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.

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Indo-Aryan Migration

Indo-Aryan Migration

Indo-Aryan Migration

The Vedic Period

Indo-Aryan cultures


Indus Valley Civilization




Name of Armenia

In the East

Iranian Migration





Pazyryk culture


Chernoles culture

Indo-Iranian Haplogroups

Haplogroups in India

Haplogroup R1a – India

Haplogroups in Iran

Haplogroup E

Haplogroup R1a

Ganj Dareh

Indo-Aryan Migration

The Indo-Aryan migrations were the migrations into the Indian subcontinent of Indo-Aryan peoples, an ethnolinguistic group that spoke Indo-Aryan languages, the predominant languages of today’s North India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Suriname and the Maldives.

Around the first millennium of the Common Era (AD), the Kambojas, the Pashtuns and the Baloch began to settle on the eastern edge of the Iranian Plateau, on the mountainous frontier of northwestern and western Pakistan, displacing the earlier Indo-Aryans from the area.

In eastern Afghanistan and southwestern Pakistan, whatever Indo-Aryan languages were spoken there, were eventually pushed out by the Iranian languages. Most Indo-Aryan languages, however, were and still are prominent in the rest of the Indian subcontinent.

The Proto-Indo-Iranian culture, the people who later called themselves ‘Aryans’ in the Rig Veda and the Avesta and gave rise to the Indo-Aryans and Iranians, originated in the Sintashta culture (2200-1800 BC), in the Tobol and Ishim valleys, east of the Ural Mountains.

The Sintashta culture was founded by pastoralist nomads from the Abashevo culture (2500-1900 BC), ranging from the upper Don-Volga to the Ural Mountains, and the Poltavka culture (2700-2100 BC), extending from the lower Don-Volga to the Caspian depression.

The Sintashta-Petrovka culture, associated with R1a-Z93 and its subclades, was the first Bronze Age advance of the Indo-Europeans west of the Urals, opening the way to the vast plains and deserts of Central Asia to the metal-rich Altai Mountains.

The Indo-Iranians are strongly associated with the Proto-Indo-European invention of the chariot. The Indo-Aryan population migrations into the Indian Subcontinent and the Near East from Central Asia are considered to have started after the invention of the war chariot.

Horse-drawn war chariots seem to have been invented by Sintashta people around 2100 BC, and the proto-Indo-Iranians quickly spread southwards to the mining region of Bactria-Margiana (modern border of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan), from which they borrowed their distinctive religious beliefs and practices.

The Indo-Aryans quickly expanded over all Central Asia, from the shores of the Caspian to southern Siberia and the Tian Shan, through trading, seasonal herd migrations, and looting raids. Copper had been extracted intensively in the Urals, and the Proto-Indo-Iranians from Sintashta-Petrovka were exporting it in huge quantities to the Middle East.

They appear to have been attracted by the natural resources of the Zeravshan valley for a copper-mining colony was established in Tugai around 1900 BC. Tin, which was an especially valued resource in the late Bronze Age, when weapons were made of copper-tin alloy, stronger than the more primitive arsenical bronze, was extracted soon afterwards at Karnab and Mushiston.

They expanded to the lower Amu Darya valley and settled in irrigation farming communities, establishing the Tazabagyab culture by 1700 BC. The old fortified towns of Margiana-Bactria were abandoned, submerged by the northern steppe migrants by 1600 BC.

The group of Central Asian cultures under Indo-Iranian influence is known as the Andronovo horizon, a collection of similar local Bronze Age cultures that flourished in western Siberia and the central Eurasian Steppe from 2000 BC, lasted until 800 BC.

Linguistic research traces the connections between the various Indo-European languages, and reconstructs proto-Indo-European. Linguistic evidence points to the Indo-Aryan languages as intrusive into the Indian subcontinent, some time in the 2nd millennium BC. The Iranian languages were brought into Iran by the Iranians, who were closely related to the Indo-Aryans.

A two-wave model of Indo-Iranian expansion has been proposed. The first wave is associated with the Indo-Aryan migration, while the second wave is interpreted as the Iranian wave. The Indo-Aryans split off from the Iranians around 2000-1600 BC, whereafter the Indo-Aryans migrated, possibly in multiple waves, into Anatolia (Mitanni), northern Pakistan and India (Vedic people) and China (Wusun), while the Iranians moved into Iran.

Historical linguists broadly estimate that a continuum of Indo-Iranian languages probably began to diverge by 2000 BC, if not earlier, preceding both the Vedic and Iranian cultures. The earliest recorded forms of these languages, Vedic Sanskrit and Gathic Avestan, are remarkably similar, descended from the common Proto-Indo-Iranian language.

Indo-Aryan population movements into the region, Anatolia and possibly Inner Asia from Central Asia are considered to have started after 2000 BC, as a slow diffusion after the Late Harappan period, which led to a language shift in the northern Indian subcontinent.

The Indo-Aryans migrated into the Levant, supposedly founding the Mitanni kingdom in northern Syria (1500-1300 BC), and the Vedic people migrated south-eastward, over the Hindu Kush into northern India. It has been suggested that the Wusun, an Indo-European Europoid people of Inner Asia in antiquity, were also of Indo-Aryan origin.

They migrated southward into South Asia, ushering the Vedic period around 1750 BC. The standard model for the entry of the Indo-European languages into the Indian subcontinent is that this first wave of Indo-Aryan migrants went over the Hindu Kush.

The Hindu Kush range has also been the passageway during the invasions of the Indian subcontinent. In the time of Alexander the Great the Hindu Kush range was referred to as the Caucasus Indicus, as opposed to the Greater Caucasus range between the Caspian and Black Seas.

The range forms the western section of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region and is the westernmost extension of the Pamir Mountains, the Karakoram and the Himalayas. It divides the valley of the Amu Darya (the ancient Oxus) to the north from the Indus River valley to the south.

After crossing the Hindu Kush, an 800-kilometre-long (500 mi) mountain range that stretches through Afghanistan, from its centre to Northern Pakistan and into Tajikistan, either into the headwaters of either the Indus or the Ganges (probably both), they formed the Gandhara grave culture or Swat culture in present-day Swat valley. The earliest stratum of Vedic Sanskrit, preserved only in the Rigveda, is assigned to roughly 1500 BC.

Horse-riding pastoralists had penetrated into Balochistan in south-west Pakistan by 1700 BC. The Indus valley succumbed circa 1500 BC, and the northern and central parts of the Indian subcontinent were taken over by 500 BC. Westward migrations led Old Indic Sanskrit speakers riding war chariots to Assyria, where they became the Mitanni rulers from circa 1500 BC.

The Indo-Aryans migrated into Mesopotamia and Syria and introduced the horse and chariot culture to this part of the world as evidence of chariots appears in Asia-Minor shortly after, before it made its way into Egypt during the Hyksos invasion of Egypt in 1650. The Hittites sacked Babylon in 1659 BC, which demonstrated the superiority of chariots in antiquity.

The Vedic Period

The Vedic period, or Vedic age (1500-500 BC), is the period in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age of the history of India when the Vedas were composed in the northern Indian subcontinent, between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilisation and a second urbanisation which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BC.

The Vedas are liturgical texts which formed the basis of the influential Brahmanical ideology, which developed in the Kuru Kingdom, a tribal union of several Indo-Aryan tribes. The Vedas contain details of life during this period that has been interpreted to be historical and constitute the primary sources for understanding the period.

These documents, alongside the corresponding archaeological record, allow for the evolution of the Indo-Aryan and Vedic culture to be traced and inferred. The Vedas were composed and orally transmitted with precision by speakers of an Old Indo-Aryan language who had migrated into the northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent early in this period. The Vedic society was patriarchal and patrilineal.

Early Indo-Aryans were a Late Bronze Age society centred in the Punjab, organised into tribes rather than kingdoms, and primarily sustained by a pastoral way of life. The Aryan culture spread eastward to the fertile western Ganges Plain by 1200-1000 BC. Iron tools were adopted, which allowed for the clearing of forests and the adoption of a more settled, agricultural way of life.

The second half of the Vedic period was characterised by the emergence of towns, kingdoms, and a complex social differentiation distinctive to India, and the Kuru Kingdom’s codification of orthodox sacrificial ritual. During this time, the central Ganges Plain was dominated by a related but non-Vedic Indo-Aryan culture, of Greater Magadha.

The end of the Vedic period witnessed the rise of true cities and large states (called mahajanapadas) as well as śramaṇa movements (including Jainism and Buddhism) which challenged the Vedic orthodoxy.

The Vedic period saw the emergence of a hierarchy of social classes that would remain influential. Vedic religion developed into Brahmanical orthodoxy, and around the beginning of the Common Era, the Vedic tradition formed one of the main constituents of “Hindu synthesis”.

During the Early Vedic Period (ca.1500-800 BC) the Indo-Aryan culture was centered in the northern Punjab, or Sapta Sindhu. During the Later Vedic Period (800-500 BC) the Indo-Aryan culture started to extend into the western Ganges Plain, centering on the Vedic Kuru and Panchala area, and had some influence at the central Ganges Plain after 500 BC.

The Mahājanapadas (lit. ‘great realm’, from maha, “great”, and janapada “foothold of a people”), which are 16 kingdoms or oligarchic republics that existed at the Ganges Plain in Northern ancient India from the 600-400 BC, of which the Kuru and Panchala became the most notable developed centers of Vedic culture.

The 600-500 BC is often regarded as a major turning point in early Indian history; during this period India’s first large cities arose after the demise of the Indus Valley Civilization. It was also the time of the rise of sramana movements (including Buddhism and Jainism), which challenged the religious orthodoxy of the Vedic Period.

Two of the Mahājanapadas were most probably ganatantras (oligarchic republics) and others had forms of monarchy. Ancient Buddhist texts like the Anguttara Nikaya make frequent reference to 16 great kingdoms and republics which had developed and flourished in a belt stretching from Gandhara in the northwest to Anga in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent. They included parts of the trans-Vindhyan region, and all had developed prior to the rise of Buddhism in India.

The Central Ganges Plain, where Magadha gained prominence, forming the base of the Maurya Empire, was a distinct cultural area, with new states arising after 500 BC during the so-called “Second urbanisation”. It was influenced by the Vedic culture, but differed markedly from the Kuru-Panchala region. 

The Central Ganges Plain the area of the earliest known cultivation of rice in the Indian subcontinent and it was the location of an advanced neolithic population associated with the sites of Chirand and Chechar by 1800 BC. It is in this region the Shramanic movements flourished, and Jainism and Buddhism originated.

Archaeologically, this period has been identified as corresponding in part to the Northern Black Polished Ware culture (abbreviated NBPW or NBP; 700–200 BC: proto NBPW between 1200-700 BC), an urban Iron Age Indian culture of the Indian Subcontinent, succeeding the Painted Grey Ware culture and Black and Red Ware culture.

It developed beginning around 700 BC, in the late Vedic period, and peaked from c. 500–300 BC, coinciding with the emergence of 16 great states or mahajanapadas in Northern India, and the subsequent rise of the Mauryan Empire.

Later on, about the time of the Buddha, the kingdom of Kosala and the quickly expanding realm of Magadha were established. The latter lasted until the 4th century BC, when it was conquered by Chandragupta Maurya and formed the center of the Mauryan Empire.

The latter lasted until the 4th century BC, when it was conquered by Chandragupta Maurya and formed the center of the Mauryan Empire. The Indo-Aryans in these areas established several powerful kingdoms and principalities in the region, from south eastern Afghanistan to the doorstep of Bengal. The most powerful of these kingdoms were the post-Rigvedic Kuru (in Kurukshetra and the Delhi area) and their allies the Pañcālas further east, as well as Gandhara.

Later on, about the time of the Buddha, the kingdom of Kosala and the quickly expanding realm of Magadha were established. The latter lasted until the 4th century BC, when it was conquered by Chandragupta Maurya and formed the center of the Mauryan empire.

The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive Iron Age historical power based in Magadha, an ancient Indian kingdom in southern Bihar, which was counted as one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas, ‘Great Countries’, of ancient India, and founded by Chandragupta Maurya which dominated the Indian subcontinent between 322 and 185 BCE.

Magadha played an important role in the development of Jainism and Buddhism. Both the Mauryan Empire and Gupta Empire, two of India’s greatest empires, originated in Magadha, which saw advancements in ancient India’s science, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy and were considered the Golden Age of India.

Comprising the majority of South Asia, the Maurya Empire was centralized by the conquest of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, and its capital city was located at Pataliputra (modern Patna). The empire was the largest political entity that has existed in the Indian subcontinent, extending over 5 million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles) at its zenith under Ashoka.

Recent archaeological evidences have pushed back NBPW date to 1200 BC at Nalanda district, in Bihar, where its earliest occurrences have been recorded and carbon dated from the site of Juafardih. Similarly sites at Akra and Ter Kala Dheri from Bannu have provided carbon dating of 900-790 BCE and 1000-400 BCE, and at Ayodhya around 13th century BC or 1000 BC.

Indo-Aryan cultures

Archaeological cultures identified with phases of Indo-Aryan material culture include the Cemetery H culture (1900-1300 BC), the Gandhara grave culture (1400-800 BC), also called Swat culture, or Swat Protohistoric Graveyards Complex, the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture (4000-2000 BC), the Black and Red Ware culture (1450-1200 BC) and the Painted Grey Ware culture (c. 1200-500 BC).

These cultures are candidates for cultures associated with the Indo-Aryan movements and considered by some scholars as a factor in the formation of the Vedic civilization. The language of the Rigveda, the earliest stratum of Vedic Sanskrit, is assigned to about 1500-1200 BC.

The Cemetery H culture, a Bronze Age culture in the Punjab region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, was alongside the Jhukar culture of Sindh and Rangpur culture of Gujarat, a regional form of the late phase of the Harappan (Indus Valley) civilization.

The Cemetery H culture was located in and around the Punjab region in present-day India and Pakistan. It was named after a cemetery found in “area H” at Harappa. Remains of the culture have been dated from about 1900 BC until about 1300 BC. Some traits of the Cemetery H culture have been associated with the Swat culture, which has been regarded as evidence of the Indo-Aryan movement toward the Indian subcontinent.

According to Parpola, the Cemetery H culture represents a first wave of Indo-Aryan migration from as early as 1900 BC, which was followed by a migration to the Punjab c. 1700-1400 BC. According to Kochhar, the Swat IV co-founded the Harappan Cemetery H phase in Punjab (2000-1800 BC), while the Rigvedic Indo-Aryans of Swat V later absorbed the Cemetery H people and gave rise to the Painted Grey Ware culture (to 1400 BC).  

The Jhukar Phase was a phase of the Late Harappan culture in Sindh that continued after the decline of the mature Indus Valley Civilisation in the 2nd millennium BC. It is named after the archaeological type site called Jhukar in Sindh. It was, in turn, followed by the Jhangar Phase.

The pottery of this phase is described as “showing some continuity with mature Harappan pottery traditions.” During this phase, urban features of cities (such as Mohenjo-Daro) disappeared, and artifacts such as stone weights and female figurines became rare.

This phase is characterized by some circular stamp seals with geometric designs, although lacking the Indus script which characterized the preceding phase of the civilization. Script is rare and confined to potsherd inscriptions. There was also a decline in long-distance trade.

Rangpur is an ancient archaeological site near Vanala on Saurashtra peninsula in Gujarat, western India. Lying on the tip between the Gulf of Khambhat and Gulf of Kutch, it belongs to the period of the Indus Valley Civilization, and lies to the northwest of the larger site of Lothal. It is the type site for the Rangpur culture, a regional form of the late phase of the Indus Valley Civilization that existed in Gujarat during the 2nd millennium BCE.

The Gandhara grave culture is found basically in Middle Swat River course. It has been regarded as a token of the Indo-Aryan migrations, but has also been explained by local cultural continuity. DNA analyses suggest ancestors of Swat culture people mixed with a population coming from Inner Asia Mountain Corridor, which carried Steppe ancestry, sometime between 1900-1500 BC.

The Gandhara grave culture, which emerged c. 1600 BCE, and flourished from c. 1500 BCE to 500 BCE in Gandhara, modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan, is thus the most likely locus of the earliest bearers of Rigvedic culture. Based on this it is postulated a first wave of immigration from as early as 1900 BC, corresponding to the Cemetery H culture, and an immigration to the Punjab ca. 1700-1400 BC.

From the Indus, the Indo-Aryan languages spread over the northern and central parts of the subcontinent, sparing the extreme south from c. 1500 BC to c. 500 BC, over the northern and central parts of the subcontinent, sparing the extreme south.

The Indo-Aryans in these areas established several powerful kingdoms and principalities in the region, from south eastern Afghanistan to the doorstep of Bengal. The most powerful of these kingdoms were the post-Rigvedic Kuru (in Kurukshetra and the Delhi area) and their allies the Pañcālas further east, as well as Gandhara.

There were likely three waves of Indo-Aryan immigration that occurred after the mature Harappan phase. The “Murghamu” (Bactria-Margiana Culture) related people who entered Balochistan at Pirak, Mehrgarh south cemetery, and other places, and later merged with the post-urban Harappans during the late Harappans Jhukar phase (2000-1800 BC).

The Swat IV co-founded the Harappan Cemetery H phase in Punjab (2000-1800 BC). The Rigvedic Indo-Aryans of Swat V later absorbed the Cemetery H people and gave rise to the Painted Grey Ware culture (PGW) (to 1400 BC).

There is a major cultural change in the Swat Valley with the emergence of the Gandhara grave culture about 1800 BC. With its introduction of new ceramics, new burial rites, and the horse, the Gandhara grave culture is a major candidate for early Indo-Aryan presence.

The two new burial rites—flexed inhumation in a pit and cremation burial in an urn—were, according to early Vedic literature, both practiced in early Indo-Aryan society. Horse-trappings indicate the importance of the horse to the economy of the Gandharan grave culture.

Two horse burials indicate the importance of the horse in other respects. Horse burial is a custom that Gandharan grave culture has in common with Andronovo, though not within the distinctive timber-frame graves of the steppe.

The Ochre Coloured Pottery culture (OCP) is a 4th millennium BC to 2nd millennium BC Bronze Age culture of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, extending from eastern Punjab to northeastern Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh. It is considered a candidate for association with the early Indo-Aryan or Vedic culture.

The pottery had a red slip but gave off an ochre color on the fingers of archaeologists who excavated it, hence the name. It was sometimes decorated with black painted bands and incised patterns. It is often found in association with copper hoards, which are assemblages of copper weapons and other artifacts such as anthropomorphic figures.

OCP culture was rural and agricultural, characterized by cultivation of rice, barley, and legumes, and domestication of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and dogs. Most sites were small villages in size, but densely distributed. Houses were typically made of wattle-and-daub. Other artifacts include animal and human figurines, and ornaments made of copper and terracotta.

OCP culture was a contemporary neighbor to Harappan civilization, and between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, the people of Upper Ganga valley were using Indus script. While the eastern OCP did not use Indus script, the whole of OCP had nearly the same material culture and likely spoke the same language throughout its expanse.

The OCP marked the last stage of the North Indian Bronze Age and was succeeded by the Iron Age Black and Red Ware culture (BRW), a late Bronze Age Indian and early Iron Age Indian archaeological culture, associated with the Indus Valley Civilisation and South India, and the Painted Grey Ware culture (PGW).

The Painted Grey Ware culture (PGW; c.1200 to 600–500 BC, though newer publications have suggested a range of 1500 to 700 BC, or from 1300 to 500–300 BC) is an Iron Age Indian culture of the western Gangetic plain and the Ghaggar-Hakra valley in the Indian subcontinent, conventionally. 

It is a successor of the Cemetery H culture and Black and red ware culture (BRW) within this region, and contemporary with the continuation of the BRW culture in the eastern Gangetic plain and Central India.

Characterized by a style of fine, grey pottery painted with geometric patterns in black, the PGW culture is associated with village and town settlements, domesticated horses, ivory-working, and the advent of iron metallurgy. 

As of 2014, more than 1100 PGW sites have been discovered. Although most PGW sites were small farming villages, “several dozen” PGW sites emerged as relatively large settlements that can be characterized as towns; the largest of these were fortified by ditches or moats and embankments made of piled earth with wooden palisades, albeit smaller and simpler than the elaborate fortifications which emerged in large cities after 600 BC.

The PGW Culture probably corresponds to the middle and late Vedic period, i.e., the Kuru-Panchala kingdom, the first large state in the Indian subcontinent after the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization. The later vedic literature provides a mass of information on the life and culture of the times. It is succeeded by Northern Black Polished Ware from c.700-500 BCE, associated with the rise of the great mahajanapada states and of the Magadha Empire.

