The Cow of Heaven – Gugalanna
Posted by Fredsvenn on June 14, 2016
Cow / Ku
The aurochs (pl. aurochs, or rarely aurochsen, aurochses), also urus, ure (Bos primigenius), is an extinct type of large wild cattle that inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is the ancestor of domestic cattle. The species survived in Europe until the last recorded aurochs died in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland in 1627.
During the Neolithic Revolution, which occurred during the early Holocene, there were at least two aurochs domestication events: one related to the Indian subspecies, leading to zebu cattle; the other one related to the Eurasian subspecies, leading to taurine cattle.
Both taurine cattle and indicine cattle (zebus) are descended from the aurochs. Taurine cattle were originally considered a distinct species, but are now typically grouped with zebus and aurochs into one species, Bos primigenius. Most modern breeds of cattle are taurine cattle.
In modern cattle, numerous breeds share characteristics of the aurochs, such as a dark colour in the bulls with a light eel stripe along the back (the cows being lighter), or a typical aurochs-like horn shape.
Taurine cattle (Bos taurus taurus), also called European cattle, are a subspecies of domesticated cattle originating in the Near East. Genetic research suggests the entire modern stock of taurine cattle may have arisen from as few as 80 aurochs tamed in the upper reaches of Mesopotamia about 10,500 years ago near the villages of Çayönü in southeastern Turkey and Dja’de el Mughara in northern Iraq.
The aurochs was variously classified as Bos primigenius, Bos taurus, or, in old sources, Bos urus. The words aurochs, urus, and wisent have all been used synonymously in English. However, the extinct aurochs/urus is a completely separate species from the still-extant wisent, also known as European bison. The two were often confused, and some 16th-century illustrations of aurochs and wisents have hybrid features.
The word urus (plural uri) is a Latin word, but was borrowed into Latin from Germanic (cf. Old English or Old High German ūr, Old Norse úr). In German, OHG ūr was compounded with ohso “ox”, giving ūrohso, which became early modern Aurochs. The modern form is Auerochse.
The word aurochs was borrowed from early modern German, replacing archaic urochs, also from an earlier form of German. The word is invariable in number in English, though sometimes back-formed singular auroch and innovated plural aurochses occur.
The use in English of the plural form aurochsen is nonstandard, but mentioned in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. It is directly parallel to the German plural Ochsen (singular Ochse) and recreates by analogy the same distinction as English ox (singular) and oxen (plural).
Cattle did not originate as the term for bovine animals. It was borrowed from Anglo-Norman catel, itself from medieval Latin capitale ‘principal sum of money, capital’, itself derived in turn from Latin caput ‘head’.
Cattle originally meant movable personal property, especially livestock of any kind, as opposed to real property (the land, which also included wild or small free-roaming animals such as chickens — they were sold as part of the land).
The word is a variant of chattel (a unit of personal property) and closely related to capital in the economic sense. The term replaced earlier Old English feoh ‘cattle, property’, which survives today asfee (cf. German: Vieh, Dutch: vee, Gothic: faihu).
The word “cow” came via Anglo-Saxon cū (plural cȳ), from Common Indo-European gʷōus (genitive gʷowés) = “a bovine animal”, compare Persian gâv, Sanskrit go-, Welsh buwch. The plural cȳ became ki or kie in Middle English, and an additional plural ending was often added, giving kine, kien, but also kies, kuin and others. This is the origin of the now archaic English plural, “kine”. The Scots language singular is coo or cou, and the plural is “kye”.
The word “cow” comes from Middle English cou, cu, and from Old English cu. It is from Proto-Germanic *kūz or *kwon (source also of Old Irish bo, Scots coo, Old Frisian ku, West Frisian ko, North Frisian ko, kø, Middle Dutch coe, Dutch koe, Old High German kuo, Low German Koh, Koo, Kau, German Kuh, Old Norse kyr, Icelandic kýr (“cow”), Norwegian ku (“cow”), Danish, Swedish ko), earlier *kwom, which is from Proto-Indo-European*gʷṓw or *gwou- “cow, ox, bull”.
It is cognate with Sanskrit go or gaus, Greek bous, Latin bov- or bos, Latvian guovs, Persian gāv, Armenian kov or gaus “cow,” Proto-Slavic *govędo, Serbo-Croatian govedo, Slovak hovado “ox”. It is comparable with Sumerian gu, Chinese ngu, ngo “ox”.
