Indo-Iranians

Indo-Iranians

Indo-Europeans
Indo-Iranians
Abashevo Culture
Poltavka culture
Potapovka culture
Srubnaya culture
Sintashta culture
Arkaim
Andronovo culture
Tazabagyab culture
Chust culture
Vakhsh culture
Bishkent culture
Gandhara grave culture
Sakas
Pazyryk culture
The Scythians
The Cimmerians

Indo-Europeans

Central Asia is a region which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
It is also colloquially referred to as “the stans” as the countries generally considered to be within the region all have names ending with the Persian suffix “-stan”, meaning “land of”. Depending on different interpretations, the neighbouring areas are sometimes also considered part of the region.
Central Asia is a diverse region with many edifferent thnic groups, languages, religions and tribes. Populations of farmers and nomadic pastoralists have coexisted in Central Asia since the Chalcolithic (4th millennium BC).
The two groups differ markedly in descent structure, as pastoralists are organized in exogamous patrilineal clan structures, while farmers are organized in extended families practicing endogamy (cousin marriage). As a consequence, pastoralists have a significantly reduced diversity in patrilineal (Y-DNA) descent compared to farmers.
Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) reached Central Asia by 50,000 to 40,000 years ago. The Tibetan Plateau is thought to have been reached by 38,000 years ago. The term Ceramic Mesolithic (6000-5000 BC) is used of late Mesolithic cultures of Central Asia. These cultures are described as Neolithic even though farming is absent.
Introduction of pottery signifies massive cultural change. Beyond the introduction of a new technology, pottery provides additional possibilities for food storage and preparation (e.g. fish / vegetable soups, extracting animal lipids, brewing, pickling). Appearance of  larger, heavy vessels implies conversion to a more sedentary lifestyle.
Such major cultural shift may have autochtonous origins, but more likely is external contact including immigration of specialists that master the sets of skills required to successfully produce ceramic, and prepare new kinds of food (beverages) in it.
This turns the focus towards the Neolithic that in Russian archeologic tradition is defined by the presence of pottery rather than agricultural / pastoralist activities –  a fascinating issue anyway, since the European Russian Neolithic is commonly assumed to have supplied the earliest European pottery, slightly predating EEF (Sesklo, Argissa). Equally fascinating is that more-or-less contemporarily not just one, but three, maybe even four fairly different ceramic cultures appeared in European Russia.

Combed Ceramics

The latest, but nevertheless quite early of the entrants is so-called Combed Ceramics. The name is somewhat misleading, as combing the outer surface of pottery with twigs, feathers, moss or similar material in order to remove excess clay has been practiced by many potters also outside of what is known as “combed ware”, e.g. by the Sioni Culture. Alternative terms found in some papers are “netted” or “pseudo-corded” ware.
Main stylistic characteristic is all-over ornamentation in narrowly-placed, horizontal patterns that are either incised or imprinted, apparently emulating containers made of plant material (basketry, or woven/ knitted textiles).
This pottery appears around 5800 BC in the forest zone between the Middle Ural in the East to near Moscow in the West. It is suggested a West Siberian, influence, as there are parallels with Middle Urals sites such as Koksharovsky, and eventually Barsova Gora on the Middle Ob that have been dated to ca. 6400 BC.
The style is quite frequent across all of North East Asia, including Early Jomon and Lower Amur pottery, where it may actually have originated c. 14.000 BC. Trans-Baikal sites such as Krasnaya Gorka (pottery dated to 11.000 BC) may have served as bridge towards West Siberia and ultimately North-Eeast Europe. However, there remain various gaps to fill before such a path can be consdidered as archeologically confirmed.
The earliest pottery in Japan was made at or before the start of the Incipient Jōmon period. Small fragments, dated to 14 500 BCE, were found at the Odai Yamamoto I site in 1998. Pottery of roughly the same age was subsequently found at other sites such as Kamikuroiwa and Fukui Cave.
Archaeologist Junko Habu claims “[t]he majority of Japanese scholars believed, and still believe, that pottery production was first invented in mainland Asia and subsequently introduced into the Japanese archipelago.”
This seems to be confirmed by recent archaeology. As of now, the earliest pottery vessels in the world date back to 20 000 BP and were discovered in Xianren Cave in Jiangxi, China. The pottery may have been used as cookware.
Other early pottery vessels include those excavated from the Yuchanyan Cave in southern China, dated from 16 000 BCE, and at present it appears that pottery emerged at roughly the same time in Japan, and in the Amur River basin of the Russian Far East.
Prehistoric art in the Russian Far East included very ancient pottery from sites at Khummi, Gasya and Goncharka, as well as the Osipovka and Gromatukha cultural complexes – most of which is very similar to Chinese pots found at Xianrendong (18,000 BC) and among the sherds of Yuchanyan Cave Pottery (c. 16,000 BC).
The Jōmon people were not one homogenous ethnic group. According to Mitsuru Sakitani the Jōmon people are an admixture of two distinct haplogroups: A more ancient group from Central Asia (carriers of Y chromosome D1a), that were present since more than 35 000 years in Japan and a more recent group from Western Asia (carriers of Y chromosome type C1a) that migrated to Japan about 13 000 years ago.
Japan was settled by a proto-Mongoloid population in the Pleistocene who became the Jōmon, and that their features can be seen in the Ainu and Ryukyuan people. The Jōmon share several physical characteristics, such as relatively abundant body hair, with Europeans, but they derive from a separate lineage than modern Europeans.
Recent Y chromosome haplotype testing has led to the hypothesis that male haplogroups D-M55 and C1a1, which have been found in different percentages of samples of modern Japanese, Ryukyuan, and Ainu population, may reflect patrilineal descent from members of pre-Jōmon and Jōmon period of the Japanese Archipelago.
It is suggested that the majority of D-M174 Y-chromosome carriers migrated from Central Asia to East Asia. One group migrated into the Andaman Islands, thus forming or helping to form the Andamanese people. Another group stayed in modern Tibet and southern China (today Tibeto-Burman peoples) and another group migrated to Japan, possibly via the Korean Peninsula (pre-Jōmon people).
By the end of the Incipient Jōmon phase, around 8000 BCE, a semi-sedentary lifestyle apparently led to an increase in population density, so that the subsequent phase, the Initial Jōmon, exhibits some of the highest densities known for foraging populations.
Genetic mapping studies by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza have shown a pattern of genetic expansion from the area of the Sea of Japan towards the rest of eastern Asia. This appears as the third principal component of genetic variation in Eurasia (after the “Great expansion” from the African continent, and a second expansion from the area of Northern Siberia), which suggests geographical expansion during the early Jōmon period. These studies also suggest that the Jōmon demographic expansion could possibly have reached America along a path following the Pacific coast.
Like most very ancient pottery in East Asia, the emergence of Amur River Basin ceramics was not linked in any way with farming or agriculture. In fact there is no evidence of crop cultivation at the beginning of the Neolithic. Hunting and fishing predominated, especially the catching of spawning salmon. However, there is evidence that a more sedentary lifestyle was beginning to take root, both along the Amur and in nearby Japan.
Located along Russia’s Asiatic border with China, southeast of the main Siberian land mass, the Amur River Basin – the fourth largest in the world – has a monsoon climate and a wetland ecology based on marshes, lakes, ponds and numerous other watercourses. Fish of all types are plentiful, and vegetation abundant.
During the Late Paleolithic, after the Ice receded, the Amur and its tributaries would have functioned as important waterways (“cultural highways”) along which people would have moved, traded and exchanged artistic traditions, just as they do today.
During the Neolithic, in particular, the Amur connected the Pacific coast with the Siberian interior, while the whole Amur River Basin was a region where traders from China and Central Asia brought agricultural produce, livestock, trinkets and pottery to the Siberian borderlands. That said, the Amur area is not considered to be a true part of Siberia – its climate is warmer and its habitat more Asian.
Ancient pottery may have originated briefly in Europe, with the clay-fired Venus of Dolni Vestonice (26,000 BCE), but its true home was in East Asia, where it emerged in the form of Xianrendong Cave Pottery (18,000 BCE).
From this point onwards, Chinese Pottery was practiced continuously before its methods and models spread northwards into the Amurskaya Oblast along the Amur River, as well as the lesser Zeya and Bureya rivers and the adjoining Zeya Bureya Plain.
The earliest example of ceramic art in the Amur River basin was found at the Khummi site, dating to 14,300. Other sites of ancient pottery in the Amur region include Gasya, dated to 14,050 BCE; and Goncharka, dated to 13,400 BCE.
Along the Zeya River, the earliest art of this type was discovered at Gromatukha, dating to 13,500. By comparison, the oldest clay-fired pots in Siberia, dating to 11,900 BCE, was excavated at Ust-Kyakhta near Lake Baikal.
This was followed by the potsherds at Ust-Karenga (11,800 BCE) and Studenoye 11,250 BCE. This is quite close to the site of the Mal’ta Venuses (c.20,000 BCE), the renowned collection of 30 ivory carvings known as venus figurines, which were unearthed near Usolsky (Usol’ye), northwest of Irkutsk.
The lifestyle at all the sites in the Amur region, during the Upper paleolithic, was based on hunting, gathering and foraging, as well as intensive use of local aquatic resources. Their pottery assemblages, as well as methodology, were stylistically separate from one other and are considered to be local inventions.
The ancient phase of primitive Paleolithic art (c.14,000-11,000 BCE) was followed by a transitional phase (approx 11,000-6000 BCE), which spanned the short period of Mesolithic art (10,000-8,000 BCE), and the initial period of Neolithic art (8,000-6,000 BCE), during which time pottery-making spread westwards from the Siberian taiga, reaching the East European Plain by about 7000 BCE.
Using both 14C and archeological data (mostly pottery decoration), we can tentatively date the origins of pottery and its spread throughout Siberia. It seems that both the Lower Amur River basin and Transbaikal represent independent centres of pottery invention, and both pre-date 8000 BC. In particular, the Russian Far East is characterized by the indigenous emergence of pottery.
The net-impressed pottery might have originated in the Angara River headwaters c. 6000 BC, and the Kitoi culture represents the earliest evidence for net-impressed decoration. Later, this pottery may have spread northward (the Syalakh culture of Yakutia).
The West Siberian Neolithic most probably originated independently from the Eastern Siberian and the Russian Far East, but is significantly later than the Neolithic of Transbaikal and the Amur River basin. The Neolithic of the Altai and Sayan Mountains has not been adequately investigated. Thus, there were a number of separate centres at which pottery originated in Siberia.
Some, such as Amur River basin and Transbaikal, are among the earliest areas in the world along with southern China and southern Japan for the emergence of the Neolithic, and are dated to c. 11,000-8000 BC. The rest of Siberia is characterized by the significantly later appearance of the Neolithic cultures, between c. 6000 BC and c. 2600-600 BC.
For some areas (such as the forest zone of Western Siberia and Yakutia, and both the forest and tundra zones of Northeastern Siberia including the Kolyma River headwaters and Chukotka), migrations and other forms of cultural exchange might have played a determining role in the Neolithization process.
The Xinglongwa culture (6200–5400 BC) was a Neolithic culture in northeastern China, found mainly around the Inner Mongolia-Liaoning border at the Liao River basin. Xinglongwa pottery was primarily cylindrical, and baked at low temperatures. Some of the oldest Comb Ceramic artifacts were found in the Xinglongwa culture.
The Liao Civilization or Liao River Civilization, named after the Liao river, is an ancient Northeast Asian civilization that originated in the Liao basin. It is thought to have formed in about 6,200 BC. This civilization was discovered when Ryuzo Torii, a Japanese archaeologist, discovered the Hongshan culture in 1908. Large-scale pit-type houses, graves and temples with altars were excavated. It is thought that the Liao civilization may have been “a country” of the prehistoric age.
A model of the feng shui were excavated from remains of the Hongshan culture. Ball products such as the jade which made the precursors of Chinese dragon were discovered in remains of Xinglongwa culture. In addition, the oldest pit-comb ware and Liaoning bronze dagger (biwa form bronze sword) were excavated. Since it was contemporaneous with Hwan‐huou civilization and Chang Jiang Culture, it is thought to have influenced ancient Chinese culture.
This region was thought to have been desert for the past 1 million years. However, a 2015 study found that the region once featured rich aquatic resources and deep lakes and forests that existed from 12,000 years ago to 4,000 years ago. It was changed into desert by climate change which began approximately 4,200 years ago. Therefore, people of the Hongshan culture may have emigrated to the south approximately 4,000 years ago and later influenced Chinese culture.
A genetic analysis of human bone remains dating back to 6500 to 2700 BC. in the Liao area, Haplogroup N (Y-DNA) (frequently in Uralic peoples and Yakuts) was observed at 60-100% . Haplogroup N1* and N1c were both found at high frequency (26 out of 70 samples, or 37%) in Neolithic and Bronze Age remains (4500-700 BC) from the West Liao River valley in Northeast China (Manchuria).
Haplogroup N is a descendant of East Asian macro-haplogroup NO. It is believed to have originated in Indochina or southern China approximately 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. It is most commonly found in males originating from northern Eurasia.
It also has been observed at lower frequencies in populations native to other regions, including the Balkans, Central Asia and East Asia. It is generally considered that N-M231 arose in East Asia approximately 19,400 (±4,800) years ago and re-populated northern Eurasia after the Last Glacial Maximum.
Males carrying the marker apparently moved northwards as the climate warmed in the Holocene, migrating in a counter-clockwise path (through modern China and Mongolia), to eventually become concentrated in areas as far away as Fennoscandia and the Baltic.
Among the Neolithic samples, haplogroup N1 made up two thirds of the samples from the Hongshan culture (4700-2900 BCE) and all the samples from the Xiaoheyan culture (3000-2200 BCE), hinting that N1 people played a major role in the diffusion of the Neolithic lifestyle around Northeast China, and probably also to Mongolia and Siberia.
N1c represents the western extent of haplogroup N, which is found all over the Far East (China, Korea, Japan), Mongolia and Siberia, especially among Uralic speakers of northern Siberia. Haplogroup N1 reaches a maximum frequency of approximately 95% in the Nenets (40% N1c and 57% N1b) and Nganassans (all N1b), two Uralic tribes of central-northern Siberia, and 90% among the Yakuts (all N1c), a Turkic people who live mainly in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic in central-eastern Siberia.
100% of Y-DNA N out of 17 samples from the Xueshan culture (Jiangjialiang site) dating from 3600–2900 BC have been found, and among those 41% belonged to N1c1-Tat. It is therefore extremely likely that the N1c1 subclade found in Europe today has its roots in the Chinese Neolithic.
It would have progressively spread across Siberia until north-eastern Europe, possibly reaching the Volga-Ural region around 5500 to 4500 BC with the Kama culture (5300-3300 BC), and the eastern Baltic with the Comb Ceramic culture (4200-2000 BC), the presumed ancestral culture of Proto-Finnic and pre-Baltic people.
There is little evidence of agriculture or domesticated animals in Siberia during the Neolithic, but pottery was widely used. In that regard it was the opposite development from the Near East, which first developed agriculture then only pottery from circa 5500 BC, perhaps through contact with East Asians via Siberia or Central Asia.
The presence of N1c have been confirmed in the Comb Ceramic culture with a sample from the Late Neolithic site of Serteya II in the Smolensk region of Russia, near the Belarussian border, which dates from the middle of 3rd millenium BCE.
The Bronze Age Indo-European Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture (3200-2300 BC) progressively took over the Baltic region and southern Finland from 2,500 BC. The merger of the two groups, Indo-European R1a and Proto-Uralic N1c1, gave rise to the hybrid Kiukainen culture (2300-1500 BCE).
Modern Baltic people have a roughly equal proportion of haplogroup N1c1 and R1a, resulting from this merger of Proto-Uralic and Northeast Indo-European populations. The phylogeny of N1c1 shows that the split between Balto-Finnic and Uralic (including Ugric) peoples took place around 4400 years ago, downstream of the L1026 mutation, almost exactly at the start of the Kiukainen culture.
The spread of “combed” ceramics apparently included a substantial demic element, as indicated by some 30% newly arrived Siberian ancestry in 6000 BC Middle Volga and Karelian samples, traces of which also make it to the Middle Dniepr and into the Narva Culture (but were not yet present in Mesolithic Kunda samples).
This pottery-making Mesolithic culture can be found peripheral to the sedentary Neolithic cultures. It created a distinctive type of pottery, with point or knob base and flared rims, manufactured by methods not used by the Neolithic farmers. Though each area of Mesolithic ceramic developed an individual style, common features suggest a single point of origin.
The earliest manifestation of this type of pottery may be in the region around Lake Baikal in Siberia. It appears on the Volga in Russia, and from there spread via the Dnieper-Donets culture to the Narva culture of the Eastern Baltic. Spreading westward along the coastline it is found in the Ertebølle culture of Denmark and Ellerbek of Northern Germany, and the related Swifterbant culture of the Low Countries.
A 2012 publication in the Science journal, announced that the earliest pottery yet known anywhere in the world was found in Xianrendong cave in China, dating by radiocarbon to between 20,000 and 19,000 years before present, at the end of the Last Glacial Period.
Many of the pottery fragments had scorch marks, suggesting that the pottery was used for cooking. These early pottery containers were made well before the invention of agriculture (dated to 10,000 to 8,000 BC), by mobile foragers who hunted and gathered their food during the Late Glacial Maximum.

Steppe Pottery

Lower Volga pottery appeared even earlier. It is found on the eastern bank of the Upper Volga in the Kairshak Culture from ca. 6500 BC, and cover the western bank (Jangar Culture) by ca. 6000 BC, and is spread northwards towards Volgograd and beyond (Orlovka culture) around 5800 BC. It is characterised by triangular and diagonal impressions/ incisions, sometimes alluded to as  “steppe decoration”.
This label isn’t completely unjustified, considering that such patterns were also typical for Potapovka, Andronovo or Sintashta. However, a similar decoration, albeit painted instead of impressed/ incised, was common in Late Neolithic Iran and North Mesopotamia, and the closest parallel to the Lower Volga is provided by Early Kelteminar incised pottery, so one might equally label it as “Circum-Caspian style”.
Triangular and diagonal incisions are quite typical of Mesolithic carving, e.g. the Shigir Idol from the Central Urals 9500 BC or the pebble engravings from Gobustan pre-9000 BC. Neolithic engravings in this style are documented from the middle Dniepr and the Anta do Olival da Pega dolmen of Portugal. Hence, the style may have been transfered from organic vessels like wood or Calabash onto early pottery more than once.
Considering that Catalhöyük Painted Ware, Archaic Fikirtepe in North-West Anatolia, and Neolithic Palestine (Jericho etc.) used similar patterns, even “Circum-Caspian” may only imperfectly address the true geographic extent.
The Kelteminar culture (5500–3500 BCE) occupied the semi-desert and desert areas of the Karakum and Kyzyl Kum deserts and the deltas of the Amu Darya and Zeravshan rivers in the territories of ancient Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, dated to the 6000-3000 BC. It was replaced by the Tazabagyab culture.
It was a Neolithic archaeological culture of sedentary fishermen. It practised a mobile hunting, gathering and fishing subsistence system. Over time, they adopted stockbreeding. These groups brought with them the bow and arrow and the dog, elements of what Kent Flannery has called the “broad-spectrum revolution”.
With the Late Glacial warming, up to the Atlantic Phase of the Post-Glacial Optimum, Mesolithic groups moved north into this area from the Hissar (6000–4000 BCE). Scientists hold that Kelteminar culture is related to the Comb Ceramic culture or Pit-Comb Ware culture, often abbreviated as CCC or PCW, and belongs to the Finno-Ugric peoples.
Tepe Hissar is a prehistoric site located in the village Heydarabad just south of Damghan in Semnan Province in Northeastern Iran. The site is notable for its uninterrupted occupational history from the 5000-2000 BC. The quantity and elaborateness of its excavated artifacts and funerary customs position the site prominently as a cultural bridge between Mesopotamia and Central Asia.
The subsistence economy was based on agriculture. From Hissar II onward plant remains indicate “an agricultural system based on cereals [glume and free-threshing wheats, naked and hulled barley] and the utilization of local fruit [olive, grapevine] plant resources” (Costantini and Dyson, p. 66). Lentil seeds, peas and legumes were also present. Animal (cattle, goat and sheep) figurines indicate herding activities.
There is considerable cultural continuity from the early Cheshmeh Ali-period settlements in Iran, and into the later Hissar period. Traditionally, the early ceramic sequence of north-eastern Iran begins with Neolithic Soft Wares (6000 BC), then Djeitun wares (sixth millennium BC), Cheshmeh Ali “clinky” wares (5300-4300 BC), and finally Hissar IA wares.
The important site of Tureng Tepe (“Hill of the Pheasants”), a Neolithic and Chalcolithic archaeological site in northeastern Iran, in the Gorgan plain, is located in the same area of Iran, and has some parallels to Hissar. Tureng IA (Neolithic period – these layers are assumed to lie below the water table. From this horizon occur Djeitun-like sherds, incorporated in bricks made in later periods).
Regarding the metal production, already in Hissar I period, both weapons and other tools were made. The presence of full-time specialists seems to be attested already in the first Chalcolithic period. In Hissar II and III copper artifacts increase in quality and variety and include personal ornaments, tools and weapons, and luxury items.
Zarzian culture (18,000-8000 BC) is an archaeological culture of late Paleolithic and Mesolithic in Southwest Asia. It was preceded by the Baradostian culture in the same region and was related to the Imereti culture of the Caucasus.
Andy Burns states “The Zarzian of the Zagros region of Iran is contemporary with the Natufian but different from it. The only dates for the entire Zarzian come from Palegawra Cave, and date to 17,300-17,000BP, but it is clear that it is broadly contemporary with the Levantine Kebaran, with which it shares features. It seems to have evolved from the Upper Palaeolithic Baradostian.”
There are only a few Zarzian sites and the area appears to have been quite sparsely populated during the Epipalaeolithic. Faunal remains from the Zarzian indicate that the temporary form of structures indicate a hunter-gatherer subsistence strategy, focused on onager, red deer and caprines. The Zarzian culture seems to have participated in the early stages of what Kent Flannery has called the broad spectrum revolution.
Better known sites include Palegawra Cave, Shanidar B2 and Zarzi.” The culture was named and recognised of the cave of Zarzi in Northern Iraqi. Here were found plenty of microliths (up to 20% finds). Their forms are short and asymmetric trapezoids, and triangles with hollows. It seems to have extended north into the Gobustan region and into Eastern Iran as a forerunner of the Hissar and related cultures.
The Comb Ceramic culture (4200-2000 BC) was a northeast European characterised by its Pit–Comb Ware. The people are thought to have still mostly followed the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, with traces of early agriculture. It appears that the Comb Ceramic Culture reflects influences from Siberia and distant China.
The distribution of the artifacts found includes Finnmark (Norway) in the north, the Kalix River (Sweden) and the Gulf of Bothnia (Finland) in the west and the Vistula River (Poland) in the south. It would include the Narva culture of Estonia and the Sperrings culture in Finland, among others. They are thought to have been essentially hunter-gatherers, though e.g. the Narva culture in Estonia shows some evidence of agriculture. Some of this region was absorbed by the later Corded Ware horizon.
In earlier times, it was often suggested that the spread of the Comb Ware people was correlated with the diffusion of the Uralic languages, and thus an early Uralic language would have been spoken throughout this culture. It is also suggested that bearers of this culture likely spoke Finno-Ugric languages.
A more recent view is that the Comb Ware people may have spoken Pre-Indo-European languages, as some toponyms and hydronyms also indicate a non-Uralic, non-Indo-European language at work in some areas.
In addition, modern scholars have located the Proto-Uralic homeland east of the Volga, if not even beyond the Urals. The great westward dispersal of the Uralic languages is thought to have happened long after the demise of the Comb Ceramic culture, perhaps in the 1st millennium BC.
In a 2017 genetic study published in Current Biology, the remains of three CCC individuals buried at Kudruküla was analyzed. The Y-DNA sample extracted belonged to R1a5-YP1272. The three mtDNA samples extracted belonged to U5b1d1, U4a and U2e1.
In a genetic study published in Nature Communications in January 2018, the remains of two CCC individuals were analyzed. The male was found to be carrying R1 and U4d2, while the female carried U5a1d2b The CCC individuals were found to be mostly of Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG) descent, and to have more EHG ancestry than people of the Narva culture.
In a genetic study published in Nature Communications in November 2018, the CCC individuals studies were modeled as being of 65% Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG), 20% Western Steppe Herder (WSH), and 15% Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) descent. The amount of EHG ancestry was higher than among earlier cultures of the eastern Baltic, while WSH ancestry had previously never been attested among such an early culture in the region.

Rakushechny Yar and Elshan ware

Rakushechny Yar and Elshan ware, sparsely decorated except for knobbed or pitted rims, but partly ochre-painted, which seems to be based on South Caspian pottery technology and finds close, albeit chronologically later parallels in the East Caucasus.
Rakushechny Yar has been puzzling many archeologists. The site lies on an island in the lower Don, some 100 km from the Sea of Azov, in-between the mouths of the Manych river providing connection to the NW Caspian Sea via the Kuma-Manych Depression, and the Donets river connecting into East Ukraine.
It is an island in more than just geographical sense – amidst an apparently “mosaic” cultural set-up, Rakushechny Yar has provided very early pottery, AMS-dated to around 7.000 BC, while nearby sites, including Razdorskaya II on the opposite north bank of the Don, have staid aceramic until the first half of the 6th mBC.
The arrival of Lower Don pottery in the Dniepr Rapids area coincides with a measurable increase of CHG-related ancestry by around 5%. Fresh CHG ancestry that may either relate to the Elshan Culture or the Lower Don Neolithic also appears in the Samara Region. This suggests a substantial CHG element in the bearers of the a/m early Neolithic cultures.
Far more substantial than the genetic was the cultural impact – aside from introducing pottery, bearers of Rakushechny Yar / Elshan ware opened up a network of long-distance communication along the major waterways that ultimately reached from the Erteboelle Culture in the North-West to the East Caucasus. That network was most likely based on the use of watercrafts – seaworthy boats are evidenced from Gobustan petroglyphs dated to the early 8000 BC.
A West Caspian communication zone is evidenced by finds of Armenian obsidian in the Dniepr Rapids area, and of Mt. Elbrus obsidian on the Lower Volga. “Neolithic” here, in a context of depicting hunters, aurochs, gazelles, etc., obviously means pottery. The time, cultural context, and a pottery tradition apparently connected to the East Caspian, i.e the area that Russian authors propose as Elshan origin, makes this sounds promising.
Even more so as seaworthy boats would have enabled access to the Lower Don, via the Kuma-Manych depression/ rivers, and to the Middle Volga. Communication zones along both the Western and Eastern shores of the Caspian Sea imply that genetic exchange may have been bi-directional, i.e. also have carried WHG, EHG and/or West Siberian ancestry into Central Asia and East Caucasia.
However, the introduction of pottery only raised the CHG share in the East European Steppe from some 3% in Sidelkino and 4% in Mesolithic Ukraine to 8 and 9%, respectively. The bulk of CHG ancestry must have arrived later, i.e. with the introduction of agriculture or during the Chalcolithic.
Tell Sabi Abyad is an archaeological site in the Balikh River valley in northern Syria. The site consists of four prehistoric mounds that are numbered Tell Sabi Abyad I to IV. Extensive excavations showed that these sites were inhabited already around 7500 to 5500 BC, although not always at the same time; the settlement shifted back and forth between these four sites.
The earliest pottery of Syria was discovered here; it dates at ca. 6900-6800 BC, and consists of mineral-tempered, and sometimes painted wares. It was discovered that around 6700 BC, pottery was already mass-produced.
The pottery of Tell Sabi Abyad is somewhat similar to what was found in the other prehistoric sites in Syria and south-eastern Turkey; for example in Tell Halula, Akarçay Tepe Höyük, Mezraa-Teleilat, and Tell Seker al-Aheimar. . The earliest ceramics from these sites resemble each other in numerous respects.
Yet in Sabi Abyad, the presence of painted pottery is quite unique. Archaeologists discovered what seems like the oldest painted pottery here. Remarkably, the earliest pottery was of a very high quality, and some of it was already painted. Later, the painted pottery was discontinued, and the quality declined.
Our finds at Tell Sabi Abyad show an initial brief phase in which people experimented with painted pottery. This trend did not continue, however. As far as we can see now, people then gave up painting their pottery for centuries.
Instead, people concentrated on the production of undecorated, coarse wares. It was not until around 6200 BC that people began to add painted decorations again. The question of why the Neolithic inhabitants of Tell Sabi Abyad initially stopped painting their pottery is unanswered for the time being.
Pottery found at the site includes Dark Faced Burnished Ware and a Fine Ware that resembled Hassuna Ware and Samarra Ware. Bowls and jars often had angled necks and ornate geometric designs, some featuring horned animals. Only around six percent of the pottery found was produced locally.

Chalcolithic

In the Pontic-Caspian steppe, also known as the Pontic steppe or the Ukrainian steppe, the vast steppe and stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea as far east as the Caspian Sea, Chalcolithic cultures started to develop in the second half of the 5th millennium BC. It was small communities in permanent settlements which began to engage in agricultural practices as well as herding.
The Chalcolithic is a name derived from the Greek khalkós (“copper”) and from líthos, (“stone”) or Copper Age, also known as the Eneolithic or Aeneolithic (from Latin aeneus “of copper”), an archaeological period which researchers usually regard as part of the broader Neolithic (although scholars originally defined it as a transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age).
In the Chalcolithic period, copper predominated in metalworking technology. Hence it was the period before it was discovered that adding tin to copper formed bronze (a harder and stronger metal). The emergence of metallurgy may have occurred first in the Fertile Crescent. The earliest use of lead is documented here from the late Neolithic settlement of Yarim Tepe in northern Iraq.
The earliest lead finds in the ancient Near East are a 6th millennium BC bangle from Yarim Tepe and a slightly later conical lead piece from Halaf period Arpachiyah, near Mosul. As native lead is extremely rare, such artifacts raise the possibility that lead smelting may have begun even before copper smelting.
Copper smelting is also documented at this site at about the same time period (soon after 6000 BC), although the use of lead seems to precede copper smelting. Early metallurgy is also documented at the nearby site of Tell Maghzaliyah, which seems to be dated even earlier, and completely lacks pottery.
Yarim Tepe is an archaeological site of an early farming settlement that goes back to about 6000 BC. It is located in the Sinjar valley some 7km southwest from the town of Tal Afar in northern Iraq. The site consists of several hills reflecting the development of the Hassuna culture, and then of the Halaf and Ubaid cultures.
Kul Tepe (Iraq) is a related site located about 6km due west from Yarim tepe. Two mounds there (Kultepe I, and Kultepe II) have been excavated. The lowest level of Kultepe I contains material of Sotto type (from nearby Tell Sotto), and above it there is archaic Hassuna materials. The lowest level also contains three high quality marble vessels, with parallels at Tell es-Sawwan and Umm Dabaghiyah.
The site of Umm Dabaghiyah (Umm Dabaghiyah-Sotto-Kultur), in the same area of Iraq, is believed to have the earliest pottery in this region, and is sometimes described as a ‘Proto-Hassuna culture’ site. Other related sites in the area are Sotto, and Kul Tepe (Iraq). Another pre-Hassuna or proto-Hassuna site in Iraq is Tell Maghzaliyah.
Tell es-Sawwan is an important Samarran period archaeological site in Saladin Province, Iraq. It is located 110 kilometres (68 mi) north of Baghdad, and south of Samarra. The site is a primarily Ubaid, Hassuna, and Samarra culture occupation with some later Babylonian graves. It is considered the type site for the Samarran culture.
The hill known as Yarim-Tepe I belongs to Hassuna culture. The high central, oval-shaped core is 80 meters long and 30 meters wide. Some objects found here are reminiscent of those of Tureng Tepe (“Hill of the Pheasants”) in Iran.
Yarim Tepe II is a settlement of the Halafian culture, belonging to the fifth millennium BC. Yarim Tepe III is located right next to Yarim Tepe II. The hill is 10 m high. The pottery is typical for Northern Ubaid and Halaf.
Tureng Tepe is a Neolithic and Chalcolithic archaeological site in northeastern Iran, in the Gorgan plain. The oldest remains on the site date to the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. From this horizon occur Djeitun-like sherds, incorporated in bricks made in later periods. The Bronze Age settlement portion of the site dates from approximately 3100-2900 BC through 1900 BC.
The figurines of Tureng Tepe have long been recognized as quite remarkable. They include both terracotta and stone figurines. As far as the stone figurines, there are many similarities between Tureng and the nearby sites of Shah Tepe, Tepe Hissār, and Gohar Tappeh.
Yet the terracotta figurines of Tureng Tepe are unparalleled at any other nearby site. These baked clay figurines find their parallels with sites further away, in Turkmenistan and the Indus valley. Some parallels as far as Mesopotamia have been suggested.
Djeitun is an archaeological site of the Neolithic period in southern Turkmenistan, about 30 kilometers northwest of Ashgabat in the Kopet-Dag mountain range. The settlement was occupied from about 7200 to 4500 BC. Jeitun has given its name to the whole Neolithic period in the foothills of the Kopet Dag.
Jeitun culture may have begun prior to 7000 BC, judging by the age of Sang-i Chakmak, the earliest settlement where such artefacts are found. In the same area of the Gorgan Plain, other related sites are Yarim Tepe (Iran), and Tureng Tepe.
The people of the Jeitun culture were growing barley and two sorts of wheat, which were harvested with wooden or bone knives or sickles with stone blades. Stone handmills and other stone tools were found. The site seems to show the oldest evidence of arable farming in Central Asia.
Sheep and goats were already domesticated by the villagers; but they also engaged in hunting to supplement their diet. In this region, there were none of the wild forms of einkorn or barley that could have been used for domestication; so these were brought from elsewhere already domesticated. The same applies to sheep. The wild goat Capra aegagrus, on the other hand, was widespread in Central Asia and could, therefore, have been domesticated in the area.
Various types of the earliest Jeitun artefacts, such as clay figurines, decorated ceramics, and small stone axes, show similarities with those of the early agricultural Neolithic sites in the Zagros mountains, such as Jarmo (Iraq). This may indicate the movements of the Neolithic people from the Levant to Central Asia, via the Zagros mountains.
It is possible that the later Jeitun influence expanded to the south, across the Kopet Dag mountains to Kermanshah Province and Luristan, to the sites such as Tepe Guran, Tepe Sarab, and Ganj Dareh. Clay figurines found in Mehrgarh (Pakistan), an important precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization, resemble those discovered at Teppe Zagheh, and at Jeitun.
Tell Maghzaliyah (Tell Maghzalia) is a prehistoric aceramic Mesolithic and Neolithic site located approximately 7.5 km northwest of Yarim Tepe, with which it shows some similarities. Tell Maghzaliyah shows the development of pre-Hassuna culture. There are also numerous connections to the Jarmo culture going back to 7000 BCE.
Other early sites with metal are also Ali Kosh in lowland Iran, and Tol-e Nurabad and Tepe Sialk in the Iranian Zagros Mountains. Also in the Iranian Zagros, near Marvdasht, are located the sites of Tall-i Mushki, and Tall-i Jari showing evidence of early metallurgy. All these settlements date to the late 7th/early 6th millennia BC.
The process of transition from Neolithic to Chalcolithic in the Middle East is characterized in archaeological stone tool assemblages by a decline in high quality raw material procurement and use. This dramatic shift is seen throughout the region, including the Tehran Plain, Iran.
Here, analysis of stone tool assemblages of six archaeological sites has illustrated the effects of the introduction of copper working technologies on the in-place systems of lithic craft specialists and raw materials. Analysis determined a marked downward trend in not only material quality, but also in aesthetic variation in the lithic artefacts.
These results has been seen as evidence of the loss of craft specialisation caused by increased use of copper tools. Networks of exchange and specialized processing and production that had evolved during the Neolithic seem to have collapsed by the Middle Chalcolithic (c. 4500–3500 BC) and been replaced by the use of local materials by a primarily household-based production of stone tools.
The Copper Age in the Ancient Near East began in the late 5th millennium BC and lasted for about a millennium before it gave rise to the Early Bronze Age. The transition from the European Copper Age to Bronze Age Europe occurs about the same time, between the late 5th and the late 3rd millennia BC.
The archaeological site of Belovode, on Rudnik mountain near the town of Gornji Milanovac in central Serbia, has the oldest securely-dated evidence of copper smelting, from c. 5000 BC. A copper axe was found at Prokuplje, which indicates use of metal in Europe by 5500 BC, many years earlier than previously believed.
A thousand years later, a farming population from the Taurus Mountains arrived to this location. The first outpost in Europe was in the pass between the Danube and the Carpathians 6000 BC; before, the dominant haplogroup in Europe was the G, now in Georgia, mainly with R1b together.
The find in June 2010 extends the known record of copper smelting by about 800 years, and suggests that copper smelting may have been invented in separate parts of Asia and Europe at that time rather than spreading from a single source.
Knowledge of the use of copper was far more widespread than the metal itself. The European Battle Axe culture used stone axes modeled on copper axes, even with moulding carved in the stone. Ötzi the Iceman, who was found in the Ötztal Alps in 1991 and whose remains were dated to about 3300 BC, was found with a Mondsee copper axe.
The Mondsee group (3800-2800 BC), found in two Austrian provinces, Carinthia and Upper Austria’s Salzkammergut where the lake Mondsee is situated, was a neolithic Austrian pile-dwelling culture of particular interest due to its production of the characteristic “Mondsee copper” (arsenical bronze), apparently the first in central Europe to emulate the Serbian Vinča culture.
Mondsee is sometimes seen as a “culture” in its own right or (usually) as a “group” within the Funnel Beaker culture/interaction sphere (TRB) of Central/Northern Europe because its pottery and stone tools show affinities.
It is suggested that the earliest Scandinavian copper is of Austrian origin. Much discussed is also Mondsee group’s relationship with the Bavarian Altheim group. Investigations of whether its raw material was of local origin or imported are ongoing.
Examples of Chalcolithic cultures in Europe include Vila Nova de São Pedro and Los Millares on the Iberian Peninsula. Pottery of the Beaker people has been found at both sites, dating to several centuries after copper-working began there.
The Beaker culture appears to have spread copper and bronze technologies in Europe, along with Indo-European languages. In Britain, copper was used between the 25th and 22nd centuries BC, but some archaeologists do not recognise a British Chalcolithic because production and use was on a small scale.

Domestication of the Horse

A number of hypotheses exist on many of the key issues regarding the domestication of the horse. Although horses appeared in Paleolithic cave art as early as 30,000 BCE, these were wild horses and were probably hunted for meat.
How and when horses became domesticated is disputed. An increasing amount of evidence supports the hypothesis that horses were domesticated in the Eurasian Steppes. The adoption of horseback riding might explain the emergence of specialized horse-hunting techniques and larger, more permanent settlements.  
Entire herds of horses were slaughtered by the Botai hunters, who seem to have adopted horseback riding in order to hunt the abundant wild horses of northern Kazakhstan between 3500–3000 BCE. Botai horses were primarily ancestors of Przewalski’s horses, and contributed 2.7% ancestry to modern domestic horses. Thus, modern horses may have been domesticated in other centers of origin.
Domesticated horses could have been adopted from neighboring herding societies in the steppes west of the Ural Mountains, where the Khvalynsk culture had herds of cattle and sheep, and perhaps had domesticated horses, as early as 4800 BC.
According to the Kurgan hypothesis, the north-west of the region is also considered to be the source of the root of the Indo-European languages. The horse-drawn chariot appears in the 3rd millennium BC, by 2000 BC, in the form of war chariots with spoked wheels, thus being made more maneuverable, and dominated the battlefields.
The least ancient, but most persuasive, evidence of domestication comes from sites where horse leg bones and skulls, probably originally attached to hides, were interred with the remains of chariots in at least 16 graves of the Sintashta and Petrovka cultures.
These were located in the steppes southeast of the Ural Mountains, between the upper Ural and upper Tobol Rivers, a region today divided between southern Russia and northern Kazakhstan. Petrovka was a little later than and probably grew out of Sintashta, and the two complexes together spanned about 2100–1700 BCE.

PIE Urheimat

In Northern Caucasus, the Maikop culture settlements and burials of c. 3300 BC contain both horse bones and images of horses. The widespread appearance of horse bones and images in Maikop sites suggest that horseback riding began in the Maikop period.
The Trialeti culture, also known as the Trialeti-Vanadzor [Kirovakan] culture, named after the Trialeti region of Georgia and the city of Vanadzor, Armenia, emerged in the areas of the preceding Kura-Araxes culture. It is attributed to the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC.
It has been suggested that the Bronze Age Trialeti-Vanadzor culture and sites such as the burial complexes at Verin and Nerkin Naver are indicative of an Indo-European presence in Armenia by the end of the 3rd millennium BCE.
Genetic studies explain Armenian diversity by several mixtures of Eurasian populations that occurred between 3000 and 2000 BCE. A genetic study (Wang et al. 2018) supports the indigenous origin for Armenians in a region south of the Caucasus which he calls “Greater Caucasus”.
The Catacomb culture (c. 2800–1700 BC) was a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the southern part of the Pontic steppe. Originating on the southern steppe as a western outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture came to cover a large area.
Influences from the west appears to have had a decisive role on the formation of the Catacomb culture. In the east the Catacomb culture neighbored the Poltavka culture (2700-2100 BC), which was an eastern descendant of the Yamnaya culture. The Catacomb culture influenced the development of the Poltavka culture. Throughout its existence, the Catacomb culture expanded eastward and northward.
The Poltavka culture was an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe. It emerged as an eastern outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, neighboring the Catacomb culture, another Yamnaya successor, in the west. It has been considered ancestral to later cultures that are identified as Indo-Iranian. It influenced the later emergence of the Potapovka culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture and Srubnaya culture.
In addition to the Yamnaya culture, it displays links with the earlier Sredny Stog culture, the Afanasievo culture and the Poltavka culture. Elena Efimovna Kuzmina suggests that the Seima-Turbino phenomenon emerged as a result of interaction between the Abashevo culture, the Catacomb culture and the early Andronovo culture.
Evidence of early composite bows have been yielded from the Catacomb culture. Quivers with space for ten to twenty arrows have also been found. Its arrowheads may have influenced those of the Sintashta culture. Its hollow-based flint arrowheads are similar to those of the Middle Dnieper culture. Stone battle-axes of the Catacomb culture are similar to those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture.
Wheeled vehicles have been found in Catacomb burials. Some of these have been suggested as among the earliest chariots that have been found. Bronze warty beads of the Catacomb culture are similar to those of the Sintashta culture.
Evidence of Catacomb influence has been discovered far outside of the Pontic steppe. Its burial chambers, metal types and figurines are very similar to those appearing in Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, while the hammer-head pin, a characteristic ornament of the Catacomb culture, has been found in Central Europe and Italy.
Based on these similarities, migrations or cultural diffusion from the Catacomb culture to these areas have been suggested. Similarities between the Catacomb culture and Mycenaean Greece are particularly striking. These include types of socketed spear-heads, types of cheekpieces for horses, and the custom of making masks for the dead.
The Catacomb culture is named for its burials. These augmented the shaft grave of the Yamnaya culture with burial niche at its base. This is the so-called catacomb. Such graves have also been found in Mycenaean Greece and parts of Eastern Europe.
Deceased Catacomb individuals were typically buried in a flexed position on their right side. They were often accompanied by ornaments such as silver rings, and weapons such as stone and metal axes, arrows, daggers and maces.
Animal sacrifies, including head and hooves of goats, sheep, horses and cattle, occur in about 16% of Catacomb graves. Cattle sacrifices in the Catacomb culture are more frequent than in the Yamnaya culture. Similar horse burials also appeared in the earlier Khvalynsk culture, and in the Poltavka culture.
Catacomb burials are occasionally covered with Kurgan stelae. This practice was also common in the Yamnaya culture. Some three hundred stelae have been found from the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture.
Catacomb burials are sometimes accompanied by wheeled vehicles. Such wagon burials are attested in the earlier Yamnaya culture, and later among Iranian peoples (Scythians), Celts and Italic peoples. Aspects of the burial rite of the Catacomb culture have been detected in the Bishkent culture of southern Tajikistan.
In some cases the skull of deceased Catacomb people was modelled in clay. This involved the filling of the mouth, ears and nasal cavity with clay and modeling the surface features of the face.
This practice is associated with high-status burials containing prestige items. The practice was performed on both men, women and children. It has been suggested that these clay masks may have served as a prototype for the later gold masks found in Mycenaean Greece.
The Catacomb people were massively built Europoids. Their skulls are similar to those of the Potapovka culture. Potapovka skulls are less dolichocephalic than those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture.
The physical type of the Potapovka appears to have emerged through a mixture between the strongly dolichocephalic type of the Sintashta, and the less dolichocephalic type of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture.
It was Indo-European-speaking, perhaps speaking an early form of Indo-Iranian or Thracian. Influences of the Catacomb culture have been detected as far as Mycenaean Greece. It spawned the Multi-cordoned ware culture, or Multiroller ceramics culture, also known as the Babyno culture and the Mnogovalikovaya kul’tura (MVK), and was eventually succeeded by the Srubnaya culture.
The Multi-cordoned Ware culture was a Middle Bronze Age culture of Eastern Europe. Circumstantial evidence links KMK to the spread of one or more Indo-European languages. Leo Klejn identifies its bearers with the early Thracians. Other scholars suggest that KMK may have been connected to the Bryges and/or Phrygians.
The Srubnaya culture was a successor of the Catacomb culture. It has been suggested that the Abashevo culture was partially derived from the Catacomb culture. Parts of the area of the Catacomb culture came to be occupied by the Abashevo culture, and later by the Srubnaya culture.
The Multi-cordoned ware culture was an eastern successor of the Catacomb culture. It in turn may have played a role in the emergence of the Potapovka culture and the Sintashta culture, and thus on the formation of the Andronovo culture.
Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.
The Catacomb culture was Indo-European-speaking. It has sometimes been considered ancestral to Indo-Iranian or Thracian. More recently, scholars have suggested that the culture provided a common background for Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian.
A genetic study published in August 2014 examined the DNA of the remains of 28 Catacomb individuals. Catacomb people were found to have much higher frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U5 and U4 than people of the preceding Yamnaya culture.
Haplogroups U5 and U4 are typical of Western Hunter-Gatherers and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers. A generic similarity between Catacomb people and northern hunter-gatherers, particularly the people of the Pitted Ware culture of southern Scandinavia, was detected.
It was suggested that the Catacomb people and the Yamnaya people were not as genetically admixed as previously believed. Interestingly, the modern population of Ukraine was found to be more closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture than people of the Catacomb culture.
In genetic study published in the Journal of Human Genetics in 2017, the remains of several individuals from the Catacomb culture were analyzed. One individual was found to be carrying haplogroup U5, while another carried U5a. These and other subclades of haplogroup U have been found in high frequencies among early hunter-gatherers of Northern Europe and Eastern Europe.
From the Mesolithic they appear among populations of the Pontic steppe, including the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamnaya culture, the Corded Ware culture, the Andronovo culture, the Srubnaya culture and the Scythians. This suggests continuity of mtDNA among populations of the Pontic steppe going back at least to the Bronze Age.
In a genetic study published in Scientific Reports in 2018, the remains of two individuals from the Catacomb culture were analyzed. Both were found to belong to haplogroup X4. They are the first ancient individuals that have been identified with this lineage, which is very rare among modern populations.
In a February 2019 study published in Nature Communications, the remains of five individuals ascribed to the Catacomb culture were analyzed. Three males were found to be carrying R1b1a2. With regards to mtDNA, all five individuals carried various subclades of haplogroup U (particularly U5 and U4).
The controversial Armenian hypothesis, put forward by some scholars, such as Thomas Gamkrelidze and Vyacheslav V. Ivanov, proposes that the Indo-European homeland was around the Armenian Highland.
This theory was partially confirmed by the research of geneticist David Reich (et al. 2018), among others. Similarly Grolle supports not only a homeland for Armenians on the Armenian highlands, but also that the Armenian highlands are the homeland for the “pre-proto-Indo-Europeans”.