The black and red ware culture (BRW; 1450-1200 BC) is a late Bronze Age Indian and early Iron Age Indian archaeological culture, associated with the Indus Valley Civilisation and South India. In the Western Ganges plain (western Uttar Pradesh) it is dated to c. 1450-1200 BC.

It is succeeded by the Painted Grey Ware culture; whereas in the Central and Eastern Ganges plain (eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Bengal) and Central India (Madhya Pradesh) the BRW appears during the same period but continues for longer, until c. 700-500 BC, when it is succeeded by the Northern Black Polished Ware culture.

In the Western Ganges plain (western Uttar Pradesh) it is dated to c. 1450-1200 BC, and is succeeded by the Painted Grey Ware culture; whereas in the Central and Eastern Ganges plain (eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Bengal) and Central India (Madhya Pradesh) the BRW appears during the same period but continues for longer, until c. 700-500 BC, when it is succeeded by the Northern Black Polished Ware culture.

In the Western Ganges plain, the BRW was preceded by the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture. The BRW sites were characterized by subsistence agriculture (cultivation of rice, barley, and legumes), and yielded some ornaments made of shell, copper, carnelian, and terracotta.

In some sites, particularly in eastern Punjab and Gujarat, BRW pottery is associated with Late Harappan pottery, and according to some scholars like Tribhuan N. Roy, the BRW may have directly influenced the Painted Grey Ware and Northern Black Polished Ware cultures. BRW pottery is unknown west of the Indus Valley.

Use of iron, although sparse at first, is relatively early, postdating the beginning of the Iron Age in Anatolia (Hittites) by only two or three centuries, and predating the European (Celts) Iron Age by another two to three hundred years. Recent findings in Northern India show Iron working in the 1800-1000 BCE period. The nature and context of the iron objects involved of the BRW culture are very different from early iron objects found in Southwest Asia.


The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC), also known as the Harappan Civilisation was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of South Asia. It lasted from 3300 BC to 1300 BC, and in its mature form from 2600 BC to 1900 BC.

There were however earlier and later cultures often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan in the same area; for this reason, the Harappan civilisation is sometimes called the Mature Harappan to distinguish it from these other cultures. The early Harappan cultures were preceded by local Neolithic agricultural villages, from which the river plains were populated.

Mehrgarh is a Neolithic (7000-2500 BC) site in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, which gave new insights on the emergence of the Indus Valley Civilization. Mehrgarh is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming and herding in South Asia. 

Mehrgarh was influenced by the Near Eastern Neolithic, with similarities between “domesticated wheat varieties, early phases of farming, pottery, other archaeological artefacts, some domesticated plants and herd animals.”

It is assumed that farming economy was introduced full-fledged from Near-East to South Asia, and the similarities between Neolithic sites from eastern Mesopotamia and the western Indus valley, which are evidence of a cultural continuum between those sites. Mehrgarh however has an earlier local background, and is not a ‘backwater’ of the Neolithic culture of the Near East.

An initial local development of Mehrgarh, with a continuity in cultural development but a change in population, has been suggested. While there is a strong continuity between the neolithic and chalcolithic (Copper Age) cultures of Mehrgarh, dental evidence shows that the chalcolithic population did not descend from the neolithic population of Mehrgarh, which suggests moderate levels of gene flow. New, possibly West Asian, body types are reported from the graves of Mehrgarh beginning in the Togau phase (3800 BC).

Research on lactose tolerance in India suggests that the west Eurasian genetic contribution identified by Reich et al. (2009) principally reflects gene flow from Iran and the Middle East. The earliest evidence of cattle herding in south Asia comes from the Indus River Valley site of Mehrgarh and is dated to 5000 BC.

Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC), also known as the Harappan Civilisation, after its type site, Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated early in the 20th century in what was then the Punjab province of British India and now is Pakistan, was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of South Asia. It lasted from 3300 BC to 1300 BC, and in its mature form from 2600 BC to 1900 BC.

Together with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was one of three early civilisations of the Near East and South Asia, and of the three, the most widespread, its sites spanning an area stretching from northeast Afghanistan, through much of Pakistan, and into western and northwestern India.

It flourished in the basins of the Indus River, which flows through the length of Pakistan, and along a system of perennial, mostly monsoon-fed, rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the seasonal Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan.

Over 1000 Mature Harappan cities and settlements have been reported, of which just under a hundred had been excavated. However, there are only five major urban sites: Harappa, Mohenjo-daro , Dholavira, Ganeriwala in Cholistan, and Rakhigarhi.

The Harappan language is not directly attested, and its affiliation is uncertain since the Indus script is still undeciphered. A relationship with the Dravidian or Elamo-Dravidian language family is favoured by a section of scholars like leading Finnish Indologist, Asko Parpola.

The civilisation’s cities were noted for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, clusters of large non-residential buildings, and new techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin). 

The large cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa very likely grew to containing between 30,000 and 60,000 individuals, and the civilisation itself during its florescence may have contained between one and five million individuals.

Gradual drying of the region’s soil during the 3rd millennium BC may have been the initial spur for the urbanisation associated with the civilisation, but eventually weaker monsoons and reduced water supply caused the civilisation’s demise, and to scatter its population eastward and southward.

The IVC is named after the Indus river system in whose alluvial plains the early sites of the civilisation were identified and excavated. Following a tradition in archaeology, the civilisation is sometimes referred to as the Harappan, after its type site, Harappa, the first site to be excavated in the 1920s; this is notably true of usage employed by the Archaeological Survey of India after India’s independence in 1947.

Aryan indigenist writers like David Frawley use the terms Sarasvati culture, the Sarasvati Civilisation, the Indus-Sarasvati Civilisation or the Sindhu-Saraswati Civilisation, because they consider the Ghaggar-Hakra river to be the same as the Sarasvati, a river mentioned several times in the Rig Veda, a collection of ancient Sanskrit hymns composed in the second millennium BC.

Recent geophysical research suggests that unlike the Sarasvati, whose descriptions in the Rig Veda are those of a snow-fed river, the Ghaggar-Hakra was a system of perennial monsoon-fed rivers, which became seasonal around the time that the civilisation diminished, approximately 2000 BC.

In addition, proponents of the Sarasvati nomenclature see a connection between the decline of the Indus civilisation and the rise of the Vedic civilisation on the Gangetic plain; however, historians of the decline of the mature Indus civilisation consider the two to be substantially disconnected.

In 1953 Sir Mortimer Wheeler proposed that the invasion of an Indo-European tribe from Central Asia, the “Aryans”, caused the decline of the Indus Civilisation. As evidence, he cited a group of 37 skeletons found in various parts of Mohenjo-daro, and passages in the Vedas referring to battles and forts. However, scholars soon started to reject Wheeler’s theory, since the skeletons belonged to a period after the city’s abandonment and none were found near the citadel.

Subsequent examinations of the skeletons by Kenneth Kennedy in 1994 showed that the marks on the skulls were caused by erosion, and not by violence. In the Cemetery H culture (the late Harappan phase in the Punjab region), some of the designs painted on the funerary urns have been interpreted through the lens of Vedic literature: for instance, peacocks with hollow bodies and a small human form inside, which has been interpreted as the souls of the dead, and a hound that can be seen as the hound of Yama, the god of death.

This may indicate the introduction of new religious beliefs during this period, but the archaeological evidence does not support the hypothesis that the Cemetery H people were the destroyers of the Harappan cities.

Suggested contributory causes for the localisation of the IVC include changes in the course of the river, and climate change that is also signalled for the neighbouring areas of the Middle East. As of 2016 many scholars believe that drought, and a decline in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia, caused the collapse of the Indus Civilisation.

The climate change which caused the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilisation was possibly due to “an abrupt and critical mega-drought and cooling 4,200 years ago,” which marks the onset of the Meghalayan Age, the present stage of the Holocene.

The Ghaggar-Hakra system was rain-fed, and water-supply depended on the monsoons. The Indus Valley climate grew significantly cooler and drier from about 1800 BC, linked to a general weakening of the monsoon at that time.

The Indian monsoon declined and aridity increased, with the Ghaggar-Hakra retracting its reach towards the foothills of the Himalaya, leading to erratic and less extensive floods that made inundation agriculture less sustainable. Aridification reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilisation’s demise, and to scatter its population eastward.

According to Giosan et al. (2012), the IVC residents did not develop irrigation capabilities, relying mainly on the seasonal monsoons leading to summer floods. As the monsoons kept shifting south, the floods grew too erratic for sustainable agricultural activities.

The residents then migrated towards the Ganges basin in the east, where they established smaller villages and isolated farms. The small surplus produced in these small communities did not allow development of trade, and the cities died out.

Earthquakes There are archaeological evidences of major earthquakes at Dholavira in 2200 BC as well as at Kalibangan in 2700 and 2900 BC. Such succession of earthquakes, along with drought, may have contributed to decline of Ghaggar-Harka system. Sea level changes are also found at two possible seaport sites along the Makran coast which are now inland. Earthquakes may have contributed to decline of several sites by direct shaking damage, by sea level change or by change in water supply.

Archaeological excavations indicate that the decline of Harappa drove people eastward. The number of sites in today’s India increased from 218 to 853 after 1900 BC. Cities began to arise at the Gangetic plain there starting about 1200 BC, just a few centuries after Harappa was deserted and much earlier than once suspected.

At sites such as Bhagwanpura (in Haryana), archaeological excavations have discovered an overlap between the final phase of Late Harappan pottery and the earliest phase of Painted Grey Ware pottery, the latter being associated with the Vedic Culture and dating from around 1200 BC.

This site provides evidence of multiple social groups occupying the same village but using different pottery and living in different types of houses: Over time the Late Harappan pottery was gradually replaced by Painted Grey ware pottery, and other cultural changes indicated by archaeology include the introduction of the horse, iron tools, and new religious practices.

Although there are obvious signs of cultural continuity between the Harappan Civilisation and later South Asian cultures, many aspects of the Harappan “sociocultural system” and “integrated civilization” were “lost forever,” while the Second Urbanisation of India (beginning with the Northern Black Polished Ware culture, c. 600 BC) lies well outside this sociocultural environment.

The decline of the IVC predates the Indo-Aryan migrations, but archeological data show a cultural continuity in the archeological record. Together with the presence of Dravidian loanwords in the Rigveda, this argues in favor of an interaction between post-Harappan and Indo-Aryan cultures.

Indo-Aryan migration into northern Punjab started only after the decline of the IVC around 1900 BC, probably due to climate change and flooding, and not an Aryan invasion. This was also when a second migration occurred from the Indus belt.

According to the Aryan Invasion Theory this decline was caused by invasions of barbaric and violent Aryans who conquered the IVC. This is however not supported by the archeological and genetic data, and is not representative of the Indo-Aryan migration theory.

The decline of the IVC started before the onset of the Indo-Aryan migrations. A regional cultural discontinuity occurred during the second millennium BC and many Indus Valley cities were abandoned during this period, while many new settlements began to appear in Gujarat and East Punjab and other settlements such as in the western Bahawalpur region increased in size.

It is evident that a major geographic population shift accompanied this 2nd millennium BC localisation process. This shift by Harappan and, perhaps, other Indus Valley cultural mosaic groups, is the only archaeologically documented west-to-east movement of human populations in the Indian subcontinent before the first half of the first millennium BC.

According to Erdosy, the ancient Harappans were not markedly different from modern populations in Northwestern India and present-day Pakistan. Craniometric data showed similarity with prehistoric peoples of the Iranian plateau and Western Asia, although Mohenjo-daro was distinct from the other areas of the Indus Valley.

According to Kennedy, there is no evidence of demographic disruptions after the decline of the Harappa culture. No biological evidence can be found for major new populations in post-Harappan communities. Hemphill notes that patterns of phonetic affinity between Bactria and the IVC are best explained by a pattern of long-standing, but low-level bidirectional mutual exchange.

The Cemetery H culture shows clear biological affinities with the earlier population of Harappa. This culture may only reflect a change in the focus of settlement organization from that which was the pattern of the earlier Harappan phase and not cultural discontinuity, urban decay, invading aliens, or site abandonment, all of which have been suggested in the past. Recent excavations in 2008 at Alamgirpur, Meerut District, appeared to show an overlap between the Harappan and PGW pottery indicating cultural continuity.

According to Kenoyer, the decline of the IVC is not explained by Aryan migrations, which took place after the decline of the IVC. Yet, according to Erdosy, evidence in material culture for systems collapse, abandonment of old beliefs and large-scale, if localised, population shifts in response to ecological catastrophe must all now be related to the spread of Indo-Aryan languages in the 2nd millennium BC.

Erdosy, testing hypotheses derived from linguistic evidence against hypotheses derived from archaeological data, states that there is no evidence of invasions by a barbaric race enjoying technological and military superiority, but some support was found in the archaeological record for small-scale migrations from Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent in the late 3rd/early 2nd millennia BC.

According to Erdosy, the postulated movements within Central Asia can be placed within a processional framework, replacing simplistic concepts of diffusion, migrations and invasions.

Scholars have argued that the historical Vedic culture is the result of an amalgamation of the immigrating Indo-Aryans with the remnants of the indigenous civilization, such as the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture. Such remnants of IVC culture are not prominent in the Rigveda, with its focus on chariot warfare and nomadic pastoralism in stark contrast with an urban civilization.


The Kassites (1595-1155 BC) were people of the ancient Near East. The endonym of the Kassites was probably Galzu, although they have also been referred to by the names Kaššu, Kassi, Kasi or Kashi.

They gained control over Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire or the First Babylonian Empire (1894 -1595 BC), and established a dynasty based first in Babylon and later in Dur-Kurigalzu, a city in southern Mesopotamia, near the confluence of the Tigris and Diyala rivers, about 30 kilometres (19 mi) west of the center of Baghdad.

The Kassites were members of a small military aristocracy but were efficient rulers and locally popular, and their 500-year reign laid an essential groundwork for the development of subsequent Babylonian culture. The chariot and the horse, which the Kassites worshipped, first came into use in Babylonia at this time.

The Kassite language has not been classified. What is known is that their language was not related to either the Indo-European language group, neither to Semitic or other Afro-Asiatic languages, and is most likely to have been a language isolate, although some linguists have proposed a link to the Hurro-Urartian languages of Asia Minor.

However, the arrival of the Kassites has been connected to the contemporary migrations of Indo-European peoples. Several Kassite leaders and deities bore Indo-European names, and it is possible that they were dominated by an Indo-European elite similar to the Mitanni, who ruled over the Hurro-Urartian-speaking Hurrians of Asia Minor.


The Mitanni, a people known in eastern Anatolia from about 1500 BC, was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia of possibly of mixed origins as a Hurrian-speaking majority was supposedly dominated by an Indo-Aryan elite. A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters, usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day, however indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.

Currently there are two hypotheses regarding how Mitanni was formed: First theory: Mitanni was already a powerful kingdom at the end of the 17th century or in the first half of the 16th century BC, and its beginnings are from before the time of Thutmose I, so dated to the time of the Hittite sovereigns Hattusili I and Mursili I, when the middle chronology is applied.

Second theory: Mitanni came to be due to a political vacuum in Syria, which had been created first through the destruction of the kingdom of Yamhad by the Hittites and then through the inability of Hatti to maintain control of the region during the period following the death of Mursili I.

If the second hypothesis is considered, Mitanni (c. 1500 to 1300 BC as per short chronology) could have come to be a regional power after the Hittite destruction of Amorite Babylon occurred in 1531 (also in short chronology), and a series of ineffectual Assyrian kings created a power vacuum in Mesopotamia.

While the Mitanni kings and other members of royalty bore names resembling Indo-Aryan phonology, they used the language of the local people, which was at that time a non-Indo-European language, Hurrian. Their sphere of influence is shown in Hurrian place names, personal names and the spread through Syria and the Levant of a distinct pottery type.

The Mitanni kingdom was referred to as the Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni by the Egyptians, the Hurri by the Hittites, and the Hanigalbat or Hani-Rabbat by the Assyrians. The different names seem to have referred to the same kingdom and were used interchangeably.

In the 14th century BC numerous city-states in northern Syria and Canaan were ruled by persons with Hurrian and some Indo-Aryan names. Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility, which existed in many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi.

Robert Drews writes that the name maryannu, although plural, takes the singular marya, which in Sanskrit means ‘young warrior’, and attaches a Hurrian suffix. He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age, most would have spoken either Hurrian or Indo-Aryan, but by the end of the 14th century, most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.

If this can be taken to mean that the population of these states was Hurrian as well, then it is possible that these entities were a part of a larger polity with a shared Hurrian identity. This is often assumed, but without a critical examination of the sources. Differences in dialect and regionally different pantheons points to the existence of several groups of Hurrian speakers.

Hittite annals mention a people called Hurri, located in northeastern Syria. A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurri.” The Assyro-Akkadian version of the text renders “Hurri” as Hanigalbat. Tushratta, who styles himself “king of Mitanni” in his Akkadian Amarna letters, refers to his kingdom as Hanigalbat.

Egyptian sources call Mitanni “nhrn”, which is usually pronounced as Naharin(a), from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river,” cf. Aram-Naharaim. The name Mitanni is first found in the memoirs of the Syrian wars (1480s BC) of the official astronomer and clockmaker Amenemhet, who returned from the “foreign country called Me-ta-ni” at the time of Thutmose I.

While the Mitanni kings and other members of royalty bore names resembling Indo-Aryan phonology, they used the language of the local people, which was at that time a non-Indo-European language, Hurrian. Their sphere of influence is shown in Hurrian place names, personal names and the spread through Syria and the Levant of a distinct pottery type.

Bearers of names in the Hurrian language are attested in wide areas of Syria and the northern Levant that are clearly outside the area of the political entity known as Mitanni.  There is no indication that these persons owed allegiance to the political entity of Mitanni; although the German term Auslandshurriter (“Hurrian expatriates”) has been used by some authors.

Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. In the Assyrian period, the Armenian people of Nairi formed the kingdom of Ararat (well known in Assyrian as Urartu). The present-day Armenians are an amalgam of the Indo-European groups with the Hurrians and Urartians.


The Kingdom of Khana or Kingdom of Hana (1800-1700 BC) was a Syrian kingdom located in the middle Euphrates region close to the junction of Khabur River north of Mari which included the ancient city of Terqa. It emerged during the decline of the First Babylonian Dynasty.

The Hanaeans were a nomadic tribal confederacy based around the middle Euphrates on the Syrian-iraqi border. The Hanaean people led a semi-nomadic life characterized by seasonal movement of the sheep herds, never too far from the rivers and watering places, returning to their settlements for the harvest season.

Based on onomastic evidence they were related to the other West Semitic peoples known as the Amorites, such as the Benjaminites, Rabbians and Habiru, originally coming from the deserts of Syria. The contact with the settled population leads to gradual transformation of the population into more settled rural communities.

Terqa is the name of an ancient city discovered at the site of Tell Ashara on the banks of the middle Euphrates in Deir ez-Zor Governorate, Syria, approximately 80 kilometres (50 mi) from the modern border with Iraq and 64 kilometres (40 mi) north of the ancient site of Mari, Syria. Its name had become Sirqu by Neo-Assyrian times. Little is yet known of the early history of Terqa, though it was a sizable entity even in the Early Dynastic period.

In the 2nd millennium BC it was under the control of Shamshi-Adad, followed by Mari in the time of Zimri-Lim, and then by Babylon after Mari’s defeat by Hammurabi of the First Babylonian dynasty. After the decline of Babylon it became the capital of Khana. Later, it fell into the sphere of the Kassite dynasty of Babylon and eventually the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

Hana is linked with the sack of Babylonia Mursili I and the subsequent takeover by the Kassite dynasty in Babylonia. It is possible that after the initial clashes with Babylon’s Samsuiluna, the Kassites, originally coming from the Zagros Mountains, withdrew north occupying and imposing control over middle Euphrates including the lands of Khana.

It is also reasonable to assume some sort of cooperation between the Hittite and Khana as the invading armies of by the Hittite king Mursili I must have passed through its territories in c.1595 BC. Such alliance may have facilitated the seizing of power in Babylon by the Kassites some years after the Hittite retreat.

Ancient mitochondrial DNA from freshly unearthed remains (teeth) of 4 individuals deeply deposited in slightly alkaline soil of ancient Terqa and Tell Masaikh (ancient Kar-Assurnasirpal, located on the Euphrates 5 kilometres (5,000 m) upstream from Terqa) was analysed in 2013 dated to the period between 2500 BC and 500 AD.