In older English sources such as the King James Version of the Bible, “cattle” refers to livestock, as opposed to “deer” which refers to wildlife. “Wild cattle” may refer to feral cattle or to undomesticated species of the genus Bos. Today, when used without any other qualifier, the modern meaning of “cattle” is usually restricted to domesticated bovines.
In Germanic and Celtic, of females only; in most other languages, of either gender. Other “cow” words sometimes are from roots meaning “horn, horned,” such as Lithuanian karve, Old Church Slavonic krava.
Gugalanna – Taurus
Gugalanna (Sumerian gu.gal.an.na, “the Great Bull of Heaven”), better known as the Bull of Heaven (Sumerian: gu₄.an.na), was a deity in ancient Mesopotamian religion originating in Sumer as well as the constellation known today as Taurus, one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. He was the first husband of Ereshkigal, ruler of the Underworld, a gloomy place devoid of light.
Taurus was the constellation of the Northern Hemisphere’s March equinox from about 3200 BC. The equinox was considered the Sumerian New Year, Akitu, an important event in their religion.
Between the period of the earliest female figurines circa 4500 BC., a span of a thousand years elapsed, during which the archaeological signs constantly increase of a cult of the tilled earth fertilized by that noblest and most powerful beast of the recently developed holy barnyard, the bull – who not only sired the milk yielding cows, but also drew the plow, which in that early period simultaneously broke and seeded the earth.
Moreover, by analogy, the horned moon, lord of the rhythm of the womb and of the rains and dews, was equated with the bull; so that the animal became a cosmological symbol, uniting the fields and the laws of sky and earth.
In the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest works of literature, the goddess Inanna sends Taurus, the Bull of Heaven, to take retribution upon Gilgamesh for rejecting her sexual advances.
Gugalanna, whose feet made the earth shake, was slain and dismembered by Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu. Inanna looked down from the city walls and Enkidu shook the haunches of the bull at her, threatening to do the same if he ever caught her. He is later killed for this impiety. It was to share the sorrow with her sister that Inanna later descends to the Underworld.
Some locate Gilgamesh as the neighboring constellation of Orion, facing Taurus as if in combat, while others identify him with the sun whose rising on the equinox vanquishes the constellation’ and the sun’s obscuring of the constellation as it rose on the morning of the equinox.
In early Mesopotamian art, the Bull of Heaven was closely associated with Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare. One of the oldest depictions shows the bull standing before the goddess’ standard; since it has 3 stars depicted on its back (the cuneiform sign for “star-constellation”), there is good reason to regard this as the constellation later known as Taurus.
The same iconic representation of the Heavenly Bull was depicted in the Dendera zodiac, an Egyptian bas-relief carving in a ceiling that depicted the celestial hemisphere using a planisphere.
The sculptured Dendera zodiac (or Denderah zodiac) is a widely known Egyptian bas-relief from the ceiling of the pronaos (or portico) of a chapel dedicated to Osiris in the Hathor temple at Dendera, containing images of Taurus (the bull) and the Libra (the scales).
This chapel was begun in the late Ptolemaic period; its pronaos was added by the emperor Tiberius. This led Jean-François Champollion to date the relief correctly to the Greco-Roman period, but most of his contemporaries believed it to be of the New Kingdom.
The relief, which John H. Rogers characterised as “the only complete map that we have of an ancient sky”, has been conjectured to represent the basis on which later astronomy systems were based. It is now on display at the Musée du Louvre, Paris.
To the Egyptians, the constellation Taurus was a sacred bull that was associated with the renewal of life in spring. When the spring equinox entered Taurus, the constellation would become covered by the Sun in the western sky as spring began. This “sacrifice” led to the renewal of the land.
As this constellation marked the vernal equinox, it was also the first constellation in the Babylonian zodiac and they described it as “The Bull in Front”. The Akkadian name was Alu. To the early Hebrews, Taurus was the first constellation in their zodiac and consequently it was represented by the first letter in their alphabet, Aleph.
Kutha, Cuthah, or Cutha (Sumerian: Gudua, modern Tell Ibrahim) is an archaeological site in Babil Governorate, Iraq. Archaeological investigations have revealed remains of the Neo-Babylonian period and Kutha appears frequently in historical sources.