Armenians

Armenia, situated between the Black and Caspian Seas, lies at the junction of Turkey, Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan and former Mesopotamia. This geographic position made it a potential contact zone between Eastern and Western civilizations. It has long served as both a recipient of and potential conduit for gene flow between the two regions.
The Caucasus region, on the gateway between Southwest Asia, Europe and Central Asia, plays a pivotal role in the peopling of Eurasia, possibly as early as during the Homo erectus expansion to Eurasia, in the Upper Paleolithic peopling of Europe, and again in the re-peopling Mesolithic Europe following the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), and in the expansion associated with the Neolithic Revolution.
The extent to which the Armenian gene pool has been structured and influenced by events during and since the Neolithic remains unknown. Although archaeological evidence for human as well as Neanderthal activity in Armenia during the Paleolithic era exists, the LGM likely made permanent settlements of the region infeasible until the glacial recessions between 16,000 and 18,000 years ago.
While Mesolithic sites in Sasun are known, the improving climatic conditions during this period allowed the Armenian plateau to gradually transform into a region characterized by bountiful water supply and wealth of fertile plains.
The transition from the LGM to a hospitable landscape that would support stable and detectable human occupation is expected to have progressed over millennia. These conditions as well as its proximity to the Fertile Crescent, a crescent-shaped region in the Middle East, spanning modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, the northeast and Nile valley regions of Egypt, together with the southeastern region of Turkey and the western fringes of Iran, catalyzed the region’s emergence as one of the earliest recipients of agriculture during the Neolithic Revolution.
The Fertile Crescent is most famous for its sites related to the origins of agriculture. The western zone around the Jordan and upper Euphrates rivers gave rise to the first known Neolithic farming settlements and Epipalaeolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers, the Natufians, referred to as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), which date to around 9,000 BCE and includes very ancient sites such as Göbekli Tepe and Jericho (Tell es-Sultan).
Karaca is a shield volcano located in eastern Turkey. It was also known as ‘Mount Masia’. Which in turn was used to give the title of an Iris found on the mountain, as Iris masia. Here it has been discovered that the genetically common ancestor of 68 contemporary types of cereal still grows as a wild plant. This suggest that slopes of Karaca Dağ provided the site for the first domestication of einkorn wheat approximately 9,000 years ago.
This region, alongside Mesopotamia (Greek for “between rivers”), between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates,  which lies in the east of the Fertile Crescent, also saw the emergence of early complex societies during the succeeding Bronze Age. There is also early evidence from the region for writing and the formation of hierarchical state level societies. This has earned the region the nickname “The cradle of civilization”.
Tell Sabi Abyad is an archaeological site in the Balikh River valley in northern Syria. The site consists of four prehistoric mounds that are numbered Tell Sabi Abyad I to IV. Extensive excavations showed that these sites were inhabited already around 7500 to 5500 BC, although not always at the same time; the settlement shifted back and forth between these four sites. The earliest pottery of Syria was discovered here; it dates at ca. 6900-6800 BC, and consists of mineral-tempered, and sometimes painted wares.
Pottery found at the site includes Dark Faced Burnished Ware and a Fine Ware that resembled Hassuna Ware and Samarra Ware. Bowls and jars often had angled necks and ornate geometric designs, some featuring horned animals. Only around six percent of the pottery found was produced locally. Hassuna was one of the earliest cultures in Northern Mesopotamia. When settlements began forming in the north, such as Hassuna, Jarmo, Samarra, and Tell Halaf, the north became the important region.
The Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as parts of northern Iran. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures.
The name ‘Shulaveri-Shomu’ comes from the town of Shulaveri, in the Republic of Georgia, known since 1925 as Shaumiani, and Shomu-Tepe, in the Agstafa District of Azerbaijan. The distance between these two sites is only about 70km. Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf). 
In addition to the relatively early appearance of agriculture in Armenia, the Armenian highlands seem to have been instrumental in the dispersal of obsidian, leather footwear and viticulture; technologies that would later acculturate across the Near East and eventually enter Europe. In January 2011 archaeologists announced the discovery of the earliest known winery, the Areni-1 winery, seven months after the world’s oldest leather shoe, the Areni-1 shoe, was discovered in the same cave.
In 2007, an Armenian-Irish team decided to do test excavations in the cave site of Areni 1. Two test trenches in the front and rear galleries revealed Chalcolithic Age and Early Bronze Age layers dating back to 5000-4000 BCE. Excavations during 2007-2008 uncovered 3 pot burials in the rear chamber of the cave.
Each pot contained a Copper Age human skull with no associated grave goods. All skulls belong to sub-adults of 9–16 years of age. These are currently being analyzed by the team’s biological anthropologist. Remarkably, one skull contained a piece of a well-preserved brain tissue. This is the oldest known human brain from the Old World.
Hamoukar is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria (Al Hasakah Governorate), near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. The early settlement dates back to the 5th millennium BCE, and it existed simultaneously with the Ubaid and the early Uruk cultures. In the 3rd millennium, this was one of the largest cities of Northern Mesopotamia, and extended to 105 ha.
It is now believed that Hamoukar was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer. The origins of urban settlements has generally been attributed to the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq).
This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC the Mesopotamian cities such of Ur and Uruk emerged. In 2007, following the discoveries at Hamoukar, some archaeologists have argued that the Cradle of Civilization could have extended further up the Tigris River and included the part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.
The town lay on an important trade route between Anatolia and southern Mesopotamia. Many Nineveh 5 period artifacts (early 3rd millennium) were found. The city also flourished during the later Akkadian Empire. Eye Idols made of alabaster or bone have been found in Tell Hamoukar. Eye Idols have also been found in Tell Brak, the biggest settlement from Syria’s Late Chalcolithic period.
Excavation work undertaken in 2005 and 2006 has shown that this city was destroyed around 3500 BC. This may be the evidence of the earliest urban warfare attested so far in the archeological record of the Near East. Slings and thousands of clay bullets have been found — evidence of the siege that the city endured. Contained excavations in 2008 and 2010 tried to expand on that.
The city could have fallen victim to the Uruk expansion around 3500 BC. There are remains of an Uruk trading colony in the area. Yet, according to the archaeologist Clemens Reichel, the evidence of who exactly was responsible for the destruction of Hamoukar is not entirely clear, since the Uruk trading colony was probably also destroyed at the same time as the big battle was taking place.
Tell Brak (Nagar, Nawar) was an ancient city in Syria; its remains constitute a tell located in the Upper Khabur region, near the modern village of Tell Brak, 50 kilometers north-east of Al-Hasaka city, Al-Hasakah Governorate. The city’s original name is unknown. During the second half of the third millennium BC, the city was known as Nagar and later on, Nawar.
Starting as a small settlement in the seventh millennium BC, Tell Brak evolved during the fourth millennium BC into one of the biggest cities in Upper Mesopotamia, and interacted with the cultures of southern Mesopotamia.
In southern Mesopotamia, the original Ubaid culture evolved into the Uruk period. The people of the southern Uruk period used military and commercial means to expand the civilization. In Northern Mesopotamia, the post Ubaid period is designated Late Chalcolithic / Northern Uruk period, during which, Tell Brak started to expand.
The earliest period A, is dated to the proto Halaf culture c. 6500 BC, when a small settlement existed. Many objects dated to that period were discovered including the Halaf pottery. By 5000 BC, Halaf culture transformed into Northern Ubaid, and many Ubaid materials were found in Tell Brak.
Excavations and surface survey of the site and its surroundings, unearthed a large platform of patzen bricks that dates to late Ubaid, and revealed that Tell Brak developed as an urban center slightly earlier than better known cities of southern Mesopotamia, such as Uruk.
The city shrank in size at the beginning of the third millennium BC with the end of Uruk period, before expanding again around c. 2600 BC, when it became known as Nagar, and was the capital of a regional kingdom that controlled the Khabur river valley.
Nagar was destroyed around c. 2300 BC, and came under the rule of the Akkadian Empire, followed by a period of independence as a Hurrian city-state, before contracting at the beginning of the second millennium BC. Nagar prospered again by the 19th century BC, and came under the rule of different regional powers. In c. 1500 BC, Tell Brak was a center of Mitanni before being destroyed by Assyria c. 1300 BC.
Hurrian kings of Urkesh took the title “King of Urkesh and Nawar” in the third millennium BC; although there is general view that the third millennium BC Nawar is identical with Nagar, some scholars, such as Jesper Eidem, doubt this. Those scholars opt for a city closer to Urkesh which was also called Nawala/Nabula as the intended Nawar.
Different peoples inhabited the city, including the Halafians, Semites and the Hurrians. The culture of Tell Brak was defined by the different civilizations that inhabited it. It was a religious center from its earliest periods.
Its famous Eye Temple, which was named for the thousands of small alabaster “Eye idols” figurines discovered in it, is unique in the Fertile Crescent, and its main deity, Belet-Nagar, was revered in the entire Khabur region, making the city a pilgrimage site. It was famous for its glyptic style, equids and glass.
The original name of the city is unknown. East of the mound lies a dried lake named “Khatuniah” which was recorded as “Lacus Beberaci” (the lake of Brak) in the Roman map Tabula Peutingeriana. The lake was probably named after Tell Brak which was the nearest camp in the area. The name “Brak” might therefore be an echo of the most ancient name. During the third millennium BC, the city was known as “Nagar”, which might be of Semitic origin and mean a “cultivated place”.
Northern Mesopotamia evolved independently from the south during the Late Chalcolithic / early and middle Northern Uruk (4000–3500 BC). This period was characterized by a strong emphasis on holy sites, among which, the Eye Temple was the most important in Tell Brak.
The building containing “Eyes” idols was wood paneled, whose main room had been lined with wooden panels. The building also contained the earliest known semi columned facade, which is a character that will be associated with temples in later periods.
By late Northern Uruk and especially after 3200 BC, northern Mesopotamia came under the full cultural dominance of the southern Uruk culture, which affected Tell Brak’s architecture and administration. The southern influence is most obvious in the level named the “Latest Jemdet Nasr” of the Eye Temple, which had southern elements such as cone mosaics.
The regional influence of Nineveh became particularly pronounced during the archaeological period known as Ninevite 5, or Ninevite V (2900–2600 BC). This period is defined primarily by the characteristic pottery that is found widely throughout northern Mesopotamia. Also, for the northern Mesopotamian region, the Early Jezirah chronology has been developed by archaeologists. According to this regional chronology, ‘Ninevite 5’ is equivalent to the Early Jezirah I–II period.
Ninevite 5 was preceded by the Late Uruk period. Ninevite 5 pottery is roughly contemporary to the Early Transcaucasian culture ware, and the Jemdet Nasr ware. Iraqi Scarlet Ware culture also belongs to this period; this colourful painted pottery is somewhat similar to Jemdet Nasr ware. Scarlet Ware was first documented in the Diyala River basin in Iraq. Later, it was also found in the nearby Hamrin Basin, and in Luristan.
Chaff-faced and chaff-tempered pottery with combed surfaces is a typical Late Chalcolithic pottery of Southern Azerbaijan. It is found in Kultepe, Azerbaijan and elsewhere in the Nakhichevan region, and in the Lake Urmia region of north-western Iran. But it is also common in other areas of the Middle East, such as in northern Syria and Mesopotamia. It is very well attested at Amuq.
Aratashen (until 1978 Zeyva Hayi – meaning “Armenian Zeyva”, Zeyva, Bol’shaya Zeyva and Nerkin-Zeyva) is a town in the Armavir Province of Armenia. It is located on the Ararat plain. A neolithic-chalcolithic tell is located south of the town. The first occupation phase at Aratashen was preceramic, going back to 6500 BCE. Parallels are found in the southeastern Trans-Caucasia, and in the northeastern Mesopotamia, especially based on the construction techniques and the lithic and bone tools.
Also the pottery, after it appears, is somewhat similar. The best parallels are with Kul Tepe of Nakhichevan to the south, and with the northern Near East, such as the lower levels of Hajji Firuz Tepe, at Dalma Tepe, and at Tilki Tepe. The Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture, that developed in the neighbouring Kura basin and the Karabakh steppe, does not have close parallels with the early Aratashen artifacts.
First pottery appears at the end of the fifth millennium BC. At this time, the plain of Ararat was in contact with the contemporary populations of northern Mesopotamia, and also with those of the ‘Sioni culture’ of the Kura basin. The later period pottery of Aratashen is becoming close to that of the Sioni culture, which locally succeeded the Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture. Here we already see the features of the later Kura-Araxes culture pottery.
There’s evidence of very early metallurgy at Aratashen, going back to the first half of the sixth millennium BCE. In the Neolithic level IId of Aratashen, dated to the beginnings of the sixth millennium BCE, several fragments of copper ores (malachite and azurite) and 57 arsenical copper beads were discovered.
Close to Aratashen, at Khatunark, one fragment of copper ore (malachite) has been discovered in a level dated to the first half of the sixth millennium BCE. This artefact, together with those found at Aratashen, suggest the nascent emergence of metallurgy in the Ararat region already during the Late Neolithic.
At Aratashen and Khatunakh/Aknashen, there are similarities to the contemporary sites of Kultepe I in the Babek Rayon of Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, and Alikemek-Tepesi located in the Mugan plain along the Aras (river). Kultepe (Kul’tepe) is the place where the first items made of copper-arsenic alloys, dating back to the 4th millennium BC, were found in the South Caucasus.
The Alikemek–Kul’tepe culture covered the Ararat Plain, Nakhichevan, the Mil’skoj and Mugan Steppes and the region around Lake Urmia in north-western Iran. The settlements of Alikemek and Kul’tepe I probably represent a relatively long period and occupation seems to have started early (probably during the sixth millennium BCE). 
Some archaeologists speak of the ancient Alikemek-Kul’tepe culture of southeastern Caucasus, that followed the Shulaveri-Shomu culture, and covered the transition from the Neolithic to Chalcolithic periods (c. 4500 BC).  Aratashen (following level II) was also part of this culture. 
Kültepe 2 is located about 10 km north of Nakhchivan (city) on the west bank of the river between the villages of Kültepe and Didivar. The earliest 9 m of this belongs to the Neolithic Age. Some Halaf culture artifacts have been found. On top of that are the remains of the Bronze Age, and then the Early Iron Age.
Materials from Alikemek-Tepesi are very close to the materials obtained from monuments of northwestern Iran. Early levels belonged to the Shulaveri-Shomu culture. In the upper levels, there is also pottery of the northern Ubaid period type.
Dalma Tepe is a small mound located about 5 km southwest of Ḥasanlū Tepe, near the modern village of Dalma. Dalma pottery represents Period IX at Ḥasanlū Tepe, and is dated to around 5000-4500 BCE. Links with Level XVI at Tepe Gawra have been identified, which, in northern Iraq, represents Ubaid 3 period.
Large quantities of handmade, chaff-tempered pottery were found. This includes ‘Dalma plain ware’, ‘Dalma impressed ware’, and ‘Dalma red-slipped ware’, which was covered with a uniform coat of dark-red paint.
There was a variety of shapes. ‘Dalma painted ware’ is decorated with large patterns of triangles in deep shades on red. Conical clay spindle whorls were also found. Similar pottery has been found at Seh Gābī and Godin Tepe, attributed to Period X. Kul Tepe Jolfa is another related site from the same period. It is located north of Lake Urmia. About 50km away is the related site of Kultepe, Azerbaijan.
Dava Goz is another related site in the area that was recently excavated. It is located about 5km north of Dizaj Diz, Iran. This is a small and very old site that begins in the Late Neolithic/Transitional Chalcolithic period, similar to Hajji Firuz Tepe; it may have started c. 6000 BC.
The emerging picture suggests that the Chaff-Faced Ware system, whose focus was the highlands, was progressively challenged during the 4th millennium in the north as in the south, by the Kura-Araxes and Uruk expansions, respectively.
After a period of coexistence with both, the Chaff-Faced Ware culture was superseded in the highlands by the Kura-Araxes culture (4000-2000 BC), or the Early Transcaucasian culture, whose driving forces probably had some decisive advantage over its regional neighbours.
Judging by the importance of metallurgy and mining activities in the Kura-Araxes world, this advantage could have been technological. However, in the earliest phase of the Kura–Araxes culture, metal was scarce. In comparison, the preceding Leilatepe culture’s metalwork tradition was far more sophisticated.
The Leyla-Tepe culture of ancient Caucasian Albania belongs to the Chalcolithic era. It got its name from the site in the Agdam district of modern day Azerbaijan. Its settlements were distributed on the southern slopes of Central Caucasus, from 4350 until 4000 B.C.
The Leyla-Tepe culture is also attested at Boyuk Kesik in the lower layers of this settlement. The inhabitants apparently buried their dead in ceramic vessels. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture, that is mostly of a much later date.
Leyla-Tepe pottery is very similar to the ‘Chaff-Faced Ware’ of the northern Syria and Mesopotamia. It is especially well attested at Amuq F phase. Similar pottery is also found at Kultepe, Azerbaijan.
The appearance of Leyla-Tepe tradition’s carriers in the Caucasus marked the appearance of the first local Caucasian metallurgy. Leyla-Tepe metalwork tradition was very sophisticated right from the beginning, and featured many bronze items.
This is perhaps but not entirely attributed to migrants from Uruk, arriving around 4500 BCE. Recent research indicates the connections rather to the pre-Uruk traditions, such as the late Ubaid period, and Ubaid-Uruk phases. The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslantepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.).
In 2012, the important site of Galayeri, belonging to the Leyla-Tepe archaeological culture, was investigated. It is located in the Qabala District of modern day Azerbaijan. Galayeri is closely connected to early civilizations of Near East.
Structures consisting of clay layers are typical; no mud-brick walls have been detected at Galayeri. Almost all findings have Eastern Anatolian Chalcolithic characteristics. The closest analogues of the Galayeri clay constructions are found at Arslantepe/Melid VII in Temple C.
The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, closely associated with subsequent civilizations found on the Armenian Highlands. This is evident with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets, which closely resemble Armenian tonirs.
It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.
Among the sites associated with this culture, the Soyugbulag kurgans or barrows are of special importance. The excavation of these kurgans, located in Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia, demonstrated an unexpectedly early date of such structures on the territory of Azerbaijan. They were dated to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC.
Soyuqbulaq (also, Soyuq Bulaq) is a village in the Agstafa Rayon of Azerbaijan. It forms part of the municipality of Köçvəlili. In 2006, a French–Azerbaijani team discovered nine kurgans at the cemetery of Soyuqbulaq. They were dated to the beginning of the fourth millennium BC, which makes it the oldest kurgan cemetery in Transcaucasia. Similar kurgans have been found at Kavtiskhevi, Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia.
Several other archaeological sites seem to belong to the same ancient cultural tradition as Soyuq Bulaq. They include Berikldeebi, Kavtiskhevi, Leilatepe, Boyuk Kesik, and Poylu, Agstafa, and are characterized by pottery assemblages “mainly or totally in the North Mesopotamian tradition”.
The numerous artifacts discovered at these sites have shed light on the material and spiritual culture of this ancient people during the late Eneolithic period. Amongst the finds are stone and bone tools, metal objects, and a huge cache of clay vessels. There are also anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines made of clay or bone. Grain residues were also excavated.
The residents kept cattle and other domesticated animals in these settlements. Most of these sites are associated with the Leilatepe archeological culture of the first half of the fourth millennium BCE. It is believed that this was the result of the migration of near-eastern tribes from Mesopotamia to South Caucasus, especially to Azerbaijan.
Discovery of Soyugbulaq in 2004 and subsequent excavations provided substantial proof that the practice of kurgan burial was well established in the South Caucasus during the late Eneolithic. The roots of the Leylatepe Archaeological Culture to which the Soyugbulaq kurgans belong to, stemmed from the Ubaid culture of Central Asia.
The Leylatepe Culture tribes migrated to the north in the mid-fourth millennium, B.C. and played an important part in the rise of the Maikop Culture of the North Caucasus. A number of Maikop Culture kurgans and Soyugbulaq kurgans display the same northwest to southeast grave alignment. More than that, Soyugbulaq kurgans yielded pottery forms identical to those recovered from the Maikop kurgans. These are the major factors attesting to the existence of a genetic link between the two cultures.
The Kura–Araxes culture, or the Early Transcaucasian culture, was a civilization that existed from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end; in some locations it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC.
The Kura–Araxes culture displayed a precocious metallurgical development, which strongly influenced surrounding regions. They worked copper, arsenic, silver, gold, tin, and bronze. Their metal goods were widely distributed, from the Volga, Dnieper and Don-Donets river systems in the north to Syria and Palestine in the south and Anatolia in the west.
Their pottery was distinctive. The spread of their pottery along trade routes into surrounding cultures was much more impressive than any of their achievements domestically. It was painted black and red, using geometric designs. Examples have been found as far south as Syria and Israel, and as far north as Dagestan and Chechnya.
The spread of this pottery, along with archaeological evidence of invasions, suggests that the Kura-Araxes people may have spread outward from their original homes and, most certainly, had extensive trade contacts.
The economy was based on farming and livestock-raising (especially of cattle and sheep). They grew grain and orchard crops, and are known to have used implements to make flour. They raised cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and in later phases, horses. Before the Kura-Araxes period, horse bones were not found in Transcaucasia. Later, beginning about 3300 BCE, they became widespread, with signs of domestication
There is evidence of trade with Mesopotamia as well as Asia Minor. It is, however, considered above all to be indigenous to the Caucasus, and its major variants characterized (according to Caucasus historian Amjad Jaimoukha) later major cultures in the region.
The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC. Altogether, the early Transcaucasian culture enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, and mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and as far as Syria.
The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Kura–Araxes culture is sometimes known as Shengavitian, Karaz (Erzurum), Pulur, and Yanik Tepe (Iranian Azerbaijan, near Lake Urmia) cultures. It gave rise to the later Khirbet Kerak-ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.
Shulaveri-Shomu culture preceded the Kura–Araxes culture in the area. There were many differences between these two cultures, so the connection was not clear. Later, it was suggested that the Sioni culture of eastern Georgia possibly represented a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.
At many sites, the Sioni culture layers can be seen as intermediary between Shulaver-Shomu-Tepe layers and the Kura-Araxes layers. This kind of stratigraphy warrants a chronological place of the Sioni culture at around 4000 BCE.
Nowadays scholars consider the Kartli area, as well as the Kakheti area (in the river Sioni region) as key to forming the earliest phase of the Kura–Araxes culture. To a large extent, this appears as an indigenous culture of Caucasus that was formed over a long period, and at the same time incorporating foreign influences.
There are some indications (such as at Arslantepe) of the overlapping in time of the Kura-Araxes and Uruk cultures; such contacts may go back even to the Middle Uruk period. Some scholars have suggested that the earliest manifestation of the Kura-Araxes phenomenon should be dated at least to the last quarter of the 5th millennium BC. This is based on the recent data from Ovçular Tepesi, a Late Chalcolithic settlement located in Nakhchivan by the Arpaçay river.
Rather quickly, elements of Kura–Araxes culture started to proceed westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into the area of Lake Van, and below the Urmia basin in Iran, such as to Godin Tepe. Finally, it proceeded into the present-day Syria (Amuq valley), and as far as Palestine. Its territory corresponds to large parts of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, and parts of Iran and Turkey.
At Sos Hoyuk, in Erzurum Province, Turkey, early forms of Kura-Araxes pottery were found in association with local ceramics as early as 3500-3300 BC. During the Early Bronze Age in 3000-2200 BC, this settlement was part of the Kura-Araxes phenomenon. At Arslantepe, Turkey, around 3000 BCE, there was widespread burning and destruction, after which Kura-Araxes pottery appeared in the area.
According to Geoffrey Summers, the movement of Kura-Araxes peoples into Iran and the Van region, which he interprets as quite sudden, started shortly before 3000 BC, and may have been prompted by the ‘Late Uruk Collapse’ (end of the Uruk period), taking place at the end of Uruk IV phase c. 3100 BC.
Inhumation practices are mixed. Flat graves are found but so are substantial kurgan burials, the latter of which may be surrounded by cromlechs. This points to a heterogeneous ethno-linguistic population. In the 3rd millennium B.C., one particular group of mounds of the Kura–Araxes culture is remarkable for their wealth. This was the final stage of culture’s development.
These burial mounds are known as the Martqopi (or Martkopi) period mounds. Those on the left bank of the river Alazani are often 20–25 meters high and 200–300 meters in diameter. They contain especially rich artefacts, such as gold and silver jewelry.
Several rich burial kurgans have been discovered in the area. They represent the early stage of the Early Kurgan culture of Central Transcaucasia. The Martkopi Culture may be dated before 2550 BC. This Early Kurgan period, known as Martkopi-Bedeni, has been interpreted as a transitional phase and the first stage of the Middle Bronze Age.
To the earliest group belong the kurgans or barrows of the Martkopi/Ulevari and Samgori valleys (east of Tbilisi), and the earliest among the Trialeti culture. The somewhat later kurgans are of Bedeni type. They are represented by the kurgans of the Bedeni plateau (near Trialeti), and also those of the Alazani valley (in Kakheti, eastern part of East Georgia).
This stage of the Early Bronze Age seems to represent the final stage of the Kura-Araxes culture. According to recent dating, the transition to the Early Kurgan period was around the mid of the 3rd millennium — somewhat between the 27th to 24th century BC.
Late Kura-Araxes sites often featured Kurgans of greatly varying sizes, with larger, wealthier kurgans surrounded by smaller kurgans containing less wealth. These kurgans also contained a wide assortment metalworks.
This trend suggests the eventual emergence of a marked social hierarchy. Their practice of storing relatively great wealth in burial kurgans was probably a cultural influence from the more ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent to the south.
Analyzing the situation in the Kura-Araxes period, T.A. Akhundov notes the lack of unity in funerary monuments, which he considers more than strange in the framework of a single culture; for the funeral rites reflect the deep culture-forming foundations and are weakly influenced by external customs.
There are non-kurgan and kurgan burials, burials in ground pits, in stone boxes and crypts, in the underlying ground strata and on top of them; using both the round and rectangular burials; there are also substantial differences in the typical corpse position. Burial complexes of Kura–Araxes culture sometimes also include cremation.
Here one can come to the conclusion that the Kura–Araxes culture developed gradually through a synthesis of several cultural traditions, including the ancient cultures of the Caucasus and nearby territories. Kura-Araxes culture is closely linked to the approximately contemporaneous Maykop culture of the North Caucasus. The two cultures seem to have influenced one another.
While it is unknown what cultures and languages were present in Kura-Araxes, the two most widespread theories suggest a connection with Hurro-Urartian and/or Anatolian languages. In the Armenian hypothesis of Indo-European origins, this culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages. Others have suggested the possibility that Kartvelian, Northeast Caucasian, and Semitic languages were spoken in the region as well.
The Trialeti culture, also known as the Trialeti-Vanadzor [Kirovakan] culture, is named after the Trialeti region of Georgia and the city of Vanadzor, Armenia. It is attributed to the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC. Trialeti culture emerged in the areas of the preceding Kura-Araxes culture. Some scholars speculate that it was an Indo-European culture.
Geographical interconnectedness and links with other areas of the Near East are seen in many aspects of the culture. For example, a cauldron found in Trialeti is nearly identical to the one from Shaft Grave 4 of Mycenae in Greece. The Trialeti culture shows ties with the highly developed cultures of the ancient world, particularly with the Aegean, but also with cultures to the south and east.
Trialeti-Vanadzor painted monochrome and polychrome pottery is very similar to that in the other areas of the Near East. In particular, similar ceramics are known as Urmia ware (named after Lake Urmia in Iran). Also, similar pottery was produced by the Uzarlik culture, and the Karmirberd-Sevan culture.
They also worked tin and arsenic. Tin-based bronze became predominant. The launch of tin bronze production in South Caucasia is associated with the appearance of the so-called Early Kurgans, whereas artifacts of the Kura-Araxes (Early Transcaucasian) culture were made exclusively of copper-arsenic alloy.
During the final phase of the Middle Bronze Age (c.1700–1500 BC), in addition to the Trialeti-Vanadzor period culture, three other geographically overlapping material culture horizons predominate in the South Caucasus (Transcaucasia) and eastern Anatolia: Karmir-Berd (a.k.a. Tazakend), Karmir-Vank (a.k.a. Kizil Vank, Van-Urmia), and Sevan-Uzerlik (a.k.a. Sevan-Artsakh).
Black-burnished and monochrome painted wares vessels from the cemeteries of Ani, and Küçük Çatma (Maly Pergit), both in the Kars Province of Turkey, and Sos Höyük IV in Erzurum Province resemble those of Trialeti. In fact, the black burnished pottery of especially early Trialeti kurgans is similar to Kura-Araxes pottery.
The Trialeti pottery style is believed to have developed into the Late Bronze Age Transcaucasian ceramic ware found throughout much of what is now eastern Turkey. This pottery has been connected to the expansion of the Mushki. Earlier Assyrian sources clearly identify the Western Mushki with the Phrygians, but later Greek sources then distinguish between the Phrygians and the Moschoi.
The Trialeti culture was known for its particular form of burial. At that time, there was already strong social differentiation indicated by rich mound burials. There are parallels to the Early Kurgan culture. Cremation was practised. Painted pottery was introduced. 
The elite were interred in large, very rich burials under earth and stone mounds, which sometimes contained four-wheeled carts. Also there were many gold objects found in the graves. These gold objects were similar to those found in Iran and Iraq.
This form of burial in a tumulus or “kurgan”, along with wheeled vehicles, is the same as that of the Kurgan culture which has been associated with the speakers of Proto-Indo-European. In a historical context, their impressive accumulation of wealth in burial kurgans, like that of other associated and nearby cultures with similar burial practices, is particularly noteworthy. This practice was probably a result of influence from the older civilizations to the south in the Fertile Crescent.
Martqopi kurgans are somewhat similar, and are contemporary to the earliest among the Trialeti kurgans. Together, they represent the early stage of the Early Kurgan culture of Central Transcaucasia. This Early Kurgan period, known as Martkopi-Bedeni, has been interpreted as a transitional phase and the first stage of the Middle Bronze Age.

Armenian Haplogroups

Presently, Armenians are characterized as a distinct ethnotype, speaking a single Indo-European language, Armenian. Linguistic analyses have found that Armenian represents one of the oldest living Indo-European languages and exhibits its greatest affinities with Greek and Balkan languages.
With some linguists placing the origins of the Proto-Indo-European and Indo-European languages in either Anatolia or Transcaucasia, it has been proposed that Armenians represent close descendants of the ancestral Indo-European population and that subsequent migrations from Armenia into Greece were responsible for the language group’s dispersal into Europe.
However, a lack of archaeological support for this notion has led to the alternative supposition that invasions from Balkan or Anatolian tribes15 introduced an Indo-European language into Armenia, resulting in the observed similarities between Armenian and the Southeastern European languages.
In the efforts to gain a comprehensive understanding of the impact that complex historical migrations and events have had upon the genetic structure of populations, the human Y-chromosome has emerged as a highly effective tool.
Prior examinations of the paternal lineages within Armenia have revealed population-expansion times corresponding to the Neolithic emergence of agriculture, as well as genetic affinities toward both Near Eastern and European populations; results that are largely corroborated by mitochondrial DNA and Alu insertion (PAI) studies.
It should be noted, however, that the above-mentioned patrilineal studies are hindered by their utilization of a limited set of Y-chromosomal markers that severely restricted their ability to define phylogenetic relationships.
In particular, none of the previous paternal investigations of Armenia resolved the predominantly European haplogroup R beyond the level of R1*(xR1a), which leaves the precise relationship of Armenians to Europeans ambiguous.
The results of this study suggest that the majority of Armenian Y-chromosomes belong to lineages believed to have originated and expanded during or following the Neolithic, including E1b1b1c-M123, G-M201, J1-M267, J2-M172 and R1b1b1-L23.
Previous investigations have found some of these haplogroups, including J1-M267 and J2-M172, to illustrate patterns of distributions that reflect the spread of agriculture and domestication from the Fertile Crescent and recently, the distribution of R1b1b-M269 haplotypes across the Near East and Europe has been proposed to be best explained by a Neolithic dispersal.
Of particular prominence in Armenia are haplogroups R1b-M343 and J2-M172, which are detected in Ararat Valley, Gardman and Lake Van at frequencies higher than those observed in any of the Near Eastern populations analyzed in this study.
STR haplotypes within these two lineages exhibit clear genetic affinities with individuals from the Near East, particularly the Levantine populations of Jordan and Lebanon as demonstrated in the MDS plots (Figures 3a and b) and network diagrams.
These affiliations suggest gene flow between the Levant and Armenia, which, given the time estimates calculated, likely coincided with the expansion of agriculturalists. Examination of mean haplotype variance and expansion times for R1b-M343 and J2-M172 revealed less variance and slightly younger dates in Armenia relative to
the surrounding regions.
Therefore, our data likely reflects a directionality of these migrations from an origin in the Levant before reaching the Armenian highlands. However, more recent gene flow,
possibly during the numerous imperial expansions from Assyria, Persia or even Europe, cannot be fully excluded as potential causes for the observed distribution patterns of genetic diversity. Yet, it is difficult to imagine such events leading to the genetic homogeny observed among Ararat Valley, Gardman and Lake Van.
Given the inhospitable climatic conditions and paucity of archaeological remains3 in Armenia from the millennia preceding the Neolithic, the predominance of Neolithic Y-chromosomes in Armenia suggests that the region was sparsely settled before the arrival of early farmers.
Settlement during the Mesolithic, such as those observed near Sasun, were likely only fleeting. We envision a hypothetical, yet compelling, scenario in which Neolithic agriculturalists from the Levant occupied a vacant Armenian Plateau.
This is reflected in the contour plots in Figure 4, where variance estimates indicate a demic decreasing gradient from the Levant toward Armenia, while frequencies illustrate an inverse cline, supporting the idea that the migrants from the Levant constitute a great proportion of the Armenian population.
According to this contention, most Paleolithic genetic signals currently detected in the Armenian highlands represent influx of chromosomes from continuously settled areas and not vestiges from older occupations.
This is supported by time estimates for Haplogroup T-M184, a clade believed to have originated in the Near East during the Paleolithic,46 as we observe dates in Armenia
(B12–13 kya) lower than those in other regions of the Near East, including Iran and the Levant (B20 kya). Such a disparity suggests the
Haplogroup T lineages presently observed in Armenia were introduced by migrations that are more recent than those that carried Haplogroup T to the Levant and Iran. Given the difficulties associated with absolute dating, it is also possible that these markers were carried by migrants entering Armenia during an even later era, such as the Bronze Age if the T lineage within genetic contributors has been lost to genetic drift.
Shortly after the arrival of early farmers in Armenia and Anatolia (8 kya), agriculture spread to Greece and the Balkans, before rapidly expanding across Europe. Furthermore, the classification of Armenian as an old Indo-European language with similarities to the
ancestral Proto-Indo-European languages has led to the supposition that agriculturalists migrating from Armenia into Europe were responsible for the establishment of Indo-European languages in the continent. However, despite the close linguistic relationship between Armenians and the Indo-European speaking populations of Europe, we see little genetic support for this claim.
The derived M412 allele, which is found in nearly all haplogroup R1b1b1*-L23 chromosomes in Europe,27 is absent in the sampled Armenians, which also exhibit a scarcity of haplotype sharing with Europeans, suggesting a limited role for Armenians in the introduction of R1b into Europe.
Several authors have proposed that the Indo-European language presently spoken by Armenians arose during the Bronze Age, when Indo-European speaking tribes from the Balkans and Greece invaded Anatolia and Transcaucasia, leading to the subsequent spread of their culture and language.
In this study, we have detected a number of lineages that are prominent in the Balkans (I2*, I2b*, J2b1 and J2b2) at low levels throughout Ararat Valley, Gardman and Lake Van, the latter of which also contains haplogroups commonly associated with Bronze Age Greece (ie, J2a8-M319 (4.9%), and E1b1b1-M78 and its sublineages (3.9%)).
While this may suggest genetic input from early Greek or Phrygian tribes, it is also possible that these low levels of Balkan lineages arrived in Armenia at a later time, such as during one of the many incursions into the area during the reign of the Macedonian,
Roman and Byzantine empires.
It should be noted that these results only reflect the paternal history of Armenia and studies on a maternal or gender-neutral system may reveal distinct conclusions.
Although the Armenian paternal gene pool exhibits limited genetic affinities with modern European Y-chromosomes, a paleogenetic study examining the gene pool of Neolithic farmers in Europe (B6 kya) found that these fossils displayed greater genetic similarity with individuals from the modern Near East than to modern Europe.
These ancient individuals were characterized by haplogroups G2a and F*(xGHIJK), which, in the present day gene pool, are mostly restricted to the Near East and are not prevalent in modern Europeans.
These results suggest that the genetic profile currently observed throughout Europe potentially originated from migrations that took place subsequent to the Neolithic era.
Such a scenario may explain the lack of segregation separating Armenians and Europeans that was observed in the network containing only the older lineages,
R1b1b*-M269 and R1b1b1*-L23, as these haplogroups may represent remnants of an older European population.
As a result, comparisons of the paternal component of Armenians and a larger dataset of
ancient European samples may illuminate the nature of the migrations into Europe with greater fidelity.
In an investigation that assess Y-chromosomal diversity in four geographically distinct populations that represent the extent of historical Armenia there are a striking prominence of haplogroups previously implicated with the Agricultural Revolution in the Near East, including J2a-M410-, R1b1b1*-L23-, G2a-P15- and J1-M267-derived lineages.
It is a prevalence of Neolithic paternal chromosomes that are associated with the Agricultural Revolution, namely E1b1b1c-M123, G-M201, J1-M267, J2a-M410 and R1b1b1*-L23, which collectively comprise 77% (58% in Sasun and an average of 84% in Ararat Valley, Gardman and Lake Van) of the observed paternal lineages in the Armenian Plateau. Furthermore, Y-STR variance and haplotype distributions suggest that these lineages were likely introduced into Armenia from the Levant.
It is suggested that the majority of Armenian Y-chromosomes belong to lineages believed to have originated and expanded during or following the Neolithic, including E1b1b1c-M123, G-M201, J1-M267, J2-M172 and R1b1b1-L23.
Previous investigations have found some of these haplogroups, including J1-M267 and J2-M172, to illustrate patterns of distributions that reflect the spread of agriculture and domestication from the Fertile Crescent, and recently, the distribution of R1b1b-M269 haplotypes across the Near East and Europe has been proposed to be best explained by a Neolithic dispersal.
Of particular prominence in Armenia are haplogroups R1b-M343 and J2-M172, which are detected in Ararat Valley, Gardman and Lake Van at frequencies higher than those observed in any of the Near Eastern populations analyzed.
STR haplotypes within these two lineages exhibit clear genetic affinities with individuals from the Near East, particularly the Levantine populations of Jordan and Lebanon as demonstrated in the MDS plots and network diagrams. These affiliations suggest gene flow between the Levant and Armenia, which, given the time estimates calculated, likely coincided with the expansion of agriculturalists.
Examination of mean haplotype variance and expansion times for R1b-M343 and J2-M172 revealed less variance and slightly younger dates in Armenia relative to the surrounding regions. Therefore, our data likely reflects a directionality of these migrations from an origin in the Levant before reaching the Armenian highlands.
However, more recent gene flow, possibly during the numerous imperial expansions from Assyria, Persia or even Europe cannot be fully excluded as potential causes for the observed distribution patterns of genetic diversity. Yet, it is difficult to imagine such events leading to the genetic homogeny observed among Ararat Valley, Gardman and Lake Van.
Given the inhospitable climatic conditions and paucity of archaeological remains in Armenia from the millennia preceding the Neolithic, the predominance of Neolithic Y-chromosomes in Armenia suggests that the region was sparsely settled before the arrival of early farmers.
Settlement during the Mesolithic, such as those observed near Sasun, were likely only fleeting. We envision a hypothetical, yet compelling, scenario in which Neolithic agriculturalists from the Levant occupied a vacant Armenian Plateau.
Variance estimates indicate a demic decreasing gradient from the Levant toward Armenia, while frequencies illustrate an inverse cline, supporting the idea that the migrants from the Levant constitute a great proportion of the Armenian population.
According to this contention, most Paleolithic genetic signals currently detected in the Armenian highlands represent influx of chromosomes from continuously settled areas and not vestiges from older occupations.
This is supported by time estimates for Haplogroup T-M184, a clade believed to have originated in the Near East during the Paleolithic, as we observe dates in Armenia (∼12–13 kya) lower than those in other regions of the Near East, including Iran and the Levant (∼20 kya).
Such a disparity suggests the Haplogroup T lineages presently observed in Armenia were introduced by migrations that are more recent than those that carried Haplogroup T to the Levant and Iran.
Given the difficulties associated with absolute dating, it is also possible that these markers were carried by migrants entering Armenia during an even later era, such as the Bronze Age if the T lineage within genetic contributors has been lost to genetic drift.
Shortly after the arrival of early farmers in Armenia and Anatolia (8 kya), agriculture spread to Greece and the Balkans, before rapidly expanding across Europe.
Furthermore, the classification of Armenian as an old Indo-European language with similarities to the ancestral Proto-Indo-European languages has led to the supposition that agriculturalists migrating from Armenia into Europe were responsible for the establishment of Indo-European languages in the continent.
However, despite the close linguistic relationship between Armenians and the Indo-European speaking populations of Europe, we see little genetic support for this claim.
The derived M412 allele, which is found in nearly all haplogroup R1b1b1*-L23 chromosomes in Europe, is absent in the sampled Armenians, which also exhibit a scarcity of haplotype sharing with Europeans, suggesting a limited role for Armenians in the introduction of R1b into Europe.
Several authors have proposed that the Indo-European language presently spoken by Armenians arose during the Bronze Age, when Indo-European speaking tribes from the Balkans and Greece invaded Anatolia and Transcaucasia, leading to the subsequent spread of their culture and language.
There are a number of lineages that are prominent in the Balkans (I2*, I2b*, J2b1 and J2b2) at low levels throughout Ararat Valley, Gardman and Lake Van, the latter of which also contains haplogroups commonly associated with Bronze Age Greece (ie, J2a8-M319 (4.9%), and E1b1b1-M78 and its sublineages (3.9%)).
While this may suggest genetic input from early Greek or Phrygian tribes, it is also possible that these low levels of Balkan lineages arrived in Armenia at a later time, such as during one of the many incursions into the area during the reign of the Macedonian, Roman and Byzantine empires.
Although the Armenian paternal gene pool exhibits limited genetic affinities with modern European Y-chromosomes, a paleogenetic study examining the gene pool of Neolithic farmers in Europe (∼6 kya) found that these fossils displayed greater genetic similarity with individuals from the modern Near East than to modern Europe.
These ancient individuals were characterized by haplogroups G2a and F*(xGHIJK), which, in the present day gene pool, are mostly restricted to the Near East and are not prevalent in modern Europeans. These results suggest that the genetic profile currently observed throughout Europe potentially originated from migrations that took place subsequent to the Neolithic era.
Such a scenario may explain the lack of segregation separating Armenians and Europeans that was observed in the network containing only the older lineages, R1b1b*-M269 and R1b1b1*-L23, as these haplogroups may represent remnants of an older European population.
Shortly, the results indicate a prevalence of Neolithic paternal chromosomes that are associated with the Agricultural Revolution, namely E1b1b1c-M123, G-M201, J1-M267, J2a-M410 and R1b1b1*-L23, which collectively comprise 77% (58% in Sasun and an average of 84% in Ararat Valley, Gardman and Lake Van) of the observed paternal lineages in the Armenian Plateau.
Furthermore, Y-STR variance and haplotype distributions suggest that these lineages were likely introduced into Armenia from the Levant. However, later migrations, such as from Armenia to Europe, do not appear to have been associated with any paternal gene flow.