The studied individuals carried mtDNA haplotypes corresponding to the M4b1, M49 and M61 haplogroups, which are believed to have arisen in the area of the Indian subcontinent during the Upper Paleolithic and are absent in people living today in Syria. However, they are present in people inhabiting today’s India, Pakistan, Tibet and Himalayas.

Name of Armenia

The exact etymologies of the names of Armenia are unknown, and there are various speculative attempts to connect them to older toponyms or ethnonyms. Thutmose III of Egypt mentions the people of Ermenen in 1446 BC, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”. To this day Kurds and Turks refer to Armenians by Ermeni.

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. Aratta 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 Inana, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk. Writers in other fields have continued to hypothesize potential Aratta locations. A “possible reflex” has been suggested in Sanskrit Āraṭṭa or Arāṭṭa mentioned in the Mahabharata and other texts. Alternatively, the name is compared with the toponym Ararat or Urartu.

Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta is a legendary Sumerian account, of preserved, early post-Sumerian copies, composed in the Neo-Sumerian period (ca. 21st century BC). It is one of a series of accounts describing the conflicts between Enmerkar, king of Unug-Kulaba (Uruk), and the unnamed king of Aratta (probably somewhere in modern Iran or Armenia).

Because it gives a Sumerian account of the “confusion of tongues”, and also involves Enmerkar constructing temples at Eridu and Uruk, it has, since the time of Samuel Kramer, been compared with the Tower of Babel narrative in the Book of Genesis.

The most common name in Armenia is Arman, the older variant of Armen. The names Armen and Arman, feminine Arminé, are common given names by Armenians. Armin is also an ancient Indo-European given name or surname, including a Germanic given name, a modern form of the name Arminius (18/17 BC-AD 21), a German prince who defeated a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.

The name Arminius is a Latinized form of a Germanic name which may have been derived from the element ermen meaning “whole, universal”). An Irminsul (Old Saxon ‘great pillar’) was a sacred pillar-like object attested as playing an important role in the Germanic paganism of the Saxons. The first element, Irmin- (‘great’) is cognate with terms with some significance elsewhere in Germanic mythology.

In Persian Arman means ideal, hope, aspiration while Armin means a dweller of the Garden Of Eden; son of King Kobad (a character in Shahnameh, the son of Key-Ghobad. It is the modern form of Ariobarzanes, meaning “exalting the Aryans” in ancient Greek.

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 as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in c. 2250 BC.

Armânum is identified with an Akkadian colony in the Diarbekr region. Many historians, such as Wayne Horowitz, however, identify Armanî which was conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad, with the Syrian city of Aleppo. Early 20th century Armenologists have suggested that Old Persian a-r-mi-i-n(a) and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. To this day the Assyrians speak about Armenians by saying Armani.

Used historically as a synonym for Armenia, in the forms of Urartu in the Assyrian dialect of Akkadian and Urashtu in the Babylonian dialect, as well as Ararat in Biblical Hebrew. The name Ararat was changed to Armenia in the Bible as early as the 1st century AD in historiographical works and very early Latin translations.

This name was attested as Uruatri as early as the 13th century BC by Assyrian king Shalmaneser I, and it was used interchangeably with Armenia until the last known attestation from the 5th century BC by Xerxes in his XV Inscriptions.

Sometime during the early periods of Classical Antiquity, the use of Urartu declined and was fully replaced with Armenia. The name continued to be used in the form of Ayrarat for the central province of Ancient Armenia (also attested as Aurarat by Strabo), as a scarcely used alternative name for the First Republic of Armenia (Araratian Republic), and for a short-lived and self-proclaimed Kurdish state known as the Republic of Ararat.

Today, Ararat is used as one of the names given to the twin-peaked mountain in the Armenian Highlands, in modern-day Turkey, and for a province by the same name in the Republic of Armenia. It’s also a common given name used by Armenians.  

The earliest unambiguous and universally accepted attestation of the name dates to the 6th century BC, from the trilingual Behistun (also Bisotun, Bistun or Bisutun; Old Persian: Bagastana, meaning “the place of god”) Inscription, where the names Armina (in Old Persian), Harminuya (in Elamite), and Urashtu (in Babylonian) and their equivalent demonyms are used in reference to Armenia and people from Armenia.

The Behistun Inscription (c. 522 BC) is a multilingual inscription and large rock relief on a cliff at Mount Behistun in the Kermanshah Province of Iran, near the city of Kermanshah in western Iran, established by Darius the Great (r. 522–486 BC).

It was crucial to the decipherment of cuneiform script as the inscription includes three versions of the same text, written in three different cuneiform script languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian (a variety of Akkadian).

The name Erimena appears in Urartian inscriptions as the father of the Urartian king Rusa III, which can be interpreted to mean “Rusa, son of the Armenian”. Little is known about his reign; his name was inscribed on a massive granary at Armavir and on a series of bronze shields from the temple of Khaldi found at Rusahinili, now held in the British Museum.

According to the Armenian historian Moses of Chorene, Rusa’s father Erimena can probably be identified with Paruyr Skayordi, who helped the Median king Cyaxares to conquer Assyria, for which he was recognized as the king of Armenia by the Medes, although they ultimately reneged on this as the Medes conquered and annexed Armenia during the reign of King Astyages.

Armenia and Armenians are the most common names used internationally to refer to the country and the people. Armenians themselves, however, do not use it while speaking Armenian, making it an exonym. The Armenian endonym for the Armenian people and country is hayer and Hayastan, respectively.

There have been further speculations as to the existence of a Bronze Age tribe of the Armens, either identical to or forming a subset of the Hayasa-Azzi. In this case, Armenia would be an ethnonym rather than a toponym. Attestations of such a tribe have never been found.

Alternatively, Armenia is interpreted by some as ḪARMinni, that is, “the mountainous region of the Minni”. Minni is also a Biblical name of the region, appearing in the Bible (Jeremiah 51:27) alongside Ararat and Ashchenaz, probably the same as the Minnai of Assyrian inscriptions, corresponding to the Mannai. The Elamite name for Armenia was inscribed as har-mi-nu-ya.

Another suggestion is that the ethnonym may derive from the unattested Proto-Armenian name *hatiyos or *hatyos → *hayo → hay, related to Urartian (KURḫa-a-te, “the land of Hittites”), from Hittite (ḫa-ti /Ḫatti/). In the Armenian language, the Proto-Indo-European intervocalic *-t- drops and yields as /y/. Compare *ph₂tḗr → *hatir → *hayir → hayr (“father”).  Other examples include *h₂eh₁ter- → *ātr- → *ayr → ayrem (“burn”), *bʰréh₂tēr → ełbayr (“brother”).

The name Ḫāte was given by Urartians to all lands west of Euphrates, including the territory around Malatya (a region assumed to be occupied by speakers of Proto-Armenians). Diakonoff theorizes that when the Urartians were assimilated among the Proto-Armenians, they took over their Indo-European language and called themselves by the same name of the “Hittites”.

According to Armenian historiographic tradition, the endonym Hayk’ comes from the legendary eponymous ancestor of the Armenian nation, Hayk. Hayk the Great or The Great Hayk, also known as Hayk Nahapet (Hayk the “head of family” or patriarch), is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. His story is told in the History of Armenia attributed to the Armenian historian Moses of Chorene, also Movses Khorenatsi (410-490).

Armenian historiography of the Soviet era connected Hayk with Hayasa, mentioned in Hittite inscriptions. Hittite inscriptions testify to the existence of a mountain country, the Hayasa and/or the Azzi, lying around Lake Van. Several prominent authorities agree in placing Azzi to the north of Ishuwa. Others see Hayasa and Azzi as identical.

Hayasa-Azzi or Azzi-Hayasa was a Late Bronze Age confederation formed between two kingdoms of Armenian Highlands, Hayasa located South of Trabzon and Azzi, located north of the Euphrates and to the south of Hayasa. The Hayasa-Azzi confederation was in conflict with the Hittite Empire in the 14th century BC, leading up to the collapse of Hatti around 1190 BC.

In the East

The Wusun, an Indo-European Caucasian people of Inner Asia in antiquity, might also be of Indo-Aryan origin. The Chinese term Wusun can be reconstructed into the Old Chinese *âswin, which he compares to the Old Indic aśvin (“the horsemen”), the name of the Rigvedic twin equestrian gods.

The Wusun might be an eastern remnant of the Indo-Aryans, who had been suddenly pushed to the extremeties of the Eurasian Steppe by the Iranian peoples in the 2nd millennium BC. The Wusun are first mentioned by Chinese sources as vassals in the Tarim Basin of the Yuezhi, another Indo-European Caucasian people of possible Tocharian stock.

The Yuezhi was an ancient people first described in Chinese histories as nomadic pastoralists living in an arid grassland area in the western part of the modern Chinese province of Gansu, during the 1st millennium BC.

Around 175 BCE, the Yuezhi were utterly defeated by the Xiongnu, also former vassals of the Yuezhi. The Yuezhi subsequently attacked the Wusun and killed their king, capturing the Ili Valley from the Saka (Scythians) shortly afterwards.

In return the Wusun settled in the former territories of the Yuezhi as vassals of the Xiongnu. The son of Nandoumi was adopted by the Xiongnu king and made leader of the Wusun. Around 130 BC he attacked and utterly defeated the Yuezhi, settling the Wusun in the Ili Valley.

Soon after 130 BCE the Wusun became independent of the Xiongnu, becoming trusted vassals of the Han dynasty and powerful force in the region for centuries. With the emerging steppe federations of the Rouran, the Wusun migrated into the Pamir Mountains in the 5th century CE.

After the Yuezhi were defeated by the Xiongnu, in the 2nd century BC, a small group, known as the Little Yuezhi, fled to the south, while the majority migrated west to the Ili Valley, where they displaced the Sakas (Scythians). Driven from the Ili Valley shortly afterwards by the Wusun, the Yuezhi migrated to Sogdia and then Bactria, where they are often identified with the Tókharoi and Asii of Classical sources.

They then expanded into northern Indian subcontinent, where one branch of the Yuezhi founded the Kushan Empire. The Kushan Empire stretched from Turpan in the Tarim Basin to Pataliputra on the Indo-Gangetic Plain at its greatest extent, and played an important role in the development of the Silk Road and the transmission of Buddhism to China.

After a major defeat by the Xiongnu in 176 BC, the Yuezhi split into two groups migrating in different directions: the Greater Yuezhi and Lesser Yuezhi. The Greater Yuezhi initially migrated northwest into the Ili Valley (on the modern borders of China and Kazakhstan), where they reportedly displaced elements of the Sakas.

They were driven from the Ili Valley by the Wusun, an Indo-European semi-nomadic steppe people mentioned in Chinese records from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, and migrated southward to Sogdia and later settled in Bactria. The Greater Yuezhi have consequently often been identified with peoples mentioned in classical European sources as having overrun the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, like the Tókharioi (Sanskrit Tukhāra) and Asii (or Asioi).

The Wusun originally lived between the Qilian Mountains and Dunhuang (Gansu) near the Yuezhi. Around 176 BC the Yuezhi were raided by the Xiongnu, who subsequently attacked the Wusun, killing their king and seizing their land. The Xiongnu adopted the surviving Wusun prince and made him one of their generals and leader of the Wusun.

Around 162 BC the Yuezhi were driven into the Ili River valley in Zhetysu, Dzungaria and Tian Shan, which had formerly been inhabited by the Saka (Scythians). The Wusun then resettled in Gansu as vassals of the Xiongnu. In 133–132 BC, the Wusun drove the Yuezhi out of the Ili Valley and settled the area.

The Wusun then became close allies of the Han dynasty and remained a powerful force in the region for several centuries. The Wusun are last mentioned by the Chinese as having settled in the Pamir Mountains in the 5th century AD due to pressure from the Rouran. They possibly became subsumed into the later Hephthalites

During the 1st century BC, one of the five major Greater Yuezhi tribes in Bactria, the Kushanas, began to subsume the other tribes and neighbouring peoples. The subsequent Kushan Empire, at its peak in the 3rd century AD, stretched from Turfan in the Tarim Basin in the north to Pataliputra on the Gangetic plain of India in the south. The Kushanas played an important role in the development of trade on the Silk Road and the introduction of Buddhism to China.

The Wusun are last mentioned in 938 when a Wusun chieftain paid tribute to the Liao dynasty, also known as the Liao Empire, officially the Great Liao, or the Khitan (Qidan) State, an empire and imperial dynasty in East Asia that ruled from 916 to 1125 over present-day Northern and Northeast China, Mongolia and portions of the Russian Far East and North Korea. 

The empire was founded by Yelü Abaoji (Emperor Taizu of Liao), Khagan of the Khitans around the time of the collapse of the Tang dynasty and was the first state to control all of Manchuria. Being ruled by the Khitan Yelü clan, the Liao dynasty is considered by historians to be a conquest dynasty of China.

Khitan appears to have been related to the Mongolic languages; Juha Janhunen states, “[T]he conception is gaining support that Khitan was a language in some respects radically different from the historically known Mongolic languages. If this view proves to be correct, Khitan is, indeed, best classified as a Para-Mongolic language.”

Iranian Migration

The second wave of Indo-Iranian migration is interpreted as the Iranian wave. The first Iranians to reach the Black Sea may have been the Cimmerians in the 8th century BCE, although their linguistic affiliation is uncertain. They were followed by the Scythians, whom would dominate the area, at their height, from the Carpathian Mountains in the west, to the easternmost fringes of Central Asia in the east.

For most of their existence, they were based in what is modern-day Ukraine and southern European Russia. Sarmatian tribes, of whom the best known are the Roxolani (Rhoxolani), Iazyges (Jazyges) and the Alans, followed the Scythians westwards into Europe in the late centuries BC and the 1st and 2nd centuries of the Common Era (The Migration Period).

The populous Sarmatian tribe of the Massagetae, who was dwelling near the Caspian Sea, was known to the early rulers of Persia in the Achaemenid Period. In the east, the Scythians occupied several areas in Xinjiang, from Khotan to Tumshuq.

The Medes, Parthians and Persians, all of which were Iranian speakers from the Andronovo culture, begin to appear on the western Iranian Plateau from c. 800 BC, after which they remained under Assyrian rule for several centuries, as it was with the rest of the peoples in the Near East. The Achaemenids replaced Median rule from 559 BC.

Around the first millennium AD, the Kambojas, Pashtuns and Baloch began to settle on the eastern edge of the Iranian Plateau, on the mountainous frontier of northwestern and western Pakistan, displacing the earlier Indo-Aryans from the area.

In Eastern Europe, Slavic and Germanic peoples assimilated and absorbed the Iranian languages (Scythian and Sarmatian) of the region, until the Iranians eventually were decisively assimilated and absorbed by the Proto-Slavic population of the region.

In Central Asia, the Turkic languages have marginalized Iranian languages as a result of the Turkic migration of the early centuries CE. Extant major Iranian languages of today are Persian, Pashto, Kurdish, and Balochi, besides numerous smaller ones.


The Cimmerians was a nomadic Indo-European people, who appeared about 1000 BC. They dominated the region north of the Black Sea in the 8th century BC. They are mostly supposed to have been related to either Iranian or Thracian speaking groups which migrated under pressure of the Scythian expansion of the 9th to 8th century BC.

While the Cimmerians were often described by contemporaries as culturally Scythian, who are considered a western branch of the Central Asian Sakas, they evidently differed ethnically from the Scythians proper, who also displaced and replaced them.

Probably originating in the Pontic steppe, the Cimmerians subsequently migrated both into Western Europe and to the south, by way of the Caucasus. Some of them likely comprised a force that invaded Urartu, a state subject to the Neo-Assyrian Empire, c. 714 BC.

This foray was defeated by Assyrian forces under Sargon II in 705, after which the same, southern branch of Cimmerians turned west towards Anatolia and conquered Phrygia in 696/5. They reached the height of their power in 652 after taking Sardis, the capital of Lydia.

Soon after 619, Alyattes of Lydia defeated them. It has been speculated that the Cimmerians finally settled in Cappadocia, known in Armenian as Gamir-kʿ. It has also been speculated that the modern Armenian city of Gyumri, founded as Kumayri, derived its name from the Cimmerians who conquered the region and founded a settlement there.

According to Georgian national historiography, the Cimmerians, in Georgian known as Gimirri, played an influential role in the development of the Colchian and Iberian cultures. The modern Georgian word for “hero”, gmiri, is said to derive from their name.

They were followed by the Scythians, who are considered a western branch of the Central Asian Sakas, whom would dominate the area, at their height, from the Carpathian Mountains in the west, to the easternmost fringes of Central Asia in the east. For most of their existence, they were based in what is modern-day Ukraine and southern European Russia.


Iranian people derived from the earlier Andronovo culture also migrated westward with the Scythians back to the Pontic steppe where the proto-Indo-Europeans came from. Those that stayed in Central Asia are remembered by history as the Scythians, while the Yamna descendants who remained in the Pontic-Caspian steppe became known as the Sarmatians.

The Scythians, also known as Scyth, Saka, Sakae, Iskuzai, or Askuzai, were a nomadic people who. The peoples of the Scythian cultures are mentioned by contemporary Persian and Greek historians. They were mostly speakers of Iranian languages.

They dominated the Pontic steppe between 700-300 BC. During this time they and related peoples came to dominate the entire Eurasian Steppe from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to Ordos Plateau in the east, creating what has been called the first Central Asian nomadic empire.

The historical appearance of the Iranic equestrian Scythians coincided with the rise of equestrian semi-nomadism from the Carpathian Mountains of Europe to Mongolia in the Far East during the 1st millennium BC. They were part of the wider Scythian cultures, stretching across the Eurasian Steppe, which included many peoples that are distinguished from the Scythians.

A broad concept referring to all early Eurasian nomads as “Scythians” has sometimes been used. Within this concept, the actual Scythians are variously referred to as Pontic Scythians. Use of the term “Scythians” for all early Eurasian nomads has however led to much confusion in literature, and the validity of such terminology is controversial.

The Scythians are generally believed to have been of Iranian origin. They spoke a language of the Scythian branch of the Iranian languages, and practiced a variant of ancient Iranian religion. Among the earliest peoples to master mounted warfare, the Scythians replaced the Cimmerians as the dominant power on the Pontic Steppe 800 BC.

The Scythians played an important part in the Silk Road, a vast trade network connecting Greece, Persia, India and China, perhaps contributing to the contemporary flourishing of those civilisations. Settled metalworkers made portable decorative objects for the Scythians. These objects survive mainly in metal, forming a distinctive Scythian art.

Based in what is modern-day Ukraine and southern Russia, the Scythians called themselves Scoloti and were led by a nomadic warrior aristocracy known as the Royal Scythians. They crossed the Caucasus and frequently raided the Middle East along with the Cimmerians, playing an important role in the political developments of the region, c. 700 BC.

Over time the Scythians came in contact with other ancient civilizations, such as Assyria, Greece and Persia. In the late 1st millennium BC, peoples belonging to the Scythian cultures expanded into Iran (Sakastan), India (Indo-Scythians) and the Tarim Basin.

Around 650-630 BC, the Scythians briefly dominated the Medes of the western Iranian Plateau, stretching their power to the borders of Egypt. After losing control over Media, the Scythians continued intervening in Middle Eastern affairs, playing a leading role in the destruction of the Assyrian Empire in the Sack of Nineveh in 612 BC.

The Scythians subsequently engaged in frequent conflicts with the Achaemenid Empire. The Scythians suffered a major defeat against Macedonia 400 BC and were subsequently gradually conquered by the Sarmatians, a related Iranian people living to their east.

In the early centuries AD, the western Scythian cultures came under pressure from the Goths and other Germanic peoples. The end of the Scythian period in archaeology has been set at approximately the 2nd century AD.

Scythian cultures

Scythian cultures, also referred to as Scythic cultures, Scytho-Siberian cultures, Early Nomadic cultures, Scythian civilization, Scythian horizon, Scythian world or Scythian continuum, were a group of similar archaeological cultures which flourished across the entire Eurasian Steppe during the Iron Age from approximately the 9th century BC to the 2nd century AD.

Among Greco-Roman writers, this region was known as Scythia. The location and extent of Scythia varied by time, but generally it encompassed the part of Eastern Europe east of the Vistula river and much of Central Asia up to the Tarim Basin. Its speakers were part of the wider Scythian cultures, which included Massagetae, Saka, Sarmatians, Scythians and others.

Equestrianism is one of the chief characteristics of the Scythian cultures. The Scythian cultures are characterized by the Scythian triad, which are similar, yet not identical, styles of weapons, horses’ bridles and Scythian art. Yet, the question of how related these cultures is however disputed among scholars.

