Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • 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



Kurgan hypothesis


Armenian hypothesis

Anatolian hypothesis

Anatolian Languages


Decem and Taihun

Centem / Satem

Laryngeal Theory

Glottalic Theory

Bayesian analysis

Yamnaya culture

Mikhaylovka culture

Kemi Oba culture

Catacomb culture

Poltavka culture

Srubnaya culture

Potapovka culture

Abashevo culture

Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture

Multi-cordoned Ware culture




The Indo-Europeans

Environmental Changes

Steppe Ancestry

Steppe Hypothesis

Spread of Pins

Indo-European languages

The generally accepted clades branched from the Proto-Indo-European language are, in alphabetical order, the Proto-Albanian language, Proto-Anatolian language, Proto-Armenian language, Proto-Balto-Slavic language, Proto-Celtic language, Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Greek language, Proto-Indo-Iranian language, Proto-Italic language, and the Proto-Tocharian language. Thracian, Dacian, Phrygian, Illyrian, Venetic, and Paeonian are fragmentarily attested and cannot be reliably categorized.

Kurgan hypothesis

The Kurgan hypothesis (also known as the Kurgan theory or Kurgan model) or steppe theory is the most widely accepted proposal to identify the Proto-Indo-European homeland from which the Indo-European languages spread out throughout Europe, Eurasia and parts of Asia.

The Kurgan hypothesis describes the initial spread of Proto-Indo-European during the 5th and 4th millennia BC. It postulates that the people of a Kurgan culture in the Pontic steppe north of the Black Sea were the most likely speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). The term is derived from the Russian kurgan, meaning tumulus or burial mound.

The Kurgan hypothesis was first formulated in the 1950s by Marija Gimbutas, who used the term to group various cultures, including the Yamnaya, or Pit Grave, culture and its predecessors. David Anthony instead uses the core Yamnaya culture and its relationship with other cultures as a point of reference.

Gimbutas defined the Kurgan culture as composed of four successive periods, with the earliest (Kurgan I) including the Samara and Seroglazovo cultures of the Dnieper–Volga region in the Copper Age (early 4th millennium BC). The people of these cultures were nomadic pastoralists, who, according to the model, by the early 3rd millennium BC had expanded throughout the Pontic–Caspian steppe and into Eastern Europe.

As used by Gimbutas, the term “kurganized” implied that the culture could have been spread by no more than small bands who imposed themselves on local people as an elite. This idea of the PIE language and its daughter-languages diffusing east and west without mass movement proved popular with archaeologists in the 1970s (the pots-not-people paradigm).

The question of further Indo-Europeanization of Central and Western Europe, Central Asia and Northern India during the Bronze Age is beyond its scope, far more uncertain than the events of the Copper Age, and subject to some controversy.

The rapidly developing field of archaeogenetics and genetic genealogy since the late 1990s has not only confirmed a migratory pattern out of the Pontic Steppe at the relevant time, it also suggests the possibility that the population movement involved was more substantial than anticipated.

Gimbutas believed that the expansions of the Kurgan culture were a series of essentially hostile military incursions where a new warrior culture imposed itself on the peaceful, matrilinear (hereditary through the female line), matrifocal, though egalitarian cultures of “Old Europe”, replacing it with a patriarchal warrior society, a process visible in the appearance of fortified settlements and hillforts and the graves of warrior-chieftains.

The process of Indo-Europeanization was a cultural, not a physical, transformation. It must be understood as a military victory in terms of successfully imposing a new administrative system, language, and religion upon the indigenous groups.

In her later life, Gimbutas increasingly emphasized the authoritarian nature of this transition from the egalitarian process of the nature/earth mother goddess (Gaia) to a patriarchal society and the worship of the father/sun/weather god (Zeus, Dyaus).

This supposed egalitarian, mother-goddess-worshipping society is not the same as a matriarchy in Gimbutas’s view. Matriarchal hierarchy structures in Gimbutas’s opinion are the same as a patriarchal society, not the actual opposite: an egalitarian society without hierarchy.

J. P. Mallory (in 1989) accepted the Kurgan hypothesis as the de facto standard theory of Indo-European origins, but he recognized criticism of any alleged, but not actually stated, “radical” scenario of military invasion; the slow accumulation of influence through coercion or extortion – Gimbutas’s actual main scenario – was often taken as general and immediate raiding and then conquest.

One might at first imagine that the economy of argument involved with the Kurgan solution should oblige us to accept it outright. But critics do exist and their objections can be summarized quite simply:

Almost all of the arguments for invasion and cultural transformations are far better explained without reference to Kurgan expansions, and most of the evidence so far presented is either totally contradicted by other evidence, or is the result of gross misinterpretation of the cultural history of Eastern, Central, and Northern Europe.

Three genetic studies in 2015 gave partial support to Gimbutas’s Kurgan theory regarding the Indo-European Urheimat. According to those studies, haplogroups R1b and R1a, now the most common in Europe (R1a is also common in South Asia) would have expanded from the steppes north of the Pontic and Caspian seas, along with the Indo-European languages.

They also detected an autosomal component present in modern Europeans which was not present in Neolithic Europeans, which would have been introduced with paternal lineages R1b and R1a, as well as Indo-European languages.

Arguments for the identification of the Proto-Indo-Europeans as steppe nomads from the Pontic–Caspian region had already been made in the 19th century by German philologists Theodor Benfey[8] and especially Otto Schrader.

Theodor Poesche had proposed the nearby Pinsk Marshes. In his standard work about PIE and to a greater extent in a later abbreviated version, Karl Brugmann took the view that the urheimat could not be identified exactly at that time, but he tended toward Schrader’s view. However, after Karl Penka’s 1883 rejection of non-European origins, most scholars favoured a Northern European origin.

The view of a Pontic origin was still strongly favoured, e.g., by the archaeologists V. Gordon Childe and Ernst Wahle. One of Wahle’s students was Jonas Puzinas, who in turn was one of Gimbutas’s teachers.

Gimbutas, who acknowledges Schrader as a precursor, was able to marshal a wealth of archaeological evidence from the territory of the Soviet Union (and other countries then belonging to the eastern bloc) not readily available to scholars from western countries, enabling her to achieve a fuller picture of prehistoric Europe.

When it was first proposed in 1956, in The Prehistory of Eastern Europe, Part 1, Marija Gimbutas’s contribution to the search for Indo-European origins was an interdisciplinary synthesis of archaeology and linguistics.

The Kurgan model of Indo-European origins identifies the Pontic–Caspian steppe as the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) urheimat, and a variety of late PIE dialects are assumed to have been spoken across the region.

According to this model, the Kurgan culture gradually expanded until it encompassed the entire Pontic–Caspian steppe, Kurgan IV being identified with the Yamnaya culture of around 3000 BCE.

The mobility of the Kurgan culture facilitated its expansion over the entire region, and is attributed to the domestication of the horse and later the use of early chariots. The first strong archaeological evidence for the domestication of the horse comes from the Sredny Stog culture north of the Azov Sea in Ukraine, and would correspond to an early PIE or pre-PIE nucleus of the 5th millennium BCE.

Subsequent expansion beyond the steppes led to hybrid, or in Gimbutas’s terms “kurganized” cultures, such as the Globular Amphora culture to the west. From these kurganized cultures came the immigration of Proto-Greeks to the Balkans and the nomadic Indo-Iranian cultures to the east around 2500 BCE.

Gimbutas defined and introduced the term “Kurgan culture” in 1956 with the intention of introducing a “broader term” that would combine Sredny Stog II, Pit Grave, and Corded ware horizons (spanning the 4th to 3rd millennia in much of Eastern and Northern Europe).

The model of a “Kurgan culture” brings together the various cultures of the Copper Age to Early Bronze Age (5th to 3rd millennia BC) Pontic–Caspian steppe to justify their identification as a single archaeological culture or cultural horizon, based on similarities among them.

The eponymous construction of kurgans (mound graves) is only one among several factors. As always in the grouping of archaeological cultures, the dividing line between one culture and the next cannot be drawn with hard precision and will be open to debate.

Cultures that Gimbutas considered as part of the “Kurgan culture”: Bug–Dniester (6th millennium), Samara (5th millennium), Khvalynsk (5th millennium), Dnieper–Donets (5th to 4th millennia), Sredny Stog (mid-5th to mid-4th millennia), Maikop–Dereivka (mid-4th to mid-3rd millennia), Usatovo culture (late 4th millennium) and Yamnaya or Pit Grave culture (late 4th to 3th millennium).

The Yamnaya culture, also known as the Yamnaya Horizon, Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was itself a varied cultural horizon, spanning the entire Pontic–Caspian steppe from the mid-4th to the 3rd millennium.

The Yamnaya culture was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC. Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition. It is a Russian adjective that means ‘related to pits (yama)’, and these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers.

The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language. The people of the Yamnaya culture were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus.

People with this ancestral component are known as Western Steppe Herders. Their material culture was very similar to the Afanasevo culture. They lived primarily as nomads, with a chiefdom system and wheeled carts that allowed them to manage large herds. 

They are also closely connected to Final Neolithic cultures, which later spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware people and the Bell Beaker culture. Back migration from Corded Ware also contributed to Sintashta, Andronovo, and Srubnaya cultures. In these groups, several aspects of the Yamnaya culture are present. Genetic studies have also indicated that these populations derived large parts of their ancestry from the steppes.

Alberto Piazza and Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza have tried in the 2000s to align the Anatolian hypothesis with the steppe theory. According to Alberto Piazza it is clear that, genetically speaking, peoples of the Kurgan steppe descended at least in part from people of the Middle Eastern Neolithic who immigrated there from Turkey.

According to Piazza and Cavalli-Sforza (2006), the Yamna-culture may have been derived from Middle Eastern Neolithic farmers who migrated to the Pontic steppe and developed pastoral nomadism. Wells agrees with Cavalli-Sforza that there is “some genetic evidence for migration from the Middle East.”

However, according to Wells; “while we see substantial genetic and archaeological evidence for an Indo-European migration originating in the southern Russian steppes, there is little evidence for a similarly massive Indo-European migration from the Middle East to Europe.

One possibility is that, as a much earlier migration (8,000 years old, as opposed to 4,000), the genetic signals carried by Indo-European-speaking farmers may simply have dispersed over the years.

There is clearly some genetic evidence for migration from the Middle East, as Cavalli-Sforza and his colleagues showed, but the signal is not strong enough for us to trace the distribution of Neolithic languages throughout the entirety of Indo-European-speaking Europe.”

David Anthony’s The Horse, the Wheel and Language describes his “revised steppe theory”. Anthony considers the term “Kurgan culture” so lacking in precision as to be useless, instead using the core Yamnaya culture and its relationship with other cultures as a point of reference.

He points out that the Kurgan culture was so broadly defined that almost any culture with burial mounds, or even (like the Baden culture) without them could be included. He does not include the Maykop culture among those that he considers to be IE-speaking, presuming instead that they spoke a Caucasian language.


The use of barrow burials or tumuli has been argued to appear as a local north Caucasian feature, with origin in the 5th millennium BC, and also in the southern Caucasus, with the Leilatepe culture, from where it spread north. Other barrows are later found up to north-west Iran.

Although evidence is too scarce to select a precise origin, the early Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka burials, on the Pontic–Caspian steppes, are the first to feature rich, ochre-sprinkled graves under kurgan-like structures.

The addition of the tradition of ochre staining (originally from the steppes) to the emerging proto-kurgans supports that these structures emerged with the contacts of steppe cultures with the Caucasus.

The standard posture on the back with knees raised, with their heads to the north and east, characteristic of Khvalynsk-type burials, point to the expansion of the Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka cultural-historical area as the starting point of this tradition in the steppes.

All members of society are considered represented in the earliest Khvalynsk cemeteries, although there is a clear emerging trend during their expansion for elite male burials to predominate.

Rich grave assemblages include stone clubs and axes, animal-head sceptres, long flint blades, and ornaments for clothing, many made of copper. These rare copper objects like rings and beads, most likely from western industries, are more common in elite male graves, as are animal sacrifices and red ochre.

The emerging kurgan structures were probably not simple pits filled with earth. There was a belief that the funerary structure was the place where the buried moved to another world, and in that sense similar funerary structures reflect certain egalitarian ideas.

In this way, the evolution from collective necropolis to the rich grave assemblages reflect the meaning of prestige objects as symbols that emphasise social status, and thus an evolution to a kinship-based, elite-dominated organisation into small families, as well as a potential function in the transition to the afterlife.

The new social elites identified themselves through grave goods and grave construction, marked the status with clothing (copper jewellery) and symbols of power (mace and sceptre). The existence of similar children’s graves supports the membership to social groups being acquired by birth.

This common evolution in the whole Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka cultural-historical area supports the emergence of tightly structured elite social groups expanding from the east.

Ceremonial skull-scraping of the parietal bone, consisting of one to seven gouges about 2–3 cm in length in the parietal bone surface, may appear mainly in mature adults, with some cases clearly associated with elite burials.

Zoomorphic sceptres represented probably a ritual source of power for Khvalynsk chieftains, political and/or religious leaders, as evidenced by the unique zoomorphic carving found in Ekaterinovka (a riverine settlement) in the second half of the 5th millennium, resembling a toothed fish or reptile, rather than the most common horse-related motifs expanding with Novodanilovka–Suvorovo settlers.

The finding of similar elk-head staffs in Mesolithic–Neolithic cultures of northern and eastern Europe and the Trans-Urals region may suggest an ancient cultural connection of this tradition through northern Eurasia.

Early kurgan-like or proto-kurgan constructions in the Pontic–Caspian steppes are found thus associated with the expansion of Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka chiefs, featuring similar constructions to mark elite graves.

This includes rooves made from separate slabs with cairns are known in the Dnieper and Volga regions (17% of burials in early Khvalynsk were superimposed with stone cairns or had a single stone marker); cists with cairns are known from the northern Donets and Azov areas; and a unique cromlech is found in the Dniester–Danube area, among Suvorovo graves.

Apart from these stone constructions, in the Volga and northern Caucasus region sometimes natural hills or small earthen or wooden constructions are used as burial markers.

Armenian hypothesis

The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European homeland, proposed by Georgian Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze and Russian linguist Vyacheslav Ivanov in 1985, suggests that Proto-Indo-European was spoken during the 5th–4th millennia BC in “eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia”.

The Armenian hypothesis gains in plausibility since the Yamnaya partly descended from a Near Eastern population, which resembles present-day Armenians. Yet, the question of what languages were spoken by the ‘Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers’ and the southern, Armenian-like, ancestral population remains open.

It is an Indo-Hittite model and does not include the Anatolian languages in its scenario, which are identified with the Kura-Araxes culture. The phonological peculiarities of the consonants proposed in the glottalic theory would be best preserved in the Armenian language and the Germanic languages, the former assuming the role of the dialect which remained in situ and implied to be particularly archaic in spite of its late attestation.

Gamkrelidze and Ivanov presented their hypothesis in Russian in 1980–1981 in two articles in Vestnik drevnej istorii. During the following years they expanded and developed their work into their voluminous book, published in Russian in 1984; the English translation of the book appeared in 1995.

In English a short sketch of the hypothesis first appeared in The Early History of Indo-European Languages, published in Scientific American in 1990. Tamas Gamkrelidze published an update to the hypothesis in 2010.

According to Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, the Indo-European languages derive from a language originally spoken in the wide area of eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia. The Anatolian languages, including Hittite, split off before 4000 BCE, and migrated into Anatolia at around 2000 BCE.

They argue that IE spread out from Armenia into the Pontic steppe, from which it expanded, as per the Kurgan hypothesis, into Western Europe. The Hittite, Indo-Iranian, Greek and Armenian branches split from the Armenian homeland.

Around 4000 BCE, the proto-Indo-European community split into Greek-Armenian-Indo-Iranians, Celto-Italo-Tocharians, and Balto-Slavo-Germanics. At around 3000–2500 BCE, Greek moved to the west, while the Indo-Aryans, the Celto-Italo-Tocharians and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics moved east, and then northwards along the eastern slope of the Caspian Sea.

The Tocharians split from the Italo-Celtics before 2000 BCE and moved further east, while the Italo-Celtics and the Balto-Slavo-Germanics turned west again towards the northern slopes of the Black Sea. From there, they expanded further into Europe between around 2000 and 1000 BCE.

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

The Armenian hypothesis argues for the latest possible date of Proto-Indo-European (without Anatolian), roughly a millennium later than the mainstream Kurgan hypothesis. In this respect, it represents an opposite to the Anatolian hypothesis in spite of the geographical proximity of the respective suggested Urheimat by diverging from the timeframe suggested there by approximately 3000 years.

Recent DNA-research (2015-2018) has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a ‘pre-proto-Indo-European’. It also has been proposed by some to lend support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language no later than the 4th millennium BCE.

David Reich, in his 2018 publication Who We Are and How We Got Here, noting the presence of some Indo-European languages (such as Hittite) in parts of ancient Anatolia, states that “the most likely location of the population that first spoke an Indo-European language was south of the Caucasus Mountains, perhaps in present-day Iran or Armenia, because ancient DNA from people who lived there matches what we would expect for a source population both for the Yamnaya and for ancient Anatolians.”

Yet, Reich also notes that “…the evidence here is circumstantial as no ancient DNA from the Hittites themselves has yet been published.” Nevertheless, Reich also states that some, if not most, of the Indo-European languages were spread by the Yamnaya people”.

According to Kroonen et al. (2018), Damgaard et al. (2018) aDNA studies in Anatolia “show no indication of a large-scale intrusion of a steppe population”, but do “fit the recently developed consensus among linguists and historians that the speakers of the Anatolian languages established themselves in Anatolia by gradual infiltration and cultural assimilation.”

They further note that this lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language “no later than the 4th millennium BCE.”

Wang et al. (2018) note that the Caucasus served as a corridor for gene flow between the steppe and cultures south of the Caucasus during the Eneolithic and the Bronze Age, stating that this “opens up the possibility of a homeland of PIE south of the Caucasus.”

However, Wang et al. also acknowledge that the latest genetic evidence supports an origin of proto-Indo-Europeans in the steppe, noting that the latest ancient DNA results from South Asia suggest an LMBA spread via the steppe belt.

Irrespective of the early branching pattern, the spread of some or all of the PIE branches would have been possible via the North Pontic/Caucasus region and from there, along with pastoralist expansions, to the heart of Europe.

This scenario finds support from the well attested and widely documented ‘steppe ancestry’ in European populations and the postulate of increasingly patrilinear societies in the wake of these expansions.

Kristian Kristiansen, in an interview with Der Spiegel in may 2018, stated that the Yamnaya culture may have had a predecessor at the Caucasus, where “proto-proto-Indo-European” was spoken.

John Greppin, reviewing Gamkrelidze and Ivanov’s book, wrote in a review in the Times Literary Supplement in 1986 that their model of linguistic relationships is “the most complex, far reaching and fully supported of this century”.

Scholars have long debated the origins of the Greeks whose language, like that of the Armenians, belongs to the Indo-European family tree. Robert Drews in his book “The Coming of the Greeks” (1988) described how the ancestors of the Greeks came to Europe from the Armenian Plateau bringing with them their Indo-European language and their inventions of chariot riding and horse breeding.

According to Drews “most of the chronological and historical arguments seem fragile at best, and of those that I am able to judge, some are evidently wrong”. However, he argues that it is far more powerful as a linguistic model, providing insights into the relationship between the Indo-European and the Semitic and Kartvelian languages.

He continues, “It is certain that the inhabitants of the forested areas of Armenia very early became accomplished woodworkers, and it now appears that in the second millennium they produced spoked-wheel vehicles that served as models as far away as China. And we have long known that from the second millennium onward, Armenia was important for the breeding of horses. It is thus not surprising to find that what clues we have suggest that chariot warfare was pioneered in eastern Anatolia.

Finally, our picture of what the PIE speakers did, and when, owes much to the recently proposed hypothesis that the homeland of the PIE speakers was Armenia.”

David Anthony in a 2019 analysis criticizes the “southern” or Armenian hypothesis (citing Reich, Kristaiansen, and Wang). He finds that the Yamnaya derived mainly from Eastern European hunter-gatherers (EHG) and Caucasus hunter-gatherers (CHG), and suggests a genetic and linguistic origin of proto-Indo-Europeans (the Yamnaya) in the Eastern European steppe north of the Caucasus, from a mixture of these two groups.

He suggests that proto-Indo-European formed mainly from a base of languages spoken by Eastern European hunter-gatherers, with some influences from the languages of Caucasus hunter-gatherers.

According to Anthony, hunting-fishing camps from the lower Volga, dated 6200-4500 BCE, could be the remains of people who contributed the CHG-component, migrating from the south-east Caucasus, who mixed with EHG-people from the north Volga steppes. The resulting culture contributed to the Sredny Stog culture, a predecessor of the Yamnaya culture.

Anthony cites evidence from ancient DNA, that the Bronze Age Maykop people of the Caucasus (previously proposed as a possible southern source of language and genetics at the root of Indo-European), had little genetic impact on the Yamnaya (whose paternal lineages differ from those found in Maykop remains, but are instead related to those of pre-Yamnaya Eastern European steppe hunter-gatherers).

In addition, the Maykop (and other contemporary Caucasus samples), along with CHG, had significant Anatolian Farmer ancestry “which had spread into the Caucasus from the west after about 5000 BC”, but is little detected in the Yamnaya. Partly for these reasons, Anthony concludes that Bronze Age Caucasus groups such as the Maykop “played only a minor role, if any, in the formation of Yamnaya ancestry.”

According to Anthony, this, the absence of evidence of significant admixture (including of paternal genetic influence, often associated with language shift) from the south on the Yamnaya suggests that the roots of Proto-Indo-European (archaic or proto-proto-Indo-European) were mainly in the steppe rather than the south. Anthony considers it likely that the Maykop spoke a Northern Caucasian language not ancestral to Indo-European.

Anatolian hypothesis

The Anatolian hypothesis, also known as the Anatolian theory or the sedentary farmer theory, first developed by British archaeologist Colin Renfrew in 1987, proposes that the dispersal of Proto-Indo-Europeans originated in Neolithic Anatolia.

The Anatolian hypothesis suggests that the speakers of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) lived in Anatolia during the Neolithic era, and it associates the distribution of historical Indo-European languages with the expansion during the Neolithic revolution of the 7th and the 6th millennia BC.

This hypothesis states that Indo-European languages began to spread peacefully, by demic diffusion, into Europe from Asia Minor from around 7000 BC with the Neolithic advance of farming (wave of advance). Accordingly, most inhabitants of Neolithic Europe would have spoken Indo-European languages, and later migrations would have replaced the Indo-European varieties with other Indo-European varieties.

The expansion of agriculture from the Middle East would have diffused three language families: Indo-European languages toward Europe, Dravidian languages toward Pakistan and India, and Afroasiatic languages toward the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.

Reacting to criticism, Renfrew revised his proposal to the effect of taking a pronounced Indo-Hittite position. Renfrew’s revised views place only Pre-Proto-Indo-European in the 7th millennium BC in Anatolia, proposing as the homeland of Proto-Indo-European proper the Balkans around 5000 BC, which he explicitly identified as the “Old European culture”, proposed by Marija Gimbutas. He thus still locates the original source of the Indo-European languages in Anatolia around 7000 BC.

Reconstructions of a Bronze Age PIE society, based on vocabulary items like “wheel”, do not necessarily hold for the Anatolian branch, which appears to have separated at an early stage, prior to the invention of wheeled vehicles.

According to Renfrew (2004), the spread of Indo-European proceeded in the following steps: Around 6500 BC: Pre-Proto-Indo-European, in Anatolia, splits into Anatolian and Archaic Proto-Indo-European, the language of the Pre-Proto-Indo-European farmers who migrate to Europe in the initial farming dispersal. Archaic Proto-Indo-European languages occur in the Balkans (Starčevo–Körös culture), in the Danube valley (Linear Pottery culture), and possibly in the Bug-Dniestr area (Eastern Linear pottery culture).

Around 5000 BC: Archaic Proto-Indo-European splits into Northwestern Indo-European (the ancestor of Italic, Celtic, and Germanic), in the Danube valley, Balkan Proto-Indo-European (corresponding to Gimbutas’ Old European culture) and Early Steppe Proto-Indo-European (the ancestor of Tocharian).

The main strength of the farming hypothesis lies in its linking of the spread of Indo-European languages with an archaeologically-known event, the spread of farming, which scholars often assume involved significant population shifts.

Statistical research by Quentin Atkinson and others using Bayesian inference and glottochronological markers favors an Indo-European origin in Anatolia, though the method’s validity and accuracy are subject to debate.

Piggot (1983) states that PIE contains words for technologies that make their first appearance in the archaeological record in the Late Neolithic, in some cases bordering on the early Bronze Age, some belonging to the oldest layers of PIE.

The lexicon includes words relating to agriculture (dated to 7500 BC), stockbreeding (6500 BC), metallurgy (5500 BC), the plow (4500 BC), gold (4500 BC), domesticated horses (4000–3500 BC) and wheeled vehicles (4000–3400 BC).

Horse breeding is thought to have originated with the Sredny Stog culture, semi-nomadic pastoralists living in the forest steppe zone, now in Ukraine. Wheeled vehicles are thought to have originated with Funnelbeaker culture in what is now Poland, Belarus and parts of Ukraine.

