Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

  • Sjur C Papazian

  • FB: Sjur Papazian

  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Armenian Eternal Symbol

  • Forget-me-not

  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

  • Archives

Ceramic Mesolithic

Ceramic Mesolithic

Ceramic Mesolithic


Comb Ceramic culture

Corded Ware culture

Narva Culture

The Rzucewo

Pitted Ware culture

“Steppe” Pottery



Kama culture

Elshan Pottery

Origin of the Elshan Pottery

Rakushechny Yar

Black Sea Hypothesis

Shulaveri Shomu Hyupothesis

South East Caspian Hypothesis

The Middle Volga

Volosovo Culture

Surskaja culture

Transverse grooved artefacts (TGA)

The Pontic-Caspian steppe

Neolithic-Chalcolithic transition

Ceramic Mesolithic

Introduction of pottery signifies massive cultural change. Beyond the introduction of a new technology, pottery provides additional possibilities for food storage and preparation (e.g. fish / vegetable soups, extracting animal lipids, brewing, pickling).

Appearance of larger, heavy vessels implies conversion to a more sedentary lifestyle. Such major cultural shift may have autochtonous origins, but more likely is external contact including immigration of specialists that master the sets of skills required to successfully produce ceramic, and prepare new kinds of food (beverages) in it.

This turns the focus towards the Neolithic that in Russian archeologic tradition is defined by the presence of pottery rather than agricultural / pastoralist activities – a fascinating issue anyway, since the European Russian Neolithic is commonly assumed to have supplied the earliest European pottery, slightly predating EEF (Sesklo, Argissa).

Ceramic figurines were already present in Dolni Vestonice, where thousands of ceramic artifacts, many of which depicted animals, have been found, and various other Upper Paleolithic sites, but they were about people, not pots (containers).

The term Ceramic Mesolithic is used of late Mesolithic cultures of Central Asia, North-Eastern Europe, Siberia, and certain southern European and North Africa between c. 7000 – 3850 BC. Russian archaeologists prefer to describe such pottery-making cultures as Neolithic, even though farming is absent.

This pottery-making Mesolithic culture can be found peripheral to the sedentary Neolithic cultures. It is characterized by its distinctive type of pottery, with point or knob base and flared rims, manufactured by methods not used by the Neolithic farmers. Though each area of Mesolithic ceramic developed an individual style, common features suggest a single point of origin.

It appears in the Elshan and Samara culture on the Volga in Russia about 7000 BC, and spread from there via the Dnieper-Donets culture to the Narva culture of the Eastern Baltic. Spreading westward along the coastline it is found in the Ertebølle culture of Denmark and Ellerbek of Northern Germany, and the related Swifterbant culture of the Low Countries.

A 2012 publication in the Science journal, announced that the earliest pottery yet known anywhere in the world was found in Xianrendong cave in China, dating by radiocarbon to between 20,000 and 19,000 years before present, at the end of the Last Glacial Period. The carbon 14 datation was established by carefully dating surrounding sediments.

Many of the pottery fragments had scorch marks, suggesting that the pottery was used for cooking. These early pottery containers were made well before the invention of agriculture (dated to 10,000 to 8,000 BC), by mobile foragers who hunted and gathered their food during the Late Glacial Maximum.

The process of neolithisation in Eastern and Southeastern, Central and Western Europe differed significantly. While the ‘Neolithic package’ distribution, ‘agricultural frontiers’ spread and ‘demic diffusion’ mark it in the latter, in Eastern Europe, the main marker of the Neolithic process was pottery appearance without any other Neolithic components.

The Pottery Neolithic of the East European plain northeast of the Dniestr in Southwestern Russia witnessed the more-or-less contemporary arrival of three, maybe even four, different pottery traditions, none of which  is associated with agriculture.

The analysis of faunal remains found at sites with undisturbed Neolithic layers in the Lower Volga region suggests that only wild animals were exploited. According to the radiocarbon dates, the Neolithic in the area dates to between the second quarter of the
7th and the middle of the 6th millennium calBC.

The only domestic animal present in this time period was the dog. Thus the transition to the Neolithic age was not accompanied by a food-producing economy in the region. Domestic animal bones were found at early Eneolithic Caspian culture sites dating to between the middle of the 6th and the first half of the 5th millennium calBC.

Cattle and sheep appeared in the Middle Eneolithic Khvalinskiy culture with other
domestic animals, dating to the first half of the 5th millennium calBC. Further analysis is needed to understand how the Lower Volga population learned cattle husbandry.

In the areas of the Khvalinskiy culture, sheep and goat bones were more numerous than ungulate hooves and comprised between 68–77%, while cattle made up from 1–9% and ungulates from 14–26%. Cattle breeding was of great importance in the Khvalinskiy culture, which is attested by the great abundance of cattle, sheep, and goat bones.

The latest, but nevertheless quite early of the entrants is so-called Combed Ceramics, all-over ornamented in narrowly-placed, horizontal patterns, which can be traced back to the Trans-Urals and West Siberia.

“Steppe” pottery, characterised by triangular and diagonal incisions, which finds close parallels in the Central Asian Kelteminar culture and is on the Lower Volga associated with mudbrick architecture as typical of Neolithic Central and West Asia.

Rakushechny Yar and Elshan ware, sparsely decorated except for knobbed or pitted rims, but partly ochre-painted, which seems to be based on South Caspian pottery technology and finds close, albeit chronologically later parallels in the East Caucasus.


The Lower Volga region has an extraordinary geographical position, as it borders with Caucasia to the west, Central Asia to the east, and the Caspian region to the south. Many archaeologists proposed that farming already existed in the Neolithic age in this area.

The specific central position of the region was the reason for the close interaction of
their inhabitants. It was thought that this allowed for the beginning of cattle domestication in the semi-desert area and in the Volga steppe region already in the Neolithic.

However, some archaeologists have shown that only wild animals were present in the Neolithic of Central Asia, while others do not agree that the Caucasian artefacts can be attributed to the Neolithic age.

Thus the problem of the origin of farming in the Lower Volga region in the Neolithic should be solved by focusing our attention to the analysis of material in this region, not on adjacent territories.

According to the radiocarbon dates, the Neolithic in the area dates to between the second quarter of the 7th and the middle of the 6th millennium calBC. The only domestic animal present in this time period was the dog. Thus the transition to the Neolithic age was
not accompanied by a food-producing economy in the region.

Domestic animal bones were found at early Eneolithic Caspian culture sites dating to between the middle of the 6th and the first half of the 5th millennium calBC. Cattle and sheep appeared in the Middle Eneolithic Khvalinskiy culture with other domestic animals, dating to the first half of the 5th millennium calBC.

Archaeologists distinguish between Neolithic artefacts from three cultural groups in the Lower Volga: Seroglazov (including the sites of Kairshak III, Baibek, and Tentexor) which spread in the Northern Caspian region; Jangar (Jangar and Tubuzgu-Khuduk sites) in the North-Western Caspian region, and Orlov (Varfolomeev, Aglay, Orlovka sites) in the Volga steppe region.

On the basis of the analyses of cultural assemblages of these sites, researchers have
singled out a number of general distinctive features: the flat-bottomed pottery was made of clay containing silt and clamshells, and was decorated with incised ornaments and geometric motifs; flint tools include blades and abundant geometric microliths. On the basis of the specific artefacts, they were grouped together into the Lower Neolithic Volga culture.

Jangar is the first site at which archaeologists supposed farming appeared in the region. Three cultural layers have been distinguished which included the bones of the saiga (Saiga tatarica), the onager (Equus hemionus), the horse, and cattle (Bos sp.).

Materials which evidence a step in the evolution in people’s lives were found in the upper layer of the site, because auroch, tarpan, and sheep bones similar to domestic species were collected. This means that the tarpan and auroch bones from the lower and middle layers were not domesticated.

At the same time, it is reported that Neolithic ceramics and flint were mixed with those
of the Eneolithic in the same layer, which is why archaeologists identified the appearance of domestic animal bones with the Eneolithic materials.

This concerns only sheep bones, because it has not been proved that other bones from the upper layers of Jangar could be attributed to domesticated animals. Therefore, the suggestion that the context provides the evidence of Neolithic farming in the steppe cannot be regarded as realistic.

According to the recently obtained radiocarbon dates, the lower and middle layers at
the site date to the first quarter of the 6th, and the upper layer to the middle of the 6th millennium calBC. The upper layer that contains Eneolithic material and sheep bones was dated to the beginning of the 5th millennium BC.

Varfolomeev is another site with a well-preserved cultural layer. It was differentiated
into several levels: the lower level (layer 3) was attributed to the middle Neolithic; the middle layers (2B and 2A) were attributed to the late Neolithic, and an upper layer was attributed to the early Eneolithic age.

On the basis of sheep bones, Yudin dated the appearance of farming to the second stage of the late Neolithic. However, we should note the author’s statement that houses were built into the ground in the lower levels of the site. This means that the deposits of the lower layers could have included mixed artefacts as well as bone fragments.

In addition, taphonomic processes may have caused the intrusion of auroch and tarpan bones from the upper layer 20 to layer 4 bellow. In Koltsov’s opinion, the increasing quantity of these bones indicates that they were domesticated, but the example of the Varfolomeev site disproves the idea.

Significantly, the number of saiga bones fell from 19 to 5 units in the layers mentioned. There was no precise diagnostic data proving horse domestication at this site. Concerning sheep bones, according to the published table, three animals were found in the upper layer, but the level relates to the Eneolithic period.

According to the radiocarbon dates, the late Neolithic materials in layer 2B date to the first quarter of the 6th millennium calBC, and layer 2A was attributed to the second quarter of the 6th millennium cal BC.

The same dates were obtained from the corresponding layers of Jangar. The dates of the Varfolomeevskaya site upper (Eneolithic) layer correspond to the dates of the upper layer of Jangar, the beginning of the 5th millennium calBC. During the second analysis of the Varfolomeevskaya bones, archaeologists failed to identify sheep bones in the upper and middle 2A layers.

The analyses of Neolithic assemblages of the Lower Volga region showed the presence of wild animal species only. The dog is the only animal which can be regarded as definitely
domestic if we consider the timeframe of the early Neolithic.

The bones of domestic sheep were identified in the territory of the Khvalinskiy culture in the middle Eneolithic. The sites of the culture date to the first part of 5th millennium calBC. A few Caspian culture sites of the late Neolithic/early Eneolithic date to the second
part of 6th millennium calBC.

Until recently, no Eneolithic sites with animal bones have been found in the Volga steppe region until recently. The situation changed in 2014, when the site Oroshaemoye I was analysed and a cultural layer found in situ with artefacts related to the Caspian culture.

According to the archaeozoological results, the bones belong to saiga, auroch, tarpan, wild boar, onager and domesticated sheep and goat. Thus it is the only site which could be attributed to the transition from the Neolithic to the Eneolithic where the bones of domestic animals may be observed.

According to the radiocarbon analysis of animal bones, the site dates to the second quarter of the 5th millennium calBC. Similar dates were obtained in analyses of other sites of the culture in the Volga-Ural interfluve.

If we consider the sites of the Khvalinskiy culture which include undisturbed layers, such as Kara-Khuduk and Kairshak VI, they yielded both sheep as well as cattle
bones. No wild species of sheep or goat inhabited the territory in question; all bone finds are from domestic animals. The earliest example of domesticated sheep, an ankle bone, was discovered in Tentexor I and dated to the first half of the 5th millennium calBC.

Equus remains were discovered on the territory of all cultures. We suppose the horse was domesticated later than cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. The domestic horse appeared when people already had domesticated ungulates, which is why equid bones are from wild species, such as tarpan.

It is more difficult to identify the equid bones from Eneolithic sites, since there were fewer equid remains, and other domestic ungulates were also found. Equid bones were collected at Khvalinskiy culture sites, at Khvalinskiy I and Khvalinskiy II, where both wild and domestic animals could have been used in mortuary rites.

Comb Ceramic culture

The Comb Ceramic culture or Pit-Comb Ware culture (4200 – 2000 BCE), often abbreviated as CCC or PCW , was a northeast European characterised by its Pit–Comb Ware. The bearers of the Comb Ceramic culture are thought to have still mostly followed the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, with traces of early agriculture.

The name can be somewhat misleading, as combing the outer surface of pottery with twigs, feathers, moss or similar material in order to remove excess clay has been practiced by many potters also outside of what is known as “combed ware”, e.g. by the Sioni Culture.

Alternative terms found in some papers are “netted” or “pseudo-corded” ware. Main stylistic characteristic is all-over ornamentation in narrowly-placed, horizontal patterns that are either incised or imprinted, apparently emulating containers made of plant material (basketry, or woven/ knitted textiles).

The ceramics consist of large pots that are rounded or pointed below, with a capacity from 40 to 60 litres. The forms of the vessels remained unchanged but the decoration varied. This pottery appears in the forest zone between the Middle Ural in the East to near Moscow in the west.

The distribution of the artifacts found includes Finnmark (Norway) in the north, the Kalix River (Sweden) and the Gulf of Bothnia (Finland) in the west and the Vistula River (Poland) in the south. It would include the Narva culture of Estonia and the Sperrings culture in Finland, among others.

They are thought to have been essentially hunter-gatherers, though e.g. the Narva or eastern Baltic culture (c. 5300 to 1750 BC), a Neolithic archaeological culture found in present-day Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kaliningrad Oblast (former East Prussia), and adjacent portions of Poland, Belarus and Russia, shows some evidence of agriculture.

Some of this region was absorbed by the later Corded Ware horizon, a broad archaeological horizon of Europe between c. 2900 BCE – circa 2350 BCE, thus from the late Neolithic, through the Copper Age, and ending in the early Bronze Age.

The Pit–Comb Ware culture is one of the few exceptions to the rule that pottery and farming coexist in Europe. In the Near East farming appeared before pottery, then when farming spread into Europe from the Near East, pottery-making came with it. However, in Asia, where the oldest pottery has been found, pottery was made long before farming.

By dating according to the elevation of land, the ceramics have traditionally been divided into the following periods: early (Ka I, c. 4200 BC – 3300 BC), typical (Ka II, c. 3300 BC – 2700 BC) and late Comb Ceramic (Ka III, c. 2800 BC – 2000 BC). However, calibrated radiocarbon dates for the comb-ware fragments found (e.g., in the Karelian isthmus), give a total interval of 5600 BC – 2300 BC.

It is suggested a West Siberian, influence, as there are parallels with Middle Urals sites such as Koksharovsky, and eventually Barsova Gora on the Middle Ob that have been AMS-dated to ca. 6.4 ky BC.

This pottery appears around 3800 BC in the forest zone between the Middle Ural in the East to near Moscow in the West. The style is quite frequent across all of North East Asia, including Early Jomon and 14 ky BC Lower Amur pottery, where it may actually have originated.

Trans-Baikal sites such as Krasnaya Gorka (pottery dated to 11 ky BC) may have served as bridge towards West Siberia and ultimately Northeast Europe. However, there remain various gaps to fill before such a path can be consdidered as archeologically confirmed.

The spread of “combed” ceramics apparently included a substantial demic element, as indicated by some 30% newly arrived Siberian ancestry in 6th millennium BC Middle Volga and Karelian samples, traces of which also make it to the Middle Dniepr and into the Narva Culture (but were not yet present in Mesolithic Kunda samples.

Among the many styles of comb ware there is one which makes use of the characteristics of asbestos: Asbestos ware. Other styles are Pyheensilta, Jäkärlä, Kierikki, Pöljä and Säräisniemi pottery with their respective subdivisions. Sperrings ceramics is the original name given for the younger early Comb ware (Ka I:2) found in Finland.

The settlements were located at sea shores or beside lakes and the economy was based on hunting, fishing and the gathering of plants. In Finland, it was a maritime culture which became more and more specialized in hunting seals.

The dominant dwelling was probably a teepee of about 30 square meters where some 15 people could live. Also rectangular houses made of timber become popular in Finland from 4000 BC cal. Graves were dug at the settlements and the dead were covered with red ochre. The typical Comb Ceramic age shows an extensive use of objects made of flint and amber as grave offerings.

The stone tools changed very little over time. They were made of local materials such as slate and quartz. Finds suggest a fairly extensive exchange network: red slate originating from northern Scandinavia, asbestos from Lake Saimaa, green slate from Lake Onega, amber from the southern shores of the Baltic Sea and flint from the Valdai area in northwestern Russia.