Its peoples were of diverse origins, and included not just Scythians, from which the cultures are named, but other peoples as well, such as the Cimmerians, Massagetae, Saka, Sarmatians and obscure forest steppe populations. Mostly speakers of the Scythian branch of the Iranian languages, all of these peoples are sometimes collectively referred to as Scythians, Scytho-Siberians, Early Nomads or Iron Age Nomads.

Peoples associated with the Scythian cultures include speakers of the Scythian languages, such as Massagetae, Sarmatians, Saka and Scythians, and the Cimmerians. The peoples of the Forest steppe were also part of the Scythian cultures.

The origins of those peoples are obscure. There might have been early Slavs, Balts and Finno-Ugric peoples among them. The settled population in Scythian cultural areas also included Thracians. Despite belonging to similar material cultures, the peoples of the Scythian cultures belonged to many separate ethnic groups.

Among the diverse peoples of the Scythian cultures, the Scythians are the most famous, due to the reports on them published by the 5th century Greek historian Herodotus. The ancient Persians referred to all nomads of steppe as Saka.

In modern times, term Scythians is sometimes applied to all the peoples associated with the Scythian cultures. Within this terminology it is often distinguished between “western” Scythians living on the Pontic–Caspian steppe, and “eastern” Scythians living on the Eastern Steppe.

The terms Saka or Sauromates, and Scytho-Siberians, is sometimes used for the “eastern” Scythians living in Central Asia and southern Siberia respectively. The term Scytho-Siberians has also been applied to all peoples associated with the Scythian cultures. The terms Early Nomads and Iron Age Nomads have also been used.

The ambiguity of the term Scythian has led to a lot of confusion in literature. Nicola Di Cosmo questions the validity of referring the cultures of all early Eurasian nomads as “Scythian”, and recommends the use of alternative terms such as Early Nomadic.

By ancient authors, the term “Scythian” eventually came to be applied to a wide range of peoples “who had no relation whatever to the original Scythians”, such as Huns, Goths, Türks, Avars, Khazars and other unnamed nomads.

Scythian languages

The Scythian languages are a group of Eastern Iranian languages of the classical and late antique period (the Middle Iranian period), spoken in a vast region of Eurasia named Scythia. The Scythians disappeared from history after the Hunnish invasion of Europe in the 5th century AD, and Turkic (Avar, Batsange, etc.) and Slavic peoples probably assimilated most people speaking Scythian.

However, in the Caucasus, the Ossetian language, which descends from the Alanian variety, belonging to the Scythian linguistic continuum, remains in use today, while in Central Asia, some languages belonging to Eastern Iranian group are still spoken, namely Pashto, Pamir languages and Yaghnobi.

The Alanian language as spoken by the Alans from about the 5th to the 11th centuries AD formed a dialect directly descended from the earlier Scytho-Sarmatian languages, and forming in its turn the ancestor of the Ossetian language. Byzantine Greek authors recorded only a few fragments of this language.

Modern Eastern Iranian languages such as Wakhi, however, are related to the eastern Scytho-Khotanese dialects attested from the kingdoms of Khotan and Tumshuq in the ancient Tarim Basin, in present-day southern Xinjiang, China.

The dominant ethnic groups among the Scythian-speakers were nomadic pastoralists of Central Asia and the Pontic-Caspian steppe. Fragments of their speech known from inscriptions and words quoted in ancient authors as well as analysis of their names indicate that it was an Indo-European language, more specifically from the Iranian group of Indo-Iranian languages.

The primary sources for Scythian words remain the Scythian toponyms, tribal names, and numerous personal names in the ancient Greek texts and in the Greek inscriptions found in the Greek colonies on the Northern Black Sea Coast. These names suggest that the Sarmatian language had close similarities to modern Ossetian.

Some scholars believe that many toponyms and hydronyms of the Russian and Ukrainian steppe have Scythian links. For example, Vasmer associates the name of the river Don with an assumed/reconstructed unattested Scythian word *dānu “water, river”, and with Avestan dānu-, Pashto dand and Ossetian don. The river names Don, Donets, Dnieper, Danube, and Dniester, and lake Donuzlav (the deepest one in Crimea) may also belong with the same word-group.

Alexander Lubotsky summarizes the known linguistic landscape as follows: “Unfortunately, we know next to nothing about the Scythian of that period [Old Iranian] – we have only a couple of personal and tribal names in Greek and Persian sources at our disposal – and cannot even determine with any degree of certainty whether it was a single language”.

Origin of the Scythians

The Scythian cultures emerged on the Eurasian Steppe at the dawn of the Iron Age in the early 1st millennium BC. The origins of the Scythian cultures have long been a source of debate among archaeologists. The Pontic–Caspian steppe was initially thought to have been their place of origin, until the Soviet archaeologist Aleksey Terenozhkin suggested a Central Asian origin.

Recent excavations at Arzhan in Tuva, Russia, have uncovered the earliest Scythian-style kurgan yet found. Similarly the earliest examples of the animal style art which would later characterize the Scythian cultures have been found near the upper Yenisei River and North China, dating to the 10th century BC. Based on these finds, it has been suggested that the Scythian cultures emerged at an early period in southern Siberia.

It is probably in this area the Scythian way of life initially developed. Recent genetic studies have however suggested an origin in the Srubnaya culture (lit. ‘log house culture’; 1800-1200 BC), also known as Timber-grave culture, or in the eastern Pontic–Caspian steppe and the southern Urals. Whether the Srubnaya culture originated in the east, west, or was a local development, is disputed among archaeologists. The Scythian cultures quickly came to stretch from the Pannonian Basin in the west to the Altai Mountains in the east. There was however significant cultural differences between east and west.

There has been established the existence of a local Maykop animal style in the artifacts found in the Maykop culture (3700-3000 BC), a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the western Caucasus region. 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.

The “classical Scythians” known to ancient Greek historians were located in the northern Black Sea and fore-Caucasus region, and their territories during the Iron Age were known to classical Greek sources as “Scythia”.

However, other Scythian groups encountered in Near Eastern and Achaemenid sources existed in Central Asia. Moreover, the term “Scythian” is also used by modern scholars in an archaeological context, i.e. any region perceived to display attributes of the “Scytho-Siberian” culture.

Large burial mounds (some over 20 metres high), provide the most valuable archaeological remains associated with the Scythians. They dot the Eurasian steppe belt, from Mongolia to Balkans, through Ukrainian and south Russian steppes, extending in great chains for many kilometers along ridges and watersheds.

It is from them archaeologists has learned much about Scythian life and art. Some Scythian tombs reveal traces of Greek, Chinese, and Indian craftsmanship, suggesting a process of Hellenization, Sinification, and other local influences among the Scythians.

Kurgan barrows were characteristic of Bronze Age peoples, from the Altay Mountains to the Caucasus, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. The Ipatovo kurga, a cemetery of kurgan burial mounds, located near the town of Ipatovo in Stavropol Krai, Russia, some 120 kilometers (75 mi) northeast of Stavropol, revealed a long sequence of burials from the Maykop culture c. 4000 BC down to the burial of a Sarmatian princess of the 3rd century BC, excavated 1998–99.

Modern interpretation of historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence has proposed two broad hypotheses when it comes to the origin of the Scythians. The first, formerly more espoused view by Soviet-era researchers, roughly followed Herodotus’ (third) account, stating that the Scythians were an Iranian group who arrived from Inner Asia, i.e. from the area of Turkestan and western Siberia.

An alternative view explains the origin of the Scythian cultural complex to have emerged from local groups of the “Timber Grave” (or Srubna) culture (although this is also associated with the Cimmerians). This second theory is supported by anthropological evidence which has found that Scythian skulls are similar to preceding findings from the Timber Grave culture, and distinct from those of the Central Asian Sacae.

Others have further stressed that “Scythian” was a very broad term used by both ancient and modern scholars to describe a whole host of otherwise unrelated peoples sharing only certain similarities in lifestyle (nomadism), cultural practices and language. The 1st millennium BC ushered a period of unprecedented cultural and economic connectivity amongst disparate and wide-ranging communities.

A mobile, broadly similar lifestyle would have facilitated contacts amongst disparate ethnic groupings along the expansive Eurasian steppe from the Danube to Manchuria, leading to many cultural similarities. From the viewpoint of Greek and Persian ancient observers, they were all lumped together under the etic category “Scythians”.

Accounts by Herodotus of Scythian origins has been discounted recently; although his accounts of Scythian raiding activities contemporary to his writings have been deemed more reliable. Moreover, the term Scythian, like Cimmerian, was used to refer to a variety of groups from the Black Sea to southern Siberia and central Asia.

They were not a specific people, but rather variety of peoples referred to at variety of times in history, and in several places, none of which was their original homeland. The Bible includes a single reference to Scythians in Colossians 3:11, immediately after mentioning barbarian, possibly as an extreme example of a barbarian.

Early physical analyses have unanimously concluded that the Scythians, even those in the east (e.g. the Pazyryk region), possessed predominantly “Europioid” features, although mixed ‘Euro-mogoloid” phenotypes also occur, depending on site and period.

Numerous ancient mitochondrial DNA samples have now been recovered from Bronze and Iron Age communities in the Eurasian steppe and Siberian forest zone, the putative ‘ancestors’ of the historical Scythians. Compared to Y-DNA, mtDNA is easier to extract and amplify from ancient specimens due to numerous copies of mtDNA per cell.

The earliest studies could only analyze segments of mtDNA, thus providing only broad correlations of affinity to modern ‘west Eurasian’ or ‘East Eurasian’ populations. For example, a 2002 study, the mitochondrial DNA of Saka period male and female skeletal remains from a double inhumation kurgan at the Beral site in Kazakhstan was analysed.

The two individuals were found to be not closely related. The HV1 mitochondrial sequence of the male was similar to the Anderson sequence which is most frequent in European populations. On the other hand the HV1 sequence of the female suggested a greater likelihood of Asian origins.

More recent studies have been able to type for specific mtDNA lineages. For example a 2004 study studied the HV1 sequence obtained from a male “Scytho-Siberian” at the Kizil site in the Altai Republic. It belonged to the N1a maternal lineage, a geographically “west Eurasian lineage.”

Another study by the same team, again from two Scytho-Siberian skeletons found in the Altai Republic, was phenotypically males “of mixed Euro-Mongoloid origin”. One of the individuals was found to carry the F2a maternal lineage, and the other the D lineage, both of which are characteristic of “East Eurasian” populations.

These early studies have been eloborated by an increasing number of studies by Russian scholars. Conclusions which might be drawn thus far, from an mtDNA persepctive, are:

(i) an early, Bronze Age mixture of both west and east Eurasian lineages, with western lineages being found far to the East, but not vice-versa; (ii) an apparent reversal by Iron Age times, with increasing presence of East Eurasian lineages in the western steppe; (iii) the possible role of migrations from the sedentary south: the Balkano-Danubian and Iranian regions toward the steppe.

Ancient Y-DNA data was finally provided in 2009. They studied the haplotypes and haplogroups of 26 ancient human specimens from the Krasnoyarsk area in Siberia were dated from between the middle of the 2nd millennium BC and the 4th century AD (Scythian and Sarmatian timeframe). Nearly all subjects belong to haplogroup R-M17.

The authors suggest that their data shows that between Bronze and Iron Ages the constellation of populations known variously as Scythians, Andronovians, etc. were blue- (or green-) eyed, fair-skinned and light-haired people who might have played a role in the early development of the Tarim Basin civilization.

Moreover, this study found that they were genetically more closely related to modern populations of Eastern Europe than those of Central and Southern Asia. The ubiquity and utter dominance of R1a Y-DNA lineage contrasts markedly with the diversity seen in the mtDNA profiles.

However, this comparison was made on the basis of STRs. Since then population and geographic specific SNPs have been discovered which can accurately distinguish between “European” R1a (M458, Z 280) and “South Asian” R1a (Z93).

Re-analyzing ancient Scytho-Siberian samples for these more specific subclades will further elucidate if the Eurasian steppe populations have an ultimate Eastern European or South Asian origin, or perhaps, both.

This, in turn, might also depend on which population is studied, i.e. Herodotus’ European “classical’ Scythians, the Central Asian Sakae or un-named nomadic groups in the far east (Altai region) who also bore a ‘Scythian” cultural tradition.

Anthropological data has revealed that the people of the Scythian cultures were Europoid, although Mongoloid admixture is discernible on its eastern fringes. They were tall and powerfully built, even by modern standards.

This was particularly the case for warriors and noblemen, who were often more than 6 ft (1.83 m) tall. Sometimes they exceeded 6 ft 3 in (1.90 m) in height, and males even exceeding 6 ft 6 in (2 m) have been uncovered.

 The ordinary people whom they dominated were of much smaller stature, averaging 4-6 in. (10-15 cm) below them in height. Skeletons of Scythian nobles differ from those of today by their longer arm and leg bones, and stronger bone formation. These physical characteristics affirm an Iranian origin.

Scythian cultures are characteristic for their art, which was made in the animal style. The Scythian cultures are characterized by similar, yet not identical, shapes for horses’ bridles, weapons, and art-types. Their art was made in the so-called animal style, and is referred to as Scythian art. The three characteristics are known as the Scythian trias.

In the beginning of the 18th century, Russian explorers began uncovering Scythian finds throughout their newly acquired territories. Significant Scythian archaeological finds have been uncovered up to recent times.

A major find are the Pazyryk burials, which were discovered on the Ukok Plateau in the 1940s. The finds are notably for revealing the form of mummification practiced by the Scythians. Another important find is the Issyk kurgan.

The Scythians were excellent craftsmen with complex cultural traditions. Horse sacrifices are common in Scythian graves, and several of the sacrificed horses were evidently old and well-kept, indicating that the horse played a prominent role in Scythian society.

They played a prominent role in the network connecting ancient civilizations known as the Silk Road. The homogeneity of patrilineal lineages and diversity of matrineal lineages of samples from Scythian burial sites indicate that Scythian society was strongly patriarchal.

Numerous archaeological finds have revealed that the Scythians led a warlike life: the competition for territory must have been fierce. The numerous weapons placed in graves are indicative of a highly militarized society.

Scythian warfare was primarily conducted through mounted archery. They were the first great power to perfect this tactic. The Scythians developed a new powerful type of bow known as the Scythian bow. Sometimes they would poison their arrows.

In a 2015 study published in Nature, the remains of an individual from Samara Oblast, Russia, dated ca. 380-200 BC, and ascribed to the Scythian cultures, was analyzed. The individual was found to belong to haplogroup R1a1a1b2a2a. This lineage is associated with earlier Srubnaya culture of the Pontic–Caspian steppe, which again traces its origin to the Yamnaya culture.

In 2017, a genetic study of various Scythian cultures was published in Nature Communications. The study suggested that the Scythian cultures on the Pontic-Caspian steppe and the Eastern Steppe emerged independently of each other, and were a mixture of Yamnaya culture-related and East Asian ancestry.

Much of this admixture probably happened during the earlier expansion of the Afanasievo culture and Andronovo culture onto the Eastern Steppe. The peoples of the areas of the Scythian cultures were more closely related to each other than modern populations in the same areas, and there appears to have been significant gene flow between them, mostly mitochondrial lineages from east to west.

It was suggested that the source of this gene flow may have contributed to the uniformity of the Scythian cultures. Modern populations with a close genetic relationship to the peoples of the Scythian cultures were found to be those living in close proximity to the remains examined, suggesting genetic continuity.

Another 2017 genetic study, published in Scientific Reports, reported similar results. It found and increasing number of east Eurasian mitochondrial lineages among the eastern Scythian cultures. The origins of presence of east Eurasian lineages in Scythian samples were explained as a result of admixture between migrants of European ancestry and women of east Eurasian origin.

According to the authors of the study suggested that the Srubnaya culture was the source of the Scythian cultures of at least the Pontic steppe. In 2018, a genetic study of the earlier Srubnaya culture, and later peoples of the Scythian cultures, such as Cimmerians, Scythians and Sarmatians, was published in Science Advances.

While members of the Srubnaya culture were found to be carriers of haplogroup R1a1a1, which showed a major expansion during the Bronze Age, the Cimmerian, Scythian and Sarmatian samples examined were found to be mostly carriers of haplogroup R1b1a1a2, which is characteristic of the earlier Yamnaya culture, although one Sarmatian studied carried haplogroup R1a1a1.

Peoples of the Scythian cultures were also found to have a presence of east Eurasian mitochondrial lineages, which are completely absent among the Srubnaya. Groups of the Scythian cultures in the west showed close genetic affinities with the Afanasievo culture and the Andronovo culture, while groups in the east, such as those of the Aldy-Bel culture and Pazyryk culture, showed closer genetic affinities with the Yamnaya culture.

Genetic data found negligible evidence of any mobility among populations in the Far East, suggesting the eastern Pontic–Caspian steppe and the southern Urals as the main source of origin of the western Iron Age nomads.

Rather than being directly descended from the Srubnaya, the Scythian cultures probably had a shared origin in the Yamnaya culture. The study corroborated the contention that the peoples of the Scythian cultures did not consist of a single homogeneous group, but rather a number of diverse peoples with an earlier common origin.

In 2018, a study of mtDNA from remains of the Tagar culture, which is considered a Scythian culture, was published in PLOS One. Remains from the early years of the Tagar culture were found to be closely related to those of contemporary Scythians on the Pontic steppe.

The authors of the study suggested that the source of this genetic similarity was an eastwards migration of West Eurasians during the Bronze Age, which probably played a role in the formation of the Tagar culture.

In 2019, a genetic study of remains from the Aldy-Bel culture, which is considered a Scythian culture, was published in Human Genetics. The majority of the samples (9 out of 17) were found to be carriers of haplogroup R1a, including two carriers of haplogroup R1a1a1b2-Z93. East Asian admixture was also detected, as 6 haplogroup Q-L54 (including 5 in Sagly culture) and 1 haplogroup N-M231 were excavated.

The haplogroup of the remaining 1 sample is said to be uncertain in the paper Probably R). (The significant genetic differences found between Scythian groups of the Pontic Steppe and South Siberia suggest that these were of completely different paternal origins, with almost no paternal gene flowe between them.

In 2019, a genetic study of various peoples belonging to the Scythian cultures, such as Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians and Saka, was published in Current Biology. The remains of all groups were mostly found to be carriers of haplogroup R1a and various subclades of it. Haplogroup Q samples(2/Y-DNA identified 16) were also found. The samples were found to be more closely related to modern-day Europeans than Central Asian or Siberian populations.

Srubna culture

The Catacomb culture (c. 2800–1700 BC) was a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe. 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. 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.

The Catacomb people were massively built Europoids. Their skulls are similar to those of the Potapovka culture. 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 strongly dolichocephalic type of the Sintashta, and the less dolichocephalic type of the Yamnaya culture and Poltavka culture.

The Srubnaya culture (lit. ‘log house culture’), also known as Timber-grave culture, a Late Bronze Age (1800-1200 BC) culture in the eastern part of Pontic-Caspian steppe, was a successor of the Catacomb culture.

It is a successor of the Yamna culture, Catacomb culture and Poltavka culture. It is co-ordinate and probably closely related to the Andronovo culture, its eastern neighbor. 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 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.

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 indicates that the Srubnaya culture was succeeded by the Cimmerians and Scythians.

Physical remains of Srubnaya people have 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.

In a study published on 10 October 2015, 14 individuals of the Srubnaya culture could be surveyed. Extractions from 100% of the males (six men from 5 different cemeteries) were determined to be of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1.

Extractions of mtDNA from fourteen individuals were determined to represent five samples of haplogroup H, four samples of haplogroup U5, two samples of T1, one sample of T2, one sample of K1b, one of J2b and one of I1a.

A 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.

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. 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.


Sarmatian tribes, of whom the best known are the Roxolani (Rhoxolani), Iazyges (Jazyges) and the Alani (Alans), also known as Ossetians, followed the Scythians westwards into Europe in the late centuries BC and the 1st and 2nd centuries AD (The Age of Migrations).

The populous Sarmatian tribe of the Massagetae, dwelling near the Caspian Sea, was known to the early rulers of Persia in the Achaemenid Period. The Massagetae, an ancient Eastern Iranian nomadic tribal confederation, who inhabited the steppes of Central Asia, north-east of the Caspian Sea in modern Turkmenistan, western Uzbekistan, and southern Kazakhstan, were part of the wider Scythian cultures.

According to Greek and Roman scholars, the Massagetae were neighboured by the Aspasioi (possibly the Aśvaka) to the north, the Scythians and the Dahae to the west, and the Issedones (possibly the Wusun) to the east. Sogdia (Khorasan) lay to the south. They were known to the early rulers of Persia in the Achaemenid Period.

