Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Archive for January, 2013

The Women’s Dance I: Southern Asia

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 16, 2013

So busy, i haven’t posted for months, but here’s a recent photo essay from the Suppressed Histories Archives Facebook page.  To avoid confusion: descriptions and commentary appear under each image. Enjoy… —Max Dashu Women’s circle dance in bronze age rock art from Zerovschan, Tajikistan, with numinous quadrant in center. They appear to be wearing skirts, […]

So busy, i haven’t posted for months, but here’s a recent photo essay from the Suppressed Histories Archives Facebook page.  To avoid confusion: descriptions and commentary appear under each image. Enjoy…

—Max Dashu

Zerovschan, Tajikistan, Central Asia

Women’s circle dance in bronze age rock art from Zerovschan, Tajikistan, with numinous quadrant in center. They appear to be wearing skirts, but the dot between the legs is a very common female sign, or the dot in vulva which may also figure  here.

Iran, site unknown

This is really tiny, grabbed off the web with no info at all, but also from neolithic Iran, and it speaks. The zag patterns around the are also found in Turkmenistan and Iraq in the same late neolithic timeframe.

In Syria, too: left, Halaf; right, Sabi Abyad. More tall headdresses! Both of these sites were important cultural centers in 6000-5000 bce, with their own characteristic styles of ceramic female icons. The Halafian style spread widely in the mid-6th millennium, peacefully, by diffusion from village to village, not centralized trade. Women making their own images, in clearly recognizable styles that still varied from region to region.  The importance of this international neolithic pattern has not been widely recognized, yet; but someday i’ll find color photos of this cultural testimony.

Samarra, Iraq, circa 5000 bce

A classic from Samarra, Iraq, circa 5000 bce. This neolithic town created a long line of splendid painted ceramics and female figurines (which start back in the pre-pottery era, so old is the tradition there). Here women stand in the quadrants, their hair whirling in the Four Winds, circled by a ring of scorpions. Scorpion Goddess is common in ancient Iraq and Iran as well as Egypt — Serqet, the companion of Auset (Isis) — and also known in Central America.

Harappa, Indus River, Pakistan

The women dancing with streaming hair, this time from Harappa, Pakistan. Also neolithic. As in Iraq and Iran, women in the Indus foothill villages painted many pots showing their ceremonial dances. But here, and also in Iran, the ibex and mountain goat are common themes. A Goddess connected with these animals is still revered by the Kalasha who keep alive very ancient forms of culture of this region.

Kulli, Pakistan, before 3000 bce

The Women’s Dance from Kulli, Pakistan. This image was so commonly repeated that it became highly abstracted into a few strokes over time. Artists emphasized the flowing hair and dynamic movement of the Round Dance, still performed by women in the Punjab and among Adivasi (Aboriginal) women in India. These ancient ceramic paintings, fragmentary as they are, speak of a deep history of neolithic village women that has been obscured and overlaid by so many layers that few ever know that it exists.

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Oldest Preserved Human Brain found in Armenia

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 10, 2013

A human brian was found in an Areni cave in the Armenian province of Vayotz Dzor what is believed to be the world’s oldest human brain, Professor of California University, co-chair of the group conducting excavations in Areni cave, Grigori Areshyan, told reporters in Yerevan Wednesday.

He said the DNA taken from the 6000-year-old human brain is being studied in many laboratories worldwide, including the US and the Netherlands, and the results will become clear late in 2011.

“We are conducting research to find the Armenian gene. First we should get the result of the genotype, and it should still be long studied,” he said.

Grigori Areshyan highlighted: “As long as the research has not finished, we haven’t informed foreign media about the finding. The world’s oldest human brain was found in Areni cave in September, 2008.”

Oldest Preserved Human Brain found in Armenia

Armenian Cave Yields Ancient Human Brain

Armenia: Archeologists Say They’ve Found Remains of World’s Oldest Human Brain

Armenian Cave Yields Oldest Known Leather Shoe

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AGT – Ancient Heritage in the BTC-SCP Pipeline Corridor: Azerbaijan – Georgia – Turkey

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 10, 2013

AGT: Ancient Heritage in the BTC-SCP Pipeline Corridor: Azerbaijan - Georgia - TurkeyAGT – Ancient Heritage in the BTC-SCP Pipeline Corridor: Azerbaijan – Georgia – Turkey

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The Chronology of the Caucasus during the Early Metal Age: Observations from Central Trans-Caucasus

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 10, 2013


Was the Garden of Eden located in Eastern Turkey in the Early Bronze Age?

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Present day spread of the Indo-European language group

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 10, 2013

The Spread of Indo-European Languages

The quest for the origins of the Indo-Europeans has all the fascination of an electric light in the open air on a summer night: it attracts every species of scholar or would-be savant who can take pen to hand. For over 200 years, theories have been put forward advocating ages ranging from 4000 to 23,000 years, with hypothesized homelands including Central Europe, the Balkans, and even India. Unfortunately, archaeological, genetic and linguistic research on Indo-European origins has so far proved inconclusive.

In early historical times, Indo-European languages were present in central and northern Europe, southeastern Europe, and much of southern and southwest Asia. Scholars have long theorized about what pre-historic events might have caused this group to become so widespread.

In the late 1700s, William Jones an English judge serving in India, discovered something startling; that Sanskrit possesses striking similarities to Greek, Latin, and Celtic. He theorized that they all sprang from a common source, an even more ancient language that had since become extinct.

Since Jones’ time, linguists have verified and greatly expanded on his discovery. Languages that fall into this Indo-European classification include Romance languages, Germanic languages, including of course English, Balto-Slavic, Indo-Iranian and Celtic, plus extinct languages such as Tocharian, spoken in parts of China, and Hittite, spoken in Asia Minor. It’s a huge and incredibly diverse group that derives from the speech of one ancient and forgotten people. The questions remain of who they were, when they lived, and where they came from.

Indo-European Origins and Geography

Present day spread of the Indo-European language group

Understanding Indo-European origins

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The start of metal-working

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 10, 2013

The spread of copper smelting

The start of metal-working

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The European Mesolithisation of a Caucasian Neolithic, or the Origin of the Indo European Language family

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 10, 2013

Genetic distance maps presented by Haak et al. (2010) that show affinities between modern populations and Neolithic LBK samples. Peak values in the Caucasian region are notable and indicative of a Caucasian origin.

The European Mesolithisation of a Caucasian Neolithic, or the Origin of the Indo European Language family

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Early transcaucasian cultures and their neighbors

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 7, 2013

Early transcaucasian cultures and their neighbors

Migration and re-settlement

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The beginnings of farming and the Silk Road

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 7, 2013

The beginnings of farming and the Silk Road

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Indo-European People

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 7, 2013

File:Corded Ware culture.png

File:Andronovo culture.png

File:Indo-Iranian origins.png

File:Scythia-Parthia 100 BC.png

File:Indoarische Sprachen Gruppen.png

Haplogroup R1b

There have been a huge variety of ideas of the location of the first speakers of Proto-Indo-European, few of which have survived scrutiny by academic specialists in Indo-European studies sufficiently well to be included in modern academic debate.

