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Saka tribe during the Early Iron Age

27 August 2014
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We do not have a complete view of the languages used by people of the Early Iron Age. Linguist and historians believe that the majority of the population of Central Asia and Kazakhstan spoke the Eastern Iranian languages and dialects separated from the Indo-Iranian language group approximately at the beginning of the 1st millennium B.C.

Scientists know other groups of the Indo-European language differing from the Eastern Iranian language in Western Turkestan, for example so called Tokharian language.

Population of the Northern parts of Kazakhstan during many centuries felt the full impact of another language family which is called by linguists “Finno-Ugric”.

It is quite likely that one part of inhabitants of the Eastern parts of Kazakhstan was acquainted with proto-Turkic language which native speakers were Altai tribes.

Material culture and social order of Saka’s tribes on the territory of Kazakhstan was similar to the tribes of the Southern Siberia as well as to the Scythian lived in the steppe areas at that time. The similarity was so evident that many Greek Authors called them Eastern Scythians.

That is not surprising: mobility of nomadic life, permanent contacts between the steppe tribes of Europe and Asia, joint participation of Sakas and Scythians in campaigns in the countries of Western Asia contributed to the appearance of many common elements in material culture.

States of irrigative farming repeatedly undertook military campaigns against their Northern neighbors and at the same time were often attacked by them. Ancient authors who lived there mentioned military character of organization of Scythian-Saka society: high mobility of the army, broad application of cavalry and original battle tactics.

Herodotus explained the reasons of military success of Northern nomads in such way: “Among other known nations the Scythians have one but the most important art for the human life. This lies in the fact that no one enemy attacked their country the Scythians do not give a chance to escape; and no one can catch them without their allowance. The Scythians do not have cities and fortifications; they carry their dwelling with them. All of them are horsed archers and make a living by cattle-breeding; they live in nomad tents. How can such nation not to be overwhelming and impregnable?”

The glory about Saka’s archers lasted long enough. Indeed, the most frequent finding in Saka’s burials is the arrowhead. During many centuries they were made of bronze.

Bows and arrows of Scythian and Saka warriors had relatively small size. Usually the length of the arrow was equal to the height of bow which was less than 0,6-0,8 meters. Only at the turn of the Christian era Scythian bow gave way to bigger so called Huns’ bow which size reached 1,2-1,6 meters.

In the 3rd-2nd centuries B.C. bronze arrowheads were displaced by iron heads.

Another weapon of Saka tribe was bronze and since the 5th century B.C. iron akinake — short double-edged sword.

Reference:
Agapov P., Kadyrbayev M. (1979) Treasure of ancient Kazakhstan, Alma-Ata: Zhalyn. 252 p. (in Russian)

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