Sunday, December 30, 2007

Early history of Afghanistan - pre Alexander the Great

The ancient mountains of Afghanistan have been inhabited for well over 100,000 years and contain a story which is still unfolding as archaeologists discover more evidence of earlier civilisations. Stone tools made in Lower Palaeolithic era, more than 100,000 years ago were discovered on terraces to the east of a lake named Dasht-i-Nawur, west of Ghazni. In August 1966. an American, Louis Dupree discovered evidence from the Mousterian period (Middle Paleolithic) in a cave high in the mountains of Badakhshan at a place called Darra-i-Kur. Several hundred tools and flints were unearthed and is the earliest evidence of people living in the high mountains of Afghanistan and the eastern most Mousterian site in the world. The same survey team headed by Dupree found further evidence in 1969 in the foothills near Gurziwan, south-east of Maimana. The site known as the Cave of the Dead Sheep (Ghar-i-Gusfand Mordeh) revealed tools older than those found at Darra-i-Kur.

The foothills of the Afghanistan's Hindu Kush have also proved to be the first place in the world where man first developed to control his food supply when important evidence was discovered to show carbonised grasses and other agricultural relics estimated to be 9000 years old.

Modern day Afghanistan was once part of the great Persian Empire stretched from the Dardanelles (Turkish Greek Border) to the Indus, Upper Egypt to Central Asia

The most interesting people on the fringes of Mesopotamia were the nomads of the plains east of the Capsian Sea and around present Persia. They were the many tribes and they had many names-Scythians, Medes, Parthians, Aryans, and others. Together they formed a link between India and southeastern Europe. About 1700 BC these tribes may have come to Babylonia as mercenary soldiers, bringing with them an animal the Babylonians had never seen-the horse. A thousand years later, under the more general
name of Persians, they were to overcome the Assyrioans, with the destruction of Nineveh, the capital. This period was one of movement, the restless Persians looking for new lands to conquer. Marching armies and trading caravans crossed the wide open spaces between Persia and Egypt, and as far north as the Black Sea.

Hardy and well disciplined, the Persians were welded into a strong nation by their great leaders Cyrus and Darius. By 500 BC, with armies of foot soldiers and mounted cavalry fighting with bronze-tipped arrows, the mighty Persian Empire was the largest the world had yet seen. Cyrus, in his time, subjected the people of Babylon, the Phoenicians, and the Greek cities of Asia Minor to his rule; Cambyses added Egypt; and darius, the great lawgiver, found himself in supreme command from the Dardanelles to the Indus, from Upper Egypt to central Asia. But the mastery of Europe was another matter. neither Greeks, Sicilians, nor the people of the Spanish Phoenician came under Persian rule.

In his determination to make Persia a great sea power, Darius sent an expedition, under one Scylax, to explore the Indian Ocean from Suez to the Indus. He also led his armies into an involuntary voyage of exploration. In 512 BC, during his wars with the Scythians, he crossed the Bosporus and the Danube and then, under the impressions that he was near the Black Sea, he found himself in the steppes of Russia, from which he was forced to return.

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