At their greatest reported extent, around 1st century AD, the Sarmatian tribes ranged from the Vistula River to the mouth of the Danube and eastward to the Volga, bordering the shores of the Black and Caspian seas as well as the Caucasus to the south In the east, the Scythians occupied several areas in Xinjiang, from Khotan to Tumshuq.

The Sarmatians were a large Iranian confederation that existed in classical antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD. Originating in the central parts of the Eurasian Steppe, the Sarmatians were part of the wider Scythian cultures.

They started migrating westward around the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, coming to dominate the closely related Scythians by 200 BC. At their greatest reported extent, around 1st century AD, these tribes ranged from the Vistula River to the mouth of the Danube and eastward to the Volga, bordering the shores of the Black and Caspian seas as well as the Caucasus to the south.

Their territory, which was known as Sarmatia to Greco-Roman ethnographers, corresponded to the western part of greater Scythia and included today’s Central Ukraine, South-Eastern Ukraine, Southern Russia, Russian Volga and South-Ural regions, also to a smaller extent north-eastern Balkans and around Moldova.

At their greatest reported extent, around 1st century AD, the Sarmatians began encroaching upon the Roman Empire in alliance with Germanic tribes. The Sarmatian tribes ranged from the Vistula River to the mouth of the Danube and eastward to the Volga, bordering the shores of the Black and Caspian seas as well as the Caucasus to the south.

In the late 2nd century BC, their capital at Scythian Neapolis in the Crimea was captured by Mithradates VI and their territories incorporated into the Bosporan Kingdom. By this time they had been largely Hellenized.

By the 3rd century AD, the Sarmatians and last remnants of the Scythians were dominated by the Alans, and were being overwhelmed by the Goths. By the early Middle Ages, the Scythians and the Sarmatians had been largely assimilated and absorbed by early Slavs.

In the 3rd century AD, their dominance of the Pontic Steppe was broken by the Germanic Goths. With the Hunnic invasions of the 4th century, many Sarmatians joined the Goths and other Germanic tribes (Vandals) in the settlement of the Western Roman Empire.

Since large parts of today’s Russia, specifically the land between the Ural Mountains and the Don River, were controlled in the 5th century BC by the Sarmatians, the Volga–Don and Ural steppes sometimes are also called “Sarmatian Motherland”.

The Sarmatians were eventually decisively assimilated (e.g. Slavicisation) and absorbed by the Proto-Slavic population of Eastern Europe. Ossetian, primarily spoken in North Ossetia and South Ossetia, is a direct descendant of Alanic, and by that the only surviving Sarmatian language of the once wide-ranging East Iranian dialect continuum that stretched from Eastern Europe to the eastern parts of Central Asia.


Sogdia or Sogdiana was an ancient Iranian civilization that at different times included territory located in present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, such as Samarkand, Bukhara, Khujand, Panjikent, and Shahrisabz.

Centuries before the conquest of Sogdiana by the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, Sogdiana possessed a Bronze Age urban culture that was gradually displaced by the Indo-European migrations of the Iron Age. This large-scale migration included Eastern Iranian speaking peoples such as the Sogdians.

The original Bronze Age towns appear in the archaeological record beginning with the settlement at Sarazm, Tajikistan, spanning as far back as the 4th millennium BC and then at Kök Tepe, near modern-day Bulungur, Uzbekistan, from at least the 15th century BC.

Sogdiana was also a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great (i. 16). In the Avesta, Sogdiana is listed as the second best land that the supreme deity Ahura Mazda had created. It comes second, after Airyanem Vaejah, “homeland of the Aryans”, in the Zoroastrian book of Vendidad, indicating the importance of this region from ancient times.

Sogdiana was first conquered by Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. The region would then be annexed by the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great in 328 BC. The region would continue to change hands under the Seleucid Empire, Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Kushan Empire, Hephthalite Empire, and Sasanian Empire.

The Sogdian states, although never politically united, were centred on the main city of Samarkand. Sogdiana lay north of Bactria, east of Khwarezm, and southeast of Kangju between the Oxus (Amu Darya) and the Jaxartes (Syr Darya), embracing the fertile valley of the Zeravshan (ancient Polytimetus).

Sogdian territory corresponds to the modern provinces of Samarkand and Bokhara in modern Uzbekistan as well as the Sughd province of modern Tajikistan. During the High Middle Ages, Sogdian cities included sites stretching towards Issyk Kul such as that at the archeological site of Suyab.

Sogdians also lived in Imperial China and rose to special prominence in the military and government of the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–907 AD). Sogdian merchants and diplomats traveled as far west as the Byzantine Empire.

They played an important part as middlemen in the trade route of the Silk Road. While originally following the faiths of Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Buddhism and, to a lesser extent, Nestorian Christianity from West Asia.

Their language, Sogdian, a Northeastern group of the Iranian languages spoken in the Central Asian region of Sogdia located in modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and by some Sogdian immigrant communities in ancient China. It was one of the most important Middle Iranian languages, along with Bactrian, Khotanese Saka, Middle Persian, and Parthian. It possesses a large literary corpus.

Like Khotanese, Sogdian possesses a more conservative grammar and morphology than Middle Persian. No direct evidence of an earlier version of the language (“Old Sogdian”) has been found, although mention of the area in the Old Persian inscriptions means that a separate and recognisable Sogdia existed at least since the Achaemenid Empire (559–323 BCE).

It was widely spoken in Central Asia as the Silk Road’s lingua franca during Tang China (ca. 7th century CE), and even served as one of the Turkic Khaganate’s court languages for writing documents. The economic and political importance of Sogdian guaranteed its survival in the first few centuries after the Muslim conquest of Sogdia in the early eighth century. 

The gradual conversion to Islam among the Sogdians and their descendants began with the Muslim conquest of Transoxiana in the 8th century. The Sogdian conversion to Islam was virtually complete by the end of the Samanid Empire in 999, coinciding with the decline of the Sogdian language, as it was largely supplanted by Persian.

Sogdian is no longer a spoken language, but a dialect of Sogdian spoken around the 8th century in Osrushana, a region to the south of Sogdia, developed into the modern Eastern Iranian language Yaghnobi language still spoken by the Yaghnobis of Tajikistan, which is the descendant of a dialect of Sogdian spoken around the 8th century in Osrushana, a region to the south of Sogdia.

Oswald Szemerényi devotes a thorough discussion to the etymologies of ancient ethnic words for the Scythians in his work Four Old Iranian Ethnic Names: Scythian – Skudra – Sogdian – Saka. In it, the names provided by the Greek historian Herodotus and the names of his title, except Saka, as well as many other words for “Scythian,” such as Assyrian Aškuz and Greek Skuthēs, descend from *skeud-, an ancient Indo-European root meaning “propel, shoot” (cf. English shoot).

*skud- is the zero-grade; that is, a variant in which the -e- is not present. The restored Scythian name is *Skuda (archer), which among the Pontic or Royal Scythians became *Skula, in which the d has been regularly replaced by an l. According to Szemerényi, Sogdiana was named from the Skuda form.

Starting from the names of the province given in Old Persian inscriptions, Sugda and Suguda, and the knowledge derived from Middle Sogdian that Old Persian -gd- applied to Sogdian was pronounced as voiced fricatives, -γδ-, Szemerényi arrives at *Suγδa as an Old Sogdian endonym.

Applying sound changes apparent in other Sogdian words and inherent in Indo-European he traces the development of *Suγδa from Skuda, “archer,” as follows: Skuda > *Sukuda by anaptyxis > *Sukuδa > *Sukδa (syncope) > *Suγδa (assimilation).

Sogdia or Sogdiana was an ancient Iranian civilization that at different times included territory located in present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, such as Samarkand, Bukhara, Khujand, Panjikent, and Shahrisabz.

Centuries before the conquest of Sogdiana by the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, Sogdiana possessed a Bronze Age urban culture that was gradually displaced by the Indo-European migrations of the Iron Age. This large-scale migration included Eastern Iranian speaking peoples such as the Sogdians.

The original Bronze Age towns appear in the archaeological record beginning with the settlement at Sarazm, Tajikistan, spanning as far back as the 4th millennium BC and then at Kök Tepe, near modern-day Bulungur, Uzbekistan, from at least the 15th century BC.

In the Avesta, Sogdiana is listed as the second best land that the supreme deity Ahura Mazda had created. It comes second, after Airyanem Vaejah, “homeland of the Aryans”, in the Zoroastrian book of Vendidad, indicating the importance of this region from ancient times.

Sogdiana was first conquered by Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. The region would then be annexed by the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great in 328 BC. The region would continue to change hands under the Seleucid Empire, Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Kushan Empire, Hephthalite Empire, and Sasanian Empire.

The Sogdian states, although never politically united, were centred on the main city of Samarkand. Sogdiana lay north of Bactria, east of Khwarezm, and southeast of Kangju between the Oxus (Amu Darya) and the Jaxartes (Syr Darya), embracing the fertile valley of the Zeravshan (ancient Polytimetus).

Sogdian territory corresponds to the modern provinces of Samarkand and Bokhara in modern Uzbekistan as well as the Sughd province of modern Tajikistan. During the High Middle Ages, Sogdian cities included sites stretching towards Issyk Kul such as that at the archeological site of Suyab.

Sogdian, an Eastern Iranian language, is no longer a spoken language, but a descendant of one of its dialects, Yaghnobi, is still spoken by the Yaghnobis of Tajikistan. It was widely spoken in Central Asia as a lingua franca and even served as one of the First Turkic Khaganate’s court languages for writing documents.

Sogdians also lived in Imperial China and rose to special prominence in the military and government of the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–907 AD). Sogdian merchants and diplomats travelled as far west as the Byzantine Empire. They played an important part as middlemen in the trade route of the Silk Road.

While originally following the faiths of Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Buddhism and, to a lesser extent, Nestorian Christianity from West Asia, the gradual conversion to Islam among the Sogdians and their descendants began with the Muslim conquest of Transoxiana in the 8th century. The Sogdian conversion to Islam was virtually complete by the end of the Samanid Empire in 999, coinciding with the decline of the Sogdian language, as it was largely supplanted by Persian.

Fergana, on the route to the Chinese Tarim Basin from the west, remained at the boundaries of a number of classical era empires. As early as 500 BC, the western sections of the Fergana Valley formed part of the Sogdiana region, which was ruled from further west and owed fealty to the Achaemenid Empire at the time of Darius the Great. The independent and warlike Sogdiana formed a border region insulating the Achaemenid Persians from the nomadic Scythians to the north and east.

The Sogdian Rock or Rock of Ariamazes, a fortress in Sogdiana, was captured in 327 BC by the forces of Alexander the Great; after an extended campaign putting down Sogdian resistance and founding military outposts manned by his Greek veterans, Alexander united Sogdiana with Bactria into one satrapy.


The Sakas were a group of nomadic Iranian peoples who spoke a language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. Like the Scythians of the Pontic Steppe, to whom they were related, the Saka were racially Europoid and ultimately traced their origin to the Andronovo culture.

They inhabited the northern and eastern Eurasian Steppe and the Tarim Basin. Though closely related, the Sakas are to be distinguished from the Scythians of the Pontic Steppe and the Massagetae of the Aral Sea region, although they form part of the wider Scythian cultures.

French historian René Grousset wrote that they formed a particular branch of the “Scytho-Sarmatian family” originating from nomadic Iranian peoples of the northwestern steppe in Eurasia.

Like the Scythians, the Sakas were ultimately derived from the earlier Andronovo culture. Their language formed part of the Scythian languages. Prominent archaeological remains of the Sakas include Arzhan, Tunnug, the Pazyryk burials, the Issyk kurgan, Saka Kurgan tombs, the Barrows of Tasmola and possibly Tillya Tepe.

The Pazyryk burials of the Pazyryk culture in the Ukok Plateau in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC are thought to be of Saka chieftains. These burials show striking similarities with the earlier Tarim mummies at Gumugou.

The Issyk kurgan of south-eastern Kazakhstan, and the Ordos culture of the Ordos  Plateau as also been connected with the Saka.It has been suggested that the ruling elite of the Xiongnu was of Saka origin. Some scholars contend that in the 8th century BC, a Saka raid on Altai may be “connected” with a raid on Zhou China.

The region in modern Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Saka moved to became known as “land of the Saka” or Sakastan. This is attested in a contemporary Kharosthi inscription found on the Mathura lion capital belonging to the Saka kingdom of the Indo-Scythians (200 BC – 400 AD) in northern India, roughly the same time the Chinese record that the Saka had invaded and settled the country of Jibin (i.e. Kashmir, of modern-day India and Pakistan).

In the Persian language of contemporary Iran the territory of Drangiana was called Sakastāna, in Armenian as Sakastan, with similar equivalents in Pahlavi, Greek, Sogdian, Syriac, Arabic, and the Middle Persian tongue used in Turfan, Xinjiang, China. The Sakas also captured Gandhara and Taxila, and migrated to North India. The most famous Indo-Scythian king was Maues. An Indo-Scythians kingdom was established in Mathura (200 BC – 400 AD).

Weer Rajendra Rishi, an Indian linguist, identified linguistic affinities between Indian and Central Asian languages, which further lends credence to the possibility of historical Sakan influence in North India. According to historian Michael Mitchiner, the Abhira tribe were a Saka people cited in the Gunda inscription of the Western Satrap Rudrasimha I dated to 181 CE.

The Pazyryk culture flourished between the 7th and 3rd century BC in the area associated with the Sacae, a Scythian tribe or group of tribes of Iranian origin. B. N. Mukerjee has said that it is clear that ancient Greek and Roman scholars believed, all Sakai were Scythians, but not all Scythians were Sakai.

Modern confusion about the identity of the Saka is partly due to the Persians. According to Herodotus, the Persians called all Scythians by the name Sakas. Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, AD 23–79) provides a more detailed explanation, stating that the Persians gave the name Sakai to the Scythian tribes “nearest to them”.

In the 2nd century BC, many Sakas were driven by the Yuezhi from the steppe into Sogdia and Bactria and then to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, where they were known as the Indo-Scythians.

Other Sakas invaded the Parthian Empire, eventually settling in Sistan, while others may have migrated to the Dian Kingdom in Yunnan, China. In the Tarim Basin and Taklamakan Desert region of Northwest China, they settled in Khotan, Yarkand, Kashgar and other places, which were at various times vassals to greater powers, such as Han China and Tang China.

The language of the original Saka tribes is unknown. The only record from their early history is the Issyk inscription, a short fragment on a silver cup found in the Issyk kurgan. (Eastern) Saka or Sakan is a variety of Eastern Iranian languages. It is a Middle Iranian language.

The inscription is in a variant of the Kharoṣṭhī script, and is probably in a Saka dialect, constituting one of very few autochthonous epigraphic traces of that language. Harmatta (1999) identifies the language as Khotanese Saka, tentatively translating “The vessel should hold wine of grapes, added cooked food, so much, to the mortal, then added cooked fresh butter on”.

The only known remnants of what is nowadays called the Saka language is Khotanese Saka language of the ancient Buddhist kingdoms of Khotan and Tumshuq in the Tarim Basin, in what in now southern Xinjiang, China, which was ruled by the Saka. The language there is widely divergent from the rest of Iranian belongs to the Eastern Iranian group. It also is divided into two divergent dialects. The two kingdoms differed in dialect, their speech known as Khotanese and Tumshuqese. Both dialects share features with modern Wakhi and Pashto, but both of the Saka dialects contain many borrowings from the Middle Indo-Aryan Prakrit. Many Prakrit terms were borrowed from Khotanese into the Tocharian languages.

Tumshuqese was more archaic than Khotanese, but it is much less understood because it appears in fewer manuscripts compared to Khotanese. According to the LINGUIST List, Khotanese and Tumshuqese are distinct Eastern Iranian languages. Khotanese is classified under the Southeastern Iranian family. Tumshuqese is classified as a “Sakan-Tumshuqese” language under the “Sogdian-Khotanese” subgroup, which in turn belongs to the Scythian branch of the Northeastern Iranian group of languages.

The two known dialects of Saka are associated with a movement of Scythian people. No invasion of the region is recorded in Chinese records and one theory is that two tribes of Saka, speaking the dialects, settled in the region in about 200 BC before the Chinese accounts commence.

Pazyryk culture

The Pazyryk culture is a Scythian nomadic Iron Age archaeological culture (ca. 6th to 3rd centuries BC) identified by excavated artifacts and mummified humans found in the in the Siberian permafrost in the Altay Mountains, Kazakhstan and nearby Mongolia. The mummies are buried in long barrows (or kurgans) similar to the tomb mounds of Scythian culture in Ukraine.

The type site are the Pazyryk burials in the Pazyryk Valley of the Ukok Plateau in the Altai Mountains, Siberia, south of the modern city of Novosibirsk, Russia; the site is close to the borders with China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.  Numerous comparable burials have been found in neighboring western Mongolia.

Archaeologists have extrapolated the Pazyryk culture from these finds: five large burial mounds and several smaller ones between 1925 and 1949, one opened in 1947 by Russian archaeologist Sergei Rudenko. The burial mounds concealed chambers of larch-logs covered over with large cairns of boulders and stones.

Ordinary Pazyryk graves contain only common utensils, but in one, among other treasures, archaeologists found the famous Pazyryk Carpet, the oldest surviving wool-pile oriental rug. Another striking find, a 3-metre-high four-wheel funerary chariot, survived superbly preserved from the 5th century BC.

The mummies are buried in long barrows (or “kurgans”) similar to the tomb mounds of western Scythian culture in modern Ukraine. In fact, some of the first Bronze Age Scythian burials documented by modern archaeologists include the kurgans at Pazyryk in the Ulagan (Red) district of the Altai Republic, south of Novosibirsk in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia (near Mongolia).

Other undisturbed kurgans have been found to contain remarkably well-preserved remains, comparable to the earlier Tarim mummies of Xinjiang. Bodies were preserved using mummification techniques and were also naturally frozen in solid ice from water seeping into the tombs.

They were encased in coffins made from hollowed trunks of larch (which may have had sacral significance) and sometimes accompanied by sacrificed concubines and horses. The clustering of tombs in a single area implies that it had particular ritual significance for these people, who were likely to have been willing to transport their deceased leaders great distances for burial.

Many artifacts and human remains have been found at this location, including the Siberian Ice Princess, indicating a flourishing culture at this location that benefited from the many trade routes and caravans of merchants passing through the area. The Pazyryk are considered to have had a war-like life.

Other kurgan cemeteries associated with the culture include those of Bashadar, Tuekta, Ulandryk, Polosmak and Berel. There are so far no known sites of settlements associated with the burials, suggesting a purely nomadic lifestyle.

The tombs are Scythian-type kurgans, barrow-like tomb mounds containing wooden chambers covered over by large cairns of boulders and stones, dated to the 4th – 3rd centuries BCE.

The spectacular burials at Pazyryk are responsible for the introduction of the term kurgan, a Russian word of Turkic origin, into general usage to describe these tombs. The region of the Pazyryk kurgans is considered the type site of the wider Pazyryk culture. The site is included in the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The bearers of the Pazyryk culture were horse-riding pastoral nomads of the steppe, and some may have accumulated great wealth through horse trading with merchants in Persia, India and China.

Trading routes between Central Asia, China and the Near East passed through the oases on the plateau and these ancient Altai nomads profited from the rich trade and culture passing through. There is evidence that Pazyryk trade routes were vast and connected with large areas of Asia including India, perhaps Pazyryk merchants largely trading in high quality horses.

This wealth is evident in the wide array of finds from the Pazyryk tombs, which include many rare examples of organic objects such as felt hangings, Chinese silk, the earliest known pile carpet, horses decked out in elaborate trappings, and wooden furniture and other household goods. These finds were preserved when water seeped into the tombs in antiquity and froze, encasing the burial goods in ice, which remained frozen in the permafrost until the time of their excavation.

The Pazyryk culture has been connected to the Scythians, Iranic equestrian tribes who were mentioned as inhabiting large areas in the central Eurasian steppes starting with the 7th century BC up until the 4th century AD, whose similar tombs have been found across the steppes. The Siberian animal style tattooing is characteristic of the Scythians.

It has been suggested that Pazyryk was a homeland for these tribes before they migrated west. There is also the possibility that the current inhabitants of the Altai region are descendants of the Pazyryk culture, a continuity that would accord with current ethnic politics: Archaeogenetics is now being used to study the Pazyryk mummies.

Craniological studies of samples from the Pazyryk burials revealed the presence of both Mongoloid and Caucasoid components in this population. quoting G. F. Debets on the physical characteristics of the population in the Pazyryk kurgans, records a mixed population. The men would seem to be part Mongoloid and the women Europoid.