The Kurgan hypothesis, currently the most widely held theory, is based on linguistic, archaeological, and genetic evidence, but is not universally accepted. It suggests PIE origin in the Pontic-Caspian steppe during the Chalcolithic.

The leading propagator of the Kurgan hypothesis, a name taken from the kurgans (burial mounds) of the Eurasian steppes, is Marija Gimbutas. The hypothesis is that the Indo-Europeans were a nomadic tribe of the Pontic-Caspian steppe (now Eastern Ukraine and Southern Russia) and expanded in several waves during the 3rd millennium BC.

Their expansion coincided with the taming of the horse. Leaving archaeological signs of their presence (see battle-axe people), they subjugated the peaceful European Neolithic farmers of Gimbutas’ Old Europe.

As Gimbutas’ beliefs evolved, she put increasing emphasis on the patriarchal, patrilinear nature of the invading culture, sharply contrasting it with the supposedly egalitarian, if not matrilinear culture of the invaded, to a point of formulating essentially feminist archaeology.

A modified form of this theory by JP Mallory, dating the migrations earlier to around 3500 BC and putting less insistence on their violent or quasi-military nature, remains the most widely held view of the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat.

A minority of scholars prefers the Anatolian hypothesis, suggesting origin in Anatolia during the Neolithic. The hypothesis is that the Indo-European languages spread peacefully into Europe from Asia Minor from around 7000 BC with the advance of farming (wave of advance). The leading propagator of the theory is Colin Renfrew.

The culture of the Indo-Europeans as inferred by linguistic reconstruction contradicts this theory, since early Neolithic cultures had neither the horse, nor the wheel, nor metal, terms for all of which are securely reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European.

Renfrew dismisses this argument, comparing such reconstructions to the presence of the word “café” in all modern Romance languages not necessarily implying that the Ancient Romans had them too.

Another counter-argument is the fact that ancient Anatolia is known to have been inhabited by non-Indo-European people, namely the Hattians, Khalib/Karub, and Khaldi/Kardi; though this does not preclude the possibility that the earliest Indo-European speakers may have been there too.

Using stochastic models of word evolution to study the presence or absence of different words across Indo-European languages, Gray and Atkinson suggest that the origin of Indo-European goes back about 8500 years, the first split being that of Hittite from the rest, supporting the Indo-Hittite hypothesis.

They attempt to avoid one problem associated with traditional glottochronology – that of linguistic borrowing. However they inherit the main problems of glottochronology, including the lack of proof that languages have a steady rate of lexical replacement. Their calculations rely entirely on Swadesh lists, and while the results are quite robust for well attested branches, their crucial calculation of the age of Hittite rests on a 200–word Swadesh list of one single language.

A more recent paper analyzing 24 mostly ancient languages, including three Anatolian languages, produced the same time estimates and early Anatolian split. These claims are still controversial, however, and most traditional linguists consider these methods too inaccurate to prove the Anatolian hypothesis.

The accumulation of Archaeogenetic evidence which uses genetic analysis to trace migration patterns since the 1990s has also added new elements to the puzzle. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Alberto Piazza argue that Renfrew and Gimbutas reinforce rather than contradict each other. Cavalli-Sforza (2000) states that “It is clear that, genetically speaking, peoples of the Kurgan steppe descended at least in part from people of the Middle Eastern Neolithic who immigrated there from Turkey.” Piazza & Cavalli-Sforza (2006) state that:

«if the expansions began at 9,500 years ago from Anatolia and at 6,000 years ago from the Yamna culture region, then a 3,500-year period elapsed during their migration to the Volga-Don region from Anatolia, probably through the Balkans. There a completely new, mostly pastoral culture developed under the stimulus of an environment unfavorable to standard agriculture, but offering new attractive possibilities. Our hypothesis is, therefore, that Indo-European languages derived from a secondary expansion from the Yamna culture region after the Neolithic farmers, possibly coming from Anatolia and settled there, developing pastoral nomadism.»

Wells (2002) states that “there is nothing to contradict this model, although the genetic patterns do not provide clear support either,” and instead argues that the evidence is much stronger for Gimbutas’ model:

«while we see substantial genetic and archaeological evidence for an Indo-European migration originating in the southern Russian steppes, there is little evidence for a similarly massive Indo-European migration from the Middle East to Europe. One possibility is that, as a much earlier migration (8,000 years old, as opposed to 4,000), the genetic signals carried by Indo-European-speaking farmers may simply have dispersed over the years. There is clearly some genetic evidence for migration from the Middle East, as Cavalli-Sforza and his colleagues showed, but the signal is not strong enough for us to trace the distribution of Neolithic languages throughout the entirety of Indo-European-speaking Europe.»

Haplogroup R1a probably branched off from R1* around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (19,000 to 26,000 years before present). Little is know for certain about its place of origin. Some think it might have originated in the Balkans or around Pakistan and Northwest India, due to the greater genetic diversity found in these regions. The diversity can be explained by other factors though.

The Balkans have been subject to 5000 years of migrations from the Eurasian Steppes, each bringing new varieties of R1a. South Asia has had a much bigger population than any other parts of the world (occasionally equalled by China) for at least 10,000 years, and larger population bring about more genetic diversity. The most likely place of origin of R1a is Central Asia or southern Russia/Siberia.

The Proto-Indo-Europeans originated in the Yamna culture (3300-2500 BCE). R1a is thought to have been the dominant haplogroup among the northern and eastern Proto-Indo-European language speakers, that evolved into the Indo-Iranian, Thracian, Baltic and Slavic branches.

Their expansion is linked to an early adoption of bronze weapons, the domestication of the horse in the Eurasian steppes and the invention of the chariot. The southern Steppe culture is believed to have carried predominantly R1b1b lineages, while the northern Forest-Steppe culture would have been essentially R1a-dominant.

The first expansion of the Forest-Steppe people occured with the Corded Ware Culture. The migration of the R1b people to Central and Western Europe left a vacuum for R1a people in the southern steppe around the time of the Catacomb culture (2800-2200 BCE).

The Forest-Steppe origin of this culture is obvious from the introduction of corded pottery and the abundant use of polished battle axes, the two most prominent features of the Corded Ware culture.

This is also probably when the satemisation process of the Indo-European languages began since the Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian language groups belong to the same Satem isogloss and both appear to have evolved from the the Catacomb culture.

The Yamna culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) in the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas. It is one candidate for the Urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language, along with the preceding Sredny Stog culture, now that archaeological evidence of the culture and its migrations has been closely tied to the evidence from linguistics and Andronovo aDNA.

Pavel Dolukhanov argues that the emergence of the Pit-Grave culture represents a social development of various local Bronze Age cultures, representing “an expression of social stratification and the emergence of chiefdom-type nomadic social structures”, which in turn intensified inter-group contacts between essentially heterogeneous social groups.

It is said to have originated in the middle Volga based Khvalynsk culture and the middle Dnieper based Sredny Stog culture. In its western range, it is succeeded by the Catacomb culture; in the east, by the Poltavka culture and the Srubna culture.

