Ever since as early as a hundred thousand years ago when our Homo sapiens ancestors preceded by Homo helderbergenis along with our cousins the Neanderthals and Denisovans who had crossed the horn of Africa, the southwestern Asian’s temperate Iranian plateau sandwiched between the Caspian Sea including the Caucuses, Alborz and the Himalayan Mountain ranges to the north, and the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman/Bushehr shores to the south-has remained the optimal cradle of human civilization. It is exactly this Iranian plateau including its central Asian and Caucasian highlands since 40,000 years ago, from which further foragers and hunter-gatherers traversed throughout and settled into south/east Asia first, and later onto the European continent since 30,000 to 10,000 years ago.
In fact, from the original Iranians nomadic tribes (Persians, Medians and Partians) arose the Albanians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Scythians, Urals, Sakas, Western Ukrainians, Ossetians, Minoans, Ionians and the Irish’s, followed by Bactrians, Kashmiri and Parsi Zoroastrians of India, the Uighurs of China’s Xinjian province, and the 80 plus million inside today’s Iran and up to five million Iranians in western diaspora post 1979, are also all descendants of ancient peoples of Iran. This had preceded the initial movement of our common human ancestors, who settled at the southwestern slope of Zagros Mountains to construct spears before they move further deep into northern Iranian plateau 35,000 years ago.
A growing number of etymological revisionists have reexamined the term Indo-European tossed around as early as the 17th century, presumably by the colonial presence of the English in India. It is progressively recognized it is more appropriate to change the term to Irano-European, since there are 313 languages belonging to Iranian family of languages in contrast to a mere 130 Hindi derived languages many of which have remained in India and in fact converged with old Pahlavi Avestan Persian from their inceptions. Simply put, proto-Iranian languages as Gathas, Avesta and early proto-Persian Pahlavi tongues preceded the Rigveda and Hindu languages and vernaculars. Although modern Persian is spoken and understood by most inhabitants across the Persian-ate world that includes India as well, today 250 million people speak one or more of the dozens of Persian dialects and vernaculars. Etymologically speaking however, there are nearly 1,000 Persian words comprehensible to any Persian speaking native used in English language today; the same number of Persian words if not more exist in any other European language, but such number of Persian words is even substantially higher in Arabic, Turkish, Hindi, Urdu, or Russian languages.
Our other closely related hominid species the Neanderthals, took the migration route from African savannahs along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea straight into Europe a few hundred thousand years back where some later interbred with the Homo sapiens before they went extinct as late as 20-25 thousand years ago, presumably for lack of a timely evolved brain size and language and tool making development; another group of Homo sapiens of original Iranian pedigree settled between the Zagros Mountains of Iran and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, an area later referred to as Mesopotamia (Sommer, Akkad, Canaan, Babel, Assur, Aleppo, Damascus, Kaldeh, Phoenicia, and Jewish Kingdoms in Ur). Consequently, the Iranian plateau that in essence stretched into Asia Minor has remained as the most fertile ground for sustaining the earliest human settlements that led to the first socio-economic and later religio-political establishments, especially within the past 10 to 20 thousand years ago. In fact, there exists archeological evidence for human settlements (Sialk of Kashan, Shahr Sukhteh Zabol, Marlik, Hasanlu and Susa mounds just to name a few out of hundreds) that corroborate such ancient period of human activities in Iran that ultimately led to the first world Empire the Achaemenes, founded by Cyrus the Great whose democratic empowering and just rule spanned across the three continents nearly three millennia ago. This period had in fact preceded by at least 3,000 years of Elamites. The area, ruled by the Achaemenian Just King Cyrus the Great )circa 539 BCE), and the major Parthian and Sassanid Empires that followed, is currently comprised of nearly forty plus sovereign nations, from which 44% of the current world’s population originate from.
In fact, today’s Iran, with its current territorial borders that define the smallest size of the country since its inception nearly three thousand years ago, is the only country in the region with naturally marked borders (e.g., rivers, lakes, Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, and high mountains.) This is in contrast to most other countries in the region whose borders were drawn with the use of a cartography ruler in Greenwich England post the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in WW I (1921.) In the 19th century, the Russians unilaterally stole away from Iran twice and annexed to their Tsarist imperialistic territories the size of the U.S., i.e., the entire Caucuses and central Asian regions currently comprised of 11 sovereign countries with still strong indigenous ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, literati and linguistic ties with Iran. After all, who are the true Iranians other than the so-called Caucasians or central Asians?!