Josephus places Cuthah, which for him is the name of a river and of a district, in Persia, and Neubauer says that it is the name of a country near Kurdistan. However, Kutha lies on the right bank of the eastern branch of the Upper Euphrates, north of Nippur and around 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Babylon.
The site consists of two tells or settlement mounds. The larger main mound is 0.75 miles (1.21 km) long and crescent-shaped. A smaller mound is located to the west. The two mounds, as is typical in the region, are separated by the dry bed of an ancient canal, the Shatt en-Nil.
Called the Euphrates of Nippur, the river was an important irrigation and transport infrastructure for the city of Nippur during antiquity. The canal started just north of Babylon and travelled for 60 km endinging at Larsa where it rejoined the Euphrates River. On the way it flowed through Nippur.
The canal is referred to in the so-called Murashu documents discovered at Nippur. which record business transaction in the area around Nippur. The river/canal has also been one of the rivers identified as the biblical River Chebar.
The Kebar or Chebar Canal (or River) is the setting of several important scenes of the book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible, including the opening verse: “Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God”.
The canal also serviced the city of Tel Abib (Hebrew: Tel Aviv; lit. “Spring Mound”, where Spring (Aviv) is the season), an unidentified place on the Kebar Canal, near Nippur in what is now Iraq, and Uruk.
The biblical place name was adopted by Nahum Sokolow as the title for his Hebrew translation of Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland (“Old New Land”). It later gave its name to the modern Israeli city of Tel Aviv; the Hebrew letter represents a sound like [v] but is traditionally transcribed ‘b’ in English translations of the Bible.
Some old commentaries identified the Chebar with the Khabur River in what is now Syria. The Khabur is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:26 as the Habor. However, more recent scholarship is agreed that the location of the Kebar Canal is near Nippur in Iraq.
The ka-ba-ru waterway (Akkadian) is mentioned among the 5th century BCE Murashu archives from Nippur. It was part of a complex network of irrigation and transport canals that also included the Shatt el-Nil, a silted up canal toward the east of Babylon.
According to the Tanakh, Cuthah was one of the five Syrian and Mesopotamian cities from which Sargon II, King of Assyria, brought settlers to take the places of the exiled Israelites (2 Kings 17:24-30).
II Kings relates that these settlers were attacked by lions, and interpreting this to mean that their worship was not acceptable to the deity of the land, they asked Sargon to send someone to teach them, which he did. The result was a mixture of religions and peoples, the latter being known as “Cuthim” in Hebrew and as “Samaritans” to the Greeks.
Kutha is also the name of the capital of the Sumerian underworld, Irkalla. Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. The main temple dedicated to her was located in Kutha.
Nergal (possibly another name for Gugalanna) is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta. Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. Local associations with his original seat—Kutha—and the conception formed of him as a god of the dead acted in making him feared rather than actively worshipped.
Nergal’s chief temple at Cuthah bore the name Meslam, from which the god receives the designation of Meslamtaedaor Meslamtaea, “the one that rises up from Meslam”. The name Meslamtaeda/Meslamtaea indeed is found as early as the list of gods from Fara while the name Nergal only begins to appear in the Akkadian period.
Being a deity of the desert, god of fire, which is one of negative aspects of the sun, god of the underworld, and also being a god of one of the religions which rivaled Christianity and Judaism, Nergal was sometimes called a demon and even identified with Satan. According to Collin de Plancy and Johann Weyer, Nergal was depicted as the chief of Hell’s “secret police”, and worked as “an honorary spy in the service of Beelzebub”.
Nergal is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the deity of the city of Cuth (Cuthah): “And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal” (2 Kings, 17:30). According to the rabbins, his emblem was a cock and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”,although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion.
In the Assyrian inscriptions “Cutha” occurs on the Shalmaneser obelisk, line 82, in connection with Babylon. Shulgi (formerly read as Dungi), King of Ur III, built the temple of Nergal at Cuthah, which fell into ruins, so that Nebuchadnezzar II had to rebuild the “temple of the gods, and placed them in safety in the temple”. This agrees with the Biblical statement that the men of Cuthah served Nergal.