The culture was characterised by small figurines of burnt clay and animal heads made of stone. The animal heads usually depict moose and bears and were derived from the art of the Mesolithic. There were also many rock paintings. There are sources noting that the typical comb ceramic pottery had a sense of luxury and that its makers knew how to wear precious amber pendants.

In earlier times, it was often suggested that the spread of the Comb Ware people was correlated with the diffusion of the Uralic languages, and thus an early Uralic language would have been spoken throughout this culture. It has also been suggested that bearers of this culture likely spoke Finno-Ugric languages.

A more recent view is that the Comb Ware people may have spoken Pre-Indo-European languages, as some toponyms and hydronyms also indicate a non-Uralic, non-Indo-European language at work in some areas.

In addition, modern scholars have located the Proto-Uralic homeland east of the Volga, if not even beyond the Urals. The great westward dispersal of the Uralic languages is thought to have happened long after the demise of the Comb Ceramic culture, perhaps in the 1st millennium BC.

In a 2017 genetic study published in Current Biology, the remains of three CCC individuals buried at Kudruküla was analyzed. The Y-DNA sample extracted belonged to R1a5-YP1272. The three mtDNA samples extracted belonged to U5b1d1, U4a and U2e1.

In a genetic study published in Nature Communications in January 2018, the remains of two CCC individuals were analyzed. The male was found to be carrying R1 and U4d2, while the female carried U5a1d2b The CCC individuals were found to be mostly of Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG) descent, and to have more EHG ancestry than people of the Narva culture.

In a genetic study published in Nature Communications in November 2018, the CCC individuals studies were modeled as being of 65% Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG), 20% Western Steppe Herder (WSH), and 15% Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) descent.

The amount of EHG ancestry was higher than among earlier cultures of the eastern Baltic, while WSH ancestry had previously never been attested among such an early culture in the region.

Corded Ware culture

Corded Ware culture encompassed a vast area, from the Rhine on the west to the Volga in the east, occupying parts of Northern Europe, Central Europe and Eastern Europe. It carried mostly Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry and were closely related to the people of the Yamna culture (or Yamnaya), “documenting a massive migration into the heartland of Europe from its eastern periphery,” the Eurasiatic steppes.

It may have disseminated the Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic Indo-European languages. The Corded Ware Culture also shows genetic affinity with the later Sintashta culture, where the Proto-Indo-Iranian language may have originated.

Narva culture

Narva culture or eastern Baltic (c. 5300 to 1750 BC) was a European Neolithic archaeological culture found in present-day Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kaliningrad Oblast (former East Prussia), and adjacent portions of Poland, Belarus and Russia.

A successor of the Mesolithic Kunda culture, Narva culture continued up to the start of the Bronze Age. The technology was that of hunter-gatherers. The culture was named after the Narva River in Estonia.

The people of the Narva culture had little access to flint; therefore, they were forced to trade and conserve their flint resources. For example, there were very few flint arrowheads and flint was often reused.

The Narva culture relied on local materials (bone, horn, schist). As evidence of trade, researchers found pieces of pink flint from Valdai Hills and plenty of typical Narva pottery in the territory of the Neman culture while no objects from the Neman culture were found in Narva.

Heavy use of bones and horns is one of the main characteristics of the Narva culture. The bone tools, continued from the predecessor Kunda culture, provide the best evidence of continuity of the Narva culture throughout the Neolithic period.

The people were buried on their backs with few grave goods. The Narva culture also used and traded amber; a few hundred items were found in Juodkrantė. One of the most famous artifacts is a ceremonial cane carved of horn as a head of female elk found in Šventoji.

The people were primarily fishers, hunters, and gatherers. They slowly began adopting husbandry in the middle Neolithic. They were not nomadic and lived in same settlements for long periods as evidenced by abundant pottery, middens, and structures built in lakes and rivers to help fishing.

The pottery shared similarities with the Comb Ceramic culture, but had specific characteristics. One of the most persistent features was mixing clay with other organic matter, most often crushed snail shells.

The pottery was made of 6-to-9 cm (2.4-to-3.5 in) wide clay strips with minimal decorations around the rim. The vessels were wide and large; the height and the width were often the same. The bottoms were pointed or rounded, and only the latest examples have narrow flat bottoms. From mid-Neolithic, Narva pottery was influenced and eventually disappeared into the Corded Ware culture.

For a long time archaeologists believed that the first inhabitants of the region were Finno-Ugric, who were pushed north by people of the Corded Ware culture. In 1931, Latvian archaeologist Eduards Šturms [lv] was the first to note that artifacts found near the Zebrus Lake in Latvia were different and possibly belonged to a separate archaeological culture. In early 1950s settlements on the Narva River were excavated. Lembit Jaanits [et] and Nina Gurina [ru] grouped the findings with similar artifacts from eastern Baltic region and described the Narva culture.

At first, it was believed that Narva culture ended with the appearance of the Corded Ware culture. However, newer research extended it up to the Bronze Age. As Narva culture spanned several millennia and encompassed a large territory, archaeologists attempted to subdivide the culture into regions or periods.

For example, in Lithuania two regions are distinguished: southern (under influence of the Neman culture) and western (with major settlements found in Šventoji). There is an academic debate what ethnicity the Narva culture represented: Finno-Ugrians or other Europids, preceding the arrival of the Indo-Europeans. It is also unclear how the Narva culture fits with the arrival of the Indo-Europeans (Corded Ware and Globular Amphora cultures) and the formation of the Baltic tribes.

In a genetic study published in Current Biology in February 2017, it was determined that peoples of the Narva culture and the preceding Kunda culture showed closer genetic affinity with Western Hunter-Gatherers (WHGs) than Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs).

In a genetic study published in Current Biology in July 2017, the mtDNA from an Narva male was extracted. He was found to be carrying haplogroup U5a2d. In a genetic study published in Nature Communications in January 2018, the remains of ten individuals ascribed to the Narva culture was analyzed.

Of the four samples of Y-DNA extracted, one belonged to I2a1a2a1a, one belonged to I2a1b, one belonged to I, and one belonged to R1. Of the ten samples of mtDNA extracted, eight belonged to U5 haplotypes, one belonged to U4a1, and one belonged to H11.

U5 haplotypes were common among Western Hunter-Gatherers (WHGs) and Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers (SHGs). Genetic influence from Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs) was also detected.

A genetic study published in Nature in February 2018 included an analysis of a large number of individuals buried at the Zvejnieki burial ground, most of whom were affiliated with the Kunda culture and the succeeding Narva culture. The mtDNA extracted belonged exclusively to haplotypes of U5, U4 and U2. With regards to Y-DNA, the vast majority of samples belonged to R1b1a1a haplotypes and I2a1 haplotypes.

The results affirmed that the Kunda and Narva cultures were about 70% WHG and 30% EHG. The nearby contemporary Pit–Comb Ware culture was on the contrary found to be about 65% EHG. And individual from the Corded Ware culture, which would eventually succeed the Narva culture, was found to have genetic relations with the Yamna culture.

The Rzucewo

The Rzucewo (also Rutzau or Bay Coast culture, German: Haffküstenkultur, 2700 BC) was a local archaeological culture of late Neolithic. It centered at the coast of the Bay of Gdansk (Danzig) and Vistula Lagoon (Frisches Haff) and extended north to the Curonian Lagoon and up to Šventoji settlement in Lithuania. It is either named after the adjacent bays, or after an archeological site in the village of Rzucewo (Rutzau) near Puck.

The Rzucewo culture was a hybrid of pre-Indo-European Narva culture, Globular Amphora culture and Corded Ware culture. Traditionally Rzucewo was identified as a variation of Corded Ware culture; however newest research suggests that the culture formed before Corded Ware.

This culture specialized in exploitation of marine resources, and existed in parallel to its mother culture for some time. Rzucewo settlements, consisting of characteristic houses reinforced against sea erosion, were located along the coast and further east.

The Rzucewo people had domesticated cattle, pigs, some goats, but did little cultivation and engaged in fishery and hunting, especially of seals, then numerous along the Baltic coast. The Rzucewo culture people produced and widely traded amber decorative items in specialist shops. A large number of amber artifacts was found in Juodkrantė.

Formerly, this culture was interpreted as the earliest detection of the Balts. Tracing formation of the Balts to Rzucewo culture would explain differences between Western and Eastern Balts and their languages.

Typically Polish and German archeologists place the culture just on the coast, while Lithuanian and Latvian scientists extend it much further inland describing coastal settlements as a cultural and economic center and inland villages as a periphery.

Pitted Ware culture

The Pitted Ware culture (c. 3200 BC–c. 2300 BC) was a hunter-gatherer culture in southern Scandinavia, mainly along the coasts of Svealand, Götaland, Åland, north-eastern Denmark and southern Norway.

Despite its Mesolithic economy, it is by convention classed as Neolithic, since it falls within the period in which farming reached Scandinavia. The Pitted Ware people were largely maritime hunters, and were engaged in lively trade with both the agricultural communities of the Scandinavian interior and other hunter-gatherers of the Baltic Sea.

The people of the Pitted Ware culture were a genetically homogeneous and distinct population descended from earlier Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers (SHGs). The culture emerged in east-central Sweden around 3,500 BC, gradually replacing the Funnelbeaker culture throughout the coastal areas of southern Scandinavia. It subsequently co-existed with the Funnelbeaker culture for several centuries.

From about 2,800 BC, the Pitted Ware culture co-existed with the Battle Axe culture, which was the successor of the Funnelbeaker culture in southern Scandinavia. By 2,300 BC, the Pitted Ware culture had been absorbed by the Battle Axe culture. The subsequent Nordic Bronze Age represents a fusion of elements from the Pitted Ware culture and the Battle Axe culture. Modern Scandinavians, unlike the Sami, display partial genetic origins from the Pitted Ware people.

Genetic studies suggest that the Pitted Ware peoples, unlike their Neolithic neighbors, were descended from earlier Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherers (SHGs). At the time of the emergence of the Pitted Ware culture, these hunter-gatherers persisted to the north of the agricultural Funnelbeaker culture. Their ceramic traditions are related to those of the Comb Ceramic culture.

The Pitted Ware culture arose around 3,500 BC. Its earliest sites are found in east-central Sweden, where it appears to have replaced the Funnelbeaker culture. Its subsequent expansion is accompanied by the disappearance of settlements of the Funnelbeaker culture throughout large parts of southern Scandinavia.

It came to occupy the coasts of Denmark, southern Sweden, southern Norway and various islands of the Baltic Sea, such as Öland, Gotland, and Åland. There were lively contacts with hunter-gatherer communities of Finland and the eastern Baltic. During its initial years, the Pitted Ware culture co-existed with the Funnelbeaker culture.

Although the two cultures exchanged goods with each other, its peoples appear to have had widely different identities, and they did not mix with each other to any notable extent. Throughout its existence of more than 1,000 years, the Pitted Ware culture remained virtually unchanged.

From around 2,800 BC, the Pitted Ware culture co-existed for some time with the Battle Axe culture, which succeeded the Funnelbeaker culture in southern Scandinvia. By ca. 2,300 BC, the Pitted Ware culture had been absorbed by the Battle Axe culture. The subsequent Nordic Bronze Age represents a fusion of elements from the Pitted Ware culture and the Battle Axe culture.

Pitted Ware settlements were typically located along the coasts. They usually lived in huts. The economy of the Pitted Ware culture was based on fishing, hunting and gathering of plants. The hunting of seal was particularly important. For this reason, the Pitted Ware people have been called “hard-core sealers” or the “Inuit of the Baltic”.

Pitted Ware sites contain bones from elk, deer, beaver, seal, porpoise, and pig. Pig bones found in large quantities on some Pitted Ware sites emanate from wild boar rather than domestic pigs. Seasonal migration was a feature of life, as with many other hunter-gatherer communities.

Pitted Ware communities in Eastern Sweden probably spent most of the year at their main village on the coast, making seasonal forays inland to hunt for pigs and fur-bearing animals and to engage in exchange with farming communities in the interior.

This type of seasonal interaction may explain the unique Alvastra Pile Dwelling in south-western Östergötland, which belongs to the Pitted Ware culture as far as the pottery is concerned, but to the Funnelbeaker culture in tools and weapons.

The Pitted Ware peoples appear to have been specialized hunters who engaged in the trade of animal goods with peoples throughout the Baltic. The repertoire of Pitted Ware tools varied from region to region. In part this variety reflected regional sources of raw materials. However the use of fish-hooks, harpoons, and nets and sinkers was fairly widespread. Tanged arrow heads made from blades of flintstone are abundant on Scandinavia’s west coast, and were probably used in the hunting of marine mammals.

One notable feature of the Pitted Ware Culture is the sheer quantity of shards of pottery on its sites. The culture has been named after the typical ornamentation of its pottery: horizontal rows of pits pressed into the body of the pot before firing.

Though some vessels are flat-bottomed, others are round-based or pointed-based, which would facilitate stable positioning in the soil or on the hearth. In shape and decoration, this ceramic reflects influences from the Comb Ceramic culture (also known as Pit-Comb Ware) of Finland and other parts of north-eastern Europe, established in the sixth and fifth millennia BC.

Small animal figurines were modelled out of clay, as well as bone. These are also similar to the art of the Comb Ware culture. A large number of clay figurines have been found at Jettböle on the island of Jomala in Åland, including some which combine seal and human features.

The Pitted Ware people buried their dead in cemeteries. Most excavated Pitted Ware burials are located at Gotland, where around 180 graves have been found at numerous sites with several layers. One such site is at Västerbjers.

Pitted Ware people were typically buried in flat inhumation graves, although cremation does occur. Unlike the Funnelbeakers, they did not have megalithic graves. Pitted Ware burials are also distinguished from Funnelbeaker burials through their use of red ochre.

Grave goods include ceramics, boar tusks, pig jaws, pendants of fox, dog and seal teeth, harpoons, spears, fishhooks of bone, stone and flint axes, and other artifacts. The presence of slate artifacts and battle axes attest wide randing contacts between the Pitted Ware people and other cultures of Northern Europe and the Baltic.

People of all ages and genders were buried in the same cemetery. There are no indications of difference in social status. Their mortuary houses and secondary burials are nevertheless evidence of complex burial customs.

The Pitted Ware people had an animistic cosmography similar to that of the people of the Comb Ceramic culture and other Mesolothic hunter-gatherers of the Baltic. Examination of the skeletons of Pitted Ware people have revealed that they were of a more robust build than contemporary neighboring populations.

In particular, they were much better adapted to cold temperatures. Genetic studies of the Pitted Ware peoples has found them to have been strikingly genetically homogenous, suggesting that they originated from a small founder group.

In a genetic study published in Current Biology in September 2009, mtDNA was extracted from seventeen Pitted Ware people from Gotland. Eight individuals belonged to U4 haplotypes, seven belonged to U5 haplotypes, one belonged to K1a1, one belonged to T2b, and one belonged to HV0. The results debunked previous theories suggesting that the Pitted Ware were related to the Sami people. On the contrary, Pitted Ware people showed closer genetic kinship to modern Balts.

In a genetic study published in BMC Evolutionary Biology in March 2010, it was discovered that the Pitted Ware possessed a very low level (5%) of an allele (−13910*T) strongly associated with the ability to consume unprocessed milk. This frequency is dramatically different from modern Swedes (74%). Whether the increase of this allele among the Swedes was a result of admixture or natural selection was uncertain.

In a genetic study published in Science in April 2012, an individual from the Pitted Ware culture was examined. The individual was found to have “a genetic profile that is not fully represented by any sampled contemporary population”.

In another genetic study published in Science in May 2014, the mtDNA of six individuals ascribed to the Pitted Ware culture was extracted. Four samples belonged to U4d, one belonged to U, and one belonged to V.

A genetic study published in August 2014 found that Pitted Ware peoples were closely genetically similar to people of the Catacomb culture, who like the Pitted Ware people carried high frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U5 and U4. These lineages are associated with Western Hunter-Gatherers and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers.

In a genetic study published in Nature in September 2014, members of the Pitted Ware culture were determined to largely belong to the Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherer (SHG) cluster.

In a genetic study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B in January 2015, the mtDNA of thirteen PCW individuals from Öland and Gotland was extracted. The four individuals from Öland carried H1f, T2b, K1a1 and U4a1. Of the ten individuals from Gotland, four carried U4, two carried U5 haplotypes, two carried K1a1, and one carried HV0.