According to Mallory and Adams (2006), linguistic analysis shows that the Proto-Indo-European lexicon seems to include words for a range of inventions and practices related to the Secondary Products Revolution, which postdates the early spread of farming. On lexico-cultural dating, Proto-Indo-European cannot be earlier than 4000 BC.

According to Anthony and Ringe (2015) the main objection to the Anatolian hypothesis is that it requires an unrealistically early date. Most estimates date Proto-Indo-European between 4500 and 2500 BC, with the most probable date around 3700 BC. It is unlikely that late PIE, even after the separation of the Anatolian branch, postdates 2500 BC, as Proto-Indo-Iranian is usually dated to just before 2000 BC.

On the other hand, it is not very likely that early PIE predates 4500 BC, as the reconstructed vocabulary strongly suggests a culture of the terminal phase of the Neolithic bordering on the early Bronze Age.

Many Indo-European languages have cognate words meaning axle: Latin axis, Lithuanian ašis, Russian os’ , and Sanskrit ákṣa. (In some, a similar root is used for the word armpit: eaxl in Old English, axilla in Latin, and kaksa in Sanskrit.) All of them are linked to the PIE root ak’s-. The reconstructed PIE root i̯eu-g- gives rise to German joch, Hittite iukan, Latin iugum and Sanskrit yugá(m), all meaning yoke.

Words for wheel and cart/wagon/chariot take one of two common forms, thought to be linked with two PIE roots: the root kʷel- “move around” is the basis of the unique derivative kʷekʷlo- “wheel” which becomes hvél (wheel) in Old Icelandic, kolo (wheel, circle) in Old Church Slavonic, kãkla- (neck) in Lithuanian, kyklo- (wheel, circle) in Greek, cakka-/cakra- (wheel) in Pali and Sanskrit, and kukäl (wagon, chariot) in Tocharian A. The root ret(h)- becomes rad (wheel) in Old High German, rota (wheel) in Latin, rãtas (wheel) in Lithuanian, and ratha (wagon, chariot) in Sanskrit.

The idea that farming was spread from Anatolia in a single wave has been revised. Instead, it appears to have spread in several waves by several routes, primarily from the Levant. The trail of plant domesticates indicates an initial foray from the Levant by sea. The overland route via Anatolia seems to have been most significant in spreading farming to Southeastern Europe.

A genetic study from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (2015) favors Gimbutas’s Kurgan hypothesis over Renfrew’s Anatolian hypothesis but “does not reveal the precise origin of PIE, nor does it clarify the impact Kurgan migrations had on different parts of Europe”.

Lazaridis et al. (2016) noted on the origins of Ancestral North Indians: “Nonetheless, the fact that we can reject West Eurasian population sources from Anatolia, mainland Europe, and the Levant diminishes the likelihood that these areas were sources of Indo-European (or other) languages in South Asia.”

However, Lazaridis et al. previously admitted being unsure “if the steppe is the ultimate source” of the Indo-European languages and believing that more data is needed.

Anatolian Languages

Hittite is one of the Anatolian languages. It is known from cuneiform tablets and inscriptions erected by the Hittite kings. The script formerly known as “Hieroglyphic Hittite” is now termed Hieroglyphic Luwian. The Anatolian branch also includes Cuneiform Luwian, Hieroglyphic Luwian, Palaic, Lycian, Milyan, Lydian, Carian, Pisidian, and Sidetic.

Hittite lacks some features of the other Indo-European languages, such as a distinction between masculine and feminine grammatical gender, subjunctive and optative moods, and aspect. Various hypotheses have been formulated to explain these contrasts.

Some linguists, most notably Edgar H. Sturtevant and Warren Cowgill, have argued that it should be classified as a sister language to Proto-Indo-European, rather than a daughter language, formulating the Indo-Hittite hypothesis. The parent, Indo-Hittite, lacked the features not present in Hittite, which Proto-Indo-European innovated.

Other linguists, however, have taken the opposite point of view, the Schwund (“loss”) Hypothesis, that Hittite (or Anatolian) came from a Proto-Indo-European possessing the full range of features, but simplified.

A third hypothesis, supported by Calvert Watkins and others, viewed the major families as all coming from Proto-Indo-European directly. They were all sister languages or language groups. Differences might be explained as dialectical.

According to Craig Melchert, the current tendency is to suppose that Proto-Indo-European evolved, and that the “prehistoric speakers” of Anatolian became isolated “from the rest of the PIE speech community, so as not to share in some common innovations.”

Hittite, as well as its Anatolian cousins, split off from Proto-Indo-European at an early stage, thereby preserving archaisms that were later lost in the other Indo-European languages.

In Hittite there are many loanwords, particularly religious vocabulary, from the non-Indo-European Hurrian and Hattic languages. The latter was the language of the Hattians, the local inhabitants of the land of Hatti before being absorbed or displaced by the Hittites. Sacred and magical texts from Hattusa were often written in Hattic, Hurrian, and Luwian, even after Hittite became the norm for other writings.


In Indo-European linguistics, the term Indo-Hittite (also Indo-Anatolian) refers to Edgar Howard Sturtevant’s 1926 hypothesis that the Anatolian languages may have split off a Pre-Proto-Indo-European language considerably earlier than the separation of the remaining Indo-European languages.

The term may be somewhat confusing, as the prefix Indo- does not refer to the Indo-Aryan branch in particular, but is iconic for Indo-European, and the -Hittite part refers to the Anatolian language family as a whole.

Proponents of the Indo-Hittite hypothesis claim the separation may have preceded the spread of the remaining branches by several millennia, possibly as early as 7000 BC.

In this context, the proto-language before the split of Anatolian would be called Proto-Indo-Hittite, and the proto-language of the remaining branches, before the next split, presumably of Tocharian, would be called Proto-Indo-European (PIE).

This is a matter of terminology, though, as the hypothesis does not dispute the ultimate genetic relation of Anatolian with Indo-European; it just means to emphasize the assumed magnitude of temporal separation.

According to Craig Melchert, the current tendency is to suppose that Proto-Indo-European evolved, and that the “prehistoric speakers” of Anatolian became isolated “from the rest of the PIE speech community, so as not to share in some common innovations.”

Hittite, as well as its Anatolian cousins, split off from Proto-Indo-European at an early stage, thereby preserving archaisms that were later lost in the other Indo-European languages.

Traditionally there has been a strong notion among Indo-European linguistics that the Anatolian branch was separated earlier than other branches. Within the framework of the Kurgan hypothesis, the split is estimated to have occurred in roughly 4000 BC.

Some fundamental shared features, such as the aorist category of the verb (which denotes action without reference to duration or completion), with the perfect active particle -s fixed to the stem, link the Anatolian languages closer to the southeastern languages such as Greek and Armenian, and to Tocharian.

Features such as the lack of feminine gender in the declensions of nominals, a division between an “animate” common gender and an “inanimate” neuter gender, a reduced vowel system, a tendency towards a greater simplicity of the case system, a less typical Indo-European vocabulary, and other striking features have been interpreted alternately as archaic debris, as the nucleus for future developments, or just as being caused by prolonged contacts in typologically alien surroundings “en route” or after their arrival in Anatolia.

In favor of the Indo-Hittite hypothesis are the very Indo-European agricultural terminology conserved in Anatolia, otherwise considered the cradle of agriculture, and the laryngeal theory that hypothesizes the existence of one or more additional spirant or stop consonants in the Indo-European parent language that has only been attested in Hittite and of which only traces are left outside Anatolian.

However, in general this hypothesis is considered to attribute too much weight to the Anatolian evidence and as early as 1938 it was demonstrated that the Anatolian group should be placed on the same level as other Indo-European subgroups and not as equal with Indo-European.

According to another view the Anatolian subgroup left the Indo-European parent language comparatively late, approximately at the same time as Indo-Iranian and later than the Greek or Armenian divisions.

A third view, especially prevalent in the so-called French school of Indo-European studies, holds that extant similarities in non-satem languages in general—including Anatolian—might be due to their peripheral location in the Indo-European language area and early separation, rather than indicating a special ancestral relationship.

Recent subgrouping calculations of Indo-European branches using a method that accounts for the distribution of PIE verbs (SLR-D) reject an early separation of Anatolian languages altogether and yield results that place a genealogical split of Anatolian (and Tocharian) within a more recent grouping together with Greek, Albanian and Armenian, in a single branch together with Indo-Iranian, but at a distance from the genealogical splits of Balto-Slavic, Italo-Celtic and Germanic that are harboured within another branch, thus supporting proponents of an IE expansion that roughly parallels the adoption of the bronze metallurgy.

Hence, a crucial question is whether the Anatolian branch split off before the beginning of the Bronze Age or even the Chalcolithic. A Bronze Age society is usually reconstructed from PIE vocabulary, but it is unclear whether this necessarily holds for inherited vocabulary in Anatolian.

The Early Bronze Age starts in Anatolia at least with the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. In the Caucasus, the Bronze Age begins roughly 3300 BC. It is possible that the Proto-Anatolians were involved with the earliest development of Bronze metallurgy.

In any case, while evidence that Anatolian shares common terminology of metallurgy with other branches would speak against Indo-Hittite, discarding the value of this evidence does not automatically favour the concept of Indo-Hittite, since even a ‘moderate Indo-Hittite’ split around 4000 BC would clearly predate the Bronze Age.

Validation of the theory would consist of identifying formal-functional structures that can be coherently reconstructed for both branches but be traced only to a formal-functional structure that is (a) different from both or else (b) shows evidence of a very early, group-wide innovation.

As an example of (a), the Indo-European perfect subsystem in the verbs is formally superimposable on the Hittite ḫi-verb subsystem, but there is no match-up functionally and so (as has been held) the functional source must have been unlike both Hittite and Indo-European.

As an example of (b), the solidly reconstructable Indo-European deictic pronoun paradigm whose nominatives singular are *so, *seh₂, *tod has been compared to a collection of clause-marking particles in Hittite, the argument being that the coalescence of these particles into the familiar Indo-European paradigm was an innovation of that branch of Proto-Indo-Hittite.

Decem and Taihun

In 1981, Hopper proposed to divide all Indo-European languages into Decem and Taihun groups, according to the pronunciation of the numeral ’10’, by analogy with the Centum-Satem isogloss, which is based on the pronunciation of the numeral ‘100’.

The Armenian, Germanic, Anatolian, and Tocharian subfamilies belong to the Taihun group because the numeral ’10’ begins from the voiceless t there. All other Indo-European languages belong to the Decem group because the numeral 10 begins from the voiced d in them. The question then can be framed as which, if either, of these groups reflects the original state of things, and which is an innovation.

Centum – Satem

The core Indo-Europeans began to separate into definite proto languages around 3000 BC. These proto languages soon became unintelligible to each other, although this fragmenting process excludes the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European languages.

The western or centum language section of Indo-Europeans (IEs) would evolve into Celtic, Italic, Venetic, Illyrian, Ligurian, Vindelician/Liburnian and Raetic branches. This group appears to be associated with a specific Y-DNA haplogroup called R1b.

A related Y-DNA haplogroup – R1a – is associated with eastern or satem Indo-European languages. It’s the Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan, Baltic, and Slavic groups which fall into this latter grouping.

Two groups, however, do not fit perfectly into that tidy pair of east and west Indo-European boxes. One of these involves the Germanic language speakers, who appear to have been founded by R1a/satem people, but with a very mixed subsequent heritage.

The other anomaly, one which appears early in the Yamnaya horizon, involves a western group which apparently decided to be different from all the others and head eastwards. It is this group which evolved into the Tocharian branch of Indo-Europeans.

Phonetically, Tocharian is a centum Indo-European language, meaning that it merges the palatovelar consonants (*ḱ, *ǵ, *ǵʰ) of Proto Indo-European with the plain velars (*k, *g, *gʰ) rather than palatalizing them to affricates or sibilants.

Centum languages are mostly found in western and southern Europe (Greek, Italic, Celtic, Germanic). In that sense, Tocharian (to some extent like the Greek and the Anatolian languages) seems to have been an isolate in the “satem” (i.e. palatovelar to sibilant) phonetic regions of Indo-European-speaking populations.

In that sense, Tocharian (to some extent like the Greek and the Anatolian languages) seems to have been an isolate in the “satem” (i.e. palatovelar to sibilant) phonetic regions of Indo-European-speaking populations.

The discovery of Tocharian contributed to doubts that Proto-Indo-European had originally split into western and eastern branches; today, the centum–satem division is not seen as a real familial division.

The discovery of Tocharian upset some theories about the relations of Indo-European languages and revitalized their study. In the 19th century, it was thought that the division between centum and satem languages was a simple west–east division, with centum languages in the west.

The theory was undermined in the early 20th century by the discovery of Hittite, a centum language in a relatively eastern location, and Tocharian, which was a centum language despite being the easternmost branch.

The result was a new hypothesis, following the wave model of Johannes Schmidt, suggesting that the satem isogloss represents a linguistic innovation in the central part of the Proto-Indo-European home range, and the centum languages along the eastern and the western peripheries did not undergo that change.

Laryngeal Theory

The laryngeal theory is a widely accepted hypothesis in the historical linguistics of the Indo-European languages positing that: Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) had a series of phonemes beyond those reconstructed with the comparative method and that these phonemes, according to the most-accepted variant of the theory, were “laryngeal” consonants of an indeterminate place of articulation towards the back of the mouth.

The theory aims to produce greater regularity in the reconstruction of PIE phonology than from the reconstruction that is produced by the comparative method and to extend the general occurrence of the Indo-European ablaut to syllables with reconstructed vowel phonemes other than *e or *o.

In its earlier form (see below), the theory proposed two sounds in PIE. Combined with a reconstructed *e or *o, the sounds produce vowel phonemes that would not otherwise be predicted by the rules of ablaut. The theory received considerable support after the decipherment of Hittite, which revealed it to be an Indo-European language.

Many Hittite words were shown to be derived from PIE, with a phoneme represented as ḫ corresponding to one of the hypothetical PIE sounds. Subsequent scholarship has established a set of rules by which an ever-increasing number of reflexes in daughter languages may be derived from PIE roots.

The number of explanations thus achieved and the simplicity of the postulated system have both led to widespread acceptance of the theory. In its most widely accepted version, the theory posits three phonemes in PIE: h₁, h₂, and h₃ (see below). Other daughter languages inherited the derived sounds, resulting from their merger with PIE short vowels and their subsequent loss.

The phonemes are now recognized as consonants, related to articulation in the general area of the larynx, where a consonantal gesture may affect vowel quality. They are regularly known as laryngeal, but the actual place of articulation for each consonant remains a matter of debate.

The laryngeals get their name because they were believed by Hermann Möller and Albert Cuny to have had a pharyngeal, epiglottal, or glottal place of articulation, involving a constriction near the larynx. While this is still possible, many linguists now think of “laryngeals”, or some of them, as having been velar or uvular.

The evidence for their existence is mostly indirect, as will be shown below, but the theory serves as an elegant explanation for several properties of the PIE vowel system that made no sense until the theory, such as the “independent” schwas (as in *pəter- ‘father’).

Also, the hypothesis that PIE schwa *ə was a consonant, not a vowel, provides an elegant explanation for some apparent exceptions to Brugmann’s law in Indic languages.

The beginnings of the theory were proposed by Ferdinand de Saussure in 1879, in an article chiefly devoted to something else altogether (demonstrating that *a and *o were separate phonemes in PIE).

In the course of his analysis, Saussure proposed that what had then been reconstructed as long vowels *ā and *ō, alternating with *ǝ, was an ordinary type of PIE ablaut. That is, it was an alternation between e-grade and zero grade like in “regular” ablaut (further explanations below), but followed by a previously unidentified element.

This “element” accounted for both the changed vowel colour and the lengthening (short *e becoming long *ā or *ō). So, rather than reconstructing *ā, *ō and *ǝ as others had done before, Saussure proposed something like *eA alternating with *A and *eO with *O, where A and O represented the unidentified elements.

Saussure called them simply coefficients sonantiques, which was the term for what are now in English more usually called resonants; that is, the six elements present in PIE which can be either consonants (non-syllabic) or vowels (syllabic) depending on the sounds they are adjacent to: *y w r l m n.

These views were accepted by a few scholars, in particular Hermann Möller, who added important elements to the theory. Saussure’s observations, however, did not achieve any general currency, as they were still too abstract and had little direct evidence to back them up.

This changed when Hittite was discovered and deciphered in the early 20th century. Hittite phonology included two sounds written with symbols from the Akkadian syllabary conventionally transcribed as ḫ, as in te-iḫ-ḫi “I put, am putting”.

This consonant did not appear to be related to any of the consonants then reconstructed for PIE, and various unsatisfactory proposals were made to explain this consonant in terms of the PIE consonant system as it had then been reconstructed.

It remained for Jerzy Kuryłowicz (ə indoeuropéen et ḫ hittite, 1927; Études indoeuropéennes I, 1935) to propose that these sounds lined up with Saussure’s conjectures. He suggested that the unknown consonant of Hittite was, in fact, a direct reflex of the coefficients sonantiques that Saussure had proposed.

Their appearance explained some other matters as well: for example, why verb roots containing only a consonant and a vowel always have long vowels. For example, in *dō- “give”, the new consonants allowed linguists to decompose this further into *deh₃.

This not only accounted for the patterns of alternation more economically than before (by requiring fewer types of ablaut) but also brought the structure of these roots into line with the basic PIE pattern which required roots to begin and end with a consonant.

The lateness of the discovery of these sounds by Indo-Europeanists is largely because Hittite and the other Anatolian languages are the only Indo-European languages for which at least some are attested directly and consistently as consonantal sounds. Otherwise, their presence is to be inferred mostly through the effects they have on neighboring sounds, and on patterns of alternation that they participate in.

When a laryngeal is attested directly, it is usually as a special type of vowel and not as a consonant, best exemplified in Greek where syllabic laryngeals (when they appeared next to only consonants) developed as such: *h₁ > e, *h₂ > a, and *h₃ > o.

Some direct evidence for laryngeal consonants comes from Anatolian: PIE *a is a fairly rare sound, and in an uncommonly large number of good etymologies, it is word-initial.

Thus PIE (traditional) *anti “in front of and facing” > Greek antí “against”; Latin ante “in front of, before”; Sanskrit ánti “near; in the presence of”. But in Hittite there is a noun ḫants “front, face”, with various derivatives (ḫantezzi “first”, and so on), pointing to a PIE root-noun *h₂ent- “face” (of which *h₂enti would be the locative singular).

(It does not necessarily follow that all reconstructed forms with initial *a should automatically be rewritten *h₂e. Similarly, the traditional PIE reconstruction for ‘sheep’ is *owi- (a y-stem, not an i-stem) whence Sanskrit ávi-, Latin ovis, Greek ὄϊς. But Luwian has ḫawi-, indicating instead a reconstruction *h₃ewis.

Further evidence of the laryngeals has been found in Uralic languages. While Proto-Uralic and PIE have not been demonstrated to be genetically related, some word correspondences between Uralic and Indo-European have been identified as likely borrowings from very early Indo-European dialects to early Uralic dialects.

One example is the widespread word family including on the Uralic side e.g. Hungarian méz, Finnish and Estonian mesi, met(e)-, Mari мӱ /my/, Komi ма /ma/ ‘honey’, suggesting Proto-Uralic *meti; and on the Indo-European side, English mead, Greek methu ‘wine’, German Met ‘honey wine’, Slavic medъ and Sanskrit mádhu ‘honey’ etc.

There are several criteria to date such borrowings, the most reliable ones coming from historical phonology. For example, Finnic porsas, Erzya пурцос /purt͡sos/, Mokša пурьхц /pur̥ʲt͡s/ ‘piglet’ presuppose a common proto-form *porćas at an earlier stage of development.

This is etymologized as a loanword from PIE *porḱ-, which gives Latin porcus ‘hog’, Slavic porsę ‘pig’, OE fearh (> Engl. farrow ‘young pig’), Lithuanian par̃šas ‘piglet, castrated boar’. Here loaning must have occurred predating the depalatalization of centum languages, and the later development into the Baltic *š reflected as Finn. h in borrowings, or Iranian *c medially reflected as Finn. t.

If the PIE distinction between palatovelars and plain velars is reconstructed as one of velars and uvulars, then instead of the former condition also a lower limit can be set up for the loan, as postdating the satemization of *ḱ into a palatalized stop or affricate.

Work particularly associated with research of the scholar Jorma Koivulehto has identified several additions to the list of Finnic loanwords from an Indo-European source or sources whose particular interest is the apparent correlation of PIE laryngeals with three post-alveolar phonemes (or their later reflexes) in the Finnic forms.

If so, this would point to great antiquity for the borrowings, since no attested Indo-European language neighbouring Uralic has consonants as reflexes of laryngeals. And it would bolster the idea that laryngeals were phonetically distinctly consonantal.

However, Koivulehto’s theories are not universally accepted and have been sharply criticized (e. g. by Finno-Ugricist Eugene Helimski) because many of the reconstructions involve a great deal of far-fetched hypotheses and the chronology is not in good agreement with the history of Bronze Age and Iron Age migrations in the Eastern Europe established by archaeologists and historians.

Three Uralic phonemes have been posited to reflect PIE laryngeals. In post-vocalic positions both the post-alveolar fricatives that ever existed in Uralic are represented: firstly a possibly velar one, theoretically reconstructed much as the PIE laryngeals (conventionally marked *x), in the very oldest borrowings and secondly a grooved one (*š as in shoe becoming modern Finnic h) in some younger ones. The velar plosive k is the third reflex and the only one found word-initially. In intervocalic position, the reflex k is probably younger than either of the two former ones.

The fact that Finno-Ugric may have plosive reflexes for PIE laryngeals is to be expected under well documented Finnic phonological behaviour and does not mean much for tracing the phonetic value of PIE laryngeals (cf. Finnish kansa ‘people’ < PGmc *xansā ‘company, troupe, party, crowd’, Finnish kärsiä ‘suffer, endure’ < PGmc *xarđia- ‘endure’, Finnish pyrkiä < PGmc. *wurk(i)ja- ‘work, work for’ etc.).

Several linguists have posited a relationship between PIE and Semitic, almost right after the discovery of Hittite. Among these were Hermann Möller, though a few had argued that such a relationship existed long before the 20th century, like Richard Lepsius in 1836. The postulated correspondences between the IE laryngeals and that of Semitic assist in demonstrating their evident existence. Given here are a few lexical comparisons between the two respective proto languages.

Throughout its history, the laryngeal theory in its various forms has been subject to extensive criticism and revision. The original argument of Saussure was not accepted by any of the Neogrammarians, the school, primarily based at the University of Leipzig, then reigning at the cutting-edge of Indo-European linguistics. Several of them attacked the Mémoire savagely. Osthoff’s criticism was particularly virulent, often descending into personal invective.

For the first half-century of its existence, the laryngeal theory was widely seen as ‘an eccentric fancy of outsiders’. In Germany it was totally rejected. Among its early proponents were Hermann Möller, who extended Saussure’s system with a third, non-colouring laryngeal, Albert Cuny, Holger Pedersen, and Karl Oštir. The fact that these scholars were engaged in highly speculative long-range linguistic comparison further contributed to its isolation.

Although the founding fathers were able to provide some indirect evidence of a lost consonantal element (for example, the origin of the Indo-Iranian voiceless aspirates in *CH sequences and the ablaut pattern of the so-called heavy bases, *CeRə- ~ *CR̥̄- in the traditional formulation), the direct evidence so crucial for the Neogrammarian thinking was lacking. Saussure’s structural considerations were foreign to the leading contemporary linguists.

After Kuryłowicz’s convincing demonstration that the Hittite language preserved at least some of Saussure’s coefficients sonantiques, the focus of the debate shifted. It was still unclear how many laryngeals are to be posited to account for the new facts and what effect they have had exactly.

Kuryłowicz, after a while, settled on four laryngeals, an approach further accepted by Sapir, Sturtevant, and through them much of American linguistics. The three-laryngeal system was defended, among others, by Walter Couvreur and Émile Benveniste. Many individual proposals were made, which assumed up to ten laryngeals.

While some scholars, like Heinz Kronasser and Giuliano Bonfante, attempted to disregard Anatolian evidence altogether, the ‘minimal’ serious proposal (with roots in Pedersen’s early ideas) was put forward by Hans Hendriksen, Louis Hammerich and later Ladislav Zgusta, who assumed a single /H/ phoneme without vowel-colouring effects.

By 2000s, however, a widespread, though not unanimous agreement was reached in the field on reconstructing Möller’s three laryngeals. One of the last major critics of this approach was Oswald Szemerényi, who subscribed to a theory similar to Zgusta’s. Today the laryngeal theory is almost universally accepted in this new standard form. Nevertheless, marginal attempts to undermine its bases are occasionally undertaken.

Glottalic Theory

The glottalic theory is that Proto-Indo-European had ejective stops, *pʼ *tʼ *kʼ, instead of the plain voiced ones, *b *d *ɡ as hypothesized by the usual Proto-Indo-European phonological reconstructions. A forerunner of the theory was proposed by the Danish linguist Holger Pedersen in 1951, but he did not involve glottalized sounds.