Because of a freak climatic freeze, some of the Altai burials, notably those of the 5th century BC at Pazyryk and neighbouring sites, such as Katanda, Shibe, and Tuekt, were isolated from external climatic variations by a protective layer of ice that conserved the organic substances buried in them.

At Pazyryk these included the bodies of horses and an embalmed man whose body was covered with tattoos of animal motifs. The remarkable textiles recovered from the Pazyryk burials include the oldest woollen knotted-pile carpet known, the oldest embroidered Chinese silk, and two pieces of woven Persian fabric. Red and ochre predominate in the carpet, the main design of which is of riders, stags, and griffins.

Many of the Pazyryk felt hangings, saddlecloths, and cushions were covered with elaborate designs executed in appliqué feltwork, dyed furs, and embroidery. Of exceptional interest are those with animal and human figural compositions, the most notable of which are the repeat design of an investiture scene on a felt hanging and that of a semihuman, semibird creature on another (both in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). Clothing, whether of felt, leather, or fur, was also lavishly ornamented.

Horse reins either had animal designs cut out on them or were studded with wooden ones covered in gold foil. Their tail sheaths were ornamented, as were their headpieces and breastpieces. Some horses were provided with leather or felt masks made to resemble animals, with stag antlers or rams’ horns often incorporated in them.

Many of the trappings took the form of iron, bronze, and gilt wood animal motifs either applied or suspended from them; and bits had animal-shaped terminal ornaments. Altai-Sayan animals frequently display muscles delineated with dot and comma markings, a formal convention that may have derived from appliqué needlework.

Such markings are sometimes included in Assyrian, Achaemenian, and even Urartian animal representations of the ancient Middle East. Roundels containing a dot serve the same purpose on the stag and other animal renderings executed by contemporary Śaka metalworkers. Animal processions of the Assyro-Achaemenian type also appealed to many Central Asian tribesmen and are featured in their arts.

Certain geometric designs and sun symbols, such as the circle and rosette, recur at Pazyryk but are completely outnumbered by animal motifs. The stag and its relatives figure as prominently as in Altai-Sayan. Combat scenes between carnivores and herbivores are exceedingly numerous in Pazyryk work; the Pazyryk beasts are locked in such bitter fights that the victim’s hindquarters become inverted.

DNA samples recovered from the remains of Pazyryk males showed them to be belonged to clades of haplogroup R1a1. with only two Pazyryk males were members of Y-chromosome haplogroup N1b-P43. In the related cultures such as Aldy-Bel culture and Sagly culture of the Altai region, haplogroup Q-L54 samples(6/17) were also found in kurgans.

Chernoles culture

Chernoles culture or Black Forest culture is an Iron Age archaeological unit dating ca. 1025–700 BC. It was located in the forest-steppe between the Dniester and Dnieper Rivers, in the Black Forest of Kirovohrad Oblast in central Ukraine. This location corresponds to where Herodotus later placed his Scythian ploughmen. From 200 BC, the culture was overrun by the arrival of Germanic and Celtic settlers to the region.

Chernolesian settlements include open sites and also fortified sites surrounded by multiple banks and ditches. Houses were usually surface-dwellings and of substantial size, ~ 10 x 6 m. Artifacts found in settlements include stone and bronze axes, weapons, bronze ornaments, and iron tools.

Cultivated wheat, barley, and millet were staples. The economy was agricultural, with stockbreeding. Bronze artefacts indicate significant contact with Scythian nomads, and finds of finer ceramic wares suggest contact with Thrace and Black Sea Greek colonies. Inhabitants practised biritual burials: inhumation under barrows and cremation in urnfields (the latter predominated in later periods).

Classical Chernoles period finished c. 500 BC, corresponding to a simplification in the material culture, interpreted to represent a pauperization due to the political domination of the forest-steppe communities by Scythians.

In these latter stages, we see an increase in fortified settlements, perhaps representing a defensive measure against the nomads (with earthen ramparts, ditches and timber walls). Despite the difficulties, settlement density actually increases, and the socio-cultural traditions continued.

Indo-Iranian Haplogroups

The Indo-Iranian migrations have resulted in high R1a frequencies in southern Central Asia, Iran and the Indian subcontinent. The highest frequency of R1a (about 65%) is reached in a cluster around Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan. In India and Pakistan, R1a ranges from 15 to 50% of the population, depending on the region, ethnic group and caste.

R1a is generally stronger is the North-West of the subcontinent, and weakest in the Dravidian-speaking South (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh) and from Bengal eastward. Over 70% of the Brahmins (highest caste in Hindusim) belong to R1a1, due to a founder effect.

Maternal lineages in South Asia are, however, overwhelmingly pre-Indo-European. For instance, India has over 75% of “native” mtDNA M and R lineages and 10% of East Asian lineages. In the residual 15% of haplogroups, approximately half are of Southwest Asian origin. Only about 7 or 8% could be of Pontic-Caspian steppe origin, mostly in the form of haplogroup U2 and W, although the origin of U2 is still debated.

European mtDNA lineages are much more common in Central Asia though, and even in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. This suggests that the Indo-European invasion of India was conducted mostly by men through war, and the first major settlement of women was in northern Pakistan, western India (Punjab to Gujarat) and northern India (Uttar Pradesh), where haplogroups U2 and W are the most common today.

During pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, southern Central Asia was inhabited predominantly by speakers of Iranian languages. Among the ancient sedentary Iranian peoples, the Sogdians and Chorasmians played an important role, while Iranian peoples such as Scythians and the later on Alans lived a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle.

The well-preserved Tarim mummies, a series of mummies with Caucasoid features discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1800 BC to the first centuries BC, have been found in the Tarim Basin, an endorheic basin in northwest China occupying an area of about 1,020,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi).

While the semi-arid plains were dominated by the nomads, small city-states and sedentary agrarian societies arose in the more humid areas of Central Asia. The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC), also known as the Oxus civilization, of the early 2nd millennium BC was the first sedentary civilization of the region, practicing irrigation farming of wheat and barley and possibly a form of writing.

Haplogroups in India

India has one of the most genetically diverse populations in the world, and the history of this genetic diversity is the topic of continued research and debate. The genetic impact of the Indo-Aryans may have been marginal, but this is not at odds with the cultural and linguistic influence, since language shift is possible without a change in genetics.

The Indo-Aryan migrations form part of a complex genetic puzzle on the origin and spread of the various components of the Indian population, including various waves of admixture and language shift. Studies indicate north and south Indians share a common maternal ancestry.

A series of studies show that the Indian subcontinent harbours two major ancestral components, namely the Ancestral North Indians (ANI) which is “genetically close to Middle Easterners, Central Asians, and Europeans”, and the Ancestral South Indians (ASI) which is clearly distinct from ANI.

These two groups mixed in India between 4,200 and 1,900 years ago (2200 BCE–100 CE), whereafter a shift to endogamy took place, possibly by the enforcement of “social values and norms” during the Gupta Empire.

Three scenarios have been described regarding the bringing together of the two groups: migrations before the development of agriculture before 6000–7000 BC; migration of western Asian people together with the spread of agriculture, maybe up to 2600 BC; migrations of western Eurasians from 1000 to 2000 years BC.

While the onset of admixture coincides with the arrival of Indo-European language, these groups were present “unmixed” in India before the Indo-Aryan migrations. It is proposed that the ANI component came from Iran and the Middle East, less than 8000 BC.

ANI is a mix of early farmers of western Iran and people of the Bronze Age Eurasian steppe. Several studies also show traces of later influxes of maternal genetic material and of paternal genetic material related to ANI and possibly the Indo-Europeans.

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 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.

There is general agreement that Indian caste and tribal populations share a common late Pleistocene maternal ancestry in India. There is “an extensive deep late Pleistocene genetic link between contemporary Europeans and Indians via the mitochondrial DNA, that is, DNA which is inherited from the mother.

The two groups split at the time of the peopling of Asia and Eurasia and before modern humans entered Europe. The sum of any recent (the last 15,000 years) western mtDNA gene flow to India comprises, in average, less than 10 percent of the contemporary Indian mtDNA lineages.

North and south Indians share a common maternal ancestry. These results show that Indian tribal and caste populations derive largely from the same genetic heritage of Pleistocene southern and western Asians and have received limited gene flow from external regions since the Holocene.

There are two genetic groups in the majority of populations in India: Ancestral North Indians (ANI) and Ancestral South Indians (ASI). These two distinct groups, which had split ca. 50,000 years ago, formed the basis for the present population of India.

The ANI genes are close to those of Middle Easterners, Central Asians and Europeans whereas the ASI genes are dissimilar to all other known populations outside India, though the indigenous Andamanese were determined to be the most closely related to the ASI population of any living group (albeit distinct from the ASI).

The two groups mixed between 2200 BC and 100 CE, where-after a shift to endogamy took place and admixture became rare. Prior to 2200 BC, there were unmixed groups in India. Sometime between 2200 BC and 100 CE, profound, pervasive convulsive mixture occurred, affecting every Indo-European and Dravidian group in India without exception.Substantial migration didn’t occurred during this time.

The Indian populations are characterized by two major ancestry components. One of them is spread at comparable frequency and haplotype diversity in populations of South and West Asia and the Caucasus. The second component is more restricted to South Asia and accounts for more than 50% of the ancestry in Indian populations. Haplotype diversity associated with these South Asian ancestry components is significantly higher than that of the components dominating the West Eurasian ancestry palette.

There are three major ancestry components: “Southwest Asian”, “Southeast Asian” and “Northeast Asian”. The Southwest Asian component seems to be a native Indian component, while the Southeast Asian component is related to East Asian populations.

Brahmin populations contain 11.4 and 10.6% of Northern Eurasian and Mediterranean components, thereby suggesting a shared ancestry with the Europeans. This fits with earlier studies which have suggested similar shared ancestries with Europeans and Mediterraneans.

Studies based on uni-parental marker have shown diverse Y-chromosomal haplogroups making up the Indian gene pool. Many of these Y-chromosomal markers show a strong correlation to the linguistic affiliation of the population. The genome-wide variation of the Indian samples in the present study correlated with the linguistic affiliation of the sample.

While there may have been an ancient settlement in the subcontinent, male-dominated genetic elements shap[ed] the Indian gene pool these elements have earlier been correlated to various languages. There are fluidity of female gene pools when in a patriarchal and patrilocal society, such as that of India.

There are two other populations in addition to the ANI and ASI : Ancestral Austro-Asiatic (AAA) and Ancestral Tibeto-Burman (ATB), corresponding to the Austroasiatic and Tibeto-Burman language speakers. 

Ancestral populations seem to have occupied geographically separated habitats. The ASI and the AAA were early settlers, who possibly arrived via the southern wave out of Africa. The ANI is related to Central South Asians and entered India through the northwest, while the ATB are related to East Asians and entered India through northeast corridors. 

The asymmetry of admixture, with ANI populations providing genomic inputs to tribal populations (AA, Dravidian tribe, and TB) but not vice versa, is consistent with elite dominance and patriarchy. Males from dominant populations, possibly upper castes, with high ANI component, mated outside of their caste, but their offspring were not allowed to be inducted into the caste.

This phenomenon has been previously observed as asymmetry in homogeneity of mtDNA and heterogeneity of Y-chromosomal haplotypes in tribal populations of India as well as the African Americans in United States.

There has been a low influx of female genetic material since 50,000 years ago, but a male gene flow from groups with more ANI relatedness into ones with less. Ancient male-mediated migratory events and settlement in various regional niches have led to the present day scenario and peopling of India.

There is a general principal component cline stretching from Europe to south India. This northwest component is shared with populations from the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia, and is thought to represent at least one ancient influx of people from the northwest.

There is a major genetic contribution from Eurasia to North Indian upper castes and a greater genetic inflow among North Indian caste populations than is observed among South Indian caste and tribal populations. Certain sample populations of upper caste North Indians show a stronger affinity to Central Asian caucasians, whereas southern Indian Brahmins show a less stronger affinity.

The onset of admixture coincides with the arrival of Indo-European language, however the commonalities of the ANI with European genes cannot be explained by the influx of Indo-Aryans at ca. 1500 BC alone. The split of ASI and ANI predates the Indo-Aryan migration, both of these ancestry components being older than 1500 BC. Groups with unmixed ANI and ASI ancestry were plausibly living in India until this time. 

There are three scenarios regarding the bringing together of the two groups. The first is migrations that occurred prior to the development of agriculture 6000-7000 BC. Evidence for this comes from mitochondrial DNA studies, which have shown that the mitochondrial haplogroups (hg U2, U7, and W) that are most closely shared between Indians and West Eurasians diverged about 30,000–40,000 years BP.

The second is the migration of Western Asian peoples to India along with the spread of agriculture. Any such agriculture related migrations would probably have begun at least 6000-7000 BC (based on the dates for Mehrgarh) and may have continued into the period of the Indus civilization that began around 2600 BC and depended upon West Asian crops.

The third is migrations from Western or Central Asia 1000-2000 BC, a time during which it is likely that Indo-European languages began to be spoken in the subcontinent. A difficulty with this theory, however, is that by this time India was a densely populated region with widespread agriculture, so the number of migrants of West Eurasian ancestry must have been extraordinarily large to explain the fact that today about half the ancestry in India derives from the ANI.

There has also been detected a genetic component in India, k5, which is distributed across the Indus Valley, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. This might represent the genetic vestige of the ANI, though the geographic cline of this component within India is very weak, which is unexpected under the ASI-ANI model, explaining that the ASI-ANI model implies an ANI contribution which decreases toward southern India.

Regardless of where this component was from (the Caucasus, Near East, Indus Valley, or Central Asia), its spread to other regions must have occurred well before our detection limits at 12,500 years. The West Eurasian component in Indians appears to come from a population that diverged genetically from people actually living in Eurasia, and this separation happened at least 12,500 years ago.

Fail[ing] to find any evidence for shared ancestry between the ANI and groups in West Eurasia within the past 12,500 years, it was much longer ago. The ANI came to India in a second wave of migration that happened perhaps 40,000 years ago.

ANI and ASI were formed in the 2nd millennium BC. They were preceded by IVC-people, a mixture of AASI (ancient ancestral south Indians, that is, hunter-gatherers related), and people related to but distinct from Iranian agri-culturalists, lacking the Anatolian farmer-related ancestry which was common in Iranian farmers after 6000 BC. 

Those Iranian farmers-related people may have arrived in India before the advent of farming in northern India, and mixed with people related to Indian hunter-gatherers ca. 5400 to 3700 BC, before the advent of the mature IVC. 

This mixed IVC-population, which probably was native to the Indus Valley Civilisation, contributed in large proportions to both the ANI and ASI, which took shape during the 2nd millennium BCE. ANI formed out of a mixture of Indus_Periphery-related groups and migrants from the steppe, while ASI was formed out of Indus_Periphery-related groups who moved south and mixed with hunter-gatherers.

A small fraction of the Caucasoid-specific mtDNA lineages found in Indian populations can be ascribed to a relatively recent admixture around 7300 BC, which coincides with the arrival to India of cereals domesticated in the fertile Crescent, which lends credence to the suggested linguistic connection between Elamite and Dravidic populations.

Research on lactose tolerance in India suggests that the west Eurasian genetic contribution principally reflects gene flow from Iran and the Middle East. Indians who are lactose-tolerant show a genetic pattern regarding this tolerance which is characteristic of the common European mutation.

This suggests that the most common lactose tolerance mutation made a two-way migration out of the Middle East less than 10,000 years ago. While the mutation spread across Europe, another explorer must have brought the mutation eastward to India – likely traveling along the coast of the Persian Gulf where other pockets of the same mutation have been found. 

In contrast, it has been found that lactose-tolerance was absent in the Yamnaya culture, while the Yamnaya and these other Bronze Age cultures herded cattle, goats, and sheep, they couldn’t digest raw milk as adults. Lactose tolerance was still rare among Europeans and Asians at the end of the Bronze Age, just 2000 years ago.

Farmers related to those from Iran spread northward into the Eurasian steppe; and people related to both the early farmers of Iran and to the pastoralists of the Eurasian steppe spread eastward into South Asia. ANI can be modelled as a mix of ancestry related to both early farmers of western Iran and to people of the Bronze Age Eurasian steppe.

Haplogroup R1a – India

The distribution and proposed origin of haplogroup R1a, more specifically R1a1a1b, is often being used as an argument pro or contra the Indo-Aryan migrations. It is found in high frequencies in Eastern Europe (Z282) and south Asia (Z93), the areas of the Indo-European migrations. The place of origin of this haplogroup may give an indication of the “homeland” of the Indo-Europeans, and the direction of the first migrations.

Based on the spread of a cluster of haplogroups (J2, R1a, R2, and L) in India, with higher rates in northern India, it is argued that agriculture in south India spread with migrating agriculturalists, which also influenced the genepool in south India.

Based on the spread of these various haplogroups in India those haplogroups originated in India, which argues against any major influx from regions north and west of India of people associated either with the development of agriculture or the spread of the Indo-Aryan language family. 

It is further proposed that the high incidence of R1* and R1a throughout Central Asian and East European populations (without R2 and R* in most cases) is more parsimoniously explained by gene flow in the opposite direction, which explains the sharing of some Y-chromosomal haplogroups between Indian and Central Asian populations.

The influence of Central Asia on the pre-existing gene pool was minor, and argues for a peninsular origin of Dravidian speakers than a source with proximity to the Indus and with significant genetic input resulting from demic diffusion associated with agriculture.

There has been found a high frequency of R1a1 in India. It is therefore argued for an Indian origin of R1a1 and dispute the origin of Indian higher most castes from Central Asian and Eurasian regions, supporting their origin within the Indian subcontinent.

R1a1a1, the most frequent subclade of R1a, split into Z282 (Europe) and Z93 (Asia) at circe 3800 BC. This suggests the possibility that R1a lineages accompanied demic expansions initiated during the Copper, Bronze, and Iron ages. The diversification of Z93 and the early urbanization within the Indus Valley also occurred at this time and the geographic distribution of R1a-M780 (Figure 3d) may reflect this.

West Eurasian haplogroups may have been spread by the early Neolithic migrations of proto-Dravidian farmers spreading from the eastern horn of the Fertile Crescent into India. The L1a lineage arrived from western Asia during the Neolithic period and perhaps was associated with the spread of the Dravidian language to India, indicating that the Dravidian language originated outside India and may have been introduced by pastoralists coming from western Asia (Iran). Two subhalogroups originated with the Dravidian speaking peoples, and may have come to South India when the Dravidian language spread.

Striking expansions occurred within R1a-Z93 2500-2000 BC, which predates by a few centuries the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The expansion of Z93 from Transcaucasia into South Asia is compatible with the archeological records of eastward expansion of West Asian populations in the 4th millennium BC culminating in the so-called Kura-Araxes migrations in the post-Uruk IV period.

The impact, or absence of such an impact, of the Indo-Aryan migrations on the Indian genepool is a matter of ongoing debate. It is argued that multiple recent events may have reshaped this genetic landscape.

It is argued for an influx of Indo-European migrants into the Indian subcontinent, but not necessarily an “invasion of any kind”. The correlation between caste-status and West Eurasian DNA may be explained by subsequent male immigration into the Indian subcontinent. The Indian subcontinent was subjected to a series of Indo-European migrations about 1500 BC.

The period of 2200 BC to 100 AD was a time of dramatic changes in northern India, and coincides with the likely first appearance of Indo-European languages and Vedic religion in the subcontinent.

There must have been multiple waves of admixture, which had more impact on higher-caste and northern Indians and took place more recently. This may be explained by “additional gene flow”, related to the spread of languages at least some of the history of population mixture in India is related to the spread of languages in the subcontinent.

One possible explanation for the generally younger dates in northern Indians is that after an original mixture event of ANI and ASI that contributed to all present-day Indians, some northern groups received additional gene flow from groups with high proportions of West Eurasian ancestry, bringing down their average mixture date.

A large proportion of the west Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups observed among the higher-ranked caste groups, their phylogenetic affinity and age estimate indicate recent Indo-Aryan migration to India from west Asia.

The west Eurasian admixture was restricted to caste rank. It is likely that Indo-Aryan migration has influenced the social stratification in the pre-existing populations and helped in building the Hindu caste system, but it should not be inferred that the contemporary Indian caste groups have directly descended from Indo-Aryan immigrants.

CHG was a major contributor to the Ancestral North Indian component. It may be linked with the spread of Indo-European languages, but earlier movements associated with other developments such as that of cereal farming and herding are also plausible.

