Where was the original homeland of the Hebrew tribes? Famed professor of Near Eastern Studies, the late Dr. Cyrus Gordon of Brandeis University, was the well-respected leading scholar of ancient Mediterranean civilizations during the last half of the 20th century. One of his ground-breaking books was, “Before The Bible: The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilizations.” In this book he gave important evidence that the Hebrews were not a Babylonian tribe from Southern Chaldea as popularly taught today, but had an original homeland in Aram in the area of southern Armenia, with rugged terraces and interspersed rivers at the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains north of Palestine. The biblical Patriarchal “Ur” (Gen. 11:31; 15:7; Neh. 9:7) was therefore actually a separate northern colony of the main southern Chaldean city of Ur. This explains why it was not from Chaldea, but from their true homeland north of Palestine that Isaac and Jacob obtained wives. (Gen. 24:1-10; 28:1-7) The Hebrew forefathers were not Babylonians!
Dr. Gordon explained, “Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham, was a northern commercial colony probably founded by the Sumerian Empire called the Third Dynasty of Ur during its heyday (ca. 20th century B.C.). All of the connections of the Patriarchal Narratives are northern, with no trace of direct contact with Sumer and Akkad. The southern identification of Ur of the Chaldees began during the second half of the nineteenth century when the decipherment of the Sumero-Akkadian inscriptions produced references to Sumerian Ur. That identification received an impetus during the 1920’s as a result of C. Leonard Woolley‘s important and widely publicized excavations at Sumerian Ur. The Royal Tombs yielded such splendid finds that the success of the expedition gave the illusion of finality to a specious identification. Older books—including many a forgotten tome of the nineteenth century—correctly locate Ur of the Chaldees in the general Haran area…The Patriarchs are depicted as Arameans as long as they remained in their native land.” (p.287) Indeed, Jacob is called “a wandering Aramean” (Gen. 26:5, R.V.).
Dr. Gordon gave further evidence and stated, “Recently published cuneiform texts from northern sites make the southern identification of Patriarchal Ur less and less tenable on other grounds…There is little likelihood that any of these references have to do with Ur in Sumer…” (p.288) The true Hebrew homeland was in the biblical region of Aram in Upper Mesopotamia south of the Caucasus. This region was called Aram, Paddam-Aram (“field of Aram”), or Aram-Naharaim (“Aram of the two rivers”). Aram is a Hebrew word meaning “high” or “lofty heights.” Early historian, Moses of Chorene (ca. 410-490 A.D.) in his “History of Armenia” derives “Armenia” from “Aram” (p.35).
It is both interesting and significant that for centuries the original homeland of the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples was also said to be in what is now Armenia. This is the view of early scholarship, including the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, created late in the 9th century during the reign of Alfred the Great (reigned 871–899). Herodotus (ca. 484-430 B.C.), known as the father of history, said that the first scenes of the Saxon’s civil existence were south of the Caucasus Mountains in Asia a few miles northwest of Haran near the Araxes River. (History of the Anglo-Saxons, Sharon Turner, p.31-32). The Araxes River flows past the famous Mount Ararat in the Armenian highlands.
Due to early historic tradition, the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic and related peoples have been long known as “Caucasians” due to an assumed origin in the Near East and subsequent migration through the Caucasus Mountains into Europe. However, in the early twentieth century this was replaced by a newly popular view that the Caucasian race originated somewhere in Western Asia, an assumption with no actual corroborating evidence. Then in mid-century it was instead postulated that the Caucasian homeland was in the Indus Valley in northern India, which provided the now-current term “Indo-European.”
More recent scholarship has shown that an Indian origin of the Anglo-Saxons has no more tangible basis than the similarly specious tradition of calling aboriginal American tribes “Indians.” The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), often known as Harappan Civilization, is connected with the ancestry of many of the inhabitants of modern India, but is now known to have no connection with the original homeland of the Caucasian peoples.
