Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Sintashta culture and some questions of Indo-Europeans origins

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 2, 2014

Institute of history and archaeology.Ural brunch of Russian Academy of Sciences.Chelyabinsk.RussiaOrigins of Indo-Europeans is one of the most significant problems of history, archaeology and linguistics.This problem has already been discussed for 200 years after the kinship of Indo-European languages wasdemonstrated. Various scholars localised the Indo-European homeland in different places of Eurasian continent.Diverse points of view have been examined recently by J.P. Mallory [1].

He has shown that the Indo-European homeland’s localisation in Northern or Central Europe is impossiblebecause cultures of these regions have successors neither in Steppe zone nor in Anatolia, Iran and India. Anyattempts to search for such successors there for Balkan cultures have no chance of success, except Anatolia. Themost popular now is the theory placing Indo-European homeland in Steppe of Eastern Europe [2]. J.P.Mallorycalled this theory the“conventional wisdom” of Indo-European studies.

This theory proposes a local development of East-European cultures from Enaeolithic to Pit-grave culture,Catacomb culture, Timber-grave (or Srubnaya) culture and Andronovo culture, which migrated south to India. Itis the most convincing theory today, but it contains some important defects.

Catacomb and Pit-grave cultures have no genetic connection. Timber-grave and Andronovo cultures haveno such connection with Catacomb culture too. Cultures of Scithian and Sarmatian world were not forming onthe basis of the Late Bronze Age cultures placed from Dnieper river to the Altai. So called “Andronovo culture”is an archaeological myth. There are no features of “Steppe cultures” in cultures of India and Iran. And there areno Finno-Ugric borrowings in languages of Avesta and Rig Veda.

Linguists T.V.Gamkrelidze and V.V.Ivanov basing on analyses of Indo-European languages havelocalised the Indo-European homeland in Near East and described migrations of separate groups [3]. C.Renfrewis partly agree with them placing Proto-Indoeuropeans in Anatolia [4]. However, these hypotheses don’t conformto archaeological conceptions on cultural processes in Eurasia and most scholars don’t hold them. My study of Eurasian cultures allows me to say that Indo-European homeland was really in Near East.

I  am beginning my survey from Indo-Iranians. Roman Ghirshman connected Mitannian Aryans with North-Eastern Iran [5]. Vakhsh and Bishkent cultures, which are used usually as a bridge between so called“Steppe cultures” and Indostan, have their roots in this region too. Early Swata culture in Pakistan has analogiesin Hissar IIB, IIIB. The presence of Indo-Aryans in Northern Pontic area is marked by place-names. In thisregion we can connect Catacomb culture with Indo-Aryans, because catacomb burial ritual had roots in South-Western Turkmenistan from the early 4th millennium (Parkhai cemetery).

V.I.Sarianidi have demonstrated that the appearance of Iranians in Central Asia and Eastern Iran andforming of Bactria-Margiana archaeological complex had been caused by migration from Syro-Anatolian region[6]. The next moving of Western Iranians from North-Eastern Iran has been shown by T.C.Young [7].

So, we have only one problem with our searching for Indo-Iranians. That is an origin of Iranians of theSteppe area. A key to a solution of this problem are sites of Sintashta culture, discovered recently in the SouthernUrals. Features of the culture have prototypes neither in the Urals nor in Eastern Europe.

The Sintashta fortified settlements (Arkaim and Sintashta) have round walls and moats [8; 9]. The housesare blocked together. Direct analogies with them are known only in Anatolia (Demirchiuyuk, Pulur, Mercin),Syro-Palestine (Rogem Hiri) and the Transcaucasus (Uzerlic-Tepe) [10 – 13]. Sintashta burial traditions areidentical to ones in this region too. Other artefacts (metal, ceramics etc.) have parallels there [14].

A technology of metal production is very specific. Metallurgists alloyed copper with arsenic on an ore-smelting stage. In Eastern Europe such way of bronze production was not known. However, it was known in theTranscaucasus and, perhaps, in Near East. A correlation of weapons, tools, ornaments and other artefacts issimilar to those in the Transcaucasus and Asia Minor. A weaving technology had been borrowed from any south centre [15].