While early linguists such as André Martinet and Morris Swadesh had seen the potential of substituting glottalic sounds for the supposed plain voiced stops of Proto-Indo-European, the proposal remained speculative until it was fully fleshed out simultaneously but independently in theories in 1973 by Paul Hopper of the United States and by Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze and Vyacheslav Ivanov of the Soviet Union in the journal Phonetica in 1973.

The glottalic theory “enjoyed a not insignificant following for a time, but it has been rejected by most Indo-Europeanists.” The most recent publication supporting it is Allan R. Bomhard (2008 and 2011) in a discussion of the controversial Nostratic hypothesis, and its most vocal proponents today are historical linguists at the University of Leiden.

An earlier supporter, Theo Vennemann, has abandoned the glottalic theory because of incompatibilities between it and his theory of a Semitic substrate and loanwords in Germanic and Celtic languages (Vennemann 2006).

However, Martin Kümmel (2012), although rejecting the ejective hypothesis as implausible, argues for a re-interpretation of these stops as implosive, comparable to the Leiden interpretation as pre-glottalized stops.

The traditional reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European includes the following stop consonants: The Proto-Indo-European plosives (traditional) labials dentals palatalized velars velars labialized velars voiceless stops *p *t *ḱ *k *kʷ, voiced stops (*b) *d *ǵ *ɡ *ɡʷ and breathy voiced stops *bʱ *dʱ *ǵʱ *ɡʱ *ɡʷʱ. *b is parenthesized because it is at best very rare and perhaps nonexistent.

Historically, the inventory was not introduced as an independent proposal, but it arose as a modification of an earlier, typologically more plausible theory. In the original Proto-Indo-European proposal, there was a fourth phonation series, voiceless aspirated *pʰ, *tʰ, *ḱʰ, *kʰ, *kʷʰ, which was assumed to exist on the basis of what is found in Sanskrit, which was then thought to be the most conservative Indo-European language.

However, it was later realized that the series was unnecessary and that it was generally the result of a sequence of a tenuis stop (*p, *t, *k, *ḱ, *kʷ) and one of the Proto-Indo-European laryngeal consonants: *h₁, *h₂, or *h₃. The aspirate series was removed, but the breathy voiced consonants remained.

There are several problems with the traditional reconstruction. Firstly, the rarity of *b is odd from a typological point of view. If a single voiced stop is missing from a phoneme inventory (a ‘gap’), it would normally be /ɡ/ that is missing; on the other hand, if a voiceless stop is missing, the labial /p/ is the most likely candidate.

Secondly, there are few languages which have breathy voiced consonants but no voiceless aspirates and even fewer that simultaneously contrast breathy voice with full voice. Roman Jakobson has asserted that no such language is known; however, that is disputed by some linguists who oppose the theory.

For example, Robert Blust showed that a system of voiceless, voiced and voiced aspirated (not murmured) stops, as postulated in the traditional reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European, exists in Kelabit, a language of the Sarawak highlands in Borneo.

Others have observed, however, that the sounds in Kelabit are not actually murmured but voiceless with breathy release and so are not comparable to what is posited for Proto-Indo-European. In any event, the traditional reconstruction remains a typological oddity.

Thirdly, a longstanding but unexplained observation of Indo-Europeanists about the distribution of stops in word roots is that it had long been noted that certain combinations of consonants were not represented in Proto-Indo-European words in terms of the traditional system:

No root contained a sequence of two plain voiced stops: there were no roots of the type **deg. No root contained both a voiceless stop and a voiced aspirate: roots of the type **dʰek or **tegʰ were not attested. On the other hand, the plain voiced stops were compatible with either of the other two series: *degʰ or *dek were both possible.

The constraints on the phonological structure of the root cannot be explained in terms of a theory of assimilation or dissimilation since they display a radical difference in patterning between two sets of consonants, the voiced stops, that ought to behave identically. Typologically, that is very odd.

The glottalic theory proposes different phonetic values for the stop inventory of Proto-Indo-European: The Proto-Indo-European plosives (original glottalic) labials dentals velars labialized velars voiceless stops p ~ pʰ t ~ tʰ k ~ kʰ kʷ ~ kʷʰ, ejective or glottalized stops (pʼ) tʼ kʼ kʷʼ and voiced stops b ~ bʱ d ~ dʱ ɡ ~ ɡʱ ɡʷ ~ ɡʷʱ.

In his version of the glottalic theory, Hopper (1973) also proposed that the aspiration that had been assumed for the voiced stops *bʰ *dʰ *gʰ could be accounted for by a low-level phonetic feature known to phoneticians as “breathy voice”.

The proposal made it possible both to establish a system in which there was only one voiced stop and to explain at the same time later developments in some Indo-European dialects that became Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit, which pointed to some kind of aspiration in the voiced series. Hopper also treated the traditional palatalized and plain velar dichotomy as a velar-uvular contrast.

Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1973, 1995:5-70) have posited that both non-ejective series (traditional *p *t *k and *bʰ *dʰ *gʰ) were fundamentally aspirated (*pʰ *tʰ *kʰ and *bʰ *dʰ *gʰ, respectively) but had non-aspirated allophones (*[p] *[t] *[k] and *[b] *[d] *[g]).

According to them, the non-aspirated forms occurred in roots with two non-ejectives because no more than one aspirate could be in the same root. To express the variability of aspiration, Gamkrelidze and Ivanov wrote it with a superscripted h: *dʰ. Thus, an Indo-European *DʰeDʰ (in which *Dʰ represents any non-ejective stop) might be realized as *DeDʰ (attested in Indic and Greek) or as *DʰeD (attested in Latin).

In contrast, traditional theory would trace a form attested as both *DeDʰ and *DʰeD to an Indo-European *DʰeDʰ. The advantage of the interpretation over the previous is circumventing the typological oddity of the language in having only voiced aspirates by identifying the voiceless non-aspirates of the traditional stop system (*p *t *k) as voiceless aspirates (*pʰ *tʰ *kʰ).

The phonation system proposed by the glottalic theory is common among the world’s languages. Moreover, the revised system explains a number of phonological peculiarities in the reconstructed system. The absence of a labial plain voiced stop *b in the protolanguage now becomes an absence of a labial ejective *pʼ, proportionally a rather more common state of affairs.

The theory also provides a completely-coherent explanation to the patterning of the stop series in roots (Hopper 1973): In many languages that have glottalized consonants, there is a phonetic constraint against two such consonants in the same root. The constraint has been found in many languages of Africa, the Americas, and the Caucasus.

In Akkadian, the constraint affected borrowed and inherited roots, and one of the two heterorganic emphatics undergoes dissimilation and appears as a simple (unmarked) consonant, which is known as Geers’ law.

If the “plain voiced stops” were not voiced, the “voiced aspirated stops” were the only voiced stops. The second constraint can accordingly be reformulated as: two nonglottalic stops must agree in voicing. Since the glottalic stops were outside the voiced/voiceless opposition, they were immune from the constraint on voicing agreement in (2).

In 1981,[6] Hopper proposed to divide all Indo-European languages into Decem and Taihun groups, according to the pronunciation of the numeral ’10’, by analogy with the Centum-Satem isogloss, which is based on the pronunciation of the numeral ‘100’.

The Armenian, Germanic, Anatolian, and Tocharian subfamilies belong to the Taihun group because the numeral ’10’ begins with a voiceless t in them. All other Indo-European languages belong to the Decem group because the numeral 10 begins with a voiced d in them. The question then can be framed as which, if either, of the groups reflects the original state of things and which is an innovation.

While the glottalic theory was originally motivated by typological argument, several proponents, in particular Frederik Kortlandt, have argued for traces of glottalization being found in a number of attested Indo-European languages or the assumption of glottalization explaining previously known phenomena, which lends the theory empirical support. (Similarly, the laryngeal theory was proposed before direct evidence in Anatolian was discovered.)

Among the Indo-Iranian languages, Sindhi reflects the non-aspirated voiced series unconditionally as implosives. Kortlandt also points out the distribution of voiced aspirates within Indo-Iranian: they are lacking from the Iranian languages and the Nuristani languages, two of the three accepted main branches of Indo-Aryan, and within the third, Indo-Aryan, also lacking from Kashmiri, which he suggests points to voiced aspirates being an innovation rather than a retention.

In Germanic, some Danish dialects have clusters of a glottal stop followed by a voiceless stop (vestjysk stød) which correspond with the Proto-Germanic voiceless stops, deriving from the allegedly-glottalized PIE series.

Kortlandt also proposes word-final glottalization in English to be a retention and derives features such as preaspiration in the Scandinavian languages and certain instances of gemination in High German from preglottalization as well.

In both Latin (Lachmann’s law) and Balto-Slavic (Winter’s law), vowels are lengthened before a “voiced” consonant. It is the same behaviour that vowels exhibit before Proto-Indo-European laryngeals, which are assumed to have included a glottal stop.

It may be that the glottalic consonants were preglottalized or that they were ejectives that became preglottalized in Italic and Balto-Slavic before losing their glottalization and becoming voiced. It is very common in the world’s languages for glottal stops to drop and lengthen preceding vowels. In Quileute, for example, the sequences VCʼV, VʔCʼV, and VːCʼV, as found in ak’a ~ a’k’a ~ āk’a, are allophones in free variation.

In Balto-Slavic, glottalization is also directly attested, in the broken tone of Latvian and Žemaitian. Dialects of Armenian also show glottalization. It has been argued to be influence from the other Caucasian languages, but Kortlandt argues glottalization cannot be considered a modern innovation and must be reconstructed with a wider dialectal distribution for older stages of Armenian.

The primary objection to the theory is the alleged difficulty in explaining how the sound systems of the attested dialects were derived from a parent language in the above form. If the parent language had a typologically unusual system like the traditional p b bʰ, it might be expected to collapse into more typical systems, possibly with different solutions in the various daughter languages, which is what one finds.

For example, Indo-Aryan added an unvoiced aspirate series (/pʰ/) and gained an element of symmetry; Greek and Italic devoiced the murmured series to a more common aspirate series (*bʰ to /pʰ/); Iranian, Celtic and Balto-Slavic deaspirated the murmured series to modal voice (*bʰ to /b/) and Germanic and Armenian chain-shifted all three series (*p *b *bʰ > /f p b/).

In each case, the attested system represents a change that could be expected from the proposed parent. If the system were typologically common, as proposed by the glottalic theory, it might be expected to be stable and so be preserved in at least some of the daughter languages, which is not the case: no daughter language preserves ejective sounds in places that the theory postulates them.

Its proponents respond that if Proto-Indo-European did not have true ejectives but some less stable kind of glottalic consonant, their loss would be more understandable, but that undercuts many of the original motivations of the glottalic theory, which are based on ejectives (rather than glottalized consonants) and on the idea of a typologically natural (and so stable) system.

Regardless, there are languages in which ejective consonants have voiced allophones, such as Blin and Kw’adza, which has been suggested as an “empirical precedent” for the glottalic theory.

The typological underpinnings of the glottalic theory itself have also been questioned, such as in 1997 by Martínez as well as in 2002-3 by Barrack. Additionally, if traces of glottalic stops can be found in separate branches such as Italic and Indo-Iranian, the change of *p’ *t’ *k’ to *b *d *g must have occurred independently in each branch after their separation from Proto-Indo-European.

Taking them as identical but independent innovations would, according to traditional models of sound change, be an astonishing coincidence, which most linguists would find very hard to believe because ejectives tend to be quite stable diachronically.

However, it cannot be assumed that Proto-Indo-European was a uniform language, and presumably, a putative shift from ejective to voiced stops was already present as variation at an early stage.

Kortlandt also asserts that the change from aspirated to plain voiced stops, which is likewise required as an independent change in numerous Indo-European branches under the traditional model, is not attested elsewhere and is typologically suspect. (However, the same change has been observed to have taken place independently numerous times in the Indic languages.)

A compromise viewpoint would be to see the original formulation of glottalic theory, with ejective stops, as representing an earlier stage in the history of Proto-Indo-European, which would have undergone a period of internal evolution into a stage featuring unstable voiced glottalized stops before it branched out into the daughter languages. That would explain the root restrictions in Proto-Indo-European, the near-universal loss of glottalic consonants in the daughter languages and the lack of *b in the traditional system.

A scenario of glottalic framework in pre-Proto-Indo-European, although possible, is at present unprovable by the methods of historical linguistics because of the uncertainty concerning the possibility of other languages or language families being related to Proto-Indo-European, which might be used as corroborating evidence.

In practical terms, it is irrelevant for the traditional reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European that describes only its latest stage (the so-called “Late Proto-Indo-European”). However, Kortlandt suggests that voiced aspirate was probably not in Indo-European before the division into the branches.

Fallon has reviewed and discussed the arguments for and against the ejective model of Proto-Indo-European consonantism and has concluded that most of the objections raised against the glottalic theory are specious.

The oldest stratum of Iranian loanwords to Armenian demand consonant shifts from voiced to voiceless, which are not possible in a glottalic theory framework in which they were voiceless to begin with.

Compare: Iran. *ardzata- > Old Armenian arcatʿ “silver”. The same argument is valid for early Celtic borrowings into Proto-Germanic, such as Proto-Celtic *rīg- borrowed as Proto-Germanic *rīk-.

Additional evidence from Armenian comes in the form of Adjarian’s law: in certain Armenian dialects, initial-syllable vowels are fronted after consonants reflecting the inherited (PIE) voiced aspirates. The conditioning is not a synchronic process but reflects the quality of the original prevocalic consonant.

It further demonstrates that Proto-Armenian retained Proto-Indo-European stops. Since voiced aspirates would then have to be reconstructed for Proto-Armenian, only Germanic could be claimed to be archaic with respect to the traditional voiced aspirate series in the traditional glottalic theory framework.

One objection that has been raised against the glottalic theory is that the voiced stops are voiceless in some daughter languages: “unvoiced” in Tocharian and Anatolian and aspirates (later fricatives) in Greek and Italic.

Thus, some more recent versions of the theory have no voiced consonants or treat voicing as non-distinctive. For example, Beekes describes the traditional voiced series as pre-glottalized instead of ejective. That is based on the “voiced” series triggering length in preceding vowels in daughter languages, the glottalic closure before the stop acting in a manner akin to the laryngeals.

That analysis results in the following phoneme inventory: The Proto-Indo-European plosives (pre-glottalic Beekes model) labials dentals palatovelars velars labialized velars voiceless stops p t kʲ k kʷ, preglottalized stops (ˀp) ˀt ˀkʲ ˀk ˀkʷ and aspirated stops pʰ tʰ kʲʰ kʰ kʷʰ.

Martin Kümmel similarly proposes, based on observations from diachronic typology, that the consonants traditionally reconstructed as voiced stops were really implosive consonants, and the consonants traditionally reconstructed as aspirated stops were originally plain voiced stops, agreeing with a proposal by Michael Weiss that typologically compares the development of the stop system of the Tày language (Cao Bằng Province, Vietnam).

Kümmel points out that the pre-glottalized lenis stops proposed by Kortlandt and also Beekes can, among other things, be interpreted as voiceless implosive stops; however, Kümmel does reconstruct the stops traditionally reconstructed as voiced as truly voiced.

Another alternative to the glottalic theory proposed by James Clackson bases the contrast on phonation. Observing that the traditional voiced aspirated series is preserved in languages like Sanskrit not as true voiced aspirates but as voiced consonants with breathy or murmured voice, Clackson suggests the contrast between voiceless, voiced and voiced aspirates could be reframed as stops conditioned by three phonations: voiceless, creaky or stiff voice, and breathy voice. That, he argues, is typologically more common than voiced aspirates without voiceless counterparts.

Schirru has also suggested that the voiced aspirated stops could be better analyzed as having the feature [+slack vocal folds] or [−stiff vocal folds]. Interpretations of reconstructed PIE voiced stops as preglottalized and as creaky stops are not mutually exclusive, since glottal closure is often realized as creaky phonation on neighboring sounds.

Bayesian analysis

Research published in 2003 of “87 languages with 2,449 lexical items” by Atkinson and Russell Gray found an age range for the “initial Indo-European divergence” of 7800 to 9800 years, which was found to be consistent with the Anatolian hypothesis.

Using stochastic models to evaluate the presence or absence of different words across Indo-European, Gray & Atkinson (2003) concluded that the origin of Indo-European goes back about 8500 years, the first split being that of Hittite from the rest (Indo-Hittite hypothesis). In 2006, the authors of the paper responded to their critics. In 2011, the authors and S. Greenhill found that two different datasets were also consistent with their theory.

An analysis by Ryder and Nicholls (2011) found support for the Anatolian hypothesis: “Our main result is a unimodal posterior distribution for the age of Proto-Indo-European centred at 8400 years before Present with 95% highest posterior density interval equal to 7100–9800 years before Present”.

Bouckaert et al. (2012), including Gray and Atkinson, conducted a computerized phylogeographic study, using methods drawn from the modeling of the spatial diffusion of infectious diseases; it also showed strong support for the Anatolian hypothesis despite having undergone corrections and revisions. Colin Renfrew commented on this study, stating that “finally we have a clear spatial picture.”

Bayesian analysis has been criticized on account of its inferring the lifespan of a language from that of some of its words; the idiosyncratic outcome of, for example, the Albanian language raises doubts about the method and the data.

Linguist Andrew Garrett, commenting on Bouckaert et al. (2012), stated that “[t]here is bias in the underlying data that leads to an erroneous conclusion, and strong evidence that is ignored which still strongly supports the Kurgan hypothesis.”

According to David Anthony, “this type of model doesn’t match the complex linguistic and archaeological evidence,” stating that “[t]he study is an example of retrofitting evidence to a model, but the results of such a model are only as useful as the underlying data and assumptions.”

Linguist Paul Heggarty from the Max Planck Institute wrote in 2014: “Bayesian analysis has come to be widely used in archaeological chronologies…. Its application to linguistic prehistory, however, has proved controversial, in particular on the issue of Indo-European origins. Dating and mapping language distributions back into prehistory has an inevitable fascination, but has remained fraught with difficulty.

This review of recent studies highlights the potential of increasingly sophisticated Bayesian phylogenetic models, while also identifying areas of concern, and ways in which the models might be refined to address them. Notwithstanding these remaining limitations, in the Indo-European case the results from Bayesian phylogenetics continue to reinforce the argument for an Anatolian rather than a Steppe origin.”

Chang et al. (2015) also conducted a lexicostatistical (and some glottochronological) study, producing results different from the results produced by Gray and Atkinson. This study instead supports the Kurgan hypothesis.

Yamnaya culture

The Yamnaya culture (3300–2600 BC), also known as the Yamnaya Horizon, Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe).

Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition: Ямная (romanization: yamnaya) is a Russian adjective that means ‘related to pits (yama)’, and these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers. The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language.

The people of the Yamnaya culture were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus. People with this ancestral component are known as Western Steppe Herders. They lived primarily as nomads, with a chiefdom system and wheeled carts that allowed them to manage large herds.

Their material culture was very similar to the Afanasevo culture. They are also closely connected to Final Neolithic cultures, which later spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware people and the Bell Beaker culture, as well as the peoples of the Srubnaya culture.

Back migration from Corded Ware also contributed to Sintashta, also known as the Sintashta-Petrovka culture or Sintashta-Arkaim culture, a Bronze Age culture of the northern Eurasian steppe on the borders of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Andronovo (2000–900 BC), a collection of similar local Bronze Age cultures that flourished in western Siberia and the central Eurasian Steppe.

In these groups, several aspects of the Yamnaya culture are present. Genetic studies have also indicated that these populations derived large parts of their ancestry from the steppes. The Potapovka culture and the Sintashta culture played major roles in the emergence of the Andronovo culture. The Andronovo culture is in turn considered ancestral to the Indo-Iranians.

The Yamnaya culture originated in the Don–Volga area, and is dated 3300–2600 BC. An early regional stage of Yamnaya is labeled the Mikhaylovka culture. It was preceded by the middle Volga-based Khvalynsk culture and the Don-based Repin culture (c. 3950–3300 BC), and late pottery from these two cultures can barely be distinguished from early Yamnaya pottery. Earlier continuity from eneolithic but largely hunter-gatherer Samara culture and influences from the more agricultural Dnieper–Donets II are apparent.

According to Anthony (2007), the early Yamnaya horizon spread quickly across the Pontic–Caspian steppes between c. 3400 and 3200 BC. The spread of the Yamnaya horizon was the material expression of the spread of late Proto-Indo-European across the Pontic–Caspian steppes. The Yamnaya horizon is the visible archaeological expression of a social adjustment to high mobility – the invention of the political infrastructure to manage larger herds from mobile homes based in the steppes.

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

In its western range, it was succeeded by the Catacomb culture (2800–2200 BC); in the east, by the Poltavka culture (2700–2100 BC) at the middle Volga. These two cultures were followed by the Srubnaya culture (18th–12th century BC).

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

Significantly, there were animal grave offerings a feature associated with Proto-Indo-Europeans. The culture was predominantly nomadic, with some agriculture practiced near rivers and a few hillforts.

Characteristic for the culture are the burials in pit graves under kurgans (tumuli). The dead bodies were placed in a supine position with bent knees and covered in ochre. Multiple graves have been found in these kurgans, often as later insertions. The earliest remains in Ukraine of a wheeled cart were found in the “Storozhova mohyla” kurgan associated with the Yamnaya culture.

According to Jones et al. (2015) and Haak et al. (2015), autosomic tests indicate that the Yamnaya people were the result of a genetic admixture between two different hunter-gatherer populations:

Eastern European hunter-gatherers (also known as Eastern Hunter-Gatherers or EHG) with high affinity to the Mal’ta–Buret’ culture or other, closely related people from Siberia and a population of “Caucasus hunter-gatherers” (CHG) who probably arrived from the Caucasus. Each of those two populations contributed about half the Yamnaya DNA. According to co-author Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge:

The question of where the Yamnaya come from has been something of a mystery up to now … we can now answer that, as we’ve found that their genetic make-up is a mix of Eastern European hunter-gatherers and a population from this pocket of Caucasus hunter-gatherers who weathered much of the last Ice Age in apparent isolation.

Several genetic studies performed since 2015 have given support to the Kurgan theory of Marija Gimbutas regarding the Indo-European Urheimat – that Indo-European languages spread throughout Europe from the Eurasian steppes and that the Yamnaya culture were Proto-Indo-Europeans.

According to those studies, haplogroups R1b and R1a, now the most common in Europe (R1a is also common in South Asia), would have expanded from the Pontic–Caspian steppes, along with the Indo-European languages. They also detected an autosomal component present in modern Europeans which was not present in Neolithic Europeans, which would have been introduced with paternal lineages R1b and R1a, as well as Indo-European languages in the Bronze Age.

Forensic facial reconstruction of a male from the Dnieper-Donets culture. Dnieper-Donets males and Yamnaya males carry similar types of Y-DNA, although Yamnaya mtDNA suggests admixture with females from other cultures.

Recent studies display genetic continuity between the paternal lineages of the Dnieper-Donets culture and the Yamnaya culture, as the males of both cultures have been found to have been mostly carriers of R1b, and to a lesser extent I2.

While the mtDNA of the Dnieper-Donets people is exclusively types of U, which is associated with the Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs) of Eastern Europe and the Western Hunter Gatherers (WHGs) of Western Europe, the mtDNA of the Yamnaya also includes types frequent among Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers (CHGs) and Early European Farmers (EEFs).

This admixture is referred to as Western Steppe Herder (WSH), and has earlier been found among the Sredny Stog culture and the Khvalynsk culture, who preceded the Yamnaya culture on the Pontic–Caspian steppe. Unlike their Khvalynsk predecessors however, the Y-DNA of the Yamnaya is exclusively of EHG and WHG origin. This suggests that the leading clans of the Yamnaya were of EHG and WHG paternal origin.

Admixture between EHGs and CHGs is believed to have occurred on the eastern Pontic-Caspian steppe starting around 5,000 BC, while admixture with EEFs happened in the southern parts of the Pontic-Caspian steppe sometime later.

As Yamnaya Y-DNA is exclusively of the EHG and WHG type, the admixture appears to have occurred predominately between EHG males, and CHG and EEF females. According to David W. Anthony, this implies that the Indo-European languages were the result of “a dominant language spoken by EHGs that absorbed Caucasus-like elements in phonology, morphology, and lexicon.”(spoken by CHGs).

According to Haak et al. (2015), “Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers” (EHG) who inhabited today’s Russia were a distinctive population of hunter-gatherers with high genetic affinity to a c. 24,000-year-old Siberian from Mal’ta–Buret’ culture, which in turn resembles other remains of Siberia, such as the Afontova Gora.

Remains of the “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” have been found in Mesolithic or early Neolithic sites in Karelia and Samara Oblast, Russia, and put under analysis. Three such hunter-gathering individuals of the male sex have had their DNA results published. Each was found to belong to a different Y-DNA haplogroup: R1a, R1b, and J.

The Near East population were most likely hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus (CHG), though one study suggested that farmers with a CHG component dated to the Chalcolithic era in what is now Iran may be a better fit for the Yamnaya’s Near Eastern descent.

Jones et al. (2015) analyzed genomes from males from western Georgia, in the Caucasus, from the Late Upper Palaeolithic (13,300 years old) and the Mesolithic (9,700 years old). These two males carried Y-DNA haplogroup: J* and J2a.