Haplogroup J2

Haplogroup J (J-M304) is believed to have evolved in Western Asia. The clade spread from there during the Neolithic, primarily into North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Socotra, the Caucasus, Southern Europe, West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. It is divided into two main subclades (branches), J1 (J-M267) and J2 (J-M172).
Since its discovery it has generally been recognized that it shows signs of having originated in or near West Asia. The frequency and diversity of both its major branches, J-M267 and J-M172, in that region makes them candidates as genetic markers of the spread of farming technology during the Neolithic, which is proposed to have had a major impact upon human populations.
Haplogroup J2 (J-M172) is common in modern populations in Western Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Europe and North Africa. It is thought that J-M172 may have originated between the Caucasus Mountains, Mesopotamia and the Levant. It is further divided into two complementary clades, J-M410 and J-M12 (M12, M102, M221, M314).
The date of origin for haplogroup J-M172 has been estimated to be between 19,000 and 24,000 years before present (BP). The origin of the parent haplogroup, J-P209, has been dated to between 18,900 and 44,500 YBP.
Ancient J-M410, specifically subclade J-Y12379*, has been found, in a mesolithic context, in a tooth from the Kotias Klde Cave in western Georgia dating 9.529-9.895 cal. BP. This sample has been assigned to the Caucasus hunter-gatherers (CHG) autosomal component.
J-M410, more specifically its subclade J-PF5008, has also been found in a mesolithic sample from the Hotu and Kamarband Caves located in Mazandaran Province of Iran, dating back to 9,100-8,600 B.C.E (approximately 11,000 ybp). Both samples both belong to the Trialetian Culture. It is likely that J2 men had settled over most of Anatolia, the South Caucasus and Iran by the end of the Last Glaciation 12,000 years ago.
The oldest known J2a samples at present were identified in remains from the Hotu Cave in northern Iran, dating from 9100-8600 BCE, and from Kotias Klde in Georgia, dating from 7940-7600 BCE. This confirms that haplogroup J2 was already found around the Caucasus and the southern Caspian region during the Mesolithic period.
The first appearance of J2 during the Neolithic came in the form of a 10,000 year-old J2b sample from Tepe Abdul Hosein in north-western Iran in what was then the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. Notwithstanding its strong presence in West Asia today, haplogroup J2 does not seem to have been one of the principal lineages associated with the rise and diffusion of cereal farming from the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia to Europe.
It is likely that J2 men had settled over most of Anatolia, the South Caucasus and Iran by the end of the Last Glaciation 12,000 years ago. It is possible that J2 hunter-gatherers then goat/sheep herders also lived in the Fertile Crescent during the Neolithic period.
The development of early cereal agriculture is thought to have been conducted by men belonging primarily to haplogroups G2a (northern branch, from Anatolia to Europe), as well as E1b1b and T1a (southern branch, from the Levant to the Arabian peninsula and North Africa).
No Neolithic sample from Central or South Asia has been tested to date, but the present geographic distribution of haplogroup J2 suggests that it could initially have dispersed during the Neolithic from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia across the Iranian plateau to South Asia and Central Asia, and across the Caucasus to Russia (Volga-Ural).
The first expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE), rather than with the development of cereal agriculture in the Levant. A second expansion would have occured with the advent of metallurgy.
J2 could have been the main paternal lineage of the Kura-Araxes culture (Late Copper to Early Bronze Age), which expanded from the southern Caucasus toward northern Mesopotamia and the Levant. After that J2 could have propagated through Anatolia and the Eastern Mediterranean with the rise of early civilizations during the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.
Eu 9 (H58) evolved from Eu 10 (H71) through a T→G transversion at M172. The earliest known migration of J2 has been uncovered from Sumeria to Canaan. Today Eu 9 (the post-mutation form of M172) is strongest in the Caucasus, Asia Minor and the Levant, whilst Eu 10 becomes stronger and replaces the frequency of Eu 9 as one moves south into the Arabian Peninsula.
It is suggested that people from the Caucasus met with Arabs near and between Mesopotamia (formerly Sumeria) and the Negev Desert, as “Arabisation” spread from Arabia to the Levant and Turkey, as well as many peoples (e.g. Jews, Armenians, Lebanese) having returned from diasporas.
J-M172 haplogroup spread into Southern Europe” from either the Levant or Anatolia, likely parallel to the development of agriculture. As to the timing of its spread into Europe it is pointed to events which post-date the Neolithic, in particular the demographic floruit associated with the rise of the Ancient Greek world.
It initial spread with Neolithic farmers from the Near East. However, its subclade distribution, showing localized peaks in the Southern Balkans, southern Italy, north/central Italy and the Caucasus, does not conform to a single ‘wave-of-advance’ scenario, betraying a number of still poorly understood post-Neolithic processes which created its current pattern. The Bronze Age southern Balkans has been suggested by to have been an important vector of spread.

Haplogroup J1

Y DNA haplogroup J1 (J-M267) is found today in significant frequencies in many areas in or near the Arabian Peninsula and Western Asia. Out of its native Asian Continent, it’s found at very high frequencies in Sudan.
It’s also found at lesser extent in parts of the Caucasus, Ethiopia and parts of North Africa and amongst Jewish groups, especially those with Cohen surnames. It can also be found much less commonly, but still occasionally in significant amounts, in parts of southern Europe and as far east as Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.
J-M267 has several recognized subclades, some of which were recognized before J-M267 itself was recognized, for example J-M62 Y Chromosome Consortium “YCC” 2002. With one notable exception, J-P58, most of these are not common. Because of the dominance of J-P58 in J-M267 populations in many areas, discussion of J-M267’s origins require a discussion of J-P58 at the same time.
The P58 marker which defines subgroup J1c3 is very prevalent in many areas where J-M267 is common, especially in parts of North Africa and throughout the Arabian peninsula. It also makes up approximately 70% of the J-M267 among the Amhara of Ethiopia. Notably, it is not common among the J-M267 of the Caucasus.
It is proposed that J-P58 (that they refer to as J1e) might have first dispersed during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period, from a geographical zone, including northeast Syria, northern Iraq and eastern Turkey toward Mediterranean Anatolia, Ismaili from southern Syria, Jordan, Palestine and northern Egypt. It is further proposed that the Zarzian material culture may be ancestral.
It is also proposed that this movement of people may also be linked to the dispersal of Semitic languages by hunter-herders, who moved into arid areas during periods known to have had low rainfall. Thus, while other haplogroups including J-M267 moved out of the area with agriculturalists who followed the rainfall, populations carrying J-M267 remained with their flocks.
According to this scenario, after the initial neolithic expansion involving Semitic languages, which possibly reached as far as Yemen, a more recent dispersal occurred during the Chalcolithic or Early Bronze Age (approximately 3000–5000 BCE), and this involved the branch of Semitic which leads to the Arabic language. It is proposed that this involved a spread of some J-P58 from the direction of Syria towards Arab populations of the Arabian Peninsula and Negev.

Haplogroup G

Haplogroup G (M201) is one of two branches of the parent haplogroup GHIJK, the other being HIJK. At the level of national populations, G-M201 is most commonly found in Georgia; it is found at even higher levels among many other regional and minority populations in the Caucasus. G-M201 is also widely distributed at low frequencies, among ethnic groups of Europe, South Asia, Central Asia, and North Africa.
Various estimated dates and locations have been proposed for the origin of G-M201, most of them in Western Asia. In 2012 it was suggested that the geographic origin of haplogroup G were somewhere nearby eastern Anatolia, Armenia or western Iran.
Previously the National Geographic Society placed its origins in the Middle East 30,000 years ago and presumes that people carrying the haplogroup took part in the spread of the Neolithic. Two scholarly papers have also suggested an origin in the Middle East, while differing on the date. Semino et al. (2000) suggested 17,000 years ago. Cinnioglu et al. (2004) suggested the mutation took place only 9,500 years ago.

Trialetian

The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) was the most recent time during the Last Glacial Period that ice sheets were at their greatest extent. Vast ice sheets covered much of North America, Northern Europe, and Asia and profoundly affected Earth’s climate by causing drought, desertification, and a large drop in sea levels.
Growth of ice sheets commenced 33,000 years ago and maximum coverage was between 26,500 years and 19–20,000 years ago, when deglaciation commenced in the Northern Hemisphere, causing an abrupt rise in sea level. Decline of the West Antarctica ice sheet occurred between 14,000 and 15,000 years ago, consistent with evidence for another abrupt rise in the sea level about 14,500 years ago.
In the archaeology of Paleolithic Europe, the LGM spans the Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean, Magdalenian and Périgordian cultures. Although archaeological evidence for human as well as Neanderthal activity in Armenia during the Paleolithic era exists, the LGM likely made permanent settlements of the region infeasible until the glacial recessions between 16,000 and 18,000 years ago.
Trialetian is the name for an Upper Paleolithic-Epipaleolithic stone tool industry from the area south of the Caucasus Mountains and to the northern Zagros Mountains. It is tentatively dated to the period between 16.000 / 13.000 BC and 8000 years ago.
The name of the archaeological culture derives from sites in the district of Trialeti in south Georgian Khrami river basin. These sites include Barmaksyzkaya and Edzani-Zurtaketi. In Edzani, an Upper Paleolithic site, a significant percentage of the artifacts are made of obsidian.
Alan H. Simmons describes the culture as “very poorly documented”. In contrast, recent excavations in the Valley of Qvirila river, to the north of the Trialetian region, display a Mesolithic culture. The subsistence of these groups were based on hunting Capra caucasica, wild boar and brown bear.
Caucasus and Transcaucasia: Edzani (Georgia), Chokh (Azerbaijan), layers E-C200 and Kotias Klde, layer B. Eastern Anatolia: Hallan Çemi (from ca. 8.6-8.5k BC to 7.6-7.5k BC) and Nevali Çori (shows some Trialetian admixture in a PPNB context). Trialetian influences can also be found in Cafer Höyük and Boy Tepe.
Southeast of the Caspian Sea: Hotu, Ali Tepe (from cal. 10.5k BC to 8.87 BC) and Belt Cave (layers 28-11 with the last remains date from ca. 6k BC) in Iran, and Dam-Dam-Cheshme II (layers7-3) in Turkmenistan. The belonging of these Caspian Mesolithic sites to the Trialetian has been questioned.
Trialetian Mesolithic
Past, Current and Future Contribution of Zooarchaeology to the Knowledge of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic Cultures in South Caucasus

Kmlo-2

Kmlo-2 is a rock shelter situated on the west slope of the Kasakh River valley, on the Aragats massif, in Armenia. This site seems to present three different phases of occupation (11.000-10.000 BC, 9000-8000 BC and 6000-5000 BC).
The lithic industry of the three phases show similarities such as the predominance of microliths, small cores and obsidian as raw material. The backed an scalene bladelets are the dominant type of microlith; these tools show similarities with those of the Late Upper Paleolithic of Kalavan-1 and the Mesolithic layer B of the Kotias Klde. Cultural affinities of the Kmlo-2 lithic industry with the Epipaleolithic and Aceramic Neolithic sites in Taurus-Zagros mountains have also been noted.
Kmlo-2 industry is closer to the production complexes with traditions of Mesolithic and/or Upper Paleolithic periods. But it is difficult to show any culture or archaeological source in Armenia today, which belongs to these periods, preceding Kmlo-2 and could have been its origin or prototype.
The only site that emerged before Kmlo-2 is Kalavan-1, an Upper Paleolithic site dating to 16,000-14,000 BC., where microliths of geometrical forms are fully absent. Though Kmlo-2 industry shows some similarities with Zarzian and Trialeti cultures, analytic studies for proving this comparison are still in the process.
Layer III of Kmlo-2 contained the so-called “Kmlo tools”. Kmlo tools are characterized by “continuous and parallel retouch by pressure flaking of one or both lateral edges”. Similar tools have been found, as the associated to the to Paluri-Nagutny culture in Georgia), the so-called “Çayönü tools” (Çayönü, Cafer Höyük, Shimshara), found in Neolithic sites from the 8000 to 7000 BC in eastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia, and some found in the layer A2 of the Kotias Klde cave.
It has been suggested that the Kmlo tools are distinctive features of a culture established circa 9000-8000 BC on the highlands of western Armenia and continued at least until the 6000-5000 BC. A local development of the Kmlo tools has also been hypothesized.
Çayönü Tepesi is a Neolithic settlement in southeastern Turkey which prospered from circa 8,630 to 6,800 BC. It is located forty kilometres north-west of Diyarbakır, at the foot of the Taurus mountains. It lies near the Boğazçay, a tributary of the upper Tigris River and the Bestakot, an intermittent stream.
The settlement covers the periods of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), and the Pottery Neolithic (PN). Çayönü is possibly the place where the pig (Sus scrofa) was first domesticated.
Genetic studies of emmer wheat, the precursor of most current wheat species, show that the slopes of Mount Karaca (Karaca Dağ), which is located in close vicinity to Çayönü, was the location of first domestication. A different DNA approach pointed to Kartal Daği.
Robert Braidwood wrote that “insofar as unit HA can be considered as representing all of the major pre-historic occupation at Cayonu, cultivated emmer along with cultivated einkorn was present from the earliest sub-phase.”

Satsurblia

The genome of a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer individual found at the layer A2 of the Kotias Klde rock shelter in Georgia, dating from 9,700 BP, has been analysed. It belongs to haplogruoup J2a. An independent analysis has assigned him J2a1b-Y12379*).
The Satsurblia Cave is a paleoanthropological site located 1.2 km from Kumistavi village, Tsqaltubo Municipality, in the Imereti region of Georgia, 287 meters above sea level. It is a karst cave, formed in Sataphlia-Tskaltubo karst massif. The cave has many stalactites, stalagmites, travertines and large gourds of limestone.
Prehistoric people first occupied the cave from around 25,500 to 24,400 BP. The next period of human occupation at Satsurblia took place from around 17,000 to 16,200 BP. The hiatus in human occupation at Satsurblia coincides with the Last Glacial Maximum.
Lithic artefacts, bone artefacts, charcoal, flax fibers, and pottery were discovered at the cave. The lithic artefacts show similarities to eastern Epigravettian sites. Perforated pendants made out of stalagmite and polished bovid bone were also discovered. The remains of yellow, red and brown ochre were also found at the site.
Unlike most other Paleolithic sites found in Georgia that relied primarily on hunting one species, the people of Satsurblia appeared to have hunted a slightly more diverse range of species. The animal remains were dominated primarily by wild boar, followed by red deer; the remains of aurochs, steppe bison, Capra caucasica, and roe deer. Some brown bear, wolf, fox, and Eurasian beaver remains were also found at the site.
In 2013, archaeologists found a temporal bone fragment of an ancient human in the cave. Direct AMS dating of the bone yielded an estimated date of 13,300 BP for the age of the bone. Researchers successfully extracted DNA from the petrous part of the temporal bone and managed to recover low coverage genomes.
The Satsurblia individual belongs to mtDNA Haplogroup K3 and Y-DNA Haplogroup J1-Y6313*. About 1.7-2.4% of the Satsurblia individual’s DNA was Neanderthal in origin. In comparison to modern human populations, the Satsurblia individual is closest to modern populations from the South Caucasus.
The ancient individual from Satsurblia was male with black hair and brown eyes; however, the individual is one of the earliest found to carry the derived HERC2 allele for blue eyes. It also likely had light skin, as he was found to carry the derived SLC24A5 allele for light skin. The Satsurblia individual was also lactose intolerant and did not carry the derived EDAR allele commonly found in East Asians and Native Americans.
The Caucasus hunter-gatherers contributed significantly to modern European populations by way of the Yamna people. Around half of the Yamna people’s DNA come from the Caucasus hunter-gatherers. The Caucasus hunter-gatherers also contributed genetically to modern Central Asians and South Asians.
Although the belonging of the Caspian Mesolithic to the Trialetian has been questioned, it is worth noting that genetic similarities have been found between an Mesolithic hunther-gatherer from the Hotu cave (labeled Iran_HotuIIIb) dating from 9,100-8,600 BCE and the CHG from Kotias Klde.
The Iran Hotu IIIb individual belongs to the Y-chromosome haplogroup J (xJ2a1b3, J2b2a1a1) (an independent analysis yields J2a-CTS1085 (xCTS11251,PF5073) -probably J2a2-). Then, both the Kotias Klde and Iran_HotuIIIb individuals share a paternal ancestor that lived approximately 18.7oo years ago (according to the estimates of yfull). It falls in the cluster of the CHG’s and the Iranian Neolithic Farmers.
Satsurblia Cave

Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers

This individual forms a genetic cluster with another hunter-gatherer from the Satsurblia Cave, the so-called Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer (CHG) cluster, also called Satsurblia Cluster, which is the name of an anatomically modern human genetic lineage, first identified in a 2015 study, based on the population genetics of several modern Western Eurasian (European, Caucasian and Near Eastern) populations.
The CHG lineage descended from a population that split off the base Western Eurasian lineage very early, around 45,000 years ago, pre-dating the split that led to differentiated populations that descended separately to Ust’-Ishim man, Oase1 and European hunter-gatherers. The Caucasus hunter-gatherers managed to survive in isolation through the Last Glacial Maximum as a distinct population.
Eastern Hunter-Gatherers are believed to have received admixture from CHGs, leading to the formation of Western Steppe Herders (WSHs). WSHs formed the Yamnaya culture and expanded massively throughout Europe during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age.
The 2015 study by Jones et al. analysed “Eurasian steppe ancestry” – which is associated with the Ancient North Eurasian lineage – among modern European populations, which is linked to the Indo-European expansion. In comparison to modern human populations, the Satsurblia individual is closest to modern populations from the South Caucasus.
The study detected a split between CHG and so-called “Western European Hunter-Gatherer” (WHG) lineages, about 45,000 years ago, the presumed time of the original peopling of Europe. CHG separated from the “Early Anatolian Farmers” (EAF) lineage later, at 25,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum.
CHG was extrapolated from, among other sources, the genomes of two fossils from western Georgia – one about 13,300 years old (Late Upper Paleolithic) and the other 9,700 years (Mesolithic), which were compared to the 13,700 year-old Bichon man genome (found in Switzerland).
Jones et al. (2015) analyzed genomes from males from western Georgia, in the Caucasus, from the Late Upper Palaeolithic (13,300 years old) and the Mesolithic (9,700 years old). These two males carried Y-DNA haplogroup: J* and J2a, later refined to J1-Y6305*, and J2-Y12379*, and mitochondrial haplogroups of K3 and H13c, respectively.
The researchers found that these Caucasus hunters were probably the source of the Near Eastern DNA in the Yamnaya. Their genomes showed that a continued mixture of the Caucasians with Middle Eastern populations took place up to 25,000 years ago, when the coldest period in the last Ice Age started.
Yardumian et al. (2017) in a population genetics study on the Svans of northwestern Georgia found significant heterogeneity in mt-DNA, with common haplogroups including U1‐U7, H, K, and W6, while Y-DNA haplogroups were less diverse, 78% of Svan males being bearers of Y-haplogroup G2a.
Wang et al. (2019) analysed genetic data of the North Caucasus of fossils dated between the 4th and 1st millennia BC and found correlation with modern groups of the South Caucasus, concluding that “unlike today – the Caucasus acted as a bridge rather than an insurmountable barrier to human movement”.
According to Lazaridis et al. (2016), “a population related to the people of the Iran Chalcolithic contributed ~ 43 % of the ancestry of early Bronze Age populations of the steppe.” These Iranian Chacolithic people were a mixture of “the Neolithic people of western Iran, the Levant, and Caucasus Hunter Gatherers”.
The Near East population were most likely hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus (CHG), though one study suggested that farmers dated to the Chalcolithic era from what is now Iran may be a better fit for the Yamanya’s Near Eastern descent.
Lazaridis et al. (2016) proposes a different people, likely from Iran, as the source for the Middle Eastern ancestry of the Yamnaya people, finding that “a population related to the people of the Iran Chalcolithic contributed ~43% of the ancestry of early Bronze Age populations of the steppe”.
That study asserts that these Iranian Chalcolithic people were a mixture of “the Neolithic people of western Iran, the Levant, and Caucasus Hunter Gatherers”. However, a different analysis, carried out by Gallego-Llorente et al. (2016), concludes that Iranian populations are not a likelier source of the ‘southern’ component in the Yamnaya than Caucasus hunter-gatherers.
The CHG lineage was found to have contributed significantly to the Yamnaya lineage of Chalcolithic pastoralists in the Pontic steppe, which in turn expanded into Europe from about 5,000 years ago (Indo-European expansion). CHG admixture was also found in South Asia, in a possible marker of the Indo-Aryan migration there.
The proto-Indo-Europeans, i.e. the Yamnaya people and the related cultures, seem to have been a mix from Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs); and people related to the near east, such as Caucasus hunter-gatherers and Iran Chalcolithic people, with a Caucasian hunter-gatherer component. Each of those two populations contributed about half the Yamnaya DNA.
According to co-author Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge the question of where the Yamnaya come from has been something of a mystery up to now … we can now answer that, as we’ve found that their genetic make-up is a mix of Eastern European hunter-gatherers and a population from this pocket of Caucasus hunter-gatherers who weathered much of the last Ice Age in apparent isolation.
According to Jones et al. (2015), Caucasus hunter-gatherers (CHG) “genomes significantly contributed to the Yamnaya steppe herders who migrated into Europe ~3,000 BCE, supporting a formative Caucasus influence on this important Early Bronze Age culture. CHG left their imprint on modern populations from the Caucasus and also central and south Asia possibly marking the arrival of Indo-Aryan languages.”
There was probably a migration of populations from the Near East and Caucasus to Europe during the Mesolithic, around 14,000 years ago, much earlier than the migrations associated with the Neolithic Revolution.
A few specimens from the Villabruna Cluster also show genetic affinities for East Asians that are derived from gene flow. The light skin pigmentation characteristic of modern Europeans is estimated to have spread across Europe in a “selective sweep” during the Mesolithic (19,000 to 11,000 years ago).
The associated TYRP1 alleles, SLC24A5 and SLC45A2, emerge around 19,000 years ago – during the LGM and most likely in the Caucasus. The HERC2 variation for blue eyes first appears around 13,000 to 14,000 years ago in Italy and the Caucasus.
Caucasus Hunter Gatherers contributed to the formation of the Yamna culture, since Samara hunter-gatherers featured only Eastern European Hunter Gatherer (EHG) ancestry and no CHG ancestry, whereas Yamna samples had up to 43% of CHG ancestry.
Margaryan et al. (2017) analysing South Caucasian ancient mitochondrial DNA found continuity in descent in the maternal line for 8,000 years. The same study also found a rapid increase of the population at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, about 18,000 years ago.
Modern Armenians were found to derive from an admixture event in the Bronze Age (3rd to 2nd millennia BCE), which combined various Eurasian lineages. Since the time of the Bronze Age collapse, about 1200 BCE, Armenians have remained genetically isolated as a population, with a higher genetic affinity to Neolithic Anatolians, the Neolithic Levant, and Neolithic European farmers than to modern Near Eastern populations.

Final Phase

Little is known about the end of the Trialetian. 6000 BC has been proposed as the time on which the decline phase took place. From this date are the first evidences of the Jeitunian, an industry that has probably evolved from the Trialetian. Also from this date are the first evidences of Neolithic materials in the Belt cave.
Jeitun (Djeitun) is an archaeological site of the Neolithic period in southern Turkmenistan, about 30 kilometers northwest of Ashgabat in the Kopet-Dag mountain range. The settlement was occupied from about 7200 to 4500 BC possibly with short interruptions:
Jeitun has given its name to the whole Neolithic period in the foothills of the Kopet Dag. Clay figurines found in Mehrgarh (Pakistan), an important precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization, resemble those discovered at Teppe Zagheh, and at Jeitun.
The people of the Jeitun culture were growing barley and two sorts of wheat, which were harvested with wooden or bone knives or sickles with stone blades. Stone handmills and other stone tools were found. The site seems to show the oldest evidence of arable farming in Central Asia.
Jeitun culture may have begun prior to 7000 BC, judging by the age of Sang-i Chakmak, the earliest settlement where such artefacts are found. In the same area of the Gorgan Plain, other related sites are Yarim Tepe (Iran), and Tureng Tepe. Monjukli Depe is another site where Jeitun culture artifacts have been discovered. It is quite important for establishing the regional chronology.
Monjukli Depe is an ancient settlement in south Turkmenistan, at the northern edge of the Kopet Dag mountains. Excavations reveal occupation from the late Neolithic period, starting about 6200 BC, to the early Chalcolithic period. The earliest layers belong to the Jeitun culture of Turkmenistan.
The prehistoric settlement lies in an arid alluvial plain, which is bordered in the north by the Karakum desert and in the south by the slopes of the Kopet Dag. The mountains also mark today’s political border with Iran. Based on this, the “Meana horizon” was defined here, which appears to be limited regionally to the Kaka District of Turkmenistan, and precedes the Anau culture IA phase.
The location is important for establishing the regional chronology, because here the Neolithic layers are followed by the Chalcolithic. However, in 2010, the subsequent excavations have found a long settlement break between the end of the Neolithic settlement (layers XV, 6200-5600 BCE) and the Chalcolithic resettlement (layers IV to I, 4650-4340 BCE).

The large Bronze Age settlement of Altyn Depe is located about 2km to the northeast.

The residents of Monjukli Depes lived from herding and agriculture. Sheep and goats were dominant among the herd animals. Cattle, as well as their skulls, played an important role in the banquets. In so far as the wild animals, remains of gazelles and onagers were found.
Barley and wheat were important in arable farming, with the analyzes potentially indicating simple irrigation. Very little ceramic was produced in the Chalcolithic Monjukli Depe. On a general level, there are ceramic parallels to the Sialk II / Cheshme Ali horizon of the Iranian highlands.
Caucasus Hunter-Gatherer

Cafer Höyük

In the southwest corner of the Trialetian region it has been proposed that this culture evolved towards a local version of the PPNB around 7000 BC, in sites as Cafer Höyük, an archaeological site located around 40 kilometres (25 mi) northeast of Malatya in the Euphrates valley. It was inhabited over ten thousand years ago during the Neolithic revolution. More recent calibrations have pushed the dating of the earliest levels back as far as 8920 BCE.
Construction of the Karakaya Dam has flooded the northeast of the tell mound. Rescue excavations were carried out by the French National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) under Jacques Cauvin between 1979 and 1986. Finds at the site were dated to the Paleolithic, Pre-Pottery Neolithic, Pottery Neolithic, Early Bronze Age along with a few Medieval finds.
Building techniques at the site were seen to be similar to those used at Cayonu with a rectangular mud-brick structures with three rooms called by Cauvin the “cell-plan” phase. Engravings of the shoulders of bulls on the walls of a house were indicative of animalism similar to that found at Catal Hoyuk.
The first evidence of domesticated cereals appears shortly before this stage. Livestock farming was not evidenced at this level but developed later in the PPNB. Features of the tell mound have been suggested to indicate male and female fertility features. Votive figurines were also found during excavations that were suggested to be male Gods.
The “old period” of the settlement shows a predominant use of flint for tools but in the “middle period” obsidian becomes increasingly prevalent. The “new period” evidences use of around 90% obsidian. Skeletons were also unearthed including those of two children.
A skeleton of a pet dog was found evidencing hunting of rabbits along with larger animals in the first stage such as wild boar, roe deer, foxes and other prey. Sheep and goats are both hunted and a very small number of bear and panther bones were also discovered. Findings indicated that larger prey was hunted in later stages.
Wild emmer and einkorn wheat were found in the first layers of excavation. Wheat, barley, lentils and peas were found cultivated along with wild varieties in later levels. Silos for storing grain were also found at these levels. The first layers of the excavations showed evidence of wild emmer and einkorn wheat.
It was shown from the findings that these two cereals were taken into cultivation first, followed by the lentils, peas and vetch and afterwards barley. This evidence led Willem van Zeist to suggest that domesticated crops did not enter the area around the Taurus mountains and Northern Syria until the middle of the PPNB.
Cafer Höyük

Shulaveri-Shomu culture

The Trialetian does not seem to have continuation in the Neolithic of Georgia (as for example in Paluri and Kobuleti). Although 5000 BC certain microliths similar to those of the Trialetian reappear in Shulaveris Gora (Shulaveri-Shomu) and Irmis Gora.
Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as parts of northern Iran. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures.
The name ‘Shulaveri-Shomu’ comes from the town of Shulaveri, in the Republic of Georgia, known since 1925 as Shaumiani, and Shomu-Tepe, in the Agstafa District of Azerbaijan. The distance between these two sites is only about 70km.
Shulaveri-Shomu culture has been distinguished during the excavations on the sites of Shomutepe, Babadervis in Western Azerbaijan and at Shulaveris Gora in Eastern Georgia. The discoveries from these sites have revealed that the same cultural features spread on the northern foothills of Lesser Caucasus mountains.

Caspian Mesolithic

Differences have been found between the Caucasian-Anatolian Trialetian and the Caspian Mesolithic of the southeastern part of the Caspian Sea (represented by sites like Komishan, Hotu, Kamarband and Ali Tepe), even though the Caspian Mesolithic had previously been attributed to Trialetian.
These differences have been established through a detailed study of the site of the Komishan Cave in the southeast of the Caspian Sea and are driven by the underlying differences at the level of cultural ecology. Two AMS dates present an age between 10,628 cal. BC and 11,771 cal. BC for the Mesolithic deposits.
The chipped stone assemblage of the Komishan Cave is characterised by large concentration of blade/lets, notches/denticulates, scrapers of all forms, especially end scrapers, borers, and backed pieces. This chipped stone assemblage is obviously most similar to those of Kamarband, Hotu and Alitepe regarding their locations, which are in the same climatic, geological and ecological conditions.
The Mesolithic chipped stone industry of the southeast of the Caspian Sea has been previously attributed to Trialetian lithic industry. However, the differences in raw material access, technological organization and the subsistence between these sites the Mesolithic of the east-southeast of the Caspian Sea should be separated from Trialetian Industry and presented as Caspian Mesolithic.
While Trialetian industry developed in steppe riparian and mountain ecozones, as for example in the Khrami river and the mountainous site of Chokh respectively, the Caspian Mesolithic took place in a transitional ecotone between the sea (Caspian Sea), plain and mountains (Alborz mountain range).
The Caspian Mesolithic hunter-gatherers were adapted to the exploitation of marine resources and had access to high quality raw material, whereas in the Trialetian sites as Chokh and Trialeti there is imported raw material from distances of 100 km.
The Hotu and Kamarband Caves or Belt Caves are prehistoric, archaeological sites in Iran. They are located 100 m (330 ft) apart, in a cliff on the slopes of the Alborz mountains in the village of Tarujen (currently called Shahid Abad), 5 km (3.1 mi) south west of Behshahr.
Hotu Cave has an approximate size of 30 m × 20 m (98.4 ft × 65.6 ft). The site produced pottery shards, stone tools and material that could be radio-carbon dated. 22 samples were dated and attributed to eight different cultures. The 2 earliest cultures, present at around 9,910 to 7,240 years BCE are assumed to be seal hunters and vole eaters. The bones of a dog have been cited as an example of exceptionally early animal domestication. Pre-Neolithic finds date to around 6,120 years BCE.
Kamarband cave is notable for three human skeletons discovered there, dating to approximately 9,000 years BCE. Other finds include flint blades, walrus and deer bones, giving valuable information about human development from the ice age in the Mazandaran area. At Hotu Cave dwellers were identified as having haplogroup J (xJ2a1b3, J2b2a1a1), with a more refined analysis putting it at J2a-PF5008*.

Zarzian

Trialetian culture was adjacent to the Iraqi-Iranian Zarzian culture to the east and south as well as the Levantine Natufian to the southwest.
Zarzian culture (18,000-8000 BC) is an archaeological culture of late Paleolithic and Mesolithic in Southwest Asia. It was preceded by the Baradostian culture in the same region and was related to the Imereti culture of the Caucasus.
The culture was named and recognised of the cave of Zarzi in Iraqi Kurdistan. Here were found plenty of microliths (up to 20% finds). Their forms are short and asymmetric trapezoids, and triangles with hollows.
Better known sites include Palegawra Cave, Shanidar B2 and Zarzi in northern Iraq. It seems to have extended north into the Gobustan (Kobystan, Qobustan) region and into Eastern Iran as a forerunner of the Hissar and related cultures.
The Zarzian culture is found associated with remains of the domesticated dog and with the introduction of the bow and arrow. It seems to have participated in the early stages of what Kent Flannery has called the broad spectrum revolution (BSR).
The broad spectrum revolution hypothesis was meant to help explain the adoption of agriculture in the Neolithic Revolution. It suggests that the emergence of the Neolithic in southwest Asia was prefaced by increases in dietary breadth among foraging societies.
It followed the most recent ice age around 15,000 BP in the Middle East and 12,000 BP in Europe. During this time, there was a transition from focusing on a few main food sources to gathering/hunting a “broad spectrum” of plants and animals. Population growth in optimal habitats led to demographic pressure within nearby marginal habitats as daughter groups migrated.
The search for more food within these marginal habitats forced foragers to diversify the types of food sources harvested, broadening the subsistence base outward to include more fish, small game, waterfowl, invertebrates (such as snails and shellfish), as well as previously ignored or marginal plant sources.
The need for more food in these marginal environments led to the deliberate cultivation of certain plant species, especially cereals. In optimal habitats, these plants naturally grew in relatively dense stands, but required human intervention in order to be efficiently harvested in marginal zones. Thus, the broad spectrum revolution set the stage for domestication and rise of permanent agricultural settlement.
The Baradostian culture was an Upper Paleolithic flint industry culture found in the Zagros region in the border-country between Iraq and Iran. Radiocarbon dates suggest that this was one of the earliest Upper Paleolithic complexes, beginning perhaps as early as 36,000 BC. Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan, Warwasi rock-shelter, Kaldar Cave and Yafteh Cave in the western Zagros, and Eshkaft-e Gavi Cave in the southern Zagros are among the major sites to have been excavated.
It was preceded by the Middle Paleolithic Mousterian culture, directly overlying it without an intervening bladelet industry. This culture is known for the high percentage of burins and some of these were similar to the distinctive nosed profile of the Aurignacian burins. It clearly belongs to Aurignacian traditions.
The Baradostian’s relationship to neighbouring cultures remains unclear. This is also the case regarding the issue of whether this culture gradually evolved from the previous Zagros Mousterian cultural group, which is associated primarily with the Neanderthals, or whether early modern humans brought to the Zagros region the technologies linked to the Baradostian.
The Baradostian tool tradition marks the end of the Zagros Paleolithic sequence. Perhaps precipitated by the most recent cold phase (the Würm glaciation) of the current ice age, the Baradostian was replaced by a local Epipaleolithic industry called the Zarzian culture. The Würm Glacial ended around 11,700 years ago with the beginning of the Holocene. The cold period was followed by another warming which continues today and during which the glaciers are retreating.

Natufians

The Natufian culture is a Late Epipaleolithic archaeological culture that existed from around 12,000 to 9,500 BC or 13,050 to 7,550 BC in the Levant. The culture was unusual in that it supported a sedentary or semi-sedentary population even before the introduction of agriculture. Animals hunted included gazelles.
The Natufian communities may be the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. Natufians founded a settlement where Jericho is today, which may therefore be the longest continuously inhabited urban area on Earth.
Some evidence suggests deliberate cultivation of cereals, specifically rye, by the Natufian culture, at Tell Abu Hureyra, an archaeological site in the Euphrates valley in modern Syria, and the site of earliest evidence of agriculture in the world. The site is significant because the inhabitants of Abu Hureyra started out as hunter-gatherers, but gradually moved to farming, making them the earliest known farmers in the world.
Tell Abu Hureyra is an archaeological site in the Euphrates valley in modern Syria. The remains of the villages within the tell come from over 4,000 years of pre-ceramic habitation spanning the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic periods.
The site consisted of two villages; Abu Hureyra 1 and Abu Hureyra 2. Abu Hureyra 1’s inhabitants were from the Epipaleolithic era and were sedentary hunter gatherers. Abu Hureyra 2 took place in early Neolithic times and was composed of farmers.
Ancient Abu Hureyra was occupied between 13,000 and 9,000 years ago in radio carbon years. The site is significant because the inhabitants of Abu Hureyra started out as hunter-gatherers, but gradually moved to farming, making them the earliest known farmers in the world.
Cultivation started at the start of the Younger Dryas period at Abu Hureyra. Abu Hureyra suggests that rye was the first cereal crop to be systematically cultivated. Evidence that was presented at the site of Abu Hureyra changed archaeologists’ minds. It is now believed that the first systematic cultivation of cereal crops was around 13000 years ago.
According to one theory, it was a sudden change in climate, the Younger Dryas event (c. 10,800 to 9500 BC), which inspired the development of agriculture. The Younger Dryas was a 1,000-year-long interruption in the higher temperatures prevailing since the Last Glacial Maximum, which produced a sudden drought in the Levant.
This would have endangered the wild cereals, which could no longer compete with dryland scrub, but upon which the population had become dependent to sustain a relatively large sedentary population. By artificially clearing scrub and planting seeds obtained from elsewhere, they began to practice agriculture. However, this theory of the origin of agriculture is controversial in the scientific community.
Some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the domestication of the dog comes from Natufian sites. At the Natufian site of Ain Mallaha in Israel, dated to 12,000 BC, the remains of an elderly human and a four-to-five-month-old puppy were found buried together.[41] At another Natufian site at the cave of Hayonim, humans were found buried with two canids.[41]
Due to the late glacial interstate, the Abu Hureyra site experienced climatic change. Due to lake level changes and aridity the vegetation ended up expanding into lower areas of the fields. Abu Hureyra ended up accumulating vegetation that consisted of grasses, oaks, and what is known as Pistacia Atlantica trees. The climate changed from warm and dry months, to abruptly cold and dry months.
After 1,300 years the hunter-gatherers of the first occupation mostly abandoned Abu Hureyra, probably because of the Younger Dryas, an intense and relatively abrupt return to glacial climate conditions which lasted over 1,000 years. The drought disrupted the migration of the gazelle and destroyed forageable plant food sources.
It is likely that most of the inhabitants had to give up sedentism and return to nomadism, or they might have moved to Mureybet, just 50 km upstream on the other side of the Euphrates, which expanded dramatically at this time. It seems that a small population managed to hang on at Abu Hureyra – maybe just a few single farms or a small hamlet.
The world’s oldest evidence of bread-making has been found at Shubayqa 1, a 14,500-year-old site in Jordan’s northeastern desert. In addition, the oldest known evidence of beer, dating to approximately 13,000 BP, was found at the Raqefet Cave in Mount Carmel near Haifa in Israel.
There is archaeological and physical anthropological evidence for a relationship between the modern Semitic-speaking populations of the Levant and the Natufians. Archaeogenetics have revealed derivation of later (Neolithic to Bronze Age) Levantines primarily from Natufians, besides substantial admixture from Chalcholithic Anatolians.
Mureybet (lit. ‘covered’) is a tell, or ancient settlement mound, located on the west bank of the Euphrates in Raqqa Governorate, northern Syria. The site was excavated between 1964 and 1974 and has since disappeared under the rising waters of Lake Assad.
Mureybet was occupied between 10,200 and 8,000 BC and is the eponymous type site for the Mureybetian culture, a subdivision of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA). Mureybet was at the northern end of the area of Natufian culture (12,000 to 9,500 BC), not far from Tell Abu Hureyra.
Mureybet is located in modern-day Raqqa Governorate in northern Syria. It is situated on an elongated ridge that is c. 4 metres (13 ft) above the river terrace of the Euphrates, which flowed directly west of the site before the valley was flooded. Mureybet is a tell, or ancient settlement mound, measuring 75 metres (246 ft) in diameter and 6 metres (20 ft) high.
In its early stages, Mureybet was a small village occupied by hunter-gatherers. Hunting was important and crops were first gathered and later cultivated, but they remained wild. During its final stages, domesticated animals were also present at the site.
The first archaeological investigation of the site was carried out in 1964. In that year, the site was noted during an archaeological survey of the region directed by Maurits N. van Loon of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and a small sounding was made. In 1965, a more extensive excavation was carried out, again under the direction of Van Loon. Between 1971 and 1974, work on the site was resumed by a team of the French Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) directed by Jacques Cauvin.
All excavations were part of the larger international – and eventually UNESCO-coordinated – effort to investigate as many archaeological sites as possible in the area that would be flooded by Lake Assad, the reservoir of the Tabqa Dam, which was being built at that time.
The filling of Lake Assad eventually led to the flooding of Mureybet in 1976. Although the site is now submerged and no longer accessible, the material that has been retrieved during the excavations continues to generate new research. This material is currently stored at the National Museum of Aleppo and the Institute de Préhistoire Orientale in Jalès-Berrias in France.
Climate and environment of Mureybet during the time of its occupation were very different from the modern situation. When Mureybet became occupied around 10,200 BC, climate was slightly colder and more humid than today, an effect of the onset of the Younger Dryas climate change event. Annual precipitation increased slightly from 230 millimetres (9.1 in) during the Natufian to 280 millimetres (11 in) during the Mureybetian occupation phases. The vegetation consisted of an open forest steppe with species like terebinth, almond and wild cereals.
The excavations have revealed four occupation phases I–IV, ranging from the Natufian up to the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) and dating to 10,200–8,000 BC, based on AMS radiocarbon dates. Phase IA (10,200–9,700 BC) represents the Natufian occupation of Mureybet. It is characterized by hearths and cooking pits, but no dwelling structures have been identified.
Among the crops that were harvested, and possibly even locally cultivated, were barley and rye. Very few sickle blades and querns were found. The inhabitants of Mureybet hunted gazelle and equids and fishing was also important. They had dogs, evidence for which is indirect at Mureybet but bones of which have been identified at nearby and contemporary Tell Abu Hureyra.
Phases IB, IIA and IIB (9,700–9,300 BC) make up the Khiamian, a poorly understood and sometimes disputed sub-phase straddling the transition from the Natufian to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA).
Nevalı Çori was an early Neolithic settlement on the middle Euphrates, in Şanlıurfa Province, Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey. The site is known for having some of the world’s oldest known temples and monumental sculpture. Together with the earlier site of Göbekli Tepe, it has revolutionised scientific understanding of the Eurasian Neolithic period. The oldest domesticated Einkorn wheat was found there.
The settlement was located about 490 m above sea level, in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains, on both banks of the Kantara stream, a tributary of the Euphrates. The site was examined from 1983 to 1991 in the context of rescue excavations during the erection of the Atatürk Dam below Samsat. Together with numerous other archaeological sites in the vicinity, Nevalı Çori has since been inundated by the damming of the Euphrates.
Nevalı Çori could be placed within the local relative chronology on the basis of its flint tools. The occurrence of narrow unretouched Byblos-type points places it on Oliver Aurenche’s Phase 3, i.e. early to middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB). Some tools indicate continuity into Phase 4, which is similar in date to Late PPNB.
An even finer chronological distinction within Phase 3 is permitted by the settlement’s architecture; the house type with underfloor channels, typical of Nevalı Çori strata I-IV, also characterises the “Intermediate Layer” at Çayönü, while the differing plan of the single building in stratum V, House 1, is more clearly connected to the buildings of the “Cellular Plan Layer” at Çayönü.
In terms of absolute dates, four radiocarbon dates have been determined for Nevalı Çori. Three are from Stratum II and date it with some certainty to the second half of the 9th millennium BC, which coincides with early dates from Çayönü and with Mureybet IVA and thus supports the relative chronology above. The fourth dates to the 10th millennium BC, which, if correct, would indicate the presence of an extremely early phase of PPNB at Nevalı Çori.
The settlement had five architectural levels. The excavated architectural remains were of long rectangular houses containing two to three parallel flights of rooms, interpreted as mezzanines. These are adjacent to a similarly rectangular ante-structure, subdivided by wall projections, which should be seen as a residential space.
This type of house is characterized by thick, multi-layered foundations made of large angular cobbles and boulders, the gaps filled with smaller stones so as to provide a relatively even surface to support the superstructure.
These foundations are interrupted every 1-1.5m by underfloor channels, at right angles to the main axis of the houses, which were covered in stone slabs but open to the sides. They may have served the drainage, aeration or the cooling of the houses. 23 such structures were excavated, they are strikingly similar to structures from the so-called channeled subphase at Çayönü.
An area in the northwest part of the village appears to be of special importance. Here, a cult complex had been cut into the hillside. It had three subsequent architectural phases, the most recent belonging to Stratum III, the middle one to Stratum II and the oldest to Stratum I. The two more recent phases also possessed a terrazzo-style lime cement floor, which did not survive from the oldest phase. Parallels are known from Cayönü and Göbekli Tepe. Monolithic pillars similar to those at Göbekli Tepe were built into its dry stone walls, its interior contained two free-standing pillars of 3 m height. The excavator assumes light flat roofs. Similar structures are only known from Göbekli Tepe so far.
The local limestone was carved into numerous statues and smaller sculptures, including a more than life-sized bare human head with a snake or sikha-like tuft. There is also a statue of a bird. Some of the pillars also bore reliefs, including ones of human hands. The free-standing anthropomorphic figures of limestone excavated at Nevalı Çori belong to the earliest known life-size sculptures. Comparable material has been found at Göbekli Tepe.
Several hundred small clay figurines (about 5 cm high), most of them depicting humans, have been interpreted as votive offerings. They were fired at temperatures between 500-600 °C, which suggests the development of ceramic firing technology before the advent of pottery proper.
According to ancient DNA analyses conducted by Lazaridis et al. (2016) on Natufian skeletal remains from present-day northern Israel, the Natufians carried the Y-DNA (paternal) haplogroups E1b1b1b2(xE1b1b1b2a,E1b1b1b2b) (2/5; 40%), CT (2/5; 40%), and E1b1(xE1b1a1,E1b1b1b1) (1/5; 20%).
In terms of autosomal DNA, these Natufians carried around 50% of the Basal Eurasian (BE) and 50% of Western Eurasian Unknown Hunter Gather (UHG) components. However, they were slightly distinct from the northern Anatolian populations that contributed to the peopling of Europe, who had higher Western Hunter Gatherer (WHG) inferred ancestry. Natufians were strongly genetically differentiated from Neolithic Iranian farmers from the Zagros Mountains, who were a mix of Basal Eurasians (up to 62%) and Ancient North Eurasians (ANE).
This might suggest that different strains of Basal Eurasians contributed to Natufians and Zagros farmers, as both Natufians and Zagros farmers descended from different populations of local hunter gatherers. Contact between Natufians, other Neolithic Levantines, Caucasus Hunter Gatherers (CHG), Anatolian and Iranian farmers is believed to have decreased genetic variability among later populations in the Middle East.
The scientists suggest that the Levantine early farmers may have spread southward into East Africa, bringing along Western Eurasian and Basal Eurasian ancestral components separate from that which would arrive later in North Africa.
According to their results, the Natufians shared no genetic affinity to present-day sub-Saharan Africans. However the scientists state that they were unable to test for affinity in the Natufians to early North African populations using present-day North Africans as a reference because present-day North Africans owe most of their ancestry to back-migration from Eurasia.
Ancient DNA analysis has confirmed ancestral ties between the Natufian culture bearers and the makers of the Epipaleolithic Iberomaurusian culture of the Maghreb, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture of the Levant, the Early Neolithic Ifri n’Amr or Moussa culture of the Maghreb, the Savanna Pastoral Neolithic culture of East Africa, the Late Neolithic Kelif el Boroud culture of the Maghreb, and the Ancient Egyptian culture of the Nile Valley, with fossils associated with these early cultures all sharing a common genomic component.
A 2018 analysis of autosomal DNA using modern populations as a reference, found the Natufians to have a predominant mixture of ancestral components from Western Eurasia and North Africa as well as a small (ca 6.8%) East African-related ancestry (showing affinities to the Omotic peoples of southern Ethiopia).
It is suggested that this East African component may have been associated with the spread of Y-haplogroup E (particularly Y-haplogroup E-M215, also known as “E1b1b”) lineages to Western Eurasia. 
Natufian culture
Tell Abu Hureyra