Sintashta culture, of course, includes a number of local substratum’s, but in general, Sintashta people werestrangers for Eastern Europe and the Urals. The homeland of these tribes was placed somewhere in Syro-Anatolian region, like as the homeland of Iranians of Margiana and Bactria.

The Sintashta culture appeared in the Urals in XVIII century (in non-calibrated system). As a result,Abashevo cultures, which were closely related to Sintashta culture were formed from the Don river up to theUrals. Timber-grave, Petrovka and Alakul cultures, distributing in a huge area from the Dnieper river to Central Kazakhstan, were formed on the base of Sintashta and Abashevo cultures in the XVI century. Some include Petrovka and Alakul cultures in Andronovo culture. The forming of these cultures reflected an Iranization of Steppe zone. Although the appearance of Scithian and Sarmatian tribes was not connected with these cultures.

Another important problem of Indo-European study is a migration of ancient Europeans. T.V.Gamkrelidzeand V.V. Ivanov consider that their languages were differentiated already in Near East. These peoples (Celts,Germans, Slavs, Balts) moved to Europe through Iran and Central Asia around Caspian See. As a result of combined migrations, an area of the second intimacy of these dialects formed somewhere to the North of Caspian See. This linguistic reconstruction corresponded to archaeological evidence.

In the XVII century Seyma-Turbino tribes moved westwards from the Altai [16]. The most significantcharacteristic of their culture are tools and weapons from tin-bronzes: daggers, celts, socketed spearheads,chisels and so on. Prototypes of these bronzes (except prototypes of celts) are known in Near East.

Contacts of these populations with local tribes caused a forming of many new cultures from Irtish up to Middle Volga: Elunino, Krotovo, Tashkovo, Chirkovo. New cultural features appeared in Western Siberia: fortified settlements, settlements with round plan, ceramics with roller, bone plate armours, developed metallurgy and domestic animals.

During XVI-XV centuries artefacts closely related to Seyma tradition became typical for hoards inPannonia, France and England. Thus, these bronzes distribution marks the moving of Celts.

A new wave of newcomers left F’odorovo culture sites. Some include usually this culture, together withAlakul culture, in Andronovo culture. However, all attempts to find its local roots had no success. But these roots are in North-Western Iran and South Azerbaijan: cremation in stone boxes and cysts under mounds, clayprops for hearth, oval dishes, polished ware. Complex of metal have analogies in Circumpontic area, but first of all, in Sumbar culture in South-Western Turkmenistan. Potteries from Central Asia have been found in some F’odorovo sites.

Typical F’odorovo artefacts are known up to Dnieper river. However, a contact of F’odorovo tribes withfirst wave of newcomers is more important for us. As a result of this contact new cultures were formed, whichfix this contact and a gradual displacement of these populations to the West: Chernoozerie in Irtish basin,Cherkaskul in the Urals, Suskan and Prikazanskaia in Volga-Kama region, Pozdniakovo in Oka basin. Thesecultures combine cremation and inhumation, mounds and flat burials, bronzes of Seyma and F’odorovo types.

Next moving of these tribes to the West leads to forming of Sosnitzkaia culture on the left-bank of Dnieper, Trzciniec-Komarov culture from Dnieper to Vistula and Tumulus culture in Central and Northern Europe. These cultures reflect localisation of Balts, Slavs and Germans.

I don’t have possibility to touch upon the questions of an origin of Proto-Indoeuropeans and their more early migrations. I have done it in my book “Ancient Indo-Europeans. An attempt of historical reconstruction”. To my regret, I can do only a short survey of these problems in this article.

The Indo-European homeland was placed in the Armenian highland. The most early complexes which we can connect with Proto-Indoeuropeans are such objects as Tel Magzalia, Tel Sotto, Hassuna, dating from the VIII to the early V millenniums. The first Indo-Europeans migrated to the Balkan peninsula after and together with other Anatolian peoples at about the end of the VI millennium.

The Anatolian tribes were formed here on this base. But most part of Indo-European migrations began later – at about the early IV millennium. Thracians (Novo-Danilovo, Lower Mikhailovka and, perhaps, Sredniy Stog) through the Caucasus and Steppe came to Balkan and forced out Anatolians to Asia Minor, where features of more early european cultures appeared at the latter half of the IV millennium.