The results indicated that the Pitted Ware culture was genetically distinct from the Funnelbeaker culture, and closely genetically related to earlier Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of Scandinavia and Western Europe. It was found that the Pitted Ware culture left a genetic imprint on Scandinavians, although this number is certainly not more than 60%.

A genetic study published in Nature Communications in January 2018 indicated genetic continuity between SHGs and the Pitted Ware culture, and found that the Pitted Ware people were genetically distinct from the Funnelbeaker culture.

A 2019 study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B the remains of a Pitted Ware male were analyzed. He was found to the carrying the paternal haplgroup U5b1d2, and probably a subclade of the paternal haplogroup I2. He was estimated to be 25-35 years old and 165-175 cm tall.

It was found that the Pitted Ware people only slightly contributed to the gene pool of the Battle Axe culture, who were almost wholly of Western Steppe Herder descent.

“Steppe” Pottery

Lower Volga pottery, or “Steppe” pottery, appeared even earlier. It is found on the eastern bank of the Upper Volga in the Kairshak Culture from ca. 6500 BC. It expands to also cover the western bank (Jangar Culture) by ca. 6000 BC. It also spread northwards towards Volgograd and beyond (Orlovka culture) by 5800 BC.

It was characterised by triangular and diagonal impressions/ incisions, sometimes alluded to as “steppe decoration”. It find close parallels in the Central Asian Kelteminar culture (5500–3500 BC) and is on the Lower Volga associated with mudbrick architecture as typical of Neolithic Central and West Asia.

This label isn’t completely unjustified, considering that such patterns were also typical for Potapovka, Andronovo or Sintashta. However, a similar decoration, albeit painted instead of impressed/ incised, was common in Late Neolithic Iran and North Mesopotamia, and the closest parallel to the Lower Volga is provided by Early Kelteminar incised pottery, so one might equally label it as “Circum-Caspian style”.

Considering that Catal höyük Painted Ware, Archaic Fikirtepe in North West Anatolia, and Neolithic Palestine (Jericho etc.) used similar patterns, even “Circum-Caspian” may only imperfectly address the true geographic extent.

Triangular and diagonal incisions are quite typical of Mesolithic carving, e.g. the Shigir Idol from the Central Urals from 9500 BC, or the pebble engravings from Gobustan located about 80 km (50 mi) west of Baku, Azerbaijan, from the 9th millenim BC.

Neolithic engravings in this style are a/o documented from the middle Dniepr, and the Anta do Olival da Pega dolmen (Évora, Portugal). Hence, the decoration style may well have been transfered from organic vessels (wood, Calabash) onto early pottery more than once.

 Shigir Sculpture

The Shigir Sculpture, or Shigir Idol made during the Mesolithic period, shortly after the end of the last Ice Age. The wood it was carved from is approximately 11,500 years old. A decorated antler was found near the Shigir Idol and dated to the same period, giving credence to the estimated age of 11,500 years.

It is the most ancient wooden sculpture of its kind known in the world. Typically, wood degrades in most environments and does not endure for archaeological discovery so readily as other materials such as stone and metal. Scholars noted that the Shigir Idol’s decoration was similar to that of the oldest known monumental stone ruins, at Gobekli Tepe in the Armenian Highland.

The sculpture was discovered on January 24, 1894 at a depth of 4 m (13 ft) in the peat bog of Shigir, on the eastern slope of the Middle Urals, approximately 100 km (62 mi) from Yekaterinburg. Investigations in this area had begun 40 years earlier, after the discovery of a variety of prehistoric objects in an open-air gold mine.

It was extracted in ten parts. Professor D. I. Lobanov combined the main fragments to reconstitute a sculpture 2.8 meters high. In 1914, archaeologist Vladimir Tolmachev proposed a variant of this reconstruction by integrating the unused fragments. His reconstruction suggested that the original height of the statue was 5.3 metres. Later, some of these fragments were lost, so only Tolmachev’s drawings of them remain.

The sculpture is carved from larch. As identified from the annual rings, the tree was at least 159 years old. Stone tools were used for carving the markings. The top portion is a head with a face with eyes, nose, and mouth. The body is flat and rectangular.

Geometrical motifs decorate its surface, including zigzag lines and depictions of human faces and hands. Horizontal lines at the level of the thorax may represent ribs, and lines broken in chevrons cover the rest of what often is described as the body; however, along with the face at the top, several faces are visible at various points along the sculpture. The arrangement resembles a totem pole.

Some scholars have proposed various theories about the carvings’ meaning. For example that the decoration tells the creation myth those who carved it believed in or that the markings could have served as a navigational aid or map. It has also been suggested that the statue could depict mythological creatures such as forest spirits or that tit could serve as a warning not to enter a dangerous area.

The ornamentation on the sculpture was carved using three different sizes of chisels. In addition, following his 2014 examination of the sculpture, Professor Zhilin discovered another face in the sculpture and asserted that the faces were carved last of all, using tools made from the lower jaw bones of a beaver, with sharpened incisor teeth. A beaver jaw tool from the same period was found at the Beregovaya 2 site.

The discovery upended scholars’ views on when humans began making ritual art, as opposed to the kind of realistic art seen in the Lascaux caves. Scientists had previously believed that complex art comparable to the Shigir Idol began in sedentary farming populations in the Middle East around 8,000 years ago.

The sculpture was made from the phytoncidic larch, then preserved in turf, a bog, that had an acid anaerobic environment, which kills microorganisms and also has a tanning effect. Scientists suspect that many more statues like the Shigir Idol existed, but that they did not benefit from the same unusual conditions and therefore were not preserved.


Gobustan is an administrative district, or rayon, of Azerbaijan. Area 1,369.4 km²; population 37,137; population density 27 persons/km². Its administrative centre, Qobustan (not to be confused with Qobustan, Baku) was known as Maraza until 2009, and is located about 80 km (50 mi) west of Baku.

The territory of Gobustan ranges from the shores of the Caspian Sea to Mount Gijaki, the highest point in eastern part the Greater Caucasus. Peculiarities of Gobustan landscape are the rocks of lime and sandstone in the middle territory of the district, and mud volcanoes, which are located in the east part of Gobustan.

Gobustan Rock Art represents flora and fauna, hunting, lifestyles, and culture of pre-historic and medieval periods of time. The carvings on the rocks illustrates primitive men, ritual dances, men with lances in their hands, animals, bull fights, camel caravans, and picture of the sun and stars. The date of these cravings goes back to 5.000 – 20.000 years before.

Kama culture

The Kama culture (6000-4000 BC), also known as Volga-Kama or Khutorskoye from finds near the Khutorskoye settlement, is an Eastern European Subneolithic culture. The area covers the Kama, Vyatka and the Ik-Belaya watershed (Perm and Kirov regions, Udmurtia, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan).

There are no signs of agriculture. The economy was based on hunting and fishing. Burials are unknown. The instruments for work include scrapers, sharpeners, knives, leaf-shaped and semi-rhombic arrowheads, chisels and adzes, weights.

The rectangular partially sunken dwellings, ranging in size from 6×8 to 16×5m, are grouped in unfortified permanent and temporary settlements, located on the banks of lakes, floodplains and on river terraces.

The pottery is thick-walled, egg-shaped, both round- and pointed-bottomed. It is heavily ornamented with comb stamp designs, vertical and horizontal zigzags, sloping rows, braids, triangles, banded comb meshes.

Kama Neolithic finds have been joined with combed ceramics into a single Khutorskoye culture, synchronous with the Poluden culture in the Ural Mountains. Its comb decorated pottery is similar to that of the Upper Volga culture.

The definition of the Kama culture remains a subject of debate. Initially, it was determined by O.H. Bader on the territory of the Middle Kama, where he distinguished two phases: Borovoye (Borovoy Lake I) and Khutorskoye.

A.Kh. Khalikov united the finds with Pitted and Combed Ware of the Lower and Middle Kama into one Volga-Kama culture. I.V. Kalinina, based on the study of ceramics came to the conclusion that there are two distinct cultures: Volga-Kama pitted pottery and Kama combed pottery.

A.A. Vibornov identified three stages of development in the Kama culture, and V.P.  Denisov and L.A. Nagovitchin joined the Kama Neolithic finds with combed ceramics into a single Khutorskoye culture, synchronous with the Poluden culture in the Ural Mountains. Its comb decorated pottery is similar to that of the Upper Volga culture.

In its development the Kama culture passed through three stages: early (sites: Mokino, Ust-Bukorok, Ziarat, Ust-Shizhma), middle (sites: Khutorskaya Kryazhskaya, Lebedynska) and late (sites: Lyovshino, Chernashka).

The culture was formed in the early Neolithic on a local Mesolithic substrate under the influence of southern steppe populations. In the southern regions the influence of the nearby forest-steppe cultures of the Middle Volga can be observed during the whole period of existence.

In the developed Neolithic a population of Trans-Ural origin penetrates in the upper and middle Kama. In this period there are formed local variants: Verkhnekamsk, Ikska-Belsky and Nizhnekamsk. At the end of the Neolithic the lower Kama falls under the influence of the Early Eneolithic Samara culture.

Elshan Pottery

The earliest pottery and adobe architecture in the region can be found in the Low Volga region. The earliest pottery appeared at sites in the Kairshak-Tenteksor group and Dzgangar-Varfolomeevka 7050–6650 BC, and the Elshan group in the Middle Volga River region 7150–5950 BC.

Researchers have advanced a hypothesis regarding the Volga-Kama region of an ecological crisis resulting in human migration and a transition from hunter-gatherer to agricultural economies.

This implies a link between eco-crises with fluctuations in the level of the Caspian Sea and water level in northern regions and, consequently, non-contemporaneous sites located at different hypsometric levels. In other words, general postulates enable Neolithic cultures, their genesis and type of economy to be dated.

By the beginning of the 21st century researchers have identified several archaeological
Neolithic cultures. However, it was not always possible to track the temporal and spatial
interaction between their bearers at the typological level.

Since 2007 a technological analyses has been carried out on a large number of the vessels belonging to these cultures. The typical characteristics for the cultures of each region were identified. Moreover, a large series of radiocarbon dates was obtained for a large number of monuments of these cultures, including the dates on the organic matter in the ceramics.

During the entire Neolithic in the Northern Caspian region, the Kairshak and Tenteksor
ceramic traditions are represented by molding masses from lake silt. Judging by radiocarbon dates, this tradition exists between 6500 and 5500 BC.

At the same time, the ceramic tradition of Rakushechny Yar culture develops in the Low Don. However, its technological characteristics do not allow to assume the interaction of these culture-bearers at early stages.

During 6500-5500 BC Orlovskaya Neolithic culture is developing in the north of the Caspian Sea, in the Lower Volga region. Its early stage is characterized by features similar to the Caspian ones. That might suggest the influence of the Caspian population on the formation of the ceramic tradition of the Low Volga region.

Later on this territory the process of evolutionary development of the molding masses is under way: from silt to muddy clays at the developed stage, and at a later stage to clays. The system of ornamentation is also changing.

Within the period of 6500 – 5500 the Elshanskaya ceramic tradition, based on clay molding masses, is developing to the north, in the forest-steppe Volga region. The vessels of the syncretic type were found in the Lower Volga region, which testify to the interaction of the bearers of Orlovskaya and Elshanskaya cultures.

In 5700 BC a ceramic tradition appears in the forest zone of Volga-Kama, similar to the
Elshanskaya one. This allows us to assume a significant role of the Elshanka inhabitants in its appearance.

A special ceramic tradition is emerging around 5500 in the forest lands, on clay with an
admixture of chamotte. At the same time, there are syncretic vessels demonstrating the
interaction between the forest-steppe and forest cultures

According to the analysis of different types of raw material, from which Neolithic pottery in the Volga Kama region there have been identified three areas of expansion of Early Neolithic pottery traditions:

The first pottery tradition developed in areas, where ceramics were made from silts. It can be linked to the area north and northwest of Prikaspy in the steppe Volga Region. Cultures with painted and incised decorations on vessels in the Ukraine and in the south of East European Russia in the 6th to 5th millennium BC are included.

According to preliminary results, this area includes the expansion of Sursk, Dnepr and Donetsk, Bug-Dniester and shell-Yarsky cultures. Ves sels are characterised by flat-bottomed vessels with painted and incised decorations made from silts.

The earliest ceramics made of silts at the site Kairshak III was 14C AMS dated to the first quarter of the 6th millenium BC. At the advanced stage of the Neolithic in the steppe Volga region, a switch to new raw materials in the form of silty clays and clays has been noted.

The use of silty clays is an inter-medium in the evolution of pottery, where first silts and later clays were used as the main raw materials for ceramics. This conclusion is confirmed by results of the study of the stratified Bartholomew site and its dates.

It was found that the technological switch to silty clays was not immediate. This change did not occur in settlements at the late Neolithic site Tenteksor I in the northern Kaspy region, which is dated to the second quarter of the 5th millenium BC.

It should be noted that fabrics with chamotte temper were not found among Neolithic materials in the Lower Volga region. Parellel to the change in the use of silts to silty clays and clays, one pottery tradition was formed i.e. the use of an artificially added broken shells as temper.

If we consider the hypothesis of pottery origins in connection to the use of organic and silty materials, there should be signs of a pre-pottery period in early ceramic complexes at pottery production centres.

These signs of a pre-pottery period are connected to fabric characteristics and to the use of fire more as an object of worships with purifying and magical characteristics than a simple technique. All these characteristics were traced in the assemblages of the Northern Caspian region, and according to this it is assumed an independent origin of pottery in this region.

The second pottery tradition appears in the Volga-Ural and Middle Volga regions. The earliest pottery of the Elshansky culture in the Middle Volga region, where silty clays and chamotte-temper were used as the main ceramic fabrics, dates to the first quarter of the 6th millennium BC. These are thin-walled vessels, with straight or smooth profiles and conical bottoms.

Later, under the influence of Neolithic communities from the Lower Volga region, the Elshansky people began to make flat-bottomed ware. Some 20–50% of pottery at different sites has no ornamentations.

The remaining vessels are mostly decorated with a horizontal indent around the mouth of the vessels. The most popular features of Elshansky pottery are: silty clays used as raw material; sandy ferrous raw materials without shells; and two pottery traditions in the preparation of ceramic fabrics, one with added organic temper (OS) and the other with organic and chamotte temper (SH).

Elshansky pottery was mostly made with silty clays, and only some of the vessels were made from silty clays with added mineral inclusions (chamotte). These facts may reflect two processes: firstly, the evolution of the attitude of Elshansky potters to raw materials,
i.e. from proto-pottery to archae-pottery, or, secondly, a certain primordial heterogeneity in the population of the Volga region during its migration to the Volga-Ural region.

Due to the analyses of pottery technology, we infer that the pottery was not of local origin. When the Elshansky pottery appeared in the Volga-Ural region, it was more technologically developed than the already present painted pottery and pottery decorated with incisions.

It is assumed that Elshansky pottery evolved in the eastern Caspian region and in central Asia, not in the Volga-Ural and Middle Volga region. The formation of a Neolithic culture in the Middle Volga region dates back to the middle of the 5th millennium BC. The pottery is characterised by a mixture of the two Early Neolithic pottery traditions mentioned above and their development.

The third pottery tradition is linked to the Prikamye region and is connected to the Kama culture. This pottery consists of round-bottomed thick-walled vessels, decorated with a comb and prepared with a specific fabric.

The earliest pottery, excavated at the Ziarat site, dates to the last quarter of the 5th millennium BC (Vybornov 2008). Pottery traditions in this region include specific attitudes to natural raw materials, which is reflected in using dry mixtures of rich clays, mixed with chamotte temper in equal quantities. The clay and temper were then
‘pasted’ together with an organic solution.

The chronology of the Kama culture is based on radiocarbon dates from organic matter on pottery and corroborated by AMS radiocarbon dates on pottery. Interestingly, chamotte temper was mixed with raw materials in lower proportions in the Elshansky culture (in most cases, the concentration is no more than 1:5, i.e. one part chamotte to five parts of raw material) than in the Kama pottery tradition, where the proportion of clay and chamotte was 1:1 or 1:3.

The origin of this pottery tradition is not obvious, but it is assumed it is not connected to Neolithic cultures of the Middle Volga region. The Volga-Kama region became an area of blending and interaction of two different Neolithic cultures, the populations of the Middle Volga region that migrated here from the south, and the Kama population, which was perhaps also immigrant to this region. The Volga-Kama culture appeared as a combination of the Middle Volga and Kama culture.