The researchers found that these Caucasus hunters were probably the source of the Near Eastern DNA in the Yamnaya. Their genomes showed that a continued mixture of the Caucasians with Middle Eastern took place up to 25,000 years ago, when the coldest period in the last Ice Age started.

An analysis carried out by Gallego-Llorente et al. (2016), concludes that Iranian populations are not a likelier source of the ‘southern’ component in the Yamnaya than Caucasus hunter-gatherers.

A genetic study published in August 2014 examined the DNA of the remains of a number of individuals from the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture, who succeeded the Yamnaya culture as the dominant force on the Pontic steppe.

Catacomb people were found to have much higher frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U5 and U4 than people of the Yamnaya culture. Haplogroups U5 and U4 are typical of Western Hunter-Gatherers and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers.

A generic similarity between Catacomb people and northern hunter-gatherers, particularly the people of the Pitted Ware culture of southern Scandinavia, was detected. It was suggested that the Catacomb people and the Yamnaya people were not as genetically admixed as previously believed. Interestingly, the modern population of Ukraine was found to be more closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture than people of the Catacomb culture.

Haplogroup R1b is the most common Y-DNA haplogroup found among both the Yamnaya and modern-day Western Europeans. In 2015 studies published in Nature, the remains of twelve individuals ascribed to the Yamna culture were analyzed. Eleven individuals were determined to belong to haplogroup R1b1a2 (R-V88) or various subclades of it, while one individual was determined to belong to haplogroup I2a2a1b1b.

A February 2018 study published in Nature included an analysis of a Yamnaya male in Bulgaria. He carried haplogroup I2a2a1b1b. In a February 2019 study published in Nature Communications, the remains of four Yamnaya individuals from the Caucasus were analyzed. One male was found to be carrying the paternal R1b1a2. With regards to mtDNA, three carried U5a1 or subclades of it, while one carried T2a1.

Examination of physical remains of the Yamnaya people has determined that they were Europoid, tall, and massively built. Their cephalic index varies depending on the region, with brachycephaly being prevalent in its southern and southeastern areas, and dolichocephaly being prevalent in its northerneastern areas.

The genetic basis of a number of physical features of the Yamnaya people were ascertained by the ancient DNA studies conducted by Haak et al. (2015), Wilde et al. (2014) and Mathieson et al. (2015):

they were genetically tall (phenotypic height is determined by both genetics and environmental factors), overwhelmingly dark-eyed (brown), dark-haired and had a skin colour that was moderately light, though somewhat darker than that of the average modern European. Despite their pastoral lifestyle, there was little evidence of lactase persistence.

Haak et al. (2015) conducted a genome-wide study of 69 ancient skeletons from Europe and Russia. They concluded that Yamnaya autosomal characteristics are very close to the Corded Ware culture people, with an estimated 73% ancestral contribution from the Yamnaya DNA in the DNA of Corded Ware skeletons from Germany.

The same study estimated a (38.8–50.4 %) ancestral contribution of the Yamnaya in the DNA of modern Western, Central, and Northern Europeans, and an 18.5–32.6 % contribution in modern Southern Europeans; this contribution is found to a lesser extent in Sardinians (2.4–7.1 %) and Sicilians (5.9–11.6 %).

Haak et al. also note that their results state that haplogroup R-M269 spread into Europe from the East after 3000 BC. Studies that analysed ancient human remains in Ireland and Portugal support the thesis that R-M269 was introduced in these places along with autosomal DNA from the Eastern European steppes.

Autosomal tests also indicate that the Yamnaya are the most likely vector for “Ancient North Eurasian” admixture into Europe. “Ancient North Eurasian” is the name given in literature to a genetic component that represents descent from the people of the Mal’ta–Buret’ culture or a population closely related to them. That genetic component is visible in tests of the Yamnaya people as well as modern-day Europeans, but not of Europeans predating the Bronze Age.

In the Baltic, Jones et al. (2017) found that the Neolithic transition – the passage from a hunter-gatherer economy to a farming-based economy – coincided with the arrival en masse of individuals with Yamnaya-like ancestry. This is different from what happened in Western and Southern Europe, where the Neolithic transition was caused by a population that came from the Near East, with Pontic steppe ancestry being detected from only the late Neolithic onward.

Per Haak et al. (2015), the Yamnaya contribution in the modern populations of Eastern Europe ranges from 46.8% among Russians to 42.8% in Ukrainians. Finland has one of the highest Yamnaya contributions in all of Europe (50.4%).

Studies also point to the strong presence of Yamnaya descent in the current nations of South Asia, especially in groups that speak Indo-European languages.

According to Pathak et al. (2018), the “North-Western Indian & Pakistani” populations (PNWI) showed significant Middle-Late Bronze Age Steppe (Steppe_MLBA) ancestry along with Yamnaya Early-Middle Bronze Age (Steppe_EMBA) ancestry, but the Indo-European speakers of Gangetic Plains and Dravidian speakers only showed significant Yamnaya (Steppe_EMBA) ancestry and no Steppe_MLBA.

The study also noted that ancient south Asian samples had significantly higher Steppe_MLBA than Steppe_EMBA (or Yamnaya). The study infers, “The Rors stand out in South Asia as the population with the highest proportion of Steppe ancestry”.

Lazaridis et al. (2016) notes “The demographic impact of steppe related populations on South Asia was substantial, as the Mala, a south Indian Dalit population with minimal Ancestral North Indian (ANI) along the ‘Indian Cline’ of such ancestry is inferred to have ~ 18 % steppe-related ancestry, while the Kalash of Pakistan are inferred to have ~ 50 % steppe-related ancestry.” Lazaridis et al.’s 2016 study estimated (6.5–50.2 %) steppe related admixture in South Asians.

Lazaridis et al. (2016) further notes that “A useful direction of future research is a more comprehensive sampling of ancient DNA from steppe populations, as well as populations of central Asia (east of Iran and south of the steppe), which may reveal more proximate sources of the ANI than the ones considered here, and of South Asia to determine the trajectory of population change in the area directly.”

According to Unterländer et al. (2017), Iron Age Scythians from the southern Ural region, East Kazakhstan and Tuva can best be described as a mixture of Yamnaya-related ancestry and an East Asian component, the latter occurring at only trace levels – if at all – among earlier steppe inhabitants.

Mikhaylovka culture

The Yamnaya culture originated in the Don–Volga area. An early regional stage of Yamnaya is labeled the The Mikhaylovka culture, Lower Mykhaylivka culture (3600—3000 BC), a Copper Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe.

Mikhaylovka I (3600-3400 BCE), named after an early Yamna site of the late copper age of the lower Dnieper River, noted for its fortifications, had connections to the west, and is related to the Kemi Oba culture (3700-2200 BCE) at the Bug-Dniepr area and the Crimea, and seems to have had connections to the Maykop culture (3700-3000 BCE).

Mikhaylovka II (3400-3000 BCE), named after lower archaeological layer of the site near Mykhaylivka village of Kherson Oblast, had connections to the east, as reflected by its Repin-style pottery. It is divided into a lower (3400-3300 BCE) and an upper level (3300-3000 BCE). It shows a shift from farming to cattle herding, typical for the Yamna horizon.

Kemi Oba culture

Kemi Oba culture, an archaeological culture at the northwest face of the Sea of Azov, the lower Bug and Dnieper Rivers and the Crimea, is contemporaneous and partly overlapping with the Catacomb culture (2800–1700 BC), a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe.

According to Mallory, the Kemi Oba culture was a component of the larger Yamnaya horizon, while Anthony regards it to be a separate culture, which was replaced by a late Yamnaya variant after 2800 BCE.

The economy was based on both stockbreeding and agriculture. It had its own distinctive pottery, which is suggested to be more refined than that of its neighbors. Metal objects were imported from the Maykop culture. Strong links have been suggested with the adjacent/overlapping Lower Mikhaylovka group.

The inhumation practice was to lay the remains on its side, with the knees flexed, in pits, stone lined cists or timber-framed graves topped with a kurgan. Of particular interest are carved stone stelae or menhirs that also show up in secondary use in Yamnaya culture burials.

Catacomb culture

The Catacomb culture (2800–2200 BC) emerged on the southern part of the Pontic steppe in 2800 BC as a western descendant of the Yamnaya culture. Influences from the west appears to have had a decisive role on the formation of the Catacomb culture. In addition to the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture displays links with the earlier Sredny Stog culture, the Afanasievo culture and the Poltavka culture.

Originating on the southern steppe as an outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture came to cover a large area. It was Indo-European-speaking, perhaps speaking an early form of Indo-Iranian or Thracian. Influences of the Catacomb culture have been detected as far as Mycenaean Greece.

It spawned the Multi-cordoned ware culture, and was eventually succeeded by the Srubnaya culture (lit. ‘log house culture’: (1800-1200 BC), also known as Timber-grave culture. The early phases of the Srubnaya culture grew out of the Potapovka culture and the late Abashevo culture.

The Catacomb culture was distributed on the Pontic steppe, an area which had earlier been occupied by the Yamnaya culture. This was a large area, and on the basis of ceramic styles and burial practices, regional variants have been found. On this basis, the Catacomb culture has by some been designated as a “cultural-historical area” with the regional variants classified as distinct cultures in their own respect.

In the east the Catacomb culture neighbored the Poltavka culture, which was an eastern descendant of the Yamnaya culture. The Catacomb culture influenced the development of the Poltavka culture. Throughout its existence, the Catacomb culture expanded eastward and northward. Elena Efimovna Kuzmina suggests that the Seima-Turbino phenomenon emerged as a result of interaction between the Abashevo culture (2500–1900 BC), the Catacomb culture and the early Andronovo culture.

Evidence of Catacomb influence has been discovered far outside of the Pontic steppe. Its burial chambers, metal types and figurines are very similar to those appearing in Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, while the hammer-head pin, a characteristic ornament of the Catacomb culture, has been found in Central Europe and Italy.

Based on these similarities, migrations or cultural diffusion from the Catacomb culture to these areas have been suggested. Similarities between the Catacomb culture and Mycenaean Greece are particularly striking. These include types of socketed spear-heads, types of cheekpieces for horses, and the custom of making masks for the dead.

The Catacomb culture is named for its burials. These augmented the shaft grave of the Yamnaya culture with burial niche at its base. This is the so-called catacomb. Such graves have also been found in Mycenaean Greece and parts of Eastern Europe.

Deceased Catacomb individuals were typically buried in a flexed position on their right side. They were often accompanied by ornaments such as silver rings, and weapons such as stone and metal axes, arrows, daggers and maces.

Animal sacrifies, including head and hooves of goats, sheep, horses and cattle, occur in about 16% of Catacomb graves. Cattle sacrifices in the Catacomb culture are more frequent than in the Yamnaya culture. Similar horse burials also appeared in the earlier Khvalynsk culture, and in the Poltavka culture.

Catacomb burials are occasionally covered with Kurgan stelae. This practice was also common in the Yamnaya culture. Some three hundred stelae have been found from the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture.

Catacomb burials are sometimes accompanied by wheeled vehicles. Such wagon burials are attested in the earlier Yamnaya culture, and later among Iranian peoples (Scythians), Celts and Italic peoples. Aspects of the burial rite of the Catacomb culture have been detected in the Bishkent culture of southern Tajikistan.

In some cases the skull of deceased Catacomb people was modelled in clay. This involved the filling of the mouth, ears and nasal cavity with clay and modeling the surface features of the face. This practice is associated with high-status burials containing prestige items. The practice was performed on both men, women and children. It has been suggested that these clay masks may have served as a prototype for the later gold masks found in Mycenaean Greece.

The economy of the Catacomb culture is believed to have been based mostly on stockbreeding. Remains of cattle, sheep, goat, horse and some pigs have been found. Plant remains are exceedingly rare, but traces of wheat, such as einkorn and emmer, have been found. Wooden ploughs have been found at Catacomb burials, indicating that agriculture was practiced.

The types of tools used by the Catacomb people suggest that the culture included several craft specialists, including weavers, bronze workers and weapons manufacturers. Similar metal types to those of the Catacomb culture later appears among the Abashevo culture.

Little evidence of Catacomb settlements has been found. These are mostly seasonal camp-sites located near soures of water. A larger settlement has been found at Matveyevka on the southern Bug. It has three large structures with foundations of stone. On the island of Bayda in the Dnieper river, a stone-built fortress of the late Catacomb period with a surrounding ditch has been found.

Catacomb ceramics is more elaborate than those of the Yamnaya culture. Low footed vessels that have been discovered in female burials are believed to have been used in rituals that included the use of narcotic substances such as hemp. Catacomb ceramics appears to have influenced the ceramics of the Abashevo culture and the Sintashta culture (2200–1800 BC).

Evidence of early composite bows have been yielded from the Catacomb culture. Quivers with space for ten to twenty arrows have also been found. Its arrowheads may have influenced those of the Sintashta culture. Its hollow-based flint arrowheads are similar to those of the Middle Dnieper culture.

Stone battle-axes of the Catacomb culture are similar to those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture. A knife from ca. 2500 BC ascribed to the Catacomb culture in the Donets had a handle of arsenical bronze and a blade made of iron.

Wheeled vehicles have been found in Catacomb burials. Some of these have been suggested as among the earliest chariots that have been found. Bronze warty beads of the Catacomb culture are similar to those of the Sintashta culture.

Certain variants of the Catacomb culture, particularly those centered at the Donets, appear to have practiced cranial deformation. This may have been an aesthetic device or an ethnic marker. Around 9% of Catacomb skulls had holes drilled into them. This appears to have been associated with a ritual or medical practice. Remains of bears have been found at Catacomb sites.

A genetic study published in August 2014 examined the DNA of the remains of 28 Catacomb individuals. Catacomb people were found to have much higher frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U5 and U4 than people of the preceding Yamnaya culture.

Haplogroups U5 and U4 are typical of Western Hunter-Gatherers and Eastern Hunter-Gatherers. A generic similarity between Catacomb people and northern hunter-gatherers, particularly the people of the Pitted Ware culture of southern Scandinavia, was detected.

It was suggested that the Catacomb people and the Yamnaya people were not as genetically admixed as previously believed. Interestingly, the modern population of Ukraine was found to be more closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture than people of the Catacomb culture.

In genetic study published in the Journal of Human Genetics in 2017, the remains of several individuals from the Catacomb culture were analyzed. One individual was found to be carrying haplogroup U5, while another carried U5a. These and other subclades of haplogroup U have been found in high frequencies among early hunter-gatherers of Northern Europe and Eastern Europe.

From the Mesolithic they appear among populations of the Pontic steppe, including the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamnaya culture, the Corded Ware culture, the Andronovo culture, the Srubnaya culture and the Scythians. This suggests continuity of mtDNA among populations of the Pontic steppe going back at least to the Bronze Age.

In a genetic study published in Scientific Reports in 2018, the remains of two individuals from the Catacomb culture were analyzed. Both were found to belong to haplogroup X4. They are the first ancient individuals that have been identified with this lineage, which is very rare among modern populations.

In a February 2019 study published in Nature Communications, the remains of five individuals ascribed to the Catacomb culture were analyzed. Three males were found to be carrying R1b1a2. With regards to mtDNA, all five individuals carried various subclades of haplogroup U (particularly U5 and U4).

The Catacomb culture was Indo-European-speaking. It has sometimes been considered ancestral to Indo-Iranian or Thracian. More recently, scholars have suggested that the culture provided a common background for Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian.

Poltavka culture

Poltavka culture (2700-2100 BC) was an early to middle Bronze Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe. The Poltavka culture emerged as an eastern outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, neighboring the Catacomb culture, another Yamnaya successor, in the west. It has been considered ancestral to later cultures that are identified as Indo-Iranian.

The Poltavka culture emerged as an eastern successor of the Yamnaya culture. The western successor of the Yamnaya culture was the Catacomb culture. Along with the Sredny Stog culture, the Yamnaya culture and the Catacomb culture, the Poltavka culture is among the cultures of the Pontic steppe sharing characteristics with the Afanasievo culture of the eastern steppe.

In a 2015 study published in Nature, the remains of six individuals ascribed to the Poltavka culture were analyzed. Five of the individuals were determined to belong to haplogroup R1b1a2 and various subclades of it, while one individual, who belonged to the outliers of the culture, was determined to belong to haplogroup R1a1a1b2a.

People of the Poltavka culture were found to be closely related to people of the Yamnaya culture and the Afanasievo culture. It is possible that R1a males lived within the territory of the Poltavka culture, but were not included in the rich burials of the culture, which contain R1b males instead.

Genomic studies suggest that the Poltavka culture was closely genetically related to the peoples of the eastern Yamnaya culture and the later Sarmatians, a large Iranian confederation that existed in classical antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD.

In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains of two Poltavka males from separate sites was analyzed. One carried R1b1a1a2a2 and U5a1g, while the other carried R1b1a1a2a2 and U5a1b. The authors of the study noted that there was a significant infusion of Central European ancestry into the steppe during the transition from the Poltavka culture to the Potapovka culture.

The physical type of the Poltavka resemble that of the preceding Yamnaya, who were tall and massively built Europoids. A similar type prevails among the succeeding Catacomb culture and Potapovka culture.

Skulls of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture are more dolichocephalic than those of the Poltavka, Yamnaya and Potapovka cultures. Potapovka skulls are less dolichocephalic than those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture.

The Poltavka culture flourished on the Volga-Ural steppe and the forest steppe. It is contemporary with the Catacomb culture, which was located on the Pontic steppe to its southwest. It seems to have co-existed at times with the Abashevo culture.

The flat-bottomed ceramics of the Poltavka culture differ from the pointed or round-based ceramics of the Yamnaya culture. The decorative motifs of the ceramics of the later Sintashta culture and Andronovo culture are very similar to those of the Poltavka culture.

The economy of the Poltavka culture was mobile pastoral, a continuation of the economy of the Yamnaya culture. The Poltavka people carried out horse burials, a custom that had inherited from the Yamnaya culture, the Khvalynsk culture and Samara culture respectively.

The Poltavka culture is distinguished from the Yamnaya culture by its marked increase in metallurgy. Metals were probably acquired from centers in the southern Urals. The presence of gold and silver rings and bronze axes similar to those of the Maykop culture, testify to North Caucasian influences on the Poltavka culture. Certain metal objects of the Poltavka culture and the Catacomb culture appear to have been copied by the Abashevo culture.

The Poltavka culture appears to have expanded eastwards throughout its existence. It is probable that Poltavka herders explored areas of the Kazakh Steppe. The arrival of Poltavka people onto the Kazakh Steppe is associated with various technological innovasions in the area. Poltavka pottery has been discovered in northern Kazakhstan.

The Poltavka culture seems to be an early manifestation of the Srubnaya culture. It marks the transition of the Yamnaya culture to the Srubnaya culture. Genetic studies suggest that the end of the Poltavka culture is associated with major population changes.

The Poltavka culture has been considered ancestral to what would later develop into Indo-Iranian cultures. The Poltavka culture shares many characteristics with the contemporaneous Sintashta culture.

This includes similar pottery, metal types, weapons, horse sacrifices, chariot-driving gear and similar graves. It is common for new Poltavka settlements to be constructed on top of older ones, and the later Sintashta culture would in turn contstruct settlements on top of earlier Poltavka ones.

The emergence of the Sintashta culture and the later Andronovo culture is associated with an eastward expansion of the Poltavka culture, the Abashevo culture, the Multi-cordoned ware culture and the Catacomb culture.

Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.

Srubnaya culture

The Srubnaya culture (lit. ‘log house culture’), also known as Timber-grave culture, was a Late Bronze Age (18th–12th centuries BC) culture in the eastern part of Pontic-Caspian steppe. The name comes from Russian “srub” (“timber framework”), from the way graves were constructed. Animal parts were buried with the body.

The Srubnaya culture is a successor of the Yamna culture, Catacomb culture and Poltavka culture. The physical type of the Srubnaya culture appears to have emerged as a result of mixing between Sintashta and Poltavka people. Physical remains of Srubnaya people have has revealed that they were massively built Europoids with largely dolichocephalic skulls.

Skulls from the early (Pokrovskiy) phase of Srubnaya are purely dolichocephalic, and very similar to those of the earlier Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture and Sintashta culture, and the western areas of the contemporary Andronovo culture. They differ from the less dolichocephalic skulls of the Potapovka culture.

With the expansion of the Srubnaya culture onto the southern steppe, Srubnaya skulls become less dolichocephalic, probably through the absorption of elements from the earlier Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture. In later phases however, dolichocephaly increases again among the Srubnaya.

It is co-ordinate and probably closely related to the Andronovo culture, its eastern neighbor. Whether the Srubnaya culture originated in the east, west, or was a local development, is disputed among archaeologists.

The Srubnaya culture occupied the area along and above the north shore of the Black Sea from the Dnieper eastwards along the northern base of the Caucasus to the area abutting the north shore of the Caspian Sea, west of the Ural Mountains. Historical testimony indicate that the Srubnaya culture was succeeded by the Cimmerians and Scythians.

It occupied the area along and above the north shore of the Black Sea from the Dnieper eastwards along the northern base of the Caucasus to the area abutting the north shore of the Caspian Sea, west of the Ural Mountains.

The Srubnaya culture is generally considered to have been Iranian. It has been suggested as a staging area from which the Iranian peoples migrated across the Caucasus into the Iranian Plateau. Historical testimony indicate that the Srubnaya culture was succeeded by the Cimmerians and Scythians.

In 2018, a genetic study of the earlier Srubnaya culture, and later peoples of the Scythian cultures, including the Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, was published in Science Advances. Six males from two sites ascribed to the Srubnaya culture were analysed, and were all found to possess haplogroup R1a1a1.

Cimmerian, Sarmatian and Scythian males were however found have mostly haplogroup R1b1a1a2, although one Sarmatian male carried haplogroup R1a1a1. The authors of the study suggested that rather than being ancestral to the Scythians, the Srubnaya shared with them a common origin from the earlier Yamnaya culture.

In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains of twelve individuals ascribed to the Srubnaya culture was analyzed. Of the six samples of Y-DNA extracted, three belonged to R1a1a1b2 or subclades of it, one belonged to R1, one belonged to R1a1, and one belonged to R1a1a. With regards to mtDNA, five samples belonged to subclades of U, five belonged to subclades of H, and two belonged to subclades of T.

Another 2017 genetic study, published in Scientific Reports, found that the Scythians shared similar mitochondrial lineages with the Srubnaya culture. The authors of the study suggested that the Srubnaya culture was ancestral to the Scythians.

People of the Srubnaya culture were found to be closely related to people of the Corded Ware culture, the Sintashta culture, Potapovka culture and the Andronovo culture. These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic. The genetic data suggested that these cultures were ultimately derived of a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.

Physical remains of Srubnaya people have has revealed that they were massively built Europoids with largely dolichocephalic skulls. Skulls from the early (Pokrovskiy) phase of Srubnaya are purely dolichocephalic, and very similar to those of the earlier Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture and Sintashta culture, and the western areas of the contemporary Andronovo culture. They differ from the less dolichocephalic skulls of the Potapovka culture.

With the expansion of the Srubnaya culture onto the southern steppe, Srubnaya skulls become less dolichocephalic, probably through the absorption of elements from the earlier Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture.

In later phases however, dolichocephaly increases again among the Srubnaya. The physical type of the Srubnaya is very similar to that of the succeeding Scythians, suggesting that the Scythians were largely descended from the Srubnaya.

Potapovka culture

The Catacomb people were massively built Europoids. Their skulls are similar to those of the Potapovka culture (2500—2000 BC), a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the middle Volga. The Potapovka culture emerged out of the Poltavka culture, and had close relations with the Sintashta culture in the east, with whom it shares many similarities.

The Potapovka culture is thought to belong to an eastward migration of Indo-European-speakers who eventually emerged as the Indo-Iranians. David W. Anthony considers the Potapovka culture and the Sintashta culture as archaeological manifestations of the early Indo-Iranian languages.

The physical type of the Potapovka appears to have emerged through a mixture between the strongly dolichocephalic type of the Sintashta, and the less dolichocephalic type of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture.

Like the Sintashta culture, its people are believed to have spoken a form of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It was directly ancestral to the Srubnaya culture, and probably influenced the emergence of the Andronovo culture.