The Catacomb culture, ca. 2800-2200 BC, refers to an early Bronze Age culture occupying essentially what is present-day Ukraine. It is seen more as a term covering several smaller related archaeological cultures.

The name Catacomb culture comes from its burial practices. These are similar to those of the Yamna culture, but with a hollowed-out space off the main shaft, creating the ‘catacomb’. Animal remains were incorporated into a small minority of graves.

In certain graves there was the distinctive practice of what amounts to modelling a clay mask over the deceased’s face, creating an obvious if not necessarily correct association to the famous gold funeral mask of Agamemnon. The Mask of Agamemnon is an artifact discovered at Mycenae in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann.

Tashtyk culture was an archaeological culture that flourished in the Yenisei valley in Siberia from the first to the fourth century CE, perhaps equivalent to the Yenisei Kirghiz. Located in the Minusinsk Depression, environs of modern Krasnoyarsk, eastern part of Kemerovo Oblast, it was preceded by Tagar culture.

Tashtyk settlements and hill-forts have been unearthed throughout the Yenisei region, particularly the Sayan canyon area. Their most imposing monuments were immense barrows-crypt structures; these have yielded large quantities of clay and metal vessels and ornaments. In addition, numerous petrographic carvings have been found.

During his excavations of the Oglahty cemetery south of Minusinsk, Leonid Kyzlasov discovered a number of mummies with richly decorated plaster funerary masks showing Western Eurasian features, though this would not rule out some East Asian admixture, as revealed by ancient DNA (see below). There were also intact fur hats, silk clothes, and footwear (now in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg).

Some of the graves contained leather models of human bodies with their heads wrapped in tissue and brightly painted. Inside the models there were small leather bags probably symbolising the stomach and containing burned human bones. Scaled-down replicas of swords, arrows and quivers were placed nearby.

Extracted mitochondrial DNA from five female Tashtyk remains of 100–400 AD from Bogratsky region, Abakano-Pérévoz I, Khakassia Republic, revealed that four possessed the Western Eurasian HV, H, N9a, and T1 haplogroups, while the other carried the East Asian haplogroup C. The Western Eurasian Y-DNA haplogroup R1a1a was extracted from one male. The same haplogroup was found among the remains of the preceding Tagar culture. The study determined that the majority of the individuals had light hair and blue or green eyes.

The Catacomb culture was the first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and shows a profuse use of the polished battle axe, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East.

The origin of the Catacomb Culture is disputed. Jan Lichardus enumerates three possibilities: a local development departing from the previous Yamna Culture only, a migration from Central Europe, or an oriental origin.

The linguistic composition of the Catacomb culture is unclear. Within the context of the Kurgan hypothesis expounded by Marija Gimbutas, an Indo-European component is hard to deny, particularly in the later stages. Placing the ancestors of the Greek, Armenian and Paleo-Balkan dialects here is tempting, as it would neatly explain certain shared features.

More recently, the Ukrainian archaeologist V. Kulbaka has argued that the Late Yamna cultures of ca. 3200-2800 BC, esp. the Budzhak, Starosilsk, and Novotitarovka groups, might represent the Greek-Armenian-“Aryan”(=Indo-Iranian) ancestors (Graeco-Aryan, Graeco-Armenian), and the Catacomb culture that of the “unified” (to ca. 2500 BC) and then “differentiated” Indo-Iranians.

Grigoryev’s (1998) version of the Armenian hypothesis connects Catacomb culture with Indo-Aryans, because catacomb burial ritual had roots in South-Western Turkmenistan from the early 4th millennium (Parkhai cemetery).

Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni exhibit an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion. The Hurrite speaking Mitanni rulers, influenced by Indo-Aryan, appear from 1500 in northern Mesopotamia.

The earliest evidence of the group is from Vedic Sanskrit, the language used in the ancient preserved texts of the Indian subcontinent, the foundational canon of Hinduism known as the Vedas. The Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni is of similar age as the Rigveda (and almost identical to it), but the only evidence is a number of loanwords.

The Catacomb Culture was succeeded by the western Corded Ware culture, and in the Pontic steppe by the Late Bronze Age (18th-12th centuries BC) Srubna culture from ca the 17th century BC.

The Srubna culture is a successor to the Yamna culture (Pit Grave culture) and the Poltavka culture, 2700—2100 BC, an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture of the middle Volga from about where the Don-Volga canal begins up to the Samara bend, with an easterly extension north of present Kazakhstan along the Samara River valley to somewhat west of Orenburg.

It is like the Catacomb culture preceded by the Yamna culture, while succeeded by the Sintashta culture. It seems to be seen as an early manifestation of the Srubna culture. There is evidence of influence from the Maykop culture to its south.

The only real things that distinguish it from the Yamna culture are changes in pottery and an increase in metal objects. Tumulus inhumations continue, but with less use of ochre.

It was preceded by the Yamna culture and succeeded by the Srubna and Sintashta culture. It is presumptively early Indo-Iranian (Proto-Indo-Iranian).

The Srubna 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 to come up against the domain of the approximately contemporaneous and somewhat related Andronovo culture.

The historical Cimmerians have been suggested as descended from this culture. It is succeeded by Scythians and Sarmatians in the 1st millennium BC, and by Khazars and Kipchaks in the first millennium AD.

The Cimmerians or Kimmerians were an ancient Indo-European people living north of the Caucasus and the Sea of Azov until they were driven southward by the Scythians into Anatolia during the 8th century BC. Linguistically they are usually regarded as Thracian or as Iranian, or at least to have had an Iranian ruling class.

After their exodus from the Pontic steppe the Cimmerians probably assaulted Urartu (Armenia) about 714 bc, but in 705, after being repulsed by Sargon II of Assyria, they turned towards Anatolia and in 696–695 conquered Phrygia. In 652, after taking Sardis, the capital of Lydia, they reached the height of power. Their decline quickly began, and their final defeat is dated between 637 or 626, when they were defeated by Alyattes of Lydia. Thereafter, they are no longer mentioned in historical sources but probably settled in Cappadocia.

The first historical record of the Cimmerians appears in Assyrian annals in the year 714 BC. These describe how a people termed the Gimirri helped the forces of Sargon II to defeat the kingdom of Urartu. Their original homeland, called Gamir or Uishdish, seems to have been located within the buffer state of Mannae.

The later geographer Ptolemy placed the Cimmerian city of Gomara in this region. After their conquests of Colchis and Iberia in the First Millennium BC, the Cimmerians also came to be known as Gimirri in Georgian. According to Georgian historians, the Cimmerians played an influential role in the development of both the Colchian and Iberian cultures. The modern-day Georgian word for hero, gmiri, is derived from the word Gimirri. This refers to the Cimmerians who settled in the area after the initial conquests.

Thraco-Cimmerian is a historiographical and archaeological term, composed of the names of the Thracians and the Cimmerians. It refers to 8th to 7th century BC cultures that are linked in Eastern Central Europe and in the area west of the Black Sea.

Paul Reinecke in 1925 postulated a North-Thracian-Cimmerian cultural sphere (nordthrakisch-kimmerischer Kulturkreis) overlapping with the younger Hallstatt culture of the Eastern Alps.