The area of the Kama culture is characterised by the use of natural clays converted into dry matter and mixed with chamotte temper and organic matter in similar quantities. In
Prikamye region near the Kama river it was dated to the 5th to 4th millennium BC.

Origin of the Elshan Pottery

In the mid-1970-s, sites were discovered on the Samara River with unusual Neolithic ceramics with pointed bottoms and faint dash ornamentation, which the researchers compared to Early Neolithic pottery from Central Asia, the Eastern Caspian Sea region, and dated to the 6–5 th millennia BP. This type of pottery was denoted as Elshanka, from the name of the first site examined.

As a result of studies in the 1980–90s, the number of locations yielding such ceramics increased. This allowed for a number of hypotheses, some of which connected the appearance of Elshanka type ceramics with the infiltration of certain population groups from south-eastern regions. Others showed the autochthonous nature of Elshanka cultural origins.

The discovery of sites with similar material in the western part of Middle Povolzhye forest-steppe, an area that includes the western part of the Orenburg, Samara, Ulyanovsk, and Penza Regions, and the eastern part of Mordovia, have led some to propose Priazovsko-Prichernomorskiy and even the Balkans as the primary centres of Elshan culture.

The problem of the Neolithisation of the Middle Povolzhye is topical, in so far as some specialists consider Elshanka culture as the most ancient Neolithic pottery culture in Europe, and that it influenced the Neolithisation of other regions. Other specialists doubt the special status of Early Neolithic ceramics of Elshanka type.

One of the most controversial questions is the periodisation of the process of Neolithisation. Mamonov takes the 14C dates of bivalve shells found in the occupation debris of Chekalino IV, Ilyiinskaya and Lebyazhinka IV sites from c. 8600 to 7940 BP to show that Elshanka culture was autochthonous.

One of the most controversial questions is the periodisation of the process of Neolithisation. The correction of the lower chronological boundary of Elshan culture from the 5000-4000 BC raises doubts as to its origin as autochthonous.

He suggests that Elshanka pottery was formed in the Povolzhye forest-steppe because “there is no chronological possibility of a substratum or cultural centre from which the ceramic tradition could be borrowed.

The supporters of the Balkan origins of Elshanka type sites oppose such early dates. They point to the natural occurrence of shells in the layers, and consider the Balkan-Carpathian analogies that date these sites to the 6th and the beginning of the 5th millennia BP. The correction of the lower chronological boundary of Elshan culture  raises doubts as to its origin as autochthonous.

An alternative interpretation of the Chekalino IV dates of 8990±100 BP and 8680±120 BP can be suggested; they date the Mesolithic layer. On the other hand, the dates of Ilinskaya 8510± 60 BP and, Lebyazhinka IV 8470±140 BP should be corrected because of the ‘reservoir’ effect.

However, the shell temper in the Neolithic pottery of the northern Caspian Sea region is dated to 7235± 45 BP, and the organic matter to 6695±40 BP. The carbonate fraction of ceramics from Kairshak III is dated to 7870±100 BP, and the organic matter from these items to 7290±190 BP.

The dating based on the shells from the Lebyazhinka IV and Ilyinka sites also needs to be defined more precisely. A date of 6680±80 BP was obtained from the organic temper in pottery from the first site, and from the latter, 6940±90 BP.

Thus, the beginning of the Early Neolithic in the eastern part of the Middle Povolzhie forest-steppe may be dated no earlier than to the turn of the 7th and 6th millennia BP. The date of the bones from the layer with Elshanka ceramics at the Ivanovskaya site of 8020±90 BP confirm this assumption.

The assumption that this date can be referred to Mesolithic remains at this site is contradicted by the date 7930±90 BP, based on the organic temper in the Elshanka type pottery at the Ivanovskaya site.

The correction of the lower chronological boundary of Elshanka culture from the 7th millennium BP to the turn of the 7 th and 6 th millennia BP raises doubts as to its origin as autochthonous.

At this time, not only profiled and flat bottomed ceramics appear in the region, but also the haft type arrowhead. Similar arrowheads on plates at early Hassuna sites are dated to 8065±45 BP (MTC–04347) and 7900±120 BP.

In complex XXXIII at Mersin and some other sites, they are dated to 7920±90 BP. Researchers have thus suggested sources in Asia Minor for the Early Neolithic cultures in the steppes of European Russia and Ukraine.

Spore/pollen tests were obtained for this chronological cycle. A sample from the lower Neolithic layer of the Ivanovskaja site shows that the region was almost bare of trees in this period. Birch was rarely found and the main areas were grassy and suffruticose, among which wormwood predominated.

Appropriate data were obtained directly from the bottom of the Neolithic layer. There was a prevalence of herbs, among which chenopodiacious plants and wormwood predominate.

Climatic conditions were unfavourable to the growth of not only woodland, but also meadow steppe formations. Sudden changes in continental climate and a reduction in precipitation have been detected, making the period comparable to the driest interval of the first part of the Atlantic period.

Thus landscape and climatic conditions of the southern part of the Volga-Urals forest-steppe at the beginning of the Atlantic period conform substantially with southern steppe and even semi-desert conditions.

Palynological data were also obtained in areas further north in the basin of the River Sok, which is now the border between southern and northern sub-areas of forest-steppe. Calcium carbonate has been found in buried soils, which suggests that there was a lack of humidity when they were formed.

At Chekalino IV, the layer with an Early Neolithic complex dated by shells to 8000–7900 BP yielded spore/pollen test results which indicated grassy and suffruticose vegetation comprising wormwood and chenopodiacious plants (68%). About 15% are woody and covered the river valley.

Thus this natural environment is rather similar to the picture reconstructed from the materials from the southern part of Mid-dle Povolzhye. In other words, steppe landscapes of southern type spread up to the basin of the River Sok.

Saiga bones found in the cultural layers of the Chekalino IV and Lebyazhinka IV sites offer further support this conclusion. Perhaps the appearance of Early Neolithic sites in this period was the result of aridisation at the end of the Boreal c. 8200 BP.

The second group of Early Neolithic sites in the Middle Povolzhye forest-steppe is presented by materials from Staro-Elshanskaya II on the River Samara, Ilyinskaya on the River Sok (Fig. 4), and Ozimyenka II on the River Moksha.

The organic temper in the ceramics date the sites to the beginning of the 5th millennium BP. The ceramic technology is identical at both groups of sites. Elshanka pots were made of muddy clay, sometimes with chamotte temper, unlike Early Neolithic vessels from the northern Caspian region and northern Black Sea region cultures, which were made of silts with bivalve shell impurities.

The tradition of chamotte temper is typical of the Neolithic cultures of the Central Asian interfluve and eastern Caspian Sea region. There is similarity in the shapes of vessels (profiled, biconical, pointed bottom) and elements of ornament. These pottery types have been dated to the end of the 6th millennium BP.

This date is confirmed at Ayakagytma site in the Sub-Aral area by six 14 C dates ranging from 7190±20 BP to 7030±90 BP. Sudden aridisation in 7200 BP east of the northern Caspian Sea region has been detected, which compelled people to migrate north.

This dynamic seems possible, as data showing that the Amu Darya fell into not the Aral but the Caspian Sea. The arrowheads found here show that some Central Asian groups of the Kelteminarskaya culture migrated here. These arrowheads are also found in northern regions as far as the Middle Povo zhye forest-steppe.

Typical Central Asia geometric microliths and trapezes have been discovered in the same region in Neolithic complexes. The most probable migration route was from the northern Caspian Sea to the head of the River Ural, where the latter meets the River Samara.

The Chernikov brod I site located in this area is believed to be evidence of this route. Pottery with straight walls, pointed bottom, and lacking ornamentation has been discovered here which, on the other hand, is believed to refer to Elshanka culture.

Elshanka pottery was discovered at the Chekalino IV, Nizhnyaya Orlyanka II , and Lebyazhinka IV sites on the River Sok, and at Vyunovo Lake on the River Soura. Excavations at Chekalino IV in 2007 provided new 14C dates of 6070±90 BP and 6030± 100 BP for the soil sediment; and 5910± 90 BP and 5910±90 BP for pottery carbon; and 6100±140 BP and 6180±90 BP (Ki–14706) for shells.

The pottery carbon dates at the Nizhnaya Orlyanka site are 5720± 80 BP and at Lebyazhinka IV 5970±70 BP (Ki–16852), respectively. The soil sediment dates from the Elshanka Vyunovo lake dwelling site date to 5790±130 BP. The materialities and the radiocarbon dates from the sites correspond well with those at the Dzhebel site in the eastern Caspian Sea Region, which is dated to 6140±80 BP and 6030±240 BP.

It should be noted that only wild animal bones were found at the sites where Elshanka pottery was discovered. Therefore, it is suggested not connecting the Neolithisation of the Povolzhye forest-steppe with a productive economy. Thus the non-linear nature of the development of Early Neolithic culture in the Middle Povolzhye is clear. This conclusion is supported by processes discovered in other cultures.

Rakushechny Yar

The Neolithic period of the North-eastern and Eastern Azov Sea areas has been investigated for more than 50 years, and over 100 radiocarbon dates are available. Four different cultural-chronological groups of sites are now distinguished here.

They include sites of the Rakushechny Yar culture (the Lower Don River), Matveev Kurgan culture (Mius River), sites of Donets culture (Low Siversky Donets River) and of the Caspian-Ciscaucasian cultural group.

The chronological timeframes of these cultures are contemporaneous, which indicates the mosaic cultural character of this area during the period between the 7th and 5th millennium BC. The small number of radiocarbon dates for such a long period prevents us from refining the chronology of the different cultural groups and definite ceramic types within this area.

Each of these cultures is represented by several sites. In the majority of cases, the Neolithic period in this region is marked by the appearance of pottery, an intensification of sedentism, the appearance of ‘wattle and daub’ architecture (at some sites), specific anthropomorphic and zoomorphic plastics, and new features in the stone industry.

The previous determination of domesticated animals at the Matveev kurgan I site dated to the end of the 7th millennium BC were reexamined; evidence of domesticated animals at the Early Neolithic Rakushechny Yar site, where almost all the components of Neolithic have been found, are under discussion.

The multilayer settlement Rakushechny Yar is located on the island of Porechny,  near the village of Razdorskaya in the extreme east part of the Lower Don River region (Rostov region, Russia), some 100 km from the Sea of Azov, in-between the mouths of the Manych river providing connection to the Northwest Caspian Sea via the Kuma-Manych Depression, and the Donets river connecting into East Ukraine.

Porechny is of nonhomogeneous geomorphological structure. The north-western part is located in a high flood-plain area, and the south-western part on a low flood-plain. These two flood plains can be clearly seen from the opposite bank of the Don River.

It might be suggested that the outer part of the right river bank where the site was located became separated when a new riverbed was forming, and thus the island appeared. Much of the site has been destroyed and is still being destroyed. This can be clearly seen by comparing images of the island on 19th century maps and photos
of the 1960s, and modern investigations.

It is an island in more than just geographical sense – amidst an apparently “mosaic” cultural set-up, Rakushechny Yar has provided very early pottery, dated to around 7.000 BC, while nearby sites, including Razdorskaya II on the opposite north bank of the Don,  have staid aceramic until the first half of the 6th BC.

The Rakushechny Yar culture existed, probably, for approx. 1500 years, during the 7th and 6th millennium BC. It must be noted that the material culture was very conservative and retained a number of specific traits through centuries.

New dates and the analysis of radiocarbon dates, taking into the account stratigraphy of excavations and spatial analysis of finds, point to the first half of the 7th millennium BC
as the period when Rakushechny Yar appeared, with one of the earliest ceramic in Eastern Europe.

The excavated area was a seasonal site with a particular set of finds, including different animal and fish bones, hearths, ‘wattle and daub’ architecture, and an anthropomorphic figurine made on horse pastern.

The origin of the Rakushechny Yar complex raises many questions and discussions. Rakushechny Yar and Elshan ware is sparsely decorated except for knobbed or pitted rims, but partly ochre-painted, which seems to be based on South Caspian pottery technology and finds close, albeit chronologically later, parallels in the East Caucasus.

The arrival of Lower Don pottery in the Dniepr Rapids area coincides with a measurable increase of CHG-related ancestry by around 5%. Communication zones along both the Western and Eastern shores of the Caspian Sea imply that genetic exchange may have been bi-directional, i.e. also have carried WHG, EHG and/or West Siberian ancestry into Central Asia and East Caucasia.

However, the introduction of pottery only raised the CHG share in the East European Steppe from some 3% in Sidelkino and 4% in Mesolithic Ukraine to 8 and 9%, respectively. The bulk of CHG ancestry must have arrived later, i.e. with the introduction of agriculture or during the Chalcolithic.

Fresh CHG ancestry that may either relate to the Elshan Culture or the Lower Don Neolithic also appears in the Samara Region. This suggests a substantial CHG element in the bearers of the a/m early Neolithic cultures – how substantial is difficult to say until aDNA becomes available from the cultural horizons in question.

Far more substantial than the genetic was the cultural impact – aside from introducing pottery, bearers of Rakushechny Yar / Elshan ware opened up a network of long-distance communication along the major waterways that ultimately reached from the Erteboelle Culture in the Northwest to the East Caucasus.

That network was most likely based on the use of watercrafts – seaworthy boats are evidenced from Gobustan petroglyphs dated to the early 8th millennium BC. A West Caspian communication zone is evidenced by finds of Armenian obsidian in the Dniepr Rapids area, and of Mt. Elbrus obsidian on the Lower Volga.

Elshan pottery from the Samara area, especially the Sok river valley, has equally delivered very old datings, up to 7000 BC. Elshan ware displays many similarities to Rakushnechy Yar.  It is also sparsely decorated. Decorations typically restrict to knobbed and/or pitted rims.

However, isotope analysis indicates a prevalence of aquatic food, so concerns about possible reservoir effects apply here as well. Consequently, date its onset to ca. 6500 BC, whereby most of the credible datings center around 6200 BC.

As concerns technology some types of Elshan culture are similar to pottery from Rakushechny Yar (form 2), made with the ‘S’ technique with an admixture of grog (only in this case, crushed pottery was used). Also, the straight walls and roundish or pointed rims of the earliest stage of Elshans culture are similar to forms 1 and 5 from Rakushechny Yar.

Against this background Elshan is regarded as a “secondary centre” that developed under Rakushechny Yar influence. There are, however, important differences: While Rakushechny Yar pottery was flat-based, Elshan ware had conical bases although it might be supposed that flat bases would have been among the most ancient types.

Most importantly, early Elshan ware included thin-walled pottery (3-4 mm thickness) unknown from Rakushechny Yar. As such, in addition to possible cultural relations between the Lower Don and the Samara area that are so far hardly explored archeologically, another stream into Elshan culture needs to be envisaged.

There are an abundance of theories on the origin of the (pottery) Neolithisation of South Russia and Ukraine. Some of them, e.g. descent from Cardium / Impresso pottery and as such ultimately EEF Mediterranean “island-hopping”, can easily be discarded based on aDNA.

When mussels anyway make up for a good part of your diet, as evidenced by the manifold shell middens at Rakushechny Yar and other Pontic/ Caspian sites, it should’t require inspiration from outside to use them for stamping pottery.

Moreover, assigning value to shells (shell imprints) isn’t specific to the Mediterranean, but well known around the world, and might actually go back to the Middle Paleolithic out of Africa migration.

Intriguing in this context, however, is that the Lagoon Cockle (Cerastoderma glaucum), a species of saltwater clam, a marine bivalve mollusc in the family Cardiidae, the cockles, that most likely accounts for a good part of the a/m shell middens and imprints appears to be a human introduction from the Sea of Azov into the Caspian Sea around 6,000 BC.

Unless one wants to propose Early Neolithic aquaculture, the most likely explanation is boat portage across the Pontic-Caspian watershed via the Kuma-Manych depression, a geological depression in southwestern Russia that separates the Russian Plain to the north from Ciscaucasia to the south.

At Northwest Anatolia, pottery making could have arrived just in time to account for Rakushechny Yar – Barcin and Mentese have both yielded AMS dates around or slightly before 6200 BC.

However, the associated pottery from Fikirtepe in the estern Marmara-Region, characterised by triangular incisions, is a poor match that rather aligns with “Steppe” or “circum-Caspian” decoration as a/o known from the Lower Volga than with Rakushechny Yar. DNA also speaks against intensive contact between Northwest Anatolia and the Pontic/ Sea of Azov.