The Potapovka culture emerged out of the Poltavka culture, and had close relations with the Sintashta culture in the east, with whom it shares many similarities. Like the Sintashta culture, its people are believed to have spoken a form of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It was directly ancestral to the Srubnaya culture, and probably influenced the emergence of the Andronovo culture.
The Potapovka culture emerged on the middle Volga around 2500 BC. It is thought to have emerged as a northern outgrowth of the Poltavka culture, with possible influences from the Abashevo culture.[1][2] Influences from the Catacomb culture[3] and the Multi-cordoned ware culture have also been detected.[4]
The Potapovka culture has been considered a western variant of the Sintashta culture,[5][6][7] with which it is closely related.[8][9] The area which the Potapovka culture occupied had earlier been occupied by the Khvalynsk culture and the Samara culture.[1]
The Potapovka culture flourished around the middle Volga, straddling the cultural traditions of the Pontic steppe, the Urals and western Kazakhstan.[1] It is considered to have been part of an eastward expansion of cultures based on the Pontic steppe.[1] Potapovka sites are eventually found also on the Don and the Dnieper.[10] The expansion of the Potapovka culture, Sintashta culture and other cultures ultimately of Eastern Euroopean origin into western Kazakhstan and the southern Urals is believed to have occurred as an elite dominance migration.[11]
The Potapovka culture has many similarities with the Sintashta culture and the earlier phases of the Andronovo culture. These similarities include animal sacrifices (horse burials), burial rituals, chariot-gear, cheek-pieces and ceramics.[6] Similarities have also been detected with the Abashevo culture.[1] Abashevo vessels have been found in Potapovka graves.[12]
The Potapovka culture is especially distinguished by the presence of bone cheek-pieces for controlling horses.[1] Possible remains of wheels and wheeled vehicles have been observed in Potapovka remains.[1] Unlike for the Sintashta culture, spoked wheels have not been found in the Potapovka culture.[5]
Ceramics of the Potapovka culture are very similar to those of the Poltavka culture. The same feature is noted among the Sintashta culture.[6] Major stone artifacts include flint arrowheads.[1]
One cheeck-piece of the Potapovka culture was found to be decorated with a Mycenaean ornament.[4] Weapons discovered at Potapovka sites are very similar to those described in the Vedas and the Avesta.[13]
The Potapovka culture is primarily known from at least eleven kurgans that have been found. These contain around eighty burials. Potpovka kurgans measure around 24 to 30 m in diameter and stand up to half-a-meter in height. They typically contain chambers surrounded by small peripheral graves of large central burial chambers. Near the central burial complex, horses, cattle, sheep, goats and dogs may be found.[1]
Several Potapovka kurgans were constructed on top of earlier Poltavka kurans, which they destroyed. According to David W. Anthony, this is hardly accidental, testifying to a “symbolic connection” between the Poltavka and Potapovka people.[6]
An interesting feature of the Potapovka grave is the replacement of the head of the decapitated individual with that of a horse. This practice has been compared with an account in the Vedas of how the Aśvins replaced the head of Dadhichi, son of Atharvan, with that of a horse, so that he could reveal the secret of the sacred drink.[1]
Potapovka grave goods includes decorated pottery, metal objects, bronze ornaments, and occasionally silver ornaments.[1]
Graves of the Potapovka culture are very similar to those of the Sintashta culture. They both contained paired horses and cheekpieces.[5]
Physical type
The Potapovka people were massively built Europoids. Their skulls are similar to those of the Catacomb culture.[a]
Potapovka skulls are less dolichocephalic than those of the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Srubnaya culture and western Andronovo culture. The physical type of the Potapovka appears to have emerged through a mixture between the purely dolichocephalic type of the Sintashta, and the less dolichocephalic type of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture.[b]
In a study published in Nature in 2015, the remains of three indiduals of the Potapovka culture was surveyed. One male was found to be carrying haplogroup R1a1a1b and U2e1h, while the other carried haplogroup P1 and C1. The female carried haplogroup T1.[5]
In a genetic study published in Science in 2018, the remains four individuals ascribed to the Potapovka culture was analyzed. Of the two males, one carried R1a1a1b2a2a and U2e1, while the other carried R1 and C. The two females carried U2e1a1 and H2a1e. People of the Potapovka culture were found to be closely related to people of the Corded Ware culture,[c] the Sintashta culture, the Andronovo culture and the Srubnaya culture. These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic.[d][e] The genetic data suggested that these related cultures were ultimately derived from a remigration of Central European peoples with steppe ancestry back into the steppe.[f]

Abashevo culture

It has been suggested that the Abashevo culture was partially derived from the Catacomb culture. Parts of the area of the Catacomb culture came to be occupied by the Abashevo culture, and later by the Srubnaya culture.

The Abashevo culture appears to have emerged partially through influence from the Poltavka culture. Along with the Abashevo culture, it also appears to have influenced the emergence of the Potapovka culture.

The Abashevo culture, an early Bronze Age culture in the valleys of the Volga and Kama River north of the Samara bend and into the southern Ural Mountains, is notable for its metallurgical activity and early use of the chariot.

It eventually came to absorb the Volosovo culture, an archaeological culture that followed the Neolithic Pit-marked pottery culture (Balakhna). The people of the Volosovo culture has been described as forest foragers.

Tracing its origins in the Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture (2800-1900 BC), an eastern offshoot of the Corded Ware culture of Central Europe, the Abashevo culture is generally identified as pre-Indo-Iranian-speaking or Proto-Indo-Iranian-speaking. It played a major role in the development of the Sintashta culture and the Srubnaya culture.

Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture

The Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, 2800 BC–1900 BC, was a Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age culture which flourished in the forests of Russia. Its peoples were almost certainly Indo-Europeans, perhaps speaking an early form of Balto-Slavic.

The Fatyanovo culture developed on the northeastern edge of the Middle Dnieper culture, probably as a result of a mass migration of Corded Ware peoples from Central Europe. Expanding eastwards at the expense of the Volosovo culture, the Fatyanovo people developed copper mines in the western Urals.

From 2300 BC they established settlements engaged in Bronze metallurgy, giving rise to the Balanovo culture. Although belonging to the southeastern part of the Fatyanovo horizon, the Balanovo culture is quite distinct from the rest. The Balanovo culture contributed to the formation of the Abashevo culture, which in turn contributed to the formation of the Sintashta culture.

Multi-cordoned Ware culture

The Multi-cordoned Ware culture (2200-1800 BC) or Multiroller ceramics culture, also known as the Multiple-relief-band ware culture, the Babyno culture and the Mnogovalikovaya kul’tura (MVK), was an eastern successor of the Catacomb culture. It in turn may have played a role in the emergence of the Potapovka culture and the Sintashta culture, and thus on the formation of the Andronovo culture.

It occupied an area stretching from the Don to Moldavia, including Dnieper Ukraine, Right-bank Ukraine, and part of the modern Ternopil Oblast, and was bordered by the Volga to the east. Circumstantial evidence links KMK to the spread of one or more Indo-European languages. 

It was increasingly influenced, assimilated and eventually displaced by the Timber grave or Srubna/Srubnaya culture. Bearers of KMK migrated southward into the Balkans c. 2000 – 1800 BC. Leo Klejn identifies its bearers with the early Thracians. Other scholars suggest that KMK may have been connected to the Bryges and/or Phrygians.

Morphological data suggests that the Sintashta culture might have emerged as a result of a mixture of steppe ancestry from the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture, with ancestry from Neolithic forest hunter-gatherers.


Graeco-Aryan, or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan, is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family that would be the ancestor of Greek, Armenian, and the Indo-Iranian languages. Graeco-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists who support the Armenian hypothesis, which asserts that the homeland of the Indo-European language family was in the Armenian Highlands.

The Graeco-Armeno-Aryan group supposedly branched off from the parent Indo-European stem by the mid-3rd millennium BC. By 2500 BC, Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had separated, moving westward and eastward from the Pontic Steppe, respectively.

In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, Graeco-Aryan is also known as “Late Proto-Indo-European” or “Late Indo-European” to suggest that Graeco-Aryan forms a dialect group, which corresponds to the latest stage of linguistic unity in the Indo-European homeland in the early part of the 3rd millennium BC. 

If Graeco-Aryan is a valid group, Grassmann’s law may have a common origin in Greek and Sanskrit. However, Grassmann’s law in Greek postdates certain sound changes that happened only in Greek and not Sanskrit, which suggests that it could not have been inherited directly from a common Graeco-Aryan stage.

Rather, it is more likely that an areal feature spread across a then-contiguous Graeco-Aryan–speaking area. That would have occurred after early stages of Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had developed into separate dialects but before they ceased to be in geographic contact.

Evidence for the existence of a Graeco-Aryan subclade was given by Wolfram Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal inflection. Graeco-Aryan is invoked in particular in studies of comparative mythology such as Martin Litchfield West (1999) and Calvert Watkins (2001).

A widely rejected hypothesis has placed Greek in a Graeco-Armenian subclade of Indo-European, though some researchers have integrated both attempts by including also Armenian in a putative Graeco-Armeno-Aryan language family, further divided between Proto-Greek (possibly united with Phrygian) and thus arriving at an Armeno-Aryan subclade, the putative ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian.


Graeco-Armenian (or Helleno-Armenian) is the hypothetical common ancestor of Greek and Armenian that postdates Proto-Indo-European. Its status is somewhat similar to that of the Italo-Celtic grouping: each is widely considered plausible without being accepted as established communis opinio. The hypothetical Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage would need to date to the 3rd millennium BC and would be only barely different from either late Proto-Indo-European or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan. 

The Graeco-Armenian hypothesis originated in 1924 with Holger Pedersen, who noted that agreements between Armenian and Greek lexical cognates are more common than between Armenian and any other Indo-European language.

During the mid-to-late 1920s, Antoine Meillet further investigated morphological and phonological agreements and postulated that the parent languages of Greek and Armenian were dialects in immediate geographical proximity to their parent language, Proto-Indo-European. Meillet’s hypothesis became popular in the wake of his Esquisse d’une grammaire comparée de l’arménien classique.

G. R. Solta does not go as far as postulating a Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage but concludes that the lexicon and the morphology clearly make Greek the language that is the most closely related to Armenian.

Eric Hamp supports the Graeco-Armenian thesis and even anticipates a time that “we should speak of Helleno-Armenian” (the postulate of a Graeco-Armenian proto-language). James Clackson is more reserved, considers the evidence of a Graeco-Armenian subgroup to be inconclusive and believes Armenian to be in a larger Graeco-Armeno-Aryan family.

Evaluation of the hypothesis is tied up with the analysis of Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian and languages within the Anatolian subgroup (such as Hittite), many of which are poorly attested, but which were geographically located between the Greek and Armenian-speaking areas, and which would therefore be expected to have traits intermediate between the two.

While Greek is attested from very early times, allowing a secure reconstruction of a Proto-Greek language dating to about the 3rd millennium BC, the history of Armenian is opaque where its earliest testimony is the 5th-century Bible translation of Mesrob Mashtots.

Armenian has many loanwords showing traces of long language contact with Greek and Indo-Iranian languages; in particular, it is a satem language. Also, although Armenian and Attic (Ancient) Greek share a voiceless aspirate series, they originate from different PIE series (in Armenian from voiceless consonants and in Greek from the voiced aspirates).

In a 2005 publication, a group of linguists and statisticians, comprising Luay Nakhleh, Tandy Warnow, Donald Ringe and Steven N. Evans, compared quantitative phylogenetic linguistic methods and found that a Graeco-Armenian subgroup was supported by that five procedures – maximum parsimony, weighted versus unweighted maximum compatibility, neighbor-joining, and the widely-criticized binary lexical coding technique (devised by Russell Gray and Quentin D. Atkinson).

An interrelated problem is whether there is a “Balkan Indo-European” subgroup of Indo-European, which would consist not only of Greek and Armenian but also Albanian and possibly some dead languages, such as Ancient Macedonian and Phrygian.

This has been argued for in research by scholars such as G. Neumann, G. Klingenschmitt, J. Matzinger, J. H. Holst. The Balkan subgroup, in turn, is supported by the lexico-statistical method of Hans J. Holm. Many modern scholars have rejected the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, arguing that the linguistic proximity of Greek and Phrygian to Armenian has been overstated.


Origin of the Armenians

Name of Armenia

Proto-Armenian is the earlier, unattested stage of the Armenian language which has been reconstructed by linguists. Proto-Armenian, as the common ancestor of only one language, has no clear definition of the term. It is generally held to include a variety of ancestral stages of Armenian between Proto-Indo-European and the earliest attestations of Classical Armenian. It is thus not a proto-language in the strict sense, but “Proto-Armenian” is a term that has become common in the field.

As Armenian is the only known language of its branch of the Indo-European languages, the comparative method cannot be used to reconstruct its earlier stages. Instead, a combination of internal and external reconstruction, by reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European and other branches, has allowed linguists to piece together the earlier history of Armenian.

The earliest testimony of Armenian is the 5th-century Bible translation of Mesrop Mashtots. The earlier history of the language is unclear and the subject of much speculation. It is clear that Armenian is an Indo-European language, but its development is opaque. Modern research suggests it made up a distinct speech community already by the late 3rd millennium BC.

In any case, Armenian has many layers of loanwords and shows traces of long language contact with Anatolian languages such as Luwian and Hittite, Hurrio-Urartian languages, Semitic languages such as Akkadian and Aramaic, and Iranian languages such as Persian and Parthian. Armenian also has influence to a lesser extent from Greek and Arabic.

The Proto-Armenian sound changes are varied and eccentric (such as *dw- yielding erk-) and, in many cases, uncertain. That prevented Armenian from being immediately recognized as an Indo-European branch in its own right, and it was assumed to be simply a very divergent Iranian language until Heinrich Hübschmann established its independent character in 1874.

Many modern scholars have rejected the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, arguing that the linguistic proximity between the two languages has been overstated. Clackson (2008) asserts that the Armenian language is as close to Indo-Iranian languages as it is to Greek and Phrygian. Ronald I. Kim has noted unique morphological developments connecting Armenian to Balto-Slavic languages.

In certain contexts, the aspirated stops are further reduced to w, h or zero in Armenian: Proto-Indo-European (accusative) *pódm̥ “foot” > Armenian otn vs. Greek (accusative) póda, Proto-Indo-European *tréyes “three” > Armenian erekʿ vs. Greek treis.

The Armenians according to Diakonoff, are then an amalgam of the Hurrians (and Urartians), Luvians and the Mushki. After arriving in its historical territory, Proto-Armenian would appear to have undergone massive influence on part the languages it eventually replaced. Armenian phonology, for instance, appears to have been greatly affected by Urartian, which may suggest a long period of bilingualism.

The existence of Urartian words in the Armenian language and Armenian loanwords into Urartian suggests early contact between the two languages and long periods of bilingualism. Diakonoff (1985) and Greppin (1991) etymologize several Old Armenian words as having a possible Hurro-Urartian origin. Arnaud Fournet proposes additional borrowed words.

The origin of the Proto-Armenian language is subject to scholarly debate. Although the Armenian hypothesis would postulate the Armenian language as an in situ development of a 3rd millennium BC Proto-Indo-European language, the more popular Kurgan hypothesis suggests it arrived in the Armenian Highlands either from the Balkans or through the Caucasus.

The arrival of such a population who spoke Proto-Armenian in the Armenian Highlands is assumed to have occurred around the time of the Bronze Age Collapse (sometime before c. 1200 BC).

One of the theories about the emergence of Armenian in the region is that Paleo-Balkan-speaking settlers related to Phrygians (the Mushki and/or the retroactively named Armeno-Phrygians), who had already settled in the western parts of the region prior to the establishment of the Kingdom of Van in Urartu, had become the ruling elite under the Median Empire, followed by the Achaemenid Empire.

The Armenians according to Diakonoff, are then an amalgam of the Hurrian (and Urartians), Luvians [Luwians] and the Proto-Armenian Mushki who carried their IE [Indo-European] language eastwards across Anatolia.

After arriving in its historical territory, Proto-Armenian would appear to have undergone massive influence by the languages it eventually replaced. Armenian phonology, for instance, appears to have been greatly affected by Urartian, which may suggest a long period of bilingualism.

Recent findings in Armenian genetics reveal heavy mixing of groups from the 3000s BC until the Bronze Age collapse. Admixture signals seem to have decreased to insignificant levels after c. 1200 BC, after which Armenian DNA remained stable, which appears to have been caused by Armenians’ isolation from their surroundings, and subsequently sustained by the cultural/linguistic/religious distinctiveness that persists until today.

The connection between the Mushki and Armenians is unclear as nothing is known of the Mushki language. Some modern scholars have rejected a direct linguistic relationship with Proto-Armenian if the Mushki were Thracians or Phrygians.

Additionally, recent findings in genetic research does not support significant admixture into the Armenian nation after 1200 BC, making the Mushki, if they indeed migrated from a Balkan or western Anatolian homeland during or after the Bronze Age Collapse, unlikely candidates for the Proto-Armenians.

However, as others have placed (at least the Eastern) Mushki homeland in the Armenian Highlands and South Caucasus region, it is possible that at least some of the Mushki were Armenian-speakers or speakers of a closely related language. Some modern studies show that Armenian is as close to Indo-Iranian as it is to Greek and Phrygian.

An alternate theory suggests that speakers of Proto-Armenian were tribes indigenous to the northern Armenian highlands, such as the Hayasans, Diauehi, and/or Etiuni. Although these groups are only known only from references left by neighboring peoples (such as Hittites, Urartians, and Assyrians), Armenian etymologies have been proposed for their names.

While the Urartian language was used by the royal elite, the population they ruled was likely multi-lingual, and some of these peoples would have spoken Armenian. This can be reconciled with the Phrygian/Mushki theory if those groups originally came from the Caucasus region or Armenian Highlands.

The Indo-Europeans

The third branch (P297), crossed the Caucasus into the vast Pontic-Caspian Steppe, which provided ideal grazing grounds for cattle. They split into two factions: R1b1a1 (M73), which went east along the Caspian Sea to Central Asia, and R1b1a2 (M269), which at first remained in the North Caucasus and the Pontic Steppe between the Dnieper and the Volga.

It is not yet clear whether M73 actually migrated across the Caucasus and reached Central Asia via Kazakhstan, or if it went south through Iran and Turkmenistan. In any case, M73 would be a pre-Indo-European branch of R1b, just like V88 and M335.

R1b-M269 (the most common form in Europe) is closely associated with the diffusion of Indo-European languages, as attested by its presence in all regions of the world where Indo-European languages were spoken in ancient times, from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Indian subcontinent.

The Neolithic, Eneolithic and early Bronze Age cultures in Pontic-Caspian steppe has been called the Kurgan culture (4200-2200 BCE) by Marija Gimbutas, due to the lasting practice of burying the deads under mounds (“kurgan”) among the succession of cultures in that region.

It is now known that kurgan-type burials only date from the 4th millenium BCE and almost certainly originated south of the Caucasus. The genetic diversity of R1b being greater around eastern Anatolia, it is hard to deny that R1b evolved there before entering the steppe world.

The Leyla-Tepe culture of ancient Caucasian Albania belongs to the Chalcolithic era. It got its name from the site in the Agdam district of modern day Azerbaijan. Its settlements were distributed on the southern slopes of Central Caucasus, from 4350 until 4000 BC. The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region (Arslantepe, Coruchu-tepe, Tepechik, etc.).

Among the sites associated with this culture, the Soyugbulag kurgans or barrows are of special importance. The excavation of these kurgans, located in Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia, demonstrated an unexpectedly early date of such structures on the territory of Azerbaijan. They were dated to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC.

The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, closely associated with subsequent civilizations found on the Armenian Highlands. This is evident with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets, which closely resemble Armenian tonirs.

It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.

Leyla-Tepe pottery is very similar to the ‘Chaff-Faced Ware’ of the northern Syria and Mesopotamia. It is especially well attested at Amuq F phase. Similar pottery is also found at Kultepe, Azerbaijan.

In 2012, the important site of Galayeri, belonging to the Leyla-Tepe archaeological culture, was investigated. It is located in the Qabala District of modern day Azerbaijan. Galayeri is closely connected to early civilizations of Near East.

Structures consisting of clay layers are typical; no mud-brick walls have been detected at Galayeri. Almost all findings have Eastern Anatolian Chalcolithic characteristics. The closest analogues of the Galayeri clay constructions are found at Arslantepe/Melid VII in Temple C.

The appearance of Leyla-Tepe tradition’s carriers in the Caucasus marked the appearance of the first local Caucasian metallurgy. This is perhaps but not entirely attributed to migrants from Uruk, arriving around 4500 BCE. Recent research indicates the connections rather to the pre-Uruk traditions, such as the late Ubaid period, and Ubaid-Uruk phases.

Leyla-Tepe metalwork tradition was very sophisticated right from the beginning, and featured many bronze items. Later, the quality of metallurgy increased in both sophistication & quality with the advent of the Kura–Araxes culture.

The Maykop culture (scientific transliteration: Majkop, Russian: майкоп, [mai.kɔp]), c. 3700 BC–3000 BC, was a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the western Caucasus region. The Maykop people lived sedentary lives, and horses formed a very low percentage of their livestock, which mostly consisted of pigs and cattle.

It extends along the area from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan and southwards to the Kura River. The culture takes its name from a royal burial found in Maykop kurgan in the Kuban River valley.

In the south, the Maykop culture bordered the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500—2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it.

To the north is the Yamna culture, including the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.

The Kuban River is navigable for much of its length and provides an easy water-passage via the Sea of Azov to the territory of the Yamna culture, along the Don and Donets River systems. The Maykop culture was thus well-situated to exploit the trading possibilities with the central Ukraine area.

Maykop inhumation practices were characteristically Indo-European, typically in a pit, sometimes stone-lined, topped with a kurgan (or tumulus). Stone cairns replace kurgans in later interments. The Maykop kurgan was extremely rich in gold and silver artifacts; unusual for the time.

In the early 20th century, researchers established the existence of a local Maykop animal style in the artifacts found. This style was seen as the prototype for animal styles of later archaeological cultures: the Maykop animal style is more than a thousand years older than the Scythian, Sarmatian and Celtic animal styles.

Archaeologists have discovered a unique form of bronze cheek-piece, which consists of a bronze rod with a twisted loop in the middle that threads through the nodes and connects to the bridle, halter strap, and headband. Notches and bumps on the edges of the cheek-pieces were, apparently, to attach nose and under-lip straps.

Some of the earliest wagon wheels in the world are found in Maykop culture area. The two solid wooden wheels from the kurgan of Starokorsunskaya in the Kuban region have been dated to the second half of the fourth millennium.

Horses were first domesticated around 4600 BCE in the Caspian Steppe, perhaps somewhere around the Don or the lower Volga, and soon became a defining element of steppe culture.

The history of R1b and R1a are intricately connected to each others. Haplogroups R1b and R1a, now the most common in Europe (R1a is also common in South Asia), would have expanded from the Pontic–Caspian steppes, along with the Indo-European languages.

The Yamnaya culture, also known as the Yamnaya Horizon, Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC.

The Yamnaya culture originated in the Don–Volga area, and is dated 3300–2600 BC. An early regional stage of Yamnaya is labeled the Mikhaylovka culture. It was preceded by the middle Volga-based Khvalynsk culture and the Don-based Repin culture (c. 3950–3300 BC).

Earlier continuity from eneolithic but largely hunter-gatherer Samara culture and influences from the more agricultural Dnieper–Donets II are apparent. Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition: Ямная (romanization: yamnaya) is a Russian adjective that means ‘related to pits (yama)’, and these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers.

The people of the Yamnaya culture were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus. People with this ancestral component are known as Western Steppe Herders.

According to Jones et al. (2015) and Haak et al. (2015), autosomic tests indicate that the Yamnaya people were the result of a genetic admixture between two different hunter-gatherer populations:

The distinctive “Eastern European hunter-gatherers” with high affinity to the Mal’ta–Buret’ culture or other, closely related people from Siberia and a population of “Caucasus hunter-gatherers” who probably arrived from the Caucasus. Each of those two populations contributed about half the Yamnaya DNA.

Several genetic studies performed since 2015 have given support to the Kurgan theory of Marija Gimbutas regarding the Indo-European Urheimat – that Indo-European languages spread throughout Europe from the Eurasian steppes and that the Yamnaya culture were Proto-Indo-Europeans.

According to those studies, haplogroups R1b and R1a, now the most common in Europe (R1a is also common in South Asia), would have expanded from the Pontic–Caspian steppes, along with the Indo-European languages.

They also detected an autosomal component present in modern Europeans which was not present in Neolithic Europeans, which would have been introduced with paternal lineages R1b and R1a, as well as Indo-European languages in the Bronze Age.

Recent studies display genetic continuity between the paternal lineages of the Dnieper-Donets culture and the Yamnaya culture, as the males of both cultures have been found to have been mostly carriers of R1b, and to a lesser extent I2.

While the mtDNA of the Dnieper-Donets people is exclusively types of U, which is associated with Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs) and Western Hunter Gatherers (WHGs), the mtDNA of the Yamnaya also includes types frequent among Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers (CHGs) and Early European Farmers (EEFs).

This admixture is referred to as Western Steppe Herder (WSH), and has earlier been found among the Sredny Stog culture and the Khvalynsk culture, who preceded the Yamnaya culture on the Pontic–Caspian steppe.

Unlike their Khvalynsk predecessors however, the Y-DNA of the Yamnaya is exclusively of EHG and WHG origin. This suggests that the leading clans of the Yamnaya were of EHG and WHG origin.

Admixture between EHGs and CHGs is believed to have occurred on the eastern Pontic-Caspian steppe around 5,000 BC, while admixture with EEFs happened in the southern parts of the Pontic-Caspian steppe sometime later. As Yamnaya Y-DNA is exclusively of the EHG and WHG type, the admixture appears to have occurred between EHG and WHG males, and CHG and EEF females.

According to David W. Anthony, this implies that the Indo-European languages were initially spoken among the EHGs of Eastern Europe. Their material culture was very similar to the Afanasevo culture. They lived primarily as nomads, with a chiefdom system and wheeled carts that allowed them to manage large herds.

