies 

The Bronze Age has been the focus of numerous DNA studies (Narasimhan et al., 2019), and anthropological investigation of social hierarchies (Luneau, 2010). The western Iron Age nomads (Cimmerians, Scythians, and Sarmatians) are believed to have mixed. This 2018 study found "evidence of a stable shared genetic signature, making the eastern Pontic-Caspian steppe a likely source of western nomadic groups." 

Studies of the DNA of the ancient Egyptians show a closer genetic affinity with ancient people from the Near East and the Levant such as Armenians. This is especially interesting given that the earlier name for the Nile River was Ar, meaning "venerable". The Ar Rulers are evidence of the wide dispersal of kingdom builders who were associated with the Nilotic royal families.  

An international team of scientists from the University of Tübingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany analyzed the DNA of 93 Egyptian mummies dating from approximately 1400 BCE to 400 CE. The evidence from their study reveals a surprising close relation to ancient people of the Near East such as Armenians.

Our analyses reveal that ancient Egyptians shared more ancestry with Near Easterners than present-day Egyptians, who received additional sub-Saharan admixture in more recent times.

We find that ancient Egyptians are most closely related to Neolithic and Bronze Age samples in the Levant, as well as to Neolithic Anatolian and European populations.

A genetics study by Haber et. al (2015) published not so long ago in the Nature’s European Journal of Human Genetics has demonstrated this connection.

We show that Armenians have higher genetic affinity to Neolithic Europeans than other present-day Near Easterners, and that 29% of the Armenian ancestry may originate from an ancestral population best represented by Neolithic Europeans.

Today’s Armenians show genetic affinity to both the ancient Europeans and ancient Egyptians. That there was plenty of contact between ancient Egypt and ancient Armenia is apparent from Egyptian artifacts that were found in ancient Armenian burials.

Consider also this excerpt from a 2015 study:
The Armenians show signatures of an origin from a mixture of diverse populations occurring from 3000 to 2000 BCE. This period spans the Bronze Age, characterized by extensive use of metals in farming tools, chariots, and weapons, accompanied by development of the earliest writing systems and the establishment of trade routes and commerce. Many civilizations such as in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus valley grew to prominence. Major population expansions followed, triggered by advances in transportation technology and the pursuit of resources. Our admixture tests show that Armenian genomes carry signals of an extensive population mixture during this period. We note that these mixture dates also coincide with the legendary establishment of Armenia in 2492 BCE. Admixture signals decrease to insignificant levels after 1200 BCE, a time when Bronze Age civilizations in the Eastern Mediterranean world suddenly collapsed, with major cities being destroyed or abandoned and most trade routes disrupted.


  1. I thinks it’s a false claim to associate Egypt with Armenians with a greater affinity than indigenous Africans. For that period yes but Egypt starts before that as does pre dynastic Egypt.
    In Luxor in the Tombs Of Nobles you see a clear influx of these northern women marrying in and serving as concubines around 1400-1500 B.C.E. Before this no you do not see this in any of the tombs. Mixed marriages become commonplace by 1400.
    Tombs in Luxor
    TT 55 - Ramose
    TT 56 - Userhat
    TT 57 - Khaemhat
    show this influx of foreign women clearly into Egypt.

  2. Anonymous, the dispersal of rulers out of the Nile Valley took place well before 1500 BCE. They moved into many regions: Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Armenia. Non-Hebrew rulers married women of other ethnicities to forge political alliances. Hebrew marriages were endogamous which is typical of castes.

  3. I recommend getting my book "The First Lords of the Earth: An Anthropological Study" for yourself and to share with your pastor. Available on Amazon.


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