Karda Land of Valiant Mountain People

Kar-daKI-ka 21st ce. B.C.E. Karda Land of Valiant Mountain People Central Zagros East Terminological Analysis


Ferdinand Hennerbichler



The toponym “kar-daKI-ka” (“ma-da kar-daKI-ka”) means land of “Karda”, which derives most likely out of Akkadian “qarda” (“qurda”) for heroic, brave, valiant, and warlike (mountain) people. It was geographically located in ancient heartlands of the Guti(ans) in central Zagros east areas in Northwest Iran of today, and was documented in several late Sumerian UrIII sources at the end of the 3rd millennium B.C.E. from Girsu in south Mesopotamia. Origin and ethnic affiliations of the inhabitants of the land of “Karda” are not known. The term “kar-daKI-ka” was one of the oldest cuneiform expressions used by Mesopotamians to denote various indigenous Zagros hilly/mountain nomads of multi-ethnical origin in the North and the (North-)East, whom they regarded as warlike and also as uncivilized because they were at the time mainly not urban organized in contrast to lowland Mesopotamians. Available cuneiform sources indicated that Mesopotamians saw “kar-daKI-ka” in consecutive connection with Guti(ans): first, because of its location in the center of (former) dominating Guti power coalitions in areas of central Zagros (east); second, because of the image of its population as warlike, similar to Guti(ans) where (who) was (were) portrayed by Mesopotamians; third, because of further suggesting that its society(ies) could have been militarily orsganized, possibly migrating and temporarily prevailing inter-regionally (across the Zagros); and last but not least, because of its obvious geo-strategic importance even for far away late UrIII leaders of south Mesopotamia, regardless whether or not they effectively controlled the area which seems for the time in question unlikely. Mesopotamians used to describe the inter-connected ancestral habitat of various multi-ethnic Zagros mountain coalitions in a vague terminology, and in waxing and waning concepts who were influenced by changing policies. They did not see regions (lands) like “kar-daKI-ka” as isolated single ones in a far north-east but embedded in an inter-regionally connected habitat of mountain nomad coalitions stretching from the North to the North-East of Mesopotamia. They also used a good number of different terms in particular assumed Sumerian “kur”-stem expressions (who later prevailed) to characterize them accordingly. In linguistic terms, the presumed Semitic (Akkadian) word-stem “kard-” (<qardu) like in “kar-daKI-ka” is formally not identical with the presumably Sumerian rooted “kurd-” one (for Kurds, land of Kurds). However, the content of both terms denoting (warlike) Zagros-Taurus mountain populations of multi-ethnical origins seems to be strikingly similar. Therefore, the explanation attempt of “kar-daKI-ka” as land of heroic, valiant, and warlike indigenous central Zagros (east) inhabitants could indicate a local/ regional militarily organized autochthonous pre-IE (proto-non-Iranian) population, and could even possibly point to ancient forefathers of Kurds in NW Iran of today, interpreted as Zagros-Taurus mountaineers.




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