Iran II


Abashevo Culture
Poltavka culture
Potapovka culture
Srubnaya culture
Sintashta culture
Andronovo culture
Tazabagyab culture
Chust culture
Vakhsh culture
Bishkent culture
Gandhara grave culture
Pazyryk culture
The Scythians
The Cimmerians


In the Pontic-Caspian steppe, Chalcolithic cultures develop in the second half of the 5th millennium BC, small communities in permanent settlements which began to engage in agricultural practices as well as herding. Around this time, some of these communities began the domestication of the horse.
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 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 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 (or gers) – tents made of hides and wood that could be disassembled and transported. Each group had several yurts, each accommodating about five people.
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.
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-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.
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-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, and 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). 
The ancestry of modern Central Asian populations is significantly derived from the Indo-Iranian and Turkic expansions. Most modern populations can be aligned with either Indo-Iranian or Turkic descent, with ancestry corresponding well with ethnic boundaries. Mongoloid (East Asian) admixture was found to correlate inversely with Alu deletion at the CD4 locus.
Archaeogenetic studies on the remains from Iron Age Pazyryk culture burials suggest that after the end of the Indo-Iranian (Scythian) expansion, beginning in c. the 7th century BC, there was a gradual east-to-west influx of East Eurasian admixture to the Western steppes.
Populations of farmers and nomadic pastoralists 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 descent (Y-chromosome) compared to farmers.

Middle Dnieper culture

The Middle Dnieper culture (ca. 3200—2300 BC) is an eastern extension of the Corded Ware culture, which 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. It 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. It also shows genetic affinity with the later Sintashta culture, where the Proto-Indo-Iranian language may have originated.
As the name indicates, the Middle Dnieper culture was centered on the middle reach of the Dnieper River and is contemporaneous with the latter phase and then a successor to the Indo-European Yamnaya culture, as well as to the latter phase of the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture, also known as the Tripolye culture, a Neolithic–Eneolithic archaeological culture (c. 5500 to 2750 BC) 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 Globular Amphora Culture preceded the Corded Ware culture in its central area. Somewhat to the south and west, it was bordered by the Baden culture, a Chalcolithic culture found in Central and Southeast Europe. To the northeast was the Neolithic Narva culture (c. 5300 to 1750 BC), found in present-day Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kaliningrad Oblast (former East Prussia), and adjacent portions of Poland, Belarus and Russia.
The Globular Amphora Culture occupied much of the same area as the earlier Funnel(-neck-)beaker culture, in short TRB or TBK (4300 BC–c. 2800 BC), an archaeological culture in north-central Europe.
The Funnelbeaker culture developed as a technological merger of local neolithic and mesolithic techno-complexes between the lower Elbe and middle Vistula rivers, introducing farming and husbandry as a major source of food to the pottery-using hunter-gatherers north of this line.
It was preceded by Lengyel-influenced Stroke-ornamented ware culture (STK) groups/Late Lengyel and Baden-Boleráz in the southeast, Rössen groups in the southwest and the Ertebølle-Ellerbek groups in the north.
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 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.
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.

Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture

The Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture ended about 1,900 BC. Its peoples were almost certainly Indo-Europeans, perhaps speaking an early form of Balto-Slavic. It emerged at the northeastern edge of the Middle Dnieper culture around 2,800 BC, and was probably derived from an early variant of this culture. 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.
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, RSFSR. The 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
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 )
← Dnipro-Donetsk
← Kelteminar
→ Maryanovskaya →
mesh ceramics →
asbestos ceramics →
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
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.
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 .
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.
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]
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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]
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.


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 (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”.


Though closely related, the Sakas, a group of Iranic peoples who spoke a language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages, 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 racially Europoid and 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.
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.
They formed a particular branch of the “Scytho-Sarmatian family” originating from nomadic Iranian peoples of the northwestern steppe in Eurasia. 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. 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.
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.

Pazyryk culture

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.

Pazyryk culture

The Pazyryk culture is an Iron Age archaeological culture (ca. 6th to 3rd centuries BC) identified by excavated artifacts and mummified humans found in the Siberian permafrost in the Altay Mountains and nearby Mongolia.
The type site are the Pazyryk burials, a number of Iron Age tombs found in the Siberian permafrost in the 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.
The Pazyryk burials are a number of Iron Age tombs found 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.
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.(State Hermitage Museum 2007) 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.