The so-called “Legend of the King of Cuthah”, a fragmentary inscription of the Akkadian literary genre called narû, written as if it were transcribed from a royal stele, is in fact part of the “Legend of Naram-Sin”, not to be read as history, found in the cuneiform library at Sultantepe, north of Harran. Sumu-la-El, a king of the 1st Babylonian Dynasty, rebuilt the city walls of Kutha. The city was later defeated by Hammurabi of Babylon in the 39th year of his reign.
In The Last Pagans of Iraq: Ibn Waḥshiyya and His Nabatean Agriculture, Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila says:
“One might also mention the rather surprising story, traced back to ‘Alì, the first Imam of the Shiites, where he is made to identify himself as “one of the Nabateans from Kùthà” (see Yàqùt,Mu’jamIV: 488, s.v. Kùthà). It goes without saying that the story is apocryphal, but it shows that among the Shiites there were people ready to identify themselves with the Nabateans.
Thus it comes as no surprise that especially in the so-called ghulàt movements (extremist Shiites) a lot of material surfaces that is derivable from Mesopotamian sources (cf. Hämeen-Anttila 2001), and the early Shiite strongholds were to a great extent in the area inhabited by Nabateans.
Of course, as also Yàqùt notes, the identification of Kùthà as the original home of the Shiites/Muslims testifies to the Abrahamic roots of Islam. Yet the identification of Kùthà, and by extension also Abraham, with the Nabateans is remarkable.” (p. 35)
J2 and R1b
It has been hypothetised that R1b people (perhaps alongside neighbouring J2 tribes) were the first to domesticate cattle in northern Mesopotamia some 10,500 years ago.
Haplogroup J2 is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. The oldest known J2 sample at present comes from Kotias Klde in Georgia and dates from c. 9700 BCE, confirming that haplogroup J2 was already found around the Caucasus during the Mesolithic period.
Its present geographic distribution argues in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent. This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE) from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of cereal agriculture in the Levant (which appears to be linked rather to haplogroups G2 and E1b1b).
A second expansion of J2 could have occured with the advent of metallurgy, notably copper working (from the Lower Danube valley, central Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia), and the rise of some of the oldest civilisations.
Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. This is the case of the Hattians, the Hurrians, the Etruscans, the Minoans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and their Carthaginian offshoot), the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.
There is a distinct association of ancient J2 civilisations with bull worship. The oldest evidence of a cult of the bull can be traced back to Neolithic central Anatolia, notably at the sites of Çatalhöyük and Alaca Höyük. Bull depictions are omnipresent in Minoan frescos and ceramics in Crete.
Bull-masked terracotta figurines and bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus (dating back as far as the Neolithic, the first presumed expansion of J2 from West Asia). The Hattians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaaites, and Carthaginians all had bull deities (in contrast with Indo-European or East Asian religions).
The sacred bull of Hinduism, Nandi, present in all temples dedicated to Shiva or Parvati, does not have an Indo-European origin, but can be traced back to Indus Valley civilisation. Minoan Crete, Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley also shared a tradition of bull leaping, the ritual of dodging the charge of a bull. It survives today in the traditional bullfighting of Andalusia in Spain and Provence in France, two regions with a high percentage of J2 lineages.
Haplogroup R* originated in North Asia just before the Last Glacial Maximum (26,500-19,000 years ago). This haplogroup has been identified in the remains of a 24,000 year-old boy from the Altai region, in south-central Siberia. This individual belonged to a tribe of mammoth hunters that may have roamed across Siberia and parts of Europe during the Paleolithic.
Autosomally this Paleolithic population appears to have contributed mostly to the ancestry of modern Europeans and South Asians, the two regions where haplogroup R also happens to be the most common nowadays (R1b in Western Europe, R1a in Eastern Europe, Central and South Asia, and R2 in South Asia).
The oldest forms of R1b (M343, P25, L389) are found dispersed at very low frequencies from Western Europe to India, a vast region where could have roamed the nomadic R1b hunter-gatherers during the Ice Age.
The three main branches of R1b1 (R1b1a, R1b1b, R1b1c) all seem to have stemmed from the Middle East. The southern branch, R1b1c (V88), is found mostly in the Levant and Africa. The northern branch, R1b1a (P297), seems to have originated around the Caucasus, eastern Anatolia or northern Mesopotamia, then to have crossed over the Caucasus, from where they would have invaded Europe and Central Asia. R1b1b (M335) has only been found in Anatolia.