According to Anthony (2007), the early Yamnaya horizon spread quickly across the Pontic–Caspian steppes between c. 3400 and 3200 BC. It is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans. They are also closely connected to Final Neolithic cultures, which later spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware people and the Bell Beaker culture, as well as the peoples of the Sintashta, Andronovo, and Srubnaya cultures.

In these groups, several aspects of the Yamnaya culture are present. Genetic studies have also indicated that these populations derived large parts of their ancestry from the steppes.

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

In its western range, it was succeeded by the Catacomb culture (2800–2200 BC); in the east, by the Poltavka culture (2700–2100 BC) at the middle Volga. These two cultures were followed by the Srubnaya culture (18th–12th century BC).

R1a is thought to have been the dominant haplogroup among the northern and eastern Proto-Indo-European tribes, who evolved into the Indo-Iranian, Thracian, Baltic and Slavic people.Their dramatic expansion was possible thanks to an early adoption of bronze weapons and the domestication of the horse in the Eurasian steppes (circa 4000-3500 BCE).

Individuals from the southern part of the Steppe are believed to have carried predominantly lineages belonging to haplogroup R1b (L23 and subclades), while the people of northern forest-steppe to the north would have belonged essentially to haplogroup R1a.

The first expansion of the forest-steppe people occured with the Corded Ware Culture. The migration of the R1b people to central and Western Europe left a vacuum in the southern steppe, which was filled by the R1a-dominant tribes with the expansion of the Catacomb culture (2800-2200 BCE).

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

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

The Indo-Europeans’s bronze weapons and the extra mobility provided by horses would have given them a tremendous advantage over the autochthonous inhabitants of Europe, namely the native haplogroup C1a2, F and I (descendants of Cro-Magnon) and the early Neolithic herders and farmers (G2a, H2, E1b1b and T1a). This allowed R1a and R1b to replace most of the native male lineages, although female lineages seem to have been less affected.

Environmental Changes

During weak arid events (e.g. 5650–5500 BC, 5300–5100 BC and 4750–4650 BC) 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) in the eastern part of the arid steppe zone. 

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 transition to the Early Eneolithic (5250–5100 BC) was connected with a collapse of the Neolithic cultures. The new Sredny Stog culture (5250–4200 BC) was involved in animal husbandry and agriculture.

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. 4000 BC 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.

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. This migration initiated formation of the western variant of the Sredny Stog culture about 4350 BC.

In 4350–4200 BC, the settlements of the Sredny Stog culture were only known in valleys of the Don and Dnieper as well as in the forest–steppe border zone (the Severski Donets basin). These sites were absent from open steppes as a result of the increased aridity and deterioration of living conditions in the southern zone and in valleys with small rivers.

A part of the Sredniy Stog population migrated from the southern steppes to the southern region of modern forest–steppe zone, where the migrants assimilated with the local Dnieper–Donets Neolithic population to form a new Eneolithic Dereivka culture chronologically correlated with the stage of climate aridity (4300–3800 BC). Most of the documented settlements and burials were found only in the northern present-day steppe and the southern forest–steppe zone.

Probably, during a 100 year-interval, two co-existent Eneolithic cultures occupied the southern regions, with the Dereivka culture established under more favorable environmental conditions in a border zone of steppe and forest–steppe, with some woods on watersheds and biotically richer river valleys.

In the steppe zone of the Dnieper valley, marginal populations of the Late Sredny Stog culture practicing agriculture and animal husbandry suffered from regular droughts, causing reduction of parkland habitats.

A new stage with increased moisture started between 4250 and 4150 BC. Improved living conditions in the southern steppe zone lead to expansion of the Dereivka population, gradually assimilating the local populations by ca. 4200 BC.

Archaeological research has unearthed a broad range of historical cultures which can be related to the spread of the Indo-European languages. Various steppe-cultures show strong similarities with the Yamna-horizon at the Pontic steppe, while the time-range of several Asian cultures also coincides with the proposed trajectory and time-range of the Indo-European migrations.

According to the widely accepted Kurgan hypothesis or Steppe theory, the Indo-European language and culture spread in several stages from the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat in the Eurasian Pontic steppes into Western Europe, Central and South Asia, through folk migrations and so-called elite recruitment.

This process started with the introduction of cattle at the Eurasian steppes around 5200 BCE, and the mobilisation of the steppe herder cultures with the introduction of wheeled wagons and horse-back riding, which led to a new kind of culture.

Between 4,500 and 2,500 BCE, this “horizon”, which includes several distinctive cultures, spread out over the Pontic steppes, and outside into Europe and Asia. Both Asko Parpola and David Anthony regard the Khvalynsk culture as the culture that established the roots of Early Proto-Indo-European around 4500 BCE in the lower and middle Volga.

Early migrations at ca. 4200 BCE brought steppe herders into the lower Danube valley, either causing or taking advantage of the collapse of Old Europe. According to Anthony, the Anatolian branch, to which the Hittites belong, probably arrived in Anatolia from the Danube valley. Alternatively, David Reich has mentioned that the possibility exists that archaic PIE originated in the Caucasus, from where archaic PIE speaking people migrated into Anatolia.

Migrations eastward from the Repin culture founded the Afanasevo culture which developed into the Tocharians. The Tarim mummies may represent a migration of Tocharian speakers from the Afanasevo culture into the Tarim Basin. Migrations southward may have founded the Maykop culture, but the Maykop origins could also have been in the Caucasus.

The western Indo-European languages (Germanic, Celtic, Italic) probably spread into Europe from the Balkan-Danubian complex, a set of cultures in Southeastern Europe. At ca. 3000 BCE a migration of Proto-Indo-European speakers from the Yamna-culture took place toward the west, along the Danube river, Slavic and Baltic developed a little later at the middle Dniepr (present-day Ukraine), moving north toward the Baltic coast.

The Corded Ware culture in Middle Europe (third millennium BCE), which materialized with a massive migration from the Eurasian steppes to Central Europe, probably played a central role in the spread of the pre-Germanic and pre-Balto-Slavic dialects.

The eastern part of the Yamnaya horizon and the Corded Ware culture contributed to the Sintashta culture (c. 2100–1800 BCE), where the Indo-Iranian language and culture emerged, and where the chariot was invented.

The Indo-Iranian language and culture was further developed in the Andronovo culture (c. 1800–800 BCE), and influenced by the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (c. 2400–1600 BCE). The Indo-Aryans split off around 1800–1600 BCE from the Iranians, whereafter Indo-Aryan groups moved to the Levant (Mitanni), northern India (Vedic people, c. 1500 BCE), and China (Wusun). The Iranian languages spread throughout the steppes with the Scyths and into Iran with the Medes, Parthians and Persians from ca. 800 BCE.

According to Marija Gimbutas, the process of “Indo-Europeanization” of Europe was essentially a cultural, not a physical transformation. It is understood as a migration of Yamnaya people to Europe, as military victors, successfully imposing a new administrative system, language and religion upon the indigenous groups, referred to by Gimbutas as Old Europeans.

The Yamnaya people’s social organization, especially a patrilinear and patriarchal structure, greatly facilitated their effectiveness in war. According to Gimbutas, the social structure of Old Europe “contrasted with the Indo-European Kurgans who were mobile and non-egalitarian” with a hierarchically organised tripartite social structure; the IE were warlike, lived in smaller villages at times, and had an ideology that centered on the virile male, reflected also in their pantheon. In contrast, the indigenous groups of Old Europe had neither a warrior class nor horses.

Indo-European languages probably spread through language shifts. Small groups can change a larger cultural area, and elite male dominance by small groups may have led to a language shift in northern India.

According to Guus Kroonen, Indo-Europeans encountered existing populations that spoke dissimilar, unrelated languages when they migrated to Europe from Yamnaya steppes.

Relatively little is known about the Pre-Indo-European linguistic landscape of Europe, except for Basque, as the Indo-Europeanization of Europe caused a largely unrecorded, massive linguistic extinction event, most likely through language-shift.

Guus Kroonen’s study reveals that PIE speech contains a clear Neolithic signature emanating from the Aegean language family and thus patterns with the prehistoric migration of Europe’s first farming populations.

According to Edgar Polomé, 30% of non-Indo-European substratum found in modern German derives from non-Indo-European-speakers of Funnelbeaker Culture indigenous to southern Scandinavia.

When Yamnaya Indo-European speakers came into contact with the indigenous peoples during the third millennium BCE, they came to dominate the local populations yet parts of the indigenous lexicon persisted in the formation of Proto-Germanic, thus lending to the Germanic languages the status of Indo-Europeanized languages. According again to Marija Gimbutas, Corded Ware cultures migration to Scandinavia “synthesized” with the Funnelbeaker culture, giving birth to the Proto-Germanic language.

David Anthony, in his “revised Steppe hypothesis” notes that the spread of the Indo-European languages probably did not happen through “chain-type folk migrations”, but by the introduction of these languages by ritual and political elites, which were emulated by large groups of people, a process which he calls “elite recruitment”.

According to Parpola, local elites joined “small but powerful groups” of Indo-European speaking migrants. These migrants had an attractive social system and good weapons, and luxury goods which marked their status and power.

Joining these groups was attractive for local leaders, since it strengthened their position, and gave them additional advantages. These new members were further incorporated by matrimonial alliances.

According to Joseph Salmons, language shift is facilitated by “dislocation” of language communities, in which the elite is taken over. According to Salmons, this change is facilitated by “systematic changes in community structure”, in which a local community becomes incorporated in a larger social structure.

Since the 2000s genetical studies are assuming a prominent role in the research on Indo-European migrations. Whole-genome studies reveal relations between various cultures and the time-range in which those relations were established.

Research by Haak et al. (2015) showed that ~75% of the Corded Ware ancestry came from Yamna-related populations, while Allentoft et al. (2015) shows that the Sintashta culture is genetically related to the Corded Ware culture.

Climate change and drought may have triggered both the initial dispersal of Indo-European speakers, and the migration of Indo-Europeans from the steppes in south central Asia and India.

Around 4200–4100 BCE a climate change occurred, manifesting in colder winters in Europe. Steppe herders, archaic Proto-Indo-European speakers, spread into the lower Danube valley about 4200–4000 BCE, either causing or taking advantage of the collapse of Old Europe.

The Yamnaya horizon was an adaptation to a climate change which occurred between 3500 and 3000 BCE, in which the steppes became drier and cooler. Herds needed to be moved frequently to feed them sufficiently, and the use of wagons and horse riding made this possible, leading to “a new, more mobile form of pastoralism”.

In the second millennium BCE widespread aridization led to water shortages and ecological changes in both the Eurasian steppes and south Asia. At the steppes, humidization led to a change of vegetation, triggering “higher mobility and transition to the nomadic cattle breeding”.

Water shortage also had a strong impact in south Asia, “causing the collapse of sedentary urban cultures in south central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, and India, and triggering large-scale migrations”.

The Indo-Iranian language and culture probably emerged within the Sintashta culture (circa 2100–1800 BCE), at the eastern border of the Yamnaya horizon and the Corded Ware culture, growing into the Andronovo culture (ca. 1900–800 BCE) which two first phases are Fedorovo Andronovo culture (ca. 1900–1400 BCE) and Alakul Andronovo culture (ca. 1800–1500 BCE).

Indo-Aryans moved into the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (ca. 2400–1600 BCE) and spread to the Levant (Mitanni), northern India (Vedic people, ca. 1500 BCE), and China (Wusun). The Iranian languages spread throughout the steppes with the Scyths and into Ancient Iran with the Medes, Parthians and Persians from ca. 800 BCE.

A similar process took place during the Late Bronze Age (15th–12th centuries BC) with a relatively cool and wet climate in Eastern Europe. In these favorable climatic conditions, the Late Bronze population of the Pontic steppes experienced economic development.

Archaeological evidence for this time is represented by large, long-term settlements with stone, clay and wooden architecture. The economy was based on settled agriculture reflected in the continuous use of the land. Many settlements were located in regions which today experience regular shortage of water and are often uninhabited.

About the 11th century BC, a period of long climate aridity is recorded in Eastern Europe. Worsening climatic conditions had negative effect on the Pontic steppe archaeological cultures (Belozerka and Post-Srubnaja) with a mixed pastoral–agricultural economy.

The environmental crisis may have been strengthened by the anthropogenous pressure on the local environment (intensive ploughing, destruction of steppe vegetation due to pasturing of animals, etc).

The Early Iron Age was characterized by nomadism in the Eurasian steppes. The appearance of these innovations in ancient economies of local communities was a reaction to climate fluctuations.

The beginning of the Early Iron Age in the Pontic steppe was connected with the Cimmerian culture (1000–650 BC). Its economy is characterized as nomadic cattle-herding with winter camps along the Black Sea coast and summer camps in the northern
border of the steppe. At present, there are more than 250 burials, hoards and other type of archaeological monuments belonging to this culture.

In the first half of this arid stage, at the beginning of the 9th century BC, a new Cimmerian culture formed on the basis of the Late Bronze cultures. Progressive regional aridity caused the Cimmerian expansion in the Pontic steppe from Northern Caucasus to the Danube.

At the aridity maximum at ca. 950 BC, the Cimmerians moved from the Pontic steppe region to the northern areas with a more favorable environment. These migrations probably occurred in several stages. The pastoral nomadic way of life persisted during the ecological crisis caused by lack of forage during the droughts, or during military events.

Migration of the Cimmerians took place in several directions into the zones with a positive moisture budget: the Dnieper forest–steppe zone, the Crimea Peninsula, the Northern Caucasus and the Great Hungarian plain.

Cimmerian migrations provoked armed conflicts with local inhabitants. The early military aggression of the Cimmerians is indicated by the destroyed settlements of the Chernolesskaja and Bondarikha cultures (Subbotovo, Buzovka etc.) in the forest–steppe zone between the Dnieper and Don rivers.

The migrations and the formation of new cultures are only one aspect of human adaptation to the climate changes and landscape transformations. Another side of this process lies in the adaptation of an ancient economy.

Steppe Ancestry

The official papers Olalde et al. (Nature 2018) and Mathieson et al. (Nature 2018) have appeared. They are based on the 2017 preprints at BioRxiv The Beaker Phenomenon And The Genomic Transformation Of Northwest Europe and The Genomic History Of Southeastern Europe respectively, but with a sizeable number of new samples.


Papers are behind a paywall, but here are the authors’ shareable links to read the papers and supplementary materials: Olalde et al. (2018), Mathieson et al. (2018).


NOTE: The corresponding datasets have been added to the Reich Lab website. Remember you can use my drafts on DIY Human Ancestry analysis (viz. Plink/Eigensoft, PCA, or ADMIXTURE) to investigate the data further in your own computer.



Image modified by me, from Olalde et al (2018). PCA of 999 Eurasian individuals. Marked is the late CWC outlier sample from Esperstedt, showing how early East Bell Beaker samples are the closest to Yamna samples.

I don’t have time to analyze the samples in detail right now, but in short they seem to convey the same information as before: in Olalde et al. (2018) the pattern of Y-DNA haplogroup and steppe ancestry distribution is overwhelming, with an all-R1b-L23 Bell Beaker people accompanying steppe ancestry into western Europe.


EDIT: In Mathieson et al. (2018), a sample classified as of Ukraine_Eneolithic from Dereivka ca. 2890-2696 BC is of R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103 subclade, so Western Yamna during the migrations also of R1b-L23 subclades, in contrast with the previous R1a lineages in Ukraine. In Olalde et al. (2018), it is clearly stated that of the four BB individuals with higher steppe ancestry, the two with higher coverage could be classified as of R1b-S116/P312 subclades.


This is compatible with the expansion of Indo-European-speaking Yamna migrants (also mainly of R1b-L23 subclades) into the East Bell Beaker group, as described with detail in Archaeology (and with the population movement we are seeing having been predicted) first by Volker Heyd in 2007.



Yamna – East Bell Beaker migration 3000-2300 BC. Adapted from Harrison and Heyd (2007), Heyd (2007)

Also, the resurge of R1a-Z645 subclades in Czech and Polish lands (from previous Corded Ware migrants) accompanying other lineages indigenous to the region – seems to have happened only after the Bell Beaker expansion into these territories, during the Bronze Age, probably leading to the formation of the Balto-Slavic community, as I predicted based on previous papers. The fact that a sample of R1b-U106 subclade pops up in this territory is interesting from the point of view of a shared substrate with Germanic, as is the earlier BB sample of R1b-Z2103 for its connection with Graeco-Aryan dialects.


All this suggests that a North-West Indo-European dialect – ancestor of Italo-Celtic, Germanic, and Balto-Slavic -, supported in Linguistics by most modern Indo-European schools of thought, expanded roughly along the Danube, and later to northern, eastern, and western Europe with the Bell Beaker expansion, as supported in Anthropology by Mallory (in Celtic from the West 2, 2013), and by Prescott for the development of a Nordic or Pre-Germanic language in Scandinavia since 1995.



Diachronic map of Late Copper Age migrations including Classical Bell Beaker (east group) expansion from central Europe ca. 2600-2250 BC

Maybe more importantly, the fact that only Indo-Iranian-speaking Sintashta-Petrovka (and later Andronovo) cultures were clearly associated with R1a-Z645 subclades, and rather late – after mixing with early Chalcolithic North Caspian steppe groups (mainly East Yamna and Poltavka herders of R1b-L23 subclades) – gives support to the theory that Corded Ware (and probably the earlier Sredni Stog) groups did not speak or spread Indo-European languages with their migration, but most likely Uralic – as seen in recent papers on the much later arrival of haplogroup N1c – (compatible with the Corded Ware substrate hypothesis), adopting Indo-Iranian by way of cultural diffusion or founder effect events.


As Sheldon Cooper would say,


Under normal circumstances I’d say I told you so. But, as I have told you so with such vehemence and frequency already the phrase has lost all meaning. Therefore, I will be replacing it with the phrase, I informed you thusly

I am reading in forums about “Kroonen’s proposal” of Anatolian in the 3rd millennium. That is false. The Copenhagen group (in particular the authors of the linguistic supplement, Kroonen, Barjamovic, and Peyrot) are merely referencing Archi (2011. “In Search of Armi”. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 63: 5–34) in turn using transcriptions from Bonechi (1990. “Aleppo in età arcaica; a proposito di un’opera recente”. Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici sul Vicino Oriente Antico 7: 15–37.), who asserted the potential Anatolian origin of the terms. This is what Archi had to say about this:


Most of these personal names belong to a name-giving tradition different from that of Ebla; Arra-ti/tulu(m) is attested also at Dulu, a neighbouring city-state (Bonechi 1990b: 22–25).28 We must, therefore, deduce that Armi belonged to a marginal, partially Semitized linguistic area different from the ethno-linguistic region dominated by Ebla. Typical are masculine personal names ending in -a-du: A-la/li-wa-du/da, A-li/lu-wa-du, Ba-mi-a-du, La-wadu, Mi-mi-a-du, Mu-lu-wa-du. This reminds one of the suffix -(a)nda, -(a)ndu, very productive in the Anatolian branch of Indo-European (Laroche 1966: 329). Elements such as ali-, alali-, lawadu-, memi-, mula/i- are attested in Anatolian personal names of the Old Assyrian period (Laroche 1966: 26–27, 106, 118, 120).



Ebla’ first kingdom at its height c. 2340 BC. Hipothetical location of Armi depicted. The first Eblaite kingdom extended from Urshu in the north,1 to Damascus area in the south.2 And from Phoenicia and the coastal mountains in the west,3 4 to Tuttul,5 and Haddu in the east.6 The eastern kingdom of Nagar controlled most of the Khabur basin from the river junction with the Euphrates to the northwestern part at Nabada.7 Page 101. From Wikipedia.

This was used by Archi to speculatively locate the state of Armi, in or near Ebla territory, which could correspond with the region of modern north-western Syria:


The onomastic tradition of Armi, so different from that of Ebla and her allies (§ 5), obliges us to locate this city on the edges of the Semitized area and, thus, necessarily north of the line running through Hassuwan – Ursaum – Irritum – Harran. If Armi were to be found at Banat-Bazi, it would have represented an anomaly within an otherwise homogenous linguistic scenario.34


Taken as a whole, the available information suggests that Armi was a regional state, which enjoyed a privileged relationship with Ebla: the exchange of goods between the two cities was comparable only to that between Ebla and Mari. No other state sent so many people to Ebla, especially merchants, lú-kar. It is only a hypothesis that Armi was the go-between for Ebla and for the areas where silver and copper were extracted.


This proposal is similar to the one used to support Indo-Aryan terminology in Mittanni (ca. 16th-14th c. BC), so the scarce material should not pose a problem to those previously arguing about the ‘oldest’ nature of Indo-Aryan.


NOTE. On the other hand, the theory connecting ‘mariannu‘, a term dated to 1761 BC (referenced also in the linguistic supplement), and put in relation with PIIr. *arya–, seems too hypothetical for the moment, although there is a clear expansion of Aryan-related terms in the Middle East that could support one or more relevant eastern migration waves of Indo-Aryans from Asia.


Potential routes of Anatolian migration

Once we have accepted that Anatolian is not Late PIE – and that only needed a study of Anatolian archaisms, not the terminology from Armi – , we can move on to explore the potential routes of expansion.


On the Balkan route

A current sketch of the dots connecting Khvalynsk with Anatolia is as follows.



1—39 — sceptre bearers of the type Giurgiuleşti and Suvorovo; 40—60 — Gumelniţa-Varna-Bolgrad-Aldeni cultural sphere; 61 — Fălciu; 62 — Cainari; 63 — Giurgiuleşti; 64 — Suvorovo; 65 — Casimcea; 66 — Kjulevča; 67 — Reka Devnja; 68 — Drama; 69 — Gonova Mogila; 70 — Reževo.

First, we have the early expansion of Suvorovo chieftains spreading from ca. 4400-4000 BC in the lower Danube region, related to Novodanilovka chiefs of the North Pontic region, and both in turn related to Khvalynsk horse riders (read a a recent detailed post on this question).


Then we have Cernavoda I (ca. 3850-3550 BC), a culture potentially derived from the earlier expansion of Suvorovo chiefs, as shown in cultural similarities with preceding cultures and Yamna, and also in the contacts with the North Pontic steppe cultures (read a a recent detailed post on this question).


We also have proof of genetic inflow from the steppe into populations of cultures near those suggested to be heirs of those dominated by Suvorovo chiefs, from the 5th millennium BC (in Varna I ca. 4630 BC, and Smyadovo ca. 4500 BC, see image below).


If these neighbouring Balkan peoples of ca. 4500 BC are taken as proxies for Proto-Anatolians, then it becomes quite clear why Old Hittite samples dated 3,000 years after this migration event of elite chiefs could show no or almost no ancestry from Europe (for this question, read my revision of Lazaridis’ preprint).


NOTE. A full account of the crisis in the lower Danube, as well as the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka intrusion, is available in Anthony (2007).



Modified image, including PCA and supervised ADMIXTURE data from Mathieson et al. (2018). Blue arrow represents incoming ancestry from Suvorovo chiefs, red line represents distance from the majority of the neighbouring Balkan population in this period studied to date. Northwestern-Anatolian Neolithic (grey), Yamnaya from Samara (yellow), EHG (pink) and WHG (green).

The southern Balkans and Anatolia

The later connection of Cernavoda II-III and related cultures (and potentially Ezero) with Troy, on the other hand, is still blurry. But, even if a massive migration of Common Anatolian is found to happen from the Balkans into Anatolia in the late 4th / beginning of the 3rd millennium, the people responsible for this expansion could show a minimal trace of European ancestry.


A new paper has appeared recently (in Russian), Dubene and Troy: Gold and Prosperity in the Third Millennium Cal. BCE in Eurasia. Stratum Plus, 2 (2018), by L. Nikolova, showing commercial contacts between Troy and cultures from Bulgaria:


Earlier third millennium cal BCE is the period of development of interconnected Early Bronze Age societies in Eurasia, which economic and social structures expressed variants of pre-state political structures, named in the specialized literature tribes and chiefdoms. In this work new arguments will be added to the chiefdom model of third millennium cal BC societies of Yunatsite culture in the Central Balkans from the perspectives of the interrelations between Dubene (south central Bulgaria) and Troy (northwest Turkey) wealth expression.


Possible explanations of the similarity in the wealth expression between Troy and Yunatsite chiefdoms is the direct interaction between the political elite. However, the golden and silver objects in the third millennium cal BCE in the Eastern Mediterranean are most of all an expression of economic wealth. This is the biggest difference between the early state and chiefdoms in the third millennium cal BCE in Eurasia and Africa. The literacy and the wealth expression in the early states was politically centralized, while the absence of literacy and wider distribution of the wealth expression in the chiefdoms of the eastern Mediterranean are indicators, that wider distribution of wealth and the existed stable subsistence layers prevented the formation of states and the need to regulate the political systems through literacy.


The only way to link Common Anatolians to their Proto-Anatolian (linguistic) ancestors would therefore be to study preceding cultures and their expansions, until a proper connecting route is found, as I said recently.


These late commercial contacts in the south-eastern Balkans (Nikolova also offers a simplified presentation of data, in English) are yet another proof of how Common Anatolian languages may have further expanded into Anatolia.


NOTE. One should also take into account the distribution of modern R1b-M269* and L23* subclades (i.e. those not belonging to the most common subclades expanding with Yamna), which seem to peak around the Balkans. While those may just belong to founder effects of populations preceding Suvorovo or related to Yamna migrants, the Balkans is a region known to have retained Y-DNA haplogroup diversity, in contrast with other European regions.