Far more substantial is the claim that there in the PPNB period, across the Caucasian shore of the Black and Azov seas, possibly also by sea, were connections established between Zagros and adjacent regions of Iran, like Shanidar and Jarmo, and Lower Don regions.

The existence of close contacts between the population of Neolithic sites in Lower Don region and some areas from the Fertile Crescent are confirmed by analogies for such inventory, as clay balls, adzes/axes of soſt stone, specific “polishers”, medallions, bone pendants with snake ornamentation, stone vessels and geometrical microlites.

However, the 7000+/6000 BC inhabitants of the Lower Don (and also of Southern Ukraine) weren’t yet holding domestic animals other than dogs (with the possible exception of ovocaprids that still require further analysis). Moreover, the cultural influence from the Zagros appeared far earlier than Rakushechny Yar pottery, and also affected aceramic sites such as Mateev Kurgan.

Ultimately, the whole idea of the pre-pottery Zagros Neolithic supplying pottery, but not agriculture to the North Pontic looks counter-intuitive. There is a valid pattern of Mesolithic cultural interaction, but not an explanation to the emergence of North Pontic pottery.

Black Sea Hypothesis

The appearance of the Rakushechny Yar complex can be dated to the first quarter of the 7th millennium BC, i.e. contemporaneous with Early Neolithic (ceramic) complexes in the Near East. The penetration of the new reproducing economy, ceramics and the provenience of domesticated animals (cattle, swine, sheep/goat), possibly, together with its bearers, took part between 8500—7000 BC.

During this time, the oldest pottery centres were formed in the steppe areas of Eastern Europe, which could have occurred under the influence of Neolithic cultures in the Caucasus, whereas the Southern Caucasus area was within the zone of influence of early Anatolian Neolithic cultures during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (PPNB).

However, no such ancient sites with pottery have survived in the Caucasus, where Early Neolithic complexes have been dated to the end of the 7th and to the 6th millennium BC.

There is good reason to question the dating of Rakushechny Yar pottery – the Kiev laboratory responsible is known to regularly come out with earlier dates than other labs (e.g.  Poznan), and a plateau in the calibration curve doesn’t allow for much distinction within the period of 7,000 – 6,500 BC.

Most importantly, dates derived from shells, shell-tempered pottery, or pottery food crusts stemming from aquatic food may be significantly influenced by aquatic reservoir effects. Such effects have recently been demonstrated for Erteboelle and Narva pottery, in both cases leading to revising the respective dating downwards by around 500 years.

Rakushechny Yar is characterised by shell middens and substantial heaps of fish bones, strongly suggesting similar effects may be at work here as well. Analysis of pottery Neolithic sites in the Donets basin yielded “that mollusk samples are affected by a freshwater reservoir effect, resulting in an offset of the actual date, when compared to terrestrial samples of animal bone or charcoal, of up to 3000 years.

These results call into question all the existing 14C dating results from eastern Ukraine”. As such, the AMS dates reported by for soil (pollen) samples from the lowest Rakushechny Yar layers, which range around 6200 years BC, are probably more representative of the actual emergence of pottery there.

Still, such dates are very early for Europe as a whole, and predate the appearance of pottery on other sites surrounding the Sea of Azov by several centuries. Most of this pottery is undecorated, and decorated vessels comprise only 9% of the assemblage. Vessels covered with red and yellow ochre on the outer and/or inner surfaces are also present at the site.

Analyses made in the State Hermitage Museum by L. Gavrilenko lead us to believe that more than 10% of the whole ceramic assemblage was covered with red and/or yellow ochre. The decoration is very simple, consisting of horizontal and parallel lines of impressions usually covering only the upper part of the vessel.

The great variety of raw materials and clay pastes used for pottery shows the ability of potters to adapt to different types of materials which were available at different periods, which might be an indicator of developed skills and experience in pottery making.

The range of similar technological operations typical of vessels of the lowest layers (e.g. surface smoothing and vessel treatment with a comb-like tool, modelling of symmetrical flat rims, predominance of the coil technique with N-junction, use of well-kneaded clay and additional pieces of clay for modelling, typical vessel forms) allow us to characterise this pottery assemblage as one made according to established cultural standards.

The full ‘Neolithic package’ is also present in the finds from the Rakushechny Yar site. This culture might originate with a people who left the materials of a migration of small groups of early farmers from Eastern Anatolia to the Azov Sea area c. 6900 BC.

Rakushechny Yar is one of the oldest early Neolithic sites in this region, dated to the 7th and 6th millennia BC. Recent investigations have shown a particular importance of this site in the study of the spread of the Near Eastern “Neolithic package” and the neolithisation of Eastern Europe.

Some types of pottery found at this site closely resemble ceramic types from other cultures of Eastern Europe. The artefact assemblage of this site is significant for understanding the process of neolithisation in the north-eastern Black Sea region.

The radiocarbon dates, typological analogies of pottery, the specific bone industry, cattle husbandry, and adobe architecture reveal a similarity with Near Eastern sites, indicating an all ochthonous character of the site. Therefore, it should be considered a ‘primary’ centre for the development of some Neolithic ceramic traditions in the Low Volga and Don regions, the Upper Volga region and the Dnepr-Dvina region.

The pottery from the Rakushechy Yar site has different shapes with flat bottoms. Silt clay from deep and shallow water areas of the Don River basin was used for ceramic moulding. According to the petrographic analysis the ceramic paste consists of clay loam tempered with sand and grog (dried and ground clay).

The coil technique with stretching of strips of clay was used to make some of the earliest types of ceramics. The surface of the pottery was smoothed after scratching, or polished and smoothed with-out scratching. This type ofpottery was undecorated.

Another ceramic type from these cultural layers has decoration; the decorated fragments make up about 9% ofthe ceramic collection. A variety of ornamentation can be observed here: simple compositions consisting of triangular signs, I-shaped motifs made with the impression technique, combing incisions, lines and denticulated impressions made with the ‘rocking-chair’ technique. Different types of raw clay deposits were used for making this type of pottery.

But it should be noted that some components of the ‘Neolithic package’ occur only in strata with radiocarbon dates from the 6th millennium BC at the Rakushechny Yar site. Consequently, their association with a hypothetical migration c. 6900 BC is not indispensable.

Furthermore, there is no archaeological evidence of such migration through the Zagros and Caucasus Mountains. Therefore, the only real basis for the hypothesis is the presence of pottery and domestic animal bones in the lowest layers of the Rakushechny Yar site, and the close radiocarbon dates from the lowest layers of the Yumuktepe site, a tell within the city borders of Mersin, Turkey.

The Neolithic way of life spread very slowly in the Northern Black Sea area from outside territory, populated by migrants. The components of the ‘Neolithic package’ are partially present at local sites. Some archaeologists think that the beginnings of the spread of these innovations is related to the western influence of populations of the Balkan and Danubian Neolithic cultures, while others relate this to the eastern influence of the population of the Rakushechny Yar culture.

Apart from actual hypotheses about the Neolithisation of the Northern Black Sea area, there were earlier hypotheses. Thus, for example, in the 1950s–70s, Ukrainian archaeologist Valentin Danilenko related the genesis of the southern Ukrainian Neolithic to migrations from the territory in the Trans-Caspian region.

Yet a further hypothesis came from the Romanian archaeologist Dumitru Berciu, who casually, with no supporting argument, supposed the presence of the locus of Early Neolithic sites with Cardium pottery in the Northern Black Sea area:

“In the northern Pontic area, the same ‘cardial’ horizon can also be assumed, given the similarities between the culture of the Southern Bug River and that of Hamangia. Such a hypothesis can be supported by the identification of a horizon ‘cardial’ in Mesopotamia and Iran, where a cultural influx could have migrated to the Caucasus and south-eastern shores of the Black Sea.”

Berciu’s hypothesis was forgotten during the following forty years, but in the last few years has become current again, after the ascertainment of new facts. These facts point to the presence of Neolithic settlements with Cardium pottery on the northern coast of the Black Sea.

It is necessary to link their origin to the same processes that spread Cardium pottery along the coast of the Mediterranean. The dating of the Pidgorivka site to the end of the 6th millennium BC confirms the synchronicity of North-Pontic Cardium pottery and the period of its most wide distribution in the Mediterranean.

However, no Neolithic settlement in the coastal zone of the Northern Black Sea area is known. This is probably the consequence of the submergence of the Neolithic coastline with the rise of the Black Sea over the last eight thousands years.

For all these reasons a likely scenario of Neolithisation in the Northern Black Sea area is a scenario in which the Neolithisation in the region began with a process of demic diffusion consisting of the rapid spread of small Mediterranean seafaring communities along its coastline in the first half or the middle of the 7th millennium BC. Their beachhead colonies are probably submerged now.

The process of cultural diffusion, when some elements of the ‘Neolithic package’ were adopted by local Mesolithic populations began afterwards. A possible consequence of this is the occurrence of the first pottery with decoration using pin-action and comb stamp impression techniques, and also the polished stone artefacts and livestock in inland territories.

The evidence of direct contacts of interior groups with their coastal neighbours is the pottery found far from the sea, but made of sand with the remains of brackish water ostracods, and decorated by marine cockleshells prints. Simultaneously, the first farmers of the Balkan region and the Carpathian-Danube basin, who were of Anatolian origin, migrated overland from the west to the Northern Black Sea area.

As a result, the Neolithic of the Dnister and South Buh river basins became syncretic. It combines traits of the early Danubian Neolithic and the Mediterranean Neolithic with Impresso – Cardium pottery (Bug-Dniester culture). In the remaining territory of the Northern Black Sea area, traditions based on the cultural complex of the Mediterranean maritime migrants continued to develop. I again draw attention to the preliminary character of this idea.

Unfortunately, at present it is based on isolated finds, radiocarbon dates which are often questionable, and sites researched quite a few decades ago. However, it should be emphasised that alternative concepts of Neolitization in the Northern Black Sea area have a probative base of the same and even weaker nature.

In doing so, this concept is at a doubtless advantage, because it conforms remarkably to the general tendency of historical development of the region, which although remote, is an integral part of the Mediterranean. The existence of settlements of Mediterranean civilizations spread mainly by sea (ancient Greek colonies, Roman and Byzantine towns, the fortresses and trading stations of Genoa and the Republic of Venice) confirms it here.

On the one hand, the similarity of some processes and the distribution of similar groups of artefacts can confirm that the Neolithic with Impresso ware of the North-Mediterranean and North Pontic areas were two parts of a single cultural circle. On the other hand, the asynchronism of the beginning and progress of these processes and the existence of original traits in the Neolithic of the mentioned areas is evidence against regular direct contacts of their population.

In addition, such contacts could have been hampered, as the area of the Anatolian and Balkan Neolithic groups with other cultural traditions (Karanovo-Starchevo-Körös-Cris complex) divided them geographically. At first, there probably was a common origin and similar mechanisms of Neolithisation in both remote regions, and separate development later.

The common characteristics typical of the whole area of the Great Mediterranean Neolithic with Impresso ware indicate that its origin can be related to the same groups having available the economic achievements of the Near-Eastern Early Neolithic and traditions of pottery making of the Sahara-Sudanese Neolithic of North Africa.

The similarity between some types of Early Neolithic ware from Eastern and Western Europe has been noted recently. However, this similarity has been explained by a wave of initial pottery making spreading from sources located in the east of the steppe zone, approximately from the lower Volga-Ural interfluves, far to the west, reaching the western confines of Europe (sites of the La Hoguette, Limbourg, ‘Epicardial’ and Roucadour groups).

As the Black Sea, through the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and Dardanelles, is connected with the Mediterranean, and local Neolithic pottery is a kind of Impresso ware, the whole local Neolithic of the Northern Black Sea area might be interpreted as a separate north-eastern branch of the Mediterranean circle of Neolithic cultures with Impresso ware.

If this is true, identical mechanisms of Neolithisation could have been at work in both the Northern Black Sea area and the Northern Mediterranean region. The spread of the Neolithic with Impresso ware in the Mediterranean has the character of so-called ‘leapfrog colonisation’, carried out by coastal navigation.

Some evidence suggests that it occurred very quickly – at a rate of 4.5km/year in the southern part of the Adriatic, and 10–20km/year in the Western Mediterranean from the Gulf of Genoa to the estuary of the Mondego River.

Similar parameters of average advection rates – 10km/year along the coast and 5km/year along the valleys of two major European rivers, the Danube and Rhine – have been used in a mathematical model of the population dynamics of the spread of incipient farming in Europe developed by archaeologists and mathematicians at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The model also allows for diffusivity of space, which gradually declines with increasing distance from a coastline and with increasing altitude, and disappears completely at 1000m above sea level. The results of this modelling for well investigated regions of South-Eastern, Central and Western Europe appear close to the results obtained by archaeological research. Therefore, there is reason to believe that the results for the Northern Black Sea area are also correct.

The modelling shows the rapid spread of Neolithic innovations from the west to east along the western and northern coast of the Black Sea. The simulated time for the beginning of Neolithisation in the region corresponds to the time when the process began in the south of the Balkan Peninsula and the coasts of the southern Adriatic.

The reliable radiocarbon dates assigned to the earliest sites from Thessaly, Macedonia (Achilleion, level Ia, Ib; Argissa; Nea Nikomedeia; Sesklo, level of the ‘The Earliest Pottery Neolithic’), and Corfu (Sidari C bottom) are no earlier than c. 6600 BC.

In general, the results are close enough to the actual dates of the Early Neolithic of the Northern Black Sea area from the Kyiv laboratory. The simulated Neolithisation process spreading along the opposite southern and eastern coasts of the Black Sea did not extend to the North Pontic region.

The Northern Black Sea area is a historical-geographical region limited in the south by the Black Sea, in the west by the lower reaches of the Danube and Prut rivers, and in the east by the lower reaches of the Kuban and the Don rivers. The northern border of the region is indistinct.

Researchers usually include in this region the steppe zone and southern part of the forest-steppe zone extending approximately 200–250km to the north from the coast of the Black Sea and Azov Sea, plus the territory of the Crimean Peninsula. The greater part of the Northern Black Sea area is in Ukraine; a small area is in the extreme west of the region, bordering Moldova, and to the east, the Rostov area and the Krasnodar region of the Russian Federation.

The landscape is mainly low-lying, with uplands in the west (the central-Moldavian upland), north (southern slopes of the Podolian and Dnipro (Dnieper) uplands), east (the Asov upland and Donetsk Range), and with the low Crimean Mountains in the south of the Crimean Peninsula. The absolute heights of the continental part of the region range from 0 up to 500m above sea level, and the heights of the Crimean Mountains up to 1545m.

Potsherds from a few vessels with Cardium decoration were recently found in old collections of some Neolithic sites of the Northern Black Sea area. A good sample of the valves of brackish water ostracods were discovered in the raw material in most of these vessels.

This could indirectly indicate the presence of Neolithic settlements with Cardium pottery on what is now a flooded region of the northern Black Sea coast. Some data show that its inhabitants could have been the initial source of the Neolithisation of neighbouring inland territories. Thus, the whole local Neolithic in the region is interpreted as a northeastern branch of the Mediterranean Neolithic with Impresso and Cardium pottery.

Only two archaeological cultures with a reliably complete ‘Neolithic package’ are known in the Northern Black Sea area. Firstly, the settlements of the Cris culture, investigated at the extreme west of the region at the interfluve of the Prut and Dnister (Dniester) River. Secondly, the settlements of Linear Band Pottery culture in an area between the Prut and the South Buh (Bug) River.

The most easterly Linear Band Pottery site is Vita Poshtova 2. It is situated north of the Northern Black Sea area, close to Kyiv, only 10 kilometres from the valley of the Dnipro River. The population of both the Cris culture and Linear Band Pottery culture were classic early farmers from the Carpathians-Danube region. Consequently, the northwest part of the Black Sea area is the easternmost area of these cultures.

Shulaveri Shomu Hypothesis

Shulaveri-Shomu pottery displays manifold parallels to Rakushechny Yar: Use of organic temper, essentially undecorated, but regular presence of plastique decoration such as knobs on/ near the outer rim, and also occasional painting with ochre.

However, so far, Shulaveri-Shomu has only supplied AMS dates from 6000 BC onwards, i.e. several centuries later than credible dates from Rakushechny Yar. Chokh in Dagestan, a possible Shulaveri-Shomu outpost, hasn’t yet been AMS-dated, but for the ceramic phase palynologic analysis points towards a damp climate that only evolved around 6,000 BC.