The Indoeuropeanization of the Caucasus and Eastern Europe lasted for a long time – from the Neolithic to the beginning of the Iron Age. In the Middle Bronze Age Indo-Aryans (Catacomb culture) and, perhaps, Greeks (Multiroller Ware Culture) came to the South of Eastern Europe. Maikop culture of the Early Bronze Age had, for example, undoubted Neareastern roots.

The first coming of Indo-Europeans to Central and Northern Europe was connected perhaps with TRB-culture and quite certainly with Corded Ware cultures. The latest were a local Indo-European substratum whichhad been assimilated by ancient Europeans.

Tokharians reached the Altai, Saian and Ordos in the Middle Bronze Age, forming Okunev culture and, perhaps, the Late Afanasyevo culture. The Early Afanasyevo culture was formed as a result of Indo-Iranian migration from Eastern Europe at the Early Bronze Age.

Ancestors of Scithian and Kimmerian tribes settled contemporary to Sintashta migration in theTranscaucasus (Sevan-Uzerlic cultural type). About the XIV century a part of this population moved to SouthernSiberia and Mongolia (Carasuk and Irmen’ cultures). At the end of the Bronze Age Kimmerians migratedwestwards to Northern Pontic area. Scithian migration through Iran, Near East and the Caucasus took place atthe beginning of the Iron Age.

At last, various streams of Indo-Europeans (Tokharians, Europeans and Iranians) influenced forming anddevelopment of Chinese civilisation.


Let’s sum up. As a result of my study, I worked out a new historical model of origins and migrations of Indo-European peoples, which I have tried to show in this article. The conformity of my archaeological model tothe linguistic one, proposed by Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, permits to say that Indo-European problem is solved,but in general outline only. The detailed description of early Indo-European history could done in some years, incase of closely concerted actions of archaeologists and linguists.


1. Mallory J.P.Indo-Evropeiskie prarodini // Vestnik drevnej istirii. 1997. № 1. (Rus).

2. Mallory J.P. In Searh of the Indo-Europeans. Language, Archaeology and Mith. L., 1989.

3. Gamkrelidze T.V., Ivanov V.V. Indoevropejskij yazik i Indo-evropejci. Tbilisi, 1984. (Rus).

4. C. Renfrew. Archaeology and Language. L. 1987.

5. Ghirshman R. L’Iran et la migration des Indo-Aryens et des Iraniens. Leiden, 1977.

6. Sarianidi V. Margiana and Protozoroastrism. Athens, 1998.

7. Young T.C. The Iranian migration into the Zagros // Iran. L., 1967. V.5.

8. Zdanovich G.B. Arkaim – kulturnij komplex epokhi srednej bronzi Yuzsnogo Zauralja // Rossijskajaarkheologija. 1997, № 2. (Rus).

9. Gening V.F., Zdanovich G.B., Gening V.V. Sintashna. Cheljabinsk, 1992. (Rus).

10. Korfman M. Demirciuyuk. Die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabunger 1975-1978. B. I. Rhein, 1983.

11. Keban Project. Pulur Excavations. 1968 – 1970. Ankara, 1976.

12. Mizrachi Y. Mystery Circles // Biblical Archaeological Research. V 18, № 4, 1992.

13. Kushnareva K.H. Sevano-Uzerlikskaja gruppa pamjatnikov // Epokha bronzi Kavkaza i Sredney Azii.Rannjaja i srednjaja bronza Kavkaza. M., 1994. (Rus).

14. Grigoryev S.A. Sintashta i arijskie migracii vo II tis. do. n. e. // Novoje v arkheologii Yuzsnogo Urala.Cheljabinsk, 1996. (Rus).

15. Chernay I.L. Tekstilnoe delo i keramika po materialam iz pamjatnikov eneolita – bronzi YuzsnogoZauralia i Severnogo Kazakhstana // Eneolit i bronzoviy vek Uralo-Irtishskogo mezdurechia. Cheljabinsk,1985. (Rus).

16. Chernikh E.N., Kuzminikh S.V. Drevnjaja metallurgiya Severnoy Evrazii. M., 1989. (Rus).

By S. A. Grigoryev, Institute of history and archaeology, Ural branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Chelyabinsk, Russia

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