Yamnaya culture

The Yamnaya culture, also known as the Yamnaya Horizon, Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC.
The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language. Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition: Ямная (romanization: yamnaya) is a Russian adjective that means ‘related to pits (yama)’, and these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers.
The people of the Yamnaya culture were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus. People with this ancestral component are known as Western Steppe Herders.
Their material culture was very similar to the Afanasevo culture (3300-2500 BC), the earliest known archaeological culture of south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin and the Altai Mountains during the eneolithic era. They lived primarily as nomads, with a chiefdom system and wheeled carts that allowed them to manage large herds. 
They are also closely connected to Final Neolithic cultures, which later spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware people and the Bell Beaker culture, as well as the peoples of the Sintashta, Andronovo, and Srubnaya cultures.
Back migration from Corded Ware also contributed to Sintashta and Andronovo. In these groups, several aspects of the Yamnaya culture are present. Genetic studies have also indicated that these populations derived large parts of their ancestry from the steppes.
The Yamnaya culture originated in the Don–Volga area, and is dated 3300–2600 BC. An early regional stage of Yamnaya is labeled the Mikhaylovka culture. It was preceded by the middle Volga-based Khvalynsk culture and the Don-based Repin culture (c. 3950–3300 BC), and late pottery from these two cultures can barely be distinguished from early Yamnaya pottery. Earlier continuity from eneolithic but largely hunter-gatherer Samara culture and influences from the more agricultural Dnieper–Donets II are apparent.
The first clearly Proto-Indo-European cultures were the Khvalynsk (5200-4500 BCE) and Sredny Stog (4600-3900 BCE) cultures in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe. This is when small kurgan burials begin to appear, with the distinctive posturing of the dead on the back with knees raised and oriented toward the northeast, which would be found in later steppe cultures as well.
Towards the end of the 5th millennium, an elite starts to develop with cattle, horses and copper used as status symbols. It is at the turn of the Khvalynsk and Sredny Stog periods that R1b-M269’s main subclade, L23, is thought to have appeared, around 4,500 BCE. 99% of Indo-European R1b descends from this L23 clade.
The Dnieper–Donets culture (ca. 5th—4th millennium BC) was a Mesolithic and later Neolithic culture which flourished north of the Black Sea ca. 5000-4200 BC. It has many parallels with the Samara culture, and was succeeded by the Sredny Stog culture.
The origins of the Dnieper–Donets culture are found in the Swiderian culture. Its people traced their origins to earlier Mesolithic foragers. The Dnieper-Donets culture appeared in the early fifth millennium BC along the middle Dnieper to the northern Donets. It quickly expended in all directions, eventually absorbing all other local Neolithic groups.
Dnieper-Donets pottery was initially pointed based, but in later phases flat-based wares emerge. Their pottery is completely different from those made by the nearby Cucuteni–Trypillia culture. The importance of pottery appears to have increased throughout the existence of the Dnieper-Donets culture, which implies a more sedentary lifestyle.
The early use of typical point base pottery interrelates with other Mesolithic cultures that are peripheral to the expanse of the Neolithic farmer cultures. The special shape of this pottery has been related to transport by logboat in wetland areas.
Especially related are Swifterbant in the Netherlands, Ellerbek and Ertebølle in Northern Germany and Scandinavia, “Ceramic Mesolithic” pottery of Belgium and Northern France, the Roucadour culture in Southwest France and the river and lake areas of Northern Poland and Russia.
The Swifterbant culture was a Subneolithic archaeological culture in the Netherlands, dated between 5300 BC and 3400 BC. Like the Ertebølle culture, the settlements were concentrated near water, in this case creeks, riverdunes and bogs along post-glacial banks of rivers like the Overijsselse Vecht.
In the 1960s and 1970s, artifacts classified as “Swifterbant culture” were found in the (now dry) Flevopolder in the Netherlands, near the villages of Swifterbant and Dronten. Other well-known sites were uncovered in Zuid Holland (Bergschenhoek) and the Betuwe (Hardinxveld-Giessendam).
The oldest finds related to this culture, dated to circa 5600 BC, cannot be distinguished from the Ertebølle culture, normally associated with Northern Germany and Southern Scandinavia. The culture is ancestral to the Western group of the agricultural Funnelbeaker culture (4000–2700 BC), which extended through Northern Netherlands and Northern Germany to the Elbe.
The Dnieper-Donets culture is situated in the area which in accordance with the Kurgan hypothesis has been suggested as the Proto-Indo-European homeland. It has been suggested that the Dnieper-Donets people were Pre–Indo-European-speakers who were absorbed by Proto-Indo-Europeans expanding westwards from steppe-lands further east.
The areas of the upper Dniester in which the Dnieper-Donets culture was situated have mostly Baltic river names. Due to this, and the close relationship between the Dnieper-Donets culture and contemporary cultures of northeast Europe, the Dnieper-Donets culture have been identified with the later Balts.
Mallory includes this area within the limits of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. The precise role of this culture and its language to the derivation of the Pontic-Caspian cultures such as Sredny Stog and Yamnaya culture, is open to debate, though the display of recurrent traits points either to long-standing mutual contacts or underlying genetic relations.
The physical remains recovered from graves of the Dnieper-Donets culture have been classified as “Proto-Europoid”. They are predominantly characterized as late Cro-Magnons with large and more massive features than the gracile Mediterranean peoples of the Balkan Neolithic.
Males averaged 172 cm in height, which is much taller than contemporary Neolithic populations. Its rugged physical traits are thought to have genetically influenced later Indo-European peoples.
Physical anthropologists have pointed out similarities in the physical type of the Dnieper-Donets people with the Mesolithic peoples of Northern Europe. The peoples of the neighboring Sredny Stog culture, which eventually succeeded the Dnieper-Donets culture, were of a more gracile appearance.
A genetic study published in Nature in February 2018 included an analysis of 32 individuals from three Eneolithic cemeteries at Deriivka, Vilnyanka and Vovnigi, which are ascribed to the Dnieper-Donets culture. These individuals belonged exclusively to the paternal haplogroups R and I (mostly R1b and I2), and almost exclusively to the maternal haplogroup U (mostly U5, U4 and U2).
This suggests that the Dnieper-Donets people were “distinct, locally derived population” of mostly of Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG) descent, with Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) admixture. The WHG admixture appears to have increased in the transition from the Meslothic to the Neolithic.
Unlike the Yamnaya culture, whose genetic cluster is known as Western Steppe Herder (WSH), no Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer (CHG) or Early European Farmer (EEF) ancestry has been detected in the Dnieper-Donets culture.
At the Vilnyanka cemetery, all the males belong to the paternal haplogroup I, which is common among WHGs. David W. Anthony suggests that this influx of WHG ancestry might be the result of EEFs pushing WHGs out of their territories to the east, where WHG males might have mated with EHG females.
Dnieper-Donets males and Yamnaya males carry the same paternal haplogroups (R1b and I2a), suggesting that the CHG and EEF admixture among the Yamnaya came through EHG and WHG males mixing with EEF and CHG females. According to Anthony, this suggests that the Indo-European languages were initially spoken by EHGs living in Eastern Europe.
The Dnieper–Donets culture was succeeded by the Sredny Stog culture, its eastern neighbor, with whom it co-existed for a time before being finally absorbed. The Dnieper–Donets culture and the Sredny Stog culture were in turn succeeded by the Yamnaya culture. The Mikhaylovka culture, the Novodanilovka group and the Kemi Oba culture displays evidence of continuity from the Dnieper–Donets culture. The presence of exotic goods in Dnieper-Donets graves indiciate exchange relationships with the Caucasus.
The Mikhaylovka culture, Lower Mykhaylivka culture (3600—3000 BCE) is a Copper Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe. Lower Mikhaylovka culture, named after lower archaeological layer of the site near Mykhaylivka village of Kherson Oblast, is named after an early Yamna site of the late copper age of the lower Dnieper River, noted for its fortifications. 
Mikhaylovka I (3600-3400 BC) had connections to the west, and is related to the Kemi Oba culture (3700-2200 BC) at the Bug-Dniepr area and the Crimea, and seems to have had connections to the Maykop culture (3700-3000 BC).
Another migration across the Caucasus happened shortly before 3700 BCE, when the Maykop culture, the world’s first Bronze Age society, suddenly materialised in the north-west Caucasus, apparently out of nowhere. The origins of Maykop are still uncertain, but archeologists have linked it to contemporary Chalcolithic cultures in Assyria and western Iran.
Archeology also shows a clear diffusion of bronze working and kurgan-type burials from the Maykop culture to the Pontic Steppe, where the Yamna culture developed soon afterwards (from 3500 BCE). Kurgan (a.k.a. tumulus) burials would become a dominant feature of ancient Indo-European societies and were widely used by the Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, and Scythians, among others.
Mikhaylovka II (3400-3000 BC) had connections to the east, as reflected by its Repin-style pottery. Mikhaylovka II is divided into a lower (3400-3300 BC) and an upper level (3300-3000 BC). It shows a shift from farming to cattle herding, typical for the Yamna horizon.
Kemi Oba culture, ca. 3700—2200 BC, an archaeological culture at the northwest face of the Sea of Azov, the lower Bug and Dnieper Rivers and the Crimea. The Kemi Oba culture is contemporaneous and partly overlapping with the Catacomb culture.
According to Mallory, this was a component of the larger Yamnaya horizon, while Anthony regards it to be a separate culture, which was replaced by a late Yamnaya variant after 2800 BCE. Metal objects were imported from the Maykop culture. Strong links have been suggested with the adjacent/overlapping Lower Mikhaylovka group.
The economy was based on both stockbreeding and agriculture. It had its own distinctive pottery, which is suggested to be more refined than that of its neighbors. The inhumation practice was to lay the remains on its side, with the knees flexed, in pits, stone lined cists or timber-framed graves topped with a kurgan. Of particular interest are carved stone stelae or menhirs that also show up in secondary use in Yamnaya culture burials.
The Sredny Stog culture is a pre-Kurgan archaeological culture from the 5th millennium BC. It is named after the Russian term for the Dnieper river islet of today’s Seredny Stih, Ukraine, where it was first located. The culture ended at around 3500 BC, when the Yamna culture expanded westward replacing Sredny Stog, and coming into direct contact with the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the western Ukraine.
The chronology of Sredny Stog has been divided into two distinct phases. Phase II (ca. 4000–3500 BC) used corded ware pottery which may have originated there, and stone battle-axes of the type later associated with expanding Indo-European cultures to the West. Most notably, it has perhaps the earliest evidence of horse domestication (in phase II), with finds suggestive of cheek-pieces (psalia).
In the context of the modified Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, this pre-kurgan archaeological culture could represent the Urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language.
Examination of physical remains of the Sredny Stog people has determined that they were Europoid. A similar physical type prevails among the Yamnaya, who were tall and powerfully built. People of the neighboring Khvalynsk culture were less powerfully built. People of the preceding Dnieper-Donets culture were even more powerfully built than the Sredny Stog and Yamnaya.
A genetic study published in Nature in February 2018 included an analysis of a male buried at Alexandria, Ukraine ca. 4000 BC. He was found to be carrying the paternal haplogroup R1a1a1 (R1a-Z93, probably one of its earliest known members) and the maternal haplogroup H2a1a. He carried about 80% Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry and about 20% Early European Farmer (EEF) ancestry.
The Sredny Stog male is the first steppe individual found to have been carrying EEF ancestry. As a carrier of the 13910 allelle, he is the earliest individual ever examined who has had a genetic adaptation to lactase persistence. His R1a-Z93 paternal haplogroup is later found in the Sintashta culture and subsequent Indo-Iranians.
The WSH genetic cluster was a result of mixing between Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs) from Eastern Europe and Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers (CHGs) from the Caucasus. This mixing appears to have happened on the eastern Pontic–Caspian steppe starting around 5,000 BC. However, this individual´s genetic analysis, in sample I6556 from Alexandria, Ukraine, was later declared “Questionable” due to contamination (damage of 0.028) by David Reich Lab on 1 March 2020.
The WSH ancestry found in the Sredny Stog culture is similar to that of the Khvalynsk culture, among whom there was no EEF admixture. Males of the Khvalynsk culture carried primarily the paternal haplogroup R1b, although a few samples of R1a, I2a2, Q1a and J have been detected. Succeeding Yamnaya males however, have been found to have carried only R1b and I2.
This is similar to the males of the Dnieper-Donets culture, who carried R and I only and were exclusively EHGs with Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) admixture. The results suggest that the Yamnaya emerged through mixing between EHG and WHG males, and EEF and CHG females. This implies that the leading clans of the Yamnaya were of EHG paternal origin.
On this basis, David W. Anthony argues the Indo-European languages were the result of “a dominant language spoken by EHGs that absorbed Caucasus-like elements in phonology, morphology, and lexicon”.(spoken by CHGs).
According to Anthony (2007), the early Yamnaya horizon spread quickly across the Pontic–Caspian steppes between c. 3400 and 3200 BC. The spread of the Yamnaya horizon was the material expression of the spread of late Proto-Indo-European across the Pontic–Caspian steppes. The Yamnaya horizon is the visible archaeological expression of a social adjustment to high mobility – the invention of the political infrastructure to manage larger herds from mobile homes based in the steppes.
The emergence represents a social development of various local Bronze Age cultures, representing “an expression of social stratification and the emergence of chiefdom-type nomadic social structures”, which in turn intensified inter-group contacts between essentially heterogeneous social groups.
In its western range, it was succeeded by the Catacomb culture (2800–2200 BC); in the east, by the Poltavka culture (2700–2100 BC) at the middle Volga. These two cultures were followed by the Srubnaya culture (18th–12th century BC).
The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) in the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas. It is the strongest candidate for the Urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language, along with the preceding Sredny Stog culture, now that archaeological evidence of the culture and its migrations has been closely tied to the evidence from linguistics and genetics.
Significantly, there were animal grave offerings a feature associated with Proto-Indo-Europeans. The culture was predominantly nomadic, with some agriculture practiced near rivers and a few hillforts.
Characteristic for the culture are the burials in pit graves under kurgans (tumuli). The dead bodies were placed in a supine position with bent knees and covered in ochre. Multiple graves have been found in these kurgans, often as later insertions. The earliest remains in Ukraine of a wheeled cart were found in the “Storozhova mohyla” kurgan associated with the Yamnaya culture. Recent studies indicate that the Yamnaya people played a role in the domestication of the modern horse.
Autosomic tests indicate that the Yamnaya people were the result of a genetic admixture between two different hunter-gatherer populations: distinctive “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” (also known as “Eastern Hunter-Gatherers” or “EHG”) with high affinity to the Mal’ta–Buret’ culture or other, closely related people from Siberia and a population of “Caucasus hunter-gatherers” (CHG) who probably arrived from the Caucasus. Each of those two populations contributed about half the Yamnaya DNA.
Several genetic studies performed since 2015 have given support to the Kurgan theory of Marija Gimbutas regarding the Indo-European Urheimat – that Indo-European languages spread throughout Europe from the Eurasian steppes and that the Yamnaya culture were Proto-Indo-Europeans.
According to those studies, haplogroups R1b and R1a, now the most common in Europe (R1a is also common in South Asia), would have expanded from the Pontic–Caspian steppes, along with the Indo-European languages.
They also detected an autosomal component present in modern Europeans which was not present in Neolithic Europeans, which would have been introduced with paternal lineages R1b and R1a, as well as Indo-European languages in the Bronze Age.
Forensic facial reconstruction of a male from the Dnieper-Donets culture. Dnieper-Donets males and Yamnaya males carry similar types of Y-DNA, although Yamnaya mtDNA suggests admixture with females from other cultures.
Recent studies display genetic continuity between the paternal lineages of the Dnieper-Donets culture and the Yamnaya culture, as the males of both cultures have been found to have been mostly carriers of R1b, and to a lesser extent I2.
While the mtDNA of the Dnieper-Donets people is exclusively types of U, which is associated with the Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs) of Eastern Europe and the Western Hunter Gatherers (WHGs) of Western Europe, the mtDNA of the Yamnaya also includes types frequent among Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers (CHGs) and Early European Farmers (EEFs).
This admixture is referred to as Western Steppe Herder (WSH), and has earlier been found among the Sredny Stog culture and the Khvalynsk culture, who preceded the Yamnaya culture on the Pontic–Caspian steppe. Unlike their Khvalynsk predecessors however, the Y-DNA of the Yamnaya is exclusively of EHG and WHG origin. This suggests that the leading clans of the Yamnaya were of EHG and WHG paternal origin.
Admixture between EHGs and CHGs is believed to have occurred on the eastern Pontic-Caspian steppe starting around 5,000 BC, while admixture with EEFs happened in the southern parts of the Pontic-Caspian steppe sometime later.
As Yamnaya Y-DNA is exclusively of the EHG and WHG type, the admixture appears to have occurred predominately between EHG males, and CHG and EEF females. According to David W. Anthony, this implies that the Indo-European languages were the result of “a dominant language spoken by EHGs that absorbed Caucasus-like elements in phonology, morphology, and lexicon.”(spoken by CHGs).
According to Haak et al. (2015), “Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers” (EHG) who inhabited today’s Russia were a distinctive population of hunter-gatherers with high genetic affinity to a c. 24,000-year-old Siberian from Mal’ta–Buret’ culture, which in turn resembles other remains of Siberia, such as the Afontova Gora.
Remains of the “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” have been found in Mesolithic or early Neolithic sites in Karelia and Samara Oblast, Russia, and put under analysis. Three such hunter-gathering individuals of the male sex have had their DNA results published. Each was found to belong to a different Y-DNA haplogroup: R1a, R1b, and J.
The Near East population were most likely hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus (CHG), though one study suggested that farmers with a CHG component dated to the Chalcolithic era in what is now Iran may be a better fit for the Yamnaya’s Near Eastern descent.
Jones et al. (2015) analyzed genomes from males from western Georgia, in the Caucasus, from the Late Upper Palaeolithic (13,300 years old) and the Mesolithic (9,700 years old). These two males carried Y-DNA haplogroup: J* and J2a.
The researchers found that these Caucasus hunters were probably the source of the Near Eastern DNA in the Yamnaya. Their genomes showed that a continued mixture of the Caucasians with Middle Eastern took place up to 25,000 years ago, when the coldest period in the last Ice Age started.
An analysis carried out by Gallego-Llorente et al. (2016), concludes that Iranian populations are not a likelier source of the ‘southern’ component in the Yamnaya than Caucasus hunter-gatherers.
A genetic study published in August 2014 examined the DNA of the remains of a number of individuals from the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture, who succeeded the Yamnaya culture as the dominant force on the Pontic steppe.
Catacomb people were found to have much higher frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U5 and U4 than people of the Yamnaya culture. Haplogroups U5 and U4 are typical of Western Hunter-Gatherers and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers. A generic similarity between Catacomb people and northern hunter-gatherers, particularly the people of the Pitted Ware culture of southern Scandinavia, was detected.
It was suggested that the Catacomb people and the Yamnaya people were not as genetically admixed as previously believed. Interestingly, the modern population of Ukraine was found to be more closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture than people of the Catacomb culture.
The Pottery from Monjukli Depe and its Visual Affordance

Eurasian Nomads

The growing use of the horse, combined with the failure, roughly around 2000 BC, of the always precarious irrigation systems that had allowed for extensive agriculture in the region, gave rise and dominance of pastoral nomadism by 1000 BC.
A way of life developed that would dominate the region for the next several millennia, giving rise to the Scythian expansion of the Iron Age. Scattered nomadic groups maintained herds of sheep, goats, horses, and camels, and conducted annual migrations to find new pastures (a practice known as transhumance).
The people lived in yurts (from the Turkic languages) or ger (Mongolian) – tents made of hides and wood that could be disassembled and transported. Yurts have been a distinctive feature of life in Central Asia for at least three thousand years. It is suggested that the Indo-European nomads (mostly Slavic and Indo-Iranians) were the first that used yurts and similar tents in Central Asia and parts of Russia and Ukraine.
A traditional yurt  is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by several distinct nomadic groups in the steppes of Central Asia. Each group had several yurts, each accommodating about five people.
The first written description of a yurt used as a dwelling was recorded by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. He described yurt-like tents as the dwelling place of the Scythians, a horse riding-nomadic nation who lived in the northern Black Sea and Central Asian region from around 600 BC to AD 300.
“Yurt” is from a Turkic word referring to the imprint left in the ground by a yurt, and sometimes to a person’s homeland or kinsmen. The word came to be used in reference to the physical tent-like dwellings only in other languages. In modern Turkish, the word “yurt” is used as the synonym of “homeland” or a “dormitory”. In Russian, the structure is called “yurta” (юрта), whence the word came into English.
The structure consists of an angled assembly or latticework of wood or bamboo for walls, a door frame, ribs (poles, rafters), and a wheel (crown, compression ring) possibly steam-bent. The roof structure is often self-supporting, but large yurts may have interior posts supporting the crown. The top of the wall of self-supporting yurts is prevented from spreading by means of a tension band which opposes the force of the roof ribs.
Modern yurts may be permanently built on a wooden platform; they may use modern materials such as steam-bent wooden framing or metal framing, canvas or tarpaulin, Plexiglas dome, wire rope, or radiant insulation.
While the semi-arid plains were dominated by the nomads, small city-states and sedentary agrarian societies arose in the more humid areas of Central Asia. The Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex of the early 2nd millennium BC was the first sedentary civilization of the region, practicing irrigation farming of wheat and barley and possibly a form of writing.
Bactria-Margiana probably interacted with the contemporary Bronze Age nomads of the Andronovo culture, the originators of the spoke-wheeled chariot, who lived to their north in western Siberia, Russia, and parts of Kazakhstan, and survived as a culture until the 1st millennium BC.
These cultures, particularly Bactria-Margiana, have been posited as possible representatives of the hypothetical Aryan culture ancestral to the speakers of the Indo-Iranian languages. Later the strongest of Sogdian city-states of the Fergana Valley rose to prominence. After the 1st century BC, these cities became home to the traders of the Silk Road and grew wealthy from this trade.
The steppe nomads were dependent on these settled people for a wide array of goods that were impossible for transient populations to produce. The nomads traded for these when they could, but because they generally did not produce goods of interest to sedentary people, the popular alternative was to carry out raids.
A wide variety of people came to populate the steppes. Nomadic groups in Central Asia included the Huns and other Turks, as well as Indo-Europeans such as the Tocharians, Persians, Scythians, Saka, Yuezhi, Wusun, and others, and a number of Mongol groups. Despite these ethnic and linguistic differences, the steppe lifestyle led to the adoption of very similar culture across the region.
Scythian cultures, also referred to as Scythic cultures, Scytho-Siberian cultures, Early Nomadic cultures, Scythian civilization, Scythian horizon, Scythian world or Scythian continuum, were a group of similar archaeological cultures which flourished across the entire Eurasian Steppe during the Iron Age from approximately the 9th century BC to the 2nd century AD. Among Greco-Roman writers, this region was known as Scythia.
The Scythian cultures are characterized by the Scythian triad, which are similar, yet not identical, styles of weapons, horses’ bridles and Scythian art. Mostly speakers of the Scythian branch of the Iranian languages, all of these peoples are sometimes collectively referred to as Scythians, Scytho-Siberians, Early Nomads or Iron Age Nomads.
The question of how related these cultures were is disputed among scholars. Its peoples were of diverse origins, and included not just Scythians, from which the cultures are named, but other peoples as well, such as the Cimmerians, Massagetae, Saka, Sarmatians and obscure forest steppe populations.
The origins of the Scythian cultures has long been a source of debate among archaeologists. The Pontic–Caspian steppe was initially thought to have been their place of origin, until the Soviet archaeologist Aleksey Terenozhkin suggested a Central Asian origin.
Recent excavations at Arzhan in Tuva, Russia have uncovered the earliest Scythian-style kurgan yet found. Similarly the earliest examples of the animal style art which would later characterize the Scythian cultures have been found near the upper Yenisei River and North China, dating to the 10th century BC.
Based on these finds, it has been suggested that the Scythian cultures emerged at an early period in southern Siberia. It is probably in this area the Scythian way of life initially developed. Recent genetic studies have however suggested an origin in the Srubnaya culture (lit. ‘log house culture’), also known as Timber-grave culture (1800-1200 BC), or in the eastern Pontic–Caspian steppe and the southern Urals.
The Srubnaya culture is a successor of the Yamna culture, Catacomb culture and Poltavka culture. It is co-ordinate and probably closely related to the Andronovo culture, its eastern neighbor. Whether the Srubnaya culture originated in the east, west, or was a local development, is disputed among archaeologists.
It was a Late Bronze Age culture occupied the area along and above the north shore of the Black Sea from the Dnieper eastwards along the northern base of the Caucasus to the area abutting the north shore of the Caspian Sea, west of the Ural Mountains.
The Srubnaya culture is generally considered to have been Iranian. It has been suggested as a staging area from which the Iranian peoples migrated across the Caucasus into the Iranian Plateau. Historical testimony indicate that the Srubnaya culture was succeeded by the Cimmerians and Scythians.
Physical remains of Srubnaya people have has revealed that they were massively built Europoids with largely dolichocephalic skulls. Skulls from the early (Pokrovskiy) phase of Srubnaya are purely dolichocephalic, and very similar to those of the earlier Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture and Sintashta culture, and the western areas of the contemporary Andronovo culture.
They differ from the less dolichocephalic skulls of the Potapovka culture (2500-2000 BC), a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the middle Volga. The Potapovka culture emerged out of the Poltavka culture, and had close relations with the Sintashta culture in the east, with whom it shares many similarities.
With the expansion of the Srubnaya culture onto the southern steppe, Srubnaya skulls become less dolichocephalic, probably through the absorption of elements from the earlier Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture. In later phases however, dolichocephaly increases again among the Srubnaya.
The physical type of the Srubnaya is very similar to that of the succeeding Scythians, suggesting that the Scythians were largely descended from the Srubnaya. In a study published on 10 October 2015, 14 individuals of the Srubnaya culture could be surveyed. Extractions from 100% of the males (six men from 5 different cemeteries) were determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1.
Extractions of mtDNA from fourteen individuals were determined to represent five samples of haplogroup H, four samples of haplogroup U5, two samples of T1, one sample of T2, one sample of K1b, one of J2b and one of I1a.
Another 2017 genetic study, published in Scientific Reports, found that the Scythians shared similar mitochondrial lineages with the Srubnaya culture. The authors of the study suggested that the Srubnaya culture was ancestral to the Scythians.
In 2018, a genetic study of the earlier Srubnaya culture, and later peoples of the Scythian cultures, including the Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, was published in Science Advances. Six males from two sites ascribed to the Srubnaya culture were analysed, and were all found to possess haplogroup R1a1a1.
Cimmerian, Sarmatian and Scythian males were however found have mostly haplogroup R1b1a1a2, although one Sarmatian male carried haplogroup R1a1a1. The authors of the study suggested that rather than being ancestral to the Scythians, the Srubnaya shared with them a common origin from the earlier Yamnaya culture.
In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains of twelve individuals ascribed to the Srubnaya culture was analyzed. Of the six samples of Y-DNA extracted, three belonged to R1a1a1b2 or subclades of it, one belonged to R1, one belonged to R1a1, and one belonged to R1a1a. With regards to mtDNA, five samples belonged to subclades of U, five belonged to subclades of H, and two belonged to subclades of T.
People of the Srubnaya culture were found to be closely related to people of the Corded Ware culture, the Sintashta culture, Potapovka culture and the Andronovo culture. These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic.
Genetic analysis indicates that the individuals in our study classified as falling within the Andronovo complex are genetically similar to the main clusters of Potapovka, Sintashta, and Srubnaya in being well modeled as a mixture of Yamnaya-related and early European agriculturalist-related or Anatolian agriculturalist-related ancestry.
It has been observed a main cluster of Sintashta individuals that was similar to Srubnaya, Potapovka, and Andronovo in being well modeled as a mixture of Yamnaya-related and Anatolian Neolithic (European agriculturalist-related) ancestry.
Corded Ware, Srubnaya, Petrovka, Sintashta and Andronovo complexes, all of which harbored a mixture of Steppe ancestry and ancestry from European Middle Neolithic agriculturalists. The genetic data suggested that these cultures were ultimately derived of a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.
This is consistent with previous findings showing that following westward movement of eastern European populations and mixture with local European agriculturalists, there was an eastward reflux back beyond the Urals.
In the early 20th century, researchers established the existence of a local Maykop animal style in the artifacts found. This style was seen as the prototype for animal styles of later archaeological cultures: the Maykop animal style is more than a thousand years older than the Scythian, Sarmatian and Celtic animal styles.
The Maykop culture (3700-3000 BC) was a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the western Caucasus region. It extends along the area from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan and southwards to the Kura River.
The culture takes its name from a royal burial found in Maykop kurgan in the Kuban River valley. The Kuban River is navigable for much of its length and provides an easy water-passage via the Sea of Azov to the territory of the Yamna culture, along the Don and Donets River systems. The Maykop culture was thus well-situated to exploit the trading possibilities with the central Ukraine area.
According to genetic studies on ancient DNA published in 2018, the Maikop population came from the south, probably from western Georgia and Abkhazia, and was descended from the Eneolithic farmers who first colonized the north side of the Caucasus. Maykop is therefore the “ideal archaeological candidate for the founders of the Northwest Caucasian language family”.
While it is unknown what cultures and languages were present in the Kura–Araxes culture (4000-2000 BC), or the Early Transcaucasian culture, the two most widespread theories suggest a connection with Hurro-Urartian and/or Anatolian languages. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC.
In the Armenian hypothesis of Indo-European origins, Kura–Araxes culture (and perhaps that of the Maykop culture) is identified with the speakers of the Anatolian languages. Others have suggested the possibility that Kartvelian, Northeast Caucasian, and Semitic languages were spoken in the region as well.
It has been conjectured that the North-West Caucasian languages (also called Pontic, Abkhaz–Adyghe, Circassian, or West Caucasian) may be genetically related to the Indo-European family, at a time depth of perhaps 10,000 BC.
Pontic is a proposed language family or macrofamily, comprising the Indo-European and Northwest Caucasian language families, with Proto-Pontic being its reconstructed proto-language. This hypothesised proto-language is called Proto-Pontic, but is not widely accepted. There does at least appear to have been extensive contact between the two proto-languages, and the resemblances may be due to this influence.
Many linguists join the Northwest and Northeast Caucasian (also called Nakh–Dagestanian or East Caucasian) languages into a North Caucasian family, sometimes simply called Kavkazian or simply Caucasic (in opposition to Kartvelian, once known as South Caucasian, which including Georgian, Zan and Svan, which is thought to be unrelated, albeit heavily influenced by their northern neighbours).
Some linguists, notably Sergei Starostin and Sergei Nikolaev, believe that Northwest and Northeast Caucasian sprang from a common ancestor about five thousand years ago. However, this proposal is difficult to evaluate, and remains controversial. There are some 34 to 38 distinct North Caucasian languages.
Maykop inhumation practices were characteristically Indo-European, typically in a pit, sometimes stone-lined, topped with a kurgan (or tumulus). Stone cairns replace kurgans in later interments. The Maykop kurgan was extremely rich in gold and silver artifacts; unusual for the time.
More recently, some very ancient kurgans have been discovered at Soyuqbulaq in Azerbaijan. These kurgans date to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC, and belong to Leylatepe Culture. According to the excavators of these kurgans, there are some significant parallels between Soyugbulaq kurgans and the Maikop kurgans.
In the south, the Maykop culture bordered the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it. To the north is the Yamna culture, including the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.
New data revealed the similarity of artifacts from the Maykop culture with those found recently in the course of excavations of the ancient city of Tell Khazneh in northern Syria, the construction of which dates back to 4000 BC.
Radiocarbon dates for various monuments of the Maykop culture are from 3950 – 3650 – 3610 – 2980 calBC. After the discovery of the Leyla-Tepe culture in the 1980s, some links were noted with the Maykop culture.
The Leyla-Tepe culture is a culture of archaeological interest from the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 B.C. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture.
The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region. The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets.
It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.
In 2010, nearly 200 Bronze Age sites were reported stretching over 60 miles from the Kuban River to Nalchik, at an altitude of between 4,620 feet and 7,920 feet. They were all “visibly constructed according to the same architectural plan, with an oval courtyard in the center, and connected by roads.
The Scythian cultures quickly came to stretch from the Pannonian Basin in the west to the Altai Mountains in the east. There were however significant cultural differences between east and west. Over time they came in contact with other ancient civilizations, such as Assyria, Greece and Persia.
In the late 1st millennium BC, peoples belonging to the Scythian cultures expanded into Iran (Sakastan), India (Indo-Scythians) and the Tarim Basin. In the early centuries AD, the western Scythian cultures came under pressure from the Goths and other Germanic peoples. The end of the Scythian period in archaeology has been set at approximately the 2nd century AD.
Archaeogenetic studies on the remains from Iron Age Pazyryk culture (600-300 BC), a Scythian nomadic Iron Age archaeological culture  identified by excavated artifacts and mummified humans found in the Siberian permafrost, in the Altay Mountains, Kazakhstan and nearby Mongolia, suggest that after the end of the Scythian)expansion there was a gradual east-to-west influx of East Eurasian admixture.
Most modern populations can be aligned with either Indo-Iranian or Turkic descent, with ancestry corresponding well with ethnic boundaries. In addition Mongoloid (East Asian) admixture was found to correlate inversely with Alu deletion at the CD4 locus.

