Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex

archaeological culture

The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (short BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization, is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age civilization of Central Asia, dated to c. 2400–1900 BC in its urban phase or Integration Era.


  • [A very recent study, not on crude skull types but on the far more precise genetic traits, confirms the absence of an immigration from Central Asia in the second millennium BC. Brian E. Hemphill and Alexander F. Christensen report on their study of the migration of genetic traits (with reference to AIT advocate Asko Parpola):] “Parpola’s suggestion of movement of Proto-Rg-Vedic Aryan speakers into the Indus Valley by 1800 BC is not supported by our data. Gene flow from Bactria occurs much later, and does not impact Indus Valley gene pools until the dawn of the Christian era.”
    • Hemphill & Christensen: “The Oxus Civilization as a Link between East and West: A Non-Metric Analysis of Bronze Age Bactrain Biological Affinities”, paper read at the South Asia Conference, 3-5 November 1994, Madison, Wisconsin; p. 13. quoted in Elst, Koenraad (1999). Update on the Aryan invasion debate New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Several kinds of evidence for the PIE locus have been presented here. Ancient loanwords point to a locus along the desert trajectory, not particularly close to Mesopotamia and probably far out in the eastern hinterlands. The structure of the family tree, the accumulation of genetic diversity at the western periphery of the range, the location of Tocharian and its implications for early dialect geography, the early attestation of Anatolian in Asia Minor, and the geography of the centum-satem split all point in the same direction: a locus in western central Asia. Evidence presented in Volume II supports the same conclusion: the long-standing westward trajectories of languages point to an eastward locus, and the spread of IE along all three trajectories points to a locus well to the east of the Caspian Sea. The satem shift also spread from a locus to the south-east of the Caspian, with satem languages showing up as later entrants along all three trajectory terminals. (The satem shift is a post-PIE but very early IE development.) The locus of the IE spread was therefore somewhere in the vicinity of ancient Bactria-Sogdiana. This locus resembles those of the three known post-IE spreads: those of Indo-Iranian (from a locus close to that of PIE), Turkic (from a locus near north-western Mongolia), and Mongolian (from north-eastern Mongolia)... Thus in regard to its locus, as in other respects, the PIE spread was no singularity but was absolutely ordinary for its geography and its time-frame. ... The reason that dialect divisions arising in the locus show up along more than one trajectory is that the Caspian Sea divides westward spreads into steppe versus desert trajectories quite close to the locus and hence quite early in the spread. In contrast, developments that occurred farther west, as the split of Slavic from Baltic in the middle Volga may have, continue to spread along only one trajectory. This is why the Pontic steppe is an unlikely locus for the PIE spread. ...Thus the structure of the IE family tree, the distribution of IE genetic diversity over the map, and what can be inferred of the geographical distribution of dialectal diversity in early IE all point to a locus in western central Asia
    • Johanna Nichols NICHOLS 1997: The Epicentre of the Indo-European Linguistic Spread. Nichols, Johanna. Chapter 8, in ―Archaeology and Language, Vol. I: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations, ed. Roger Blench & Matthew Spriggs, Routledge, London and New York, 1997.
  • Approximately every two millennia, then, there has occurred a spread of a language family from a locus in the eastern part of the central Eurasian spread zone to cover the steppe and central Asia, extending partially or intermittently to the Danube plain, Anatolia, and northern Mesopotamia. The loci of the historically attested spreads are near the edge of the spread zone rather than in the centre of it: the piedmont to the south (Bactria-Sogdiana) for Iranian, the north of Mongolia for Turkic and Mongolian. The trajectories of language spread run east to west along the steppe and through the desert to the Near East as shown .... To take clear and historically well-attested examples, the locus, trajectories, and range of IE must have been much like those of Iranian or Turkic. ... The placement of the locus specifically in the vicinity of Bactria-Sogdiana is justified in .... A homeland reconstructed as locus, trajectory and range removes the dilemma: a locus in the vicinity of Bactria-Sogdiana implies a spread beginning at the frontier of ancient Near Eastern civilization and a range throughout the steppe and central Asia, following the east-to-west trajectory, with occasional or periodic spreads into the Danube plain and Anatolia.
    • Johanna Nichols NICHOLS. 1998. The Eurasian spread zone and the Indo-European dispersal. in : Blench, R., & Spriggs, M. (2012). Archaeology and Language II: Archaeological Data and Linguistic Hypotheses. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
  • Sergent notes a peculiarity of the Bronze Age Bactrian culture: “in contrast with all the neighbouring cultures, the settlements of this culture are characterized by a very feeble accumulation: they were constructed in haste, apparently on the basis of a pre-established plan, and have not been occupied for very long”. That such makeshift settlements have produced such “brilliant” culture, indicates to me that they already had a brilliant cultural heritage to start with. And isn’t precisely the Harappan culture known for its proficiency in urban planning?
  • [the Harappan-Bactrian similarities are due to] “influence of northwestern India on Bactria by means of a migration of Indus people to Central Asia after the end of their civilization”.24
    • Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.224, with reference to A.A. Askarov: “Traditions et innovations dans la culture du nord de la Bactriane à l’age du bronze”, Colloque Archèologie, CNRS, Paris 1985, p.119-124., quoted in Elst, Koenraad (1999). Update on the Aryan invasion debate New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Of course we must remain open to new interpretations and new findings. In this field, confident assertions can be overruled the same day by new discoveries. But if Sergent himself, all while advocating an Indo-Aryan interpretation of the known Bactrian findings, is giving us so many hints that their identity is uncertain at best, and otherwise more likely Iranian than Indo-Aryan, we should have no reason to disbelieve him. On the strength of the data he offers, the safest bet is that the Bactrian Bronze Age culture was the centre of Iranian culture.... Not being an archaeologist, I do not want to evaluate the status quaestionis of the archaeological search for IE origins. All I can do is note that the archaeologists themselves don’t seem to have mapped out the trail of the early Indo-Europeans in South and Central Asia with a convincing amount of detail. Asko Parpola and Bernard Sergent have made a valiant attempt, and invasionists are hopeful that if pursued further, these efforts should lead to the definitive proof of the AIT. However, we have seen that the interpretation which Parpola and Sergent give to the crucial Bactrian Bronze Age culture as Indo-Aryan is uncertain, and that their own data could better support the identification of that culture as Iranian. More importantly, we have seen that they have not succeeded in getting the Bactrians into India, i.e. in proving an actual migration of people and of a culture into India.

External linksEdit