One fact well worth citing is most if not all, of Iranian kings and queens throughout history when reigning over neighboring regions in a federated manner, never imposed their religions or cultures–as the Greeks, the Arabs or the Mughals did–by way of sword. In fact, the broader Iran always enjoyed a degree of autonomous self-rule; this is self-evident in today’s Iran with its ethnical and cultural richness of Azari, Baluchi, Kurdish, Luri, Turkmen, Natanzi, Arab, Guilani, Mazandarani, as well as Persian groups. That said, however, western instigators as Bernard Lewis’ ulterior motives to exploit this and pontificate for dismembering Iran or the region, is ludicrously absurd and without any basis whatsoever, in part, due to the common linguistic, cultural heritage of this vast region. The misguided notion of a “pure race” is ludicrously absurd as well and with no scientific basis any time and in any place especially in Iran; nonetheless, if anything, it is through cultural commonality and ancestral origin that people of the vast geographic Iranian region as outlined above, would coalesce rather than become fragmented. The Aryanism hence, is far more of an Iranian ethos, a contrast to the fictitious racial superiority doctrine perpetrated by the occidental colonialism. Aryanism is indeed derived from Iranian human stock, hence, is a rainbow of peoples by diverse general features from blond to dark skin, that according to Herodotus, were noble, peaceful, and righteous horsemen and arrow and javelin throwers, whose way of life was anchored on adhering to good thought, good words and good deeds.
In a PBS documentary on the earliest settlement of human pedigree, and as based on the tracing of mitochondrion DNA, traces an earliest man who must have lived 40,000 years ago in southcentral Asia, just north of today’s Iran and Afghanistan border. Although Iranians today trace back their ancestry to one of the three major Aryan tribes (Persians, Medians and Partians) descended from the same exact region three plus millennia ago, today’s genetic makeup of Iranians are far more diverse in that it has not only drawn from the indigenous peoples already on the plateau, but it has also absorbed segments of Greek, Arab and Moghul among other invaders. Incidentally, Iranians never invaded any other region to impose their religion of hegemony, but their culture was spread out in their expanding spheres of influence. In a more recent series of BBC documentaries (click From Russia to IRAN crossing Wild Frontiers), the trekker Levison walks the Caucuses ridges nearly 3,000 miles from southern Russia and northern Caucuses down to Iran’s southern Caspian Sea region so as to demonstrate the inhabitants are all of the same Iranian [Caucasian] stock as evidenced by their genetic makeups, and common language, culture, life rituals, music and festivals. Another illustration of the lustrous manifestation of Iranians and their rich culture can be viewed in this French journal. It is astounding how close languages, cultural rituals, hymns, foods, calendars, festivals, music, and birth, wedding and burial rituals of peoples surrounding the Caspian Sea down to the northern shores of the Persian Gulf truly are. In fact, an ordinary Iranian can comfortably pass for his or her features and cultural and linguistically attuned state of mind as a native in every country spanning from northwestern China and India to central Asia and the Caucasian nations, Asia Minor, southern Europe and North Africa, and even Hispanics in Latin America and the Caribbean Sea by extension!
From the vast Iranian plateau arose many original faiths and religiosities as typified by Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Mazdeism, Manicheism to name a few; they have been conceived or transmitted through ancient Iran and beyond as far back as at least over 10,000 years ago. These early beliefs have gone on to partially provide the basis for Hinduism, Buddhism, and later Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In fact, Iran since antiquity has remained the bastion of pluralistic tolerance of diverse faiths and rainbow ethnicities. Although some Persian ultra-nationalists bogusly consider their pedigree to be of “pure” Aryan pedigree, and in fact, most people of the greater Iran have Aryan (that of noble horseman and spear and javelin throwers) cultural heritage, nonetheless, their genetic makeup is heterogeneous [Persian cat mutt!]. As a result, their cultural diversity has been enriched immensely over time through exchange with other neighboring peoples, some as the Greeks, Arabs or Altaics/Moghuls, Indians, Egyptians and Mesopotamians’ many arrived as invaders and conquerors but stayed in Iran and assimilated.