Archaeologically, Thraco-Cimmerian artifacts consist of grave goods and hoards. The artifacts labelled Thraco-Cimmerian all belong to a category of upper class, luxury objects, like weapons, horse tacks and jewelry, and they are recovered only from a small percentage of graves of the period.

They are metal (usually bronze) items, particularly parts of horse tacks, found in a late Urnfield context, but without local Urnfield predecessors for their type. They appear rather to spread from the Koban culture of the Caucasus and northern Georgia, which together with the Srubna culture, blends into the 9th to 7th centuries pre-Scythian Chernogorovka and Novocherkassk cultures.

By the 7th century, Thraco-Cimmerian objects are spread further west over most of Eastern and Central Europe, locations of finds reaching to Denmark and eastern Prussia in the north and to Lake Zürich in the west. Together with these bronze artifacts, earliest Iron items appear, ushering in the European Iron Age, corresponding to the Proto-Celtic expansion from the Hallstatt culture.

The Koban culture (ca. 1100 to 400 BC) is a late Bronze Age and Iron Age culture of the northern and central Caucasus. It is preceded by the Colchian culture of the western Caucasus and the Kharachoi culture further east.

It is named after the village of Koban, Northern Ossetia, where in 1869 battle-axes, daggers, decorative items and other objects were discovered in a kurgan. Later, further sites were uncovered in the central Caucasus.

Many, such as Amjad Jaimoukha, believe the Koban culture was primarily Nakh. The most well-studied site was on the outskirts of Serzhen-Yurt (in modern Chechnya), which was a major center from around 11th century BCE to around the 7th century BCE.

The remains include dwellings, cobble bridges, altars, iron objects, bones, and clay and stone objects. There were sickles and stone grain grinders. Grains that were grown included wheat, rye and barley. Cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, pigs and horses were kept. There were shops, where artisans worked on and sold pottery, stone-casting, bone-carving, and stone-carving. There is evidence of an advanced stage of metallurgy. There was differentiation of professionals organized within clans.

Amjad Jaimoukha argues that while all these cultures probably were made by people included among the genetic ancestors of the Northern Caucasian Nakh (i.e. Chechens and Ingush), it was either the Koban or Kharachoi culture that was the first culture made by the cultural and linguistic ancestors of the Chechens (meaning the Chechens first arrived in their homeland 3000–4000 years ago).

The Nakh languages are a small family of languages spoken chiefly by the Nakh peoples, in Russia (Chechnya and Ingushetia), in Georgia, and in the Chechen diaspora (mainly in Europe, Middle East and Central Asia).

The Nakh languages were historically classified as an independent North-Central Caucasian family, but are now recognized as a branch of the Northeast Caucasian family. They are believed to have split off some 5000–6000 years ago.

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 was the easternmost of the Russian forest zone cultures that descended from Corded Ware ceramic traditions. The Abashevo culture played a significant role in the origin of Sintashta. The Abashevo culture 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.

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[9] 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. Early Abashevo ceramic styles strongly influenced Sintashta ceramics.

It was preceded by the Yamna culture and succeeded by the Srubna culture and the 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 2100–1800 BCE. 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.

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’.

The Sintashta culture emerged from the interaction of two antecedent cultures. 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 Poltovka settlements or close to Poltovka cemeteries, and Poltovka motifs are common on Sintashta pottery. Sintashta material culture also shows the influence of the late Abashevo culture, a collection of settlements in the forest steppe zone north of the Sintashta region that were also predominantly pastoralist.

The first Sintashta settlements appeared around 2100 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 Poltovka and Abashevo herders settled permanently in river valley strongholds, eschewing more defensible hill-top locations. The Abeshevo 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.

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 this 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 Bronze Age Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization (ca. 2300–1700 BCE), 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.

The BMAC is located in present day northern Afghanistan, eastern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centered on the upper Amu Darya (Oxus River) in Central Asia.

There is archaeological evidence of previous settlement in the well-watered northern foothills of the Kopet Dag from the Neolithic period. This region is dotted with the multi-period tells characteristic of the ancient Near East, similar to those south west of the Kopet Dag in the Gorgan Plain in Iran.

At Jeitun (or Djeitun) mudbrick houses were first occupied c. 6000 cal. BCE. These farming people were herding domesticated goats and sheep and growing wheat and barley, all with origins in South-West Asia. Jeitun has given its name to the whole Neolithic of the northern foothills of the Kopet Dag. At the late Neolithic site of Chagylly Depe, farmers increasingly grew crops associated with irrigation in an arid environment, such as hexaploid bread wheat, which became predominant in the Chalcolithic.

During the Copper Age there was a growth of population in this region. Vadim Mikhaĭlovich Masson, who led the South Turkmenistan Complex Archaeological Expedition from 1946, sees signs of a movement from Central Iran at this time, bringing metallurgy and other innovations, but feels that the newcomers soon blended with the Jeitun farmers. By contrast a re-excavation of Monjukli Depe in 2010 found a distinct break in settlement history between the late Neolithic and early Chalcolithic eras there.

The Bactria-Margiana complex has attracted attention as a candidate for those looking for the material counterparts to the Indo-Iranians, a major linguistic branch that split off from the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Sarianidi himself advocates identifying the complex as Indo-Iranian, describing it as the result of a migration from southeastern Iran. Bactrian Margiana material has been found at Susa, Shahdad, and Tepe Yahya in Iran, but Lamberg-Karlovsky does not see this as evidence that the complex originated in southeastern Iran. “The limited materials of this complex are intrusive in each of the sites on the Iranian Plateau as they are in sites of the Arabian peninsula.”

Western archaeologists are more inclined to see the culture as begun by farmers in the Near Eastern Neolithic tradition, but infiltrated by Indo-Iranian speakers from the Andronovo culture in its late phase, creating a hybrid. In this perspective, Proto-Indo-Aryan developed within the composite culture before moving south into the Indian subcontinent. As James P. Mallory phrased it:

«It has become increasingly clear that if one wishes to argue for Indo-Iranian migrations from the steppe lands south into the historical seats of the Iranians and Indo-Aryans that these steppe cultures were transformed as they passed through a membrane of Central Asian urbanism. The fact that typical steppe wares are found on BMAC sites and that intrusive BMAC material is subsequently found further to the south in Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, India and Pakistan, may suggest then the subsequent movement of Indo-Iranian-speakers after they had adopted the culture of the BMAC.»

However, eminent archaeologists like B. B. Lal have seriously questioned the BMAC and Indo-Iranian connection, and thoroughly disputed the proclaimed relations.

While others maintain there is insufficient evidence for any ethnic or linguistic identification of the BMAC solely based on material remains, in the absence of written records.

The separation of Indo-Aryans proper from the undifferentiated Proto-Indo-Iranian ancestor group is commonly dated, on linguistic grounds, to roughly 1800 BC. The composition of the oldest hymns of the Rigveda is dated to several centuries after this division, or to roughly 1500 BC. Both Asko Parpola (1988) and J.P. Mallory (1998) place the locus of the division of Indo-Aryan from Iranian in the Bronze Age BMAC culture.