R1b tribes descended from mammoth hunters, and when mammoths went extinct, they started hunting other large game such as bisons and aurochs. With the increase of the human population in the Fertile Crescent from the beginning of the Neolithic (starting 12,000 years ago), selective hunting and culling of herds started replacing indiscriminate killing of wild animals.
The increased involvement of humans in the life of aurochs, wild boars and goats led to their progressive taming. Cattle herders probably maintained a nomadic or semi-nomadic existence, while other people in the Fertile Crescent (presumably represented by haplogroups E1b1b, G and T) settled down to cultivate the land or keep smaller domesticates.
The analysis of bovine DNA has revealed that all the taurine cattle (Bos taurus) alive today descend from a population of only 80 aurochs. The earliest evidence of cattle domestication dates from circa 8,500 BCE in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures in the Taurus Mountains.
The two oldest archaeological sites showing signs of cattle domestication are the villages of Çayönü Tepesi in southeastern Turkey and Dja’de el-Mughara in northern Iraq, two sites only 250 km away from each other. This is presumably the area from which R1b lineages started expanding – or in other words the “original homeland” of R1b.
R1b1a (P297) crossed the Caucasus into the vast Pontic-Caspian Steppe, which provided ideal grazing grounds for cattle. They split into two factions: R1b1a1 (M73), which went east along the Caspian Sea to Central Asia, and R1b1a2 (M269), which at first remained in the North Caucasus and the Pontic Steppe between the Dnieper and the Volga.
It is not yet clear whether M73 actually migrated across the Caucasus and reached Central Asia via Kazakhstan, or if it went south through Iran and Turkmenistan. In the latter case, M73 might not be an Indo-European branch of R1b, just like V88 and M335.
It is not yet entirely clear when R1b crossed over from eastern Anatolia to the Pontic-Caspian steppe. This might have happened with the appearance of the Dnieper-Donets culture (c. 5100-4300 BCE). This was the first truly Neolithic society in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe.
Domesticated animals (cattle, sheep and goats) were herded throughout the steppes and funeral rituals were elaborate. Sheep wool would play an important role in Indo-European society, notably in the Celtic and Germanic (R1b branches of the Indo-Europeans) clothing traditions up to this day.
During the Yamna period 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. This type of mass migration in which whole tribes moved with the help of wagons was still common in Gaul at the time of Julius Caesar, and among Germanic peoples in the late Antiquity.
The Yamna and Maykop people both used kurgan burials, placing their deads in a supine position with raised knees and oriented in a north-east/south-west axis. Graves were sprinkled with red ochre on the floor, and sacrificed domestic animal buried alongside humans.
They also had in common horses, wagons, a heavily cattle-based economy with a minority of sheep kept for their wool, 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 appear to have spread from there to the steppes.
The first forays of steppe people into the Balkans happened between 4200 BCE and 3900 BCE, when cattle herders equipped with horse-drawn wagons crossed the Dniester and Danube and apparently destroyed the towns of the Gumelnita, Varna and Karanovo VI cultures in Eastern Romania and Bulgaria.
Like its northern counterpart (R1b-M269), R1b-V88 is associated with the domestication of cattle in northern Mesopotamia. Both branches of R1b probably split soon after cattle were domesticated, approximately 10,500 years ago (8,500 BCE).
R1b-V88 migrated south towards the Levant and Egypt. The migration of R1b people can be followed archeologically through the presence of domesticated cattle, which appear in central Syria around 8,000-7,500 BCE (late Mureybet period), then in the Southern Levant and Egypt around 7,000-6,500 BCE (e.g. at Nabta Playa and Bir Kiseiba).
Cattle herders subsequently spread across most of northern and eastern Africa. The Sahara desert would have been more humid during the Neolithic Subpluvial period (c. 7250-3250 BCE), and would have been a vast savannah full of grass, an ideal environment for cattle herding.
Evidence of cow herding during the Neolithic has shown up at Uan Muhuggiag in central Libya around 5500 BCE, at the Capeletti Cave in northern Algeria around 4500 BCE. But the most compelling evidence that R1b people related to modern Europeans once roamed the Sahara is to be found at Tassili n’Ajjer in southern Algeria, a site famous pyroglyphs (rock art) dating from the Neolithic era. Some painting dating from around 3000 BCE depict fair-skinned and blond or auburn haired women riding on cows.