On a purely linguistic aspect, there are strong Hattic and Hurrian influences on Anatolian languages, representing a unique layer that clearly differentiates them from LPIE languages, pointing also to different substrates behind each attested Common Anatolian branch or individual language:


Phonetic changes, like the appearance of /f/ and /v/.

Split ergativity: Hurrian is ergative, Hattic probably too.

Increasing use of enclitic pronoun and particle chains after first stressed word: in Hattic after verb, in Hurrian after nominal forms.

Almost obligatory use of clause initial and enclitic connectors: e.g. semantic and syntactic identity of Hattic pala/bala and Hittite nu.

NOTE. For a superficial discussion of this, see e.g. An Indo-European Linguistic Area and its Characteristics: Ancient Anatolia. Areal Diffusion as a Challenge to the Comparative Method?, by Calvert Watkins. You can also search for any of the mentioned shared isoglosses between Middle Eastern languages and Anatolian if you want more details.


On the Caucasus route

It seems that the Danish group is now taking a stance in favour of a Maykop route (from the linguistic supplement):


The period of Proto-Anatolian linguistic unity can now be placed in the 4th millennium BCE and may have been contemporaneous with e.g. the Maykop culture (3700–3000 BCE), which influenced the formation and apparent westward migration of the Yamnaya and maintained commercial and cultural contact with the Anatolian highlands (Kristiansen et al. 2018).


In fact, they have data to support this:


The EHG ancestry detected in individuals associated with both Yamnaya (3000–2400 BCE) and the Maykop culture (3700–3000 BCE) (in prep.) is absent from our Anatolian specimens, suggesting that neither archaeological horizon constitutes a suitable candidate for a “homeland” or “stepping stone” for the origin or spread of Anatolian Indo- European speakers to Anatolia. However, with the archaeological and genetic data presented here, we cannot reject a continuous small-scale influx of mixed groups from the direction of the Caucasus during the Chalcolithic period of the 4th millennium BCE.


While it is difficult to speak about the consequences of this find without having access to this paper in preparation or its samples, we already knew that Maykop had obvious cultural contacts with the steppe.


It will not be surprising to find not only EHG, but also R1b-L23 subclades there. In my opinion, though, the most likely source of EHG ancestry in Maykop (given the different culture shown in other steppe groups) is exogamy.


The question will still remain: was this a Proto-Anatolian-speaking group?



Diachronic map of Eneolithic migrations ca. 4000-3100 BC

My opinion in this regard – again, without access to the study – is that you would still need to propose:


A break-up of Anatolian ca. 4500 BC represented by some early group migrating into the Northern Caucasus area.

For this group – who were closely related linguistically and culturally to early Khvalynsk – to remain isolated in or around the Northern Caucasus, i.e. somehow ‘hidden’ from the evolving LPIE speakers in late Khvalynsk/early Yamna peoples.

Then, they would need to have migrated from Maykop to Anatolian territory only after ca. 3700 BC – while having close commercial contacts with Khvalynsk and the North Pontic cultures in the period 3700-3000 BC -, in some migration wave that has not showed up in the archaeological records to date.

Then appear as Old Hittites without showing EHG ancestry (even though they show it in the period 3700-3000 BC), near the region of the Armi state, where Anatolian was supposedly spoken already in the mid-3rd millennium.

Not a very convincing picture, right now, but indeed possible.


Also, we have R1b-Z2103 lineages and clear steppe ancestry in the region probably ca. 2500 BC with Hajji Firuz, which is most likely the product of the late Khvalynsk migration waves that we are seeing in the recent papers.


These migrations are then related to early LPIE-speaking migrants spreading after ca. 3300 BC – that also caused the formation of early Yamna and the expansion of Tocharian-related migrants – , which leaves almost no space for an Anatolian expansion, unless one supports that the former drove the latter.


NOTE. In any case, if the Caucasus route turned out to be the actual Anatolian route, I guess this would be a way as good as any other to finally kill their Indo-European – Corded Ware theory, for obvious reasons.


On the North Iranian homeland

A few thoughts for those equating CHG ancestry in IE speakers (and especially now in Old Hittites) with an origin in North Iran, due to a recent comment by David Reich:


In the paper it is clearly stated that there is no Neolithic Iranian ancestry in the Old Hittite samples.


Ancestry is not people, and it is certainly not language. The addition of CHG ancestry to the Eneolithic steppe need not mean a population or linguistic replacement. Although it could have been. But this has to be demonstrated with solid anthropological models.


NOTE. On the other hand, if you find people who considered (at least until de Barros Damgaard et al. 2018) steppe (ancestry/PCA) = Indo-European, then you should probably confront them about why CHG in Hittites and the arrival of CHG in steppe groups is now not to be considered the same, i.e why CHG / Iran_N ≠ PIE.


Since there has been no serious North Iranian homeland proposal made for a while, it is difficult to delineate a modern sketch, and I won’t spend the time with that unless there is some real anthropological model and genetic proof of it. I guess the Armenian homeland hypothesis proposed by Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1995) would do, but since it relies on outdated data (some of which appears also in Gimbutas’ writings), it would need a full revision.


NOTE. Their theory of glottalic consonants (or ejectives) relied on the ‘archaism’ of Hittite, Germanic, and Armenian. As you can see (unless you live in the mid-20th century) this is not very reasonable, since Hittite is attested quite late and after heavy admixture with Middle Eastern peoples, and Germanic and Armenian are some of the latest attested (and more admixed, phonetically changed) languages.


This would be a proper answer, indeed, for those who would accept this homeland due to the reconstruction of ‘ejectives’ for these languages. Evidently, there is no need to posit a homeland near Armenia to propose a glottalic theory. Kortlandt is a proponent of a late and small expansion of Late PIE from the steppe, and still proposes a reconstruction of ejectives for PIE. But, this was the main reason of Gamkrelidze and Ivanov to propose that homeland, and in that sense it is obviously flawed.


Those claiming a relationship of the North Iranian homeland with such EHG ancestry in Maykop, or with the hypothetic Proto-Euphratic or Gutian, are obviously not understanding the implications of finding steppe ancestry coupled with (likely) early Late PIE migrants in the region in the mid-4th millennium.

I already expressed my predictions for 2018. One of the most interesting questions among them is the identification of the early Anatolian offshoot, and this is – I believe – where Genomics has the most to say in Indo-European migrations.


Linguistics and Archaeology had already a mainstream account from Late PIE/Yamna onwards, and it has been proven right in Genomic investigation. There is, however, no consensus on Indo-Hittite.



Apart from the Anatolian homeland hypothesis and its westward migration (as referenced e.g. by Lazaridis et al. 2017), the other possibility including the most likely steppe homeland is that Proto-Anatolian spread through the Balkans, and must have separated from Khvalynsk and travelled first westward through the North Pontic region, and then southward to Ezero.


EDIT (10 MAR 2018): The Anatolian westward route within the steppe homeland model refers to the possibility that Proto-Anatolian spread south through the Caucasus, and then westward through Anatolia, as suggested e.g. originally by Marija Gimbutas for Maykop, as a link in the Caucasus.


We all know that this Khvalynsk -> Novodanilovka-Suvorovo -> Cernavoda -> Ezero -> Troy migration model proposed by Anthony shows no conspicuous chain in Archaeology, but obvious contacts (including Genomics) are seen among some of these neighbouring cultures in different times.


We know that remains of Suvorovo-Novodanilovka culture of chiefs emerged around 4400-4200 BC among ordinary local Sredni Stog settlements:


the Novodanilovka rich burials in the steppes, near the Dnieper,

and the Suvorovo group in the Danube delta, roughly coinciding with the massive abandonment of old tell settlements in the area.

One of the strongest cultural connections between Khvalynsk and Suvorovo Novodanilovka chiefs is the similar polished stone mace-heads shaped like horse heads found in both cultures, a typical steppe prestige object going back to the east Pontic-Caspian steppe beginning ca. 5000-4800 BC.


Its finding in the Danube valley may have signalled the expansion of horse riding, which is compatible with the finding of ancient domesticated horses in the region. Horses were not important in Old European cultures, and it seems that they weren’t in Sredni Stog or Kvitjana either.



Steppe and Danubian sites at the time: of the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka intrusion, about 4200-3900 BC. David W. Anthony (2007).

NOTE. Telegin, the main source of knowledge in Ukraine prehistoric cultures for Anthony, was eventually convinced that Surovovo-Novodanilovka was a separate culture. However, for Anthony (using Telegin’s first impressions), it may have been a wealthy elite among Sredni Stog peoples. Anthony considers Sredni Stog to have been also influenced by Khvalynsk, and thus potentially related to the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka chiefs.


Nevertheless, he obviously cannot link North Pontic Eneolithic cultures to Khvalynsk nor to horse riding – whilst he clearly assumes horse riding for Novodanilovka-Suvorovo chiefs – , and he does not link North Pontic cultures to later expansions of Late Proto-Indo-Europeans from late Khvalynsk and Yamna, either.


The question here for Anthony (as with further Proto-Anatolian expansions described in his 2007 book), in my opinion, was to offer a plausible string of connections between Khvalynsk and Anatolia, and the simplest connection one can make among steppe cultures is a general, broad community between North Pontic and North Caspian cultures. That way, the knot tying Khvalynsk to the Danube seems stronger, whatever the origin of Suvorovo-Novodanilovka chiefs.


If, however, a direct genetic connection is made between Suvorovo-Novodanilovka chiefs and Khvalynsk – as in its association with R1b-M269 and R1b-L23 lineages – , there will be little need to include Sredni Stog or any other intermediate culture in the equation.


We have already seen a movement of steppe ancestry into mainland Greece, and I would not be surprised if a parallel movement could be seen from Ezero to Troy (or a neighbouring North-West Anatolian region), so that the final migration of Common Anatolian had in fact been triggered by the massive steppe migrations during the Chalcolithic.


NOTE. Whereas we are certain to find R1b-L23 subclades in the direct Balkan migrations from Yamna, the link of steppe->Anatolia migrations may be a little trickier: even if we find out that the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka expansion was associated with an expansion and reduction of haplogroup variability (to haplogroups R1b-M269 and R1b-L23), we don’t know yet if the ca. 1,500 years passed (and the different cultural and population changes occurred) between Proto-Anatolian and Common Anatolian migrations may have impacted the main haplogroup composition of both communities.


O&M 2018

A probably unsurprising – because of its previously known admixture and PCA – , but nevertheless disappointing finding came from the Y-SNP call of the haplogroup R1 found in Varna (R1b-V88, given first by Genetiker), leaving us with no new haplogroup data standing out for this period.


This sample’s lack of obvious genetic links with the steppe and early date didn’t deter me from believing it could show subclade M269, and thus a sign of incoming Suvorovo chiefs in the region. After all, R1b-P297 subclades seemed to have almost disappeared from the Balkans by that time, and we know that assessments based only on ancestral components and PCA clusters are not infallible – we are seeing that in many, many samples already.



1—39 — sceptre bearers of the type Giurgiuleşti and Suvorovo; 40—60 — Gumelniţa-Varna-Bolgrad-Aldeni cultural sphere; 61 — Fălciu; 62 — Cainari; 63 — Giurgiuleşti; 64 — Suvorovo; 65 — Casimcea; 66 — Kjulevča; 67 — Reka Devnja; 68 — Drama; 69 — Gonova Mogila; 70 — Reževo. Țerna S., Govedarica B. (2016)

NOTE. In fact, the first time I checked Mathieson et al. (2018) supplementary tables I thought that the ‘Ukraine_Eneolithic’ sample of R1b-L23 subclade was ‘it’: the first clear proof in ancient samples of incoming Suvorovo chiefs from Khvalynsk I was looking for…Until I realized its date, and that it was more likely a Late Yamna (or Catacomb) sample.


Steppe ancestry is found in the Varna and Smyadovo outliers, though, and these samples cluster closely to Ukraine Eneolithic samples (which are among Khvalynsk, Ukraine Neolithic, and Anatolia Neolithic clusters), so some population movement must have happened around or before that time in the region, and it is obvious that it happened from east to west.


It remains to be seen, therefore:


  1. a) If the incoming Suvorovo-Novodanilovka chiefs (most likely originally from Khvalynsk) dominating over North Pontic and Danube regions show – as I bet – R1b-M269, and possibly also early R1b-L23* subclades,


  1. b) Or else they still show mixed lineages, reflecting an older admixed population of the Pontic-Caspian steppe – as the early Khvalynsk and Ukraine Eneolithic samples we have now.


NOTE. Even though my preferred model of migration is through the Balkans – due to the many east-west migrations seen from the steppe into Europe – , there is no general consensus here because of the lack of solid anthropological models, and there are cultural links found also between the steppe and Anatolia through the Caucasus, so the question remains open.


An interesting observation is that steppe zone individuals directly north of the Caucasus (Eneolithic Samara and Eneolithic steppe) had initially not received any gene flow from Anatolian farmers.

Instead, the ancestry profile in Eneolithic steppe individuals shows an even mixture of EHG and CHG ancestry, which argues for an effective cultural and genetic border between the contemporaneous Eneolithic populations in the North Caucasus, notably Steppe and Caucasus.

Due to the temporal limitations of our dataset, we currently cannot determine whether this ancestry is stemming from an existing natural genetic gradient running from EHG far to the north to CHG/Iran in the south or whether this is the result of farmers with Iranian farmer/ CHG-related ancestry reaching the steppe zone independent of and prior to a stream of Anatolian farmer-like ancestry, where they mixed with local hunter-gatherers that carried only EHG ancestry.

Concerning the influences from the south, our oldest dates from the immediate Maykop predecessors Darkveti-Meshoko (Eneolithic Caucasus) indicate that the Caucasus genetic profile was present north of the range ~6500 BP, 4500 calBCE.

This is in accordance with the Neolithization of the Caucasus, which had started in the flood plains of the great rivers in the South Caucasus in the 6th millennium BCE from where it spread to the West and Northwest Caucasus during the 5th millennium BCE9, 49. It remains unclear whether the local CHG ancestry profile (represented by Late Upper Palaeolithic/Mesolithic individuals from Kotias Klde and Satsurblia in today’s Georgia) was also present in the North Caucasus region before the Neolithic.

However, if we take the Caucasus hunter-gatherer individuals from Georgia as a local baseline and the oldest Eneolithic Caucasus individuals from our transect as a proxy for the local Late Neolithic ancestry, we notice a substantial increase in Anatolian farmer-related ancestry.

This in all likelihood is linked to the process of Neolithization, which also brought this type of ancestry to Europe. As a consequence, it is possible that Neolithic groups could have reached the northern flanks of the Caucasus earlier50 (Supplementary Information 1) and in contact with local hunter gatherers facilitated the exploration of the steppe environment for pastoralist economies. Hence, additional sampling from older individuals is needed to fill this temporal and spatial gap.

The newest paper of the Reich/Jena group has brought samples (probably) much nearer to the actual CHG and ANE contribution seen in Eneolithic steppe peoples than the previously available Kotias Klde, Satsurblia, Afontova Gora 3, or Mal’ta.

It is impossible to say without direct access to the samples, but it is very likely that we will soon be able to break down different gross contributions from groups similar to these Steppe/Caucasus Neolithic ancestral groups into the diverse Eneolithic cultures of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, and thus trace more precisely each of these cultures to their genetic (and thus ethnolinguistic) heirs.

Some more representative samples from Eneolithic steppe, steppe-forest and forest zone cultures of Eastern Europe will probably help with the fine-scale structure of different Chalcolithic groups, especially the homeland of early Corded Ware groups.

These new samples seem another good reason (like the Botai and R1b-M73) to rethink the role of (what I assumed were) different westward Mesolithic Eurasian waves of expansion influencing the formation of an Indo-Uralic and Indo-European community in Eastern Europe, and return to the simpler idea of local contributions from North Caucasus and steppe peoples absorbed by expanding EHG-like groups.





The so-called steppe ancestry was born during the Khvalynsk expansion through the steppes, probably through exogamy of expanding elite clans (eventually all R1b-M269 lineages) originally of Samara_HG ancestry.

The nearest group to the ANE-like ghost population with which Samara hunter-gatherers admixed is represented by the Steppe_Eneolithic / Steppe_Maykop cluster (from the Northern Caucasus Piedmont).

Steppe_Eneolithic samples, of R1b1 lineages, are probably expanded Khvalynsk peoples, showing thus a proximate ancestry of an Early Eneolithic ghost population of the Northern Caucasus. Steppe_Maykop samples represent a later replacement of this Steppe_Eneolithic population – and/or a similar population with further contribution of ANE-like ancestry – in the area some 1,000 years later.

We have direct data of Khvalynsk-Novodanilovka-like populations thanks to Khvalynsk and Steppe_Eneolithic samples (although I’ve used the latter above to represent the ghost Caucasus population with which Samara_HG admixed).

It is unclear if R1a-M459 subclades were continuously in the steppe and resurged after the Khvalynsk expansion, or (the most likely option) they came from the forested region of the Upper Dnieper area, possibly from previous expansions there with hunter-gatherer pottery.

Supporting the latter is the millennia-long continuity of R1b-V88 and I2a2 subclades in the north Pontic Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Early Eneolithic Sredni Stog culture, until ca. 4500 BC (and even later, during the second half).

Only at the end of the Early Eneolithic with the disappearance of Novodanilovka (and beginning of the steppe ‘hiatus’ of Rassamakin) is R1a to be found in Ukraine again (after disappearing from the record some 2,000 years earlier), related to complex population movements in the north Pontic area.

In the PCA, a tentative position of Novodanilovka closer to Anatolia_Neolithic / Dzudzuana ancestry is selected, based on the apparent cline formed by Ukraine Eneolithic samples, and on the position and ancestry of Sredni Stog, Yamna, and Corded Ware later.

A good alternative would be to place Novodanilovka still closer to the Balkan outliers (i.e. Suvorovo), and a source closer to EHG as the ancestry driven by the migration of R1a-M417.

The first sample with steppe ancestry appears only after 4250 BC in the forest-steppe, centuries after the samples with steppe ancestry from the Northern Caucasus and the Balkans, which points to exogamy of expanding R1a-M417 lineages with the remnants of the Novodanilovka population.

We don’t have direct data on early Repin settlers. But we do have a very close representative: Afanasevo, a population we know comes directly from the Repin/late Khvalynsk expansion ca. 3500/3300 BC (just before the emergence of Early Yamna), and which shows fully Steppe_Eneolithic-like ancestry.

Compared to this eastern Repin expansion that gave Afanasevo, the late Repin expansion to the west ca. 3300 BC that gave rise to the Yamna culture was one of colonization, evidenced by the admixture with north Pontic (Sredni Stog-like) populations, no doubt through exogamy.

This admixture is also found (in lesser proportion) in east Yamna groups, which supports the high mobility and exogamy practices among western and eastern Yamna clans, not only with locals.

Corded Ware represents a quite homogeneous expansion of a late Sredni Stog population, compatible with the traditional location of Proto-Corded Ware peoples in the steppe-forest/forest zone of the Dnieper-Dniester region.

We don’t have a comparison with Ukraine_Eneolithic or Corded Ware samples in Wang et al. (2018), but we do have proximate sources for Abashevo, when compared to the Poltavka population (with which it admixed in the Volga-Ural steppes): Sintashta, Potapovka, Srubna (with further Abashevo contribution), and Andronovo.

The two CWC outliers from the Baltic show what I thought was an admixture with Yamna. However, given the previous mixture of Eneolithic_Steppe in north Pontic steppe-forest populations, this elevated “steppe ancestry” found in Baltic_LN (similar to west Yamna) seems rather an admixture of Baltic sub-Neolithic peoples with a north Pontic Eneolithic_Steppe-like population. Late Repin settlers also admixed with a similar population during its colonization of the north Pontic area, hence the Baltic_LN – west Yamna similarities.

A direct admixture with west Yamna populations through exogamy by the ancestors of this Baltic population cannot be ruled out yet (without direct access to more samples), though, because of the contacts of Corded Ware with west Yamna settlers in the forest-steppe regions.

A similar case is found in the Yamna outlier from Mednikarovo south of the Danube. It would be absurd to think that Yamna from the Balkans comes from Corded Ware (or vice versa), just because the former is closer in the PCA to the latter than other Yamna samples. The same error is also found e.g. in the Corded Ware → Bell Beaker theory, because of their proximity in the PCA and their shared “steppe ancestry”. All those theories have been proven already wrong.

A similar fallacy is found in potential Sintashta→Mycenaean connections, where we should distinguish statistically that result from an East/West Yamna + Balkans_BA admixture. In fact, genetic links of Mycenaeans with west Yamna settlers prove this (there are some related analyses in Anthrogenica, but the site is down at this moment).

To try to relate these two populations (separated more than 1,000 years before Sintashta) is like comparing ancient populations to modern ones, without the intermediate samples to trace the real anthropological trail of what is found…Pure numbers and wishful thinking.

Steppe Hypothesis

The vast grasslands making up the Eurasian steppe zones, from Ukraine through Kazakhstan to Mongolia, have served as a crossroad for human population movements during the last 5000 years, but the dynamics of its human occupation—especially of the earliest period—remain poorly understood.

The domestication of the horse at the transition from the Copper Age to the Bronze Age ~3000 BCE, enhanced human mobility and may have triggered waves of migration. According to the commonly accepted “Steppe Hypothesis,” this expansion of groups in the western steppe related to the Yamnaya and Afanasievo cultures was associated with the initial spread of Indo-European (IE) languages into both Europe and Asia.

According to the “Steppe Hypothesis” the spread of Indo-European (IE) languages took place with migrations of Early Bronze Age Yamnaya pastoralists from the Pontic–Caspian steppe into Europe and Asia during the Early Bronze Age c. ~3000 BCE. This is believed to have been enabled by horse domestication, which revolutionized transport and warfare.

The peoples who formed the Yamnaya and Afanasievo cultures belonged to the same genetically homogenous population, with direct ancestry attributed to both Copper Age (CA) western steppe pastoralists, descending primarily from the European Eastern hunter-gatherers (EHG) of the Mesolithic, and to Caucasian groups, related to Caucasus hunter-gatherers (CHG).

While in Europe there is much support for the Steppe Hypothesis, the impact of Western steppe pastoralists in Asia, including Anatolia, remains less well understood, with limited archaeological evidence for their presence.

Within Europe, the “Steppe Hypothesis” is supported by the reconstruction of Proto-IE (PIE) vocabulary, as well as by archaeological and genomic evidence of human mobility and Early Bronze Age (3000–2500 BCE) cultural dynamics.

For Asia, however, several conflicting interpretations have long been debated.  These concern the origins and genetic composition of the local Asian populations encountered by the Yamnaya- and Afanasievo-related populations, including the groups associated with the Botai culture of the central steppe in Northern Kazakhstan around 3500–3000 BCE.

The early spread of Yamnaya Bronze Age pastoralists had limited genetic impact in Anatolia as well as Central and South Asia. The lack of steppe ancestry in samples from Anatolia indicates that the spread of IE languages into that region was not associated with a steppe migration.

In Anatolia, Bronze Age samples, including from Hittite speaking settlements associated with the first written evidence of IE languages, show genetic continuity with preceding Anatolian Copper Age (CA) samples and have substantial Caucasian hunter-gatherer (CHG)-related ancestry but no evidence of direct steppe admixture.

Furthermore, genetic, archaeological, and linguistic hypotheses diverge on the timing and processes by which steppe genetic ancestry and the IE languages spread into South Asia. In South Asia, West Eurasian ancestry entered South Asia before and after, rather than during, the initial expansion of western steppe pastoralists, with the later event consistent with a Late Bronze Age entry of IE languages into South Asia.

Distinct migrations brought West Eurasian ancestry into South Asia before and after but not at the time of Yamnaya culture. There are at least two distinct waves of admixture from the west: the first occurring from a source related to the Copper Age Namazga farming culture from the southern edge of the steppe, the second by Late Bronze Age steppe groups into the northwest of the subcontinent.

Whole-genome sequences from across Inner Asia and Anatolia show that the Copper Age Botai population of Central Asia derived from an ancient hunter-gatherer ancestry previously seen in the Upper Paleolithic Mal’ta (MA1), while deeply diverged from the Yamnaya and the Western steppe pastoralists.

The Botai population form part of a previously undescribed west-to-east cline of Holocene prehistoric steppe genetic ancestry in which Botai, Central Asians, and Baikal groups can be modeled with different amounts of Eastern hunter-gatherer (EHG) and Ancient East Asian (AEA) genetic ancestry represented by Baikal EN.

As such, the Asian story of Early Bronze Age expansions differs from that of Europe. Intriguingly, we find that direct descendants of Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers of Central Asia, now extinct as a separate lineage, survived well into the Bronze Age.

These groups likely engaged in early horse domestication as a prey-route transition from hunting to herding, as otherwise seen for reindeer. The earliest unambiguous evidence for horse husbandry is from the Botai hunter-herder culture, while direct evidence for Yamnaya equestrianism remains elusive.

There was extensive debate over whether Botai horses were hunted or herded, but more recent studies have evidenced harnessing and milking, the presence of likely corrals, and genetic domestication selection at the horse TRPM1 coat-color locus.