Parpola (1999) elaborates the model and has “Proto-Rigvedic” Indo-Aryans intrude the BMAC around 1700 BC. He assumes early Indo-Aryan presence in the Late Harappan horizon from about 1900 BC, and “Proto-Rigvedic” (Proto-Dardic) intrusion to the Punjab as corresponding to the Swat culture from about 1700 BC. According to this model, Rigvedic Sanskrit within the larger Indo-Aryan group is the direct ancestor of the Dardic languages.

The hymns of the Rigveda are thus composed in a liturgical language which was based on the natural language spoken in Gandhara during the early phase of the Swat culture, at the end of the Indian Bronze Age. This liturgical language over the following centuries came to be separated from spoken vernaculars and came to be known as the “artificial” or “elaborated” (saṃskṛta) language, contrasted to the “natural” or “unrefined” prākṛta vernaculars by the end of the Vedic period.

As argued by Michael Witzel and Alexander Lubotsky, there is a proposed substratum in Proto-Indo-Iranian which can be plausibly identified with the original language of the BMAC. Moreover, Lubotsky points out a larger number of words apparently borrowed from the same language, which are only attested in Indo-Aryan and therefore evidence of a substratum in Vedic Sanskrit. Some BMAC words have now also been found in Tocharian. Michael Witzel points out that the borrowed vocabulary includes words from agriculture, village and town life, flora and fauna, ritual and religion, so providing evidence for the acculturation of Indo-Iranian speakers into the world of urban civilization.

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. There is however linguistic evidence of a list of common vocabulary between Finno-Ugric and Indo-Iranian languages. While its origin as a creole of different tribes in the Ural region may make it inaccurate to ascribe the Sintashta culture exclusively to Indo-Iranian ethnicity, interpreting this culture as a blend of two cultures with two distinct languages is a reasonable hypothesis based on the evidence.

The Andronovo, BMAC and Yaz cultures have been associated with Indo-Iranian migrations, with separation of Indo-Aryans proper from Proto-Indo-Iranians dated to roughly 2000–1800 BC.

The Andronovo culture is a collection of similar local Bronze Age cultures that flourished ca. 1800–1400 BCE in western Siberia and the west Asiatic steppe. It is probably better termed an archaeological complex or archaeological horizon. The name derives from the village of Andronovo (55°53′N 55°42′E), where in 1914, several graves were discovered, with skeletons in crouched positions, buried with richly decorated pottery. Two sub-cultures have been since distinguished, during which the culture expands towards the south and the east: Alakul (1800–1400 BCE) and Fedorovo (1700–1300 BCE).

The older Sintashta culture (2100–1800), formerly included within the Andronovo culture, is now considered separately, but regarded as its predecessor, and accepted as part of the wider Andronovo horizon.

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. 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.

Towards the middle of the 2nd millennium, the Andronovo cultures begin to move intensively eastwards. They mined deposits of copper ore in the Altai Mountains and lived in villages of as many as ten sunken log cabin houses measuring up to 30m by 60m in size. Burials were made in stone cists or stone enclosures with buried timber chambers.

In other respects, the economy was pastoral, based on cattle, horses, sheep, and goats. While agricultural use has been posited, no clear evidence has been presented.

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.

The Andronovo culture is strongly associated with the Indo-Iranians and is often credited with the invention of the spoke-wheeled chariot around 2000 BCE. Andronovo culture is also notable for regional advances in metallurgy.

Sintashta is a site on the upper Ural River. It is famed for its grave-offerings, particularly chariot burials. These inhumations were in kurgans and included all or parts of animals (horse and dog) deposited into the barrow. Sintashta is often pointed to as the premier proto-Indo-Iranian site, and it is conjectured that the language spoken was still in the Proto-Indo-Iranian stage. There are similar sites “in the Volga-Ural steppe”.

The identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian has been challenged by scholars who point to the absence of the characteristic timber graves of the steppe south of the Oxus River. Sarianidi (as cited in Bryant 2001:207) 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”.

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 BCE 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) find the Andronovo culture much too late for an Indo-Iranian identification since chariot-wielding Aryans appear in Mitanni by the 15th to 16th century BCE. However, Anthony & Vinogradov (1995) dated a chariot burial at Krivoye Lake to around 2000 BCE.

Mallory (as cited in Bryant 2001:216) admits the extraordinary difficulty 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-Iranians to Central Asia, but not as far as the seats of the Medes, Persians or Indo-Aryans”.

The Sintashta-Petrovka culture is succeeded by the Fedorovo (1400–1200 BCE) and Alekseyevka (1200–1000 BCE) cultures, still considered as part of the Andronovo horizon.

In southern Siberia and Kazakhstan, the Andronovo culture was succeeded by the Karasuk culture (1500–800 BCE), which is sometimes asserted to be non-Indo-European, and at other times to be specifically proto-Iranian. On its western border, it is succeeded by 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 the Ukraine from ca. the 9th century BCE (see also Ukrainian stone stela), and across the Caucasus into Anatolia and Assyria in the late 8th century BCE, and possibly also west into Europe as the Thracians (Thraco-Cimmerian), 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.

Out of 10 human male remains assigned to the Andronovo horizon from the Krasnoyarsk region, 9 possessed the R1a Y-chromosome haplogroup and one haplogroup C-M130 (xC3). mtDNA haplogroups of nine individuals assigned to the same Andronovo horizon and region were as follows: U4 (2 individuals), U2e, U5a1, Z, T1, T4, H, and K2b.

90% of the Bronze Age period mtDNA haplogroups were of west Eurasian origin and the study determined that at least 60% of the individuals overall (out of the 26 bronze and Iron Age human remains’ samples of the study that could be tested) had light hair and blue or green eyes.

A 2004 study also established that, during the Bronze/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.

Ancient DNA testing has confirmed the presence of haplogroup R1a1a in samples from the Corded Ware culture in Germany (2600 BCE), from Tocharian mummies (2000 BCE) in Northwest China, from Kurgan burials (circa 1600 BCE) from the Andronovo culture in southern Russia and southern Siberia, as well as from a variety of Iron-age sites from Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and Central Asia.

Haplogroup R1a1 is associated with the Kurgan culture. R1a1 shows a strong correlation with Indo-European languages of western Asia and eastern Europe, being most prevalent in Poland, Russia, and Ukraine and also observed in Pakistan, India and central Asia.

The connection between Y-DNA R-M17 and the spread of Indo-European languages was first noted by T. Zerjal and colleagues in 1999. Ornella Semino and colleagues proposed a postglacial spread of the R1a1 gene during the Late Glacial Maximum, subsequently magnified by the expansion of the Kurgan culture into Europe and eastward. Spencer Wells suggests that the distribution and age of R1a1 points to an ancient migration corresponding to the spread by the Kurgan people in their expansion from the Eurasian steppe.