After reaching the Maghreb, R1b-V88 cattle herders could have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to Iberia, probably accompanied by G2 farmers, J1 and T1a goat herders and native Maghreban E-M81 lineages. These Maghreban Neolithic farmers/herders could have been the ones who established the Almagra Pottery culture in Andalusia in the 6th millennium BCE.
It is difficult to know exactly where the Bronze Age started because bronze cannot be carbon-dated (only organic remains found together). However, the appearance of Leilatepe tradition’s carriers in the Caucasus marked the appearance of the ﬁrst local Caucasian metallurgy. This is attributed to migrants from Uruk, arriving around 4500 BCE.
The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslantepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.). Other sites belonging to the same culture in the Karabakh valley of Azerbaijan are Chinar-Tepe, Shomulu-Tepe, and Abdal-Aziz-Tepe. Leilatepe metalwork tradition was very sophisticated right from the beginning, and featured many bronze items.
Bronze objects were found in the Maykop culture of the North Caucasus around 3500 BCE. An expedition to Syria revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC. Bronze smelting techniques spread quickly to the Pontic-Caspian steppe, which by that time had maintained close ties with the North Caucasus for over a thousand years.
It is likely that the Proto-Indo-European speakers from the steppes were able to expand over such a huge area (from Ireland to India) and overthrow the advanced societies of the Balkans and the Middle East justly because they were the first to develop and refine bronze weapons. The oldest sword in the world also comes from the Maykop culture.
The origins of Maykop have been linked it to contemporary Chalcolithic cultures in Assyria and western Iran. Archeology also shows a clear diffusion of bronze working and kurgan-type burials from the Maykop culture to the Pontic Steppe, where the Yamna culture developed soon afterwards (from 3500 BCE).
The Yamna culture, also called Pit Grave Culture and Ochre Grave Culture, was a late Copper Age or early Bronze Age culture of the Southern Bug/Dniester/Ural region (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3,500 – 2,300 BCE. The culture was predominantly nomadic, with some agriculture practiced near rivers and a few hill-forts. Kurgan (a.k.a. tumulus) burials would become a dominant feature of ancient Indo-European societies and were widely used by the Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, and Scythians, among others.
According to Jones et al. (2015) and Haak et al. (2015), autosomic tests indicate that the Yamna-people were the result of admixture between two different hunter-gatherer populations: distinctive “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” with high affinity to Mal’ta-Buret’ culture or other, closely related people from Siberia and a population “Caucasus hunter-gatherers” who probably arrived from somewhere in the Near East, probably the Caucasus. Each of those two populations contributed about half the Yamna DNA.
According to co-author Dr. Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge: The question of where the Yamna come from has been something of a mystery up to now […] we can now answer that, as we’ve found that their genetic make-up is a mix of Eastern European hunter-gatherers and a population from this pocket of Caucasus hunter-gatherers who weathered much of the last Ice Age in apparent isolation.
According to Haak et al. (2015), “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” who inhabited Russia were distinctive population of hunter-gatherers with high affinity to a ~24,000-year-old Siberian from Mal’ta-Buret’ culture, or other, closely related people from Siberia. Remains of the “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” have been found in Mesolithic or early Neolithic sites in Karelia and Samara Oblast, Russia, and put under analysis.
Three such hunter-gathering individuals of the male sex have had their DNA results published. Each was found to belong to a different Y-DNA haplogroup: R1a, R1b, and J. R1b is also the most common Y-DNA haplogroup found among both the Yamna and modern-day Western Europeans.
The Near East population were most likely hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus. Jones et al. (2015) analyzed genomes from males from western Georgia, in the Caucasus, from the Late Upper Palaeolithic (13,300 years old) and the Mesolithic (9,700 years old). These two males carried Y-DNA haplogroup: J* and J2a.
The researchers found that these Caucasus hunters were probably the source of the farmer-like DNA in the Yamna, as the Caucasians were distantly related to the Middle Eastern people who introduced farming in Europe. Their genomes showed that a continued mixture of the Caucasians with Middle Eastern took place up to 25,000 years ago, when the coldest period in the last Ice Age started.
The Catacomb culture, covering several related archaeological cultures, was first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and showed 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. It was preceded by the Yamna culture and succeeded by the western Corded Ware culture. The Catacomb culture in the Pontic steppe was succeeded by the Srubna culture from c. the 17th century BCE.