The Indo-Iranians

Proto-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Indo-Iranic is the reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Iranian/Indo-Iranic branch of Indo-European. Graeco-Aryan, or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan, is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family that would be the ancestor of Greek, Armenian, and the Indo-Iranian languages. It supposedly branched off from the parent Indo-European stem by the mid-3rd millennium BC.
In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, Graeco-Aryan is also known as “Late Proto-Indo-European” or “Late Indo-European” to suggest that Graeco-Aryan forms a dialect group, which corresponds to the latest stage of linguistic unity in the Indo-European homeland in the early part of the 3rd millennium BC.
By 2500 BC, Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had separated, moving westward and eastward from the Pontic Steppe, respectively. The Catacomb culture (2800–1700 BC), a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe, was Indo-European-speaking.
The Catacomb culture has sometimes been considered ancestral to Indo-Iranian or Thracian. More recently, scholars have suggested that the culture provided a common background for Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian. Influences from the west appears to have had a decisive role on the formation of the Catacomb culture.
Evidence of Catacomb influence has been discovered far outside of the Pontic steppe. Its burial chambers, metal types and figurines are very similar to those appearing in Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, while the hammer-head pin, a characteristic ornament of the Catacomb culture, has been found in Central Europe and Italy.
Based on these similarities, migrations or cultural diffusion from the Catacomb culture to these areas have been suggested. Similarities between the Catacomb culture and Mycenaean Greece are particularly striking. These include types of socketed spear-heads, types of cheekpieces for horses, and the custom of making masks for the dead.
The Catacomb people were massively built Europoids. Their skulls are similar to those of the Potapovka culture. Potapovka skulls are less dolichocephalic than those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture.
The physical type of the Potapovka appears to have emerged through a mixture between the strongly dolichocephalic type of the Sintashta, and the less dolichocephalic type of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture.
Originating on the southern steppe as an outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture came to cover a large area. It was Indo-European-speaking, perhaps speaking an early form of Indo-Iranian or Thracian. Influences of the Catacomb culture have been detected as far as Mycenaean Greece. It spawned the Multi-cordoned ware culture, and was eventually succeeded by the Srubnaya culture.
The Srubnaya culture was a successor of the Catacomb culture. It has been suggested that the Abashevo culture was partially derived from the Catacomb culture. Parts of the area of the Catacomb culture came to be occupied by the Abashevo culture, and later by the Srubnaya culture.
The Multi-cordoned ware culture was an eastern successor of the Catacomb culture. It in turn may have played a role in the emergence of the Potapovka culture and the Sintashta culture, and thus on the formation of the Andronovo culture.
Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.
The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European homeland, proposed by Georgian Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze and Russian linguist Vyacheslav Ivanov in the early 1980s, suggests that Proto-Indo-European was spoken during the 5th–4th millennia BC in “eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia”.
Recent DNA-research has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a ‘pre-proto-Indo-European’. It also lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language “no later than the 4th millennium BCE.”
This hypothesis gain in plausibility since the Yamnaya partly descended from a Near Eastern population, which resembles present-day Armenians. Yet, the question of what languages were spoken by the ‘Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers’ and the southern, Armenian-like, ancestral population remains open.
According to Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, the Indo-European languages derive from a language originally spoken in the wide area of eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia. The Anatolian languages, including Hittite, split off before 4000 BCE, and migrated into Anatolia at around 2000 BCE.
Around 4000 BCE, the proto-Indo-European community split into Greek-Armenian-Indo-Iranians, Celto-Italo-Tocharians, and Balto-Slavo-Germanics. At around 3000–2500 BCE, Greek moved to the west, while the Indo-Aryans, the Celto-Italo-Tocharians and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics moved east, and then northwards along the eastern slope of the Caspian Sea.
The Tocharians split from the Italo-Celtics before 2000 BCE and moved further east, while the Italo-Celtics and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics turned west again towards the northern slopes of the Black Sea.
From there, they expanded further into Europe between around 2000 and 1000 BCE. The phonological peculiarities of the consonants proposed in the glottalic theory would be best preserved in Armenian and the Germanic languages.
Proto-Greek would be practically equivalent to Mycenaean Greek from the 17th century BC and closely associate Greek migration to Greece with the Indo-Aryan migration to India at about the same time (the Indo-European expansion at the transition to the Late Bronze Age, including the possibility of Indo-European Kassites).
If Graeco-Aryan is a valid group, Grassmann’s law may have a common origin in Greek and Sanskrit. However, Grassmann’s law in Greek postdates certain sound changes that happened only in Greek and not Sanskrit, which suggests that it could not have been inherited directly from a common Graeco-Aryan stage.
Rather, it is more likely that an areal feature spread across a then-contiguous Graeco-Aryan–speaking area. That would have occurred after early stages of Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had developed into separate dialects but before they ceased to be in geographic contact.
Evidence for the existence of a Graeco-Aryan subclade was given by Wolfram Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal inflection. Graeco-Aryan is invoked in particular in studies of comparative mythology such as Martin Litchfield West (1999) and Calvert Watkins (2001).
Graeco-Armenian (or Helleno-Armenian) is the hypothetical common ancestor of Greek and Armenian that postdates Proto-Indo-European. The hypothetical Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage would need to date to the 3rd millennium BC and would be only barely different from either late Proto-Indo-European or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan. However, many modern scholars have rejected the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, arguing that the linguistic proximity of Greek and Phrygian to Armenian has been overstated.
A widely rejected hypothesis has placed Greek in a Graeco-Armenian subclade of Indo-European, though some researchers have integrated both attempts by including also Armenian in a putative Graeco-Armeno-Aryan language family, further divided between Proto-Greek (possibly united with Phrygian) and thus arriving at an Armeno-Aryan subclade, the putative ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian.
Graeco-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists who support the Armenian hypothesis, which asserts that the homeland of the Indo-European language family was in the Armenian Highlands.
Proto-Indo-Iranian was a satem language, likely removed less than a millennium from its ancestor, the late Proto-Indo-European language, and in turn removed less than a millennium from the Vedic Sanskrit of the Rigveda, its descendant. It is the ancestor of the Indo-Aryan languages, the Iranian languages, and the Nuristani languages.
Proto-Indo-Iranian speakers, the people who later called themselves ‘Aryans’ in the Rig Veda and the Avesta, originated in the Sintashta-Petrovka culture (2100-1750 BCE), in the Tobol and Ishim valleys, east of the Ural Mountains.
Its speakers, the hypothetical Proto-Indo-Iranians, are assumed to have lived in the late 3rd millennium BC, and are often connected with the Sintashta culture of the Eurasian Steppe and the early Andronovo archaeological horizon.
The Potapovka culture has been considered a western variant of the Sintashta culture, with which it is closely related. Like the Sintashta culture, its people are believed to have spoken a form of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It was directly ancestral to the Srubnaya culture, and probably influenced the emergence of the Andronovo culture.
It is thought to have emerged as a northern outgrowth of the Poltavka culture (2700-2100 BC), an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe, with possible influences from the Abashevo culture. Influences from the Catacomb culture and the Multi-cordoned ware culture have also been detected.
The Poltavka culture emerged as an eastern outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, neighboring the Catacomb culture, another Yamnaya successor, in the west. Along with the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture, the Poltavka culture is among the cultures of the Pontic steppe sharing characteristics with the Afanasievo culture of the eastern steppe.
It is distinguished from the Yamnaya culture by its marked increase in metallurgy. Metals were probably acquired from centers in the southern Urals. The presence of gold and silver rings and bronze axes similar to those of the Maykop culture, testify to North Caucasian influences on the Poltavka culture. Certain metal objects of the Poltavka culture and the Catacomb culture appear to have been copied by the Abashevo culture.
The Poltavka culture has been considered ancestral to later cultures that are identified as Indo-Iranian. It influenced the later emergence of the Potapovka culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture and Srubnaya culture. It marks the transition of the Yamnaya culture to the Srubnaya culture, which it seems to be an early manifestation of.
The physical type of the Poltavka resemble that of the preceding Yamnaya, who were tall and massively built Europoids. A similar type prevails among the succeeding Catacomb culture and Potapovka culture.
Skulls of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture are more dolichocephalic than those of the Poltavka, Yamnaya and Potapovka cultures. The physical type of the Srubnaya culture appears to have emerged as a result of mixing between Sintashta and Poltavka people.
Genetic studies suggest that the end of the Poltavka culture is associated with major population changes. There was a significant infusion of Central European ancestry into the steppe during the transition from the Poltavka culture to the Potapovka culture.
The Abashevo culture appears to have emerged partially through influence from the Poltavka culture. Along with the Abashevo culture, it also appears to have influenced the emergence of the Potapovka culture.
The Corded Ware culture comprises a broad archaeological horizon of Europe between c. 2900 BCE – circa 2350 BCE, thus from the late Neolithic, through the Copper Age, and ending in the early Bronze Age. Corded Ware culture encompassed a vast area, from the Rhine on the west to the Volga in the east, occupying parts of Northern Europe, Central Europe and Eastern Europe.
According to Haak et al. (2015), the Corded Ware people carried mostly Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry and were closely related to the people of the Yamna culture (or Yamnaya), “documenting a massive migration into the heartland of Europe from its eastern periphery,” the Eurasiatic steppes.
The Corded Ware culture may have disseminated the Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic Indo-European languages. The Corded Ware Culture also shows genetic affinity with the later Sintashta culture, where the Proto-Indo-Iranian language may have originated.
A 2015 study by Allentoft et al. in Nature found the people of the Corded Ware culture to be closely genetically related to the Beaker culture, the Unetice culture and the Nordic Bronze Age. People of the Nordic Bronze Age and Corded Ware show the highest lactose tolerance among Bronze Age Europeans.
The study also found a close genetic relationship between the Corded Ware culture and the Sintashta culture, suggesting that the Sintashta culture emerged as a result on an eastward expansion of Corded Ware peoples.
The emergence of the Sintashta culture and the later Andronovo culture is associated with an eastward expansion of the Poltavka culture, the Abashevo culture, the Multi-cordoned ware culture and the Catacomb culture.
Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.
The Sintashta-Petrovka cultur was founded by pastoralist nomads from the Abashevo culture (2500-1900 BCE), ranging from the upper Don-Volga to the Ural Mountains, and the Poltavka culture (2700-2100 BCE), extending from the lower Don-Volga to the Caspian depression. It is associated with R1a-Z93 and its subclades.
The Sintashta culture is in turn closely genetically related to the Andronovo culture, by which it was succeeded. Many cultural similarities between the Sintashta/Andronovo culture, the Nordic Bronze Age and the people of the Rigveda have been detected.
A genetic study published in Science in 2018 found the Sintashta culture, the Potapovka culture, the Andronovo culture and the Srubnaya culture to be closely related to the Corded Ware culture.
These cultures were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Middle Neolithic of Central Europe. The genetic data suggested that these cultures were ultimately derived of a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.
The Sintashta-Petrovka culture was the first Bronze Age advance of the Indo-Europeans west of the Urals, opening the way to the vast plains and deserts of Central Asia to the metal-rich Altai mountains. The Aryans quickly expanded over all Central Asia, from the shores of the Caspian to southern Siberia and the Tian Shan, through trading, seasonal herd migrations, and looting raids.
Horse-drawn war chariots seem to have been invented by Sintashta people around 2100 BCE, and quickly spread to the mining region of Bactria-Margiana (modern border of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan).
Copper had been extracted intensively in the Urals, and the Proto-Indo-Iranians from Sintashta-Petrovka were exporting it in huge quantities to the Middle East. They appear to have been attracted by the natural resources of the Zeravshan valley for a Petrovka copper-mining colony was established in Tugai around 1900 BCE.
Tin was extracted soon afterwards at Karnab and Mushiston. Tin was an especially valued resource in the late Bronze Age, when weapons were made of copper-tin alloy, stronger than the more primitive arsenical bronze.
In the 1700’s BCE, the Indo-Iranians expanded to the lower Amu Darya valley and settled in irrigation farming communities (Tazabagyab culture). By 1600 BCE, the old fortified towns of Margiana-Bactria were abandoned, submerged by the northern steppe migrants. The group of Central Asian cultures under Indo-Iranian influence is known as the Andronovo horizon, and lasted until 800 BCE.
The Indo-Iranian migrations progressed further south across the Hindu Kush. By 1700 BCE, horse-riding pastoralists had penetrated into Balochistan (south-west Pakistan). The Indus valley succumbed circa 1500 BCE, and the northern and central parts of the Indian subcontinent were taken over by 500 BCE. Westward migrations led Old Indic Sanskrit speakers riding war chariots to Assyria, where they became the Mitanni rulers from circa 1500 BCE.
The Medes, Parthians and Persians, all Iranian speakers from the Andronovo culture, moved into the Iranian plateau from 800 BCE. Those that stayed in Central Asia are remembered by history as the Scythians, while the Yamna descendants who remained in the Pontic-Caspian steppe became known as the Sarmatians to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The Indo-Iranian migrations have resulted in high R1a frequencies in southern Central Asia, Iran and the Indian subcontinent. The highest frequency of R1a (about 65%) is reached in a cluster around Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan. In India and Pakistan, R1a ranges from 15 to 50% of the population, depending on the region, ethnic group and caste.
R1a is generally stronger is the North-West of the subcontinent, and weakest in the Dravidian-speaking South (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh) and from Bengal eastward. Over 70% of the Brahmins (highest caste in Hindusim) belong to R1a1, due to a founder effect.
Maternal lineages in South Asia are, however, overwhelmingly pre-Indo-European. For instance, India has over 75% of “native” mtDNA M and R lineages and 10% of East Asian lineages. In the residual 15% of haplogroups, approximately half are of Middle Eastern origin. Only about 7 or 8% could be of “Russian” (Pontic-Caspian steppe) origin, mostly in the form of haplogroup U2 and W (although the origin of U2 is still debated).
European mtDNA lineages are much more common in Central Asia though, and even in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. This suggests that the Indo-European invasion of India was conducted mostly by men through war, and the first major settlement of women was in northern Pakistan, western India (Punjab to Gujarat) and northern India (Uttar Pradesh), where haplogroups U2 and W are the most common today.
During pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, southern Central Asia was inhabited predominantly by speakers of Iranian languages. Among the ancient sedentary Iranian peoples, the Sogdians and Chorasmians played an important role, while Iranian peoples such as Scythians and the later on Alans lived a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle.
The well-preserved Tarim mummies, a series of mummies with Caucasoid features discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1800 BC to the first centuries BC, have been found in the Tarim Basin, an endorheic basin in northwest China occupying an area of about 1,020,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi).
While the semi-arid plains were dominated by the nomads, small city-states and sedentary agrarian societies arose in the more humid areas of Central Asia. The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (short BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization, of the early 2nd millennium BC was the first sedentary civilization of the region, practicing irrigation farming of wheat and barley and possibly a form of writing.
The BMAC culture (2400–1900 BC) was a Bronze Age civilization located in present-day northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centred on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River) in Bactria, and at Murghab river delta in Margiana.
Bactria was the Greek name for the area of Bactra (modern Balkh), in what is now northern Afghanistan, and Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Marguš, the capital of which was Merv, in modern-day southeastern Turkmenistan.
Bactria-Margiana probably interacted with the contemporary Bronze Age nomads of the Andronovo culture, the originators of the spoke-wheeled chariot, who lived to their north in western Siberia, Russia, and parts of Kazakhstan, and survived as a culture until the 1st millennium BC.
These cultures, particularly BMAC, have been posited as possible representatives of the hypothetical Aryan culture ancestral to the speakers of the Indo-Iranian languages (Indo-Iranic languages), or Aryan languages, which constitute the largest and most southeastern extant branch of the Indo-European language family.
The common ancestor of all of the languages in this family is called Proto-Indo-Iranian or or Proto-Indo-Iranic, also known as Common Aryan, the reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Iranian/Indo-Iranic branch of Indo-European, was spoken in approximately the late 3rd millennium BC, and are often connected with the Sintashta culture of the Eurasian Steppe and the early Andronovo archaeological horizon.
Proto-Indo-Iranian was a satem language, likely removed less than a millennium from its ancestor, the late Proto-Indo-European language, and in turn removed less than a millennium from the Vedic Sanskrit of the Rigveda, its descendant. It is the ancestor of the Indo-Aryan languages, the Iranian languages, and the Nuristani languages.
The three branches of the modern Indo-Iranian languages are Indo-Aryan, Iranian, and Nuristani. A fourth independent branch, Dardic (also Dardu or Pisaca) are a sub-group of the Indo-Aryan languages natively spoken in Northern Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir and Eastern Afghanistan.
Indo-Iranian peoples, also known as Indo-Iranic peoples by scholars, and sometimes as Arya or Aryans from their self-designation, were a group of Indo-European peoples who brought the Indo-Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, to major parts of Eurasia in the second part of the 3rd millennium BCE. They eventually branched out into Iranian peoples and Indo-Aryan peoples.
The Indo-Aryan migrations were the migrations into the Indian subcontinent of Indo-Aryan peoples, an ethnolinguistic group that spoke Indo-Aryan languages, the predominant languages of today’s North India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Indo-Aryan population movements into the region and Anatolia (ancient Mitanni) from Central Asia are generally considered to have started around 2000 BCE, as a slow diffusion during the Late Harappan period, which led to a language shift in the northern Indian subcontinent. The Iranian languages were brought into Iran by the Iranians, who were closely related to the Indo-Aryans.
The Proto-Indo-Iranian culture, which gave rise to the Indo-Aryans and Iranians, developed on the Central Asian steppes north of the Caspian Sea as the Sintashta culture (2200–1800 BCE) in present-day Russia and Kazakhstan, and developed further as the Andronovo culture (2000–900 BCE), around the Aral Sea.
The proto-Indo-Iranians then migrated southwards to the Bactria-Margiana Culture, from which they borrowed their distinctive religious beliefs and practices. The Indo-Aryans split off around 1800 BCE to 1600 BCE from the Iranians, whereafter the Indo-Aryans migrated into Anatolia and the northern part of the South Asia (modern Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal), while the Iranians moved into Iran, both bringing with them the Indo-Iranian languages.
The BMAC complex has attracted attention as a candidate for those looking for the material counterparts to the Indo-Iranians (Aryans), a major linguistic branch that split off from the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Sarianidi himself advocates identifying the complex as Indo-Iranian, describing it as the result of a migration from southwestern Iran.
BMAC material has been found at Susa, Shahdad, and Tepe Yahya in Iran, but Lamberg-Karlovsky does not see this as evidence that the complex originated in southeastern Iran. “The limited materials of this complex are intrusive in each of the sites on the Iranian Plateau as they are in sites of the Arabian peninsula.”
A significant section of the archaeologists are more inclined to see the culture as begun by farmers in the Near Eastern Neolithic tradition, but infiltrated by Indo-Iranian speakers from the Andronovo culture in its late phase, creating a hybrid. In this perspective, Proto-Indo-Aryan developed within the composite culture before moving south into the Indian subcontinent.
As James P. Mallory phrased it: It has become increasingly clear that if one wishes to argue for Indo-Iranian migrations from the steppe lands south into the historical seats of the Iranians and Indo-Aryans that these steppe cultures were transformed as they passed through a membrane of Central Asian urbanism.
The fact that typical steppe wares are found on BMAC sites and that intrusive BMAC material is subsequently found further to the south in Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, India and Pakistan, may suggest then the subsequent movement of Indo-Iranian-speakers after they had adopted the culture of the BMAC.
According to recent studies BMAC was not a primary contributor to later South-Asian genetics. In 2018, Narasimhan and co-authors analyzed BMAC skeletons from the Bronze Age sites of Bustan, Dzharkutan, Gonur Tepe, and Sapalli Tepe. The male specimens belonged to haplogroup E1b1a (1/18), E1b1b (1/18), G (2/18), J* (2/18), J1 (1/18), J2 (4/18), L (2/18), R* (1/18), R1b (1/18), R2 (2/18), and T (1/18).
A follow-up study by Narasimhan and co-authors (2019) suggested the primary BMAC population largely derived from preceding local Copper Age peoples who were in turn related to prehistoric farmers from the Iranian plateau and to a lesser extent early Anatolian farmers and hunter-gatherers from Western Siberia, and they did not contribute substantially to later populations further south in the Indus Valley.
As argued by Michael Witzel and Alexander Lubotsky, there is a proposed substratum in Proto-Indo-Iranian which can be plausibly identified with the original language of the BMAC. Moreover, Lubotsky points out a larger number of words apparently borrowed from the same language, which are only attested in Indo-Aryan and therefore evidence of a substratum in Vedic Sanskrit.
He explains this by proposing that Indo-Aryan speakers probably formed the vanguard of the movement into south-central Asia and many of the BMAC loanwords which entered Iranian may have been mediated through Indo-Aryan. Michael Witzel points out that the borrowed vocabulary includes words from agriculture, village and town life, flora and fauna, ritual and religion, so providing evidence for the acculturation of Indo-Iranian speakers into the world of urban civilisation.
BMAC materials have been found in the Indus Valley Civilisation, on the Iranian Plateau, and in the Persian Gulf. Finds within BMAC sites provide further evidence of trade and cultural contacts. They include an Elamite-type cylinder seal and a Harappan seal stamped with an elephant and Indus script found at Gonur-depe.
The relationship between Altyn-Depe and the Indus Valley seems to have been particularly strong. Among the finds there were two Harappan seals and ivory objects. The Harappan settlement of Shortugai in Northern Afghanistan on the banks of the Amu Darya probably served as a trading station.
There is evidence of sustained contact between the BMAC and the Eurasian steppes to the north, intensifying c. 2000 BC. In the delta of the Amu Darya where it reaches the Aral Sea, its waters were channelled for irrigation agriculture by people whose remains resemble those of the nomads of the Andronovo culture.
This is interpreted as nomads settling down to agriculture, after contact with the BMAC, known as the Tazabagyab culture. About 1900 BC, the walled BMAC centres decreased sharply in size. Each oasis developed its own types of pottery and other objects. Also pottery of the Tazabagyab-Andronovo culture to the north appeared widely in the Bactrian and Margian countryside.
Many BMAC strongholds continued to be occupied and Tazabagyab-Andronovo coarse incised pottery occurs within them (along with the previous BMAC pottery) as well as in pastoral camps outside the mudbrick walls. In the highlands above the Bactrian oases in Tajikistan, kurgan cemeteries of the Vaksh and Bishkent type appeared with pottery that mixed elements of the late BMAC and Tazabagyab-Andronovo traditions.
In southern Bactrian sites like Sappali Tepe too, increasing links with the Andronovo culture are seen. During the period 1700 – 1500 BCE, metal artifacts from Sappali Tepe derive from the Tazabagyab-Andronovo culture.
In the region of Central Asia, the Bronze Age Oxus civilization (or BMAC) was characteristic for irrigation and proto-state society based on long distance trade of raw materials and goods. However, it suddenly disappeared in the Late Bronze Age (c. 1900–1500 BCE), and in its place emerged the Early Iron Age (c. 1500/1400 – 1000 BCE) Yaz I culture with rural settlements based around fortified structures, control of irrigation systems, with specific hand-made ceramic type, as well as the almost complete disappearance of graves, compared to thousands of kurgans in the north.
The Yaz culture (named after the type site Yaz-depe, Yaz Depe, or Yaz Tepe, near Baýramaly, Turkmenistan) was an early Iron Age culture of Margiana, Bactria and Sogdia (ca. 1500–500 BCE), or (ca. 1500–330 BCE).
It emerges at the top of late Bronze Age sites (BMAC), sometimes as stone towers and sizeable houses associated with irrigation systems. Ceramics were mostly hand-made, but there was increasing use of wheel-thrown ware. There have been found bronze or iron arrowheads, also iron sickles or carpet knives among other artifacts.
With the farming citadels, steppe-derived metallurgy and ceramics, and absence of burials it has been regarded as a likely archaeological reflection of early East Iranian culture as described in the Avesta. Yaz I culture is argued to be related to the sedentarisation of the nomadic Indo-Iranians in the Eurasian Steppe, a synthesis with autochthonous traits. So far, no burials related to the culture have been found, and this is taken as possible evidence of the Zoroastrian practice of exposure or sky burial.
The Yaz culture extended from the central part of the Kopet Dag mountains to the fertile delta of the Murghab River. It seems to be connected to the Chust culture of Fergana Valley, Mundigak V-VI in Sistan, and Pirak I-III on the Kacchi Plain. Compared to the Chust culture, no tombs from the Yaz culture have been found.
Asko Parpola and Fred Hiebert argued that these cultures seemingly derived from the Haladun culture (1750–1200 BCE) of Xinjiang, and some Andronovo culture contacts, indicating a Europid upper strata who spoke East Aryan.
The introduction of the culture is seemingly related to the sound change *s > h when Iranian language came in the Indo-Iranian borderlands of Rgvedic tribes around 1500 BCE, seen in the change of the Vedic river Sindhu into Avestan Hindu (Indus River), Sarasvati into Haraxhvaiti.
Yaz II culture is dated circa 1100–700 or 1000–540 BCE, however some recent research consider no accurate boundary between the Yaz I and Yaz II. It moved to the north and northeast. It is characterized by wheel-made pottery type (reappearance of the wheel like in Namazga-Tepe V), iron metallurgy, large fortified sites, as well as the occupation of previous sites and the continuation of the funerary practices.
The Yaz culture has been regarded as a likely archaeological reflection of the early “Eastern Iranian” culture described in the Avesta. The Yaz II complex seemingly correlates with the Airyanem Vaejah, homeland of those tribes who spoke Avestan language, different from both Western and Eastern Iranian languages, to be replaced in Bactria by the former at the end of the 1st millennium BCE.
Asko Parpola associated the change from Yaz I to Yaz II around 1000 BCE with the migration of the Western Iranians (Medians, Persians). He considered that the Yaz I people spoke Proto-Eastern Iranian or Proto-Saka, a variety of Eastern Iranian languages, attested from the ancient Buddhist kingdoms of Khotan, Kashgar and Tumshuq in the Tarim Basin, in what is now Southern Xinjiang, China.
The Western Iranian languages are a branch of the Iranian languages, attested from the time of Old Persian (6th century BC) and Median. The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times (from c. the 4th century BC). The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian.
The classification of the Iranian languages is in general not however fully resolved, and the Eastern Iranian languages are not shown to form an actual genetic subgroup. The vast majority of Scythological scholars agree in considering the Scythian languages (and Ossetian) as a part of the Eastern Iranian group of languages.
This Iranian hypothesis relies principally on the fact that the Greek inscriptions of the Northern Black Sea Coast contain several hundreds of Sarmatian names showing a close affinity to the Ossetian language.
Some scholars detect a division of Scythian into two dialects: a western, more conservative dialect, and an eastern, more innovative one. The Scythian languages may have formed a dialect continuum: Alanian languages or Scytho-Sarmatian in the west and Saka languages or Scytho-Khotanese in the east. Other East Iranian languages related to the Scythian are Chorasmian and Sogdian.
Alanian languages or Scytho-Sarmatian in the west were spoken by people originally of Iranian stock from the 8th and 7th century BC onwards in the area of Ukraine, Southern Russia and Kazakhstan.
Modern Ossetian survives as a continuation of the language family possibly represented by Scytho-Sarmatian inscriptions, although the Scytho-Sarmatian language family “does not simply represent the same [Ossetian] language” at an earlier date.
A document from Khotan written in Khotanese Saka, part of the Eastern Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages, listing the animals of the Chinese zodiac in the cycle of predictions for people born in that year; ink on paper, early 9th century.
Saka languages or Scytho-Khotanese in the east were spoken in the first century in the Kingdom of Khotan (located in present-day Xinjiang, China), and including the Khotanese of Khotan and Tumshuqese of Tumshuq.
Early Eastern Iranians originated in the Yaz culture (ca. 1500–1100 BC) in Central Asia. The Scythians migrated from Central Asia toward Eastern Europe in the 8th and 7th century BC, occupying today’s Southern Russia and Ukraine and the Carpathian Basin and parts of Moldova and Dobruja.
They disappeared from history after the Hunnish invasion of Europe in the 5th century AD, and Turkic (Avar, Batsange, etc.) and Slavic peoples probably assimilated most people speaking Scythian.
However, in the Caucasus, the Ossetian language belonging to the Scythian linguistic continuum remains in use today, while in Central Asia, some languages belonging to Eastern Iranian group are still spoken, namely Pashto, Pamir languages and Yaghnobi.
The multitude of Middle Iranian languages and peoples indicate that great linguistic diversity must have existed among the ancient speakers of Iranian languages. Of that variety of languages/dialects, direct evidence of only two have survived.
These are Avestan, also known historically as Zend, which comprises two languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium BCE), and Old Persian, the native language of a south-western Iranian people known as Persians.
Avestan, i.e. the liturgical texts of Zoroastrianism, are known only from their use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture (the Avesta), from which they derive their name. The Avestan text corpus was composed in ancient Arachosia, Aria, Bactria, and Margiana, corresponding to the entirety of present-day Afghanistan, and parts of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. 
Both are early Iranian languages, a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages within the Indo-European family. Its immediate ancestor was the Proto-Iranian language, a sister language to the Proto-Indo-Aryan language, with both having developed from the earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian. As such, Old Avestan is quite close in grammar and lexicon to Vedic Sanskrit, the oldest preserved Indo-Aryan language.
The Iranian languages all descend from a common ancestor: Proto-Iranian which itself evolved from Proto-Indo-Iranian. This ancestor language is speculated to have origins in Central Asia, and the Andronovo Culture is suggested as a candidate for the common Indo-Iranian culture around 2000 BC.
It was situated precisely in the western part of Central Asia that borders present-day Russia (and present-day Kazakhstan). It was in relative proximity to the other satem ethno-linguistic groups of the Indo-European family, like Thracian, Balto-Slavic and others, and to common Indo-European’s original homeland (more precisely, the Eurasian Steppe to the north of the Caucasus), according to the reconstructed linguistic relationships of common Indo-European.
Proto-Iranian thus dates to some time after Proto-Indo-Iranian break-up, or the early second millennium BCE, as the Old Iranian languages began to break off and evolve separately as the various Iranian tribes migrated and settled in vast areas of southeastern Europe, the Iranian plateau, and Central Asia.
Proto-Iranian innovations compared to Proto-Indo-Iranian include: the turning of sibilant fricative *s into non-sibilant fricative glottal *h; the voiced aspirated plosives *bʰ, *dʰ, *gʰ yielding to the voiced unaspirated plosives *b, *d, *g resp.; the voiceless unaspirated stops *p, *t, *k before another consonant changing into fricatives *f, *θ, *x resp.; voiceless aspirated stops *pʰ, *tʰ, *kʰ turning into fricatives *f, *θ, *x, resp.
Later the strongest of Sogdian city-states of the Fergana Valley, a valley in Central Asia spread across eastern Uzbekistan, southern Kyrgyzstan and northern Tajikistan, rose to prominence. After the 1st century BC, these cities became home to the traders of the Silk Road and grew wealthy from this trade.
Sogdia or Sogdiana was an ancient Iranian civilization that at different times included territory located in present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, such as Samarkand, Bukhara, Khujand, Panjikent, and Shahrisabz.
Centuries before the conquest of Sogdiana by the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, Sogdiana possessed a Bronze Age urban culture that was gradually displaced by the Indo-European migrations of the Iron Age. This large-scale migration included Eastern Iranian speaking peoples such as the Sogdians.
The original Bronze Age towns appear in the archaeological record beginning with the settlement at Sarazm, Tajikistan, spanning as far back as the 4th millennium BC and then at Kök Tepe, near modern-day Bulungur, Uzbekistan, from at least the 15th century BC.
In the Avesta, Sogdiana is listed as the second best land that the supreme deity Ahura Mazda had created. It comes second, after Airyanem Vaejah, “homeland of the Aryans”, in the Zoroastrian book of Vendidad, indicating the importance of this region from ancient times.
Sogdiana was first conquered by Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. The region would then be annexed by the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great in 328 BC. The region would continue to change hands under the Seleucid Empire, Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Kushan Empire, Hephthalite Empire, and Sasanian Empire.
The Sogdian states, although never politically united, were centred on the main city of Samarkand. Sogdiana lay north of Bactria, east of Khwarezm, and southeast of Kangju between the Oxus (Amu Darya) and the Jaxartes (Syr Darya), embracing the fertile valley of the Zeravshan (ancient Polytimetus).
Sogdian territory corresponds to the modern provinces of Samarkand and Bokhara in modern Uzbekistan as well as the Sughd province of modern Tajikistan. During the High Middle Ages, Sogdian cities included sites stretching towards Issyk Kul such as that at the archeological site of Suyab.
Sogdian, an Eastern Iranian language, is no longer a spoken language, but a descendant of one of its dialects, Yaghnobi, is still spoken by the Yaghnobis of Tajikistan. It was widely spoken in Central Asia as a lingua franca and even served as one of the First Turkic Khaganate’s court languages for writing documents.
Sogdians also lived in Imperial China and rose to special prominence in the military and government of the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–907 AD). Sogdian merchants and diplomats travelled as far west as the Byzantine Empire. They played an important part as middlemen in the trade route of the Silk Road.
While originally following the faiths of Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Buddhism and, to a lesser extent, Nestorian Christianity from West Asia, the gradual conversion to Islam among the Sogdians and their descendants began with the Muslim conquest of Transoxiana in the 8th century. The Sogdian conversion to Islam was virtually complete by the end of the Samanid Empire in 999, coinciding with the decline of the Sogdian language, as it was largely supplanted by Persian.
Fergana, on the route to the Chinese Tarim Basin from the west, remained at the boundaries of a number of classical era empires. As early as 500 BC, the western sections of the Fergana Valley formed part of the Sogdiana region, which was ruled from further west and owed fealty to the Achaemenid Empire at the time of Darius the Great. The independent and warlike Sogdiana formed a border region insulating the Achaemenid Persians from the nomadic Scythians to the north and east.
The Sogdian Rock or Rock of Ariamazes, a fortress in Sogdiana, was captured in 327 BC by the forces of Alexander the Great; after an extended campaign putting down Sogdian resistance and founding military outposts manned by his Greek veterans, Alexander united Sogdiana with Bactria into one satrapy.

Yamna

The Yamnaya culture, also known as the Yamnaya Horizon, Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC.
Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition: Ямная (romanization: yamnaya) is a Russian adjective that means ‘related to pits (yama)’, and these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers.
The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language.
The people of the Yamnaya culture were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus.
People with this ancestral component are known as Western Steppe Herders. Their material culture was very similar to the Afanasevo culture. They lived primarily as nomads, with a chiefdom system and wheeled carts that allowed them to manage large herds.
They are also closely connected to Final Neolithic cultures, which later spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware people and the Bell Beaker culture, as well as the peoples of the Sintashta, Andronovo, and Srubnaya cultures. Back migration from Corded Ware also contributed to Sintashta and Andronovo.
In these groups, several aspects of the Yamnaya culture are present. Genetic studies have also indicated that these populations derived large parts of their ancestry from the steppes.
Haak et al. (2015) conducted a genome-wide study of 69 ancient skeletons from Europe and Russia. They concluded that Yamnaya autosomal characteristics are very close to the Corded Ware culture people, with an estimated 73% ancestral contribution from the Yamnaya DNA in the DNA of Corded Ware skeletons from Germany.
The same study estimated a (38.8–50.4 %) ancestral contribution of the Yamnaya in the DNA of modern Western, Central, and Northern Europeans, and an 18.5–32.6 % contribution in modern Southern Europeans; this contribution is found to a lesser extent in Sardinians (2.4–7.1 %) and Sicilians (5.9–11.6 %).
Haak et al. also note that their results state that haplogroup R-M269 spread into Europe from the East after 3000 BC.[38] Studies that analysed ancient human remains in Ireland and Portugal support the thesis that R-M269 was introduced in these places along with autosomal DNA from the Eastern European steppes.
Autosomal tests also indicate that the Yamnaya are the most likely vector for “Ancient North Eurasian” admixture into Europe. “Ancient North Eurasian” is the name given in literature to a genetic component that represents descent from the people of the Mal’ta–Buret’ culture or a population closely related to them. That genetic component is visible in tests of the Yamnaya people as well as modern-day Europeans, but not of Europeans predating the Bronze Age.
In the Baltic, Jones et al. (2017) found that the Neolithic transition – the passage from a hunter-gatherer economy to a farming-based economy – coincided with the arrival en masse of individuals with Yamnaya-like ancestry.
This is different from what happened in Western and Southern Europe, where the Neolithic transition was caused by a population that came from the Near East, with Pontic steppe ancestry being detected from only the late Neolithic onward.
Per Haak et al. (2015), the Yamnaya contribution in the modern populations of Eastern Europe ranges from 46.8% among Russians to 42.8% in Ukrainians. Finland has one of the highest Yamnaya contributions in all of Europe (50.4%). Studies also point to the strong presence of Yamnaya descent in the current nations of South Asia, especially in groups that are referred to as Indo-Aryans.
According to Pathak et al. (2018), the “North-Western Indian & Pakistani” populations (PNWI) showed significant Middle-Late Bronze Age Steppe (Steppe_MLBA) ancestry along with Yamnaya Early-Middle Bronze Age (Steppe_EMBA) ancestry, but the Indo-Europeans of Gangetic Plains and Dravidian people only showed significant Yamnaya (Steppe_EMBA) ancestry and no Steppe_MLBA.
The study also noted that ancient south Asian samples had significantly higher Steppe_MLBA than Steppe_EMBA (or Yamnaya). The study infers, “The Rors stand out in South Asia as the population with the highest proportion of Steppe ancestry”.
Lazaridis et al. (2016) notes “The demographic impact of steppe related populations on South Asia was substantial, as the aboriginal Mala community, a south Indian Dalit population with minimal Ancestral North Indian (ANI) along the ‘Indian Cline’ of such ancestry is inferred to have a minimum~ 18 % steppe-related ancestry, while the Kalash of Pakistan are inferred to have ~ 50 % steppe-related ancestry.” Lazaridis et al.’s 2016 study estimated (6.5–50.2 %) steppe related admixture in South Asians.
Lazaridis et al. (2016) further notes that “A useful direction of future research is a more comprehensive sampling of ancient DNA from steppe populations, as well as populations of central Asia (east of Iran and south of the steppe), which may reveal more proximate sources of the ANI than the ones considered here, and of South Asia to determine the trajectory of population change in the area directly.”
According to Unterländer et al. (2017), Iron Age Scythians from the southern Ural region, East Kazakhstan and Tuva can best be described as a mixture of Yamnaya-related ancestry and an East Asian component, the latter occurring at only trace levels – if at all – among earlier steppe inhabitants.

Catacomb culture

The Catacomb culture (c. 2800–1700 BC) was a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe in 2800–1700 BC. A genetic study published in August 2014 examined the DNA of the remains of a number of individuals from the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture, who succeeded the Yamnaya culture as the dominant force on the Pontic steppe.
Catacomb people were found to have much higher frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U5 and U4 than people of the Yamnaya culture. Haplogroups U5 and U4 are typical of Western Hunter-Gatherers and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers.
A generic similarity between Catacomb people and northern hunter-gatherers, particularly the people of the Pitted Ware culture of southern Scandinavia, was detected. It was suggested that the Catacomb people and the Yamnaya people were not as genetically admixed as previously believed. Interestingly, the modern population of Ukraine was found to be more closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture than people of the Catacomb culture.
Originating on the southern steppe as an outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture came to cover a large area. It was Indo-European-speaking, perhaps speaking an early form of Indo-Iranian or Thracian. Influences of the Catacomb culture have been detected as far as Mycenaean Greece. It spawned the Multi-cordoned ware culture, and was eventually succeeded by the Srubnaya culture.
The Catacomb culture is named for its burials. These augmented the shaft grave of the Yamnaya culture with burial niche at its base. This is the so-called catacomb. Such graves have also been found in Mycenaean Greece and parts of Eastern Europe.
Deceased Catacomb individuals were typically buried in a flexed position on their right side. They were often accompanied by ornaments such as silver rings, and weapons such as stone and metal axes, arrows, daggers and maces.
Animal sacrifies, including head and hooves of goats, sheep, horses and cattle, occur in about 16% of Catacomb graves. Cattle sacrifices in the Catacomb culture are more frequent than in the Yamnaya culture. Similar horse burials also appeared in the earlier Khvalynsk culture, and in the Poltavka culture.
Catacomb burials are occasionally covered with Kurgan stelae. This practice was also common in the Yamnaya culture. Some three hundred stelae have been found from the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture.
Catacomb burials are sometimes accompanied by wheeled vehicles. Such wagon burials are attested in the earlier Yamnaya culture, and later among Iranian peoples (Scythians), Celts and Italic peoples. Aspects of the burial rite of the Catacomb culture have been detected in the Bishkent culture of southern Tajikistan.
In some cases the skull of deceased Catacomb people was modelled in clay. This involved the filling of the mouth, ears and nasal cavity with clay and modeling the surface features of the face.
This practice is associated with high-status burials containing prestige items. The practice was performed on both men, women and children. It has been suggested that these clay masks may have served as a prototype for the later gold masks found in Mycenaean Greece.
The economy of the Catacomb culture is believed to have been based mostly on stockbreeding. Remains of cattle, sheep, goat, horse and some pigs have been found. Plant remains are exceedingly rare, but traces of wheat, such as einkorn and emmer, have been found. Wooden ploughs have been found at Catacomb burials, indicating that agriculture was practiced.
The types of tools used by the Catacomb people suggest that the culture included several craft specialists, including weavers, bronze workers and weapons manufacturers. Similar metal types to those of the Catacomb culture later appears among the Abashevo culture.
Little evidence of Catacomb settlements has been found. These are mostly seasonal camp-sites located near soures of water. A larger settlement has been found at Matveyevka on the southern Bug. It has three large structures with foundations of stone. On the island of Bayda in the Dnieper river, a stone-built fortress of the late Catacomb period with a surrounding ditch has been found.
Catacomb ceramics is more elaborate than those of the Yamnaya culture. Low footed vessels that have been discovered in female burials are believed to have been used in rituals that included the use of narcotic substances such as hemp. Catacomb ceramics appears to have influenced the ceramics of the Abashevo culture and the Sintashta culture.
Evidence of early composite bows have been yielded from the Catacomb culture. Quivers with space for ten to twenty arrows have also been found. Its arrowheads may have influenced those of the Sintashta culture.
Its hollow-based flint arrowheads are similar to those of the Middle Dnieper culture. Stone battle-axes of the Catacomb culture are similar to those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture. A knife from ca. 2500 BC ascribed to the Catacomb culture in the Donets had a handle of arsenical bronze and a blade made of iron.
Wheeled vehicles have been found in Catacomb burials. Some of these have been suggested as among the earliest chariots that have been found. Bronze warty beads of the Catacomb culture are similar to those of the Sintashta culture.
Certain variants of the Catacomb culture, particularly those centered at the Donets, appear to have practiced cranial deformation. This may have been an aesthetic device or an ethnic marker. Around 9% of Catacomb skulls had holes drilled into them. This appears to have been associated with a ritual or medical practice. Remains of bears have been found at Catacomb sites.
The Catacomb people were massively built Europoids. Their skulls are similar to those of the Potapovka culture. Potapovka skulls are less dolichocephalic than those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture.
The physical type of the Potapovka appears to have emerged through a mixture between the strongly dolichocephalic type of the Sintashta, and the less dolichocephalic type of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture.
A genetic study published in August 2014 examined the DNA of the remains of 28 Catacomb individuals. Catacomb people were found to have much higher frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U5 and U4 than people of the preceding Yamnaya culture. Haplogroups U5 and U4 are typical of Western Hunter-Gatherers and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers.
A generic similarity between Catacomb people and northern hunter-gatherers, particularly the people of the Pitted Ware culture of southern Scandinavia, was detected. It was suggested that the Catacomb people and the Yamnaya people were not as genetically admixed as previously believed. Interestingly, the modern population of Ukraine was found to be more closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture than people of the Catacomb culture.
In genetic study published in the Journal of Human Genetics in 2017, the remains of several individuals from the Catacomb culture were analyzed. One individual was found to be carrying haplogroup U5, while another carried U5a.
These and other subclades of haplogroup U have been found in high frequencies among early hunter-gatherers of Northern Europe and Eastern Europe. From the Mesolithic they appear among populations of the Pontic steppe, including the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamnaya culture, the Corded Ware culture, the Andronovo culture, the Srubnaya culture and the Scythians. This suggests continuity of mtDNA among populations of the Pontic steppe going back at least to the Bronze Age.
In a genetic study published in Scientific Reports in 2018, the remains of two individuals from the Catacomb culture were analyzed. Both were found to belong to haplogroup X4. They are the first ancient individuals that have been identified with this lineage, which is very rare among modern populations.
In a February 2019 study published in Nature Communications, the remains of five individuals ascribed to the Catacomb culture were analyzed. Three males were found to be carrying R1b1a2. With regards to mtDNA, all five individuals carried various subclades of haplogroup U (particularly U5 and U4).
The Catacomb culture was Indo-European-speaking. It has sometimes been considered ancestral to Indo-Iranian or Thracian. More recently, scholars have suggested that the culture provided a common background for Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian.
The Srubnaya culture was a successor of the Catacomb culture. It has been suggested that the Abashevo culture was partially derived from the Catacomb culture. Parts of the area of the Catacomb culture came to be occupied by the Abashevo culture, and later by the Srubnaya culture.
The Multi-cordoned ware culture was an eastern successor of the Catacomb culture. It in turn may have played a role in the emergence of the Potapovka culture and the Sintashta culture, and thus on the formation of the Andronovo culture.
Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.

Corded Ware culture

The Corded Ware culture comprises a broad archaeological horizon of Europe between c. 2900 BCE – circa 2350 BCE, thus from the late Neolithic, through the Copper Age, and ending in the early Bronze Age. It encompassed a vast area, from the Rhine on the west to the Volga in the east, occupying parts of Northern Europe, Central Europe and Eastern Europe.
According to Haak et al. (2015), the Corded Ware people carried mostly Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry and were closely related to the people of the Yamna culture (or Yamnaya), “documenting a massive migration into the heartland of Europe from its eastern periphery,” the Eurasiatic steppes.
The Corded Ware culture may have disseminated the Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic Indo-European languages. The Corded Ware Culture also shows genetic affinity with the later Sintashta culture, where the Proto-Indo-Iranian language may have originated. The Corded Ware culture may have played a central role in the spread of the Indo-European languages in Europe during the Copper and Bronze Ages.
According to Mallory, the Corded Ware culture may have been “the common prehistoric ancestor of the later Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, and possibly some of the Indo-European languages of Italy.”
Yet, Mallory also notes that the Corded Ware can not account for Greek, Illyrian, Thracian and East Italic, which may be derived from Southeast Europe. According to Anthony, the Corded Ware horizon may have introduced Germanic, Baltic and Slavic into northern Europe.
According to Anthony, the Pre-Germanic dialects may have developed in the Usatovo culture in south-eastern Central Europe between the Dniestr and the Vistula between c. 3,100 and 2,800 BCE, and spread with the Corded Ware culture.
Between 3100 and 2800/2600 BCE, a real folk migration of Proto-Indo-European speakers from the Yamna-culture took place into the Danube Valley, which eventually reached as far as Hungary, where pre-Celtic and pre-Italic may have developed. Slavic and Baltic developed at the middle Dniepr (present-day Ukraine).
Haak et al. (2015) note that German Corded Ware “trace ~75% of their ancestry to the Yamna,” envisioning a west-north-west migration from the Yamna culture into Germany. Allentoft et al. (2015) envision a migration from the Yamna culture towards north-western Europe via Central Europe, and towards the Baltic area and the eastern periphery of the Corded Ware culture via the territory of present-day Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
A 2015 study by Allentoft et al. in Nature found the people of the Corded Ware culture to be closely genetically related to the Beaker culture, the Unetice culture and the Nordic Bronze Age.[h] People of the Nordic Bronze Age and Corded Ware show the highest lactose tolerance among Bronze Age Europeans.
The study also found a close genetic relationship between the Corded Ware culture and the Sintashta culture, suggesting that the Sintashta culture emerged as a result on an eastward expansion of Corded Ware peoples. The Sintashta culture is in turn closely genetically related to the Andronovo culture, by which it was succeeded. Many cultural similarities between the Sintashta/Andronovo culture, the Nordic Bronze Age and the people of the Rigveda have been detected.
A genetic study published in Science in 2018 found the Sintashta culture, the Potapovka culture, the Andronovo culture and the Srubnaya culture to be closely related to the Corded Ware culture.
These cultures were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Middle Neolithic of Central Europe. The genetic data suggested that these cultures were ultimately derived of a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.
The eastern outposts of the Corded Ware culture are the Middle Dnieper culture and on the upper Volga, the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture. The Middle Dnieper culture has very scant remains, but occupies the easiest route into Central and Northern Europe from the steppe.
If the association of Battle Axe cultures with Indo-European languages is correct, then Fatyanovo might be a culture with an Indo-European superstratum over a Uralic substratum,[citation needed] and may account for some of the linguistic borrowings identified in the Indo-Uralic thesis.
However, according to Häkkinen, the Uralic–Indo-European contacts only start in the Corded Ware period and the Uralic expansion into the Upper Volga region postdates it. Häkkinen accepts Fatyanovo-Balanovo as an early Indo-European culture, but maintains that their substratum (identified with the Volosovo culture) was neither Uralic nor Indo-European. Genetics seems to support Häkkinen.

Middle Dnieper culture

The Middle Dnieper culture (ca. 3200—2300 BC) is an eastern extension of the Corded Ware culture. As the name indicates, the Middle Dnieper culture was centered on the middle reach of the Dnieper River.
It is contemporaneous with the latter phase and then a successor to the Indo-European Yamnaya culture (3300–2600 BC), as well as to the latter phase of the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture (5500 to 2750 BC), also known as the Tripolye culture, a Neolithic–Eneolithic archaeological culture of Eastern Europe.
Geographically, the Middle Dnieper culture is south and east of the area occupied by the Globular Amphora culture (3400–2800 BC), and while commencing a little later and lasting a little longer, it is otherwise contemporaneous with it.
The Globular Amphora Culture is an archaeological culture in Central Europe. Marija Gimbutas assumed an Indo-European origin, though this is contradicted by newer genetic studies which clearly show a connection to the earlier wave of Neolithic farmers rather than to invaders from the southern Russian steppes.
The Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture (2800-1900 BC), a Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age culture which flourished in the forests of Russia, is in turn considered an eastern extension of the Middle Dnieper culture.
More than 200 sites of the Middle Dnieper culture are attested to, mostly as barrow inhumations under tumuli; some of these burials are secondary depositions into Yamnaya-era kurgans. Grave goods included pottery and stone battle-axes.
There is some evidence of cremation in the northerly area. Settlements seem difficult to define; the economy was much like that of the Yamnaya and Corded Ware cultures, semi-to-fully-nomadic pastoralism.
Within the context of the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, The Middle Dnieper culture is a major center for migrations (or invasions, if one prefers) from the Yamnaya culture and its immediate successors into Northern and Central Europe.
It has been argued that the area where the Middle Dnieper culture is situated would have provided a better migration route for steppe tribes along the Pripyat tributary of the Dnieper and perhaps provided the cultural bridge between Yamnaya and Corded Ware cultures. This area has also been a classic invasion route as seen historically with the armies of the Mongol Golden Horde (moving east to west from the steppes) and Napoleon Bonaparte (moving west to east from Europe).
On the other hand, the Middle-Dnieper culture has been viewed as a contact zone between Yamnaya steppe tribes and occupants of the forest steppe zone possibly signaling communications between pre-Indo-Iranian speakers and pre-Balto-Slavs as interpreted by an exchange of material goods evident in the archaeological record sans migration.

Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture

The Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture (2800 BC–1900 BC), was a Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age culture which flourished in the forests of Russia. It is the chronologically latest and most northeastern culture of the wider Corded Ware horizon. It traces its origins from the west and southwest.
The Fatyanovo culture has been described as a “genuine folk movement” from Central Europe in the Russian forests. Unlike other cultures of the Corded Ware horizon, the Fatyanovo culture is found beyond to borders of the earlier Funnelbeaker culture.
The theory of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture being an intrusive one is based upon the physical type of the population (physical anthropology), flexed burial under barrows, the presence of battle-axes and ceramics.
Some have argued that this culture represents the acculturation of Pit-Comb Ware culture people of this area from contacts with Corded Ware agriculturists in the West. Others have noted similarities between Fatyanovo and Catacomb culture stone battle-axes.
It developed on the northeastern edge of the Middle Dnieper culture, probably as a result of a mass migration of Corded Ware peoples from Central Europe, and was probably derived from an early variant of this culture. Its peoples were almost certainly Indo-Europeans, perhaps speaking an early form of Balto-Slavic.
The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture ends around 1900 BC. On its southeastern fringes, the Balanovo culture had contributed to the formation of the Abashevo culture. This culture would play an important role in the emergence of the Sintashta culture.
Expanding eastwards at the expense of the Volosovo culture, the Fatyanovo people developed copper mines in the western Urals. From 2,300 BC they established settlements engaged in Bronze metallurgy, giving rise to the Balanovo culture.
Although belonging to the southeastern part of the Fatyanovo horizon, the Balanovo culture is quite distinct from the rest. The Balanovo culture contributed to the formation of the Abashevo culture, which in turn contributed to the formation of the Sintashta culture.
Physical remains of people of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture have revealed that they were Europoids with dolichocephalic skulls. They were powerfully built. Fatyanovo–Balanovo skulls are very similar to those of the succeeding Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and Andronovo culture. Skulls of the Yamnaya culture and their direct descendants on the southern steppe are less dolichocephalic.
The Fatyanovo culture runs from Lake Pskov in the west to the middle Volga in the east, with its northern reach in the valley of the upper Volga. The Volosovo culture of indigenous forest foragers was different in from the Fatyanovo culture its ceramics, economy, and mortuary practices. It disappeared when the Fatyanovo people pushed into the Upper and Middle Volga basin.
Spreading eastward down the Volga the Fatyanovo people discovered the copper ores of the western Ural foothills, and started long term settlements in lower Kama river region. They occupied the region of the Kama–Vyatka–Vetluga interfluves where metal resources (local copper sandstone deposits) of the region were exploited.
The metallurgy-based Fatyanovo settlements in this area gave rise to the Balanovo culture around 2,300 BC. Although being part of the Fatyanovo horizon, the Balanovo culture is quite distinct from it. Ceramic finds indicate Balanovo coexisted with the Volosovo people (mixed Balanovo-Volosovo sites), and also displaced them. The Balanovo culture became the metallurgical heartland of the wider Fatyanovo horizon.
The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture ends around 1,900 BC. On its southeastern fringes, the Balanovo culture had contributed to the formation of the Abashevo culture. This culture would play an important role in the emergence of the Sintashta culture.
Fatyanovo ceramics show mixed Corded Ware/Globular Amphorae traits. The later Abashevo culture pottery looked somewhat like Fatyanovo-Balanovo Corded Ware.
Settlements of the Fatyanovo culture are scant, and bear evidence of a degree of fortification. The villages were usually situated on the high hills of the riverbanks, consisting of several above-ground houses built from wooden logs with saddle roofs, and also joined by passages.
Hundreds of sites, including both settlements and cemeteries, have been found from the Balanovo culture. In Balanovo settlements, rectangular semi-subterranean houses are known. The absence of settlements are typical of the Corded Ware horizon, and are indicative of the mobile economy of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo people.
The economy seems to be quite mobile, but then we are cautioned that domestic swine are found, which suggests something other than a mobile society. The Fatyanovo culture is viewed as introducing an economy based on domestic livestock (sheep, cattle, horse & dog) into the forest zone of Russia. The Balanovo also used draught cattle and two wheeled wagons.
As is usual with ancient cultures, our main knowledge of the Fayanovo-Balanovo culture comes from their inhumations. Shaft graves were evident, which might be lined with wood. Some three hundred cemeteries have been uncovered from the Fatyanovo culture. The largest of these contain more than a hundred burials.
Some shaft graves are more than 2 m deep. The interments are otherwise in accord with Corded Ware practices, with males resting on their right side with their heads oriented towards the southwest, and females resting on their left side with their heads oriented towards the northeast. Grave goods included ornaments of animal teeth, pottery, polished stone battle-axes, and on some occasions stone mace-heads.
Fatyanovo burials have been found to include bear claws and pendants of bear teeth. Similar founds have been made in the earlier Sredny Stog culture, Yamnaya culture and Catacomb culture. Some have interpreted this as a sign that the bear had a ritual-symbolic function in the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture.
Balanovo burials (like the Middle Dnieper culture) were both of the flat and kurgan type, containing individual and also mass graves. The deceased were wrapped in animal skins or birch bark and placed into wooden burial chambers in subterranean rectangular pits. Burial goods depended on sex, age, and social position.
Copper axes primarily accompanied persons of high social position, stone axe-hammers were given to men, flint axes to children and women. Amulets are frequently found in the graves.[6] Abashevo kurgans are unlike Fatyanovo flat cemeteries, although flat graves were a recognizable component of the Abashevo burial rite.
Numerous skeletons from Fatyanovo-Balanovo cemeteries show evidence of injury, including broken bones and smashed skulls. They were certainly a warlike people. It appears that they at one point were in serious conflict with people of the Abashevo culture.
Local metal objects of a Central European provenance type were present in the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture. That these metal objects were produced locally suggests the presence of skilled craftsmen. Copper ornaments and tools have been found in Balanovo burials (Chalcolithic). The Fatyanovo-Balanovo people exploited metal resources from the western Urals. Spearheads of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture are similar to those of the later Sintashta culture, although the Sintashta ones were larger.
Physical remains of people of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture have revealed that they were Europoids with dolichocephalic skulls. They were powerfully built. Fatyanovo–Balanovo skulls are very similar to those of the succeeding Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and Andronovo culture. Skulls of the Yamnaya culture and their direct descendants on the southern steppe are less dolichocephalic.
The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture is generally associated with Indo-European migrations. Fatyanovo migrations correspond to regions with hydronyms of a Baltic language dialect mapped by linguists as far as the Oka river and the upper Volga.
Thus, the migrations of the Fatyanovo-Balanovo people might have established pre-Baltic populations in the upper Volga basin. The pre-Slavs probably developed among those peoples of the Middle-Dnieper culture who stayed behind.
Volosovo culture
Volosovo culture is an archaeological culture that followed the Neolithic Pit-marked pottery culture (Balakhna) located in the lower reaches of the Oka River and along the middle Volga of the end of the fourth to the third millennium BC.
The archaeological assemblage identified with this culture is related to the finds from the middle Volga and Kama basin, indicating that they originated from the east. The habitations of the Volosovo culture were often found within the vicinity of lakes and rivers such as the Oka River.
Volosovo culture emerged sometime between the third and fourth millennium B.C. and lasted until the second millennium BC. A more specific estimate was the period between 1800 and 1500 BC, overlapping with the Early Bronze Age Fatyanovo culture. The people of the Volosovo culture has been described as forest foragers.
The Volosovo culture was discovered in the 1900s. Like other groups with forest origin such as the Garin-Bor and other northern cultures, the Volosovo lived in the forest steppes of the Volga-Ural region, particularly the area of the present-day Samara oblast.
Specific sites include those in central Russia, the Middle and Lower Oka, Lower Kama, and Middle Volga. The culture also inhabited the Veletma River area adjacent to Murom, a city that is part of Vladimir Oblast. The Veletma River site was excavated from 1877 to 1928.
Since the discovery of the Volosovo culture, it has been investigated extensively but it remains controversial due to some unresolved aspects, particularly the chronology of its history, cultural attributes, origin, and ethnic affiliations. For example, it was believed that Volosovo was a separate cultural entity but other studies show that it is related to cultures associated with the Volga and Kama basin.
The stone and ceramic artifacts that are used to describe the Volosovo culture were from the semisubterranean dwellings, which are often situated in river floors and within the area of lakes. These dwellings have lower and upper cultural layers. The artifacts found in the lower layer indicates a cultural affinity with the Russian Pit-marked Pottery culture called Balakhna. The upper level, which is considered the actual Volosovo phase, included ceramics that were distinct from the pit-marked pottery as well as those attributed to contemporaneous cultures such as the Fatyanovo culture.
Based on excavated artifacts, the Volosovo culture first used stones and bone tools and were particularly adept at bone carving and sculpture. A small art emerged, one that has been considered rich and diverse as demonstrated by the varied flaked flint sculptures that represented the human form. This phenomenon was distinguished from what manifested in the Tokareva culture.
The culture transitioned out of the Neolithic Age and abandoned its stone and bone technologies after learning early metal working. Later in its development, an early form of agriculture emerged with evidence of domestic animals. Discovered cranial and long bones of a primitive turbary dog, for example, showed improved animal breeding. However, the culture still favored foraging, hunting, and fishing.
It is suggested that there emerged an animal cult among the Volosovo population after 1500 BCE as evidenced by the use of animal teeth and bones on ornaments such as necklaces. According to this theory, bears were worshiped for their power while dogs and pigs were revered for their economic value. A late Volosovo culture emerged later on and this phase was associated with the sites located in the upper Volodary and Panfilovo.
There is evidence that the Volosovo culture had extensive contacts with other cultures such as the Balanovo culture, a group considered to be the metal-working aspect of the eastern Fatyanovo. This is also demonstrated by the existence of Fatyanovo ceramics in Volosovo sites as well as the discovery of Volosovo ceramics in Fatyanovo graves.
Evidence showed that the late Volosovo phase also had extensive contact with the Abashevo population, helping spread cattle-breeding economies as well as metallurgy among the northern forest cultures.
There were also Volosovo populations that were absorbed into the Abashevo culture before 2500 BCE while others were moving north. The Volosovo people also maintained contacts with linguistic relatives who settled in Finland and Russian Karelia as well as Proto-Baltic speakers, who were later absorbed into the culture.
Pit-and-comb culture
Neolithic archaeological cultures (late fourth to mid-second millennia B.C.) that were widespread in the forest belt of Eastern Europe, from the Volga-Oka interfluve (the Balakhna, Volosovo, and L’ialovo cultures) as far north as Finland and the White Sea (Karelian and Kargopol’ cultures) and as far south as the forest-steppe (upper Voronezh and Don rivers) was named after the pit-comb pottery.
Temporary settlements, such as L’ialovo, Balakhna, and Ust’-Rybezhna I, with traces of small round dwellings, were situated on small rivers and lakes. A number of burial grounds (Karavaik-ha, Tamula) were unearthed, containing burials with the dead placed in a supine position. Stone and bone implements and ornaments were discovered; the remains of later periods include objects made of bronze. The population engaged in hunting and fishing.
The Balakhna culture was named after the site of a dwelling near the city of Balakhna in Gorky Oblast, RSFSRThe hunting and fishing tribes of the Balakhna culture lived along the banks of rivers. At the settlements, which consisted of from two to four dwellings, rectangular or round semidugouts with remnants of hearths, plank beds along the walls, cellars, and pits for storing objects were excavated.
Among the artifacts found were flint dart tips and arrowheads (leaf-shaped and rhombic) and scrapers, as well as polished implements of limestone and shale such as asymmetrical axes, adzes, and chisels. Ceramic objects found included large thick-walled vessels with pointed and rounded bases, decorated with pits and other ornamentation.

The comb-pottery culture , or the pit-comb pottery culture is a cultural-historical community that existed in the Stone Age in northeastern Europe ( Scandinavia , Russian North-West, Belarus , Baltic ), from about 5 millennium BC. er until 2000 BC. er The name was given by the method of decorating ceramic finds characteristic of this culture, which looks like prints of ridges.
Pit-and-comb culture
Neolithic
Middle Stone Age Europe.svg
Geographical region Eastern Europe
Dating 4200 BC er until 2000 BC. er
Carriers controversially: either the Urals or the Paleo-Europeans ( Dauphine-Ugric substrate )
Continuity
← Dnipro-Donetsk
← Kelteminar
→ Maryanovskaya →
mesh ceramics →
asbestos ceramics →
Content
Spread
Vessel (ceramics). Kozlov culture (Neolithic, 6th millennium BC). Exhibit of the Archeology Hall of the Museum of Archeology and Ethnography of Tyumen State University
The distribution of artifacts of this community is approximately the following: Finnmark ( Norway ) in the north, the Kalikselven river ( Sweden ) and the Gulf of Bothnia ( Finland ) in the west and the Vistula river ( Poland ) in the south. In the east, comb pottery with some variations of styles was extended to the Ural Mountains . Perhaps, among others, included the Narva culture in Lithuania . The bearers of this culture were allegedly hunters and gatherers, although the so-called Narva culture in Lithuania has signs of farming. For the later horizons of some of these regions, the culture of corded stoneware is characteristic.
The initial focus of this culture was the Dnieper region ( Dnieper-Donetsk culture ), from there it spread through Valdai to Finland [1] .
Local Options
Currently, at least 8 related cultures stand out in the cultural community of pit-comb ceramics:
Comb and Pit Ceramic Zone
Fragments of pit-comb ceramics from the exposition of the archaeological museum on the territory of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery (Vologda Oblast).
Fragments of pit-comb ceramics found in Estonia.
Kargopol culture
Karelian culture
White Sea Culture
Asbestos Ceramics Culture
Comb Ceramics Area
Comb ceramics was common in the Kama, Urals and Trans-Urals.
This zone includes, for example, the Kokui culture with backward-comb-dividing ornamentation of ceramics (from the second half of the V to the first third of the 4th century BC) and the Sostovo-Istov culture with dishes ornamented in the comb tradition (from the second to the last third of the IV th BC) [2] Findings of ceramics with comb ornamentation are known and much east of – in particular, among the artifacts of the Sinlunwa culture [3] , which existed in the northeast of modern China in the 7th – 6th millennium BC. e., as well as on the territory of modern Korea and in the upper Yenisei and the Angara. [four]
Zone of typical splay-pottery
Balakhna culture
Lyalovskaya culture → Volosovo culture
Ryazan culture
Culture
Ceramics
Ceramics is a large pots with a capacity of 40-60 l, rounded or pointed at the bottom. The shape of the products for centuries remained unchanged, but the applied ornaments varied. According to the accepted dating, ceramics is traditionally divided into the following periods: early (from 4200 BC to 3300 BC ), typical (from 3300 BC to 2700 BC. ) And late (from 2800 BC to 2000 BC. ). Among the many styles of pit-comb ceramics, there is one that uses the properties of asbestos : a culture of asbestos ceramics . Other famous styles are Püheätsiltä, ​​Yakärlä, Kierikki and Säriäsniemi with their respective sub-styles.
Tools
Stone tools changed slightly over time. Made from local materials such as slate and quartz . The findings confirm the existence of the exchange of goods: red slate from northern Scandinavia , asbestos from Lake Saimaa, green slate from Lake Onega , amber from the southern coast of the Baltic Sea and flint from the Valdai Upland .
Art
The culture is characterized by small figures of burnt clay and animal heads made of stone. The heads of animals usually depict an elk or a bear and derive from the Mesolithic art. Cave paintings are also known.
Habitats
Settlements were located on the coast or lakes. The way of existence was based on hunting, fishing and gathering plants. In Finland, this culture was a seaside one that specialized in seal hunting. Typical housing was, apparently, tipi area of ​​about 30 m2, which could live up to 30 people. Burials were arranged inside the settlement, the dead were covered with red ocher. For comb-pottery culture , burial of the deceased is typical, along with objects made of flint and amber. Empty sandstone dolmens were used in the Äkärlä group.
Anthropological type
A population that is a carrier of a pin-pottery culture could have been formed on the basis of the same Mesolithic Europoid stratum, but with a greater weight of the Mongoloid component than the population of the Volovo, Dnieper-Donetsk and Narva cultures. [5] In particular, the creators of Lyalovskoy culture, belonging to the cultures of typical pit-comb ceramics, were Caucasoids with a strong admixture of Mongoloid (northern laponoid type ). [6] [7]
Paleogenetics
The representatives of the comb-pottery culture from the location of Kudruküla ( est. Kudruküla , estuary of the River Narva 5600 years ago) identified the archaic Y-chromosomal haplogroup R1a5 (R1a1b ~ -YP1272 ), which is now extremely rare, and the mitochondrial haplogroup U5b1d1, I4, I4, I4, I4 .
Language
Until about the beginning of the 1980s, historians did not question the Finno-Ugric origin of the tribal culture of pit-comb ceramics. A number of researchers of the Helsinki school (Prof. K. Viik and his followers) even claimed that the Pre-Uralic language had been spoken in Estonia and Finland since the last glaciation, although this point of view did not enjoy the support of the majority. Currently, archaeologists and linguists are more cautious about the links between languages ​​and phenomena of material culture. According to one hypothesis, an increase in the number of settlements in the indicated period was associated with general warming of the climate, which caused the development of a productive economy.
A sufficiently large number of scientists believe that the tribes of pit-comb ceramics spoke an unknown extinct language (the Y-haplogroup R-YP1272 is autochthonous, almost extinct, having a common ancestor 15,000 years ago with the main Indo-European haplogroup) [9] , not related neither the Ural nor the Indo-European language families. The language of native speakers of the culture of pit-comb ceramics, these scientists are usually called ” Paleo-European ” [10] [11] (it is possible that its relics constitute a substrate of unknown origin, distinguished by linguists in the Sami language ; a non-Indo-European substrate of unknown origin is also present in the Finno-Volga languages, but in much smaller volumes [12] ). Numerous hydronyms in the European part of Russia can also testify to this (according to B. A. Serebrennikov – “Volga-Oka place names ” [13] ), the etymology of which remains unclear. At the same time, the majority of linguists (including Academician A.K. Matveev, whose point of view is set out in the unfinished work “Substrate Toponymy of the Russian North”) believe that these toponyms are still derived from the disappeared Finno-Ugric languages ​​(in particular, from Meryan language).
A consistent supporter of the “Paleo-European” hypothesis of the origin of cultures of a typical YAGK is V. V. Napolskikh, who at the same time unambiguously associates Zauralie comb ceramics with the Pra-Ural linguistic community. [14] Among Finnish researchers, P. Kallio and J. Häkkinen [15] admit the pale-European character of part of the YGK cultures, while still linking the southeastern part of the range of these cultures with Pra-Urals. [16] V. A. Zakh considers the similarity of European and Trans-Ural comb ceramics to be the result of the presence of a common (possibly Finno-Ugric) origin in these cultures. [17] The authors of a genetic study of the remains from the burial of Sertei II’s late Neolithic Zizhitsky culture (Smolensk region, middle of the 3rd millennium BC, ceramics of “transitional” type), which revealed the presence of Y-haplogroups R1a1 and N1c, also believe that the distribution Finno-Ugric »Y-haplogroup N1c should be associated with patchy-comb pottery cultures, and that the maximum“ Finnish ”genetic markers correlate well with the spread of Finno-Ugric toponymy and hydronymy.
The Comb Ceramic culture or Pit-Comb Ware culture, often abbreviated as CCC or PCW, was a northeast European characterised by its Pit–Comb Ware. It existed from around 4200 BCE to around 2000 BCE. The bearers of the Comb Ceramic culture are thought to have still mostly followed the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, with traces of early agriculture.
The distribution of the artifacts found includes Finnmark (Norway) in the north, the Kalix River (Sweden) and the Gulf of Bothnia (Finland) in the west and the Vistula River (Poland) in the south. It would include the Narva culture of Estonia and the Sperrings culture in Finland, among others. They are thought to have been essentially hunter-gatherers, though e.g. the Narva culture in Estonia shows some evidence of agriculture. Some of this region was absorbed by the later Corded Ware horizon.
Ceramics
Comb ceramic pottery from Estonia, 4000-2000 BCE.
The Pit–Comb Ware culture is one of the few exceptions to the rule that pottery and farming coexist in Europe. In the Near East farming appeared before pottery, then when farming spread into Europe from the Near East, pottery-making came with it. However, in Asia, where the oldest pottery has been found, pottery was made long before farming. It appears that the Comb Ceramic Culture reflects influences from Siberia and distant China.[1]
The ceramics consist of large pots that are rounded or pointed below, with a capacity from 40 to 60 litres. The forms of the vessels remained unchanged but the decoration varied.
By dating according to the elevation of land, the ceramics have traditionally (Äyräpää 1930) been divided into the following periods: early (Ka I, c. 4200 BC – 3300 BC), typical (Ka II, c. 3300 BC – 2700 BC) and late Comb Ceramic (Ka III, c. 2800 BC – 2000 BC).
However, calibrated radiocarbon dates for the comb-ware fragments found (e.g., in the Karelian isthmus), give a total interval of 5600 BC – 2300 BC (Geochronometria Vol. 23, pp 93–99, 2004).
Among the many styles of comb ware there is one which makes use of the characteristics of asbestos: Asbestos ware. In this tradition, which persisted through different cultures into the Iron Age, asbestos was used to temper the ceramic clay.[2] Other styles are Pyheensilta, Jäkärlä, Kierikki, Pöljä and Säräisniemi pottery with their respective subdivisions. Sperrings ceramics is the original name given for the younger early Comb ware (Ka I:2) found in Finland.
Habitations
A so-called Giant’s Church at Rajakangas, Oulu, Finland. The purpose of these large, rectangular stone structures is unclear.[3]
The settlements were located at sea shores or beside lakes and the economy was based on hunting, fishing and the gathering of plants. In Finland, it was a maritime culture which became more and more specialized in hunting seals. The dominant dwelling was probably a teepee of about 30 square meters where some 15 people could live. Also rectangular houses made of timber become popular in Finland from 4000 BC cal. Graves were dug at the settlements and the dead were covered with red ochre. The typical Comb Ceramic age shows an extensive use of objects made of flint and amber as grave offerings.
Tools
The stone tools changed very little over time. They were made of local materials such as slate and quartz. Finds suggest a fairly extensive exchange network: red slate originating from northern Scandinavia, asbestos from Lake Saimaa, green slate from Lake Onega, amber from the southern shores of the Baltic Sea and flint from the Valdai area in northwestern Russia.
Art
The culture was characterised by small figurines of burnt clay and animal heads made of stone. The animal heads usually depict moose and bears and were derived from the art of the Mesolithic. There were also many rock paintings.
There are sources noting that the typical comb ceramic pottery had a sense of luxury and that its makers knew how to wear precious amber pendants.[4]
Language
In earlier times, it was often suggested that the spread of the Comb Ware people was correlated with the diffusion of the Uralic languages, and thus an early Uralic language would have been spoken throughout this culture.[5] It is also suggested that bearers of this culture likely spoke Finno-Ugric languages.[6]
A more recent view is that the Comb Ware people may have spoken Pre-Indo-European languages, as some toponyms and hydronyms also indicate a non-Uralic, non-Indo-European language at work in some areas. In addition, modern scholars have located the Proto-Uralic homeland east of the Volga, if not even beyond the Urals. The great westward dispersal of the Uralic languages is thought to have happened long after the demise of the Comb Ceramic culture, perhaps in the 1st millennium BC.[5]
Genetics
In a 2017 genetic study published in Current Biology, the remains of three CCC individuals buried at Kudruküla was analyzed.[7] The Y-DNA sample extracted belonged to R1a5-YP1272. The three mtDNA samples extracted belonged to U5b1d1, U4a and U2e1.[7]
In a genetic study published in Nature Communications in January 2018, the remains of two CCC individuals were analyzed. The male was found to be carrying R1 and U4d2, while the female carried U5a1d2b The CCC individuals were found to be mostly of Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG) descent, and to have more EHG ancestry than people of the Narva culture.[8]
In a genetic study published in Nature Communications in November 2018, the CCC individuals studies were modeled as being of 65% Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG), 20% Western Steppe Herder (WSH), and 15% Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) descent. The amount of EHG ancestry was higher than among earlier cultures of the eastern Baltic, while WSH ancestry had previously never been attested among such an early culture in the region.[9] [18](See

Abashevo culture
The Abashevo culture is a later Bronze Age (ca. 2500-1900 BCE) archaeological culture found in the valleys of the Volga and Kama River north of the Samara bend and into the southern Ural Mountains. It receives its name from a village of Abashevo in Chuvashia. Artifacts are kurgans and remnants of settlements.
The Abashevo culture was preceded by the Yamna culture and was the easternmost of the Russian forest zone cultures that descended from Corded Ware ceramic traditions. The economy was mixed agriculture. Cattle, sheep, goat, as well as other domestic animals were kept.
Horses were evidently used, inferred by cheek pieces typical of neighboring steppe cultures (as well to those of (earliest) Mycenae). The population of Sintashta derived their stock-breeding from Abashevo, although the role of the pig shrinks sharply.
It follows the Yamna culture and Balanovo culture in its inhumation practices in tumuli. Flat graves were also a component of the Abashevo culture burial rite, as in the earlier Fatyanovo culture. Grave offerings are scant, little more than a pot or two. Some graves show evidence of a birch bark floor and a timber construction forming walls and roof.
There is evidence of copper-smelting, and the culture would seem connected to copper mining activities in the southern Urals. The Abashevo culture was an important center of metallurgy and stimulated the formation of Sintashta metallurgy.
The Abashevo ethno-linguistic identity can only be a subject of speculation, reflecting both northern penetration of the earlier Iranian steppe Poltavka culture as well as an extension of Fatyanovo-Balanovo traditions.
Skulls of the Abashevo differ from those of the Timber grave, earlier Catacomb culture, or the Potapovka culture. Abashevo probably witnessed a process of assimilation which presupposses a bilingual population. There were likely contacts with Uralic-speakers, and this is a convenient place for the origin of some loan-words into Uralic. Some of the Volosovo culture of the region were absorbed into the Abashevo populace, as corded-impressed Abashevo pottery is found side by side with comb-stamped Volosovo ceramics sometimes in the same structure at archaeological sites.
It occupied part of the area of the earlier Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture, the eastern variant of the earlier Corded Ware culture, but whatever relationship there is between the two cultures is uncertain. The pre-eminent expert on the Abashevo culture, A. Pryakhin, concludeded that it originated from contacts between Fatyanovo / Balanovo and Catacomb / Poltavka peoples in the southern forest-steppe.
The Abashevo culture played a significant role in the origin of Sintashta, and early Abashevo ceramic styles strongly influenced Sintashta ceramics. It does not pertain to the Andronovo culture and genetically belongs to the circle of Central European cultures of the Fatyanovo culture type corded ware ceramics. It was succeeded by the Srubna culture and the Sintashta culture.
Poltavka culture
Poltavka culture (2700—2100 BCE) was an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe. It emerged as an eastern outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, neighboring the Catacomb culture, another Yamnaya successor, in the west.
The Poltavka culture has been considered ancestral to later cultures that are identified as Indo-Iranian. The Poltavka culture influenced the later emergence of the Potapovka culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture and Srubnaya culture.
The Poltavka culture emerged ca. 2700 BC as an eastern successor of the Yamnaya culture. The western successor of the Poltavka culture was the Catacomb culture. Along with the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture, the Poltavka culture is among the cultures of the Pontic steppe sharing characteristics with the Afanasievo culture of the eastern steppe.
The Poltavka culture flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe. It is contemporary with the Catacomb culture, which was located on the Pontic steppe to its southwest. It seems to have co-existed at times with the Abashevo culture.
The Poltavka culture appears to have expanded eastwards throughout its existence. It is probable that Poltavka herders explored areas of the Kazakh Steppe. The arrival of Poltavka people onto the Kazakh Steppe is associated with various technological innovasions in the area. Poltavka pottery has been discovered in northern Kazakhstan.
Poltavka settlements are very rare. They are confined to sand dunes in the lower Volga area. The flat-bottomed ceramics of the Poltavka culture differ from the pointed or round-based ceramics of the Yamnaya culture. The decorative motifs of the ceramics of the later Sintashta culture and Andronovo culture are very similar to those of the Poltavka culture.
The economy of the Poltavka culture was mobile pastoral, a continuation of the economy of the Yamnaya culture. The Poltavka people carried out horse burials, a custom that had inherited from the Yamnaya culture, the Khvalynsk culture and Samara culture respectively.
The Poltavka culture shares many characteristics with the contemporaneous Sintashta culture. This includes similar pottery, metal types, weapons, horse sacrifices, chariot-driving gear and similar graves. It is common for new Poltavka settlements to be constructed on top of older ones, and the later Sintashta culture would in turn contstruct settlements on top of earlier Poltavka ones.
The Poltavka culture is distinguished from the Yamnaya culture by its marked increase in metallurgy. Metals were probably acquired from centers in the southern Urals. The presence of gold and silver rings and bronze axes similar to those of the Maykop culture, testify to North Caucasian influences on the Poltavka culture. Certain metal objects of the Poltavka culture and the Catacomb culture appear to have been copied by the Abashevo culture.
The Poltavka culture is primarily known from its burials. These were situated in cemeteries along river terraces. Poltavka graves differ slightly from those of the Yamnaya culture. Almost a third of Poltavka skulls show signs of wounds, often mortal. 80 percent of Poltavka graves contain males. Poltavka kurgans were typically surrounded by a circular ditch, with a single grave with ledges.
Both male and female dead were buried on their left side or back on an organic mat, with the head oriented towards the east. On occasion the body was covered with ocher. Covering the body in ocher was less common than in the earlier Yamnaya culture. Burial pits sometimes had a timber cover. They were generally inserted into kurgans of the Yamnaya culture.
Poltavka burials are characterized by an increased presence of ornaments and weapons. This is interpreted as evidence of increased social stratification. Other grave goods include pottery and stone scepters. A Poltavka burial in the Volga region is notable for containing a large copper club. The funeral customs of the Poltavka culture influenced the customs of the Abashevo culture further north.
In a 2015 study published in Nature, the remains of six individuals ascribed to the Poltavka culture were analyzed. Five of the individuals were determined to belong to haplogroup R1b1a2 and various subclades of it, while one individual, who belonged to the outliers of the culture, was determined to belong to haplogroup R1a1a1b2a.
People of the Poltavka culture were found to be closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture and the Afanasievo culture. It is possible that R1a males lived within the territory of the Poltavka culture, but were not included in the rich burials of the culture, which contain R1b males instead. Genomic studies suggest that the Poltavka culture was closely genetically related to the peoples of the eastern Yamnaya culture and the later Sarmatians.
In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains of two Poltavka males from separate sites was analyzed. One carried R1b1a1a2a2 and U5a1g, while the other carried R1b1a1a2a2 and U5a1b. The authors of the study noted that there was a significant infusion of Central European ancestry into the steppe during the transition from the Poltavka culture to the Potapovka culture.
The physical type of the Poltavka resemble that of the preceding Yamnaya, who were tall and massively built Europoids. A similar type prevails among the succeeding Catacomb culture and Potapovka culture. Skulls of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture are more dolichocephalic than those of the Poltavka, Yamnaya and Potapovka cultures. The physical type of the Srubnaya culture appears to have emerged as a result of mixing between Sintashta and Poltavka people.
The Poltavka culture has been considered ancestral to what would later develop into Indo-Iranian cultures. The Poltavka culture lasted until 2200-2100 BC. It seems to be an early manifestation of the Srubnaya culture. It marks the transition of the Yamnaya culture to the Srubnaya culture. Genetic studies suggest that the end of the Poltavka culture is associated with major population changes.
The Abashevo culture appears to have emerged partially through influence from the Poltavka culture. Along with the Abashevo culture, it also appears to have influenced the emergence of the Potapovka culture.
The emergence of the Sintashta culture and the later Andronovo culture is associated with an eastward expansion of the Poltavka culture, the Abashevo culture, the Multi-cordoned ware culture and the Catacomb culture.
Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.
Potapovka culture
\Potapovka culture was a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the middle Volga in 2500—2000 BC. The Potapovka culture emerged out of the Poltavka culture, and had close relations with the Sintashta culture in the east, with whom it shares many similarities. Like the Sintashta culture, its people are believed to have spoken a form of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It was directly ancestral to the Srubnaya culture, and probably influenced the emergence of the Andronovo culture.
The Potapovka culture emerged on the middle Volga around 2500 BC. It is thought to have emerged as a northern outgrowth of the Poltavka culture, with possible influences from the Abashevo culture. Influences from the Catacomb culture and the Multi-cordoned ware culture have also been detected.
The Potapovka culture has been considered a western variant of the Sintashta culture, with which it is closely related. The area which the Potapovka culture occupied had earlier been occupied by the Khvalynsk culture and the Samara culture.
The Potapovka culture flourished around the middle Volga, straddling the cultural traditions of the Pontic steppe, the Urals and western Kazakhstan. It is considered to have been part of an eastward expansion of cultures based on the Pontic steppe.
Potapovka sites are eventually found also on the Don and the Dnieper. The expansion of the Potapovka culture, Sintashta culture and other cultures ultimately of Eastern Euroopean origin into western Kazakhstan and the southern Urals is believed to have occurred as an elite dominance migration.
The Potapovka culture has many similarities with the Sintashta culture and the earlier phases of the Andronovo culture. These similarities include animal sacrifices (horse burials), burial rituals, chariot-gear, cheek-pieces and ceramics. Similarities have also been detected with the Abashevo culture. Abashevo vessels have been found in Potapovka graves.
The Potapovka culture is especially distinguished by the presence of bone cheek-pieces for controlling horses. Possible remains of wheels and wheeled vehicles have been observed in Potapovka remains. Unlike for the Sintashta culture, spoked wheels have not been found in the Potapovka culture.
Ceramics of the Potapovka culture are very similar to those of the Poltavka culture. The same feature is noted among the Sintashta culture. Major stone artifacts include flint arrowheads. One cheeck-piece of the Potapovka culture was found to be decorated with a Mycenaean ornament. Weapons discovered at Potapovka sites are very similar to those described in the Vedas and the Avesta.
The Potapovka culture is primarily known from at least eleven kurgans that have been found. These contain around eighty burials. Potpovka kurgans measure around 24 to 30 m in diameter and stand up to half-a-meter in height. They typically contain chambers surrounded by small peripheral graves of large central burial chambers. Near the central burial complex, horses, cattle, sheep, goats and dogs may be found.
Several Potapovka kurgans were constructed on top of earlier Poltavka kurans, which they destroyed. According to David W. Anthony, this is hardly accidental, testifying to a “symbolic connection” between the Poltavka and Potapovka people.
An interesting feature of the Potapovka grave is the replacement of the head of the decapitated individual with that of a horse. This practice has been compared with an account in the Vedas of how the Aśvins replaced the head of Dadhichi, son of Atharvan, with that of a horse, so that he could reveal the secret of the sacred drink.
Potapovka grave goods includes decorated pottery, metal objects, bronze ornaments, and occasionally silver ornaments. Graves of the Potapovka culture are very similar to those of the Sintashta culture. They both contained paired horses and cheekpieces.
The Potapovka people were massively built Europoids. Their skulls are similar to those of the Catacomb culture. Potapovka skulls are less dolichocephalic than those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture. The physical type of the Potapovka appears to have emerged through a mixture between the purely dolichocephalic type of the Sintashta, and the less dolichocephalic type of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture.
In a study published in Nature in 2015, the remains of three indiduals of the Potapovka culture was surveyed. One male was found to be carrying haplogroup R1a1a1b and U2e1h, while the other carried haplogroup P1 and C1. The female carried haplogroup T1.
In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains four individuals ascribed to the Potapovka culture was analyzed. Of the two males, one carried R1a1a1b2a2a and U2e1, while the other carried R1 and C. The two females carried U2e1a1 and H2a1e. People of the Potapovka culture were found to be closely related to people of the Corded Ware culture,[c] the Sintashta culture, the Andronovo culture and the Srubnaya culture.
These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic. The genetic data suggested that these related cultures were ultimately derived from a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.
The Potapovka culture is thought to belong to an eastward migration of Indo-European-speakers who eventually emerged as the Indo-Iranians. David W. Anthony considers the Potapovka culture and the Sintashta culture as archaeological manifestations of the early Indo-Iranian languages.
The Potapovka culture and the Sintashta culture played major roles in the emergence of the Andronovo culture. The Andronovo culture is in turn considered ancestral to the Indo-Iranians. The early phases of the Srubnaya culture grew out of the Potapovka culture and the late Abashevo culture.
Srubna culture
The Srubnaya culture (lit. ‘log house culture’), also known as Timber-grave culture, was a Late Bronze Age (18th–12th centuries BC) culture in the eastern part of Pontic-Caspian steppe. The name comes from Russian srub (“timber framework”), from the way graves were constructed. Animal parts were buried with the body.
The Srubnaya culture is a successor of the Yamna culture, Catacomb culture and Poltavka culture. It is co-ordinate and probably closely related to the Andronovo culture, its eastern neighbor. Whether the Srubnaya culture originated in the east, west, or was a local development, is disputed among archaeologists.
The Srubnaya culture occupied the area along and above the north shore of the Black Sea from the Dnieper eastwards along the northern base of the Caucasus to the area abutting the north shore of the Caspian Sea, west of the Ural Mountains. Historical testimony indicate that the Srubnaya culture was succeeded by the Cimmerians and Scythians.
The Srubnaya culture is named for its use of timber constructions within its burial pits. Its cemeteries consisted of five to ten kurgans. Burials included the skulls and forelegs of animals and ritual hearths. Stone cists were occasionally employed in addition to stone cists.
Srubnaya settlements consited of semi-subterranean and two-roomed houses. The presence of bronze sickles, grinding stones, domestic cattle, sheep and pigs indicate that the Srubnaya engaged in both agriculture and stockbreeding.
The Srubnaya culture is generally considered to have been Iranian. It has been suggested as a staging area from which the Iranian peoples migrated across the Caucasus into the Iranian Plateau.
Physical remains of Srubnaya people have has revealed that they were massively built Europoids with largely dolichocephalic skulls. Skulls from the early (Pokrovskiy) phase of Srubnaya are purely dolichocephalic, and very similar to those of the earlier Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture and Sintashta culture, and the western areas of the contemporary Andronovo culture. They differ from the less dolichocephalic skulls of the Potapovka culture.
With the expansion of the Srubnaya culture onto the southern steppe, Srubnaya skulls become less dolichocephalic, probably through the absorption of elements from the earlier Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture. In later phases however, dolichocephaly increases again among the Srubnaya. The physical type of the Srubnaya is very similar to that of the succeeding Scythians, suggesting that the Scythians were largely descended from the Srubnaya.
In a study published on 10 October 2015, 14 individuals of the Srubnaya culture could be surveyed. Extractions from 100% of the males (six men from 5 different cemeteries) were determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1.
Extractions of mtDNA from fourteen individuals were determined to represent five samples of haplogroup H, four samples of haplogroup U5, two samples of T1, one sample of T2, one sample of K1b, one of J2b and one of I1a.
Another 2017 genetic study, published in Scientific Reports, found that the Scythians shared similar mitochondrial lineages with the Srubnaya culture. The authors of the study suggested that the Srubnaya culture was ancestral to the Scythians.
In 2018, a genetic study of the earlier Srubnaya culture, and later peoples of the Scythian cultures, including the Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, was published in Science Advances. Six males from two sites ascribed to the Srubnaya culture were analysed, and were all found to possess haplogroup R1a1a1.
Cimmerian, Sarmatian and Scythian males were however found have mostly haplogroup R1b1a1a2, although one Sarmatian male carried haplogroup R1a1a1. The authors of the study suggested that rather than being ancestral to the Scythians, the Srubnaya shared with them a common origin from the earlier Yamnaya culture.
In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains of twelve individuals ascribed to the Srubnaya culture was analyzed. Of the six samples of Y-DNA extracted, three belonged to R1a1a1b2 or subclades of it, one belonged to R1, one belonged to R1a1, and one belonged to R1a1a.
With regards to mtDNA, five samples belonged to subclades of U, five belonged to subclades of H, and two belonged to subclades of T. People of the Srubnaya culture were found to be closely related to people of the Corded Ware culture, the Sintashta culture, Potapovka culture and the Andronovo culture.
These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic. The genetic data suggested that these cultures were ultimately derived of a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.
Sintasha
Sintashta is an archaeological site in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia. It is the remains of a fortified settlement dating to the Bronze Age, c. 2800–1600 BC, and is the type site of the Sintashta culture. The site has been characterised “fortified metallurgical industrial center”.
Sintashta is situated in the steppe just east of the Ural Mountains. The site is named for the adjacent Sintashta River, a tributary to the Tobol. The shifting course of the river over time has destroyed half of the site, leaving behind 31 of the approximately 50-60 houses in the settlement.
The settlement consisted of rectangular houses arranged in a circle 140 m in diameter and surrounded by a timber-reinforced earthen wall with gate towers and a deep ditch on its exterior. The fortifications at Sintashta and similar settlements such as Arkaim were of unprecedented scale for the steppe region.
There is evidence of copper and bronze metallurgy taking place in every house excavated at Sintashta, again an unprecedented intensity of metallurgical production for the steppe. Early Abashevo culture ceramic styles strongly influenced Sintashta ceramics.
Due to the assimilation of tribes in the region of the Urals, such as the Pit-grave, Catacomb, Poltavka, and northern Abashevo into the Novokumak horizon, it would seem inaccurate to provide Sintashta with a purely Aryan attribution. In the origin of Sintashta, the Abashevo culture would play an important role.
Five cemeteries have been found associated with the site, the largest of which is known as Sintashta mogila. Sintashta mogila consisted of forty graves. Some of these were chariot burials, producing the oldest known chariots in the world. Others included horse sacrifices—up to eight in a single grave—various stone, copper and bronze weapons, and silver and gold ornaments.
The oldest artifacts clearly identified as horse tack—bits, bridles, cheekpieces, or any other kind of horse gear—are the antler disk-shaped cheekpieces associated with the invention of the chariot, at the Sintashta-Petrovka sites.
The Sintashta mogila cemetery is overlain by a very large kurgan of a slightly later date. It has been noted that the kind of funerary sacrifices evident at Sintashta have strong similarities to funerary rituals described in the Rig Veda, an ancient Indian religious text often associated with the Proto-Indo-Iranians.
Radiocarbon dates from the settlement and cemeteries span over a millennium, suggesting an earlier occupation belonging to the Poltavka culture. The majority of the dates, however, are around 2100–1800 BC, which points at a main period of occupation of the site consistent with other settlements and cemeteries of the Sintashta culture.
Sintashta culture
The Sintashta culture, also known as the Sintashta-Petrovka culture or Sintashta-Arkaim culture, is a Bronze Age archaeological culture of the northern Eurasian steppe on the borders of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, dated to the period 2200–1800 BCE. The culture is named after the Sintashta archaeological site, in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia.
The Sintashta culture is thought to represent an eastward migration of peoples from the Corded Ware culture. It is widely regarded as the origin of the Indo-Iranian languages. The earliest known chariots have been found in Sintashta burials, and the culture is considered a strong candidate for the origin of the technology, which spread throughout the Old World and played an important role in ancient warfare. Sintashta settlements are also remarkable for the intensity of copper mining and bronze metallurgy carried out there, which is unusual for a steppe culture.
The Sintashta culture emerged from the interaction of two antecedent cultures, the Poltavka culture and the Abashevo culture. Because of the difficulty of identifying the remains of Sintashta sites beneath those of later settlements, the culture was only recently distinguished from the Andronovo culture. It is now recognised as a separate entity forming part of the “Andronovo horizon”.
Results from a genetic study published in Nature in 2015 suggested that the Sintashta culture emerged as a result of an eastward migration of peoples from the Corded Ware culture. Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.
The first Sintashta settlements appeared around 2200 BCE, during a period of climatic change that saw the already arid Kazakh steppe region become even more cold and dry. The marshy lowlands around the Ural and upper Tobol rivers, previously favoured as winter refuges, became increasingly important for survival. Under these pressures both Poltavka and Abashevo herders settled permanently in river valley strongholds, eschewing more defensible hill-top locations.
Its immediate predecessor in the Ural-Tobol steppe was the Poltavka culture, an offshoot of the cattle-herding Yamnaya horizon that moved east into the region between 2800 and 2600 BCE. Several Sintashta towns were built over older Poltavka settlements or close to Poltavka cemeteries, and Poltavka motifs are common on Sintashta pottery.
Sintashta material culture also shows the influence of the late Abashevo culture, derived from the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture, a collection of Corded Ware settlements in the forest steppe zone north of the Sintashta region that were also predominantly pastoralist.
The people of the Sintashta culture are thought to have spoken Proto-Indo-Iranian, the ancestor of the Indo-Iranian language family. This identification is based primarily on similarities between sections of the Rig Veda, an Indian religious text which includes ancient Indo-Iranian hymns recorded in Vedic Sanskrit, with the funerary rituals of the Sintashta culture as revealed by archaeology. Many cultural similarities with Sintashta have also been detected in the Nordic Bronze Age of Scandinavia.
There is linguistic evidence of interaction between Finno-Ugric and Indo-Iranian languages, showing influences from the Indo-Iranians into the Finno-Ugric culture.
From the Sintashta culture the Indo-Iranian followed the migrations of the Indo-Iranians to Anatolia, India and Iran. From the 9th century BCE onward, Iranian languages also migrated westward with the Scythians back to the Pontic steppe where the proto-Indo-Europeans came from.
The preceding Abashevo culture was already marked by endemic intertribal warfare; intensified by ecological stress and competition for resources in the Sintashta period, this drove the construction of fortifications on an unprecedented scale and innovations in military technique such as the invention of the war chariot.
Increased competition between tribal groups may also explain the extravagant sacrifices seen in Sintashta burials, as rivals sought to outdo one another in acts of conspicuous consumption analogous to the North American potlatch tradition.
Sintashta artefact types such as spearheads, trilobed arrowheads, chisels, and large shaft-hole axes were taken east. Many Sintashta graves are furnished with weapons, although the composite bow associated later with chariotry does not appear. Sintashta sites have produced finds of horn and bone, interpreted as furniture (grips, arrow rests, bow ends, string loops) of bows; there is no indication that the bending parts of these bows included anything other than wood. Arrowheads are also found, made of stone or bone rather than metal. These arrows are short, 50–70 cm long, and the bows themselves may have been correspondingly short.
The Sintashta economy came to revolve around copper metallurgy. Copper ores from nearby mines (such as Vorovskaya Yama) were taken to Sintashta settlements to be processed into copper and arsenical bronze. This occurred on an industrial scale: all the excavated buildings at the Sintashta sites of Sintashta, Arkaim and Ust’e contained the remains of smelting ovens and slag.
Much of Sintashta metal was destined for export to the cities of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) in Central Asia. The metal trade between Sintashta and the BMAC for the first time connected the steppe region to the ancient urban civilisations of the Near East: the empires and city-states of Iran and Mesopotamia provided an almost bottomless market for metals. These trade routes later became the vehicle through which horses, chariots and ultimately Indo-Iranian-speaking people entered the Near East from the steppe.
Physical remains of the Sintashta people has revealed that they were Europoids with dolichocephalic skulls. Sintashta skulls are very similar to those of the preceding Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture and Abashevo culture, which ultimately trace their origin to Central Europe, and those of the succeeding Srubnaya culture and Andronovo culture.
Skulls of the related Potapovka culture are less dolichocephalic, possibly as a result of admixture with between Sintastha people and descendants of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture, who although being of a similar robust Europoid type, were less dolichocephalic than Sintastha. The physical type of Abashevo, Sintashta, Andronovo and Srubnaya is later observed among the Scythians.
The Sintashta culture probably derived at least partially from the Corded Ware Culture. In the 2015 study published in Nature, the remains of four individuals ascribed to the Sintastha culture were analyzed. One male carried haplogroup R1a and J1c1b1a, while the other carried R1a1a1b and J2b1a2a. The two females carried U2e1e and U2e1h respectively.
The study found a close autosomal genetic relationship between peoples of Corded Ware culture and Sintashta culture, which “suggests similar genetic sources of the two,” and may imply that “the Sintashta derives directly from an eastward migration of Corded Ware peoples.”
Sintashta individuals and Corded Ware individuals both had a relatively higher ancestry proportion derived from the Central Europe, and both differed markedly in such ancestry from the population of the Yamnaya Culture and most individuals of the Poltavka Culture that preceded Sintashta in the same geographic region.
The Bell Beaker culture, the Unetice culture and contemporary Scandinavian cultures were also found to be closely genetically related to Corded Ware. A particularly high lactose tolerance was found among Corded Ware and the closely related Nordic Bronze Age. In addition, the study found the Sintashta culture to be closely genetically related to the succeeding Andronovo culture.
In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains of several members of the Sintashta culture was analyzed. mtDNA was extracted from two females buried at the Petrovka settlement. They were found to be carrying subclades of U2 and U5.
The remains of fifty individuals from the fortified Sintastha settlement of Kamennyi Ambar was analyzed. This was the largest sample of ancient DNA ever sampled from a single site. The Y-DNA from thirty males was extracted.
Eighteen carried R1a and various subclades of it (particularly subclades of R1a1a1), five carried subclades of R1b (particularly subclades of R1b1a1a), three carried R1, two carried Q1a and a subclade of it, one carried I2a1a1a, and one carried P1.
The majority of mtDNA samples belonged to various subclades of U, while W, J, T, H and K also occurred. A Sintashta male buried at Samara was found to be carrying R1b1a1a2 and J1c1b1a.
The authors of the study found the Sintashta people to be closely genetically related to the people of the Corded Ware culture, the Srubnaya culture, the Potapovka culture, and the Andronovo culture. These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic.
Sintashta people were deemed “genetically almost indistinguishable” from samples taken from the northwestern areas constituting the core of the Andronovo culture, which were “genetically largely homogeneous”.
The genetic data suggested that the Sintashta culture was ultimately derived of a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe. Some Sintastha individuals displayed similarites with earlier samples collected at Khvalynsk.
Arkaim
Arkaim (Russian: Аркаим) is an archaeological site of an ancient fortified settlement, situated in the steppe of the Southern Ural, 8.2 km (5.10 mi) north-to-northwest of the village of Amursky and 2.3 km (1.43 mi) south-to-southeast of the village of Alexandrovsky in the Chelyabinsk Oblast of Russia, just north of the border with Kazakhstan.
It was discovered in 1987 by a team of archaeologists led by Gennady Zdanovich, preventing the planned flooding of the area for the creation of a reservoir. Arkaim is attributed to the early Proto-Indo-Iranian of the Sintashta culture, which some scholars believe represents the proto-Indo-Iranians before their split into different groups and migration to Central Asia and from there to Persia and India and other parts of Eurasia.
In the summer of 1987 a team of archaeologists headed by Gennady Zdanovich was sent to examine the archaeological value of the valley at the confluence of the Bolshaya Karaganka and Utyaganka rivers, in the south of Chelyabinsk Oblast or the Southern Ural region, where the construction of a reservoir had begun the previous autumn. Some archaeological sites in the area were already known, but they had yielded little and were not considered worthy of preservation. The site would have been flooded by the spring of 1988.
On June 20, two students who took part in the expedition, Aleksandr Voronkov and Aleksandr Ezril, informed the archaeologists about unusual embankments they had found in the steppe.
The same evening Zdanovich announced the discovery. The latter would have proven a turning point in the debates about the original homeland of the Indo-Europeans and their migrations, which Soviet specialists had been bitterly disputing about since the 1970s.
The near Sintashta culture, excavated in that decade, yielded the remains of an early chariot with horses, making apparent that the southern Urals had been a key location in the development of technology and complex civilisation. The discovery of Arkaim confirmed that assumption.
The struggle to rescue the site was difficult since the reservoir project was overseen by the then all-powerful Ministry of Water Resources of the Soviet Union. The project was scheduled for completion in 1989, but the builders intended to hasten the construction to have it built within the spring of 1988.
The archaeologists did their best to mobilise public opinion for the rescue of Arkaim, initially requesting a halt of the project until 1990; academicians and public figures spoke out in their defense.
In March 1989 the Praesidium of the Urals Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union formally established a scientific laboratory for the study of the ancient civilisation of Chelyabinsk Oblast. A request was made to the Council of Ministers of the Russian Federation to declare the site as a protected area of historical value.
In the following months the Ministry of Water Resources rapidly lost power as the Soviet Union moved towards collapse. In April 1991 the Council of Ministers officially cancelled the construction of the reservoir and declared Arkaim a “historical and geographical museum”.
Arkaim was a circular stronghold consisting of two concentric bastions made of adobe with timber frames, and covered with unfired clay bricks. Within the circles, close to the bastions, sixty dwellings stood. The dwellings had hearths, cellars, wells and metallurgical furnaces. They opened towards an inner circular street paved with wood. The street was lined by a covered drainage gutter with pits for water collection.
At the centre of the complex was a rectangular open space. The complex had four entrances, consisting of intricately constructed passages and oriented towards the cardinal points. Evidence suggests that the complex was built according to a plan, which indicates that the society had a developed structure of roles and had leaders with great authority.
Scholars have identified the structure of Arkaim as the cities built “reproducing the model of the universe” described in ancient Aryan/Iranian spiritual literature, the Vedas and the Avesta.
The structure consists of three concentric rings of walls and three radial streets, reflecting the city of King Yima described in the Rigveda. The foundation walls and the dwellings of the second ring are built according to what some researchers have described as swastika-like patterns; the same symbol is found on various artifacts.
The fortified citadel of Arkaim dates back to the 17th and 16th century BCE. More than twenty other structures built according to similar patterns have been found in a larger area spanning from the southern Urals’ region to the north of Kazakhstan, forming the so-called “Land of Towns”.
The settlement covered approximately 20,000 square metres (220,000 square feet). The diameter of the enclosing wall was about 160 metres (520 feet), and its thickness was of 4 to 5 metres (13 to 16 feet). The height was 5.5 metres (18.04 feet). The settlement was surrounded with a 2-metre (6-foot-7-inch)-deep moat.
There were four gates, the main was the western one. The dwellings were between 110 to 180 square metres (1,200 to 1,900 square feet) in area. The dwellings of the outer ring were thirty-nine or forty, with doors opening towards the circular street. The dwellings of the inner ring numbered twenty-seven, arranged along the inner wall, with doors opening towards the central square, which was about 25 by 27 metres (82 by 89 feet) in area.
Zdanovich estimates that approximately 1,500 to 2,500 people could have lived in Arkaim. Surrounding Arkaim’s walls, were arable fields, 130–140 metres by 45 metres (430–460 feet by 150 feet), irrigated by a system of canals and ditches.
The discovery of Arkaim reinvigorated the debate about the original homeland of the Indo-Europeans, seemingly confirming its location in central Eurasia. After their discovery, Arkaim and the Land of Towns have been presented as the “land of the Aryans”, the centre of a statehood of a monarchical type, and ultimately the model for a new spiritual civilisation harmonised with the universe. Agencies related to the Russian Orthodox Church have been critical of such activities of Arkaim’s archaeology.
The discovery of Arkaim and the Land of Towns has fueled the growth of schools of thought among Rodnovers, Rerikhians, Zoroastrians and other movements which regard the archaeological site as the second homeland of the Aryans, who originally dwelt in Arctic regions and migrated southwards when the weather there became glacial, then spreading from central Eurasia to the east, south and west, founding other civilisations. According to them, all Vedic knowledge originated in the southern Urals.
Some of them identify Arkaim as the Asgard of Odin spoken of in Germanic literature. The Russian Zoroastrian movement identifies Arkaim as the place where Zoroaster was born. Arkaim is designated as a “national and spiritual shrine” of Russia and has become a holy site for Rodnover, Zoroastrian and other religious movements.
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin visited the site in 2005, meeting in person with the chief archaeologist Gennady Zdanovich. The visit received much attention from Russian media. They presented Arkaim as the “homeland of the majority of contemporary people in Asia, and, partly, Europe”. Nationalists called Arkaim the “city of Russian glory” and the “most ancient Slavic-Aryan town”. Zdanovich reportedly presented Arkaim to the president as a possible “national idea of Russia”, a new idea of civilisation which Shnirelman calls the “Russian idea”.
Andronovo culture
The Andronovo culture is a collection of similar local Bronze Age cultures that flourished c. 2000–900 BC in western Siberia and the central Eurasian Steppe. Some researchers have preferred to term it an archaeological complex or archaeological horizon. The older Sintashta culture (2200–1800 BC), formerly included within the Andronovo culture, is now considered separately within Early Andronovo cultures.
Most researchers associate the Andronovo horizon with early Indo-Iranian languages, though it may have overlapped the early Uralic-speaking area at its northern fringe.
According to genetic study conducted by Allentoft et al. (2015), the Andronovo culture and the preceding Sintashta culture are partially derived from the Corded Ware culture, given the higher proportion of ancestry matching the earlier farmers of Europe, similar to the admixture found in the genomes of the Corded Ware population.
The name derives from the village of Andronovo, Krasnoyarsk Krai, where the Russian archaeologist Arkadi Tugarinov discovered its first remains in 1914. Several graves were discovered, with skeletons in crouched positions, buried with richly decorated pottery.
At least four sub-cultures of the Andronovo horizon have been distinguished, during which the culture expands towards the south and the east: Fedorovo (1900–1400 BC) in southern Siberia (earliest evidence of cremation and fire cult), Alakul (1800–1500 BC) between Oxus and Jaxartes, Kyzylkum desert, Eastern Fedorovo (1750-1500 BC) in Tian Shan mountains (Northwestern Xinjiang, China), southeastern Kazakhstan, eastern Kyrgyzstan, and Alekseyevka (1200–1000 BC), the “final Bronze Age phase” in eastern Kazakhstan, contacts with Namazga VI in Turkmenia.
Some authors have challenged the chronology and model of eastward spread due to increasing evidence for the earlier presence of these cultural features in parts of east Central Asia.
The geographical extent of the culture is vast and difficult to delineate exactly. On its western fringes, it overlaps with the approximately contemporaneous, but distinct, Srubna culture in the Volga-Ural interfluvial. To the east, it reaches into the Minusinsk depression, with some sites as far west as the southern Ural Mountains, overlapping with the area of the earlier Afanasevo culture.
Additional sites are scattered as far south as the Koppet Dag (Turkmenistan), the Pamir (Tajikistan) and the Tian Shan (Kyrgyzstan). The northern boundary vaguely corresponds to the beginning of the Taiga. More recently, evidence for the presence of the culture in Xinjiang in far-western China has also been found.
In the Volga basin, interaction with the Srubna culture was the most intense and prolonged, and Federovo style pottery is found as far west as Volgograd. Mallory notes that the Tazabagyab culture south of Andronovo could be an offshoot of the former (or Srubna), alternatively the result of an amalgamation of steppe cultures and the Central Asian oasis cultures (Bishkent culture and Vaksh culture).
In the initial Sintastha-Petrovka phase, the Andronovo culture is limited to the northern and western steppes in the southern Urals-Kazakhstan. Towards the middle of the 2nd millennium in the Alakul Phase (1800–1500 BC), the Fedorovo Phase (1900–1400 BC) and the final Alekseyevka Phase (1400–1000 BC), the Andronovo cultures begin to move intensively eastwards, expanding as far east as the Upper Yenisei in the Altai Mountains, succeeding the non-Indo-European Okunev culture.
In southern Siberia and Kazakhstan, the Andronovo culture was succeeded by the Karasuk culture (1500–800 BC). On its western border, it is roughly contemporaneous with the Srubna culture, which partly derives from the Abashevo culture.
The earliest historical peoples associated with the area are the Cimmerians and Saka/Scythians, appearing in Assyrian records after the decline of the Alekseyevka culture, migrating into Ukraine from ca. the 9th century BC, and across the Caucasus into Anatolia and Assyria in the late 8th century BC, and possibly also west into Europe as the Thracians, and the Sigynnae, located by Herodotus beyond the Danube, north of the Thracians, and by Strabo near the Caspian Sea. Both Herodotus and Strabo identify them as Iranian.
The Andronovo culture consisted of both communities that were largely mobile as well as those settled in small villages. Settlements are especially pronounced in its Central Asian parts. Fortifications include ditches, earthen banks as well as timber palisades, of which an estimated twenty have been discovered.
Andronovo villages typically contain around two to twenty houses, but settlements containing as much as a hundred houses have been discovered. Andronovo houses were generally constructed from pine, cedar, or birch, and were usually aligned overlooking the banks of rivers. Larger homes range in the size from 80 to 300 sqm, and probably belonged to extended families, a typical feature among early Indo-Iranians.
Andronovo livestock included cattle, horses, sheep, goats and camels. The domestic pig is notably absent, which is typical of a mobile economy. The percentage of cattle among Andronovo remains are significantly higher than among their western Srubna neighbours. The horse was represented on Andronovo sites and was used for both riding and traction. Agriculture also played an important role in the Andronovo economy.
The Andronovo culture is notable for regional advances in metallurgy. They mined deposits of copper ore in the Altai Mountains from around the 14th century BC. Bronze objects were numerous, and workshops existed for working copper.
The Andronovo dead were buried in timber or stone chambers under both round and rectangular kurgans (tumuli). Burials were accompanied by livestock, wheeled vehicles, cheek-pieces for horses, and weapons, ceramics and ornaments.
Among the most notable remains are the burials of chariots, dating from around 2000 BC and possibly earlier. The chariots are found with paired horse-teams, and the ritual burial of the horse in a “head and hooves” cult has also been found. Some Andronovo dead were buried in pairs, of adults or adult and child.
At Kytmanovo in Russia between Mongolia and Kazakhstan, dated 1746–1626 BC, a strain of Yersinia pestis was extracted from a dead woman’s tooth in a grave common to her and to two children.
This strain’s genes express flagellin, which triggers the human immune response. However, by contrast with other prehistoric Yersinia pestis bacteria, the strain does so weakly; later, historic plague does not express flagellin at all, accounting for its virulence. The Kytmanovo strain was therefore under selection toward becoming a plague (although it was not the plague). The three people in that grave all died at the same time, and the researcher believes that this para-plague is what killed them. Soma may have originated in the Andronovo culture.
It is almost universally agreed among scholars that the Andronovo culture was Indo-Iranians; it is furthermore credited with the invention of the spoke-wheeled chariot around 2000 BC.
The association between the Andronovo culture and the Indo-Iranians is corroborated by the distribution of Iranian place-names across the Andronovo horizon and by the historical evidence of dominance by various Iranian peoples, including Saka (Scythians), Sarmatians and Alans, throughout the Andronovo horizon during the 1st millennium BC.
Sintashta on the upper Ural River, noted for its chariot burials and kurgans containing horse burials, is considered the type site of the Sintashta culture, forming one of the earliest parts of the “Andronovo horizon”. It is conjectured that the language spoken was still in the Proto-Indo-Iranian stage.
Comparisons between the archaeological evidence of the Andronovo and textual evidence of Indo-Iranians (i. e. the Vedas and the Avesta) are frequently made to support the Indo-Iranian identity of the Andronovo.
The modern explanations for the Indo-Iranianization of Greater Iran and the Indian subcontinent rely heavily on the supposition that the Andronovo expanded southwards into Central Asia or at least achieved linguistic dominance across the Bronze Age urban centres of the region, such as the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex.
While the earliest phases of the Andronovo culture are regarded as co-ordinate with the late period of Indo-Iranian linguistic unity, it is likely that in the later period they constituted a branch of the Iranians.
According to Narasimhan et al. (2018), the expansion of the Andronovo culture towards the BMAC took place via the Inner Asia Mountain Corridor.
According to Hiebert, an expansion of the BMAC into Iran and the margin of the Indus Valley is “the best candidate for an archaeological correlate of the introduction of Indo-Iranian speakers to Iran and South Asia,” despite the absence of the characteristic timber graves of the steppe in the Near East, or south of the region between Kopet Dagh and Pamir-Karakorum.
Mallory acknowledges the difficulties of making a case for expansions from Andronovo to northern India, and that attempts to link the Indo-Aryans to such sites as the Beshkent and Vakhsh cultures “only gets the Indo-Iranian to Central Asia, but not as far as the seats of the Medes, Persians or Indo-Aryans”.
He has developed the Kulturkugel model that has the Indo-Iranians taking over Bactria-Margiana cultural traits but preserving their language and religion while moving into Iran and India.
Fred Hiebert also agrees that an expansion of the BMAC into Iran and the margin of the Indus Valley is “the best candidate for an archaeological correlate of the introduction of Indo-Iranian speakers to Iran and South Asia.”
Based on its use by Indo-Aryans in Mitanni and Vedic India, its prior absence in the Near East and Harappan India, and its 16th–17th century BC attestation at the Andronovo site of Sintashta, Kuzmina (1994) argues that the chariot corroborates the identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian. Klejn (1974) and Brentjes (1981) found the Andronovo culture much too late for an Indo-Iranian identification since chariot-using Aryans appear in Mitanni by the 15th century BC. However, Anthony & Vinogradov (1995) dated a chariot burial at Krivoye Lake to around 2000 BC.
Eugene Helimski has suggested that the Andronovo people spoke a separate branch of the Indo-Iranian group of languages. He claims that borrowings in the Finno-Ugric languages support this view. Vladimir Napolskikh has proposed that borrowings in Finno-Ugric indicate that the language was specifically of the Indo-Aryan type.
Since older forms of Indo-Iranian words have been taken over in Uralic and Proto-Yeniseian, occupation by some other languages (also lost ones) cannot be ruled out altogether, at least for part of the Andronovo area, i. e., Uralic and Yeniseian.
The Andronovo have been described by archaeologists as exhibiting pronounced Caucasoid features. Other studies confirm that during Bronze Age in areas to the north of present-day China, the boundary between Caucasoid and Mongoloid populations was on the eastern slopes of the Altai, in Western Mongolia.
Some Caucasoid influence extended also into Northeast Mongolia, and the population of present-day Kazakhstan was Caucasoid during the Bronze and Iron Age period.
Archaeological investigations likewise suggest that in the steppe region of Central Asia and the Altai Mountains, the first food production began towards the end of the third millennium BC and that the peoples who first entered this region were Caucasoid of the Afanasevo culture who came from the Aral Sea area (Kelteminar culture).
Physical remains of the Andronovo has revealed that they were Europoids with dolichocephalic skulls. Andronovo skulls are very similar to those of the preceding Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture and Sintashta culture, and the contemporary Srubnaya culture.
They differ slighly from the skulls of the Yamnaya culture, Poltavka culture, Catacomb culture and Potapovka culture, which although being of a similar robust Europoid type, are less dolichocephalic. The physical type of Abashevo, Sintashta, Andronovo and Srubnaya is later observed among the Scythians. Through Iranian and Indo-Aryan migrations, this physical type expanded southwards and mixed with aboriginal peoples, contributing to the formation of modern populations in South Asia.
A 2004 study also established that, during the Bronze and Iron Age period, the majority of the population of Kazakhstan (part of the Andronovo culture during Bronze Age) was of West Eurasian origin (with mtDNA haplogroups such as U, H, HV, T, I and W), and that prior to the thirteenth to seventh century BC, all Kazakh samples belonged to European lineages.
In 2009, a genetic study of ancient Siberian cultures, the Andronovo culture, the Karasuk culture, the Tagar culture and the Tashtyk culture, was published in Human Genetics. Ten individuals of the Andronovo horizon in southern Siberia from 1400 BC to 1000 BC were surveyed. Extractions of mtDNA from nine individuals were determined to represent two samples of haplogroup U4 and single samples of Z1, T1, U2e, T4, H, K2b and U5a1.
Extractions of Y-DNA from one individual was determined to belong to Y-DNA haplogroup C (but not C3), while the other two extractions were determined to belong to haplogroup R1a1a, which is thought to mark the eastward migration of the early Indo-Europeans. Of the individuals surveyed, only two (or 22%) were determined to be Mongoloid, while seven (or 78%) were determined to be Caucasoid, with the majority being light-skinned with predominantly light eyes and light hair.
In June 2015 study published in Nature, one male and three female individuals of Andronovo culture were surveyed. Extraction of Y-DNA from the male was determined to belong to R1a1a1b. Extractions of mtDNA were determined to represent two samples of U4 and two samples of U2e.
The people of the Andronovo culture were found to be closely genetically related to the preceding Sintashta culture, which was in turn closely genetically related to the Corded Ware culture, suggesting that the Sintashta culture represented an eastward expansion of Corded Ware peoples.
The Corded Ware peoples were in turn found to be closely genetically related to the Beaker culture, the Unetice culture and particularly the peoples of the Nordic Bronze Age. Numerous cultural similarities between the Sintashta/Andronovo culture, the Nordic Bronze Age and the peoples of the Rigveda have been detected.
In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, a large number of remains from the Andronovo horizon was examined. The vast majority of Y-DNA extracted belonged to R1a1a1b or various subclades of it (particularly R1a1a1b2a2a).
The majority of mtDNA samples extracted belonged to U, although other haplogroups also occurred. The people of the Andronovo culture were found to be closely genetically related to the people of the Corded Ware culture, the Potapovka culture, the Sintashta culture and Srubnaya culture. These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic.
People in the northwestern areas of Andronovo were found to be “genetically largely homogeneous” and “genetically almost indistinguishable” from Sintashta people. The genetic data suggested that the Andronovo culture and its Sintastha predecessor were ultimately derived of a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.
Tazabagyab culture
The Tazabagyab culture is a late Bronze Age culture which flourished along the lower Amu Darya and on the south shore of the Aral Sea from ca. 1500 BC to 1100 BC. It was a southern offshoot of the Andronovo culture, and was composed of Indo-Iranians.
The Tazabagyab culture emerged in 1500 BC as a southern variant of the Andronovo culture. Unlike the Andronovo peoples further to the north, who were largely pastoral, the people of the Tazabagyab culture were largely agricultural. It is probable that they were descended from Indo-Iranian steppe pastoralists from the north who had expanded southwards and founded agricultural communities.
Tazabagyab settlements show evidence of small-scale irrigation agriculture. About fifty settlements have been discovered. These contained subterranean rectangular houses, usually three per village. Tazabagyav houses are generally large, some being more than 10 x 10 m in dimensions. They are built of clay and the reeds are supported by timber posts. Ca. 100 individuals, belonging to around ten families, would have inhabited a Tazabagyav village. Figurines and remains of horses have been found.
In Tazabagyav burials, males are buried on their left, while females are buried on their right. This is similar to contemporary Indo-European cultures in the region, such as the Andronovo culture, Bishkent culture, the Swat culture and the Vakhsh culture, and the earlier Corded Ware culture of central and eastern Europe. This practice has been identified as a typical Indo-Iranian tradition.
Metal objects of the Tazabagyab culture are similar to those of the Andronovo culture in Kazakhstan, and of the Srubnaya culture further west. Archaeological evidence show that Tazabagyab settlements included metal-working craftsmen. Its ceramics were of the Namazga VI type which was common throughout Central Asia at the time. Tazabagyav pottery appears throughout a wide area.
The Tazabagyab people appears to have controlled the trade in minerals such as copper, tin and turquoise, and pastoral products such as horses, dairy and leather. This must have given them great political power in the old oasis towns of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex. Their mastery of chariot warfare must have given them military control. This probably encouraged social, political and also military integration.
David W. Anthony suggests that Tazabagyav culture might have been a predecessor of early Indo-Aryan peoples such as the compilers of the Rigveda and the Mitanni.

Sarianidi states that “direct archaeological data from Bactria and Margiana show without any shade of doubt that Andronovo tribes penetrated to a minimum extent into Bactria and Margianian oases”.[34]
“[M]assive broad-faced proto-Europoid type is a trait of post-Mariupol’ cultures, Sredniy Stog, as well as the Pit-grave culture of the Dnieper’s left bank, the Donets, and Don… During the period of the Timber-grave culture the population of the Ukraine was represented by the medium type between the dolichocephalous narrow-faced population of the Multi-roller Ware culture (Babino) and the more massive broad-faced population of the Timber-grave culture of the Volga region… The anthropological data confirm the existence of an impetus from the Volga region to the Ukraine in the formation of the Timber-grave culture. During the Belozerka stage the dolichocranial narrow-faced type became the prevalent one. A close affinity among the skulls of the Timber-grave, Belozerka, and Scythian cultures of the Pontic steppes, on the one hand, and of the same cultures of the forest-steppe region, on the other, has been shown… This proves the genetical continuity between the Iranian-speeking Scythian population and the previous Timber-grave culture population in the Ukraine… The heir of the Neolithic Dnieper-Donets and Sredniy Stog cultures was the Pit-grave culture. Its population possessed distinct Europoid features, was tall, with massive skulls… The tribes of the Abashevo culture appear in the forest-steppe zone, almost simultaneously with the Poltavka culture. The Abashevans are marked by dolichocephaly and narrow faces. This population had its roots in the Balanovo and Fatyanovo cultures on the Middle Volga, and in Central Europe… [T]he early Timber-grave culture (the Potapovka) population was the result of the mixing of different components. One type was massive, and its predecessor was the Pit-grave-Poltavka type. The second type was a dolichocephalous Europoid type genetically related to the Sintashta population… One more participant of the ethno-cultural processes in the steppes was that of the tribes of the Pokrovskiy type. They were dolichocephalous narrow-faced Europoids akin to the Abashevans and different from the Potapovkans… The majority of Timber-grave culture skulls are dolichocranic with middle-broad faces. They evidence the significant role of Pit-grave and Poltavka components in the Timber-grave culture population… One may assume a genetic connection between the populations of the Timber-grave culture of the Urals region and the Alakul’ culture of the Urals and West Kazakhstan belonging to a dolichocephalous narrow-face type with the population of the Sintashta culture… [T]he western part of the Andronovo culture population belongs to the dolichocranic type akin to that of the Timber-grave culture.[45]
“The Eurasian steppe nomadic Saka were not immigrants from the Near East but direct descendents of Andronovans, and the mixed character of the Indo-Iranian-speaking populations of Iran and India is the result of a new population spreading among aboriginals with whom a new language is probably to be associated. This conclusion is confirmed by the evidence of Indo-Iranian tradition. The Aryans in the Avesta are tall, light-skinned people with light hair; their women were light-eyed, with long, light tresses… In the Rigveda light skin alongside language is the main feature of the Aryans, differentiating them from the aboriginal Dáśa-Dasyu population who were a dark-skinned, small people speaking another language and who did not believe in the Vedic gods… Skin color was the basis of social division of the Vedic Aryans; their society was divided into social groups varṇa, literally ‘color’. The varṇas of Aryan priests (brāhmaṇa) and warriors (kṣatriyaḥ or rājanya) were opposed to the varṇas of the aboriginal Dáśa, called ‘black-skinned’…”[46]
“European Late Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures such as Corded Ware, Bell Beakers, Unetice, and the Scandinavian cultures are genetically very similar to each other… The close affinity we observe between peoples of Corded Ware and Sintashta cultures suggests similar genetic sources of the two… Among Bronze Age Europeans, the highest tolerance frequency was found in Corded Ware and the closely-related Scandinavian Bronze Age cultures… The Andronovo culture, which arose in Central Asia during the later Bronze Age, is genetically closely related to the Sintashta peoples, and clearly distinct from both Yamnaya and Afanasievo. Therefore, Andronovo represents a temporal and geographical extension of the Sintashta gene pool… There are many similarities between Sintasthta/Androvono rituals and those described in the Rig Veda and such similarities even extend as far as to the Nordic Bronze Age.”[48]
“We observed a main cluster of Sintashta individuals that was similar to Srubnaya, Potapovka, and Andronovo in being well modeled as a mixture of Yamnaya-related and Anatolian Neolithic (European agriculturalist-related) ancestry.”[50]
“Genetic analysis indicates that the individuals in our study classified as falling within the Andronovo complex are genetically similar to the main clusters of Potapovka, Sintashta, and Srubnaya in being well modeled as a mixture of Yamnaya-related and early European agriculturalist-related or Anatolian agriculturalist-related ancestry.”[50]
“Many of the samples from this group are individuals buried in association with artifacts of the Corded Ware, Srubnaya, Petrovka, Sintashta and Andronovo complexes, all of which harboreda mixture of Steppe_EMBA ancestry and ancestry from European Middle Neolithic agriculturalists (Europe_MN). This is consistent with previous findings showing that following westward movement of eastern European populations and mixture with local European agriculturalists, there was an eastward reflux back beyond the Urals.”[51]

Chust culture
The Chust culture is a late Bronze Age and early Iron Age culture which flourished in the Fergana Valley of eastern Uzbekistan from ca. 1500 BC to 900 BC. Settlements of the Chust culture varied in size between small dwelling sites to large settlements over 10 ha in size. Some sites occupy hilltop locations, while others indicate the presence of defensive structures. Domestic structures are not well known, was on occasion build of mud-brick.
Large pits appear frequently in Chust sites. These were probably intended for the storage of grain. Barley, wheat and particularly millet has been recovered, along with agricultural tools such as sickles and hoes.
Domestic animals that were part of the Chust culture include camels, asses, horses, cattle, sheep, goat and probably pig. Wild animals that appeared in their territories include onagers, gazelles and saiga antilope.
Chust pottery was hand-made. They created both bronze objects and later iron objects. Objects made of bronze include spearheads and knives. Chust burials were normally in pits at the edge of settlements. Such pits often included both human and animal remains. Sometimes they contain hoards of skills.
The stone knives and sickles of the Chust culture, and its painted pottery, is similar to that of contemporary cultures further east in Xinjiang. The human remains of the Chust culture are of the Europoid type. Its people are generally considered Iranian.
It has been suggested that they were part of an Iranian movement to the east, or perhaps a group of Iranians who were retreating westwards from Xinjiang. It is one of the earliest sedentary Iranian cultures.
Vakhsh culture
The Vakhsh culture is a late Bronze Age culture which flourished along the lower Vakhsh River in southern Tajikistan from ca. 1700 BC to 1500 BC. The Vakhsh culture seems to have appeared somewhat later than the Bishkent culture, with which is shares many similarities.
Evidence of settlements in the Vakhsh culture is scant. They made stone walls and mud-brick constructions. Houses on the site at Kangurt Tut in the Vaksh valley contained storage pits for grain and hearths. The grain storages had barley and wheat. Faunal remains have revealed dogs, deer, camels, donkeys, horses, sheep and goats.
The Vaksh culture is known chiefly for its burials. These were catacomb graves covered entirely over with a mound, and entrance shafts blocked by earth and stones. A quarter of the tombs was associated with the ritual of fire. Males were buried on their right side while females females were generally buried on their left. Both male and female remains were oriented to the north.
Graves sometimes served as cenotaphs. On occasion, clay figurines would replace the remains of the deceased. Vakhsh graves are typically poor in grave goods. 30 % of the vessels are wheel-thrown, while hand-made pottery predominated. This is typical of a pastoral society. Metal remains are scant, but include razor-like knives and mirrors. Arrowheads were made of bone and flint.
Vakhsh culture ceramics are a mixture of steppe wares and those ascribed to the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex. Some have interpreted this as a sign that the Vakhsh culture represented a mixture of settled agriculturalists and steppe populations originating in the north. Some have identified the Vakhsh culture as a southern extension of the Andronovo culture. Like the Bishkent culture, the Vakhsh culture has been linked with the southward migration of the Indo-Aryans.
Bishkent culture
The Bishkent culture or Beshkent culture is a late Bronze Age archaeological culture of southern Tajikistan, dating to c. 1700 – 1500 BC. It is primarily known from its cemeteries, which appear to have been used by mobile pastoralists. The Bishkent culture has been seen as a possible contributor to the Swat culture, which in turn is often associated with early Indo-Aryan movements into northwest India.
Gandhara grave culture
The Gandhara grave culture, also called Swat culture, emerged c. 1600 BC, and flourished c. 1500 BC to 500 BC in Gandhara, which lies in modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has been regarded as a token of the Indo-Aryan migrations, but has also been explained by local cultural continuity.
Relevant finds, artifacts found primarily in graves, were distributed along the banks of the Swat and Dir rivers in the north, Taxila in the southeast, along the Gomal River to the south. Simply made terracotta figurines were buried with the pottery, and other items are decorated with simple dot designs. Horse remains were found in at least one burial.
The Gandhara grave culture may be an artifact of the Indo-Aryan migrations, but it may also be explained by regional cultural continuity. The polished black-gray pottery of Gandhara grave culture during the Ghalegay IV period, considered to run from 1700-1400 BCE, has been associated with that of other BMAC sites like Dashly in Afghanistan, Tepe Hissar and Tureng Teppe. According to Asko Parpola, the presence of black-red pottery also suggests links with Cemetery H culture in Punjab. The burial of bodies, the metal pins used got fastening clothes and the terracotta statuettes of females, says Parpola, are similar to those found to the BMAC. The graves during the Ghalegay V period, considered to run from 1400-1000 BCE, are connected with those in Vakhsh and Beshkent Valley. Parpola adds that these graves represent a mix of the practices found in northern Bactrian portion of BMAC during the period of 1700-1400 BCE and the Fedorovo Andronovo culture.
According to Upinder Singh, the Gandhara grave culture is similar to the one in the Ghalegay caves during their V, VI and VII phases.[2] Rajesh Kochhar says it may be associated with early Indo-Aryan speakers as well as the Indo-Aryan migration into the Indian Subcontinent,[3] which came from the Bactria–Margiana region. According to Kochhar, the Indo-Aryan culture fused with indigenous elements of the remnants of the Indus Valley Civilization (OCP, Cemetery H) and gave rise to the Vedic Civilization.
Asko Parpola argues that the Gandhara grave culture is “by no means identical with the Bronze Age Culture of Bactria and Margiana”.[4] According to Tusa, the Gandhara grave culture and its new contributions are “in line with the cultural traditions of the previous period”.[5] According to Parpola, in the centuries preceding the Gandhara culture, during the Early Harappan period (roughly 3200–2600 BCE), similarities in pottery, seals, figurines, ornaments etc. document intensive caravan trade between the Indian Subcontinent and Central Asia and the Iranian plateau.[6] Tusa remarks that
… to attribute a historical value to […] the slender links with northwestern Iran and northern Afghanistan […] is a mistake[, since] it could well be the spread of particular objects and, as such, objects that could circulate more easily quite apart from any real contacts.
According to Kennedy, who argues for a local cultural continuity, the Gandhara grave culture people shared biological affinities with the population of Neolithic Mehrgarh. This suggests a “biological continuum” between the ancient populations of Timargarha and Mehrgarh.[7] This is contested by Elena E. Kuz’mina, who notes remains that are similar to some from Central Asian populations.
Antonini,[9] Stacul and other scholars argue that this culture is also not related to the Bishkent culture and Vakhsh culture of Tajikistan.[10] However, E. Kuz’mina argues the opposite on the basis of both archaeology and the human remains from the separate cultures.
Narasimhan et al. 2018 analyzed DNA of 362 ancient skeletons from Central and South Asia, including those from the Iron Age grave sites discovered in the Swat valley of Pakistan (between 1200 BCE and 1 CE from Aligrama, Barikot, Butkara, Katelai, Loe Banr, and Udegram). According to them, “there is no evidence that the main BMAC population contributed genetically to later South Asians”, and that “Indus Periphery-related people are the single most important source of ancestry” in Indus Valley Civilization and South Asia. They further state that the Swat valley grave DNA analysis provides further evidence of “connections between [Central Asian] Steppe population and early Vedic culture in India”.

Indo-Iranian Languages

The common proto-language of the Indo-Iranian languages is Proto-Indo-Iranian language, which has been reconstructed. The oldest attested Indo-Iranian languages are Vedic Sanskrit, Older and Younger Avestan and Old Persian (ancient Iranian languages). A few words from another Indo-Aryan language are attested in documents from the ancient Mitanni and Hittite kingdoms in the Near East.
Within the Indo-European family, Indo-Iranian belongs to the Satem group. Various proposals have been made that link the Indo-Iranian languages with other subgroups of Indo-European (like Graeco-Aryan, which posits a close relationship with Greek and Armenian), but these remain without wider acceptance.
The Indo-Iranian languages (Indo-Iranic languages), or Aryan languages constitute the largest and southeasternmost extant branch of the Indo-European language family. They have more than 1.5 billion speakers, stretching from Europe (Romani), Turkey (Kurdish and Zaza–Gorani) and the Caucasus (Ossetian) eastward to Xinjiang (Sarikoli) and Assam (Assamese), and south to Sri Lanka (Sinhala) and the Maldives (Maldivian). Furthermore, there are large communities of Indo-Iranian speakers in northwestern Europe (the United Kingdom), North America (United States and Canada), and Australia.
The common ancestor of all of the languages in this family is called Proto-Indo-Iranian—also known as Common Aryan—which was spoken in approximately the late 3rd millennium BC. The three branches of the modern Indo-Iranian languages are Indo-Aryan, Iranian, and Nuristani. A fourth independent branch, Dardic, was previously posited, but recent scholarship in general places Dardic languages as archaic members of the Indo-Aryan branch.
Proto-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Indo-Iranic is the reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Iranian/Indo-Iranic branch of Indo-European. Its speakers, the hypothetical Proto-Indo-Iranians, are assumed to have lived in the late 3rd millennium BC, and are often connected with the Sintashta culture of the Eurasian Steppe and the early Andronovo archaeological horizon.
Proto-Indo-Iranian was a satem language, likely removed less than a millennium from its ancestor, the late Proto-Indo-European language, and in turn removed less than a millennium from the Vedic Sanskrit of the Rigveda, its descendant. It is the ancestor of the Indo-Aryan languages, the Iranian languages, and the Nuristani languages.
Proto-Indo-Aryan (sometimes Proto-Indic) is the reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Aryan languages. It is intended to reconstruct the language of the pre-Vedic Indo-Aryans, the Proto-Indo-Aryans. It is descended from Proto-Indo-Iranian and thus from Proto-Indo-European. It is a Satem language.
Proto-Indo-Aryan is meant to be the predecessor of Old Indo-Aryan (1500–300 BCE) which is directly attested as Vedic and Classical Sanskrit, and Mitanni-Aryan. Indeed, Vedic Sanskrit is very close to Proto-Indo-Aryan. Some of the Prakrits display a few minor features derived from Proto-Indo-Aryan that had already disappeared in Vedic Sanskrit. Today, several Modern Indo-Aryan languages are extant.
Despite the great archaicity of Vedic, however, the other Indo-Aryan languages preserve a small number of archaic features lost in Vedic. One of these is the representation of Proto-Indo-European *l and *r. Vedic (as also most Iranic languages) merge both as /r/.
Later, however, some instances of Indo-European /l/ again surface in Classical Sanskrit, indicating that the contrast survived in an early Indo-Aryan dialect parallel to Vedic. (A dialect with only /l/ is additionally posited to underlie Magadhi Prakrit).
The common consonant cluster kṣ /kʂ/ of Vedic and later Sanskrit has a particularly wide range of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and Proto-Indo-Iranian (PII) sources, which partly remain distinct in later Indo-Aryan languages.
The Indo-Aryan or Indic languages are a major language family of South Asia. Modern Indo-Aryan languages are descended from Old Indo-Aryan languages such as early Sanskrit, through Middle Indo-Aryan languages (or Prakrits). There are well over 200 known Indo-Aryan languages.
In the early 21st century, Indo-Aryan languages were spoken by more than 800 million people, primarily in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Moreover, there are large immigrant and expatriate Indo-Aryan speaking communities in Northwestern Europe, Western Asia, North America and Australia.
Dates indicate only a rough time frame: Proto-Indo-Aryan (before 1500 BCE, reconstructed) consisting of Old Indo-Aryan (ca. 1500–300 BCE), e.g. early Old Indo-Aryan or Vedic Sanskrit (ca. 1500 to 500 BCE), late Old Indo-Aryan, e.g. Epic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit (ca. 200 CE to 1300 CE), and Mitanni Indo-Aryan (ca. 1400 BCE), which also have middle Indo-Aryan features.
Middle Indo-Aryan or Prakrits, (ca. 300 BCE to 1500 CE), consisting of Early Buddhist texts (ca. 6th or 5th century BCE), early Middle Indo-Aryan e.g. Ashokan Prakrits, Pali, Gandhari (ca. 300 to 200 BCE), middle Middle Indo-Aryan e.g. Dramatic Prakrits, Elu (ca. 200 BCE to 700 CE), and late Old Indo-Aryan e.g. Abahattha (ca. 700 to 1500 CE). Finally, we have Early Modern Indo-Aryan (Late Medieval India) e.g. early Dakhini and emergence of the Dehlavi dialect.
The earliest evidence of the group is from Vedic Sanskrit, that is used in the ancient preserved texts of the Indian subcontinent, the foundational canon of Hinduism known as the Vedas. The Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni is of similar age to the language of the Rigveda, but the only evidence of it is a few proper names and specialized loanwords. The only evidence of it is a few proper names and specialised loanwords.
From Vedic Sanskrit, “Sanskrit” (literally “put together”, “perfected” or “elaborated”) developed as the prestige language of culture, science and religion as well as the court, theatre, etc. Modern Sanskrit is a continuation of Classical Sanskrit and is largely mutually unintelligible with Vedic Sanskrit.
Mitanni inscriptions show some Middle Indo-Aryan characteristics along with Old Indo-Aryan, for example sapta in Old Indo-Aryan becomes satta (pt develops into Middle Indo-Aryan tt). According to S.S. Misra this language can be similar to Buddhist-hybrid Sanskrit which might not be a mixed language but an early middle Indo-Aryan occurring much before Prakrit.
Outside the learned sphere of Sanskrit, vernacular dialects (Prakrits) continued to evolve. The oldest attested Prakrits are the Buddhist and Jain canonical languages Pali and Ardhamagadhi Prakrit, respectively. By medieval times, the Prakrits had diversified into various Middle Indo-Aryan languages.
Apabhraṃśa is the conventional cover term for transitional dialects connecting late Middle Indo-Aryan with early Modern Indo-Aryan, spanning roughly the 6th to 13th centuries. Some of these dialects showed considerable literary production; the Śravakacāra of Devasena (dated to the 930s) is now considered to be the first Hindi book.
The next major milestone occurred with the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent in the 13th–16th centuries. Under the flourishing Turco-Mongol Mughal Empire, Persian became very influential as the language of prestige of the Islamic courts due to adoptation of the foreign language by the Mughal emperors.
However, Persian was soon displaced by Hindustani. This Indo-Aryan language is a combination with Persian, Arabic, and Turkic elements in its vocabulary, with the grammar of the local dialects. The two largest languages that formed from Apabhraṃśa were Bengali and Hindustani; others include Assamese, Sindhi, Gujarati, Odia, Marathi, and Punjabi.
In the Central Zone Hindi-speaking areas, for a long time the prestige dialect was Braj Bhasha, but this was replaced in the 19th century by Dehlavi-based Hindustani. Hindustani was strongly influenced by Persian, with these and later Sanskrit influence leading to the emergence of Modern Standard Hindi and Modern Standard Urdu as registers of the Hindustani language.
This state of affairs continued until the division of the British Indian Empire in 1947, when Hindi became the official language in India and Urdu became official in Pakistan. Despite the different script the fundamental grammar remains identical, the difference is more sociolinguistic than purely linguistic. Today it is widely understood/spoken as a second or third language throughout South Asia and one of the most widely known languages in the world in terms of number of speakers.
Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni exhibit an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggest that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrians in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion. In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni, the deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and the Ashvins (Nasatya) are invoked.
Kikkuli’s horse training text includes technical terms such as aika (cf. Sanskrit eka, “one”), tera (tri, “three”), panza (pancha, “five”), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, “nine”), vartana (vartana, “turn”, round in the horse race). The numeral aika “one” is of particular importance because it places the superstrate in the vicinity of Indo-Aryan proper as opposed to Indo-Iranian in general or early Iranian (which has aiva).
Another text has babru (babhru, “brown”), parita (palita, “grey”), and pinkara (pingala, “red”). Their chief festival was the celebration of the solstice (vishuva) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world. The Mitanni warriors were called marya, the term for “warrior” in Sanskrit as well; note mišta-nnu (= miẓḍha, ≈ Sanskrit mīḍha) “payment (for catching a fugitive)”.
Sanskritic interpretations of Mitanni royal names render Artashumara (artaššumara) as Ṛtasmara “who thinks of Ṛta”, Biridashva (biridašṷa, biriiašṷa) as Prītāśva “whose horse is dear”, Priyamazda (priiamazda) as Priyamedha “whose wisdom is dear”, Citrarata as Citraratha “whose chariot is shining”, Indaruda/Endaruta as Indrota “helped by Indra” (Mayrhofer I 134), Shativaza (šattiṷaza) as Sātivāja “winning the race price” (Mayrhofer II 540, 696), Šubandhu as Subandhu “having good relatives”, Tushratta (tṷišeratta, tušratta, etc.) as *tṷaiašaratha, Vedic Tvastar “whose chariot is vehement”.
The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European language family that are spoken natively by the Iranian peoples. The Iranian languages are grouped in three stages: Old Iranian (until 400 BC), Middle Iranian (400 BC – 900 AD), and New Iranian (since 900 AD).
The two directly attested Old Iranian languages are Old Persian (from the Achaemenid Empire) and Old Avestan (the language of the Avesta). Of the Middle Iranian languages, the better understood and recorded ones are Middle Persian (from the Sasanian Empire), Parthian (from the Parthian Empire), and Bactrian (from the Kushan and Hephthalite empires).
As of 2008, there were an estimated 150–200 million native speakers of the Iranian languages. Ethnologue estimates that there are 86 Iranian languages, the largest among them being Persian, Pashto, and the Kurdish languages.
The term Iranian is applied to any language which descends from the ancestral Proto-Iranian language. Proto-Iranian or Proto-Iranic is the reconstructed proto-language of the Iranian languages branch of Indo-European language family and thus the ancestor of the Iranian languages such as Pashto, Persian, Sogdian, Zazaki, Ossetian, Mazandarani, Kurdish, Talysh and others.
Proto-Iranian was a satem language descended from the Proto-Indo-Iranian language, which in turn, came from the Proto-Indo-European language. It was likely removed less than a millennium from the Avestan language, and less than two millennia from Proto-Indo-European. Its speakers, the hypothetical Proto-Iranians, are assumed to have lived in the 2nd millennium BC and are usually connected with the Andronovo archaeological horizon.
Skjærvø postulates that there were at least four dialects that initially developed out of Proto-Iranian, two of which are attested by texts: Old Northwest Iranian (unattested, ancestor of Ossetian), Old Northeast Iranian (unattested, ancestor of Middle Iranian Khotanese and modern Wakhi), Old Central Iranian (attested, includes Avestan and Median) and Old Southwest Iranian (attested, includes Old Persian, ancestor of modern Persian).
The term Old Iranian refers to the stage in Iranian history represented by the earliest written languages: Avestan and Old Persian. These two languages are usually considered to belong to different main branches of Iranian, and many of their similarities are found also in the other Iranian languages.
Regardless, there are many arguments to think that many of these Old Iranian features may not have occurred yet in Proto-Iranian, and they may have instead spread across an Old Iranian dialect continuum already separated in dialects.
Additionally, most Iranian languages cannot be derived from either attested Old Iranian language: numerous unwritten Old Iranian dialects must have existed, whose descendants surface in the written record only later.
Some scholars such as John Perry prefer the term Iranic as the anthropological name for the linguistic family and ethnic groups of this category (many of which exist outside Iran), while Iranian for anything about the country Iran. He uses the same analogue as in differentiating German from Germanic or differentiating Turkish and Turkic.
This use of the term for the Iranian language family was introduced in 1836 by Christian Lassen. Robert Needham Cust used the term Irano-Aryan in 1878, and Orientalists such as George Abraham Grierson and Max Müller contrasted Irano-Aryan (Iranian) and Indo-Aryan (Indic). Some recent scholarship, primarily in German, has revived this convention.
The Iranian languages are divided into the Western and the Eastern Iranian languages, where of the Western Iranian languages are subdivided into Southwestern, of which Persian is the dominant member, and Northwestern, of which the Kurdish languages are the dominant members, while the Eastern Iranian languages are subdivided into Southeastern, of which Pashto is the dominant member, and Northeastern, which is by far is the smallest branch, of which Ossetian is the dominant member.
The Iranian languages all descend from a common ancestor: Proto-Iranian which itself evolved from Proto-Indo-Iranian. This ancestor language is speculated to have origins in Central Asia, and the Andronovo Culture is suggested as a candidate for the common Indo-Iranian culture around 2000 BC.
It was situated precisely in the western part of Central Asia that borders present-day Russia (and present-day Kazakhstan). It was in relative proximity to the other satem ethno-linguistic groups of the Indo-European family, like Thracian, Balto-Slavic and others, and to common Indo-European’s original homeland (more precisely, the Eurasian Steppe to the north of the Caucasus), according to the reconstructed linguistic relationships of common Indo-European.
Proto-Iranian thus dates to some time after Proto-Indo-Iranian break-up, or the early second millennium BCE, as the Old Iranian languages began to break off and evolve separately as the various Iranian tribes migrated and settled in vast areas of southeastern Europe, the Iranian plateau, and Central Asia.
Proto-Iranian innovations compared to Proto-Indo-Iranian include: the turning of sibilant fricative *s into non-sibilant fricative glottal *h; the voiced aspirated plosives *bʰ, *dʰ, *gʰ yielding to the voiced unaspirated plosives *b, *d, *g resp.; the voiceless unaspirated stops *p, *t, *k before another consonant changing into fricatives *f, *θ, *x resp.; voiceless aspirated stops *pʰ, *tʰ, *kʰ turning into fricatives *f, *θ, *x, resp.
The multitude of Middle Iranian languages and peoples indicate that great linguistic diversity must have existed among the ancient speakers of Iranian languages. Of that variety of languages/dialects, direct evidence of only two have survived.
These are: Avestan, the two languages/dialects of the Avesta, i.e. the liturgical texts of Zoroastrianism, and Old Persian, the native language of a south-western Iranian people known as Persians.
Old Persian is the Old Iranian dialect as it was spoken in south-western Iran by the inhabitants of Parsa, who also gave their name to their region and language. Genuine Old Persian is best attested in one of the three languages of the Behistun inscription, composed circa 520 BC, and which is the last inscription (and only inscription of significant length) in which Old Persian is still grammatically correct.
Later inscriptions are comparatively brief, and typically simply copies of words and phrases from earlier ones, often with grammatical errors, which suggests that by the 4th century BC the transition from Old Persian to Middle Persian was already far advanced, but efforts were still being made to retain an “old” quality for official proclamations.
The other directly attested Old Iranian dialects are the two forms of Avestan, which take their name from their use in the Avesta, the liturgical texts of indigenous Iranian religion that now goes by the name of Zoroastrianism but in the Avesta itself is simply known as vohu daena (later: behdin).
The language of the Avesta is subdivided into two dialects, conventionally known as “Old (or ‘Gathic’) Avestan”, and “Younger Avestan”. These terms, which date to the 19th century, are slightly misleading since ‘Younger Avestan’ is not only much younger than ‘Old Avestan’, but also from a different geographic region. The Old Avestan dialect is very archaic, and at roughly the same stage of development as Rigvedic Sanskrit.
On the other hand, Younger Avestan is at about the same linguistic stage as Old Persian, but by virtue of its use as a sacred language retained its “old” characteristics long after the Old Iranian languages had yielded to their Middle Iranian stage.
Unlike Old Persian, which has Middle Persian as its known successor, Avestan has no clearly identifiable Middle Iranian stage (the effect of Middle Iranian is indistinguishable from effects due to other causes).
In addition to Old Persian and Avestan, which are the only directly attested Old Iranian languages, all Middle Iranian languages must have had a predecessor “Old Iranian” form of that language, and thus can all be said to have had an (at least hypothetical) “Old” form. Such hypothetical Old Iranian languages include Carduchian (the hypothetical predecessor to Kurdish) and Old Parthian.
Additionally, the existence of unattested languages can sometimes be inferred from the impact they had on neighbouring languages. Such transfer is known to have occurred for Old Persian, which has (what is called) a “Median” substrate in some of its vocabulary.
Also, foreign references to languages can also provide a hint to the existence of otherwise unattested languages, for example through toponyms/ethnonyms or in the recording of vocabulary, as Herodotus did for what he called “Scythian”.
Conventionally, Iranian languages are grouped in “western” and “eastern” branches. These terms have little meaning with respect to Old Avestan as that stage of the language may predate the settling of the Iranian peoples into western and eastern groups.
The geographic terms also have little meaning when applied to Younger Avestan since it isn’t known where that dialect (or dialects) was spoken either. Certain is only that Avestan (all forms) and Old Persian are distinct, and since Old Persian is “western”, and Avestan was not Old Persian, Avestan acquired a default assignment to “eastern”.
Confusing the issue is the introduction of a western Iranian substrate in later Avestan compositions and redactions undertaken at the centers of imperial power in western Iran (either in the south-west in Persia, or in the north-west in Nisa/Parthia and Ecbatana/Media).
Two of the earliest dialectal divisions among Iranian indeed happen to not follow the later division into Western and Eastern blocks. These concern the fate of the Proto-Indo-Iranian first-series palatal consonants, *ć and *dź. Avestan and most other Iranian languages have deaffricated and depalatalized these consonants, and have *ć > s, *dź > z. Old Persian, however, has fronted these consonants further: *ć > θ, *dź > *ð > d.
As a common intermediate stage, it is possible to reconstruct depalatalized affricates: *c, *dz. (This coincides with the state of affairs in the neighboring Nuristani languages.) A further complication however concerns the consonant clusters *ćw and *dźw.
Avestan and most other Iranian languages have shifted these clusters to sp, zb. In Old Persian, these clusters yield s, z, with loss of the glide *w, but without further fronting. The Saka language, attested in the Middle Iranian period, and its modern relative Wakhi fail to fit into either group: in these, palatalization remains, and similar glide loss as in Old Persian occurs: *ćw > š, *dźw > ž.
A division of Iranian languages in at least three groups during the Old Iranian period is thus implied: Persid (Old Persian and its descendants), Sakan (Saka, Wakhi, and their Old Iranian ancestor) and Central Iranian (all other Iranian languages).
It is possible that other distinct dialect groups were already in existence during this period. Good candidates are the hypothetical ancestor languages of Alanian/Scytho-Sarmatian subgroup of Scythian in the far northwest; and the hypothetical “Old Parthian” (the Old Iranian ancestor of Parthian) in the near northwest, where original *dw > *b (paralleling the development of *ćw).
What is known in Iranian linguistic history as the “Middle Iranian” era is thought to begin around the 4th century BCE lasting through the 9th century. Linguistically the Middle Iranian languages are conventionally classified into two main groups, Western and Eastern.
The Western family includes Parthian (Arsacid Pahlavi) and Middle Persian, while Bactrian, Sogdian, Khwarezmian, Saka, and Old Ossetic (Scytho-Sarmatian) fall under the Eastern category. The two languages of the Western group were linguistically very close to each other, but quite distinct from their eastern counterparts.
On the other hand, the Eastern group was an areal entity whose languages retained some similarity to Avestan. They were inscribed in various Aramaic-derived alphabets which had ultimately evolved from the Achaemenid Imperial Aramaic script, though Bactrian was written using an adapted Greek script.
Middle Persian (Pahlavi) was the official language under the Sasanian dynasty in Iran. It was in use from the 3rd century CE until the beginning of the 10th century. The script used for Middle Persian in this era underwent significant maturity.
Middle Persian, Parthian and Sogdian were also used as literary languages by the Manichaeans, whose texts also survive in various non-Iranian languages, from Latin to Chinese. Manichaean texts were written in a script closely akin to the Syriac script.
Following the Islamic Conquest of Persia, there were important changes in the role of the different dialects within the Persian Empire. The old prestige form of Middle Iranian, also known as Pahlavi, was replaced by a new standard dialect called Dari as the official language of the court.
The name Dari comes from the word darbâr, which refers to the royal court, where many of the poets, protagonists, and patrons of the literature flourished. The Saffarid dynasty in particular was the first in a line of many dynasties to officially adopt the new language in 875 CE.
Dari may have been heavily influenced by regional dialects of eastern Iran, whereas the earlier Pahlavi standard was based more on western dialects. This new prestige dialect became the basis of Standard New Persian.
Medieval Iranian scholars such as Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa (8th century) and Ibn al-Nadim (10th century) associated the term “Dari” with the eastern province of Khorasan, while they used the term “Pahlavi” to describe the dialects of the northwestern areas between Isfahan and Azerbaijan, and “Pârsi” (“Persian” proper) to describe the Dialects of Fars. They also noted that the unofficial language of the royalty itself was yet another dialect, “Khuzi”, associated with the western province of Khuzestan.
The Islamic conquest also brought with it the adoption of Arabic script for writing Persian and much later, Kurdish, Pashto and Balochi. All three were adapted to the writing by the addition of a few letters.
This development probably occurred some time during the second half of the 8th century, when the old middle Persian script began dwindling in usage. The Arabic script remains in use in contemporary modern Persian. Tajik script, used to write the Tajik language, was first Latinised in the 1920s under the then Soviet nationality policy. The script was however subsequently Cyrillicized in the 1930s by the Soviet government.
The geographical regions in which Iranian languages were spoken were pushed back in several areas by newly neighbouring languages. Arabic spread into some parts of Western Iran (Khuzestan), and Turkic languages spread through much of Central Asia, displacing various Iranian languages such as Sogdian and Bactrian in parts of what is today Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
In Eastern Europe, mostly comprising the territory of modern-day Ukraine, southern European Russia, and parts of the Balkans, the core region of the native Scythians, Sarmatians, and Alans had been decisively taken over as a result of absorption and assimilation (e.g. Slavicisation) by the various Proto-Slavic population of the region, by the 6th century AD.
This resulted in the displacement and extinction of the once predominant Scythian languages of the region. Sogdian’s close relative Yaghnobi barely survives in a small area of the Zarafshan valley east of Samarkand, and Saka as Ossetic in the Caucasus, which is the sole remnant of the once predominant Scythian languages in Eastern Europe proper and large parts of the North Caucasus. Various small Iranian languages in the Pamir Mountains survive that are derived from Eastern Iranian.

Eastern Iranian languages

The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times (from c. the 4th century BC). The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan. As opposed to the Middle Western Iranian dialects, the Middle Eastern Iranian preserves word-final syllables.
Most living Eastern Iranian languages are spoken in a contiguous area, in eastern Afghanistan as well as the adjacent parts of western Pakistan, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province of eastern Tajikistan, and the far west of Xinjiang region of China.
There are also two living members in widely separated areas: the Yaghnobi language of northwestern Tajikistan (descended from Sogdian), and the Ossetic language of the Caucasus (descended from Scytho-Sarmatian).
These are remnants of a vast ethno-linguistic continuum that stretched over most of Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and parts of the Caucasus, and West Asia in the 1st millennium BC, otherwise known as Scythia. The large Eastern Iranian continuum in Eastern Europe would continue up to including the 4th century AD, with the successors of the Scythians, namely the Sarmatians.
Eastern Iranian is thought to have separated from Western Iranian in the course of the later 2nd millennium BC, and was possibly located at the Yaz culture. With Greek presence in Central Asia, some of the easternmost of these languages were recorded in their Middle Iranian stage (hence the “Eastern” classification), while almost no records of the Scytho-Sarmatian continuum stretching from Kazakhstan west across the Pontic steppe to Ukraine have survived. Some authors find that the Eastern Iranian people had an influence on Russian folk culture.
Middle Persian/Dari spread around the Oxus River region, Afghanistan, and Khorasan after the Arab conquests and during Islamic-Arab rule. The replacement of the Pahlavi script with the Arabic script in order to write the Persian language was done by the Tahirids in 9th century Khorasan.
The Persian Dari language spread and led to the extinction of Eastern Iranic languages like Bactrian and Khorezmian, with only a tiny amount of Sogdian descended Yaghnobi speakers remaining among the now Persian speaking Tajik population of Central Asia, due to the fact that the Arab-Islamic army which invaded Central Asia also included some Persians who later governed the region like the Samanids. Persian was rooted into Central Asia by the Samanids.

Scythian cultures

Scythian cultures, also referred to as Scythic cultures, Scytho-Siberian cultures, Early Nomadic cultures, Scythian civilization, Scythian horizon, Scythian world or Scythian continuum, were a group of similar archaeological cultures which flourished across the entire Eurasian Steppe during the Iron Age from approximately the 9th century BC to the 2nd century AD. Among Greco-Roman writers, this region was known as Scythia.
The Scythian cultures are characterized by the Scythian triad, which are similar, yet not identical, styles of weapons, horses’ bridles and Scythian art. The question of how related these cultures were is disputed among scholars. Its peoples were of diverse origins, and included not just Scythians, from which the cultures are named, but other peoples as well, such as the Cimmerians, Massagetae, Saka, Sarmatians and obscure forest steppe populations. Mostly speakers of the Scythian branch of the Iranian languages, all of these peoples are sometimes collectively referred to as Scythians, Scytho-Siberians, Early Nomads or Iron Age Nomads.
Horseman from the Pazyryk burials, c.300 BC, one of the most famous archaeological discoveries from the Scythian cultures. Equestrianism is one of the chief characteristics of the Scythian cultures.
The Scythian cultures emerged on the Eurasian Steppe at the dawn of the Iron Age in the early 1st millennium BC. The origins of the Scythian cultures has long been a source of debate among archaeologists. The Pontic–Caspian steppe was initially thought to have been their place of origin, until the Soviet archaeologist Aleksey Terenozhkin suggested a Central Asian origin.
Recent excavations at Arzhan in Tuva, Russia have uncovered the earliest Scythian-style kurgan yet found. Similarly the earliest examples of the animal style art which would later characterize the Scythian cultures have been found near the upper Yenisei River and North China, dating to the 10th century BC. Based on these finds, it has been suggested that the Scythian cultures emerged at an early period in southern Siberia.
It is probably in this area the Scythian way of life initially developed. Recent genetic studies have however suggested an origin in the Srubnaya culture, or in the eastern Pontic–Caspian steppe and the southern Urals.
The Scythian cultures quickly came to stretch from the Pannonian Basin in the west to the Altai Mountains in the east. There were however significant cultural differences between east and west.
Over time they came in contact with other ancient civilizations, such as Assyria, Greece and Persia. In the late 1st millennium BC, peoples belonging to the Scythian cultures expanded into Iran (Sakastan), India (Indo-Scythians) and the Tarim Basin.
In the early centuries AD, the western Scythian cultures came under pressure from the Goths and other Germanic peoples. The end of the Scythian period in archaeology has been set at approximately the 2nd century AD.
Depiction of a Sarmatian from a Roman sarcopagus, 2nd century AD. Although a different people than the Scythians, the Sarmatians were part of the Scythian cultures.
The peoples of the Scythian cultures are mentioned by contemporary Persian and Greek historians. They were mostly speakers of Iranian languages.
Peoples associated with the Scythian cultures include speakers of the Scythian languages, such as Massagetae, Sarmatians, Saka and Scythians, and the Cimmerians. The peoples of the Forest steppe were also part of the Scythian cultures.
The origins of those peoples are obscure. There might have been early Slavs, Balts and Finno-Ugric peoples among them. The settled population in Scythian cultural areas also included Thracians. Despite belonging to similar material cultures, the peoples of the Scythian cultures belonged to many separate ethnic groups.
Among the diverse peoples of the Scythian cultures, the Scythians are the most famous, due to the reports on them published by the 5th century Greek historian Herodotus. The ancient Persians referred to all nomads of steppe as Saka. In modern times, term Scythians is sometimes applied to all the peoples associated with the Scythian cultures. Within this terminology it is often distinguished between “western” Scythians living on the Pontic–Caspian steppe, and “eastern” Scythians living on the Eastern Steppe.
The terms Saka or Sauromates, and Scytho-Siberians, is sometimes used for the “eastern” Scythians living in Central Asia and southern Siberia respectively. The term Scytho-Siberians has also been applied to all peoples associated with the Scythian cultures. The terms Early Nomads and Iron Age Nomads have also been used.
The ambiguity of the term Scythian has led to a lot of confusion in literature. Nicola Di Cosmo questions the validity of referring the cultures of all early Eurasian nomads as “Scythian”, and recommends the use of alternative terms such as Early Nomadic.
By ancient authors, the term “Scythian” eventually came to be applied to a wide range of peoples “who had no relation whatever to the original Scythians”, such as Huns, Goths, Türks, Avars, Khazars and other unnamed nomads.
Anthropological data has revealed that the people of the Scythian cultures were Europoid, although Mongoloid admixture is discernible on its eastern fringes. They were tall and powerfully built, even by modern standards. This was particularly the case for warriors and noblemen, who were often more than 6 ft (1.83 m) tall. Sometimes they exceeded 6 ft 3 in (1.90 m) in height, and males even exceeding 6 ft 6 in (2 m) have been uncovered. The ordinary people whom they dominated were of much smaller stature, averaging 4-6 in. (10-15 cm) below them in height. Skeletons of Scythian nobles differ from those of today by their longer arm and leg bones, and stronger bone formation. These physical characteristics affirm an Iranian origin.
Horse attacked by tiger, Ordos culture, 4th-1st century BCE. Scythian cultures are characteristic for their art, which was made in the animal style.
The Scythian cultures are characterized by similar, yet not identical, shapes for horses’ bridles, weapons, and art-types. Their art was made in the so-called animal style, and is referred to as Scythian art. The three characteristics are known as the Scythian trias.
In the beginning of the 18th century, Russian explorers began uncovering Scythian finds throughout their newly acquired territories. Significant Scythian archaeological finds have been uncovered up to recent times. A major find are the Pazyryk burials, which were discovered on the Ukok Plateau in the 1940s. The finds are notably for revealing the form of mummification practiced by the Scythians. Another important find is the Issyk kurgan.
The Scythians were excellent craftsmen with complex cultural traditions. Horse sacrifices are common in Scythian graves, and several of the sacrificed horses were evidently old and well-kept, indicating that the horse played a prominent role in Scythian society.
They played a prominent role in the network connecting ancient civilizations known as the Silk Road. The homogeneity of patrilineal lineages and diversity of matrineal lineages of samples from Scythian burial sites indicate that Scythian society was strongly patriarchal.
Numerous archaeological finds have revealed that the Scythians led a warlike life: the competition for territory must have been fierce. The numerous weapons placed in graves are indicative of a highly militarized society. Scythian warfare was primarily conducted through mounted archery. They were the first great power to perfect this tactic. The Scythians developed a new powerful type of bow known as the Scythian bow. Sometimes they would poison their arrows.
In a 2015 study published in Nature, the remains of an individual from Samara Oblast, Russia, dated ca. 380-200 BCE and ascribed to the Scythian cultures, was analyzed. The individual was found to belong to haplogroup R1a1a1b2a2a. This lineage is associated with earlier Srubnaya culture of the Pontic–Caspian steppe, which again traces its origin to the Yamnaya culture.
In 2017, a genetic study of various Scythian cultures was published in Nature Communications. The study suggested that the Scythian cultures on the Pontic-Caspian steppe and the Eastern Steppe emerged independently of each other, and were a mixture of Yamnaya culture-related and East Asian ancestry.
Much of this admixture probably happened during the earlier expansion of the Afanasievo culture and Andronovo culture onto the Eastern Steppe. The peoples of the areas of the Scythian cultures were more closely related to each other than modern populations in the same areas, and there appears to have been significant gene flow between them, mostly mitochondrial lineages from east to west.
It was suggested that the source of this gene flow may have contributed to the uniformity of the Scythian cultures. Modern populations with a close genetic relationship to the peoples of the Scythian cultures were found to be those living in close proximity to the remains examined, suggesting genetic continuity.
Another 2017 genetic study, published in Scientific Reports, reported similar results. It found and increasing number of east Eurasian mitochondrial lineages among the eastern Scythian cultures. The origins of presence of east Eurasian lineages in Scythian samples was explained as a result of admixture between migrants of European ancestry and women of east Eurasian origin. The authors of the study suggested that the Srubnaya culture was the source of the Scythian cultures of at least the Pontic steppe.
In 2018, a genetic study of the earlier Srubnaya culture, and later peoples of the Scythian cultures, such as Cimmerians, Scythians and Sarmatians, was published in Science Advances. While members of the Srubnaya culture were found to be carriers of haplogroup R1a1a1, which showed a major expansion during the Bronze Age, the Cimmerian, Scythian and Sarmatian samples examined were found to be mostly carriers of haplogroup R1b1a1a2, which is characteristic of the earlier Yamnaya culture, although one Sarmatian studied carried haplogroup R1a1a1.
Peoples of the Scythian cultures were also found to have a presence of east Eurasian mitochondrial lineages, which are completely absent among the Srubnaya. Groups of the Scythian cultures in the west showed close genetic affinities with the Afanasievo culture and the Andronovo culture, while groups in the east, such as those of the Aldy-Bel culture and Pazyryk culture, showed closer genetic affinities with the Yamnaya culture.
Genetic data found negligible evidence of any mobility among populations in the Far East, suggesting the eastern Pontic–Caspian steppe and the southern Urals as the main source of origin of the western Iron Age nomads.
Rather than being directly descended from the Srubnaya, the Scythian cultures probably had a shared origin in the Yamnaya culture. The study corroborated the contention that the peoples of the Scythian cultures did not consist of a single homogeneous group, but rather a number of diverse peoples with an earlier common origin.
In 2018, a study of mtDNA from remains of the Tagar culture, which is considered a Scythian culture, was published in PLOS One. Remains from the early years of the Tagar culture were found to be closely related to those of contemporary Scythians on the Pontic steppe.
The authors of the study suggested that the source of this genetic similarity was an eastwards migration of West Eurasians during the Bronze Age, which probably played a role in the formation of the Tagar culture.
In 2019, a genetic study of remains from the Aldy-Bel culture, which is considered a Scythian culture, was published in Human Genetics. The majority of the samples (9 out of 17) were found to be carriers of haplogroup R1a, including two carriers of haplogroup R1a1a1b2-Z93. East Asian admixture was also detected, as 6 haplogroup Q-L54 (including 5 in Sagly culture) and 1 haplogroup N-M231 were excavated.
The haplogroup of the remaining 1 sample is said to be uncertain in the paper Probably R). (The significant genetic differences found between Scythian groups of the Pontic Steppe and South Siberia suggest that these were of completely different paternal origins, with almost no paternal gene flowe between them.
In 2019, a genetic study of various peoples belonging to the Scythian cultures, such as Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians and Saka, was published in Current Biology. The remains of all groups were mostly found to be carriers of haplogroup R1a and various subclades of it. Haplogroup Q samples(2/Y-DNA identified 16) were also found. The samples were found to be more closely related to modern-day Europeans than Central Asian or Siberian populations.

The Scythians

The historical appearance of the Iranic equestrian Scythians coincided with the rise of equestrian semi-nomadism from the Carpathian Mountains of Europe to Mongolia in the Far East during the 1st millennium BC.
The “classical Scythians” known to ancient Greek historians were located in the northern Black Sea and fore-Caucasus region, and their territories during the Iron Age were known to classical Greek sources as “Scythia”.
However, other Scythian groups encountered in Near Eastern and Achaemenid sources existed in Central Asia. Moreover, the term “Scythian” is also used by modern scholars in an archaeological context, i.e. any region perceived to display attributes of the “Scytho-Siberian” culture.
Large burial mounds (some over 20 metres high), provide the most valuable archaeological remains associated with the Scythians. They dot the Eurasian steppe belt, from Mongolia to Balkans, through Ukrainian and south Russian steppes, extending in great chains for many kilometers along ridges and watersheds.
From them archaeologists have learned much about Scythian life and art. Some Scythian tombs reveal traces of Greek, Chinese, and Indian craftsmanship, suggesting a process of Hellenization, Sinification, and other local influences among the Scythians.
Kurgan barrows were characteristic of Bronze Age peoples, from the Altay Mountains to the Caucasus, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. The Ipatovo kurga, a cemetery of kurgan burial mounds, located near the town of Ipatovo in Stavropol Krai, Russia, some 120 kilometers (75 mi) northeast of Stavropol, revealed a long sequence of burials from the Maykop culture c. 4000 BC down to the burial of a Sarmatian princess of the 3rd century BC, excavated 1998–99.
Modern interpretation of historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence has proposed two broad hypotheses when it comes to the origin of the Scythians. The first, formerly more espoused view by Soviet-era researchers, roughly followed Herodotus’ (third) account, stating that the Scythians were an Iranian group who arrived from Inner Asia, i.e. from the area of Turkestan and western Siberia.
An alternative view explains the origin of the Scythian cultural complex to have emerged from local groups of the “Timber Grave” (or Srubna) culture (although this is also associated with the Cimmerians). This second theory is supported by anthropological evidence which has found that Scythian skulls are similar to preceding findings from the Timber Grave culture, and distinct from those of the Central Asian Sacae.
Others have further stressed that “Scythian” was a very broad term used by both ancient and modern scholars to describe a whole host of otherwise unrelated peoples sharing only certain similarities in lifestyle (nomadism), cultural practices and language. The 1st millennium BC ushered a period of unprecedented cultural and economic connectivity amongst disparate and wide-ranging communities.
A mobile, broadly similar lifestyle would have facilitated contacts amongst disparate ethnic groupings along the expansive Eurasian steppe from the Danube to Manchuria, leading to many cultural similarities. From the viewpoint of Greek and Persian ancient observers, they were all lumped together under the etic category “Scythians”.
Accounts by Herodotus of Scythian origins has been discounted recently; although his accounts of Scythian raiding activities contemporary to his writings have been deemed more reliable. Moreover, the term Scythian, like Cimmerian, was used to refer to a variety of groups from the Black Sea to southern Siberia and central Asia.
“They were not a specific people”, but rather variety of peoples “referred to at variety of times in history, and in several places, none of which was their original homeland”. The Bible includes a single reference to Scythians in Colossians 3:11, immediately after mentioning barbarian, possibly as an extreme example of a barbarian.
Early physical analyses have unanimously concluded that the Scythians, even those in the east (e.g. the Pazyryk region), possessed predominantly “Europioid” features, although mixed ‘Euro-mogoloid” phenotypes also occur, depending on site and period.
Numerous ancient mitochondrial DNA samples have now been recovered from Bronze and Iron Age communities in the Eurasian steppe and Siberian forest zone, the putative ‘ancestors’ of the historical Scythians. Compared to Y-DNA, mtDNA is easier to extract and amplify from ancient specimens due to numerous copies of mtDNA per cell.
The earliest studies could only analyze segments of mtDNA, thus providing only broad correlations of affinity to modern ‘west Eurasian’ or ‘East Eurasian’ populations. For example, a 2002 study, the mitochondrial DNA of Saka period male and female skeletal remains from a double inhumation kurgan at the Beral site in Kazakhstan was analysed. The two individuals were found to be not closely related. The HV1 mitochondrial sequence of the male was similar to the Anderson sequence which is most frequent in European populations. On the other hand the HV1 sequence of the female suggested a greater likelihood of Asian origins.
More recent studies have been able to type for specific mtDNA lineages. For example a 2004 study studied the HV1 sequence obtained from a male “Scytho-Siberian” at the Kizil site in the Altai Republic. It belonged to the N1a maternal lineage, a geographically “west Eurasian lineage” Another study by the same team, again from two Scytho-Siberian skeletons found in the Altai Republic, were phenotypically males “of mixed Euro-Mongoloid origin”. One of the individuals was found to carry the F2a maternal lineage, and the other the D lineage, both of which are characteristic of “East Eurasian” populations.
These early studies have been eloborated by an increasing number of studies by Russian scholars. Conclusions which might be drawn thus far, from an mtDNA persepctive, are (i) an early, Bronze Age mixture of both west and east Eurasian lineages, with western lineages being found far to the East, but not vice-versa; (ii) an apparent reversal by Iron Age times, with increasing presence of East Eurasian lineages in the western steppe; (iii) the possible role of migrations from the sedentary south: the Balkano-Danubian and Iranian regions toward the steppe.
Ancient Y-DNA data was finally provided by Keyser et al in 2009. They studied the haplotypes and haplogroups of 26 ancient human specimens from the Krasnoyarsk area in Siberia were dated from between the middle of the 2nd millennium BC and the 4th century AD (Scythian and Sarmatian timeframe). Nearly all subjects belong to haplogroup R-M17.
The authors suggest that their data shows that between Bronze and Iron Ages the constellation of populations known variously as Scythians, Andronovians, etc. were blue- (or green-) eyed, fair-skinned and light-haired people who might have played a role in the early development of the Tarim Basin civilization.
Moreover, this study found that they were genetically more closely related to modern populations of eastern Europe than those of central and southern Asia. The ubiquity and utter dominance of R1a Y-DNA lineage contrasts markedly with the diversity seen in the mtDNA profiles.
However, this comparison was made on the basis of STRs. Since the 2009 study by Keyser et al, population and geographic specific SNPs have been discovered which can accurately distinguish between “European” R1a (M458, Z 280) and “South Asian” R1a (Z93)(Pamjav 2012.
Re-analyzing ancient Scytho-Siberian samples for these more specific subclades will further elucidate if the Eurasian steppe populations have an ultimate Eastern European or South Asian origin, or perhaps, both.
This, in turn, might also depend on which population is studied, i.e. Herodotus’ European “classical’ Scythians, the Central Asian Sakae or un-named nomadic groups in the far east (Altai region) who also bore a ‘Scythian” cultural tradition.

Scythian languages

The Scythian languages are a group of Eastern Iranian languages of the classical and late antique period (the Middle Iranian period), spoken in a vast region of Eurasia named Scythia. Except for modern Ossetian, which descends from the Alanian variety, these languages are all considered to be extinct.
Modern Eastern Iranian languages such as Wakhi, however, are related to the eastern Scytho-Khotanese dialects attested from the kingdoms of Khotan and Tumshuq in the ancient Tarim Basin, in present-day southern Xinjiang, China.
The location and extent of Scythia varied by time, but generally it encompassed the part of Eastern Europe east of the Vistula river and much of Central Asia up to the Tarim Basin. Its speakers were part of the wider Scythian cultures, which included Massagetae, Saka, Sarmatians, Scythians and others.
The dominant ethnic groups among the Scythian-speakers were nomadic pastoralists of Central Asia and the Pontic-Caspian steppe. Fragments of their speech known from inscriptions and words quoted in ancient authors as well as analysis of their names indicate that it was an Indo-European language, more specifically from the Iranian group of Indo-Iranian languages.
Alexander Lubotsky summarizes the known linguistic landscape as follows: “Unfortunately, we know next to nothing about the Scythian of that period [Old Iranian] – we have only a couple of personal and tribal names in Greek and Persian sources at our disposal – and cannot even determine with any degree of certainty whether it was a single language”.
They disappeared from history after the Hunnish invasion of Europe in the 5th century AD, and Turkic (Avar, Batsange, etc.) and Slavic peoples probably assimilated most people speaking Scythian.
However, in the Caucasus, the Ossetian language belonging to the Scythian linguistic continuum remains in use today, while in Central Asia, some languages belonging to Eastern Iranian group are still spoken, namely Pashto, Pamir languages and Yaghnobi.
The primary sources for Scythian words remain the Scythian toponyms, tribal names, and numerous personal names in the ancient Greek texts and in the Greek inscriptions found in the Greek colonies on the Northern Black Sea Coast. These names suggest that the Sarmatian language had close similarities to modern Ossetian.
Mayrhofer (apud Lincoln) assigned Iranian etymologies for Scythian names transcribed by Herodotus: e.g. Ταργιτάος Targitaos from Old Iranian *darga-tavah- and meaning “he whose strength is long-lasting.”
Some scholars believe that many toponyms and hydronyms of the Russian and Ukrainian steppe have Scythian links. For example, Vasmer associates the name of the river Don with an assumed/reconstructed unattested Scythian word *dānu “water, river”, and with Avestan dānu-, Pashto dand and Ossetian don. The river names Don, Donets, Dnieper, Danube, and Dniester, and lake Donuzlav (the deepest one in Crimea) may also belong with the same word-group.
The Alanian language as spoken by the Alans from about the 5th to the 11th centuries AD formed a dialect directly descended from the earlier Scytho-Sarmatian languages, and forming in its turn the ancestor of the Ossetian language. Byzantine Greek authors recorded only a few fragments of this language.

Saka

The Saka, Śaka, Shaka or Sacae were a group of nomadic Iranian peoples who historically inhabited the northern and eastern Eurasian Steppe and the Tarim Basin. Though closely related, the Sakas are to be distinguished from the Scythians of the Pontic Steppe and the Massagetae of the Aral Sea region, although they form part of the wider Scythian cultures.
Like the Scythians, the Sakas were ultimately derived from the earlier Andronovo culture. Their language formed part of the Scythian languages. Prominent archaeological remains of the Sakas include Arzhan, Tunnug, the Pazyryk burials, the Issyk kurgan, Saka Kurgan tombs, the Barrows of Tasmola and possibly Tillya Tepe.
In the 2nd century BC, many Sakas were driven by the Yuezhi from the steppe into Sogdia and Bactria and then to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, where they were known as the Indo-Scythians.
Other Sakas invaded the Parthian Empire, eventually settling in Sistan, while others may have migrated to the Dian Kingdom in Yunnan, China. In the Tarim Basin and Taklamakan Desert region of Northwest China, they settled in Khotan, Yarkand, Kashgar and other places, which were at various times vassals to greater powers, such as Han China and Tang China.
The Sakas were a group of Iranic peoples who spoke a language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. French historian René Grousset wrote that they formed a particular branch of the “Scytho-Sarmatian family” originating from nomadic Iranian peoples of the northwestern steppe in Eurasia.
Like the Scythians of the Pontic Steppe, to whom they were related, the Saka were racially Europoid and ultimately traced their origin to the Andronovo culture. The Pazyryk burials of the Pazyryk culture in the Ukok Plateau in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC are thought to be of Saka chieftains. These burials show striking similarities with the earlier Tarim mummies at Gumugou.
The Issyk kurgan of south-eastern Kazakhstan, and the Ordos culture of the Ordos  Plateau as also been connected with the Saka.It has been suggested that the ruling elite of the Xiongnu was of Saka origin. Some scholars contend that in the 8th century BC, a Saka raid on Altai may be “connected” with a raid on Zhou China.
The region in modern Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Saka moved to became known as “land of the Saka” or Sakastan. This is attested in a contemporary Kharosthi inscription found on the Mathura lion capital belonging to the Saka kingdom of the Indo-Scythians (200 BC – 400 AD) in northern India, roughly the same time the Chinese record that the Saka had invaded and settled the country of Jibin (i.e. Kashmir, of modern-day India and Pakistan).
In the Persian language of contemporary Iran the territory of Drangiana was called Sakastāna, in Armenian as Sakastan, with similar equivalents in Pahlavi, Greek, Sogdian, Syriac, Arabic, and the Middle Persian tongue used in Turfan, Xinjiang, China. The Sakas also captured Gandhara and Taxila, and migrated to North India. The most famous Indo-Scythian king was Maues. An Indo-Scythians kingdom was established in Mathura (200 BC – 400 AD).
Weer Rajendra Rishi, an Indian linguist, identified linguistic affinities between Indian and Central Asian languages, which further lends credence to the possibility of historical Sakan influence in North India. According to historian Michael Mitchiner, the Abhira tribe were a Saka people cited in the Gunda inscription of the Western Satrap Rudrasimha I dated to 181 CE.
The Pazyryk culture flourished between the 7th and 3rd century BC in the area associated with the Sacae, a Scythian tribe or group of tribes of Iranian origin. B. N. Mukerjee has said that it is clear that ancient Greek and Roman scholars believed, all Sakai were Scythians, but not all Scythians were Sakai.
Modern confusion about the identity of the Saka is partly due to the Persians. According to Herodotus, the Persians called all Scythians by the name Sakas. Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, AD 23–79) provides a more detailed explanation, stating that the Persians gave the name Sakai to the Scythian tribes “nearest to them”.
The Scythians to the far north of Assyria were also called the Saka suni “Saka or Scythian sons” by the Persians. The Assyrians of the time of Esarhaddon record campaigning against a people they called in the Akkadian the Ashkuza or Ishhuza. Hugo Winckler was the first to associate them with the Scyths which identification remains without serious question.
They were closely associated with the Gimirrai, who were the Cimmerians known to the ancient Greeks. Confusion arose because they were known to the Persians as Saka, however they were known to the Babylonians as Gimirrai, and both expressions are used synonymously on the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 515 BC on the order of Darius the Great.
These Scythians were mainly interested in settling in the kingdom of Urartu, which later became Armenia. The district of Shacusen, Uti Province, reflects their name. In ancient Hebrew texts, the Ashkuz (Ashkenaz) are considered to be a direct offshoot from the Gimirri (Gomer).
Pliny also mentions Aseni and Asoi clans south of the Hindukush. Bucephala was the capital of the Aseni which stood on the Hydaspes (the Jhelum River). The Sarauceans and Aseni are the Sacarauls and Asioi of Strabo.
Asio, Asi/Asii, Asva/Aswa, Ari-aspi, Aspasios, Aspasii (or Hippasii) are possibly variant names the classical writers have given to the horse-clans of the Kambojas. The Old-Persian words for horse, “asa” and “aspa, have most likely been derived from this.”
If one accepts this connection, then the Tukharas (= Rishikas = Yuezhi) controlled the eastern parts of Bactria (Chinese Ta-hia) while the combined forces of the Sakarauloi, Asio (horse people = Parama Kambojas) and Pasinoi of Strabo occupied its western parts after being displaced from their original home in the Fergana valley by the Yuezhi.
Ta-hia (Daxia) is then taken to mean the Tushara Kingdom which also included Badakshan, Chitral, Kafirstan and Wakhan According to other scholars, it were the Saka hordes alone who had put an end to the Greek kingdom of Bactria.
The language of the original Saka tribes is unknown. The only record from their early history is the Issyk inscription, a short fragment on a silver cup found in the Issyk kurgan. (Eastern) Saka or Sakan is a variety of Eastern Iranian languages. It is a Middle Iranian language.
The inscription is in a variant of the Kharoṣṭhī script, and is probably in a Saka dialect, constituting one of very few autochthonous epigraphic traces of that language. Harmatta (1999) identifies the language as Khotanese Saka, tentatively translating “The vessel should hold wine of grapes, added cooked food, so much, to the mortal, then added cooked fresh butter on”.
The only known remnants of what is nowadays called the Saka language is Khotanese Saka language of the ancient Buddhist kingdoms of Khotan and Tumshuq in the Tarim Basin, in what in now southern Xinjiang, China, which was ruled by the Saka. The language there is widely divergent from the rest of Iranian belongs to the Eastern Iranian group. It also is divided into two divergent dialects. The two kingdoms differed in dialect, their speech known as Khotanese and Tumshuqese. Both dialects share features with modern Wakhi and Pashto, but both of the Saka dialects contain many borrowings from the Middle Indo-Aryan Prakrit. Many Prakrit terms were borrowed from Khotanese into the Tocharian languages.
Tumshuqese was more archaic than Khotanese, but it is much less understood because it appears in fewer manuscripts compared to Khotanese. According to the LINGUIST List, Khotanese and Tumshuqese are distinct Eastern Iranian languages. Khotanese is classified under the Southeastern Iranian family. Tumshuqese is classified as a “Sakan-Tumshuqese” language under the “Sogdian-Khotanese” subgroup, which in turn belongs to the Scythian branch of the Northeastern Iranian group of languages.
The two known dialects of Saka are associated with a movement of Scythian people. No invasion of the region is recorded in Chinese records and one theory is that two tribes of Saka, speaking the dialects, settled in the region in about 200 BC before the Chinese accounts commence.

Sogdia

Sogdia or Sogdiana was an ancient Iranian civilization that at different times included territory located in present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, such as Samarkand, Bukhara, Khujand, Panjikent, and Shahrisabz.
Centuries before the conquest of Sogdiana by the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, Sogdiana possessed a Bronze Age urban culture that was gradually displaced by the Indo-European migrations of the Iron Age. This large-scale migration included Eastern Iranian speaking peoples such as the Sogdians.
The original Bronze Age towns appear in the archaeological record beginning with the settlement at Sarazm, Tajikistan, spanning as far back as the 4th millennium BC and then at Kök Tepe, near modern-day Bulungur, Uzbekistan, from at least the 15th century BC.
Sogdiana was also a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great (i. 16). In the Avesta, Sogdiana is listed as the second best land that the supreme deity Ahura Mazda had created. It comes second, after Airyanem Vaejah, “homeland of the Aryans”, in the Zoroastrian book of Vendidad, indicating the importance of this region from ancient times.
Sogdiana was first conquered by Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. The region would then be annexed by the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great in 328 BC. The region would continue to change hands under the Seleucid Empire, Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Kushan Empire, Hephthalite Empire, and Sasanian Empire.
The Sogdian states, although never politically united, were centred on the main city of Samarkand. Sogdiana lay north of Bactria, east of Khwarezm, and southeast of Kangju between the Oxus (Amu Darya) and the Jaxartes (Syr Darya), embracing the fertile valley of the Zeravshan (ancient Polytimetus).
Sogdian territory corresponds to the modern provinces of Samarkand and Bokhara in modern Uzbekistan as well as the Sughd province of modern Tajikistan. During the High Middle Ages, Sogdian cities included sites stretching towards Issyk Kul such as that at the archeological site of Suyab.
Sogdians also lived in Imperial China and rose to special prominence in the military and government of the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–907 AD). Sogdian merchants and diplomats traveled as far west as the Byzantine Empire.
They played an important part as middlemen in the trade route of the Silk Road. While originally following the faiths of Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Buddhism and, to a lesser extent, Nestorian Christianity from West Asia.
Their language, Sogdian, a Northeastern group of the Iranian languages spoken in the Central Asian region of Sogdia located in modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and by some Sogdian immigrant communities in ancient China. It was one of the most important Middle Iranian languages, along with Bactrian, Khotanese Saka, Middle Persian, and Parthian. It possesses a large literary corpus.
Like Khotanese, Sogdian possesses a more conservative grammar and morphology than Middle Persian. No direct evidence of an earlier version of the language (“Old Sogdian”) has been found, although mention of the area in the Old Persian inscriptions means that a separate and recognisable Sogdia existed at least since the Achaemenid Empire (559–323 BCE).
It was widely spoken in Central Asia as the Silk Road’s lingua franca during Tang China (ca. 7th century CE), and even served as one of the Turkic Khaganate’s court languages for writing documents. The economic and political importance of Sogdian guaranteed its survival in the first few centuries after the Muslim conquest of Sogdia in the early eighth century. 
The gradual conversion to Islam among the Sogdians and their descendants began with the Muslim conquest of Transoxiana in the 8th century. The Sogdian conversion to Islam was virtually complete by the end of the Samanid Empire in 999, coinciding with the decline of the Sogdian language, as it was largely supplanted by Persian.
Sogdian is no longer a spoken language, but a dialect of Sogdian spoken around the 8th century in Osrushana, a region to the south of Sogdia, developed into the modern Eastern Iranian language Yaghnobi language still spoken by the Yaghnobis of Tajikistan, which is the descendant of a dialect of Sogdian spoken around the 8th century in Osrushana, a region to the south of Sogdia.
Oswald Szemerényi devotes a thorough discussion to the etymologies of ancient ethnic words for the Scythians in his work Four Old Iranian Ethnic Names: Scythian – Skudra – Sogdian – Saka. In it, the names provided by the Greek historian Herodotus and the names of his title, except Saka, as well as many other words for “Scythian,” such as Assyrian Aškuz and Greek Skuthēs, descend from *skeud-, an ancient Indo-European root meaning “propel, shoot” (cf. English shoot).
*skud- is the zero-grade; that is, a variant in which the -e- is not present. The restored Scythian name is *Skuda (archer), which among the Pontic or Royal Scythians became *Skula, in which the d has been regularly replaced by an l. According to Szemerényi, Sogdiana was named from the Skuda form.
Starting from the names of the province given in Old Persian inscriptions, Sugda and Suguda, and the knowledge derived from Middle Sogdian that Old Persian -gd- applied to Sogdian was pronounced as voiced fricatives, -γδ-, Szemerényi arrives at *Suγδa as an Old Sogdian endonym.
Applying sound changes apparent in other Sogdian words and inherent in Indo-European he traces the development of *Suγδa from Skuda, “archer,” as follows: Skuda > *Sukuda by anaptyxis > *Sukuδa > *Sukδa (syncope) > *Suγδa (assimilation).

Chernoles culture

Chernoles culture or Black Forest culture is an Iron Age archaeological unit dating ca. 1025–700 BC. It was located in the forest-steppe between the Dniester and Dnieper Rivers, in the Black Forest of Kirovohrad Oblast in central Ukraine. This location corresponds to where Herodotus later placed his Scythian ploughmen. From 200 BC, the culture was overrun by the arrival of Germanic and Celtic settlers to the region.
Chernolesian settlements include open sites and also fortified sites surrounded by multiple banks and ditches. Houses were usually surface-dwellings and of substantial size, ~ 10 x 6 m. Artifacts found in settlements include stone and bronze axes, weapons, bronze ornaments, and iron tools.
Cultivated wheat, barley, and millet were staples. The economy was agricultural, with stockbreeding. Bronze artefacts indicate significant contact with Scythian nomads, and finds of finer ceramic wares suggest contact with Thrace and Black Sea Greek colonies. Inhabitants practised biritual burials: inhumation under barrows and cremation in urnfields (the latter predominated in later periods).
Classical Chernoles period finished c. 500 BC, corresponding to a simplification in the material culture, interpreted to represent a pauperization due to the political domination of the forest-steppe communities by Scythians.
In these latter stages, we see an increase in fortified settlements, perhaps representing a defensive measure against the nomads (with earthen ramparts, ditches and timber walls). Despite the difficulties, settlement density actually increases, and the socio-cultural traditions continued.

Pazyryk culture

The Pazyryk culture is a Scythian nomadic Iron Age archaeological culture (ca. 6th to 3rd centuries BC) identified by excavated artifacts and mummified humans found in the in the Siberian permafrost in the Altay Mountains, Kazakhstan and nearby Mongolia. The mummies are buried in long barrows (or kurgans) similar to the tomb mounds of Scythian culture in Ukraine.
The type site are the Pazyryk burials in the Pazyryk Valley of the Ukok Plateau in the Altai Mountains, Siberia, south of the modern city of Novosibirsk, Russia; the site is close to the borders with China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.  Numerous comparable burials have been found in neighboring western Mongolia.
Archaeologists have extrapolated the Pazyryk culture from these finds: five large burial mounds and several smaller ones between 1925 and 1949, one opened in 1947 by Russian archaeologist Sergei Rudenko. The burial mounds concealed chambers of larch-logs covered over with large cairns of boulders and stones.
Ordinary Pazyryk graves contain only common utensils, but in one, among other treasures, archaeologists found the famous Pazyryk Carpet, the oldest surviving wool-pile oriental rug. Another striking find, a 3-metre-high four-wheel funerary chariot, survived superbly preserved from the 5th century BC.
The mummies are buried in long barrows (or “kurgans”) similar to the tomb mounds of western Scythian culture in modern Ukraine. In fact, some of the first Bronze Age Scythian burials documented by modern archaeologists include the kurgans at Pazyryk in the Ulagan (Red) district of the Altai Republic, south of Novosibirsk in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia (near Mongolia).
Other undisturbed kurgans have been found to contain remarkably well-preserved remains, comparable to the earlier Tarim mummies of Xinjiang. Bodies were preserved using mummification techniques and were also naturally frozen in solid ice from water seeping into the tombs.
They were encased in coffins made from hollowed trunks of larch (which may have had sacral significance) and sometimes accompanied by sacrificed concubines and horses. The clustering of tombs in a single area implies that it had particular ritual significance for these people, who were likely to have been willing to transport their deceased leaders great distances for burial.
Many artifacts and human remains have been found at this location, including the Siberian Ice Princess, indicating a flourishing culture at this location that benefited from the many trade routes and caravans of merchants passing through the area. The Pazyryk are considered to have had a war-like life.
Other kurgan cemeteries associated with the culture include those of Bashadar, Tuekta, Ulandryk, Polosmak and Berel. There are so far no known sites of settlements associated with the burials, suggesting a purely nomadic lifestyle.
The tombs are Scythian-type kurgans, barrow-like tomb mounds containing wooden chambers covered over by large cairns of boulders and stones, dated to the 4th – 3rd centuries BCE.
The spectacular burials at Pazyryk are responsible for the introduction of the term kurgan, a Russian word of Turkic origin, into general usage to describe these tombs. The region of the Pazyryk kurgans is considered the type site of the wider Pazyryk culture. The site is included in the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The bearers of the Pazyryk culture were horse-riding pastoral nomads of the steppe, and some may have accumulated great wealth through horse trading with merchants in Persia, India and China.
Trading routes between Central Asia, China and the Near East passed through the oases on the plateau and these ancient Altai nomads profited from the rich trade and culture passing through. There is evidence that Pazyryk trade routes were vast and connected with large areas of Asia including India, perhaps Pazyryk merchants largely trading in high quality horses.
This wealth is evident in the wide array of finds from the Pazyryk tombs, which include many rare examples of organic objects such as felt hangings, Chinese silk, the earliest known pile carpet, horses decked out in elaborate trappings, and wooden furniture and other household goods. These finds were preserved when water seeped into the tombs in antiquity and froze, encasing the burial goods in ice, which remained frozen in the permafrost until the time of their excavation.
The Pazyryk culture has been connected to the Scythians, Iranic equestrian tribes who were mentioned as inhabiting large areas in the central Eurasian steppes starting with the 7th century BC up until the 4th century AD, whose similar tombs have been found across the steppes. The Siberian animal style tattooing is characteristic of the Scythians.
It has been suggested that Pazyryk was a homeland for these tribes before they migrated west. There is also the possibility that the current inhabitants of the Altai region are descendants of the Pazyryk culture, a continuity that would accord with current ethnic politics: Archaeogenetics is now being used to study the Pazyryk mummies.
Craniological studies of samples from the Pazyryk burials revealed the presence of both Mongoloid and Caucasoid components in this population. quoting G. F. Debets on the physical characteristics of the population in the Pazyryk kurgans, records a mixed population. The men would seem to be part Mongoloid and the women Europoid.
Because of a freak climatic freeze, some of the Altai burials, notably those of the 5th century BC at Pazyryk and neighbouring sites, such as Katanda, Shibe, and Tuekt, were isolated from external climatic variations by a protective layer of ice that conserved the organic substances buried in them.
At Pazyryk these included the bodies of horses and an embalmed man whose body was covered with tattoos of animal motifs. The remarkable textiles recovered from the Pazyryk burials include the oldest woollen knotted-pile carpet known, the oldest embroidered Chinese silk, and two pieces of woven Persian fabric. Red and ochre predominate in the carpet, the main design of which is of riders, stags, and griffins.
Many of the Pazyryk felt hangings, saddlecloths, and cushions were covered with elaborate designs executed in appliqué feltwork, dyed furs, and embroidery. Of exceptional interest are those with animal and human figural compositions, the most notable of which are the repeat design of an investiture scene on a felt hanging and that of a semihuman, semibird creature on another (both in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). Clothing, whether of felt, leather, or fur, was also lavishly ornamented.
Horse reins either had animal designs cut out on them or were studded with wooden ones covered in gold foil. Their tail sheaths were ornamented, as were their headpieces and breastpieces. Some horses were provided with leather or felt masks made to resemble animals, with stag antlers or rams’ horns often incorporated in them.
Many of the trappings took the form of iron, bronze, and gilt wood animal motifs either applied or suspended from them; and bits had animal-shaped terminal ornaments. Altai-Sayan animals frequently display muscles delineated with dot and comma markings, a formal convention that may have derived from appliqué needlework.
Such markings are sometimes included in Assyrian, Achaemenian, and even Urartian animal representations of the ancient Middle East. Roundels containing a dot serve the same purpose on the stag and other animal renderings executed by contemporary Śaka metalworkers. Animal processions of the Assyro-Achaemenian type also appealed to many Central Asian tribesmen and are featured in their arts.
Certain geometric designs and sun symbols, such as the circle and rosette, recur at Pazyryk but are completely outnumbered by animal motifs. The stag and its relatives figure as prominently as in Altai-Sayan. Combat scenes between carnivores and herbivores are exceedingly numerous in Pazyryk work; the Pazyryk beasts are locked in such bitter fights that the victim’s hindquarters become inverted.
DNA samples recovered from the remains of Pazyryk males showed them to be belonged to clades of haplogroup R1a1. with only two Pazyryk males were members of Y-chromosome haplogroup N1b-P43. In the related cultures such as Aldy-Bel culture and Sagly culture of the Altai region, haplogroup Q-L54 samples(6/17) were also found in kurgans.

Arisk migrasjon

Indo-Aryan migration

Out of India Theory

Aryan invasion theory

Indigenous Aryan Theory

Indo-Iranians

Indo-Aryans

Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni

Rigvedic tribes

Indigenous Aryans

Genetics and archaeogenetics of South Asia

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Map of Indo-Iranian migrations and the spread of Indo-Iranian languages

Kart over indo-iranske migrasjoner

Indo-ariere

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Topographic map of Tamil Nadu

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History of India

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Iranere

Andronovo culture

Sintashta

Medes

Persians

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Skytere:

BosnalkansAlans

BosnalkansAlans





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Språk

Indo-Iranian languages

Indo-Aryan languages

Proto-Indo-Iranian

Old Persian

Nuristani

Indo-Aryan

Substratum in Vedic Sanskrit

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Begreper

Arya

Aryan

Ariana

Aryavarta

Religion – Indo-arisk

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Hinduism

Buddism

History of Buddhism in India

Jainism

Ājīvika

Mahabharata

Ramayana

Puranas

Brahmin

Indra

Rigveda

The Arctic Home in the Vedas

Soma

Fire

Religion – Iran

Avestan

Zoroaster

Zarathustra

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