Ancient DNA has confirmed the connection with kurgan burials directly. Out of ten human male remains assigned to the Andronovo horizon from the Krasnoyarsk region, nine possessed the R1a Y-chromosome haplogroup and one C haplogroup (xC3). Mitochrondrial DNA haplogroups of nine individuals assigned to the same Andronovo horizon and region were as follows: U4 (2 individuals), U2e, U5a1, Z, T1, T4, H, and K2b. 90% of the Bronze Age period mtDNA haplogroups were of west Eurasian origin and the study determined that at least 60% of the individuals overall (out of the 26 Bronze and Iron Age human remains’ samples of the study that could be tested) had light hair and blue or green eyes. Significantly R1a also appeared in later kurgan steppe burials through a series of related cultures up to the Scythians, known to speak an Indo-European language.

The Armenian hypothesis is based on the Glottalic theory and suggests that the Proto-Indo-European language was spoken during the 4th millennium BC in the Armenian Highland. It is an Indo-Hittite model and does not include the Anatolian languages in its scenario.

The phonological peculiarities of PIE proposed in the Glottalic theory would be best preserved in the Armenian language and the Germanic languages, the former assuming the role of the dialect which remained in situ, implied to be particularly archaic in spite of its late attestation.

Proto-Greek would be practically equivalent to Mycenean Greek and date to the 17th century BC, closely associating Greek migration to Greece with the Indo-Aryan migration to India at about the same time (viz., Indo-European expansion at the transition to the Late Bronze Age, including the possibility of Indo-European Kassites).

The Armenian hypothesis argues for the latest possible date of Proto-Indo-European (sans Anatolian), a full millennium later than the mainstream Kurgan hypothesis. In this, it figures as an opposite to the Anatolian hypothesis, in spite of the geographical proximity of the respective Urheimaten suggested, diverging from the time-frame suggested there by a full three millennia.

The origins of R1b are not entirely clear to this day. Some of the oldest forms of R1b are found in the Near East and around the Caucasus. Haplogroup R1* and R2* might have originated in southern Central Asia (between the Caspian and the Hindu Kush). A branch of R1 would have developed into R1b* then R1b1* in the northern part of the Middle East around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (circa 20,000 years ago). It presumptively moved to northern Anatolia and across the Caucasus during the early Neolithic, where it became R1b1b. The Near Eastern leftovers evolved into R1b1a (M18), now found at low frequencies among the Lebanese and the Druze.The Phoenicians (who came from modern day Lebanon) spread this R1b1a and R1b1* to their colonies, notably Sardinia and the Maghreb.

The subclades R1b1b1 and R1b1b2 (the most common form in Europe) are closely associated with the spread of Indo-European languages, as attested by its presence in all regions of the world where Indo-European languages were spoken in ancient times, from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Indian subcontinent, including almost all Europe (except Finland and Bosnia-Herzegovina), Anatolia, Armenia, Europan Russia, southern Siberia, many pockets around Central Asia (notably Xinjiang, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan), without forgetting Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. The history of R1b and R1a are intricately connected to each others. Whereas R1b1 is found is such places as the Levant or Cameroon, R1b1b mostly likely originated in north-eastern Anatolia.

Modern linguists have placed the Proto-Indo-European homeland in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, a distinct geographic and archeological region extending from the Danube estuary to the Ural mountains to the east and North Caucasus to the south. The Neolithic, Eneolithic and early Bronze Age cultures in Pontic-Caspian steppe has been called the Kurgan culture (7000-2200 BCE) by Marija Gimbutas, due to the lasting practice of burying the deads under mounds (“kurgan”) among the succession of cultures in that region. Horses were first domesticated around 4000 BCE in the steppe, perhaps somewhere around the Don or the lower Volga, and soon became a defining element of steppe culture.

During the Bronze-age period, known as the Yamna horizon (3300-2500 BCE), the cattle and sheep herders adopted wagons to transport their food and tents, which allowed them to move deeper into the steppe, giving rise to a new mobile lifestyle that would eventually lead to the great Indo-European migrations.

The Pontic-Caspian steppe cultures can be divided in a western group, ranging from the Don River to the Dniester (and later Danube), and an eastern one, in the Volga-Ural region. The Pontic steppe was probably inhabited by men of mixed R1a and R1b lineages, with higher densities of R1b just north of the Caucasus, and more R1a in the the northern steppes and the forest-steppes.

R1b almost certainly crossed over from northern Anatolia to the Pontic-Caspian steppe. It is not clear whether this happened before, during or after the Neolithic. A regular flow of R1b across the Caucasus cannot be excluded either. The genetic diversity of R1b being greater around the Caucasus, it is hard to deny that R1b settled and evolved there before entering the steppe world.

Does that mean that Indo-European languages originated in the steppes with R1a people, and that R1b immigrants blended into the established culture? Or that Proro-Indo-European language appear in northern Anatolia or in the Caucasus, then spread to the steppes with R1b? Or else did Proto-Indo-European first appear in the steppe as a hybrid language of Caucasian/Anatolian R1b and steppe R1a?

This question has no obvious answer, but based on the antiquity and archaic character of the Anatolian branch (Hittite, Palaic, Luwian, Lydian, and so on) an northern Anatolian origin of Proto-Indo-European is credible.

Furthermore, there is documented evidence of loan words from Caucasian languages in Indo-European languages. This is much more likely to have happened if Proto-Indo-European developed near the Caucasus than in the distant steppes. R1b would consequently have been the spreading factor of PIE to the steppes, and from there to Europe, Central Asia and South Asia.

The Maykop culture (3700-2500 BCE), in the North Caucasus, was culturally speaking a sort of southern extension of the Yamna horizon. Although not generally considered part of the Pontic-Caspian steppe culture due to its geography, the North Caucasus had close links with the steppe, as attested by numerous ceramics, gold, copper and bronze weapons and jewelry in the contemporaneous cultures of Mikhaylovka, Sredny Stog and Kemi Oba.

The link between the North Pontic and North Caucasus is older than the Maykop period. Its predecessor, the Svobodnoe culture (4400-3700 BCE), already had links to the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka and early Sredny Stog cultures, and the even older Nalchik settlement (5000-4500 BCE) displayed a similar culture as Khvalynsk on the Volga. This may be the period when R1b started interracting and blending with the R1a population of the steppes.

The Yamna and Maykop people both used kurgan burials, with their deads in a supine position with raised knees and oriented in a north-east/south-west axis. Graves were sparkled with red ochre on the floor, and sacrificed dometic animal buried alongside humans. They also had in common horse riding, wagons, a cattle- and sheep-based economy, the use of copper/bronze battle-axes (both hammer-axes and sleeved axes) and tanged daggers. In fact, the oldest wagons and bronze artefacts are found in the North Caucasus, and spread from there to the steppes.

Maykop was an advanced Bronze Age culture, actually one of the very first to develop metalworking, and therefore metal weapons. The world’s oldest sword was found at a late Maykop grave in Klady kurgan 31. Its style is reminiscent of the long Celtic swords, though less elaborated. Horse bones and depictions of horses already appear in early Maykop graves, suggesting that the Maykop culture might have been founded by steppe people or by people who had close link with them.

However, the presence of cultural elements radically different from the steppe culture in some sites could mean that Maykop had a hybrid population. Without DNA testing it is impossible to say if these two populations were an Anatolian R1b group and a G2a Caucasian group, or whether R1a people had settled there too.