Moreover, Chokh was fully Neolithic, including wheat and barley agriculture and animal husbandry, and is in this respect a poor match for Rakushechny Yar. Last but not least, Kamiltepe in Lower Karabagh has produced some pottery with knobbed rims, but that site equally only dates to the early 6th millennium BC, and its black-on-white painted triangular decorations are otherwise more reminiscent of Haji Firuz and Hassuna.

Available pollen analyses point to significant climatic deterioration in Caucasia during the 6200 BC event. The quite dense Mesolithic archeological record of the (North) Caucasus thins out massively during the Neolithic, and a hiatus, most likely climate induced, is apparent at many sites.

From Gubs Cave, e.g., one of the most important Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic sites, no Neolithic finds are known; occupation apparently only recommenced during the Chalcolithic. In Darkveti (W. Georgia, next to Dzudzuana), the late Mesolithic layer 5 is separated by one meter of sterile soil from the yet undated Neolithic layer 4. There also appears to be a hiatus between the Mesolithic and Neolithic layers of Chokh, Dagestan.

Quite instructive in this respect is Tsmi in N. Ossetia. The site lies at the junction of two of the main connections through the Central Caucasus, namely the Ossetian Military Road to the Upper Rioni, the only connection into Colchis east of Abkhazia, and the Transcaucasian Highway that connects North and South Ossetia via the Roki pass/ tunnel. For its strategic location, Tsmi can provide us with a good idea of what was passing through the Central Caucasus and what not.

The lowest level at Tsmi, dated to around 6400 BC, has yielded Mesolithic artifacts such as large trapezoids with manifold Caucasian parallels, especially from the Terek basin. Seperated by 55 cm of sterile soil, two Neolithic levels, both AMS-dated to around 5900-5700 BC, followed, which displayed a quite different lithic inventory with a prevalence of microblades. Chalcolithic level 4, dated to ca. 3600 BC, contained typical Kura-Araxes pottery.

In Neolithic level 3 sherds of a pot, thick-walled and undecorated except for a knobbed rim, were found. While the decoration is reminiscent of Shulaveri-Shomu, according to the excavators Tsmi pottery is technologically quite different and might rather be related to the Neolithic layer of Chokh, Daghestan.

Analogies to Rakushechny Yar are alluded to in a footnote but unfortunately not explored further. Nevertheless, the hiatus between the late Mesolithic and the Neolithic layers that falls into the late 7000 millenium BC speaks against Rakushechny Yar originating from a migration through the Central Caucasus.

In Colchis, pottery seems to have appeared comparatively late, and then only in a narrow strip along the Black Sea Coast. The Anaseuli-1 site, dated to 5746 – 5595 BC, e.g., was still aceramic.

Late Neolithic Colchian pottery is described as “undifferentiated red-baked jars with a button base [that] could be decorated with incised geometric ornaments and grooves on the rim” that bears “typological parallels of the pottery assemblages with the Early Chalcolithic of eastern Georgia (Sioni culture).

Typical of the latter are incisions and circular or comb impression decorations always applied on the rims, and such decoration pattern is set forth in Chalcolithic/ EBA Shengavit, commonly considered as Kura-Araxes type site.

In conclusion, Rakushechny Yar pottery might be considered as typical Caucasian, wasn’t it for the facts that it chronologically precedes Caucasian pottery, and the Caucasian uplands were apparently deserted during the period in question, i.e. the 6200 event, and as such don’t qualify as migration route.

South East Caspian Hypothesis

As concerns Elshan, the south-eastern Caspian coast, including the Dzhebel (Djebel) cave, an archeological site in the vicinity of Balkan Region Türkmenbaşy, in Soviet times known as Nebit Dag (Balkanabat), in Turkmenistan, on the Krasnovodsk Gulf of the Caspian Sea, is proposed as origin. Djebel belongs to the same Epipaleolithic to Neolithic South East Caspian ensemble as Hotu and Kamarband (Belt) Caves.

The Cave of Dzhebel contains Mesolithic, Neolithic and early Bronze Age artefacts. According to Bernard Sergent, the lithic assemblage of the first Kurgan culture in Ukraine (Sredni Stog II), which originated from the Volga and South Urals, recalls that of the Mesolithic-Neolithic sites to the east of the Caspian Sea, Dam Dam Chesme II and the cave of Dzhebel.

According to Sergent, the Dzhebel material is related to a Paleolithic material of Northwestern Iran, the Zarzian culture (18,000–8,000 BC), an archaeological culture of late Paleolithic and Mesolithic in Southwest Asia, and in the more ancient Kebarian of the Near East.

Dzhebel is generally poorly described and sources listed are usually from the Soviet period and in Russian. However, Hotu and Belt Cave “soft ware”, generally thick-walled, lightly-fired and undecorated (except for one piece with incised decoration around the rim), seems to bear some similitarity to Elshan pottery and comes from layers that have delivered late 8000/ early 7000 BC C14-dates – a long enough pottery-making tradition to possibly generate the extent of mastership seen in Rakushechny Yar and Elshan.

Moreover, nearby Sang-e-Chakhmag on the southern foothills of the Alborz Mountains has supplied similar “soft ware”, this time painted with red ochre, from a layer dated to the early 7000 BC. From ca. 6300 BC onwards, Sang-e-Chakhmag produced thin-walled pottery that is generally believed to have been the prototype of  equally thin-walled Jeitun ware from the Kopet Dag foothills in South Turkmenistan.

As such, the SE Caspian fulfils the neccesary prerequisites to qualify as potential source of Rakushnechy Yar and Elshan ware: Long-enough pottery tradition to acquire mastership, and presence of all of undecorated, red ochre-painted,  rim-decorated and thin-walled wares before ca. 6200 BC.

Surely, that is no proof that Rakushechny Yar / Elshan actually originated there, and a detailed comparison yet to be undertaken by someone may well uncover various incompatibilites. However, unless one wants to turn to the Chinese Peiligang culture (a rather unlikely candidate IMO for various reasons), options really get scarce.

Well, there is a final one, namely Gobustan some 30 km southwest of Baku, an UNESCO World Heritage Site for its petroglyphs that partly date back to the Epi-Paleolithic. The rockshelters of Kyaniza and Firuz have produced two layers of homogenous lithic material, the upper level containing vessels with pointed bases evoking the Neolithic of the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea.

Fortunately, some post-Soviet, non-Russian language publications about Gobustan start to come in. Concerning the Firuz rockshelter numerous female figures, images of hunters, animals and boats are fixed. Besides these, images of animals (aurochs, wild boars, onagers, gazelles, bezoar goats) were depicted on stone №19 (..) found in the Neolithic layer. (..)

Dating of the cultural layers of the Firuz 2 site has given an understanding of the variability in the form and meaning of the petroglyphs of various periods. The last dating provided the result of ca. 6700 BC, which led to suppose that Gobustan was the earliest center in which navigation emerged in the Caucasian region.

Neolithic in this place in a context of depicting hunters, aurochs, gazelles, etc., obviously means pottery. Appropriate time, appropriate cultural context (pottery-using HGs), and a pottery tradition apparently connected to the E. Caspian, i.e the area that Russian authors propose as Elshan origin – this sounds promising.

Even more so as seaworthy boats would have enabled access to the Lower Don, via the Kuma-Manych depression/ rivers, and to the Middle Volga. Of course, I would still like to see some depictions, ideally also technological analyses of Gobustan pottery, but for the time being Gobustan is the most likely origin of Rakushechny Yar and Elshan.

Interestingly, while “West Siberian” Combed Ceramics seems to have expanded quickly across most of the forest zone between the Urals and Moscow, all of Lower Volga, Rakushechny Yar and Elshan ceramics initially remained restricted to relatively small core areas.

For Kairshak ceramics from the eastern Lower Volga, it took around 500 years to also appear on the western bank of the Volga, and another 200 years to make it to the Volgograd area. A similar time scale was required by Elshan pottery to expand from the Sok River further upwards the Volga towards the Oka basin (ibid.).

For the Donets Neolithic (Starobelsk, Novoselovka), technologically and stylistically related to Rakushechny Yar and located less than 300 km north, dates on sources that are unsuspicious of conveying reservoir effects (animal bones, charcoal) point to an onset during the 5800 BC, i.e. several centuries after credible Rakushechny Yar datings.

This seems to indicate the “foreign” character of these early pottery makers – it obviously took surrounding Mesolithic populations quite some time to accept pottery and the changes in lifestyle associated with it.

This doesn’t mean early potters were immobile – quite to the opposite. Kairshak-type triangular decorations make occasional appearance already in lower Rakushechny Yar layers and in Middle Elshan, while the Algay site on the Lower Volga has delivered one sherd with grooved rim decoration, so both ceramic spheres seem to have been in contact.

Intriguing is the case of the Serteya culture in the Dnepr-Dvina-Lovat region around Vitebsk and Smolensk at the watershed between the Black and Baltic Seas. Its pottery has delivered dates as early as 7,500 BC that most likely require substantial downward correction for reservoir effects but should still fall into the second half of the 7th millenium BC, i.e. precede Balkans pottery.

The region may be considered a major ceramical province, having supplied some 130 early Neolithic vessels from 22 sites. Typologically, it is divided into three phases, “a-1”, “a” and “b”:

Phase ‘a-1’ seems to be the oldest in this region, given the typological-technological analysis and 14C dates, and could have originated in the pottery of the Rakushechny Yar site. The pottery of phase ‘a’ is similar to the early Neolithic pottery of the Northern Caspian region.

The traditions with triangular impressions first found in materials of phase ‘a’ continued into phase ‘b’. It was probably during this time that the influence of this decoration of steppe cultures first spread in different directions along the basins of the Middle Volga, Middle Don, Upper Volga, Sursko-Moksha basin, Desna, Upper Dvina, Upper Dnepr and Valdai valley”.

Phase “b” witnesses the arrival of comb-incised decorations in dense horizontal rows as typical of West Siberian and East European forest-zone pottery, and an amalgamation of “steppe” and “combed” decorations set forth in the chronologically later Bug-Dniestr culture.

Another long-distance expansion may be indicated by the appearance of Rakushechny Yar-like pottery at Onega Lake assigned to the late 7th-6th millenium BC. Early Upper Volga pottery, undecorated or just carrying notched/ grooved rims, and dated to ca. 6000 BC seems to better align with Rakushechny Yar/ Elshan than “combed” traditions, and precedes attestations of the latter. Valdai pottery (Dvina-Volga watershed) and the Berezovaya Slobodka site in the upper Northern Dvina basin east of Belozero are both dated to this tradition around 6000 BC.

What seems to shine up here for the first time is the river-based East European trade network that is well known from Medieval Varangians (Kiev Rus). The quasi-simultaneous appearance of geographically disjunct but nevertheless closely related pottery traditions is strongly suggestive of a spread by boats, availability of which is attested by the Gobustans petroglyphs.

“Southern” trade commodities seem to have included obsidian – Mt. Elbrus obsidian has a/o been found in early 6th millenium BC contexts on the Lower Volga; the late 6th millenium BC Azov-Dniepr Culture has supplied four specimens of Armenian obsidian blades as typical of Shulaveri-Shomu. No “Northern” commodities are archeologically attested, but one may speculate about fur, beeswax, maybe also amber.

Expectably, the next step on the route was the Narva Culture (from ca. 5,100 BC) on the southeast of the Baltic Sea. Interestingly, Narva pottery displays quite a geographic differentiation, with Northeastern Narva (North Estonia) more alluding to Combed Ceramics, Western Narva (Western Latvia/ Estonian Isles) aligning with Elshan/ Rakushechny Yar, and the zone inbetween reflecting both influences plus some triangular, Lower Volga-like decorations.

The (West) Narva origin of Erteboelle pottery has been supposed for long. This connection has been extended even further to the south-west, to the HG Melsele Group in Belgian Flanders (ca. 5,000 BC) and some “atypical” pottery found in Alsatian LBK graves.

Against this background, occurence of Elshan-typical pitted rims in Bischheim (SW German MN), Michelsberg, and Michelsberg/ Erteboelle-influenced cultures such as TRB-N, Baalberge and Wartberg is at a second look not as surprising as it might seem initially.

Intriguing, however, is that Wartberg, in addition to pitted rims, also has knobbed rim pottery otherwise best known from Shulaveri-Shomu. Prevalence of such patterns also in the Bavarian MN/LN (Altheim, Cham, etc.) is still somewhat puzzling.

Maybe we are dealing here with another, yet unrecognised enolithic expansion out of the Southeast Balticum. The relatively sudden appearance of pile-dwellings in Southwest Germany during the 4th millenium BC is so far unexplained. Origins are commonly sought for on the French/ West Italian Mediterranean coast, but the Dniepr-Dvina interfluve has also early evidence of pile-dwellings.

“Steppe decoration“, i.e. triangular incisions in Lower Volga/ Kelteminar (plus Sintashta/ Andronovo) tradition occur starting already with Youngest LBK, becoming predominant in SBK (Stroke-ornamented pottery) and Rössen, to be set a/o forth into Bernburg, GAC and Corded Ware.

Some Russian authors have used these parallels to postulate a pre-EEF migration from the Lower Volga into West Ukraine and ultimately Bohemia (with further spread, via SBK, into Germany and beyond).  “Steppe decoration” was a/o also present at Fikirtepe (Barcin), Pottery Neolithic Jericho, and Haji Firuz. It may well have been transferred at various points in time and space from Upper Paleolithic/ Mesolithic stone/ wood carving onto ceramics.

We don’t have any aDNA yet from the Lower Don and the Lower Volga, as entrance points of pottery, and with it possibly some CHG ancestry. However, we may infere a bit from comparisons of Ukrainian Mesolithic and Neolithic aDNA.

There are some caveats in this respect: Southern Ukraine is likely to have experienced CHG inflow from Colchis during the Final Paleolithic Kammenaya Balka and the Mesolithic Kukrek-Imereti culture. Moreover, 9-8th millenium BC cultural connections to the North Zagros might have brought in more easterly CHG ancestry.

Apparently, there was quite some CHG influx during the Neolithic. Barcin and Levante_N only appear sporadically, signifying some contact but no decisive role of Northwest Anatolian and Balkans farmers in the spread of pottery.

Clearly, at some point in time and space the diffusion of pottery disentangled from substantial demic change. While Narva pottery, e.g., reflects Rakushechny Yar traditions, early Narva samples still show genetic continuity with the preceding Mesolithic Kunda culture.

The Middle Volga

The other early pottery region we have aDNA from is the Middle Volga around Samara. A male buried at Lebyazhinka approximately 5000 BC and often referred to by scholars of archaeogenetics as the “Samara hunter-gatherer”, appears to have carried the rare Y-DNA haplogroup R1b1* (R-L278*).

However, the I0124 (“Samara_HG”) sample postdates the Elshan Culture. Lower Volga triangular decorations already make appearance in Middle Elshan. The series of dates for typologically later sites of the Elshanian culture fall into the interval of 6000–5700 cal BC.

The Elshanian culture was replaced by the Srednevolzhskaya [Middle Volga] culture. On the base of a large series of radiocarbon dates, the period of this culture’s development can be determined from 5500–4700 BC. There is a good correlation between dates obtained on the organics from pottery and bones.

Middle Volga Culture pottery comes across as synthesis of Elshan pitted rims, Lower Volga triangular patterns and forest zone/ Transuralian horizontally combed decoration.

A gradual disappearance of the Elshanian tradition of the Mid-Volga Region, established also in the early stages of the Srednevolzhskaya Culture in these areas, is to be linked to the influx of the steppe patterns from the South  in the second half of the 7th millennium BC the turn of 7th millennium BC.

The influx of the steppe patterns was responsible for the formation of the Srednevolzhskaya Culture with the stabbed-incised type of pottery, as well as the influx of the “forest” cultural component from the North.

The steppe patterns originated from the Neolithic Kama culture that subsequently became an important contribution to the origin of the Eneolithic Samara culture complex in the first half of the 6th millennium BC.

A similar process, albeit somewhat delayed and with less of triangular, “Steppe” elements, took place in the Volga-Oka Region in Central Russia. The Volga-Oka interfluve Neolithic sites with Pit-Comb Ware is dated to the period from the end of the 5th till the middle of the 3rd millennium BC.

Here, Elshan may have lasted somewhat longer but around ca. 5200 BC at latest was replaced by Lyalovo Culture Pit-Comb Ware that closely resembles Middle Volga pottery.

Lyalovo Culture was quite stable and lasted into the early 4th millenium BC. Its pit-combed traditions set forth in the subsequent Volosovo culture, an archaeological culture that followed the Neolithic Pit-marked pottery culture (Balakhna).