However, whilst horse husbandry has been demonstrated at Botai, it is also now clear from genetic studies this was not the source of modern domestic horse stock. Some have suggested that the Botai were local hunter-gatherers who learnt horse husbandry from an early eastward spread of western pastoralists, such as the Copper Age herders buried at Khvalynsk (~5150–3950 BCE), closely related to Yamnaya and Afanasievo. Others have suggested an in-situ transition from the local hunter-gatherer community.

Yamnaya is best modelled as an approximately equal mix of EHG and Caucasian HG ancestry. The earlier Khvalynsk samples from the same area also show Caucasian ancestry. The Botai CA samples, however, show no signs of admixture with a Caucasian source.

Although Yamnaya Karagash EBA shared ANE ancestry with Botai CA from MA1 through EHG, their lineages diverge approximately 15,000 years ago in the Paleolithic. Similarly, while the Botai CA has some Ancient East Asian ancestry, there is no sign of this in Khvalynsk or Yamnaya.

Consistent with this, a simple model without direct gene flow between Botai CA and Yamnaya, but with shared EHG-related ancestry between them, fits all statistics, and successfully fits models for Yamnaya ancestry without any Botai CA contribution.

The separation between Botai and Yamnaya is further reinforced by a lack of overlap in Y-chromosomal lineages. While Yamnaya Karagash EBA sample carries the R1b1a2a2c1 lineage seen in other Yamnaya and present-day Eastern Europeans, one of the two Botai CA males belongs to the basal N lineage, while the second carries the R1b1a1 haplogroup.

While basal N lineage has a predominantly Northern Eurasian distribution the R1b1a1 haplogroup is restricted almost exclusively to Central Asian and Siberian populations. Neither of these Botai lineages has been observed among Yamnaya males.

There is also a disparity in affinities with present-day populations between Yamnaya and Botai genomes. Consistent with previous results there can be observed a contribution from Yamnaya Karagash EBA to present-day Europeans.

Conversely, Botai CA shows greater affinity to Central Asian, Siberian, and Native American populations, coupled with some sharing with northeastern European groups at a lower level than that for Yamnaya, due to their ANE ancestry.

Further towards the Altai, the genomes of two Central Steppe EMBA women, who were buried in Afanasievo-like pit graves, revealed them to be representatives of an unadmixed Inner Asian ANE-related group, almost indistinguishable from the Okunevo EMBA of the Minusinsk Basin north of the Altai through D-statistics.

This lack of genetic and cultural congruence may be relevant to the interpretation of Afanasievo-type graves elsewhere in Central Asia and Mongolia. However, in contrast to the lack of identifiable admixture from Yamnaya and Afanasievo in the Central Steppe EMBA, there is an admixture signal of 10–20% Yamnaya and Afanasievo in the Okunevo EMBA samples, consistent with evidence of western steppe influence.

This signal is not seen on the X chromosome, suggesting a male-derived admixture, somethiv=ng which also is consistent with the fact that 1 of 10 Okunevo EMBA males carries a R1b1a2a2 Y chromosome related to those found in western pastoralists.

In contrast, there is no evidence of western steppe admixture among the more eastern Baikal region Bronze Age (~2200–1800 BCE) samples.

The lack of evidence of admixture between Botai horse herders and western steppe pastoralists is consistent with these latter migrating through the central steppe but not settling until they reached the Altai to the east. More significantly, this lack of admixture suggests that horses were domesticated by hunter-gatherers not previously familiar with farming, as were the cases for dogs and reindeer.

The domestication of the dog predates agriculture. The dog was the first species to be domesticated, and has been selectively bred over millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes. The domestication of animals commenced over 15,000 years ago, beginning with the grey wolf (Canis lupus) by nomadic hunter-gatherers.

The archaeological record and genetic analysis show the remains of the Bonn–Oberkassel dog buried beside humans 14,200 years ago to be the first undisputed dog, with disputed remains occurring 36,000 years ago. It was not until 11,000 years ago that people living in the Near East entered into relationships with wild populations of aurochs, boar, sheep, and goats.

Where the domestication of the dog took place remains debated, with the most plausible proposals spanning Western Europe, Central Asia and East Asia. This has been made more complicated by the recent proposal that an initial wolf population split into East and West Eurasian groups.

These two groups, before going extinct, were domesticated independently into two distinct dog populations between 14,000 and 6,400 years ago. The Western Eurasian dog population was gradually and partially replaced by East Asian dogs introduced by humans at least 6,400 years ago. This proposal is also debated.

Their long association with humans has led dogs to be uniquely attuned to human behavior and they are able to thrive on a starch-rich diet that would be inadequate for other canids. Dogs vary widely in shape, size and colors.

They perform many roles for humans, such as hunting, herding, pulling loads, protection, assisting police and military, companionship and, more recently, aiding disabled people and therapeutic roles. This influence on human society has given them the sobriquet of “man’s best friend”.

The reindeer is the only domesticated deer in the world, though it may be more accurate to consider reindeer as semi-domesticated. Reindeer in northern Fennoscandia (northern Norway, Sweden and Finland) as well in the Kola Peninsula and Yakutia in Russia, are all semi-wild domestic reindeer, ear-marked by their owners.

Some reindeer in the area are truly domesticated, mostly used as draught animals (nowadays commonly for tourist entertainment and races, traditionally important for the nomadic Sámi). Domesticated reindeer have also been used for milk, e.g. in Norway. Siberian reindeer owners also use the reindeer to ride on (Siberian reindeer are larger than their Scandinavian relatives).

There are only two genetically pure populations of wild reindeer in Northern Europe: wild mountain reindeer that live in central Norway, with a population in 2007 of between 6,000 and 8,400 animals; and wild Finnish forest reindeer that live in central and eastern Finland and in Russian Karelia.

It is believed that domestication started between the Bronze and Iron Ages. DNA analysis indicates that reindeer were independently domesticated in Fennoscandia and Western Russia (and possibly Eastern Russia). The reindeer has an important economic role for all circumpolar peoples, including the Saami, the Nenets, the Khants, the Evenks, the Yukaghirs, the Chukchi and the Koryaks in Eurasia.

Domestication of the horse thus may best parallel that of the reindeer, a food animal that can be milked and ridden, which has been proposed to be domesticated by hunters via the “prey path”; indeed anthropologists note similarities in cosmological beliefs between hunters and reindeer herders. In contrast, most animal domestications were achieved by settled agriculturalists.

In contrast, the more western sites that have been supposed by some to reflect the use of horses in the Copper Age lack direct evidence of domesticated horses. Even the later use of horses among Yamnaya pastoralists has been questioned by some despite the key role of horses in the “Steppe Hypothesis.”

The presence of Western Eurasian ancestry in many present-day South Asian populations south of the central steppe has been used to argue for gene flow from Early Bronze Age (~3000– 2500 BCE) western steppe pastoralists into the region. However, direct influence of Yamnaya or related cultures of that period is not visible in the archaeological record, except perhaps for a single burial mound in Sarazm in present-day Tajikistan of contested age.

Additionally, linguistic reconstruction of proto-culture coupled with the archaeological chronology evidences a Late (~2300–1200 BCE) rather than Early Bronze Age (~3000–2500 BCE) arrival of the Indo-Iranian languages into South Asia.

Thus, debate persists as to how and when Western Eurasian genetic signatures and IE languages reached South Asia. Thus, debate persists as to how and when Western Eurasian genetic signatures and IE languages reached South Asia. The question is whether the source of the Western Eurasian signal in South Asians could derive from sources other than Yamnaya and Afanasievo.

Both Early Bronze Age (~3000–2500 BCE) steppe pastoralists Yamnaya and Afanasievo and Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) Sintashta and Andronovo carry substantial amounts of EHG and CHG ancestry.

However, the latter group can be distinguished by a genetic component acquired through admixture with European Neolithic farmers during the formation of the Corded Ware complex, reflecting a secondary push from Europe to the east through the forest-steppe zone.

Samples from Namazga period III (~3300 BCE) are placed in an intermediate position between Iran Neolithic and Western Steppe clusters. Consistent with this, the Namazga CA individuals carry a significantly larger fraction of EHG-related ancestry than Neolithic skeletal material from Iran. However, there can have been a two-population model in which Namazga CA ancestry was derived from a mixture of Neolithic Iranians and EHG.

Although CHG contributed both to Copper Age steppe individuals (e.g., Khvalynsk ~5150–3950 BCE) and substantially to Early Bronze Age (~3000–2500 BCE) steppe Yamnaya and Afanasievo, we do not find evidence of CHG-specific ancestry in Namazga. Moreover, a three-population model using Iran Neolithic, EHG, and CHG as sources yields a negative admixture coefficient for CHG.

This suggests that while we cannot totally reject a minor presence of CHG ancestry, steppe-related admixture most likely arrived in the Namazga population prior to the Copper Age or from unadmixed sources related to EHG. This is consistent with the upper temporal boundary provided by the date of the Namazga CA samples (~3300 BCE).

In contrast, the Iron Age (~900–200 BCE) individual from the same region as Namazga (labelled Turkmenistan IA) is closer to the steppe cluster and does have CHG-specific ancestry. However, it also has European farmer-related ancestry typical of Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) steppe populations (Turkmenistan IA), suggesting that it received admixture from Late (~2300–1200 BCE) rather than Early Bronze Age (~3000–2500 BCE) steppe populations.

In a PCA focused on South Asia, the first dimension corresponds approximately to West-East and the second dimension to North-South. Near the lower right are the Andamanese Onge previously used to represent the “Ancient South Asian” component.

Contemporary South Asian populations are placed along both East-West and North-South gradients, reflecting the presence of three major ancestry components in South Asia deriving from “West Eurasians,” “South Asians,” and “East Asians.”

The Namazga CA individuals appear at one end of the West Eurasian / South Asian axis, and given their geographical proximity to South Asia, this group could be a potential source in a set of models for the South Asian populations.

We are not able to reject a two-population model using Namazga CA and Andamanese Onge for 9 modern southern and predominantly Dravidian-speaking populations. In contrast, for 7 other populations belonging to the northernmost Indic- and Iranian-speaking groups, this two-population model is rejected, but not a three-population model including an additional Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) steppe source.

Lastly, for 7 southeastern Asian populations, 6 of which were Tibeto-Burman or Austro-Asiatic speakers, the three-population model with Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) steppe ancestry was rejected, but not a model in which Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) steppe ancestry was replaced with an East Asian ancestry source, as represented by the Late Iron Age (~200 BCE–100 CE) Xiongnu (Xiongnu IA) nomads from Mongolia.

Interestingly, for two northern groups, the only tested model we could not reject included the Iron Age (~900–200 BCE) individual (Turkmenistan IA) from the Zarafshan Mountains and the Xiongnu IA as sources.

These findings are consistent with the positions of the populations in PCA space, and further supported by admixture analysis with two minor exceptions: in both the Iyer and the Pakistani Gujar we observe a minor presence of the Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) steppe ancestry component not detected by the model approach. Additionally, we document admixture along the “West Eurasian” and “East Asian” clines of all South Asian populations using D-statistics.

Thus, we find that ancestries deriving from 4 major separate sources fully reconcile the population history of present-day South Asians, one anciently South Asian, one from Namazga or a related population, a third from Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) steppe pastoralists, and lastly one from East Asia.

They account for western ancestry in some Dravidian populations that lack CHG-specific ancestry while also fitting the observation that whenever there is CHG-specific ancestry and considerable EHG ancestry there is also European Neolithic ancestry. This implicates Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) steppe rather than Early Bronze Age (~3000–2500 BCE) Yamnaya and Afanasievo admixture into South Asia.

The proposal that the IE steppe ancestry arrived in the Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) is also more consistent with archaeological and linguistic chronology. Thus, it seems that the Yamnaya- and Afanasievo-related migrations did not have a direct genetic impact in South Asia.

Similarly, in present-day Turkey, the emergence of the Anatolian IE language branch including the Hittite language remains enigmatic, with conflicting hypotheses about population migrations leading to its emergence in Anatolia.

There is no evidence of steppe ancestry in Bronze Age Anatolia from when Indo-European languages are attested there. Thus, in contrast to Europe, Early Bronze Age Yamnaya-related migrations had limited direct genetic impact in Asia.

Finally, there are conflicting models for the earliest dispersal of IE languages into Anatolia. The now extinct Bronze Age Anatolian language group represents the earliest historically attested branch of the IE language family and is linguistically held to be the first branch to have split off from PIE.

One key question is whether Proto-Anatolian is a direct linguistic descendant of the hypothesized Yamnaya PIE language or whether Proto-Anatolian and the PIE language spoken by Yamnaya were branches of a more ancient language ancestral to both.

Another key question relates to whether Proto-Anatolian speakers entered Anatolia as a result of a “Copper Age western steppe migration” (~5000–3000 BCE) involving movement of groups through the Balkans into Northwest Anatolia, or a “Caucasian” route that links language dispersal to intensified north-south population contacts facilitated by the trans-Caucasian Maykop culture around 3700–3000 BCE.

Ancient DNA findings suggest extensive population contact between the Caucasus and the steppe during the Copper Age (~5000–3000 BCE). Particularly, the first identified presence of Caucasian genomic ancestry in steppe populations is through the Khvalynsk burials and that of steppe ancestry in the Caucasus is through Armenian Copper Age individuals.

These admixture processes likely gave rise to the ancestry that later became typical of the Yamnaya pastoralists, whose IE language may have evolved under the influence of a Caucasian language, possibly from the Maykop culture. This scenario is consistent with both the “Copper Age steppe”and the “Caucasian” models for the origin of the Proto-Anatolian language.

The PCA indicates that all the Anatolian genome sequences from the Early Bronze Age (~2200 BCE) and Late Bronze Age (~1600 BCE) cluster with a previously sequenced Copper Age (~3900–3700 BCE) individual from Northwestern Anatolia and lie between Anatolian Neolithic (Anatolia N) samples and CHG samples but not between Anatolia N and EHG samples.

These individuals share more alleles with CHG than Neolithic Anatolians do, and we are not able to reject a two-population model in which these groups derive ~60% of their ancestry from Anatolian farmers and ~40% from CHG-related ancestry. This signal is not driven by Neolithic Iranian ancestry.

There was a widespread CHG-related gene flow, not only into Central Anatolia but also into the areas surrounding the Black Sea and Crete. The latter are not believed to have been influenced by steppe-related migrations and may thus correspond to a shared archaeological horizon of trade and innovation in metallurgy.

The Central Anatolian gene pools, including those sampled from settlements thought to have been inhabited by Hittite speakers, were not impacted by steppe populations during the Early and Middle Bronze Age.

The CHG-specific ancestry and the absence of EHG-related ancestry in Bronze Age Anatolia would be in accordance with intense cultural interactions between populations in the Caucasus and Anatolia observed during the late 5th millennium BCE that seem to come to an end in the first half of the 4th millennium BCE with the village-based egalitarian Kura-Araxes’ society, thus preceding the emergence and dispersal of Proto-Anatolian.

The early spread of IE languages into Anatolia was not associated with any large-scale steppe-related migration, as previously suggested. Additionally, and in agreement with the later historical record of the region, there are no correlation between genetic ancestry and exclusive ethnic or political identities among the populations of Bronze Age Central Anatolia, as has previously been hypothesized.

For Europe, ancient genomics have revealed extensive population migrations, replacements, and admixtures from the Upper Paleolithic to the Bronze Age with a strong influence across the continent from the Early Bronze Age (~3000–2500 BCE) western steppe Yamnaya.

In contrast, for Central Asia, continuity is observed from the Upper Paleolithic to the end of the Copper Age (~3500–3000 BCE), with descendants of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers persisting as largely isolated populations after the Yamnaya and Afanasievo pastoralist migrations.

Instead of western pastoralists admixing with or replacing local groups groups with East Asian ancestry replaced ANE populations in the Lake Baikal region. Thus, unlike in Europe, the hunter/gathering/herding groups of Inner Asia were much less impacted by the Yamnaya and Afanasievo expansion.

This may be due to the rise of early horse husbandry, likely initially originated through a local “prey route” adaptation by horse-dependent hunter-gatherers at Botai. Since work on ancient horse genomes indicates that Botai horses were not the main source of modern domesticates, this suggests the existence of a second center of domestication, but whether this second center was associated with the Yamnaya and Afanasievo cultures remains uncertain in the absence of horse genetic data from their sites.

The Copper Age (~3300 BCE) Namazga-related population from the borderlands between Central and South Asia contains both “Iran Neolithic” and EHG ancestry but not CHG-specific ancestry. This provides a solution to problems concerning the Western Eurasian genetic contribution to South Asians.

Rather than invoking varying degrees of relative contribution of “Iran Neolithic” and Yamnaya ancestries, the two western genetic components is explained with two separate admixture events. The first event, potentially prior to the Bronze Age, spread from a non-IE-speaking farming population from the Namazga culture or a related source down to Southern India.

Then the second came during the Late Bronze Age (~2300–1200 BCE) through established contacts between pastoral steppe nomads and the Indus Valley, bringing European Neolithic as well as CHG-specific ancestry, and with them Indo-Iranian languages into northern South Asia.

This is consistent with a long-range South Eurasian trade network around 2000 BCE, shared mythologies with steppe-influenced cultures, linguistic relationships between Indic spoken in South Asia, and written records from Western Asia from the first half of the 18th century BCE onwards.

In Anatolia, samples do not genetically distinguish Hittite and other Bronze Age Anatolians from an earlier Copper Age sample (~3943-3708 BCE). All these samples contain a similar level of CHG ancestry but no EHG ancestry.

This is consistent with Anatolian / Early European farmer ancestry, but not steppe ancestry, in the Copper Age Balkans and implies that the Anatolian clade of IE languages did not derive from a large-scale Copper Age / Early Bronze Age population movement from the steppe. This is consistent with historical models of cultural hybridity and “Middle Ground” in a multi-cultural and multi-lingual but genetically homogenous Bronze Age Anatolia.

Current linguistic estimations converge on dating the Proto-Anatolian split from residual PIE to the late 5th or early 4th millennia BCE and place the breakup of Anatolian IE inside Anatolia prior to the mid-3rd millennium.

New onomastic material pushes the period of Proto-Anatolian linguistic unity even further back in time. We cannot at this point reject a scenario in which the introduction of the Anatolian IE languages into Anatolia was coupled with the CHG-derived admixture prior to 3700 BCE, but note that this is contrary to the standard view that PIE arose in the steppe north of the Caucasus and that CHG ancestry is also associated with several non-IE-speaking groups, historical and current.

Indeed, this is also consistent with the first speakers of Anatolian IE coming to the region by way of commercial contacts and small-scale movement during the Bronze Age. Among comparative linguists, a Balkan route for the introduction of Anatolian IE is generally considered more likely than a passage through the Caucasus, due, for example, to greater Anatolian IE presence and language diversity in the west.

Thus, while the “Steppe hypothesis,” in the light of ancient genomics, has so far successfully explained the origin and dispersal of IE languages and culture in Europe, there are several elements that must be re-interpreted to account for Asia.

First, the earliest unambiguous example of horse herding emerged amongst hunter-gatherers, who had no significant genetic interaction with western steppe herders. Second, the Anatolian IE language branch, including Hittite, did not derive from a substantial steppe migration into Anatolia.

And third, the Early Bronze Age steppe pastoralists did not migrate into South Asia as the genetic evidence fits better with the Indo-Iranian languages being brought to the region by descendants of Late Bronze Age steppe pastoralists.

Indo-European Languages


Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list. It is described in Sumerian literature as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them.

Aratta is remote and difficult to reach. It is home to the goddess Inanna, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk. The name is connected to the Indo-European root Ar- meaning “assemble/create” which is vastly used in names of or regarding the Sun, light, or fire, found in Ararat, Aryan, Arta etc.

Armanum – Armi

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources.

The earliest is from an inscription which mentions Armânum together with Ibla (Ebla) as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in c. 2250 BC.

Another mention by pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”.

Armin is a given name or surname, and is an ancient Zoroastrian given name in Persian, meaning “Guardian of Aryan land”.


Urartu, corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili) was an Iron Age kingdom centered on Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands. The landscape corresponds to the mountainous plateau between Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the Iranian Plateau, and the Caucasus Mountains, later known as the Armenian Highlands.

In the early sixth century BC, Urartu was replaced by the Armenian Orontid Dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun Inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius I, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in the Elamite language.


The title “Aryan” is the Anglicized form of the Sanskrit Arya, the “noble or exalted”, a term which is employed in Indian literature, ancient and modern, solely in a racial sense to designate the fair ruling and civilizing race as opposed to the dark aboriginal subject people, and India itself was called the “Land or Region of the Aryas or Aryans.” It means noble etc from the root “ar”, hence the European words Arl (Earl) meaning “Nobleman” and also the German word Ahre meaning “Honour”.

It is similarly used in a ruling sense by the Sumerians, Akkads, Amorites, and Hittites in its earlier form of Ar, Ara, Ari, Har or Harri, also meaning “exalted or noble”, and similarly with a like meaning in Ancient Egypt; and ancient Greek name of Aeria or Harie for Egypt, probably designated that country as the “Land of the Ari or the Aryans”.

The Medes, as Herodotus records, were formerly called Arii and Ariana or Land of the Ari was a title of Persia and the source of the modern name Iran for that land. The title Harri is used by the Mitanni or the Early Medes, on their records about 1400 BC.

Darius-the-Great calls himself on his tomb “an Ariyo of Ariyo descent”. It is the Her title of the Ancient Goths, in their great epics, the Eddas, and the source of the modern Herr or “master” of the Teutons and Scandinavians, of the Irish Celtic Aira, a “chief” or “nobleman”, and of the Ar in aristocratic.

This title Ar, Ari, Arya, or Aryan appears to have originally designated the Early Aryans as “The Ploghmen” from the Sumerian Ar, Ara, “plough”, which is now disclosed as the source of the Old English ear, “to plough, to ear the ground” and of “ar-able”, etc.

The Aryans are now seen to have been the traditional inventors of the plough and of the Agricultural Era of the World; and the sense of Ara or “the exalted ones” appears to have been used for this title when this gifted race became the rulers of the various aboriginal tribes-the Sumerian also gives the plough sign the meaning of “raise up, exalt” as the secondary meaning of ploughing as “the uplifting” of the earth.

Ensi means dream interpreter (en, enigmatic background+sig, to dwell; to complete), and city ruler (Old Sumerian), city governor (post-Sargonic) (en, lord, manager,+si, plowland,+ genitive; cf., nísañ, governor). They held most political power in Sumerian city states during the Uruk period (c.4100-2900 BCE).


Decem – Taihun

In 1981, Paul Hopper proposed to divide all Indo-European languages into Decem and Taihun groups, according to the pronunciation of the numeral ’10’, by analogy with the Centum-Satem isogloss, which is based on the pronunciation of the numeral ‘100’.

The Armenian, Germanic, Anatolian, and Tocharian subfamilies belong to the Taihun group because the numeral ’10’ begins with a voiceless t there. All other Indo-European languages belong to the Decem group because the numeral 10 begins with a voiced d in them.

The Mushki; a lost Armenian tribe?

The Mushki; a lost Armenian tribe?

Name of Armenia

Old Europe

Proto-Armenian language,_the_Wheel,_and_Language

Archaeogenetic studies have described the formation of Eurasian ‘steppe ancestry’ as a
mixture of Eastern and Caucasus hunter-gatherers. However, it remains unclear when and where this ancestry arose and whether it was related to a horizon of cultural innovations in the 4th millennium BCE that subsequently facilitated the advance of pastoral societies in Eurasia.

Genome-wide SNP data from 45 prehistoric individuals along a 3000-year temporal transect in the North Caucasus. We observe a genetic separation between the groups of the Caucasus and those of the adjacent steppe.

The northern Caucasus groups are genetically similar to contemporaneous populations south of it, suggesting human movement across the mountain range during the Bronze Age. The steppe groups from Yamnaya and subsequent pastoralist cultures show evidence for previously undetected farmer-related ancestry from different contact zones, while Steppe Maykop individuals harbour additional Upper Palaeolithic Siberian and Native American related ancestry.

Armenian Hypothesis

The Indo-Europeanization of Europe: the intrusion of steppe pastoralists from south Russia and the transformation of Old Europe


The development of primitive man in Ukraine. The first farmers and herders in Ukraine

Yanma kulturen – Pit Grave Culture or Ochre Grave Culture – (3600–2300 f.vt.)

Yamna culture




Katakombe kulturen (2800–2200 f.vt.):

Catacomb culture

File:Catacomb culture06.jpg

File:Catacomb culture05.jpg

File:Catacomb culture04.jpg

Timber Grave Kulturen (1800-1200 f.vt.):

Srubna culture

File:Srubna hut.jpg

File:Srubna culture05.jpg

File:Srubna culture04.jpg

File:Srubna culture01.jpg

Baden kulturen (3600-2800 f.vt.):

Baden culture

Globular Amphora Culture (3400–2800 f.vt.)

Globular Amphora culture


Corded Ware kulturen (2900–2450/2350 f.vt.):

Corded Ware culture

Full-size image (23 K)

Vučedol (3000-2200 f.vt.)

Vučedol culture

Bell-Beaker kulturen – Beaker kulturen (2800–1800 f.vt.)

Beaker culture

File:Beaker culture.png



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