The two or three etnicities might even have cohabited side by side in different settlements. Typical Caucasian Y-DNA lineages (such as G2a) do not follow the pattern of Indo-European migrations, so intermarriages must have been limited, or at least restricted to Indo-European men taking Caucasian wives rather than the other way round.

Maykop people are the ones credited for the introduction of primitive wheeled vehicles (wagons) from Mesopotamia to the steppes. This would revolutionise the way of life in the steppe, and would later lead to the development of (horse-drawn) war chariots around 2000 BCE. Cavalry and chariots played an vital role in the subsequent Indo-European migrations, allowing them to move quickly and defeat easily anybody they encountered. Combined with advanced bronze weapons and their sea-based culture, the western branch (R1b) of the Indo-Europeans from the Black Sea shores are excellent candidates for being the mysterious Sea Peoples, who raided the eastern shores of the Mediterranean during the second millennium BCE.

The rise of the IE-speaking Hittites in Central Anatolia happened a few centuries after the disappearance of the Maykop culture. A back migration from the North Caucasus to northern Anatolia is very likely in this age of expansion. What is certain is that the Hittites used chariots, invented in the Volga-Ural steppes. R1a being found a low frequencies in Armenia and northern Anatolia, it is not unreasonable to imagine that a hybrid group of R1a-R1b from the Volga-Ural region migrated to this region sometime between 2000 BCE and 1650 BCE. The Maykop and Yamna cultures were succeeded by the Srubna culture (1600-1200 BCE), possibly representing an advance of R1a1a people from the northern and eastern steppes towards the Black Sea shores.

The Indo-Europeans’ bronze weapons and horses would have given them a tremendous advantage over the autochthonous inhabitants of Europe, namely the native haplogroup I (descendant of Cro-Magnon), and the early Neolithic herders and farmers (G2a, J2, E-V13 and T). This allowed R1a and R1b to replace most of the native male lineages, although female lineages seem to have been less affected.

A comparison with the Indo-Iranian invasion of South Asia shows that 40% of the male linages of northern India are R1a, but less than 10% of the female lineages could be of Indo-European origin. The impact of the Indo-Europeans was more severe in Europe because European society 4,000 years ago was less developed in terms of agriculture, technology (no bronze weapons) and population density than that of the Indus Valley civilization. This is particularly true of the native Western European cultures where farming arrived much later than in the Balkans or central Europe. Greece, the Balkans and the Carpathians were the most advanced of European societies at the time and were the least affected in terms of haplogroup replacement. Native European Y-DNA haplogroups (I1, I2a, I2b) also survived better in regions that were more difficult to reach or less hospitable, like Scandinavia, Brittany, Sardinia or the Dinaric Alps.

The first forrays of steppe people into the Balkans happened between 4200 BCE and 3900 BCE, when horse riders crossed the Dniester and Danube and apparently destroyed the towns of the Gumelnita, Varna and Karanovo VI cultures in Eastern Romania and Bulgaria.

A climatic change resulting in colder winters during this exact period probably pushed steppe herders to seek milder pastures for their stock, while failed crops would have led to famine and internal disturbance within the Danubian and Balkanic communities.

The ensuing Cernavoda culture (4000-3200 BCE) and Ezero culture (3300-2700 BCE) seems to have had a mixed population of steppe immigrants and people from the old tell settlements. These steppe immigrants were likely a mixture of both R1a and R1b lineages. Many Danubian farmers would also have migrated to the Cucuteni-Tripolye towns in the Eastern Carpathians, causing a population boom and a north-eastward expansion until the Dnieper valley, bringing Y-haplogroups E-V13, J2b and T in what is now central Ukraine.

This precocious Indo-European advance westward was fairly limited, due to the absence of Bronze weapons and organised army at the time, and was indeed only possible thanks to climatic catastrophes. The Carphatian, Danubian, and Balkanic cultures were too densely populated and technologically advanced to allow for a massive migration.

The Bronze Age annnounces a very different development. R1a people appear to have been the first to successfully penetrate into the heart of Europe, with the Corded Ware (Battle Axe) culture (3200-1800 BCE) as a natural western expansion of the Yamna culture. They went as far west as Germany and Scandinavia. DNA analysis from the Corded Ware culture site of Eulau confirms the presence of R1a (but not R1b) in central Germany around 2600 BCE. The Corded Ware migrants might well have expanded from the forest-steppe, or the northern fringe of the Yamna culture, where R1a lineages were prevalent over R1b ones.

R1b1b2 is thought to have arrived in central and western Europe around 2500 BCE, by going up the Danube from the Black Sea coast. The archeological and genetic evidence (distribution of R1b subclades) point at several consecutive waves towards the Danube between 2800 BCE and 2300 BCE (beginning of the Unetice culture).

It is interesting to note that this also corresponds to the end of the Maykop culture (2500 BCE) and Kemi Oba culture (2200 BCE) on the northern shores of the Black Sea, and their replacement by cultures descended from the northern steppes. It can therefore be envisaged that the (mostly) R1b population from the northern half of the Black Sea migrated westward due to pressure from other Indo-European people (R1a) from the north, like the burgeoning Proto-Indo-Iranian branch, linked to the contemporary Poltavka and Abashevo cultures.

It is doubtful that the Beaker culture (2800-1900 BCE) was already Indo-European (although they were influenced by the Corded Ware culture), because they were the continuity of the native Megalithic cultures. It is more likely that the beakers and horses found across western Europe during that period were the result of trade with neighbouring Indo-European cultures, including the first wave of R1b into central Europe. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the following Unetice (2300-1600 BCE), Tumulus (1600-1200 BCE), Urnfield (1300-1200 BCE) and Hallstatt (1200-750) cultures were linked to the spread of R1b to Europe, as they abruptly introduce new technologies and a radically different lifestyle.

These Proto-Italo-Celto-Germanic R1b people had settled around the Alps by 2300 BCE, and judging from the spread of bronze working, reached Iberia by 2250 BCE, Britain by 2100 BCE and Ireland by 2000 BCE. This first wave of R1b assumably carried R1b-L21 lineages in great number, as these are found everywhere in western, northern and central Europe. A second R1b expansion took place from the Urnfield/Hallstatt culture around 1200 BCE, pushing west to the Atlantic, north to Scandinavia, and as far east as Greece and Anatolia.

The new Bronze Age culture flourished around the Alps (Unetice to early Hallstatt) thanks to the abundance of metal in the region, and laid the foundation for the classical Celtic culture. The Celtic Iron Age (late Halstatt, from 800 BCE) may have been brought through preserved contacts with the the steppes and the North Caucasus, notably the Koban culture (1100-400 BCE).

The Alpine Celts of the Hallstatt culture are associated with the S28 (a.k.a. U152) mutation, although not exclusively. The Italic branch (also S28/U152) is thought to have entered Italy by 1200 BCE, but there were certainly several succesive waves, as attested by the later arrival of the Cisalpine Celts. The Belgae were another S28/U152 branch, an extension of the La Tène culture northward, following the Rhine, Moselle and Meuse rivers.