Notwithstanding the rulers and dynasties that emerge and disappear into the historical bin of oblivion, Iran still has the most of ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity, if not worldwide, then most definitely, in southwest Asia. As a so-called 12-Imam Shiite majority nation, it enjoys from eminent communities of Jewish, Zoroastrian, Armenian, Assyrian, Kaldani, Catholic, evangelical and Gregorian Christians, and Bahai faiths. For instance, as Israel announced to pay $10,000 for Jews of Iran to immigrate to Israel, and Ha’aretz paper ran an article in which Iranian Mizrahim immigrants to Israel shared their frustration of having left a lavish lifestyle in Iran to now live in Kibbutzim, a number of NGO’s in Iran declared the payment of $50,000 for any Jewish Iranian citizen to return home to Iran!
Among all closely knit brethren to Persians/Iranians, Judaic people stand prominence. In the book Esther’s Children, the author Homa Sarshar even goes further relaying on oral narration and historical evidence to conclude the [Jewish] missing tribes must have in fact dissolved into the people of Iran. This explains why Mizrahim Jewish DNA biomarkers are ubiquitous among Iranians. A select number of links below show the pivotal role of Jews of Iran, in certain junctures comprising up to one third of the population, in the conservation of Persian classical music even as music in general was for the past 1,400 years forbidden by Islamic decree. One is hard pressed not to appreciate that music commonality as played from China and Japan to the Bukhara Jews of Uzbekistan (Bukhara and Samarkand) and Tajikistan, in southern Russian republics and the Caucuses to across North Africa including in Israel herself, which has immense influence from Persian music and instruments. David Dardashti, the renowned Persian singer Younes Dardashti ‘s son, is a Persian singer and cantor in a shul in Florida.
In closing, what has truly kept all Iranians and our distant relatives worldwide together, is our rich literature of poetry and prose, as exemplified by the largest compendium of poems of 30,000 verses ever, Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, the epic Poems of the Persian Kings, as well as our common music, seasonal festivities such as Nowruz, our food and way of life, our familial upbringing, etc. all at least several millennia in the making. The first declaration of Human Rights by King Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire below kept in London Museum, and Sa’adi, the 13th century Persian Poet has articulated such humanistic commonalty masterfully:
All humans are members of one frame,
Since all at first, from the same essence, came.
When by hard fortune one limb is oppressed,
The other members lose their desired rest.
If thou feel’st not for others’ misery,
A human is no name for thee.
All the above will, when certain extraterrestrials arrive and look back at the earth in the mirror of the cosmos 100,000 years from now, in all likelihood be gone; religious Armageddon and self-inflicted environmental and natural resources for greed, self-righteousness and power grab by some among us will inflict catastrophic exhaustion on earth. We, as well as other terrestrial species, shall have either perished or as in our past may have moved elsewhere-perhaps far beyond the earth and possibly beyond our current solar system?
Further Readings: Click on each line to read more
Contributions of Iranians since antiquity
Jeanette Rotstain – Purim Purim
Zvi Cohen – Emshab Shabe Shabbat/Persian .פרסית שבת שירים
The Revivo Project – Shabbat Medley
Jewish music in Iran
Persian TV in Israel Persian music שידורי יהדות איראן הזמרת מורין נהדר
Jewish Iranian wedding so funny
Sephardi (Mizrachi) Sacred Music of Shiraz, Iran
Jewish journey to Iran
Yona Dardashti Selichot , Patakh Elyahoo, Yesh Elohim, Monajot
Iranian Israelis: life in the shadow of a conflict
Shashmakom- ששמקום (part 1)
Shashmakom- ששמקום (part 2)
Ezro Malakov 70 birthday concert Bukharian Эзро Малаков Юбилейный Концерт
Selichot With Hazan Yair Hamra
Persian style Azan, the Islamic call to prayer
Rabbana, the prayer before breaking fast in Ramazan