The Middle Volga region (south-east area of European Russia) Pit-Comb Ware 14C dates of organic substances within pottery matrix correspond with the dates, which were obtained by the samples from another material in Volga-Oka interfluve.

These dates permit to date the Middle Volga region sites with this type of pottery to the first half of the 5th millennium BC and show that Pit-Comb Ware spread to this region quite quickly, but ended earlier than in staging area.

More or less simultaneously dates from ca. 5,700 BC w/o correction for possible reservoir effects, the Samara Culture appeared. The first stage in the development of the Samara culture is represented by the burials at the village of Sjezheye.

The burials exhibit certain rituals, as well as decorations made of shells and the fang of a wild boar, stone axes and other goods that are similar to those found in burials at Mariupol in Ukraine.

Pottery from the Sjezheye burials can be divided into two types. The first includes high vessels with a small flat bottom. The rim-like collars are rather pronounced. The surfaces were painted with ochre. The pottery has complex motifs with meander patterns and zigzags, which were made with incisions and comb stamps.

The pottery of the second type differs from the former. Here, not all the vessels have collars and the necks are prominently made with the help of rows of deep pits and grooves; the bottoms are large and flat. The surfaces are covered with motifs made with comb stamps.

These distinctive features point to the connection of the second group of pottery to the local Neolithic cultures and their active participation in the development of the Eneolithic Samara culture in the Volga-Ural area.

As to the ceramics of the first type, they are supposed to indicate that people of some outlandish culture had entered the areas near the Volga and the Urals. As bearers of different cultural traditions, as evidenced by the pottery excavated at Sjezheye burial ground, the outlandish group appeared to be in a vulnerable position because it was not numerous. It had to be assimilated into the local environment by the group that produced the second type of pottery which is found at other sites in the Volga area, such as at the Lebjazhinka III settlement.

Considering the complex motifs of the pottery in question, which have some prototypes in the Azov Dnieper culture and at the early stage of the Tripolsky culture, the outlanders who prompted the Eneolithic period in the Volga-Urals region most probably arrived from the west, i.e. from the north Black Sea area.

This is suggested by a certain similarity between the grave goods from burial grounds at Sjezheye and Mariupol. The presence of close contacts between the population of the Volga area and that of the north-western Black Sea region manifests itself in the similarity in burial practices (large burial grounds, the supine position of the dead, places for sacrifice) and decoration of burial clothing. This evidence testifies to regular links between these groups.

Aside from ochre painting there are no similarities between Lower Don / Azov-Dniepr pottery and the “outlandish” type 1 pottery. If there is anything connecting with previous Neolithic, i.e. Elshan pottery, it is pronounced rims and pointed bases as typical for the “outlandish” type 1, but missing from type 2. And overall, both her types 1 and 2 are mostly reminding of forest zone early “combed” decoration, i.e. all-over ornamentation in narrowly-placed, horizontal patterns.

Type 1 “meander patterns and zigzags” a/o occured  in Trans-Uralic Kosharovsky (190 km north of Yekaterinburg), and otherwise rather recall Lower Volga decoration. Influence from the Lower Volga becomes more obvious in the subsequent stages of the Samara Culture, namely the Ivanovka (mid 5th mBC, synchronised by Morgunova with Khvalynsk/ Sredni Stog) and Turganik (early 4th mBC, synchronised with Repin/ early Yamnaya) phases, during which it expanded further south into the Orenburg Region.

All in all, the Samara Region during the second half of the 6th millenium BC seems to have been quite multicultural. It experienced influences from the Trans-Urals and the forest zone, the Lower Volga, and possibly also the Don-Dniepr area that substantially overformed and ultimately replaced the preceding Elshan culture, a fate possibly shared by its bearers.

The place of the I0124 sample within this multicultural set-up, including the question to which extent this single sample is representative of the region’s overall genetic set-up during the late 6th millenium BC, is unclear.

The individual we refer to as ‘Samara hunter-gatherer’ – I0124/SVP44 (5640-5555 calBCE, Beta-392490) is an adult male from grave 1 in a Neolithic-Eneolithic settlement [Lebyazhinka IV ] producing artifacts from the Elshanka, Samara, and Repin cultures.”

It has been reported the presence of four different styles of Eneolithic pottery at Lebyazhinka IV. Moreover, a recent analysis has uncovered a substantial reservoir effect in a contemporary (5605-5490 BC) burial from neighbouring Lebyazhinka V, where a human bone was dated 730 C14 years older than marmot canines from the same burial, strengthening suspicions that it might rather represent a Sredni Stog incursion or early Khvalynsk than Samara Culture proper.

The presence of Mariupol burial traditions in the Samara Culture deserves attention, so I have deemed it appropriate to include an Ukraine_Neolithic source, namely I3715 as the oldest of the Surskaya/Azov-Dniepr samples, into G25 modelling.

The output shows substantial population replacement since the Early Holocene not only in the Samara Region, but also as concerns the more or less contemporary, but still aceramic Karelian_HGs from Onega Lake.

Sidelkino EHG only captures some 40%, in the case of Uz0077 even only 15%, of the 6th mBC samples’ ancestry. New entrants have both come from the Southwest (UA_Mes, UA_N) and from Siberia (AG3, WSib_N), whereby AG3 seems to represent the bearers of the “Combed” pottery tradition.

The perceived similarity of EHG samples is obviously an artefact – all of them represent admixture of ANE-rich Siberian with WHG-rich Ukrainian sources, but the admixture happened at different points in time, and also between different source populations, as demonstrated by the absence of WSib_N admixture from Samara_HG, and of UA_N admixture from Karelian Uz0077.

Here is the 2.4% CHG admixture in the Samara HG. This doesn’t measure his total CHG share, which in distal modelling with AG3 and Villabruna as further sources lies around 8%. Instead, it represents the CHG that wasn’t already present in Sidelkino (2.9%), and didnt arrive from also CHG-enriched Mesolithic/ Neolithic Ukraine, which leaves us with either Elshan or the Lower Volga as its likely origin.

Volosovo culture

Volosovo culture is an archaeological culture that followed the Neolithic Pit-marked pottery culture (Balakhna). The archaeological assemblage identified with this culture is related to the finds from the middle Volga and Kama basin, indicating that they originated from the east.

Volosovo culture emerged sometime between the third and fourth millennium B.C. and lasted until the second millennium BC. A more specific estimate was the period between 1800 and 1500 BC, overlapping with the Early Bronze Age Fatyanovo culture.

The people of the Volosovo culture has been described as forest foragers. The archaeological assemblage identified with the Volosovo culture is related to the finds from the middle Volga and Kama basin, indicating that they originated from the east.

Like other groups with forest origin such as the Garin-Bor and other northern cultures, the Volosovo lived in the forest steppes of the Volga-Ural region, particularly the area of the present-day Samara oblast. Specific sites include those in central Russia, the Middle and Lower Oka, Lower Kama, and Middle Volga. The culture also inhabited the Veletma River area adjacent to Murom, a city that is part of Vladimir Oblast.

Since the discovery of the Volosovo culture, it has been investigated extensively but it remains controversial due to some unresolved aspects, particularly the chronology of its history, cultural attributes, origin, and ethnic affiliations. For example, it was believed that Volosovo was a separate cultural entity but other studies show that it is related to cultures associated with the Volga and Kama basin.

There is evidence that the Volosovo culture had extensive contacts with other cultures such as the Balanovo culture, a group considered to be the metal-working aspect of the eastern Fatyanovo. This is also demonstrated by the existence of Fatyanovo ceramics in Volosovo sites as well as the discovery of Volosovo ceramics in Fatyanovo graves.

Evidence showed that the late Volosovo phase also had extensive contact with the Abashevo population, helping spread cattle-breeding economies as well as metallurgy among the northern forest cultures. There were also Volosovo populations that were absorbed into the Abashevo culture before 2500 BCE while others were moving north.

The Volosovo people also maintained contacts with linguistic relativeswho settled in Finland and Russian Karelia as well as Proto-Baltic speakers, who were later absorbed into the culture.

Surskaja culture

During climate aridity, the steppe inhabitants experienced a crisis in their traditional way of life and a part of the population migrated to the north (middle and northern steppe). During the arid stages, the southern type of steppe vegetation spread. If aridity was strong, steppe landscapes also occupied the southern modern forest–steppe area.

These migrations also regulated the quantity of the population, which subsisted in a part of the steppe zone during the arid intervals. The migrating population retained a traditional way of life in the new regions. The newcomers continued their economy.

This is evident from the archaeological records of the Surskaja culture. The Semenovka 1 site occupied the bank of a small river in the south steppe during moist climate. Surskoy Island 2 is located in the Dnieper River in the northern region of the steppe, and developed during aridization. However, both sites have similar proportions of wild and domestic animals.

Cultural contacts of migrants with the local population considerably changed the material cultures of both population groups. In addition, some differences between cultural changes during strong and weak aridity can be identified.

For the Atlantic period, two strong and eight weak arid climate oscillations have been documented. During strong aridity, numerous migrants moved along the steppe and new cultures formed in the southern part of the modern forest–steppe zone, which was occupied with steppe landscapes. These cultures included both the traditions of migrants from the southern steppe and the local cultures of the forest–steppe zone.

The initial strongest aridity of the Atlantic period in Eastern Europe is dated about 6300–6000 BC. It was not a local phenomenon, also noted in Anatolia and in different parts of Europe. This time is connected with the spread of farming and the beginning of Neolithization in Europe.

A similar situation developed in the northern Black Sea area. In the mid-7th millennium BC, the population of the Rakushechny Yar Neolithic culture lived in the steppe Don Basin.

The builders of Grebeniki monuments occupied a steppe between the Dniester and South Bug rivers, and some penetrated into the Azov Sea area (Matveev Kurgan group). Steppe inhabitants were engaged in animal husbandry and agriculture, but pottery is known only for the Rakushechny Yar culture.

This marked aridization of climate seriously reduced available hunting resources of the steppe region. Local populations began to move to more humid areas – the basins of such rivers as the Dnieper, Dniester, and Don, and the northern steppe.

In these regions the Early Neolithic population kept the old type of economy with a considerable role for hunting. At the same time, these migrations changed the cultural situation in southeastern Europe.

At the beginning of this aridity, about 6300 BC, two new Neolithic cultures originated. One was the Surskaja culture in the middle Dnieper basin. Migration of the Grebeniki population from the steppe Azov Sea area to the Dnieper valley, where this river moderated the dry conditions, caused its coexistence with local Kukrek inhabitants and the formation of a new culture on the bases of their traditions.

This aridization could have been the impulse that resulted in the spreading of domesticated animals and borrowing of pottery from the Rakushechny Yar culture.

The oldest site of the Surskaja culture is Surskoy Island 1, located in the northern part of the steppe zone in the Dnieper basin. Most likely this site correlates to the beginning of the aridity, when forest with numerous wild animals (red deer, roe, wild boar and wild bull) was preserved in that region as indicated by the species composition of skeletal materials from archaeological sites with only a minor presence of cattle and domestic pig. The forest in the Dnieper valley was a favorable place for pasture for only those types of domestic animals.

About 6200 BC, during the peak of aridity, the native vegetation zones moved north. The steppe landscape occupied the forest–steppe zone. The southern steppe became unfavorable for life. The middle steppe could not provide sustenance for numerous pastoralist populations, and some groups of the Rakushechny Yar and Surskaja cultures moved along the rivers further to the north to find a more favorable environment to retain the traditional economy.

Due to that expansion, the Neolithization of modern forest–steppe and forest zones of Ukraine and adjacent areas of Russia began, with the major Dnieper–Donets culture established in Ukraine.

Probably in this period, the valleys of the small rivers in the southern and central parts of the steppe became depopulated or were only occasionally visited by people. According to the radiocarbon dates obtained for the Semenovka 1 and Kamennaja Mogila 1 sites, some Surskaja inhabited the basin of the Molochnaya river. At the same time, the principal inhabitation area of the Surskaja culture included the northern part of the modern steppe zone in the Dnieper valley.

During the arid period, Surskoy Island 2 was inhabited. Cattle herding and wild-animal hunting (red and roe dear, boar) gave equal percentages of meat to the Surskaja population. Cattle were the most numerous in herds, but some horses, pigs and few small cattle were bred as well. Fishing played an important role.

Another aridization about 4500–3800 BC with short humid periods was weaker but longer. This event is also identified on the Balkan Peninsula, correlated with an ecological catastrophe recorded in the southern areas of Macedonia, Albania, Italy, Thessaly and Thrace about 4500 BC.

In Eastern Europe, the eastern steppe areas were most affected by this climate aridity. In the northern Pontic steppe, the dry climate first influenced the eastern variant of Sredny Stog culture located near the Don River, and this event played an important role in the cultural development in the Eneolithic Ukraine.

Probably already at the beginning of this arid stage, a part of the population of the eastern variant of the Sredny Stog culture, formerly occupying small river valley habitats, was forced to move to the west, in the steppe middle Dnieper basin (Kotova, 2008). This migration initiated formation of the western variant of the Sredny Stog culture about 4350 BC.

During weak arid events (e.g. 5650–5500 BC, 5300–5100 BC and 4750–4650 BC) another situation existed in the steppe zone. In the eastern part of the arid steppe, some cultures with small populations disappeared (the Rakushechny Yar culture, ca. 5650–5500 BC) or were newly formed (the Sredny Stog culture from the Lower Don and Surskaja cultures about 5300 BC).

The most progressive cultural development reflecting the environmental transformations is evident in the western part of the northern Pontic steppe, reflecting a wetter climate.

Only minor changes of landscapes are documented with the steppe close to the modern forest–steppe limits. A small part of the population migrated to the north. Contacts of migrants with the local culture of the forest–steppe zone were not intensive and the local cultures retained their traditional characteristics.

The aridity peak about 5200 BC coincided with a transition from the first period of Azov–Dnieper culture to the second period. This included a significant component of the Dnieper–Donets culture of the present forest–steppe zone evident in the pottery decoration with strokes and incised lines replaced the comb impressions on the Azov–Dnieper pottery.

Geographically dispersed Eneolithic populations were assimilated by environmentally better-adapted cultures (for example, people of the Sredny Stog culture assimilated populations of the Surskaja and Azov–Dniper cultures about 5100–4800 BC).

Another situation took place at the time of climatic moisture. More favorable natural conditions starting at ca. 6000 BP increased the local Neolithic populations with expansion of the northern occupation zone into the southern steppe regions.

Establishment of pine woods in the western Azov Sea area correlated with the beginning of the Middle Neolithic in the southern part of Eastern Europe. New cultures (the Lower Don and Azov–Dnieper) appeared in the northern Pontic steppe.

Population migrated to the southern steppe region, reflecting increased precipitation. The archaeological sites of the wet periods are most numerous in the steppe zone with relatively stable populations

Transverse grooved artefacts (TGA)

One more striking example is the so-called Transverse grooved artefacts (TGA), which appeared as a new cultural element in Mesolithic-Proto-Neolithic sites in southwestern Asia. TGA make up a category of grooved samples which include small (3-23 cm, most often 6-12 cm in length) stone or ceramic specimens varying in shape, quality, and decoration, with transverse grooves of small diameter.

Their initial area was in the Near East, where they have been found in Epipalaeolithic and Protoneolithic complexes of the 10th to the first half of the 8th millennium BC. These artefacts existed on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, the Trans-Caucasus, the Northern Black Sea area, and Central Asia in the 7–6th millennium BC.

In the 5–4th millennium BC, their distribution was displaced east and covered the forest-steppe and the steppe zone from the Dnipro River in the west to the Ob’ River in Siberia in the east, and also a small area in the interfluves of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers in Central Asia.

Some common traits were found in specimens from far apart territories, such as the non-abrasive heat-resistant nature of the raw materials, specificity of fragmentation without any signs of physical impact, the standard size of the grooves, association with a specific type of landscape, the similar economic level of the societies with which the items are associated, and use-wear marks in the grooves.

Based on these regularities we can speak of a single main function for these artifacts which suggest that grooved stones were used for straightening cane and reed shafts under heating. Other evidence and traces that have been identified on the surface of TGA outside the groove could be associated with a variety of additional functions.

The term “grooved stones” covers today a wider variety of artefacts than was initially suggested. This includes different types of grooved stone tools with distinguishable functions. On the other hand, it does not cover ceramic artefacts with grooves identical to those observed in stone artefacts. To correct this situation, the term “transverse grooved artefacts” (TGA) is offered for items with a groove running across the short axis.