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.
The Scythians
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.
During the Iron Age, Scythian cultures emerged among the Eurasian nomads, which was characterized by a distinct Scythian art. Scythia was a loose state or federation covering most of the steppe that originated as early as 8th century BC, composed mainly of people speaking Iranian languages, and usually regarded as the first of the nomad empires.
The Roman army hired Sarmatians as elite cavalrymen. Europe was exposed to several waves of invasions by horse people, including the Cimmerians in the 8th century BCE, various peoples during the Migration period, the Magyars in the Early Middle Ages, the Mongols and Seljuks in the High Middle Ages, the Kalmuks and the Kyrgyz and later the Kazakhs up to modern times.

The Cimmerians

Cimmerian is the first invasion of equestrian steppe nomads that is known from historical sources. Their military strength was always based on cavalry, usually marked by prowess as mounted archers. Kurgan is a general term for steppe burial mounds, which sometimes contained very elaborate burials.
The Cimmerians (also Kimmerians)  were a nomadic Indo-European people, who appeared about 1000 BC and are mentioned later in 8th century BC in Assyrian records. While the Cimmerians were often described by contemporaries as culturally “Scythian”, they evidently differed ethnically from the Scythians proper, who also displaced and replaced the Cimmerians.
Probably originating in the Pontic steppe, the Cimmerians subsequently migrated both into Western Europe and to the south, by way of the Caucasus. Some of them likely comprised a force that, c. 714 BC, invaded Urartu, a state subject to the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
This foray was defeated by Assyrian forces under Sargon II in 705, after which the same, southern branch of Cimmerians turned west towards Anatolia and conquered Phrygia in 696/5.
They reached the height of their power in 652 after taking Sardis, the capital of Lydia; however an invasion of Assyrian-controlled Anshan was thwarted. Soon after 619, Alyattes of Lydia defeated them. There are no further mentions of them in historical sources, but it is likely that they settled in Cappadocia.


Kart – 1200-tallet f.vt.

Det mediske imperium

Kyrus den store


Bisotun innskriften




Aleksander den store





Irak – Iran

Marjane Satrapi – Persiapolis






Medernes imperium



















Den iranske revolusjon

Den islamske republikk Iran

Naqsh-e Rustam:

king Valerineandshapour-vi

king naghshe_roastaml

File:20101229 Naqsh e Rostam Shiraz Iran more Panoramic.jpg

Det mediske imperium:

File:Median Empire.jpg

Kyrus den store:


File:Cyrus II le Grand et les Hébreux.jpg

File:Illustrerad Verldshistoria band I Ill 058.jpg

king cyor

File:Kroisos stake Louvre G197.jpg

File:Pasargades cyrus cropped.jpg

Pasargadae – graven til Kyrus den store


File:Cyrus Cylinder front.jpg

king kourosh_tablet

king cyrus-cylinder-text

File:Cyrus cylinder Mesopotamia.svg

Bisotun innskriften:


Darius I den store:

Fight Of King Darius the great & devil - Tehran, Tehran

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map Darius_relief

File:Map Greco-Persian Wars-en.svg

File:The tomb of Darius I.jpg


File:Sonnenuntergang in Perspolis.jpg

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File:Tachar Persepolis Iran.JPG

File:Nowruz Zoroastrian.jpg


File:20101229 Top panoramic view of Persepolis Iran.jpg

File:Persepolis The Persian Soldiers.jpg


File:Persepolis stairs of the Apadana relief.jpg

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File:Persepolis recreated.jpg

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Aleksander den store:




The Persian Sassanid Empire 226-651 AD

A rock relief at Naqsh-e Rostam, depicting the triumph of
Shapur I over the Roman Emperor Valerian, and Philip the Arabian

The Persian Sassanid and Eastern Roman Empires 531-565

map IranCrowd6

map IranCrowd5

map WomanFaravaharArtist


Scene fra den persiske mytologien Apadana – Angra Mainyu dreper uroksen, viss sæd blir reddet av Mah, månen,
som en kilde for alle de andre dyrene.


Irak – Iran:

iran maps-irn


Marjane Satrapi – Persiapolis:

map Persepolis-Satrapi-creation

map persepolis


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