The ANI is inseparable from Central-South Asian populations in present-day Pakistan. The root of ANI is in Central Asia. ANI can be modelled as a mix of ancestry related to both early farmers of western Iran and to people of the Bronze Age Eurasian steppe.

The recently refined Y-chromosome tree strongly suggests that R1a is indeed a highly plausible marker for the long-contested Bronze Age spread of Indo-Aryan speakers into South Asia. They likely spread from a single Central Asian source pool, there do seem to be at least three and probably more R1a founder clades within the Subcontinent, consistent with multiple waves of arrival.

Pastoralists spread southwards from the Eurasian steppe during the period 2300–1500 BC. These pastoralists, during the 2nd millennium BCE, presumably mixed with the descendants of the Indus Valley Civilisation, who in turn were a mix of Iranian agriculturalists and South Asian hunter-gatherers forming “the single most important source of ancestry in South Asia.

It has been proposed an Ukrainian origin of R1a1, and a postglacial spread of the R1a1 gene during the Late Glacial, subsequently magnified by the expansion of the Kurgan culture into Europe and eastward. It has been proposed a central Asian origin, suggesting that the distribution and age of R1a1 points to an ancient migration corresponding to the spread by the Kurgan people in their expansion from the Eurasian Steppe.

Inner and Central Asia is an overlap zone for the R1a1-Z280 and R1a1-Z93 lineages [which] implies that an early differentiation zone of R1a1-M198 conceivably occurred somewhere within the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region as they lie between South Asia and Eastern Europe. A 2014 study concluded that there was compelling evidence that the initial episodes of haplogroup R1a diversification likely occurred in the vicinity of present-day Iran.

Haplogroups in Iran

The Middle Eastern region had a central role in human evolution. It has been a passageway for Homo sapiens between Africa and the rest of Asia and, in particular, the first region of the Asian continent occupied by modern humans. This area was also one of the regions where agriculture began during the Neolithic period, in particular in the Fertile Crescent, from which it spread westwards and eastwards. 

Different pre-historic sites across the Iranian plateau point to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the sixth millennium BP, perhaps even some centuries earlier than the earliest civilizations in nearby Mesopotamia.

Proto-Iranian language first emerged following the separation of the Indo-Iranian branch from the Indo-European language family. Proto-Iranians tribes from Central Asian steppes arrived in the Iranian plateau in the fifth and fourth millennium BP, settled as nomads and further separated in different groups. 

By the third millennium BP, Cimmerians, Sarmatians and Alans populated the steppes North of the Black Sea, while Medes, Persians, Bactrians and Parthians occupied the western part of the Iranian plateau. Other tribes began to settle on the eastern edge, as far East as on the mountainous frontier of north-western Indian subcontinent and into the area which is now Baluchistan. 

The nowadays Iranian territory had been occupied by Medes (Maad) in the central and north-western regions, Persians (Paars) in the south-western region and by Parthians (Parthav) in the north-eastern and eastern regions of the country. 

In the 6th century BC Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire (the first Persian Empire), which started in South Iran and spread from Libya to Anatolia and Macedonia, encompassing an extraordinary ethno-cultural diversity. However, this widespread empire collapsed after two centuries (towards the end of the 4th century BC) on account of Alexander the Great. 

In the 2nd century BC, north-eastern Persia was invaded by the Parthians who founded an empire extending from the Euphrates to Afghanistan. Because of its location on the Silk Road, connecting the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty in China, it quickly became a centre of trade and commerce. 

The Parthians were succeeded by the Sassanid Empire, one of the most important and influential historical periods of Persia. Afterwards Iran was invaded by several populations such as the Arabs, Mongols and Ottoman Turks. 

The Muslim conquest of Persia in 637 AC led to the introduction of Islam, with the consequent decline of the Zoroastrian religion, which still survives in some communities in different part of Iran, especially in Tehran and Yazd.

This continuous invasion of populations with different origin and culture created an interesting mix of different ethnic groups speaking a variety of Indo-Iranian, Semitic and Turkic languages and encompassing Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Azeris, Baluchs, Bandaris, Gilaks, Kurds, Lurs, Mazandarani, Persians, Qeshm people, Turkmens, Zoroastrians and a group of so-called Afro-Iranians, which might be the result of the slave trade with Zanzibar. 

Today’s Iranian population is composed of partially highly heterogeneous ethnic groups, exhibiting a high degree of genetic variation. In many cases, their source goes back many thousands of years. 

The entire gene pool has remained largely unchanged over at least the past 5,000 years, but probably rather the past 10,000 years. The comparison between main genetic cluster of Iran with the ancient cases shows continuity for at least 5000 years and just migration of Caucasus populations during Neolithic through Bronze Age times. 

To put this in perspective: Today’s German population has likely retained only about 10 to 20 percent of the genetic constitution of the hunters and gatherers who populated western and central Europe 10,000 years ago. Furthermore, Britons and North Italians are genetically more similar than some ethnic groups in Iran.

In the past millennia, Iran has repeatedly received migratory influx: Indo-European language speakers settled there, Arabs entered the lands in the 7th century, and later Turkic-speaking people from Central Asia joined the population. 

In spite of the presence of important geographic barriers (Zagros and Alborz mountain ranges, and the Dasht-e Kavir and Dash-e Lut deserts) which may have limited gene flow, AMOVA analysis revealed that language, in addition to geography, has played an important role in shaping the nowadays Iranian gene pool. 

As a result, today’s Iranian population comprises numerous ethnic, religious and linguistic groups that admixed to various degrees. This shows that the latter did not simply displace local populations, but rather mixed with them.’

The results of genetical tests in Iran show an autochthonous but non-homogeneous ancient background mainly composed by J2a sub-clades with different external contributions. J2 is the most common haplogroup in Iran (~23%); almost exclusively represented by J2a subclade (93%), the other major sub-clade being J2b. 

The phylogeography of the main haplogroups allowed identifying post-glacial and Neolithic expansions toward western Eurasia but also recent movements towards the Iranian region from western Eurasia (R1b-L23), Central Asia (Q-M25), Asia Minor (J2a-M92) and southern Mesopotamia (J1-Page08). 

Haplogroup J2 is common in modern populations in Western Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Europe and North Africa. It is thought that J2 may have originated between the Caucasus Mountains, Mesopotamia and the Levant.

Ancient J2a, specifically subclade J-Y12379*, has been found, in a mesolithic context, in a tooth from the Kotias Klde Cave in western Georgia dating 8000 BC. This sample has been assigned to the Caucasus hunter-gatherers (CHG) autosomal component. 

J2a, more specifically its subclade J-PF5008, has also been found in a mesolithic sample from the Hotu and Kamarband Caves located in Mazandaran Province of Iran, dating back to 9,100-8,600 BC. Both samples both belong to the Trialetian Culture.

Whilst closely linked with Anatolia and the Levant; and putative agricultural expansions, the distribution of the various sub-clades of J2 likely represents a number of migrational histories which require further elucidation. It is likely that J2 men had settled over most of Anatolia, the South Caucasus and Iran by the end of the Last Glaciation 10,000 BC.

In Europe, J2a is more common in the southern Greece and southern Italy; whilst J2b is more common in Thessaly, Macedonia and central – northern Italy. Thus J2a and its subgroups within it have a wide distribution from Italy to India, whilst J2b is mostly confined to the Balkans and Italy, being rare even in Turkey.

J1, typical of Semitic-speaking people, was rarely over 10% in Iranian groups. The oldest identified J1 sample to date comes from Satsurblia cave in Georgia (13.000 BC) placing the origins of haplogroup J1 in the region around the Caucasus, Zagros, Taurus and eastern Anatolia during the Upper Paleolithic.

Like many other successful lineages from the Middle East, J1 is thought to have undergone a major population expansion during the Neolithic period. The greatest genetic diversity have been found in eastern Anatolia, near Lake Van in central Kurdistan. Eastern Anatolia and the Zagros mountains are the region where goats and sheep were first domesticated c. 9000 BC. 

R1a is common in Iran, more so in the east and south rather than the west and north; suggesting a migration toward the south to India then a secondary westward spread across Iran. Tests have found that they virtually all belong to “Eurasian” R1a-Z93. 

R1a-Z93 is the main Asian branch of R1a. Most of the R1a in Middle East are deep subclades of the R1a-Z93 branch, which originated in Russia. It could not have been ancestral to Balkanic or Central European R1a.

This implies that R1a in Iran did not descend from “European” R1a, or vice versa. Rather, both groups are collateral, sister branches which descend from a parental group hypothesized to have initially lived somewhere between central Asia and Eastern Europe.

R1a-Z93 is the marker of historical peoples such as the Indo-Aryans, Persians, Medes, Mitanni, or Tatars. Sintashta-Petrovka culture, associated with R1a-Z93 and its subclades, was the first Bronze Age advance of the Indo-Europeans west of the Urals, opening the way to the vast plains and deserts of Central Asia to the metal-rich Altai mountains. 

R1b – M269 is widespread from Ireland to Iran, and is common in highland West Asian populations such as Armenians, Turks and Iranians – with an average frequency of 8.5%. As with the Armenians, the Iranian R1b belongs to the L-23 subclade, which is an older than the derivative subclade (R1b-M412) which is most common in western Europe.

An understanding of the origin of R-M269 is relevant for the question of population replacement in the Neolithic Revolution. R-M269 had formerly been dated to the Upper Paleolithic, but by about 2010 it had become clear that it arose near the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution, about 10,000 years ago.

The three main branches of R1b1 (R1b1a, R1b1b, R1b1c) all seem to have stemmed from the Middle East. The R-L23 (R-Z2103) subclade has been found to be prevalent in ancient DNA associated with the Yamna culture. David Anthony considers the Yamna culture to be the Indo-European Urheimat.

Noclear consensus has been achieved as to whether it arose within Europe or in Western Asia, but based on the pattern of Y-STR diversity it has been argued for a single source in the Near East and introduction to Europe via Anatolia in the Neolithic Revolution. 

The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European homeland suggests that Proto-Indo-European was spoken during the 5th–4th millennia BC in the Armenian Highland. It also 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.”

Recent DNA-research has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a ‘pre-proto-Indo-European’. The Armenian plateau hypothesis has gained 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.

Haplogroup G and subclades are most concentrated in the southern Caucasus, it is present in 10% of Iranians. Haplogroup E and various subclades are markers of various northern and eastern African populations. They are present in less than 10% of Iranians.

The development of early cereal agriculture is thought to have been conducted by men belonging primarily to haplogroups G2a (northern branch, from Anatolia to Europe), as well as E1b1b and T1a (southern branch, from the Levant to the Arabian peninsula and North Africa).

G1 might have originated around modern Iran at the start of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), some 26,000 years ago. G1 is found predominantly in Iran, but is also found in the Levant, among Ashkenazi Jews, and in Central Asia (notably in Kazakhstan).

G2 would have developed around the same time in West Asia. G2 appear to have been closely linked to the development of early agriculture in the Fertile Crescent part, starting 11,500 years before present. 

The G2a branch expanded to Anatolia, the Caucasus and Europe, while G2b is found from the Middle East to Pakistan, and is almost certainly an offshoot of Neolithic farmers from western Iran, where G2b was identified in a sample from 7250 BC.

Haplogroup E

Haplogroup E in Iran is mainly represented by the E1-M123 (3.7%) and E1b-M78 (3.0%) branches. The first is almost entirely characterized by its sub-lineage M34 and reaches its highest incidence (13.6%) in Kurdistan. The second is present as E1b-M78* in Lorestan (9.8%) and E1b-V13 (5.9%) and E1b-V22 (2.9%) in the Zoroastrians of Yazd. 

The frequency of E subclades has varied geographically over time due to founder effects in Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age populations, i.e. the migration of a small group of settlers carrying among whom one paternal lineage was much more common than any others. Examples of founder effects include E-V12 in southern Egypt, E-V13 in the Balkans, E-V32 in Somalia, E-V65 on the Mediterranean coast of Africa, and E-M81 in Northwest Africa.

E-M123 is found in Asia, Europe and Africa. Although the clade has its roots in northeastern Africa, it has likely come to Ethiopia via Egypt, and then the Middle East. According to the genetic analyses done on six Natufian remains from Northern Israel, the Natufians carried the Y-DNA haplogroup E-Z830, a somewhat upwind clade of E-M123 (and therefore ancestral to it).

The Natufians were one of the first settled peoples in the world and may have contributed to the domestication of certain crops, and thus the advent of agriculture. Looking beyond its geographical patterns, E-M123 is also quite common in many Semitic language communities, including among both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, accounting for over 10% of all male lines.

E-M34 is found at small frequencies in North Africa and Southern Europe (6.6% in Sicily for example), and has its highest concentration in Ethiopia and the Near East (with highest levels in Oman and Turkey). E-P147 (also known as E1) is by far the most numerous and widely distributed branch of E. It has two primary branches: E-M132 (E1a) and E-P177 (E1b). 

Within Haplogroup E-P177, the subclade E-P2 (E1b1) is not only the most frequent variant of E, but is also the most common Y-DNA lineage in Africa. It is also the only subclade of E found in significant numbers in West Asia and Europe.

A prolific primary branch of E-P2, Haplogroup E-M215 (E1b1b) is distributed in high frequencies from East Africa, through North Africa into Western Asia and Southern Europe. It is also found at significant levels among populations native to Southern Africa and throughout Western Europe.

Haplogroup E1b1b (formerly known as E3b) represents the last major direct migration from Africa into Europe. It first appeared in the Horn of Africa 24,000 BC and dispersed to North Africa and the Near East during the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. 

E1b1b was not found in Neolithic Iran or Anatolia, and only showed up twice among the hundreds of Neolithic European samples that have been tested. This suggests that at the end of the last glaciation 12,000 years ago, E1b1b men were present in the Levant, but not in other parts of the Near East. 

Nowadays, the highest genetic diversity of haplogroup E1b1b is observed in Northeast Africa, especially in Ethiopia and Somalia, which also have the monopoly of older and rarer branches like M281, V6 or V92. 

This suggests that E1b1b may indeed have appeared in East Africa, then expanded north until the Levant. Nevertheless, many lineages now found among the Ethiopians and Somalians appear to have come from the Fertile Crescent during the Neolithic period. 

This includes some E1b1b subclades like V22 (12,000 years old) and V32 (10,000 years old), but also undeniably Near Eastern lineages like T1a-CTS2214 and J1-L136.E1b1b are closely linked to the diffusion of Afroasiatic languages, a large language family of about 300 languages that are spoken predominantly in West Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and parts of the Sahel. 

The earliest written evidence of an Afroasiatic language is an Ancient Egyptian inscription dated to c. 3400 BC. Symbols on Gerzean (Naqada II) pottery resembling Egyptian hieroglyphs date back to c. 4000 BC, suggesting an earlier possible dating. This gives us a minimum date for the age of Afroasiatic. However, Ancient Egyptian is highly divergent from Proto-Afroasiatic and considerable time must have elapsed in between them.

Estimates of the date at which the Proto-Afroasiatic language was spoken vary widely. They fall within a range between 7,500 BC (9,500 years ago), and approximately 16,000 BC (18,000 years ago). E-M243 (especially its subclades M78 and M81) is found at high frequencies in North East Africa and North Africa and is the only subclade that is found in Europe and Asia at significant frequencies. 

E-M243 is common among Afro-Asiatic speakers in the Near East and North Africa as well as among some Nilo-Saharan and Niger–Congo speakers in North East Africa and Sudan. E-M243 is far less common in West, Central, and Southern Africa.

E-V12 is the most common subclade of M78 in southern Egypt (over 40% of the population), while its V32 subclade is the dominant paternal lineage in Somalia, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. 

The moderate presence of V12* in the Near East and across Europe (except Nordic countries) indicates that it could have been a minor Neolithic lineage. It has been calculated that E-V13 emerged from E-M78 some 7,800 years ago, when Neolithic farmers were advancing into the Balkans and the Danubian basin. 

All the modern members of E-V13 descend from a common ancestor who lived approximately 5,500 years ago, and all of them also descend from a later common ancestor who carried the CTS5856 mutation. That ancestor would have lived about 4,100 years ago, during the Bronze Age. 

This data suggests that the fate of E-V13 was linked to the elite dominance of Bronze Age society. The only Bronze Age migration that could account for such a fast and far-reaching dispersal is that of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. 

At present the most consistent explanation is that E-V13 developed from E-M78 in Central or Eastern Europe during the Neolithic period, and was assimilated by the R1a and R1b Proto-Indo-Europeans around the time that they were leaving the Pontic Steppe to invade the rest of Europe.

E-V13 is as common in R1a-dominant as in R1b-dominant countries. R1a Indo-European tribes are associated with the Corded Ware culture, which spanned across Northeast Europe, Scandinavia and the northern half of Central Europe. 

R1b tribes invaded the Balkans, the southern half of Central Europe, and joined up with Corded Ware people in what is now Germany, the Czech Republic and western Poland. If E-V13 was found among both groups, it would have needed to be either assimilated in the Pontic Steppe or very near from it.

The mixture happend in the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, around western Ukraine, Moldova and Romania), or at the junction between the two groups in central Europe (e.g. around the Czech Republic.

The eastern advance of the Corded Ware culture eventually gave rise to the Sintashta culture in the Ural region, which is the ancestral culture of the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-Europeans. E-V13’s presence in this culture would explain why modern Iranians and Kurds possess E-V13, in addition to R1a-Z93 and R1b-Z2103. 

Haplogroup R1a

Haplogroup R* originated in North Asia just before the Last Glacial Maximum (26,500-19,000 years before present). This haplogroup has been identified in the 24,000 year-old remains of the so-called “Mal’ta boy” from the Altai region, in south-central Siberia. This individual belonged to a tribe of mammoth hunters that may have roamed across Siberia and parts of Europe during the Paleolithic.

Autosomally this Paleolithic population appears to have passed on its genes mostly to the modern populations of Europea and South Asia, the two regions where haplogroup R also happens to be the most common nowadays (R1b in Western Europe, R1a in Eastern Europe, Central and South Asia, and R2 in South Asia).

The series of mutations that made haplogroup R1* evolve into R1a probably took place during or soon after the Last Glacial Maxium. Haplogroup R1a (R-M420) is distributed in a large region in Eurasia, extending from Scandinavia and Central Europe to southern Siberia and South Asia.

Rapid diversification process of K-M526 likely occurred in Southeast Asia, with subsequent westward expansions of the ancestors of haplogroups R and Q. The split of R1a (M420) is computed to ca. 22,000 or 25,000 years ago, which is the time of the last glacial maximum.

R1a1a (R-M17 or R-M198) is the sub-clade most commonly associated with Indo-European speakers. Most discussions purportedly of R1a origins are actually about the origins of the dominant R1a1a (R-M17 or R-M198) sub-clade. Data so far collected indicates that there are two widely separated areas of high frequency, one in the northern Indian subcontinent, and the other in Eastern Europe, around Poland and Ukraine.

The historical and prehistoric possible reasons for this are the subject of on-going discussion and attention amongst population geneticists and genetic genealogists, and are considered to be of potential interest to linguists and archaeologists also.

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

A 2004 study also established that during the Bronze Age/Iron Age period, the majority of the population of Kazakhstan (part of the Andronovo culture during Bronze Age), was of west Eurasian origin (with mtDNA haplogroups such as U, H, HV, T, I and W), and that prior to the 13th–7th century BC, all Kazakh samples belonged to European lineages.

There is compelling evidence that the initial episodes of haplogroup R1a diversification likely occurred in the vicinity of present-day Iran. While R1a originated ca. 22,000 to 25,000 years ago, its subclade M417 (R1a1a1) diversified into Z282 and Z93 ca. 3800 BC. The place of origin of the subclade plays a role in the debate about the origins of Proto-Indo-Europeans.

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. The Proto-Indo-Europeans originated in the Yamna culture (3300-2500 BCE). 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 expansions of the forest-steppe people occured with the Corded Ware Culture. 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.

The first major expansion of R1a took place with the westward propagation of the Corded Ware (or Battle Axe) culture (2800-1800 BC) from the northern forest-steppe in the Yamna homeland. This was the first wave of R1a into Europe, the one that brought the Z283 subclade to Germany and the Netherlands, and Z284 to Scandinavia.

The Corded Ware R1a people would have mixed with the pre-Germanic I1 and I2 aborigines, which resulted in the first Indo-European culture in Germany and Scandinavia, although that culture could not be considered Proto-Germanic – it was simply Proto-Indo-European at that stage, or perhaps or Proto-Balto-Slavic.

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 and Srubna cultures.