Currently, grooved stone artefacts are distinguished as used for the production, maintenance, and sharpening of bone awls, needles and other pointed objects, and transverse-grooved stones crafted out of mostly non-abrasive rocks (these items are also referred to as “arrow shaft straighteners,” “pierres à rainures,” “shaft-straighteners,” “polissoirs,” and “polissoirs à rainures”.

TGA appeared as a new cultural element in Epipaleolithic-Proto-Neolithic sites in a broad geographic zone from southwestern Asia to northern Africa. Similar objects have been recorded from archaeological and ethnographic contexts in both the Old World and the New World, from southwestern Asia, Africa and North America.

Specifically useful parallels for archaeological interpretation of the function and use of Near Eastern grooved stones were found among the American Indians and the Bushmen of southern Africa, where such stones were used as reed shaft straighteners under heat application.

The nature of TGA was multifunctional, with their primary function being to straighten reed and cane shafts under heating. Other hypotheses of the functional purpose of grooved stones, with both utilitarian and sacral modalities, also exist, although they are not as well-founded.

Archaeological investigations of the Natufian sites in the southern Levant provide evidence that grooved stones (including full morphological prototypes of TGA) originated during the Early Natufian. Such early dates support the hypothesis that the manufacturing tradition of the grooved stones originated in the Near East.

This is also supported by the variable position of the grooves (both longitudinal and transverse grooves are widely distributed), the internal morphology of the groove (which may have a rounded profile but also triangular or rectangular modifications) and the specific raw material (mainly compact basalt – a non-typical material for common TGA which are usually made from softer non-abrasive rocks, such as steatite, chlorite etc.). Dozens of grooved stones have now been identified across the Near East.

In the archaeological collections of northern Eurasia we find similar small artefacts made of stone or clay, with transverse, or less commonly, longitudinal, grooves. They are found over a vast territory which includes Eastern Europe (the European part of Russia, Ukraine, Moldavia), Transcaucasia, Central (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia) and northern Asia (Western Siberia), and the Urals and Altay Mountains.

Such objects, called “arrow shaft straighteners,” “polishers,” “grindstones,” “utyuzhki” (Russian), “praski,” and “chovniki” (Ukrainian), number by the hundreds, although they are only occasional finds. TGA are especially numerous throughout the Ukraine (the Dnieper River) and the Urals as well as the Near East (Levant and Zagros).

These artefacts are associated with different cultural contexts (at least sixty cultures) ranging from the Mesolithic to the Early Bronze Age (9th – early 2nd millennia BCE). In the most recent period of their existence, the number of TGA is reduced, and then they disappear completely.

TGA in northern Eurasia come from settlements (dwellings or the corresponding archaeological layers), burials and sacred places and sanctuaries. They vary in shape, more than half are decorated (53.8%), and some are figurines.

The TGA of northern Eurasia and the Near East have some common features. These include the similarity of the petrographic features of raw material (mostly soft, non-abrasive, heat-resistant rocks), massive fragmentation of TGA and characteristics of fractures (without any sign of physical impact which supports the idea that fire was the cause of fracturing), the uniform shape and size of the grooves, the similar environmental contexts of the sites (the predominance of steppe, forest-steppe and other landscapes), identical use-wear traces in the grooves, and, finally, the comparable economic features of the cultures that used TGA.

TGA first appeared and mostly existed in foraging societies and societies of farmers and cattle-breeders who still practiced fishing, hunting, and gathering on a large scale. Only four of the sixty cultures in which practices associated with TGA have been documented, are characterized by relatively advanced farming.

In these cultures, TGA are either singular (Dzheitun, Shulaveri-Shomutepe cultures, Central Asia and Transcaucasia) or associated with a ritual context, as in the archaic assemblage of Klady, mound 31 (Maikop culture, Transcaucasia) and a sanctuary near Konstantinovskoye (Konstantinovskaya culture, Southern Russia). The chronological cross-sections of TGA expansion show that as populations transitioned to agriculture or advanced cattle-breeding, TGA disappeared.

Similar artefacts occasionally occur in materials from Western Mediterranean sites with Cardium – Impresso pottery of the 6–5th millennium BC. For example, a typical transverse grooved stone was found at the Valada do Mato site in the interior of Southern Portugal which is dated to the first quarter of the 5th millennium BC.

The researcher, Mariana Diniz, interpreted this find as a ‘hone of amphibolite, with a groove’ and considered that it was used for making stone, bone or cockleshell personal ornaments.

The important point is that the Valada do Mato site was settled by people with a mixed economy having cultural traits of both the Mesolithic and Neolithic cultural packages. No such combination of traits has been found in synchronous Neolithic sites in Portugal, but they are characteristic of practically all Neolithic sites of the 7–6th millennium calBC in the Northern Black Sea area.

The Pontic-Caspian steppe

Before the arrival of farmers to the western frontier of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, pottery was produced in the first half of the 7th millennium BC by hunter-gatherer groups first in the Volga steppes (with the earliest pottery found to date in the Elshanian culture). This culture was probably derived from the Eastern Asian tradition of the Late Pleistocene through Siberia and the Transurals.

The first Neolithisation of the Lower Volga region, with the oldest pottery of ca. 6200 BC, can be attributed to the influence of the Kairshak culture in the northern Caspian region, where the first sites with the oldest pottery appeared ca. 6500 BC. From the north-western Caspian region pottery spread south- and westward into north Pontic societies ca. 6200-6000 BC.

Sparsely decorated pottery dispersed north into the Forest Zone ca. 6000 BC or slightly earlier, from the upper Volga and Dvina-Lovat’ regions to the east (into the Dvina-Pechora region) and west (into the eastern Baltic), reaching the Upper Volga, Serteya, and Valday cultures, and later the Narva culture.

Contacts of north Pontic cultures with Criş settlers from the Starčevo–Kőrös–Criş culture about 5800 BC introduced domesticated cattle to the Bug-Dniester culture, but no signs of cultural assimilation has been found, with the later invasion of Linear Pottery sites ca. 5500-5200 BC respecting a similar cultural frontier, geographically coincident with the Dniester. Hence the language of western Neolithic settlers – assumed to come from the Middle East, if language accompanied the spread of Neolithic technology – was probably not transferred to north Pontic herders.

A second expansion of eastern pottery reached the eastern Baltic region ca. 5500 BC, expanding from the Dnieper region to the north-west, generating the sparsely decorated Dubičiai pottery (later evolving into the Neman culture), and influencing the north European regions from the Narva to the Ertebølle cultures.

From the Bug-Dniester culture domesticated cattle, sheep, and goats spread quickly from about 5200 BC east- and northward into Pontic-Caspian sites, reaching Khvalynsk and the Samara region about 5100 BC.

A third expansion of eastern pottery spread from the Volga-Kama region to the east ca. 5000 BC, connected to influences from beyond the Urals, showing a more elaborately decorated ware (with bands of pits and impressions made from comb stamps), spreading north and west in the Sperrings and Säräisniemi 1 cultures.

A sample of R1b1a1a-P297 reported as possibly an intermediate stage of its formation (positive and negative markers in the M478 node) was found in a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer at Lebyanzhinka in the Samara region, dated ca. 5600 BC. Later samples from the same region show continuity of R1b1a1a2-M269 lineages, which seem to have expanded from east to west in the Pontic-Caspian steppes.

In the north Pontic steppe – apart from the earlier R1a-M420 and R1b-M343 samples from Mesolithic Vasylivka (see above) – there are four samples (dated ca. 6500-4000 BC) of the Mariupol culture from Volniensky, and one sample of the Azov-Dnieper culture from Vovnihi (ca. 5400 BC), of I-M170 (and one IJ) lineage.

Samples attributed to the early Sredni Stog culture in Deriivka (dated ca. 5500-4800 BC) include nine of R1b-M343 lineage, probably from an extinct branch of R1b1a-L754 (xR1b1a1a-P297, xR1b1a1a2-M269); one of R1a-M420 lineage; and four samples of haplogroup I-M170, probably I2a2a1b-L701.

This diversity of lineages points to a mix in the different groups that emerged during the Mesolithic and early Neolithic periods, before the mass expansions that occurred later.

Neolithic-Chalcolithic transition

The Copper Age began in Bulgaria ca. 5200-5000 BC, and Old European copper-trade network included the Pontic-Caspian steppe societies after ca. 4600 BC. According to the Kurgan hypothesis, the Volga-Don river region was the homeland of the Proto-Indo-Europeans c. 4000 BC.

In the Late Neolithic there was the Orlovka culture in the steppe Volga basin, the Lower Don culture to the south-west, the Samara culture in the east, and the Voronezh-Don culture between the Volga and Don sites.

These four cultures on the Pontic–Caspian steppe, Pontic steppe, or Ukrainian steppe, the vast steppe land stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea as far east as the Caspian Sea, were related, and some combine them into the Mariupol cultural-historical area.

The similarities between their material culture suggests a human migration to the north from the steppe Don region into the valleys of the Don, Medveditsa and Volga, reaching the Voronezh basin ca. 5200-5150 BC. The Voronezh is a river in Tambov, Lipetsk, and Voronezh oblasts in Russia, a left tributary of the Don.

The Don River functioned as a fertile cradle of civilization where the Neolithic farmer culture of the Near East fused with the hunter-gatherer culture of Siberian groups, resulting in the nomadic pastoralism of the Proto-Indo-Europeans.

The Voronezh River is 342 kilometres (213 mi) long, with a drainage basin of 21,600 square kilometres (8,300 sq mi). It freezes up in the first half of December and stays under the ice until late March. The lower reaches of the river are navigable.

Going upstream, it leaves the Don south of Voronezh and goes north parallel and east of the Don for about 150 kilometres (93 mi). West of Michurinsk it swings east and splits into the Lesnoy and Polny Voronezh Rivers (“Forest and Field Voronezh”). These go north about 75 kilometres (47 mi) to the border of Ryazan Oblast. To the north are tributaries of the Oka River.

Voronezh Oblast is located in the central belt of the European part of Russia, in a very advantageous strategic location, transport links to the site going to the industrial regions of Russia. Within the radius (12 hours of driving 80 km/h) 960 kilometers around Voronezh more than 50% of the population Russia, and 40% in Ukraine live.

The area of the region is 52.4 thousand km2, which is about one third of the whole area of Central Black Earth Region or Central Chernozem Region (from Russian chernozyom; “black soil”), a segment of the Eurasian Black Earth belt that lies within Central Russia. The length of the region from north to south is 277.5 km and from west to east 352 km. Much of the area is steppe, among the predominant soil fertile soil black earth.

Chernozem is a black-colored soil containing a high percentage of humus (4% to 16%) and high percentages of phosphoric acids, phosphorus, and ammonia. Chernozem is very fertile and can produce high agricultural yields with its high moisture storage capacity.




Chronologically, there have been several “waves” of invasions of either Europe, the Near East, India and/or China from the steppe:

Bronze Age:

Proto-Indo-Europeans (see Indo-European migrationsKurgan theory, and the later Indo-Aryan migration theory)

Iron Age / Classical Antiquity:

Iranian peoplesCimmeriansWusunParthiansParniSakaIssedonesMassagetaeScythiansSarmatiansSigynnaeYuezhiHephthalites

Late Antiquity and Migration period:


Early Middle Ages:

Turkic expansionMagyar invasionCumansBashkirsBurtasBulgarsKarluksKhazarsKhitanKimaksKipchaksMagyarsUyghurs

High Middle Ages to Early Modern period:

Mongol Empire and continued Turkic expansionMongolsTurkomenNogaisPetchenegsSeljuksTartarsKalmyksKazakhsKyrgyzQaraqalpaqsYörüksDzungar Khanate, the last nomad empire

See: Eurasiatic languages and Steppe Route

Proto Indo-Europeans ca. 4500 – 4000 BC

Archaeogenetics of Europe

Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses

Armenian hypothesis

Kurgan hypothesis

Eurasian nomads

Haplogroup R1b (Y-DNA) – Eupedia

Haplogroup R1a (Y-DNA) – Eupedia

Domestication of the horse

The Nomadic Horse Peoples of Central Asia

Pontic–Caspian steppe

Genetic clues to the Ossetian past

On the Ossetian language


Eurasian nomads

Eurasian steppe

Pontic–Caspian steppe

Steppe Route

History of Eurasia

Silk road

History of the western steppe

Western Steppe Herders

Central Asia

Black Sea

Caspian Sea

History of Central Asia

Demographics of Central Asia

Ancient North Eurasians

Eurasian Nomads

Tarim Mummies

Kurgan Hypothesis

Indo-Aryan Migration Hypothesis

Turkic Migration

Domestication of the Horse

The Silk Road

Eurasian Nomads

Eurasian Steppe

East European Forest Steppe

History of the Eastern Steppe

Pontic–Caspian steppe

Black Sea-Caspian Steppe

Forest steppe

Steppe Route

History of the Central Steppe

History of Eurasia

Nomadic empires

Central Asian confederations

History of the Central Steppe

Ancient India and Central Asia

Click to access 1921-Article%20Text-3241-1-10-20140121%20(1).pdf

How did CHG get into Steppe_EMBA ? Part 2 : The Pottery Neolithic

Click to access 1-s2.0-S1040618209003334-main.pdf

The Caucasus a genetic and cultural barrier; Yamna dominated by R1b-M269; Yamna settlers in Hungary cluster with Yamna

The genetic and cultural barrier of the Pontic-Caspian steppe – forest-steppe ecotone


How did CHG get into Steppe_EMBA ? Part 2 : The Pottery Neolithic

Waves of Palaeolithic ANE ancestry driven by P subclades; new CWC-like Finnish Iron Age

File:Central Asia - political map 2008.svg




Bilge Tonyukuk Monument

Turkish Monuments Mongolia

The Indo-European Origin Myths of the Turks



File:Tonyukuk Inscription.png

Orkhon innskriften:


File:Gok turk Epigraph Copy in Gazi University Ankara.jpg

Krat fra Kashgaris Diwan, som viser spredningen av de tyrkiske stammene:

File:Kashgari map.jpg



Xiongnu under Modu Chanyu rundt 205 f.vt.

Asia, 200 f.vt. – tidlig Xiongnu stat med nabostater

File:Asia 200ad.jpg

Sørlig ognordlig Xiongnu, 200 e.vt.

Xiongnu og andre steppenasjoner, 300 e.vt.

Rouran Khaganate (330–555):


Gogturk (552–744):

File:Kul Tigin.jpg


Gökturk Khaganate 552–744 e.vt.


Tyrkiske khaganater omkring 600 e.vt.

  Western Gokturk: Lighter area is direct rule, darker areas show sphere of influence.
  Eastern Gokturk: Lighter area is direct rule, darker areas show sphere of influence.

Sørvest tyrkisk (Oghuz):

File:Map-Oguz Language World.png

Nordvest tyrkisk (Kipchak):

File:Map-Kypchak Language World.png

File:Baba 010.jpg

File:State of Cuman-Kipchak (13.) tr.png

Sørøst tyrkisk (Karluk):

File:Map-Uyghuric Language World.jpg

Tyrkiske folk og språk:

File:Carte peuples turcs.png

Tyrkiske folk


Tyrkiske språk

The Turkic Languages in a Nutshell



File:Invasions of the Roman Empire 1.png


Hunnernes etterfølgere, 500 e.vt.

Asia, 700 e.vt.


File:Seljuk Empire locator map.svg

File:Seljuk Sultanate of Rum 1190 Locator Map.svg


File:Europe map 1092.PNG

File:Khwarezmian Empire 1190 - 1220 (AD).PNG



Tyrkiske prinsedømmer (beyliker), 1200-tallet:

File:Anadolu Beylikleri.png

File:Östromerska och osmanska rikena slutet av 1300talet.jpg

Ottomanske imperium:





Asia år 1:

File:Asia 001ad.jpg

Asia, år 1


File:Linguistic map of the Tungusic languages.png







Donghu, 300-tallet f.vt.


Xianbei (93–234)


File:Mongol soldiers by Rashid al-Din 1305.JPG


 Kart over Mongolimperiet på 1300-tallet med dagens mongolere markert i rødt.

Mongol imperiet

Mongolsk erobring

Battles & maps

File:Ilkhanate in 1256–1353.PNG

Dagens mongolske språk:

File:Linguistic map of the Mongolic languages.png

%d bloggers like this: