The Oxus Civilization

This is a bit of history research I stumbled upon today. There was a civilization in the area of Bactria in very ancient times (2200-1500 BCE) known as the Oxus civilization that likely influenced the Indo-Aryans who would form the Vedic culture after moving into the Indus River valley after climate change weakened the Harrapans and forced pastoralists to leave the northern steppes and move south.

Not much was known about the Oxus civilization in the West until after the Soviet Union collapsed because it had been discovered by Soviet archeologists during the Cold War. A book was recently published about this corner of ancient history titled The World of the Oxus Civilization, though an affordable paperback has yet to be released.

Below is a video by a Youtuber than summarizes what’s known. One of the things he mentions is that agricultural and city-oriented loanwords in early Vedic texts may have been borrowed during contact with this civilization.


I found a few papers and books about this on Internet Archive:

There are a couple more in French and Russian…
Hope this helps…



So it seems this is an example of an Indo-European civilization established “on the way” to Iran and India (of course they didn’t think of themselves like that!). It’s a bridge between the nomadic pastoralists of the old Indo-Europeans and the developed civilizations of later days.

The Wikipedia page has some incredible artwork.


I’ve been watching a lecture series about ancient Mesopotamian civilizations, and it’s been very eye-opening to me just how advanced they became during the third and second millenium BCE. They were building planned cities with baked bricks and erecting large temples that housed each city’s god. They believed the god actually inhabited the temple’s inner sanctum where the priests attended to his/her needs, and the gods determined their fates, good or bad. If they lost a war or there was some disaster, it was because their god was mad at them.

The excavation of that city in the Oxus region looks like the type of city that the Sumerians and Akkadians were building.

Other bits of trivia:

  • The Sumerian word for king was “lugal,” which literally means “big man.”
  • They invented the wheel as well as the idea of kings and empires in the region.
  • They maintained dynastic lineages of kings that have been found among their cuneiform tablets which stretched back quite far.

It’s all stuff that sounds very similar to what we find in Buddhist texts about wheel-turning kings and the “great man” who ruled because of divine favor. This Oxus civilization may have been the way these ideas entered Indo-Aryan mythology. The wheel-turning kings would have been distant legends to them from a faraway land where great cities waged constant wars with each other until enlightened rulers made peace and established empires. That’s basically the early political history of Mesopotamia.


Indeed, it sounds like a missing link. It always seemed to me there was some connection, but I didn’t know the background to how it worked.

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