Germanic languages probably did not appear before the Nordic Bronze Age (1800-500 BC). Proto-Germanic language probably developed as a blend of two branches of Indo-European languages, namely the Proto-Balto-Slavic language of the Corded-Ware culture (R1a-Z283) and the later arrival of Proto-Italo-Celto-Germanic people from the Unetice culture (R1b-L11).

This is supported by the fact that Germanic people are a R1a-R1b hybrid, that these two haplogroups came via separate routes at different times, and that Proto-Germanic language is closest to Proto-Italo-Celtic, but also shares similarities with Proto-Slavic.

Ancient DNA testing has confirmed the presence of haplogroup R1a-M417 in samples from the Corded Ware culture in Germany (2600 BC), from Tocharian mummies (2000 BC) in Northwest China, from Kurgan burials (1600 BC) from the Andronovo culture in southern Russia and southern Siberia, as well as from a variety of Iron-age sites from Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and Central Asia.

Some people have theorized that R1a was one of the lineages of the Neolithic farmers, and would have entered Europe through Anatolia, then spread across the Balkans toward Central Europe, then only to Eastern Europe. There are many issues with this scenario. The first is that 99% of modern R1a descends from the branch R1a-M417, which clearly expanded from the Bronze Age onwards, not from the early Neolithic.

Its phylogeny also points at an Eastern European origin. Secondly, most of the R1a in Middle East are deep subclades of the R1a-Z93 branch, which originated in Russia. It could not have been ancestral to Balkanic or Central European R1a.

Thirdly, there is a very strong correlation between the Northeast European autosomal admixture and R1a populations, and this component is missing from the genome of all European Neolithic farmers tested to date – even from Ötzi, who was a Chalcolithic farmer.

This admixture is also missing from modern Sardinians, who are mostly descended from Neolithic farmers. This is incontrovertible evidence that R1a did not come to Europe with Neolithic farmers, but only propagated from Eastern Europe to the rest of Europe from the Bronze Age onwards.

Even though R1a occurs among various languages such as Slavic and Indo-Iranian, the question of the origins of R1a1a is relevant to the ongoing debate concerning the urheimat of the Proto-Indo-European people, and may also be relevant to the origins of the Indus Valley Civilization.

R1a shows a strong correlation with Indo-European languages of Southern and Western Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, being most prevalent in Eastern Europe, West Asia, and South Asia. In Europe, Z282 is prevalent particularly while in Asia Z93 dominates.

Little is know for certain about R1a’s place of origin. Some think it might have originated in the Balkans or around Pakistan and Northwest India, due to the greater genetic diversity found in these regions. The diversity can be explained by other factors though.

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

The most likely place of origin of R1a is Central Asia or southern Russia/Siberia. From there, R1a could have migrated directly to Eastern Europe (European Russia, Ukraine, Belarus), or first southward through Central Asia and Iran.

In that latter scenario, R1a would have crossed the Caucasus during the Neolithic, alongside R1b, to colonise the Pontic-Caspian Steppe. In the absence of ancient Y-DNA from those regions the best evidence supporting a Late Paleolithic migration to Iran is the presence of very old subclades of R1a (like M420) in the region, notably in the Zagros Mountains.

However these samples only make up a fraction of all R1a in the region and could just as well represent the descendants of Eastern European hunter-gatherers who branched off from other R1a tribes and crossed from the North Caucasus any time between 20,000 and 8,000 years ago.

The logic behind this is that most known historical migrations in Eurasia took place from north to south, as people sought warmer climes. The only exception happened during the Holocene warming up of the climate, which corresponds to the Neolithic colonisation of Europe from the Near East.

A third possibility is that R1a tribes split in two around Kazakhstan during the Late Paleolithic, with one group moving to eastern Europe, while the other moved south to Iran.

An origin in Ukrainia, and a postglacial spread of the R1a1 gene during the Late Glacial Maximum, subsequently magnified by the expansion of the Kurgan culture into Europe and eastward, has been proposed. Also an origin in Central Asian has been proposed, suggesting that the distribution and age of R1a1 points to an ancient migration corresponding to the spread by the Kurgan people in their expansion from the Eurasian steppe.

Inner and Central Asia is an overlap zone for the R1a1-Z280 and R1a1-Z93 lineages which implies that an early differentiation zone of R1a1-M198 conceivably occurred somewhere within the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region as they lie between South Asia and Central- and Eastern Europe.

According to genetic studies in 2015, haplogroups R1b and R1a, now the most common in Europe (R1a is also common in South Asia) would have expanded from the Russian 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.

A massive migration from the Yamnaya culture northwards took place ca. 2500 BC, accounting for 75% of the genetic ancestry of the Corded Ware culture. This migration might account for the spread of R1a and R1b into Europe from the East after 3000 BC. Yet, the Yamnaya samples belong to the R1b-M269 subclade, but no R1a1a has been found in their Yamnaya samples, which raises the question where the R1a1a in the Corded Ware culture came from.

It is argued for such an origin of R1a1a in the Corded Ware culture, as R1a1 is present in the Comb Ceramic culture or Pit-Comb Ware culture, often abbreviated as CCC or PCW, a northeast European characterised by its Pit–Comb Ware.

The distribution of the Pit-Comb Ware culture (4200-2000 BC) artifacts found includes Finnmark (Norway) in the north, the Kalix River (Sweden) and the Gulf of Bothnia (Finland) in the west and the Vistula River (Poland) in the south. Some of this region was absorbed by the later Corded Ware horizon.

It would include the Narva culture of Estonia and the Sperrings culture in Finland, among others. It is thought to have still mostly followed the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, though e.g. the Narva culture in Estonia shows some evidence of early agriculture. Sperrings ceramics is the original name given for the younger early Comb ware found in Finland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a genetic study published in Nature Communications in November 2018, the individuals studies were modeled as being of 65% Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG), 20% Western Steppe Herder (WSH), and 15% Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) descent. The amount of EHG ancestry was higher than among earlier cultures of the eastern Baltic, while WSH ancestry had previously never been attested among such an early culture in the region.

While part of the Yamnaya ancestry derives from the Middle East, neolithic techniques probably arrived at the Yamnaya culture from the Balkans. The Rossen culture (4600-4300 BC), a Central European culture of the middle Neolithic, which was situated on Germany and predates the Corded Ware culture, an old subclade of R1a, namely L664, can still be found.

The Rössen culture is important as it marks the transition from a broad and widely distributed tradition going back to Central Europe’s earliest Neolithic LBK towards the more diversified Middle and Late Neolithic situation characterised by the appearance of complexes like Michelsberg and Funnel Beaker Culture.

Part of the South Asian genetic ancestry derives from west Eurasian populations, and some researchers have implied that Z93 may have come to India via Iran and expanded there during the Indus Valley Civilization.

It has been proposed that the roots of Z93 lie in West Asia, and proposed that Z93 and L342.2 expanded in a southeasterly direction from Transcaucasia into South Asia. Such an expansion is compatible with the archeological records of eastward expansion of West Asian populations in the 4th millennium BC culminating in the so-called Kura-Araxes migrations in the post-Uruk IV period.

Yet, the Armenian Kura-Araxes sample carried Y-haplogroup R1b1-M415 (xM269), also called R1b1a1b-CTS3187. The diversification of Z93 and the early urbanization within the Indus Valley occurred 3600 BC and the geographic distribution of R1a-M780 may reflect this.

Striking expansions’ occurred within R1a-Z93 2500-2000 BC, which predates by a few centuries the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilisation. However, steppe pastoralists might be the source for R1a in India. South, Central and West Asia have been proposed.

South Asian populations have the highest STR diversity within R1a1a, and subsequent older TMRCA datings, and R1a1a is present among both higher (Brahmin) castes and lower castes, although the presence is higher among Brahmin castes.

From these findings some researchers have concluded that R1a1a originated in South Asia, excluding a substantial genetic influx from Indo-European migrants. However, this diversity, and the subsequent older TMRCA-datings, can also be explained by the historically high population numbers, which increases the likelihood of diversification and microsatellite variation.

R1a1 and R2 could very well have actually arrived in southern India from a Southwestern Asian source region multiple times. The prevalence of R1a in India is a very powerful evidence for a substantial Bronze Age migration from Central Asia that most likely brought Indo-European speakers to India.

In spite of R1a in South Asia most likely spread from a single Central Asian source pool there do seem to be at least three and probably more R1a founder clades within the Subcontinent, consistent with multiple waves of arrival.

Proto-Indo-Iranian speakers, the people who later called themselves ‘Aryans’ in the Rig Veda and the Avesta, originated in the Sintashta-Petrovka culture (2100-1750 BCE), in the Tobol and Ishim valleys, east of the Ural Mountains.

It was founded by pastoralist nomads from the Abashevo culture (2500-1900 BCE), ranging from the upper Don-Volga to the Ural Mountains, and the Poltavka culture (2700-2100 BCE), extending from the lower Don-Volga to the Caspian depression.

The Sintashta-Petrovka culture, associated with R1a-Z93 and its subclades, was the first Bronze Age advance of the Indo-Europeans west of the Urals, opening the way to the vast plains and deserts of Central Asia to the metal-rich Altai Mountains. The Aryans quickly expanded over all Central Asia, from the shores of the Caspian to southern Siberia and the Tian Shan, through trading, seasonal herd migrations, and looting raids.

Ganj Dareh

The Zayandeh River Culture is considered as a very important Neolithic Iranian settlement, along with Ganj Dareh (“Treasure Valley”, or “Treasure Valley Hill” if tepe/tappeh (hill) is appended to the name), a Neolithic settlement in the Iranian Kurdistan. It is located in the Harsin County in east of Kermanshah Province, in the central Zagros Mountains.

The oldest settlement remains on the site of Ganj Dareh date back to ca. 8000 BC, and have yielded the earliest evidence for goat domestication in the world. The only evidence for domesticated crops found at the site so far is the presence of two-row barley. The remains have been classified into five occupation levels, from A, at the top, to E.

Ganj Dareh is important in the study of Neolithic ceramics in Luristan and Kurdistan. This is a period beginning in the late 8th millennium, and continuing to the middle of the 6th millennium BC. Also, the evidence from two other excavated sites nearby is important, from Tepe Guran, and Tepe Sarab. They are all located southwest of Harsin, on the Mahidasht plain, and in the Hulailan valley.

At Ganj Dareh, two early ceramic traditions are evident. One is based on the use of clay for figurines and small geometric pieces like cones and disks. These are dated ca. 7300-6900 BC. The other ceramic tradition originated in the use of clay for mud-walled buildings (ca. 7300 BC).

These traditions are also shared by Tepe Guran, and Tepe Sarab. Tepe Asiab is also located near Tepe Sarab, and may be the earliest of all these sites. Both sites appear to have been seasonally occupied. Ali Kosh is also a related site of the Neolithic period.

Researchers sequenced the genome from the petrous bone of a 30-50 year old woman from Ganj Dareh, GD13a. mtDNA analysis shows that she belonged to Haplogroup X. She is phenotypically similar to the Anatolian early farmers and Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers.

Her DNA revealed that she had black hair, brown eyes and was lactose intolerant. The derived SLC45A2 variant associated with light skin was not observed in GD13a, but the derived SLC24A5 variant which is also associated with the same trait was observed.

GD13a is genetically closest to the ancient Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers identified from human remains from Georgia (Satsurblia Cave and Kotias Klde), while also sharing genetic affinities with the people of the Yamna culture and the Afanasevo culture. She belonged to a population that was genetically distinct from the Neolithic Anatolian farmers.

In terms of modern populations, she shows some genetic affinity with the Baloch people, Makrani caste and Brahui people due to Ancient Caucasus Hunter-Gatherer ancestry found in some indians , in actuality they are the closest to modern Zoroastrians in Iran. Her population did not contribute very much genetically to modern Europeans.

Before the publication of the 2005 Y-Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree, Haplogroup R-M124 was known as Haplogroup P1 and formerly thought to be a sister clade of Haplogroup R rather than derived from it. The oldest sample of haplogroup R2a was observed in the remains of a Neolithic human from Ganj Dareh in western Iran.

Haplogroup R2 (R-M479) is a haplogroup is one of two primary descendants of Haplogroup R (R-M207), the other being R1 (R-M173). R-M479 has been concentrated geographically in South Asia and Central Asia since prehistory.

It appears to reach its highest levels among the Burusho people in North Pakistan. However, it also appears to be present at low levels in the Caucasus, Iran, Anatolia and Europe. It has two primary branches: R2a (M124) and R2b (R-FGC21706).

Ancient samples of haplogroup R2a were observed in the remains of humans from Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Iran and Turan; and Iron Age South Asia. R2a was also recovered from excavated remains in the South Asian sites of Saidu Sharif and Butkara from a later period.

Haplogroup R-M124, along with haplogroups H, L, R1a1, and J2, forms the majority of the South Asian male population. The frequency is around 10-15% in India and Sri Lanka and 7-8% in Pakistan. Its spread within South Asia is very extensive, ranging from Baluchistan in the west to Bengal in the east; Hunza in the north to Sri Lanka in the south.

The haplogroup R-M124 frequency of 6.1% (6/114) was found among overall Kurds while in one study which was done with 25 samples of Kurmanji Kurds from Georgia, R-M124 has been observed at 44% (11/25).

In Caucasus high frequency was observed in Armenians from Sason at 18% (18/104) while it was observed at %1 in Armenians from Van. R2 has been found in Chechens at 16%. R-M124 has been found in approximately 8% (2/24) of a sample of Ossetians from Alagir.

Uncertainty neutralizes previous conclusions that the intrusion of HGs R1a1 and R2 [Now R-M124] from the northwest in Dravidian-speaking southern tribes is attributable to a single recent event. An important feature in Indian population history was the occurrence of four separate or distinct waves of migration into the subcontinent:

An ancient Palaeolithic migration by modern humans, an early Neolithic migration, probably via Proto-Dravidian speakers from the eastern horn of the Fertile Crescent, an influx of Indo-European speakers, and a migration from East/Southeast Asians, i.e. Tibeto-Burman speakers.

Rather, these HGs contain considerable demographic complexity, as implied by their high haplotype diversity. Specifically, they could have actually arrived in southern India from a southwestern Asian source region multiple times, with some episodes considerably earlier than others.

Paragroup is a term used in population genetics to describe lineages within a haplogroup that are not defined by any additional unique markers. They are typically represented by an asterisk (*) placed after the main haplogroup. Y-chromosomes which are positive to the M124, P249, P267, and L266 SNPs and negative to the L295, L263, and L1069 SNPs, are categorized as belonging to Paragroup R-M124*. It is found in Iraq, so far.

Several studies have argued that, in contrast to the relative uniformity of mtDNA, the Y chromosomes of Indian populations display relatively small genetic distances to those of West Eurasians, linking this finding to hypothetical migrations by Indo-Aryan speakers.

M17 (R1a) is a potential marker for one such event, as it demonstrates decreasing frequencies from Central Asia toward South India. Departing from the “one haplogroup equals one migration” scenario, a package of haplogroups (J2, R1a, R2, and L) is defined to be associated with the migration of Indo-Eropean people and the introduction of the caste system to India.

This package comes from Central Asia, because they are observed at significantly lower proportions in South Indian tribal groups, with the high frequency of R1a among Chenchus of Andhra Pradesh considered as an aberrant phenomenon.

Conversely, haplogroups H, F*, and O2a, which were observed at significantly higher proportions among tribal groups of South India, led the same authors to single them out as having an indigenous Indian origin. Only O3e was envisaged as originating (recently) east of India, substantiating a linguistic correlation with the Tibeto-Burman speakers of Southeast Asia.

Together, haplogroups R1, R2, L, O, H, J2, and C characterize >90% of the Y-chromosomal variation in all socio-linguistic groups of India. Both Indo-European and Drad\vidian speaking populations show a high combined frequency of haplogroups C*, L1, H1, and R2. The total frequency of these four haplogroups outside of India is marginally low.

In turn, haplogroups E, I, G, J*, and R1* have a combined frequency of 53% in the Near East among the Turks and 24% in Central Asia, but they are rare or absent in India (0.86% in all populations and almost solely because of R1*).

Similarly, haplogroups C3, D, N, and O specific to Central Asian (36%) and Southeast Asian populations (subclades of haplogroup O; 85%) are virtually absent in India. The O2a and O3e subclades of haplogroup O in India have interregional distributions, overlapping with those of Southeast Asia and East Asia.

Only haplogroups J2 and R1a have interregional frequency patterns west of India with J2 being most common in Afro-Asiatic-speaking (and Indo-European speaking) populations of the Near East and Middle East, whereas R1a occurs at the highest frequencies in populations of India, East Europe, and Central Asia.

Principal component analysis investigates the phylogeography of the Y haplogroups with respect to each other, illustrating the associations of haplogroups, irrespective of regional or cultural categories.

The first two components account for 75% of the variation observed, and within India delineate R*, R2, F*, and H, within the sphere of L, K, P*, and R1a. Of all of the R lineages, only R1* is separated from this grouping, forming a cluster together with G, I, and J, consistent with their common and widespread distribution throughout (Western) Europe.

The O lineages fall out with C* and D (the latter tending to derive from Sino-Tibetan speakers). Once the third and fourth factors are considered, the ambiguity of A, B, and E (typically African in origin) is resolved, and the positions of C3 and N, also non-Indian in their distribution, are delineated to Central Asia.

By considering all haplogroup frequencies simultaneously, an indication of the relatedness between regions is obtained. Here, for the sake of comparison only, the categories used by a previous study are retained, but the tribal population is split into two because of the close association identified here between Hg O and tribal groups of the east and northeast of India (O2a represents 77% of AA speakers and 47% of Tibeto Burmesian speakers), which are combined to form the east and northeast tribes.

In contrast to the earlier study, the caste populations of “north” and “south” India are not particularly more closely related to each other (average Fst value = 0.07) than they are to the tribal groups.

The multidimensional scaling plot of these values demonstrates that the combined data set for the tribal peoples (derived from all regions of India, excluding those of the east and northeast) actually falls midway between those for northern and southern castes, whereas the tribal populations of the east and northeast are confirmed as a separate category.

The position of the reduced tribal category, comprising groups from Southern, Northern, and Western India, is suggestive of geographical structuring north to south. These clines display distinct regional concentrations of J2, H, R1a, R2, O3, and O2a, confirming the primarily geographic nature of Y-chromosome frequency distribution in India.

Haplogroup J2 reflects presence from pre-neolithic period in the Indian subcontinent. It is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. Its present geographic distribution argue in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent.

This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats (starting c. 8000-9000 BCE) from the Zagros mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of agriculture in the Levant (which seems to have been linked to haplogroup G and perhaps also E1b1b).

J2a would have reached southern Central Asia with the expansion of Middle Eastern people during the Neolithic and mixed with the local hunter-gatherers belonging chiefly to R2 (and possibly some pre-Indo-European R1a).

J2 is almost absent from tribals, but occurs among some Austro-Asiatic tribals (11%). The frequency of J2 is higher in South Indian castes (19%) than in North Indian castes (11%) or Pakistan (12%). J2 appears at 20% among the Yadavas of South India while among the Lodhas of West Bengal it is 32%.

Within India, J2a is more common among the upper castes and decreases in frequency with the caste level. This can be explained by the assimilation of local J2a (and R2) people by the R1a Indo-European warriors who descended from modern Russia (Sintashta culture) and established themselves for a few centuries in southern Central Asia before moving on to conquer the Indian subcontinent.

J2b has a quite different distribution from J2a. J2b seems to have a stronger association with the Chalcolithic cultures of Southeast Europe, and is particularly common in the Balkans, Central Europe and Italy, which is roughly the extent of the European Copper Age culture. Its maximum frequency is achieved around Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Northwest Greece.

J2b is also found in the Pontic Steppe, the North Caucasus, Central Asia and in South Asia, particularly in India. Its very low frequency in the Middle East though suggests that, unlike for J2a, it was not spread a progresive and continuous diffusion of the Neolithic lifestyle.

For this reason, and because it is generally found among the upper castes of India, it is thought that some J2b lineages might have been part of the Indo-Aryan invasions of South Asia (3,500 years ago) alongside R1a1a.

It is conceivable that a minority of J2b, G2a3b1 and R1b1b from the Caucasus region migrated to the Volga-Ural region in the early Bronze Age, spreading with them the Proto-Indo-European language and bronze technology to the Caspian steppe before the expansion of this new culture to Central and South Asia.

Haplogroup G2a-P303 is also found in India, especially among the upper castes. The combined presence of G2a-P303 across Europe and India is a very strong argument in favour of an Indo-European origin. The coalescence age of G2a-P303 also matches the time of the Indo-European expansion during the Bronze Age.

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