One common linguistic trait between Italic and Gaulish/Brythonic Celtic languages linked to the Hallstatt expansion is that they shifted the oiginal IE *kw sound into *p. They are known to linguists as the P-Celtic branch. It is thought that this change occured due to the inability to pronounce the *kw sound by the pre-Indo-European population of central Europe, Gaul and Italy, who were speakers of Afro-Asiatic dialects that had evolved from a Near-Eastern language.

The Etruscans, although later incomers from the Levant, also fit in this category. It has recently been acknowledged that Celtic languages borrowed part of their grammar from Afro-Asiatic languages. This shift could have happened when the Proto-Italo-Celtic speakers moved from the steppes to the Danube basin and mixed with the population of Near-Eastern farmers belonging to haplogroups E-V13, T, G2a and J2b. However, such an early shift would not explain why Q-Celtic languages developed in Ireland and Iberia. It is more plausible that the shift happened after the Italo-Celts had first expanded across all western Europe. The S28/U152 connection to P-Celtic suggests that the shift took place around the Alps and Italy after 1200 BCE.

R1b-S21 (a.k.a. U106) is found at high concentrations in the Netherlands and northern Germany. Its presence in other parts of Europe can be attributed to the 5th- and 6th-century Germanic migrations. The Frisians and Saxons spread this haplogroup to the British Isles, the Franks to Belgium and France, and the Lombards to Austria and northern Italy. The high concentration of S21/U106 around Austria hints that it could have originated there in the Hallstatt period, or originated around the Black Sea and moved there during the Hallstatt period. In fact, southern Germany and Austria taken together have the highest diversity of R1b in Europe. Besides S21, the three major first level subclades of R1b1b2a1b (L21, S28, M167) are found in this area at reasonable frequencies to envisage a spread from the Unetice to Hallstatt homeland to the rest of western Europe.

The Hittites (2000-1200 BCE) were the first Indo-Europeans to defy (and defeat) the mighty Mesopotamian and Egyptian empires. The Hittite ruling class was plausibly an offshoot of the late Maykop culture that conquered the Hattian kingdom. The northern Anatolians may also have been the original Indo-European speakers people who later founded the Maykop culture and spread their language and culture to the Pontic-Caspian steppes. Whichever way, northern Anatolian Bronze-Age Indo-European speakers would surely have belonged in great part to haplogroup R1b1b (and subclades). The Hattians might have had some older Middle-Eastern R1b mixed with the other haplogroups common in Anatolia nowadays (E-M78, G2a and J2).

Troy could well have been a Indo-European colony securing the trade routes between the Black Sea and the Aegean. The Trojans were Luwian speakers related to the Hittites (hence Indo-European), with proven cultural ties to the culture of the Pontic-Caspian steppe. The first city of Troy dates back to 3000 BCE, right in the middle of the Maykop period, and exatly at the time the first galleys were made. Considering the early foundation of Troy, the most likely of the two Indo-European paternal haplogroups would be R1b1b, not R1a1a.

Greek R1b comes in many varieties: R1b1 from the Near-East, R1b1b from Anatolia, and the European R1b1b2, including the Proto-Celtic S116/P312 and Hallstatt Celtic S28/U152. The presence of R1b1b2 in Greece could be attributed to the Dorian invasion, thought to have happened in the 12th century BCE. The Dorians could have been related to the Trojans and the Hittites belonging to the oldest Indo-European linguistic branch, or to the Proto-Celts of central Europe and the Danube valley. One way of the other, their Y-DNA lineages would have been predominantly R1b1b or R1b1b2. The Dorians could be the descendants of the first (R1b) steppe nomads who settled in the Eastern Balkans (Cernavoda and Ezero cultures) and did not continue their migration up the Danube to central and western Europe.

Greek and Anatolian R1b-S28 lineages could be attributed to the Celtic invasions of the 3rd century BCE, but more probably to the Roman occupation. Older clades of R1b, such as R1b1 or R1b1a are only a small minority and would have come along E1b1b and J2 from the Middle East. The Mycenaeans could have brought some R1b1b2 to Greece, but their origins can be traced back to the Seima-Turbino culture of the northern forest-steppe, which would make them primarily an R1a1a tribe.

An early group of R1b1b people is thought to have migrated from Caspian Sea region to Central Asia, where it evolved into the R1b1b1 (M73) branch. This variety of R1b occurs almost exclusively in very specific Central Asian populations. The highest percentages were observed among the Uyghurs (20%) of Xinjiang in north-west China, the Hazara people of Afghanistan (32%), and the Bashkirs (55%) of the Abzelilovsky district of Bashkortostan in Russia (border of Kazakhstan).

Central Asian R1b1b1 probably correspond to a minority branch of R1b that integrated the R1a population in the Volga-Ural region before the Indo-European expansion to Central and South Asia. It might be associated with the Tocharian branch of Indo-European languages alongside haplogroup R1a.

Other theories, like Out of India theory (OIT) and Paleolithic Continuity Theory (PCT) have only marginal scientific support.

Estimates of the time of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE):

  • the 4th millennium BCE (excluding the Anatolian branch) in Armenia, according to the Armenian hypothesis (proposed in the context of Glottalic theory);
  • the 4th or 5th millennium BCE to the east of the Caspian Sea, in the area of ancient Bactria-Sogdiana, according to Johanna Nichols’ Sogdiana hypothesis;
  • the 5th millennium BCE (4th excluding the Anatolian branch) in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, according to the Kurgan hypothesis;
  • the 6th millennium BCE or later in Northern Europe, according to Lothar Kilian’s and, especially, Marek Zvelebil’s models of a broader homeland;
  • the 6th millennium BCE in India, according to Koenraad Elst’s Out of India model
  • the 7th millennium BCE in Anatolia (the 5th, in the Balkans, excluding the Anatolian branch), according to Colin Renfrew’s Anatolian hypothesis;
  • the 7th millennium BCE in Anatolia (6th excluding the Anatolian branch), according to Bayesian analysis studies;
  • before the 10th millennium BCE, in the Paleolithic Continuity Theory.
  • 20,000 BCE-10,800 in the Mesolithic

These possibilities boil down to four competing basic models (with variations) that have academic credibility (Mallory (1997:106)), i.e.:

  1. Pontic-Caspian: Chalcolithic (5th to 4th millennia BCE)
  2. Anatolia: Early Neolithic (7th to 5th millennia BCE)
  3. Baltic hypothesis: Mesolithic to Neolithic (Ertebølle to Corded Ware horizon, 6th to 3rd millennia BCE)
  4. Balkans: Neolithic (5th millennium BCE)

Neolithic Europe

Old European culture

Proto-Indo-European language


Proto-Indo-European religion

Proto-Indo-European society


Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses

Kurgan hypothesis


Anatolian hypothesis

Armenian hypothesis

Indigenous Aryan Theory

Out of India Theory

Paleolithic Continuity Theory

Indo-European studies

Comparative linguistics


Genetic history of Europe

Genetic history of South Asia

Genetic history of the Near East


Bronze Age Europe

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