Current scholarship has instead re-established that the elusive home of the Caucasians is actually in the Mideast, in the region of Armenia south of the Caucasus Mountains, as had been suspected for centuries. Two of the leading scholars on this question are T.V. Gamkrelidze and V.V. Ivanov, who published their findings in the Journal of the Indo-European Society (JIES), vol. 13, 1985. They state, “The first point which may be stated with sufficient assurance with regard to the homeland of the Indo-European language is that it was a region with a mountainous landscape. This is indicated primarily by the numerous Indo-European words designating ‘high mountains’ and ‘heights’…Another set of words having to do with climatic concepts rules out situating the original Indo-European homeland in the northern regions of Eurasia” (p.9).
Scholars identifying “the original Indo-European homeland, situate it in the comparatively more southern regions of the Mediterranean area in the broad sense, which includes the Balkans and the northern part of the Near East (Asia Minor, the mountain regions of Upper Mesopotamia, and adjoining areas)” (p.10). The author’s study is supported by an analysis of animals, landscape and plant life, terminology for agriculture and viticulture, transportation (“the names of wheeled vehicles”), and names of metal (i.e. “bronze”), which also “rules out the more northern regions of Europe” (p.12).
Having excluded Europe and Eurasia, and narrowing their focus further, they state, “According to archaeological data…the original area of their distribution is accepted to be the area from the Transcaucasus to Upper Mesopotamia” (p.13). This is the area centered in the region of Aram and Armenia. They conclude that “The Proto-Indo-European linguistic area should be located in that part of the region outlined above where interaction and contact between the Proto-Indo-European language and the Semitic and Kartvelian languages were possible…Finding an ancient Semitic word in ‘Western’ Indo-European languages is very indicative for determining the original area of Indo-European” (pp. 14-15). The authors give a list of Semitic words that were incorporated into early Caucasian (misnamed as Indo-European) languages. The fact that early Caucasian tribes had Semitic words of a significant number and type in their vocabulary should be a recognized key to their origin and identity.
The reference to Kartvelian is also a key identification of the original Caucasian homeland. The Caucasus Mountain dwellers known as Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi, their land Sakartvelo, and their language Kartuli. The Georgians, or Kartvelians, are a nation and Caucasian ethnic group found in Georgia and the South Caucasus. Significantly, Sakartvelo means the land of the Saka, or Saxons; Sacagena was an early province of Armenia. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary: Gen.10). The JIES study speaks of the connection between “Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Kartvelian related languages,” giving as examples the words yoke, swine, worm, goat, earth, land, to know, breast, navel, husband, to marry, to give birth, to blow, blossom, harvest, [number] six, to bite, tooth, strong, and tall (p.20).
The journal article summarizes saying, “Proto-Indo-European also displays broader lexical contacts with the languages of the Near East, namely, Semitic, Kartvelian, and Hattic (“Proto-Hittite”), all of which have a number of lexemes of common origin” (p.22). The Hittites dwelled in what is now eastern Turkey, adjacent to Aram and the Caucasus. This again focuses in on where the Caucasian race originated—the area just south of the Caucasus Mountains, the homeland of Abraham and the Israelites. This region was also known in early times as “Iberia,” or Hebrew’s land, as seen on historical maps.
Not only was this relatively small area the original homeland of both the biblical Hebrews and the Anglo-Saxons, but both were said to be settled there in the seventh century, B.C. The Jewish Encyclopedia says, “Sargon [722-705 B.C.] transported 27,000 inhabitants of Samaria to the Balikh and the Khabur, and to the frontiers of Media” (ii:208; cf. 2 Ki. 17:6). The Balikh Valley encompasses Abraham’s home in Haran near the Khabur River. Sargon’s grandson, Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.) exiled the remaining northern Israelites in the seventh century (ca. 676 B.C., Isa. 7:8). Similarly, historian Sharon Turner says, “The first appearance of the Scythian [i.e. Saka/Saxon] tribes in Europe may be placed, on the decisive authority of Herodotus, in the seventh century before the Christian era” (ibid. p. 31).
The Israelites exiled to Haran between 721 and 676 B.C. seemingly disappeared after their arrival there and became known as “the lost ten tribes.” As prolonged expatriates, they had lost their national identity coincident with a supposed new people, called Saxons, suddenly—and surprisingly—making their first appearance in history at the same time and place. This was not an unrelated coincidence. The Bible foretold that “In Isaac [Saka/Saxon] shall thy seed [posterity: Amp] be called” (Gen. 21:12; Rom. 9:7). Truly it has been said that Israel’s grave was the Saxon’s birthplace!